How’s your Czech? A simple test: Try pronouncing “Obec Brewing Company,” coming perhaps by summer to 1144 NW 52nd St next to Stoup Brewing Company.
If it sounded like you were trying to get the attention of Beck, the singer, you may need some practice. The word, which means “community,” should finish on a note more like the last name of Washington’s famed winemaker, Bob Betz.
Wayne Jehlik, co-owner/head brewer/general manager of the latest brewery planning to enter Ballard, doesn’t mind, though; in fact, he sees it as a good branding opportunity. “We know we’ll have to correct everyone,” he told Eater, “but it gives us a chance to tell the story about what it means and where it comes from.”
Though Jehlik was born in the United States, he traces his paternal heritage to the Czech Republic, and founded a nonprofit working closely with the country. A few years ago, he was even appointed honorary consulate of the Czech Republic in Seattle. When he and his wife, Stacey (operations manager), and their business partner, Brian Gill (brewery advisor), were thinking of names for the upcoming brewery, they wanted something that sounded traditional and timeless. And the Czech word for community seemed appropriate to the mission. “We’ve built our life around food, drink, and conversation, so we want to build community around beer,” Jehlik said.
Speaking of heritage, most professional brewers in the area trace their origins to The Pike Brewing Company, and in a way, longtime hobbyist Jehlik is no different: His made his first homebrew nearly 20 years ago from a Pike-branded kit that his wife bought him at Costco. He met a fellow avid homebrewer in Gill several years ago when Gill moved in across the street. Jehlik said they have complementary interests, with Jehlik focusing more on old-world Czech, German, and British beers, and Gill honing Northwest, Belgian, and sour chops. The two brewers will incorporate this broad range of global styles into their line-up, and naturally a Czech pilsner and dark beer are in the works.
With Stoup next door, Lagunitas likely opening its new Ballard taproom by the end of the week, and half a dozen other producers within walking distance, Obec enters a busy neighborhood. Is that a good or a bad thing from the company’s perspective? “One of the pros is you’re surrounded by a lot of great breweries, a lot of people are used to coming to that area and trying lots of beers,” Jehlik said. “You don’t have to get the word out that you’re in the neighborhood, just put up a sign that says ‘Beer.’ The con, of course, is you’re in between a lot of great competition. It’s a bit of both.”
Jehlik hopes you’ll be sipping Obec’s creations by summer 2017; he’s currently waiting on licensing and seeking contractors to begin buildout of the empty warehouse space that used to house an outpost of Kent’s Pickle-Ball. The venue is big enough that Obec will occupy about half of it to start and have plenty of room to grow if things go well. An indoor taproom should be joined by some outdoor space cordoned off in the parking lot, and food trucks will also be welcome.
The company applied for a tavern license rather than a craft brewer’s license so beer can coexist with non-malt beverages like wine or vermouth and soda, which Jehlik believes will make the taproom more inclusive. “ I can drink beers all night long, but my wife, after the first beer, is ready to go, because she doesn’t drink beer. But if you give her wine she can hang out,” Jehlik said. “This is the idea of a second living room.” Follow along on Facebook and the company’s official website for progress updates.