W hen John Mielke started Square Wheel Brewing Co., he did so out of duty to the beer drinkers who'd arrive at his family's Arbor Crest Winery. There, they'd overlook the city from the winery's hilltop location, but if wine wasn't their thing, well, tough luck.
"A lot of people come up there and they don't drink wine, and so now the beer is a complement to what we already have. They have beer now, so everyone's happy," says Mielke, whose family has operated Arbor Crest since 1982.
If you've never heard of a winery also making beer, that's because Square Wheel is currently the only brewery operating alongside a winery in the state of Washington. In fact, there are only a few other wineries that have a brewing component in the entire country. While it seems like there'd be a lot of crossover between making wine and brewing beer, Mielke says Arbor Crest and Square Wheel don't actually have a lot in common.
"Basically, we keep everything separate. We don't share anything from the winery and the brewery," says Mielke, adding that he didn't want to have to worry about any winemaking materials contaminating the sterile brewing process.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Square Wheel won't make use of the ample used Arbor Crest barrels at their disposal to create barrel-aged beers. Currently, Mielke is focused on expanding the beer roster he's cultivated in the business' first year. While he's always considered himself a hop-forward guy, Mielke has recently expanded his horizons.
"I've always been fond of IPAs, and so that's our flagship. Being that all our concerts are during the summer months, the blonde has become a top seller," he says.
Square Wheel — named after the square-wheel tractor invented by Royal Riblet, who owned the Arbor Crest land before it became a winery — also puts out a new red ale featuring a nice balance of hops and malt.
As of now, Mielke says Square Wheel's production is consumed entirely on the Arbor Crest premises, where Sunday concerts can draw more than 2,000 people drinking as many as 10 kegs at a time. He recently upgraded his brewing capacity and hopes to be on tap off-site this fall, while also serving at upcoming events. ♦
Square Wheel Brewing Co. • 4705 N. Fruit Hill Rd. • Thu-Fri, noon to 8 pm; Sat-Wed, noon to 5 pm • squarewheelbrewing.com • 994-2600