By Margo Greenman
A culture of its own, the craft beer movement is continuously growing. With countless microbreweries across the country, the Pacific Northwest stands out as a leader when it comes to producing quality suds. Among these producers is one Gig Harbor-based brewery committed to brewing the best.
Mike Runion experienced his first glimpse of the craft brewing industry while cleaning kegs and labeling bottles during an internship at Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, Wash. During his time there, the Washington State University graduate met brewer, Travis Guterson. As the two got to know each other, they found that they shared many common ideas when it came to defining what a quality beer should be. Wanting to manifest their vision, Runion and Guterson decided to open their own brewery, and in 2009, 7 Seas Brewing opened its doors as Gig Harbor’s, first microbrewery.
Runion and Guterson hit the ground running. Starting their production-focused brewery off simple with a second-hand brewing system and small space in Gig Harbor, 7 Seas quickly grew a following and became a favorite gathering place among the community. While curiosity was often what led locals in, it was the beer that kept them coming back. “You can spend lots of time on marketing, but when it comes down to it, it’s what’s in the pint glass that matters. It’s all about the quality of the beer,” says Runion.
Committed to producing the best beer around, 7 Seas quickly grew, and as the demand for their beer increased, they identified the need for a bigger space. In 2012, 7 Seas moved its operation to its current location in downtown Gig Harbor. With more square footage, the brewery was able to expand its production and provide more space for its thirsty patrons.
Outfitted with long, rustic, wooden tables and benches, the family-style seating at 7 Seas’ taproom is conducive to promoting a friendly atmosphere that brings the community together. “We think pints should be enjoyed over conversation. That’s what’s cool about craft beer in general – it brings people together. You get to see people becoming friends over a pint of good beer,” explains Runion.
In addition to producing outstanding beers and providing the community with a great place to gather, 7 Seas’ success can also be attributed to the respect and esteem they have gained as innovators in the industry and stewards to the environment and community.
As the first brewery in Washington state to can their beers, 7 Seas established itself as a forerunner in the industry, debunking the myth that bottled beer is better and setting a model for others to follow. Using this packaging method, 7 Seas has inspired other breweries in the state to turn to canning as an effective way of preserving the flavor profile and quality of their beers, while reducing their impact on the environment by abandoning the inefficiency associated with bottling.
As committed as 7 Seas is to the quality of the beer that they produce, they are equally committed to the employees who work for them and the community that they serve. “We offer all of our full-time employees full medical benefits. It’s hard, but it’s the right thing. Taking care of our employees and customers is important, and we want to make the community proud,” says Runion. 7 Seas also supports local non-profits through the sponsorship of events like Dining Out for Life.
As the craft beer industry continues to boom and more breweries enter the stage, Runion says he’s excited for more great beer. “The brewing industry, in general, isn’t a hyper competitive industry. The more breweries you get in a local area is a good thing. It’s an attraction,” he says. Which is a good, because two new breweries are set to open in Gig Harbor in the coming year, one of which is Wet Coast Brewing Company.
As for the future? 7 Seas plans to continue doing what they’ve been hard at work at for the past five years: making great beer. “We’ve taken an approach to our growth that’s that’s very natural and organic. We focus on doing things the right way, and we’re not in a rush. We want to grow, but we want to grow the right way, and make sure that we take our time, do it right, and let the beer speak for itself.”
Want to try 7 Seas firsthand? Visit their taproom, located in Gig Harbor at 3006 Judson Street, Suit #110, Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., and Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., and try a pint straight from the source, or pick up a can at any one of the locations where 7 Seas is sold.