Home brewer is ready to serve Vashon

Cliff Goodman stands in his newly built brew shed, where he will brew up to four batches a week.  - Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo
Cliff Goodman stands in his newly built brew shed, where he will brew up to four batches a week.
— image credit: Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo

When Cliff Goodman donated a case of his home-brewed beer to Vashon Community Care’s Labor of Love auction last year, he felt he was simply doing a good deed for the care center, where his wife Cara Aguilera works. However, when his various homemade ales — which had always been popular with his friends — quickly garnered top bids, Goodman began to think.

“It turned out to be really popular,” he said, some surprise still in his voice.

Now, with a new commercial brewing setup at his home on Quartermaster Drive, Goodman is preparing to sell his beer on Vashon. The one-man Vashon Brewing Company — the first brewery on Vashon — will offer selections at The Hardware Store Restaurant by the end of the year and join local producers and wineries at the Farmers Market next year.

“We have a lot of wineries,” said Hardware Store manager Alex Van Amburg. “It’s about time we had a brewery on the Island.”

Van Amburg said he has sampled several of Goodman’s brews and was impressed.

“They were all at least comparable, if not better, than the beer we already carry,” he said.

Goodman, finance director for the Seattle Men’s Chorus, has always loved both beer and cooking. He began brewing in his garage about 20 years ago, just before moving to Vashon. Since then, he says, he has abandoned recipes and simply brews what he loves, using Washington-grown ingredients.

“To me there’s something magical about brewing beer,” he said, standing outside his home last week, popping a bud-like hop cone off a vine that stretched 15 feet in the air. “To me, it’s amazing to take hops and malted barley water and yeast and make it into something different.”

Though Goodman likely won’t use the hop plants that grow on his front porch for brewing — he purchases pelletized hops from Eastern Washington— he likes having the plant around.

Breaking open the hop cone, he revealed the yellow, pollen-like powder inside.

“It’s kind of sticky,” he said, pushing the powder around with his finger. “That’s what gives beer the bitter taste.”

But when Goodman brews, he says, no two batches ever are alike. He’s constantly going for different flavors and experimenting with ingredients.

“Flowery, earthy, spicy, all different flavors and aromas, I really like playing around with them,” he said, making his way to the small, freshly painted brew shed not far from the hops.

Inside the shed were buckets of barley and hops, as well as shelves full of stainless steel equipment — some for cooking, some for cooling and some for fermenting. It wouldn’t be long before the shed filled with the pungent smells of beer in the making.

“Good equipment makes it a lot easier, … like food-grade hoses, made to handle boiling-hot liquid. Everything is specialized,” he said.

Goodman plans to continue brewing by the season. During the winter months, for example, his beer may be heavier and hoppier, he said. In the summer, it could be lighter and have flavors of citrus.

One of Goodman and his wife’s favorite home brews is an alder-smoked porter, which he makes by cold-smoking barley, often using alder scraps given to him by the Vashon Forest Stewards.

“It has a smokier flavor that I really like,” he said. “It adds extra complexity and gives it a little Northwest flavor.”

Now that his children are out of college, Goodman says he’s an empty nester with more time on his hands and a little more money to expand his hobby into a small side business.

In the industry, Goodman’s operation is considered a nanobrewery — a notch down from a microbrewery, which can produce 10 or more batches at a time. As a nanobrewery, he’ll produce about one batch a week, and four at the most.

“I’d rather have a small operation that’s successful at a local scale,” he said.

The nanobrewery is a small but growing trend. Home brewing has been legal for only a few decades, Goodman noted, and only in recent years have more quality ingredients been available to home brewers.

“The federal agency that handles licensing and the state agency are both going crazy because the number of breweries is growing like crazy in this country. And it’s not the big breweries that are contributing to the number,” he said.

It’s the small, sometimes home-based, breweries like Vashon Brewing Company that are popping up everywhere, he said.

“It’s definitely a trend, and it’s not just a trend on Vashon or Seattle or even in Washington. It’s a nationwide trend.”

Goodman believes Islanders — like Van Amburg at The Hardware Store — will go for his Island-made beer. Seeing the success of local wineries at the Farmers Market is, in part, what encouraged Goodman to start Vashon Brewing Company, he said. At the market, he plans to sell his beer in growlers, half-gallon glass jugs that customers can bring back to refill.

“People go out of their way to pay more and buy local,” he said. “If people vote with their wallets, they’re serious about it.”

Islander Peter Milovsoroff says he, for one, will be a customer. Milovsoroff, a beer lover who has dabbled in home brewing himself, won Goodman’s beer at the Labor of Love Auction and liked it so much that he rationed it out, drinking just one or two bottles a week.

“When you get beer that’s only a few weeks old, just recently brewed, for some reason it just tastes better,” Milovsoroff said. “It’s like food fresh from the garden.”

Van Amburg said he loves to buy local products to offer at The Hardware Store, but only if those products are good. And good beer, he says, is something he believes Goodman will deliver.

“The real appeal is we’re supporting a local entrepreneur who’s creating a quality product,” he said.


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