I've been following a bread crumb trail lately...those crumbs being hints from brewers around town that someone very talented is about to start his own brewing operation. And when he did, it would be a big deal in Seattle's beer world.
Finally I solved the puzzle, or Elysian CEO Joe Bisacca did for me by mentioning that Steve Luke, lead brewer at Elysian Fields, is striking out on his own. He'll be opening his own place, Cloudburst Brewing just north of Pike Place Market, in the former Elliott Bay Bicycles space at 2116 Western Ave (Luke is already planning to brew a beer in tribute to the former occupant).
Elysian Fields might be known for its pregame pints, but its small system is where the ever-innovative brewery—more specifically, one Steve Luke—undertakes more experimental creations, dabbling in oolong tea and lemon powder or uncommon hops or even whole bouquets of flowers. Some of his experiments have gone on to be Elysian favorites, like the Space Dust and Dayglow IPAs, and (be still my heart) the marvelous Split Shot Espresso Stout.
Luke is still at Elysian while he works on Cloudburst, which should be open by the end of the year. Once he's brewing on his own system, he's not looking to establish flagship beers. Luke promises Cloudburst's 12-ish taps will always pour something light, something dark, and something hoppy, but beyond that he's leaving his beer list up to inspiration and experimentation
His own tastes run toward "deep, dark beers," experimental hops, and brewing with fruit (uh, more on that in a sec). Much life a chef, he's excited about his proximity to Pike Place Market and the produce potential for seasonal, market-sourced beers.
Cloudburst will be close to the tourist throngs, sure, but Luke is excited "to be the local brewery for the neighborhood," since his history-laden brick building is on the fringe of Belltown. Though with Old Stove destined for Pike Place Market and the venerable Pike Brewing just beyond, that stretch of downtown is forming its own little brewery district.
Luke's plans long predate the news that Elysian will be acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Though, irony of all ironies, he was the guy beyind Elysian's Gourdgia on my Mind, aka the pumpkin peach ale that made the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial slamming craft beer seem all the more tone deaf.
Stories like Luke's—training up at one of Washington's more established craft breweries before launching his own place—are surprisingly unusual. But after his time at Elysian it's hard to imagine a guy better prepared to make his own spectacular beer...during his four years there, Luke brewed nearly 200 unique creations. Before that he was head brewer at Rogue Ales' brewpub in Issaquah.
Though Cloudburst's open is still a ways out, the nascent Facebook page can keep you apprised. Meanwhile, the New School Beer blog posted this great Q&A with more details on the name, Luke's background, etc.