Starting a business is part of the American Dream for many, and yet it can be nothing short of nerve-racking. Nobody knows this better than the owners of the Dystopian State Brewing Company. The harsh reality is that more small businesses fail than succeed.

Lana Adzhigirey, co-owner of the Dystopian State Brewing Company, takes this risk both seriously and personally. “[Our brewery] is very personal because it’s the spirit of entrepreneurship,” she says. “It’s very American. You live on the edge. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.”

Dystopian State Brewing
Don’t let the grim name fool you. Dystopian State is a cozy and welcoming taproom. Photo credit: Daniel Beers.

Lana, along with Shane McElwrath and Chris Bradley, opened the doors to Dystopian State Brewing Company on November 4, 2016. However, this is not the beginning of the story. Prior to that, Lana and Shane worked in the health care industry for the past 20 years. Using that scientific background, Shane became enamored by home brewing and refined his craft over countless batches with a systematic approach. “Shane lives and breathes craft beer,” Lana says with a laugh. After a year of perfecting the recipes, brewing in garages, using their friends as guinea pig tasters, and putting a lot on the line financially, it was time to make the leap into starting a small business.

As with any business, location is everything. Lana, Shane and Chris chose a site where South Baker Street and Saint Helens Avenue meet in downtown Tacoma. The building was originally designed by Silas E. Nelsen in 1928. It had served for both the Wagner Motors Company and the Arctic Bottling Company throughout that time. By the time the Dystopian State team took it over, it had been abandoned. A thick layer of dust, along with broken glass, covered the old wooden floor. It needed a lot of work and a lot of love.

The Dystopian State team was ready for the challenge. They gutted the building, and tried to reclaim materials that were left over. They built hand-crafted tables from old wooden spools. “We even made the bar ourselves from concrete and reclaimed wood we salvaged from the place,” Lana recalls.

Dystopian Beer Tacoma
Shane McElwrath and his daughter Isla. Isla is regarded as a silent partner in this business venture. Photo courtesy: Lana Adzhigirey.

The preparation was also a family effort. Shane’s eight-year-old daughter, Isla, was also more than willing to help get everything ready before opening day. “[Isla] helped with the floor, the painting, the vacuuming,” Lana says. “She’s our invisible partner.” It is because of this that Dystopian State Brewing Company is family friendly, and that children are more than welcome. “We don’t discriminate based on age,” Lana continues, “just on bad behavior.”

The end product of all their hard work is a space that mixes both vintage and modern styles, making it an original and cozy tasting room. “We want people to feel like it’s their living room,” Lana stresses, “to hang out, read books, build relationships, and just be comfortable.”

This originality doesn’t just end with the décor. Each of the 18 beers on tap is made in-house and from homemade recipes, so don’t expect anything boring here. Even their Flagship Ales include uncommon styles. The Entropy Triple Black IPA is a surprisingly smooth powerhouse of a beer made of seven different malts, hemp seed, and three different varieties of hops. The Helmet Breaker American Double IPA is a “hop forward ale” that is both balanced and refreshing. The Gold Sigil Honey Wheat Ale is sweet and drinkable. The Red Queen Red India Pale Ale has a beautiful color, a crisp taste, and an easy finish.

The unique variety of styles and ingredients carry over to their seasonal selection as well. Expect beers like Everyone’s Crisis Coconut Cream Ale that is made with 25 pounds of lightly roasted coconut flakes. Other seasonal choices include the Smaller Ironies Chai Porter and the Annexia German Apricot Weiss. This is the kind of beer for people that their beer very seriously.

Dystopian State Brewing Company
The bar was created with reclaimed materials by the founders. Photo credit: Daniel Beers.

While still largely in its infancy, Dystopian State Brewing Company has great plans for the future. They plan on bottling their beer in February of 2017, and have even teamed up with local artist Kyle Schold of Vancouver, Washington, to design their labels. There are also plans to include food to their tasting room with the addition of a kitchen in the next year. Finally, they are batting the idea around of having outdoor seating on their roof so patrons can get a wonderful view of the Tacoma skyline.

When asked about the rather dismal name of their brewery, Lana quickly laughed it off. “It’s ironic because it comes across as dark and brooding,” she says, “but it has a sense of hope to it. Everyone has a choice. The empowerment of every person is a choice. They have a choice to make it a dystopian world or a utopian world.”

So no matter how you choose to look at life, it is worth making a choice to check out the Dystopian State Brewing Company’s lineup of craft beers. You’ll be glad you did.

Dystopian State Brewing Company is located at 611 S. Baker Street, Tacoma, WA 98402. For more information, visit their website or give them a call at 253-302-3466.