At a bright, airy space on Elliott Avenue, guests are greeted by a mosaic of pastel pinks, blues, and purples framing floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the Seattle waterfront. The cerulean-upholstered diner booths in front of the bar seem to await a gaggle of Hypercolor-clad mall rats. By night, the space transforms into a retro, “Tron”-like arcade, with massive, stainless-steel fermenter tanks vertically stacked and drop-lit in blue neon. This is Seattle’s newest brewery, Here Today Brewery & Kitchen, which opened on October 8.
Here Today doesn’t exactly feel, or look, like a typical craft brewery — most of which are masculine and austere, often located in converted warehouses with exposed pipes and concrete floors. In contrast, Here Today looks as if the kids from “Stranger Things” grew up and opened a bar, where a ‘90s mall food court meets a ‘70s skate rink with a Vaporwave design aesthetic. But the three co-owners are veterans of the Seattle bar and brewery scene, and they’re creating an inclusive space that’s quietly a true beverage nerd’s bar. Beyond the bright paint and neon lights, you’ll find inventive beers and natural wines on draft and non-alcoholic cocktails that can be mixed with a drinker’s favorite spirit (or not, giving equal real estate to booze-free options).
Co-owner and “creator” Chris Elford is behind some of Belltown’s most beloved watering holes, such as Vinnie’s Wine Shop and Tradewinds Tavern (formerly No Anchor). Marketing and operations director Dave Riddile brings eight years of experience in beer marketing and as No Anchor’s general manager. And brewer Mario Cortes has a resume at iconic breweries spanning the nation including Oskar Blues Brewery in Austin, New England’s Harpoon Brewery, Woods Beer & Wine Co. in the Bay Area, and Seattle’s Fair Isle Brewing.
Cortes is starting the brewery off with a variety of balanced, lower-ABV beers, including a crisp, bright Simcoe Pale Ale and dry, roasty Export Stout in addition to a restrained, refreshing West Coast IPA. “There’s beer that drives a conversation, and there’s beer that’s an accompaniment to good conversation,” says Riddile. “And one beer can be both.”
Cortes hopes his flagship beer — a nuanced saison brewed with corn and piloncillo sugar — will spark conversation in Seattle’s beer community. As an American of Mexican origin, the brewer aims to introduce new audiences to ancestral flavors. “Those ingredients inform what I cook at home for meals and grew up eating as a kid,” Cortes says. “Using those in the brewing world is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Cortes also hopes to diversify the beer industry, leading by example. Only 2.2% of brewery owners in the U.S. are Latino or Hispanic, according to a 2021 Brewer’s Association’s survey, and throughout his career in craft beer, Cortes has consistently been one of few Hispanic people on staff. “I’ve always tried to be an advocate for anyone who doesn’t look like the typical bearded white guy, to show them: you belong,” he says.
Cortes trained under a female brewmaster with a decade-long career, calling her an inspiration. After all, the beverage and hospitality industry has often underrepresented and excluded women, Black and Indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and people with disabilities in employment. Here Today’s job descriptions explicitly acknowledge this fact, and future job openings will be cross-posted in Spanish. The first four employees are woman-identified or femme-presenting people, one of whom is also a person of color, and all are pursuing careers in the hospitality industry and potential ownership.
Elford says people in the beverage industry often talk about “making space” for people from diverse backgrounds, but not about where that space comes from. He says hiring a diverse staff means doing things many owners are still unwilling to do, like saying no to friends who expect jobs and instead training promising, but less experienced, applicants. “It takes energy and money, but those things are worth it,” Elford adds. “The big-picture goal of encouraging a more diverse industry involves a good amount of sacrifice from straight, white men.”
In the kitchen, manager Eamonn Monaghan of Sawyer, Ballard’s recently shuttered, James Beard-nominated restaurant, is cooking up a menu planned by consulting chef Josh Jones of Austin’s sustainable butchery Salt and Time. It will start with hand-held food that includes vegetarian and vegan burgers and hot dogs; later, there will be a broccoli rabe melt, a brunch menu, and spaghetti nights (a nod to the former Old Spaghetti Factory next door).
The three-and-a-half year journey to get to Here Today’s opening involved obstacles in finances, permitting, and in renovating the space, but the co-owners say it ultimately strengthened their team. The community came to their aid: The majority of the capital came from equity crowdfunding, raising nearly 1.5M over two rounds from a diverse group that includes bartenders and line cooks along with lawyers and executives. However, they acknowledge that this process isn’t accessible to everyone — and that their success involved a good amount of luck. Much of their equipment and furniture was donated from closing businesses.
Here on the waterfront’s northern end, the owners expect — and hope — to draw a broad crowd. “A lot of beer-centric places are throwing a party for one specific type of person,” Elford says. For us, it’s about throwing a party where everyone not only feels welcome through a range of offerings, but sees themselves reflected in the space.”
Here Today is located at 2815 Elliott Avenue, Suite 101 and is open Friday-Sunday until November 2022, then Wednesday-Sunday until spring 2023, when it will open seven days a week.