What’s in a name? If you ask Jeff Howell, co-owner of the creatively contradictory Counterbalance Brewing Co., he’ll say just about everything. Used to describe a weight with the purpose of balancing another weight, “counterbalance” is both this brewery’s namesake and a nuance to almost every aspect of it.
Located in South Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, known for its industrial aesthetic and brewing history, Counterbalance boasts delicious beer that – from one batch to the next – plays the perfect balancing act: it has complexity and depth without being overly extravagant.
“We’re just a couple of dudes,” Howell says. “We’re t-shirt and jeans people, we had to set ourselves apart in a crowded market.”
The professional partnership of Howell and fellow co-owner Frank Lawrence is the backbone behind the brewery’s delicate balance. The duo realized their complementary, yet differing, professional skill sets would translate to running a brewery when they were working together at a coffee company. Lawrence, with a background in engineering, has skills for operating the machinery necessary for brewing, while Howell’s natural strengths were in managing the operational side of things.
Where else can you see a reference to balance? Step into the taproom and you’ll be greeted with a 10-foot-tall painting of Counterbalance’s famed logo: a quirky, one-legged-duck, who also graces most of the canned beers.
Along with being another nod to balance, the one-legged duck is an unconventional reminder of sorts, for employees and customers alike, to not take life too seriously.
“One of the ways we avoid getting bogged down by daily operations is to look at this completely ridiculous duck,” Howell says. “After all, beer is supposed to be fun.”
STABILIZED SELECTION OF SUDS
The historical significance of the name Counterbalance pays homage to a neighborhood seven miles north of Georgetown, Queen Anne, where Howell and Lawrence met while working in a coffee shop together. In the early 20th century, a streetcar by the name of Counterbalance made daily trips up the steepest part of Queen Anne Avenue. Stabilized by a 16-ton weight, it was able to keep its balance.
Although the streetcar made its last trek up the hill in 1940, Counterbalance is remembered by Queen Anne residents. “The weight is still buried under Queen Anne hill, with Counterbalance Park and Counterbalance Barbershop, the name floats around that neighborhood,” Howell says. “Once we started thinking about the brewery, it fit that mentality. When we look at ourselves as people, we counterbalance each other.”
Head to Georgetown, visit the Counterbalance taproom and enjoy the beers on tap: the Abigale blonde ale, Kushetka imperial stout, Multipass IPA and Reference Guide hazy pale ale, to name a few. The beer is also available for purchase through online ordering and curbside pickup.
As Washington State is moving towards the first steps of reopening following the effects of COVID-19 and Governor Jay Inslee’s Stay at Home Orders, Counterbalance has reopened its taproom with new guidelines. Check the website for more details on ordering and visiting the brewery taproom.