Hale’s Alehouse about to make debut

By Rachel Pritchett
rpritchett@kitsapsun.com SILVERDALE
Hale’s Alehouse at Kitsap Mall is set for a gradual opening just before the Fourth of July, offering fans of crafted beer another option in a scene that’s tiny but growing.
“There seemed to be a good opportunity over here. In Seattle, you can find a really nice pub almost on every corner,” said Mike Hale, founder and president of Fremont-based Hale’s Ales.
His beer will be brewed at Fremont, then brought to Silverdale.
As for the expanding local brewing scene, Silver City Brewery & Restaurant, the biggest by far, recently doubled its capacity to 5,400 barrels a year when it opened a new brewery in Bremerton. It’s planning an expansion of its Silverdale restaurant soon.
Some of the local brewers include the new Der Blokken Brewery in Manette, Rook Brewery in Poulsbo and Hood Canal Brewery in Kingston, which has been around for a while.
Hale paused for a conversation recently as he oversaw an army of workmen putting the final touches on his alehouse, which is so big that it necessitated a re-do of the mall’s northeast entrance.
The brewpub will be dark, cozy and sectioned off to feel smaller than its capacity of 280 customers.
Hale’s $2 million investment is evident. Big patios with tables and chairs are alongside the mall parking lot and also inside the mall. The alehouse’s interior features comfortable booths beneath stained-glass panels and a massive fireplace.
An enormous, high-tech kitchen has cooktops the size of mattresses and washing machine-sized salad spinners.
A big banquet room has a large flat-screen TV for presentations that Hale hopes will appeal to the business set.
Ninety employees have been hired to serve Hale’s flagship beer, Hale’s Pale American Ale, and a host of others, along with foods that can stand up to the big beers like burgers, sandwiches and smoked salmon chowder.
A visit will cost customers about $15 apiece, including tip, he estimates, and there will be a reservation system.
Hale is pricing his items similar to Silver City, which is right across the mall parking lot from him.
“We want to kind of avoid coming in and shaking up the apple cart,” he said.
He anticipates that the new Hale’s Alehouse and his Fremont brewery and restaurant will gross roughly $8 million in combined gross sales the first year, with about half of that coming from his new Silverdale operation.
Hale was one of the very first entrepreneurs to come up with crafted beers almost 30 years ago.
He admits that he could have expanded faster, opening more alehouses along the way. But being small is part of his success.
“Size is the enemy of quality,” he said.
Hale said he looked to start a second outlet here because it’s been home for him since 1986. He and wife Kathleen lived on Bainbridge Island for years, and now are in Indianola.
They love to fly here and in Canada. With a regular plane, a floatplane and a glider, Hale even has an instrument rating.
“It’s the magic carpet,” he said of his off-time passion.
Hale and his wife are deeply religious and are members of Island Church on Bainbridge.
“Well, I’d like to thank the Lord for this restaurant,” Hale said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for a brewer to face some of the Christian world.”
Kathleen, a former bus driver with Metro Transit in Seattle and Kitsap Transit employee, will manage Hale’s Alehouse. She is originally from Bremerton.
Hale recently was in negotiations to open another alehouse in the former Westsound Bank building at Second Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Bremerton.
In the end, he backed out, but said he has a sentimental attachment to Bremerton and surroundings.
“We’ll be looking for another place here as soon as we get our feet on the ground,” he said.
More alehouses give him more venues to offer his beer, without having to convince someone else to carry them.
“So here’s a guaranteed outlet for our beer,” he said.
Hale is confident that beer-drinking will withstand the recession. The numbers back him up.
According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the number of microbreweries in Washington has steadily grown from 84 in 2005 to 132 today. Drinking in general appears to have grown somewhat, too. Some 4,439 bars, restaurants and pubs had liquor licenses in 2006; now there are 4,794.
Microbrews only take up 5 percent of the beer-drinking market, and Hale thinks he and like-minded microbrewers still have a shot at increasing that.
“There’s a huge market out there. Most people are drinking the Bud,” he said.
At 67, he has no plans to retire.
“This is fantastic fun,” he said.
Hale grew up in San Francisco, the son of an advertising man. He studied forestry at the University of California at Berkeley before bicycling through Europe and falling in love with some memorable beers there.
“I just knew that I could not get good beer here unless I made it myself,” he said.
In 1983 he started his first brewery in Colville, which he later moved to Spokane. In 1987, he opened a second brewery in Kirkland, and later moved that to Fremont. Today, he has only the Fremont brewery and restaurant housed in a former hose-manufacturing plant, and the about-to-open Silverdale alehouse.

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