Photos Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

Mashups in the Mash Tun

by | Feb 20, 2023

Bizarre Brewing brings low-ABV beers made from unique grains to Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood

Bizarre Brewing, the Magnolia brewery and taproom founded by Seattle industry veterans Colette Boilini and Derek Brown in October 2022, is a study in mashups.

Fusing historic beer styles while using innovative grain bills to do so, Boilini and Brown hope to create a neighborhood gathering place where folks can gather to enjoy multiple low-ABV craft beers in a beer hall atmosphere evoking European pub culture.

Television People, Bizarre’s Kolsch-Weisse with lemon and coriander, is an example of a playful mashup that epitomizes the brewery’s ethos. Coming in at 4.8% ABV — don’t expect to see any Bizarre offerings over six percent until its barrel program gets off the ground — it merges a clean, crisp German Kolsch with an herbaceous and citrusy Belgian wit.

Photo Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

Dinkel Hell, a 5.2% ABV riff on a Bavarian staple, mashes up a German hefeweizen, bolstered by the addition of spelt malt, with an American hazy pale ale. The combination of grains with a subtle yet substantial hop backbone highlights Brown’s agility and creativity as a brewer, as he takes two popular styles and fuses them into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

“We think our beers are nuanced, but full of character,” says Brown. “The hefeweizen strain of yeast has a banana quality, and by blending that with new world tropical hops, we’ve created a little bit of a monster that people seem to be very receptive to. We’re playing around with blending the two worlds and really leaning into it. We’re having some fun with it.”

Brewers and taproom managers without Brown and Boilini’s resumes might not be so bold.

Photos Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

Brown, a Snohomish native, oversaw Holy Mountain Brewing’s barrel program after a stint at Fremont Brewing and beginning as a home brewer at 21. Boilini is originally from Indiana, but has been in the Pacific Northwest for nine years and worked at Cloudburst Brewing and Fremont, where she met Brown in 2014.

In dusting off historic alternative grains such as spelt, buckwheat and oats, Bizarre is exposing patrons to flavors that have been prevalent in Europe for centuries while still highlighting local ingredients.

Photo Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

“There’s a whole world of other grains out there, other than the barley and wheat historically used in brewing, and folks just used whatever grew around them,” says Brown. “With this area that we live in, with tons of grains growing everywhere, we wanted to add some of that local flavor to set our beers apart and bring them back to what some of these styles might have once tasted like. Spelt is one of our favorites. It’s an ancient wheat variety that has more rustic character than average wheat. Adding another layer like that gives low-alcohol beers extra nuance that helps them shine a little bit. We love peeling something from history and bringing it into a modern light.”

It may be jarring to some Bizarre patrons to not see an IPA on the taplist. It’s done intentionally as part of the brewery’s low-ABV principles.

Photo Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

“Maybe at one point we’ll make a baby IPA, but for the most part, we want to keep everything under six percent,” Brown said. “A lot of our pale ales would contend with any IPA that’s higher in alcohol and it’s a cool challenge to keep everything under six percent while still being pretty flavorful. Folks should expect to see bourbon barrel-aged beers in the future, but we’re trying to stick with pale ales and out of the IPA lane.”

While it’s not Boilini and Brown’s goal to be a strictly Pacific Northwest brewery — too many European influences for that — their Ghost Bird Sings, a double dry-hopped extra pale ale, is conditioned on Western Red Cedar planks, producing a flavor profile that is exclusively of this region.

“I had two massive red cedar trees at our house growing up, and that’s one of my favorite scents on the planet,” Brown says. “There are so many cool ingredients here that can be used in brewing, and whether it’s conscious or not, it’s very much important to us without being exclusively our goal.”

Photo Courtesy Bizarre Brewing

Folks unable to make it to Bizarre’s taproom on 26th Avenue West in the Magnolia neighborhood can find four-packs of self-distributed cans for $17 to 20 at area bottle shops like Chuck’s Hop Shop, Bottleworks and The Beer Junction, as well as shops further afield in Puyallup, Tacoma and Lynnwood.

Boilini said there are no world-conquering plans for expansion in the near or distant future.

“Our vision is really to create a gathering space with a bustling taproom filled with people gathering in groups with friends, eating food-truck food, sitting inside or outside,” she says. “The idea was always to bring people together, but we’re going to stay on the smaller side of things, focusing our attention here and growing our community.”


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