It started in 2015 when Matt Hanson wanted an official week celebrating local craft beer. Hanson, with the help of his brother Clete, brought the Brewers Association's American Craft Beer Week to Spokane.
Hanson now runs his own commercial brewery, Whistle Punk Brewing, but is still the sole organizer of Spokane Craft Beer Week. The Inlander met with Hanson to talk about the upcoming week of events and local craft beer. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
INLANDER: What made you want to bring Craft Beer Week to Spokane?
HANSON: My brother and I would go to Seattle's event every year. There were people doing a couple things for American Craft Beer Week in Spokane, but there was no cohesive brand or anyone bringing it together. The brewing community was growing, the craft beer scene was growing, so it was the perfect time to bring it all together and do it right.
What's the goal of Spokane Craft Beer Week?
It gives breweries a platform to host a whole week of events and do something where they can, one time of year, blow it out and give people a reason to travel to their taproom. Also, it gives restaurants and breweries a platform to work together and do different things like tap takeovers and beer pairings. It gives the local industry a chance to work together, and celebrate local beer as a whole.
What have been some highlight events through the years?
It was a logistical nightmare, but we did an IPA competition [in 2015] at both the Onion and Area 51 Taphouse locations. We had eight breweries make IPAs that were totally blind judged. [Patrons] got a flight of eight IPAs, and ranked them one through eight. We had over 500 flights sold between both locations during the week. It was hard on service, but it was definitely a really cool event.
The collaboration event has been a highlight every year. Breweries get to come together and work with other breweries. You just don't have a lot of excuses to go collaborate because everybody's so busy. So this is a way to force it and get people to work together. Everyone has a good time, and there's some really great beers that have come out of it.
There's been a lot of really cool events — I'd have to go through a list to name them all — that brought a lot of people together.
What's the importance of local craft beer?
There's the importance of just local business in general, in terms of keeping money in the city and supporting your neighbors and supporting the people of Spokane. Also, the more you support local beer, the better it's going to get — making Spokane a region where, instead of just having a lot of brewers that make beer, having it be where a lot of breweries make great beer. The whole goal is to bring all of Spokane up together. So that we're looked at as a city sort of like Bend or Portland where there aren't bad breweries.
Do you think Spokane has the potential to be a beer destination like Bend or Portland?
I do, yeah. We already have the numbers. We have a lot of great minds in our industry. I think there's some really cool breweries in the process of opening up. Our Inland Northwest Craft Brewers Association has put a pretty high importance on education. I'm on that board as well, and we just tripled the budget for education going forward. Spokane is a place that's growing, just culinary-wise, beer-wise, population-wise, everything. I think that bringing overall quality up is important, and there's a lot of measures happening right now to make that happen. ♦