A new addition to Bainbridge beer culture: Ale House on Winslow to open this summer

Part-owner of the Ale House on Winslow, Travis Samson describes where a mobile L-shaped bar will be set up during the summer on the bar’s rooftop patio. - Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review
Part-owner of the Ale House on Winslow, Travis Samson describes where a mobile L-shaped bar will be set up during the summer on the bar’s rooftop patio.
— image credit: Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review

Sixteen taps and an additional 20- to 30-bottle beer selection.

A rooftop patio in the summer and cozy haven in the winter.

Communal seating in the front and booths in the back.

In a few short months, Ale House on Winslow will become the new over-21 hangout and a corner for beer lovers and beer enjoyers.

“It’ll be a pretty unique beer experience for the island and for Seattle in general,” said part-owner Travis Samson. “We’re hoping to make it kind of a landmark in the state for having great beer.”

Located next door to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Ale House on Winslow is expected to be the ultimate beer sampler.

Whether it’s an unfamiliar craft beer brewed at an up-and-coming brewery in Seattle or a trusty Rainier, Samson said, the alehouse will find something you like.

“A lot of guys don’t drink craft beer,” Samson said. “My philosophy has always been, any body in the world, unless you’re allergic, I can find a beer that you’ll like and we’ll have it.”

Samson is a longtime brewer.

After spending most of his college career as a home brewer, he entered the Master Brewer Program at the World Brewing Academy. This took him first to the Siebel Institute in Chicago then to the Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany.

When he returned from brewing school in 2012, it wasn’t long before he joined Silver City Brewery’s crew of brewers.

That was his working life up until six months ago when he was approached by college friend Michael Camden and Zach Eller.

“The guys literally approached me at the brewery,” Samson said. “They were like, ‘Hey, do you mind giving us a tour?’”

After the tour, the two promptly offered Samson a proposition.

“So we went and had a pint and talked about it, and the rest is, well so far, history,” Samson said.

The dream, at first, was to open a nano-brewery in Seattle by sometime next winter.

From there the plan evolved into what has become the Ale House on Winslow.

Come June, customers will be able to walk through the alehouse doors into a cozy, woody atmosphere that, with its floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping around two sides of the room, will also give the beer bar an airy, open feeling during western Washington’s sunny season.

Near the door will be couches and arm chairs for lounge seating, while at the center will be one long table for communal seating. At the perimeters will be a variety of high-top tables, tables for four and corner booths.

To soften the semi-industrial look of a newly built building, the aesthetics of the alehouse will be mostly reclaimed timber, Samson said.

“It was borderline too modern for us; it’s like really sterile, almost,” Samson explained. “So the idea of bringing wood in here is to soften it up and make it more of a comfy, cozy homey space. Less like factory, Alaskan oil fields.”

Amidst all of this, will, of course, be a long, U-shaped bar at the front of the alehouse with its praiseworthy taps.

“The one thing that we will never touch, never cut is the whole beer system,” Samson said.

The steampunky, 8-foot-long pipe will house 16 taps and pull from an underground cooler.

“That’s our bread and butter, and it’s also the one thing that I care about in the world,” Samson said.

“The beer system is like this Ferrari beer system. In my mind, if I give all this focus, all this attention, all this love to serving great beer than if I serve it, they will come,” he said.

In addition to this, Samson said there will be about 20 to 30 different beers to choose from their bottle selection.

Also, the crew has enlisted a “wine-guy” that will choose a range of wines to supplement the beer bar.

During the summer, the alehouse will provide two bars: one upstairs and one downstairs.

In the lease agreement, Samson said, the alehouse and Bainbridge Bakers were able to joint-reserve the rooftop patio 90 days out of the year, from May 1 through Aug. 1.

Upstairs, customers will have access to an L-shaped bar and patio seating that overlooks Eagle Harbor.

“There’s no place like this on the island,” Samson said.

“Immediately the thing you see when you come off the ferry is our guys drinking beer.”

While the bar will not serve food, Samson said, the alehouse will have a friendly BYOF (bring your own food) policy for the foreseeable future.

Bainbridge Bakers will also have an outdoor woodburning stove for oven-fired pizza on the rooftop.

“In my brain, Winslow stops at Ericksen,” Samson said. “It always has. We’re trying to draw that whole crowd down.”

“Just to give people another option and a really great beer bar on the island which doesn’t really exist right now.”

Future customers can expect half the alehouse offerings to be Washington-brewed.

The other half will be a variety of beers that most have never heard of before.

“That’s the best part about this place, curating beer,” Samson said.

Because 100 percent of their focus will be on selling great beer, Samson explained that the alehouse will be able to stay on top of the latest and greatest brews and keep a fast rotation for their taps.

“We’ll be like, ‘Oh, heard of this new beer in Bellevue? Let’s go grab it and let’s get a keg and serve it the next day,” Samson said.

“It’s a light, nimble model so we can change it up as fast as we want to.”

The alehouse is the first piece of a much greater plan, Samson said. Eventually, the three will move forward with their original idea of opening a brewery. But it will require several steps beforehand.

After the alehouse is established, the three plan to open a nano-brewery which will serve beer exclusively at the taproom.

“We’ll find out, ‘Oh, no one likes that stuff,’ and it’ll cost us 500 bucks to make it,” Samson explained. “We’ll just dump it. Instead of opening a big brewery and being like, ‘Here’s 200 barrels and it’s garbage, no one likes it,’ and we lose 10 grand.”

Once they build a list of reliable recipes, a brand and a following, Samson said, they will then take the final plunge to opening a bigger brewery in Seattle.

Regardless of how long the grander scheme takes, the three intend to keep the alehouse on Bainbridge for a long time.

“I’m a brewer by trade, and it’s what I want to do, so eventually I want to get back on the brew deck,” Samson said.

“But I’m hoping it will be here for a long, long time.”

The projected opening day for Ale House on Winslow will be between June 15 and June 25. If not by then, Samson said, their absolute choke date would be to open on July 4 — in which case the alehouse will be waiting to greet customers at the end of the Grand ‘Ol Fourth parade.

As for their hours, customers will be able to enjoy brews from noon to midnight on weekdays and on weekends, maybe later.

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