Urban Family Brewing, Seattle's leading purveyor of fruited sours and hazy IPA, is moving back to Ballard, according to owner and general manager Andy Gundel. The brewery is currently retrofitting an existing warehouse in Ballard and building an entirely new adjoining taproom with plans to open to the public sometime later this year.
“We want to bring something special into the Ballard area. We know we’re not the first game in town, by any means, but we hope that we are viewed as a positive addition," Gundel said in a press release.
Urban Family started as a small taproom in downtown Ballard in 2014 but moved across the water to the Fisherman's Terminal side of Magnolia in 2016, where they expanded and became one of the city's best breweries and even developed a national presence. Now that they're returning to Ballard they'll be joining at least 13 breweries in the continually growing "Ballard Brewery District." Reuben's Brews is getting ready to open a second brewery in the district and a new mixed culture brewery, Fair Isle Brewing, is currently documenting their build-out in the neighborhood in a series of melodramatic and somewhat cringe-worthy Instagram posts. For real, I don't know what is going on in this picture but I don't think I like it:
Back to Urban Family. I asked Gundel where exactly the new brewery is located but he declined to tell me, citing an active construction site. He did say it would be within walking distance of Reuben's and Stoup (my current favorite breweries in the area). Gundel said the move was driven more by his landlord and space limitations at their current space than a desire to move to Ballard, but he said he was also happy to be joining the beer scene on that side of the water.
"Hopefully it’s a rising tide raises all ships kind of deal," Gundel said.
Gundel hopes to start production at the new location in June but the taproom, which will be housed in a new building attached to an existing warehouse, likely won't be open till the end of the year. He said the new taproom won't have a restaurant but will have food trucks.
The new brewery will let Gundel expand into brewing more lagers and barrel-aged beers, although I'm just excited to see more fruited sours and IPA from the brewery. Urban Family has developed a strong following thanks to their deft hands with fruit and sour beers, creating spritzy sours fermented with lots of different tropical and local fruits like apricots, boysenberries, mangoes, and passionfruit. These fruited beers are full of fruity pop without too much lingering sweetness. Gundel said their emphasis on fruited sours naturally developed from their own taste in beer and the success of Heart of Stone, a sour fruited with apricots and peaches that has become wildly popular.
"It was just one of our fastest selling beers at the time so we did a couple of more and it just became a fun thing of what fruit can we select and what kind of slightly different base we can make," Gundel explained.
Urban Family has also become a local expert in hazy IPA, that cloudy style of hop-focused beer that is less bitter and more fruit-forward than traditional IPA. Urban Family even had a collaboration with Berkeley's Fieldwork Brewing, one of the country's leading IPA breweries.
I first encountered Urban Family back in 2014 when they were so small most people in Ballard didn't even know they were a brewery. Their taproom felt more like a beer bar than a brewery, with more guest beers on tap than beers of their own. Since then they've moved across the Ship Canal and transformed into an entirely new and far more exciting brewery. We'll see if they can maintain that momentum when they move back across the water to Ballard.