The formation, trajectory, and success that’s become the story of Seattle’s Cloudburst Brewing is one that could’ve been told about a scrappy brewery born in the 1980’s. Founded as a counterpoint to industrial scale brewing, Cloudburst has always focused their efforts on creative ingenuity, variety, and drinkability.
The story of Cloudburst centers around founder and head brewer Steve Luke. Born and raised in New England, Luke landed his first brewery gig washing kegs, folding boxes, and sweeping floors at Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewing between his junior and senior years of study at Colby College in Waterville. After becoming employee number 2 at Captain Lawrence Brewing and a brief stint at Harpoon Brewing, Luke landed his first head brewing job at Cambridge House Brew Pub in Granby Connecticut.
In 2010, he and his wife headed west as he was to begin his studies at UC Davis’ Master Brewers Program. Upon completion of the program, Luke spent a year brewing at Rogue Beer’s Issaquah, Washington location. After multiple emails and then a fateful meeting with Elysian Brewing’s Dick Cantwell at a cask beer fest, he took on a lead brewer position, primarily focusing on R&D batches at their Elysian Fields brewhouse. During his 5 year tenure at Elysian, Luke created over 200 recipes, including stalwarts Space Dust IPA, Peach Pumpkin Ale, and Split Shot Espresso stout.
Upon the sale of Elysian to AB-InBev in January 2015, Luke already had a business plan in his back pocket to start his own brewery. What set his approach to Cloudburst Brewing apart from other breweries at the time – who were more often geared toward flagships, seasonals, and beers for distribution into stores, was a focused attention in creating weekly new releases. If there was a template for styles, it was for their offerings to be hop forward, with some dark beers and lager beers in the mix, the latter of which were not commonly available in the Seattle market at the time.
With six former Elysian employees (including lead brewer Zach Kornfeld) joining him in this new endeavor, Luke began brewing at Cloudburst in October of that year, then later opening their original Western Avenue taproom in January of 2016. Having just come from a creative environment where he could create a new recipe, each and every week, so too did his new brewhouse. This fell right in line with the “what’s new” interest expressed by rabid craft beer drinkers, feeding Luke’s interest in consistently creating something original and drinkable, yet balanced and complex.
As a result, Cloudburst has become known for their comparatively dry and well-attenuated Hazy and West Coast IPAs. The bulk of their IPAs utilize Rahr 2-row and Weyermann Pils, with many incorporating white or red malted oats. Another aspect of Cloudburst’s brewing process that sets them apart in the Age of Haze is their willingness to continue hop additions to the kettle, ensuring a balance of aroma & bitterness. Also of note: they propagated, via Imperial Yeast, their own yeast strain whose parentage was from Elysian’s ale yeast, aptly renamed Corporate ale yeast.
In February of 2020, Steve Luke & Cloudburst were recognized as James Beard Award semi-finalists in the category of “Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer.” Later in August, the brewery opened it’s second location, dubbed Shilshole, in the increasing craft brewery rich neighborhood of Ballard. Since their founding in 2016, Cloudburst Brewing has been recognized with 5 medals for their beers at the Great American Beer Festival, most recently awarded 2021 Brewery of the Year (1,001 to 2,000 barrels) as they won silver for Happy Little Clouds (American-style Pilsner) and gold for their Entschuldigung! Kellerbier.
To learn more about Cloudburst, be sure to check out the links listed below, plus their always entertaining and thought provoking Instagram posts… and don’t overlook the hashtags.
While Cloudburst has occasionally been able to supply beer to NE Portland’s Tulip Shop Tavern, roughly 97% of their beer isn’t found for sale outside Seattle’s city limits. That said, we at Day One have been lucky to work with Cloudburst since the Summer 2018. We’re also extremely happy to announce that we just received four canned and five kegged releases for limited distribution in Oregon, including 2 GABF silver medal winners and their 6th Anniversary IPA:
- Happy Little Clouds, Pilsner – 2021 GABF Silver. A Bob Ross inspired Bastardized Pilsner. We believe everyday is a good day when you brew. Start out, by believing here. A little touch of pilsner malt here, a little push of German and American hops there, caressed very gently layer after layer after layer. There are no limits here. Weyermann Pilsner Malt & this batch is hopped with GR Magnum, CZ Saaz, GR Mandarina, & Australian Ella hops – and with notes of white peach, rose, green tea, and lemongrass, you can at least think about traveling to Australia – 5.3%. Available in cans & on draft.
- Not A Scientist, Hazy DIPA – 2020 GABF Silver. So, here’s what’s going on with this beer. We made some hopped wort (lots of science did this – like malting and enzymes and isomerization and shit) and then we knocked out onto Mosaic cryogenically frozen powderized hop matter concentrate and saccharomyces cerevisiae so that biotransformation of hoppy stuff would occur while the yeast metabolized maltose, maltotriose, & sucrose while creating new esters and alcohols and stuff. We THEN added some Strata hops – which are this new, genetically unique variety of humulus lupulus developed by actual scientists at Oregon State University – 8.4%. Available in cans & on draft.
- Once Upon A Party, Hazy IPA – 6th Anniversary IPA. There once was a time, not long ago, in what feels like a far away place, where people would gather and unwind and celebrate and often partake and occasionally get schmammered and infrequently divulge in TOO much fun, which could lead to a GREAT NIGHT followed by a ROUGH MORNING. Remember high fives and hugging your friends and sharing sips of the SAME beer and talking a little too close so that spit would accidentally fly into each other’s faces and you’d laugh about it aloud as opposed to thinking “YOU MOTHERFUCKER JUST GAVE ME GERMS THAT COULD FUCKING KILL ME! …Anyways, this beer is to celebrate all the good times we had, all the ok times we still have, and all the better times we’ll have some day…hopefully, soon – 6.5%. Available in cans & on draft.
- The CDC Says, Hazy Pale – We named it [two weeks ago], when we were blissfully unaware of what our current situation would become. Pretty funny right? It’s like, if you can’t laugh at us trolling the indecisiveness and, lately, dubious recommendations the CDC is spitting out about COVID while we simultaneously become aware of an internal positive case, leaving us scrambling to keep everyone else safe, while trying to salvage some type of revenue because we have zero support from local/federal/govt/insurance organizations to assist in business interruptions, which occurred right after record cold temps & snowfall that briefly slowed/shutdown many local breweries, bars & restaurants, and further affected packaging & raw material supply chain issues, on top of rumblings of future economic uncertainty…. then what else can you do?? HAHA! What? Cry? Is that an option? Huh. We never really thought of that. You know we died inside long before this, right? Oh like, around April of 2020. Have a seat? Ok. Tell you about our childhood? Wait. Are we getting billed for this? 5.7%. Available in cans & on draft.
- This Is Boring, Imperial Stout – From the brewers that brought you “Not Interested”, “Bored To Death”, “Not My Favorite”, & “Yawn,” we proudly present you this straightforward American Style Imperial Stout. That’s it. Like, there’s nothing else added to this beer. No vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs, peanut butter, maple syrup, lactose, coconut, fruit puree, cinnamon, marshmallow, other spices, baked goods, hot sauce, jerky or placentas. ALSO – this beer was NOT barrel aged. It’s just…a beer. A full bodied beer with a roast forward blend of 11 malts. A beer heavily hopped with Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo, & Cascade to cut that roast with undertones of citrus, dark fruit & pine. A beer the children won’t understand right now, but will look back on it 5 years later, and say “Ah. I get it now.” and wish they ordered it then, because we probably haven’t brewed it since – 9.3%. Available only on draft.