Aside from brewing high quality craft beer, Rich and Ray Nesheim had one important goal in mind when they opened Triplehorn Brewing Company: to become the local boys who built the go-to local watering hole in Woodinville.
“We grew up here,” says Rich Nesheim. “That’s the whole reasoning behind Woodinville; we wanted to be the local boys in our community, and we had a little foresight to see the trend of breweries going more towards community breweries.”
Now, just two years after pouring the first pint, they are making headway in creating a name for themselves. The Washington Beer Awards recently awarded Triplehorn a Gold Medal for their Enable Session Ale and a Bronze Medal for the BYGG VIN Barley Wine. The brothers are also currently crunching numbers to purchase the equipment needed to quadruple their production and keep up with the ever-growing demand. And, their beer can now be regularly found on dozens of taps from Bellingham to Tacoma.
So, while the verdict may still be out on whether they’ve made it as the definitive watering hole of Woodinville, they are indisputably making their mark on the local beer scene. But, the two brothers, both of who left Woodinville at different points in their lives to pursue careers in construction, say it’s been quite the roundabout way of getting here.
“This wasn’t the original idea; the original idea was wine. We have property over in Eastern Washington, and we were going to start growing vines and making wine. That was four years ago,” Rich says, who handles much of the business and marketing for the company. “But after we ran the numbers, we decided that it was not something we’d like to get into.
“There are hundreds of wineries in Washington, and far less breweries. We’ve always been foodies, wine and beer people, and we just ran all the economics and decided this is the way to go.”
Rich says the brothers also really liked the quickness of the beer-making process, noting that an average batch of beer can be made in just a few weeks versus the months and years it takes to create wine. He saw this, coupled with his ability to play around with different herbs, flavors and recipes, as a creative outlet to experiment. And experiment they did.
“We opened up with three styles of beer; in two years we’ve produced over 60 styles,” Rich says. Those styles include a regular lineup of beers that remain on the menu year-round, plus dozens of specialty and seasonal batches.
Just for starters, one specialty style blended their Imperial Stout with a blond and was then aged in cabernet syrah wine barrels from Patterson Cellars (they often collaborate with other local wineries or distilleries). That specific batch was just a “one-off,” a one-time 200-gallon product they made last year that people still ask about.
But even their regular styles, like the Intervention IPA, packs a creative punch. They make it by dry hopping an IPA in Jack Daniels’ barrels they source straight from the whiskey giant.
“There’s a lot of creative artistry that goes into it. I come from a background of building custom homes with unlimited budgets, and I’m seeing that passion run over into this,” Rich says. “We’re not afraid of doing something new; we know what our base sells, and so for us to be able to mess around with something is really cool.”
the mad scientist and his lab
Although Rich refers to the process as messing around, he also admits that there is an incredible amount of science and skill that goes into each batch. And that’s where his brother, Ray, comes into the picture.
“We’re totally opposite,” Rich says. “[Ray’s] a little like a nutty professor; he’s a savant with mechanics and that translated well into the brewing process. When it comes to something he’s passionate about, he doesn’t talk about it too much; he just delves into the information. He wants to know everything right, wrong or in between.”
Rich is right in that Ray doesn’t really want to talk about making beer. He just wants to make it as best he can. In the initial phases, he spent significant amounts of time researching and working with other major breweries in the region, watching how they operate and then crafting his own process. And, like Rich, he enjoys the experimentation process. Rich says it’s Ray’s attention to detail and thoroughness that has allowed the brothers to execute their unique range of styles.
“We came up with a Saison style, which is a hard style to get people into around the city and the Northwest, but we’re really proud of it; we do a Belgian style, and if you like a pilsner or lager, you’re going to love the Saison,” Rich says. “A lot of science, a lot of thought went into that one. ”
As for the future, the brothers say they are more interested in maintaining quality and innovation versus worrying about sheer growth. Although they are seeking ways to ramp up current production, they are happy with being a Northwest-only beer. After all, through all their early success, their main concern remains making good beer for the locals.
“Beer is like flowers and ice cream, it always makes people happy,” Rich says. “And that’s the coolest thing about this is watching people come and drink beer and then leave, and they’re all happy. That’s how we know we’re doing the right thing, we’re doing a good thing. … Now I’m the most popular guy at my high school.” ➸ For more information, visit triplehornbrewing.com
bellevue club beer dinner
Join us for a dinner featuring Triplehorn selections on October 30. Meet the beermaker at 6 p.m. and stay for a five-course dinner with five beer pairings. Cost is $65 per seat. For reservations, call 425-637-4608.