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Seattle Beermaker Moves Into His Own Brewery to Help Keep Business Afloat

Lowercase Brewing’s John Marti says he’s doing it to save cash on rent — but the place may be haunted

A small bedroom and office separated by a wooden, corkboard barrier
Lowercase Brewing’s John Marti has created a makeshift bed inside the brewery’s South Park facility.
John Marti

Beermakers around Seattle have had to make adjustments as business drops during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s finding creative to-go packaging or holding toilet paper giveaways. But Lowercase Brewing’s John Marti seems to be taking things to another level. The company’s head brewer and co-owner has moved out of his apartment and into Lowercase’s South Park facility, hoping to save some cash on rent.

Marti recently gave Seattle Refined a virtual tour of his new living space, which is around 99 square feet. It has basic amenities, including a bunk bed, a small couch, the brewery lab’s hot plate to cook on, and a chest freezer he turned into a refrigerator with an extra temperature controller. The brewery’s landlord gave him permission to move in, so this is all technically above board.

But Marti shares the space with fermentation vessels and other equipment, which means things can get cramped. Then there are the weird noises at night, whether from equipment or (in one case) someone possibly trying to get into the building through a ladder on the roof, which he says have freaked him out on occasion.

“All night long there are different systems turning on and off just to keep the boiler running and the glycol chiller cranking, but oftentimes I hear noises that take no specific pattern,” Marti tells Eater Seattle. “Most of the unexplained noises lead me to believe this place is just plain haunted.”

Still, giving up creature comforts could be worth it. Marti says the $1,000 he’s no longer paying for his previous apartment will go into costs to help keep the business going, since Lowercase’s taproom in Georgetown is still open for drive-through orders of the company’s lagers, IPAs, and Italian pilsners. Washington State Beer Commission head Eric Radovich recently cautioned that “in the neighborhood of 50 percent” of the 420 medium-to-small breweries in the state could close permanently by summer, if stay-at-home restrictions continue that far out, so every penny counts.

Lowercase furloughed all of its staff (Marti and co-owner Chris Smith are the only ones remaining), and the takeout orders generate some revenue, but there are still many unknown factors coming into play. While breweries could be allowed to open with 50 percent capacity once Seattle enters phase two of Washington’s reopening plan, there’s no guarantee business will bounce back quickly, especially since many bars will likely need to remain closed for much longer.

Many small brewers rely on draft sales for a heavy portion of their business (40 percent, according to the Brewers Association). With that demand almost completely dried up, some are dumping perfectly drinkable beer originally earmarked for now-canceled events and closed bars. And others, like Lowercase, are bunkering down for a tough summer.

Still, Marti is enduring sleepless nights in stride. “I won’t lie, I’d rather live somewhere else, but I am a brewer … and I live in a brewery,” he says. “There are worse things.”

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