Scott and Katherine Vanderheiden pose in their new business, Maelstrom Brewing Company, which just opened up this past weekend in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Scott and Katherine Vanderheiden

New Kirkland brewery a lifelong dream for owners

Beer aficionados in Kirkland can rejoice; a new addition has moved to town.

Maelstrom Brewing Company officially opened to the public on July 13 in Totem Lake, bringing a 10-barrel brewhouse to 120th Avenue Northeast.

For owners Scott and Katherine Vanderheiden, Maelstrom represents a dream many years in the making. Twenty years ago while studying mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, Scott took up brewing as a hobby, making beers in his garage.

“Scott has always been exploring craft beer,” Katherine observed. She laughed that when she and Scott first got together, she wasn’t as big of a beer fan, and “thought (she) would convert him away from beer.”

However, it was Scott who converted Katherine — and Scott’s hobby showed no signs of disappearing.

“The hobby just got bigger and bigger and bigger…I started dreaming about going professional,” he said. “That dream got more and more serious.”

Scott explained that a few years ago, at the time they began seriously considering opening a brewery, there “weren’t any breweries in Kirkland at the time.”

Eventually, Scott sought formal brewing education at the American Brewers Guild — not an easy feat for someone who works full-time as a radiologist. Thanks to the digital age, Scott was able to do most of the six-month course remotely, finishing up with some hands-on training onsite in Vermont.

In addition to brewing all of Maelstrom’s beers themselves and working at the brewery during its opening hours Thursday through Sunday, both Scott and Katherine still work full-time at their other jobs (Katherine writes educational apps). They are also bringing up 9-year-old twin daughters.

Despite the challenges, the Vanderheidens wouldn’t trade their new business for the world. Beer holds a very special place in the hearts of Scott and Katherine. They noted that when they travel around the world, the memories that stand out the most in their minds are the wonderful beers that they experienced in different locations.

“Most of our trips, when we come back…the landmarks are all associated with a specific beer,” Katherine said.

And this heartfelt, personal attachment to beer is evident even in the names of Maelstrom’s beers. Scott explained that Maelstrom’s Kölsch, brewed in the style of the Kölsch beer of Cologne, Germany, is named Petra, in honor of a German exchange student from Cologne who had once lived with Scott and his family.

The name of the brewery also has a unique story. A maelstrom is an old Dutch word meaning “a storm at sea,” such as a whirlpool.

“I was standing over the brew kettle, looking…at the spiral, thinking, ‘It’s (got) the look of a maelstrom,’” Scott explained.

In addition, he said, the name provides a pun when one thinks of how, in days past, people might have stood along a coastline and said, “there is a maelstrom brewing.”

With a 10-barrel brewhouse, Maelstrom Brewing Company offers beers for tasting, for purchase in growlers and for sale to select bars and restaurants. The brewing company makes use of every bit of its 1,700 square-foot space; with three 10-barrel fermenters and one 20-barrel fermenter, Maelstrom has the capacity for 1,500 gallons of beer to ferment at one time.

Katherine explained that there are currently five beers on tap — a Kölsch, a Pale Ale, a Belgian Witbier, and IPA and a Porter. This will soon increase, as there is room for 17 taps in the tasting room. A sixth beer, a Blonde Ale, is fermenting right now and is due to be released next week.

In the tasting room, customers can try pints and four-beer flights and will also be able to purchase growlers. Thirty-two people can sit inside the indoor space and there is additional seating outdoors on the seasonal patio for those warm days when there’s nothing like a cold beer.

Families are welcome in the tasting room, as non-alcoholic beverages and packaged snacks will be sold. A free video game table “that kids have just been loving,” according to Scott, allows young visitors hours of entertainment with classic games such as PAC-MAN and Donkey Kong.

Customers are also welcome to bring outside food. Maelstrom hopes to soon have food trucks available every day.

“We are really excited and thrilled with how our opening weekend went,” Katherine said. She explained that quite a few families had come out to try Maelstrom, as well as people enjoying the nearby recreational bike trails.

“That’s really what we want to be — the neighborhood brewery,” Katherine said.

To learn more about Maelstrom Brewing, visit www.maelstrombrewing.com, or head on over to the brewery for a pint at 11014 120th Ave. NE, Kirkland.

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