Scene: Micro no more: Iron Horse Brewery expands

Jamie Winter/Observer

BY COLLIN JOHNSON, Staff Reporter

The locally founded Iron Horse Brewery recently closed its tasting room on Prospect Street and its micro pub on Main Street, and consolidated into one location next door to the old micro pub.

“One was in the middle of nowhere, and the other one was too small,” Rikki Welz, an Iron Horse employee, said.

The company will still offer the same friendly and conversation-provoking atmosphere that the community of Ellensburg has come to know and love.

“All of the core ideas are the same,” said Suzanne Vargas, a Central alumni and retail manager of Iron Horse. “Basically this move was more elbow space to do what we’ve been doing.”

Some of the Ellensburg regulars of the pub and tasting room expressed fear of the larger downtown location attracting the rowdy college crowd. But Vargas shrugged off that fear with a laugh.

“Those college kids [locals] are afraid of, are off chugging two dollar PBRs,” Vargas said.

Iron Horse hopes that the new downtown location will invite in a larger customer range, that will bring people of varying ages together to enjoy craft beer and chat in a television-free setting.

“We’ve always tried to be the forum, basically, for people to connect,” Vargas said.  “This is a place where people come in as strangers, and leave as unlikely friends.”

The new location does not house the large 15-barrel brewing system Iron Horse now uses in a private production facility off Vantage Highway, where tours can be arranged.

However, the company wishes to bring the tasting room element back into play at their new downtown location, so in the future a small, pilot-batch system will be installed in the back.

With the addition of the pilot-batch system, the pub will be able to bring back some of the one-off beers Iron Horse has produced, and give them the opportunity to experiment a little bit more with their product.  This room will also have seating to allow customers to further feel the authenticity that Iron Horse continues to produce.

“We want something different that’s not offered here,” Vargas said.  “People always talk about wine pairings, but not about beer.”

Since the new location was formerly JJ’s on Main, a small restaurant, Iron Horse decided to purchase all of the kitchen equipment to eventually begin offering simple dishes at the pub.  This experiment will hopefully begin by summer.

“My vision for it is something that focuses on local ingredients, but still lets the beer shine,” Vargas said.

The brewery also plans to create an outdoor area similar to the one at the micro pub, but much larger.  According to a blog posted by Vargas on Iron Horse’s website, it will be about 400 square feet.

“Suzanne wants it to be three times the size of the micro pub’s,” said Ashley Stevens, Central alumni and long-time employee of Iron Horse.

Iron Horse will be constructing a roll-up door leading to the future outside area, in the theme of the industrial metal, yet still the comfortable feel they have already created in the new retail space.

The new pub incorporates pieces and ideas from the old locations.

The seating as well as pieces from the bars have been transplanted into the new spot.  Even the old barn wood that owner Greg Parker got from an old farm, in exchange for helping tear down the barn and a free keg of his beer, is retained in the new establishment.

Iron Horse as a company is very much catering to Ellensburg and its businesses and inhabitants.

“We have a lot of menus in here from different places that deliver in,” Vargas said.  “We’re going to be having a custom pizza menu with Pizza Rita, which will be coming out within the next month or so.”

As the menu becomes more established, the continuation of outside food being allowed in will remain to be seen.

“We just have a [totally] different mindset of what’s important to us,” Vargas said.  “We’re here to help grow the town, as a whole.”

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