As busy servers wrapped silverware and polished glasses, preservice at the Brave Horse Tavern, Kayle Thompson pulled a single can of beer from her purse and handed it to the barman to keep so general manager Scott Whited can sample it. “Don’t drink it,” she instructs the middleman.
The beer, a Caldera IPA, is one that Thompson picked up from the little beer store by her house in Fremont. Thompson, ever the sampler, doesn’t usually buy beer more than once, but she’s taken a shine to the IPA from Ashland, Oregon, buying two six-packs. Beer enthusiasts take a tip; this woman is new to the game, but she knows her stuff.
When Warren Peterson, ex-chef and “beer czar” at Tom Douglas’s beer-focused Brave Horse Tavern, left for Elliott Bay Brewing Company, Thompson took over his post. I asked her about landing the position; she chalks it up to good timing and good luck. I think she had it coming.
“I don’t think Scott knows this,” Thompson says, “but the first thing I did when I heard Warren was leaving was print my resume and run down the hill from Lola (where she was working at the time) to Etta’s. They were closed for a staff meeting, so I stood outside, resume in hand, hopeful.”
Before landing this job, Thompson enjoyed drinking a beer or two with Peterson, but beer exploration happened mostly on her own time. While her resume lists server stints at a few T. Doug places and elsewhere, she’s young, enthusiastic, and has a lot to learn and a lot to gain from her new position. “She’s already kicking ass,” says Brave Horse marketing manager Amy Richardson. And no doubt she’ll continue. But somehow it just doesn’t feel right to call her the new beer czar. Isn’t the beer czar Peterson? And isn’t this Thompson’s time to shine?
She could be called the sultana of suds, the baroness of brew, or the matriarch of mash, perhaps. Whatever her title, Thompson is poised to be an influential figure in Seattle’s ever-expanding beer community, overseeing Brave Horse’s impressive beer list and wrangling the full calendar of beer and brewer events at Douglas’s Amazonia gastropub.
Here, a few questions for Kayle Thompson.
Tell me a little bit about the Brave Horse beer list: its strengths, how you made your selections, how its organized?
The biggest strength of our list is its size. We have 22 handles at Brave Horse, 20 of which rotate on a regular basis. We are very spoiled to have that type of flexibility and the room to have something that pleases every palate. Scott, our general manager, and I sit down once a week to talk about and choose beer for the upcoming weeks. Picking our list is really a team effort; I get ideas for new beers from servers, bartenders, and guests on a regular basis. Our draft list is organized primarily by style, which makes it easy to pinpoint beers to suit your mood.
What is your most popular beer, and what beer do you wish people ordered more of?
The beer we sell the most of is our Brave Horse Ale, which is made for us by Schooner Exact. It is our only permanent handle. I’m extremely happy that our guests enjoy this beer as much as we do. I wish people would order more beers available by the bottle. Some of our more eclectic beers are only available in a bottle format, but they are in no way worth overlooking!
What is your favorite Seattle bar? Why?
For beer I love drinking at Quinn’s, The Dray, and Beveridge Place. Quinn’s always has a solid list and their staff is incredibly knowledgeable. I love sitting at the bar there because I learn something new about beer or spirits every time. Beveridge Place and The Dray are both comfortable, laid back bars with awesome lists. It’s like drinking in my living room, but better.
What’s your beer of choice these days?
Recently I’ve been drinking a bunch of Caldera IPA out of Ashland, Oregon and Idiot Sauvin from Elysian’s Manic series, but my beer of choice changes daily. I’m always looking for something new that I haven’t tried before.