“Tapping in” to Vancouver craft beer market

Downtown Vancouver has long been known as a melting pot for unique restaurants, dive bars, art galleries and oddity shops. But recently, another business is ‘tapping in’ to a new market of craft beer connoisseurs.

After finding financial success in 2017 with its public taproom, a local Vancouver, Washington brewery plans to expand its business to service a brand new 200-person patio addition to the Feral Public House.

Heathen Brewing started as just a small operation in 2010. It was launched by Sunny Parsons, the owner, who in 2015 went on to open the Feral Public House, Heathen Brewing’s public taproom and restaurant.

In 2017, the Feral Public House won two ‘Best of Clark County’ awards — one for “Best Guys Night Out” and another for “Best Brew Pub.”

Beer is one of the main attractions at Heathen and the Public House. “We have one of the largest barrel programs in the area, if not the state, for breweries our size,” said Danny McCabe, the operations manager and the first employee hired on by Parsons. Barrel programs are a collection of barrels used to create various types of craft beer; the larger the program, the more quantity is produced.

There are other small breweries in the area that have received recognition in the past, such as Brothers Cascadia Brewing and Ghost Runners Brewery, but none have the acclaim that Heathen Brewing’s Feral Public House earned in 2017, McCabe said.

“Our team works extremely hard to keep the quality of beer to the highest possible standards,” McCabe explained. The most popular beer — also the brewery’s flagship beer — is the Transcend IPA, he said.

As far as the beer goes, it’s “one-of-a-kind,” said Kelly Hinkle, a frequent Public House customer who has sampled a majority of the beers both bottled and on tap. “There are always new flavors coming in that I get excited to try and few have disappointed me in the past.”

Hinkle said she enjoys a lot more than the beer: “I really enjoy the relaxing and hip environment.”

The beer, in fact, isn’t the only thing that keeps clients coming back. The environment at the Public House is something of an experience rather than a standalone dining event, according to Skylar Strickland, a host at the taproom.

“The experience is what keeps people coming back to the Public House,” Strickland said. “From our branded buns (which have Heathen’s logo stamped onto them) to keg urinals, it’s just a unique environment.”

Not only is the aesthetic unique, but the events that the Public House provides on a weekly basis are just as unique. Ranging from a vegan happy hour to a paint-nite, running club and mug club meetings, the brewery seems to do it all.

“Each event brings in different people and cool personalities,” said Strickland.

The manager at the Public House, Keno Leighty, has been with Heathen since the taproom opened. He said there are multiple levels of staff, including cooks, servers, hosts, bartenders and event organizers. Leighty is in charge of the servers and hosts, but also helps to manage other areas.

“During the busy times, I might have to answer the phone or regulate overflow,” Leighty said, “but for the most part, it usually runs pretty smoothly thanks to the front-of-house staff.”

When the nights get hectic, he said, it’s up to the servers and hosts to allow for a smooth and fluid dining experience.

“Our staff is energetic and loves being here,” Leighty said. “They really care about what they do and represent.”

Heathen’s logo is branded onto every bun; the Peanut Butter burger is pictured above. (Photo taken by Chris Culley)
A picture of the construction for the new 200-person patio addition to the Heathen Brewing Feral Public House (Photo by Chris Culley)
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