“When we first started looking, we didn’t look here a lot,” says Wayne Jehlik, Obec Brewing’s headbrewer and co-owner, “because we didn’t want to be the 47th brewery in Ballard.” (Depending on how you count, Obec is more like the 11th or 12th.) But after three years of searching, Jehlik and his wife Stacy and their partner Brian Gill landed in not only Ballard perhaps the most intimidating spot in the city to open a new brewery—right between Stoup and Reuben’s.
But all of Obec’s new neighbors have been so supportive—from offering pointers on industrial brewing systems (both Wayne and Gill have been home brewing for about 20 years), to pouring post shift brews—that the “cons have been negligible,” Wayne says.
Obec is the Czech word for “community,” and Wayne—Seattle’s honorary consulate to the Czech Republic—says he wants the space to feel like a second living room, an extension of backyard grill nights at the Jehlik house. To that end Obec is a touch cushier than your baseline Seattle brewery. Emphasis on a touch. An industrial vibe still presides (the space was the former Pickle-Ball warehouse): concrete floors, stainless-steel brew tanks, indoor picnic tables, couches made from pallets. But those pallets have plush cushions and pillows on them, and there are spats of finished woodwork and a big round chandelier.
Obec opened on August 25, so the taplist is still fledgling—four Obec beers; some guest taps (Stoup, Lucky Envelope, Figurehead, Elemental Hard Cider); some local wine, Fall Line and Lobo Hills; and Wallingford-based Solera Bravo vermouth and soda. The wines mean a tavern license, which in turn means no kids, but dogs are welcome.
The beers themselves are a respectable, if safe, inaugural lineup. To me, about 80 percent of pale ales are pretty forgettable, and this one isn’t an exception. It’s balanced, clean, easy to drink, and shrugworthy. The other beers show stronger. The Czech pilsner has honey notes that push how floral the style can get. The india red rye is big and complex and engaging: layers of malt, hop, and spice. Instead of big cloying chocolaty notes, the porter finishes with a welcome dryness, a bitter snap that readies you for another sip, even in late August; it’s almost CDA-like.
Wayne has plans for a broader palette of styles, saisons and sours and Belgians, as production ramps up and fills out the 12 taps. So far the beer is well worth checking out if you’re brewery hopping in the neighborhood, and worth checking in on later as more beers come along.