Lowercase Brewing nearly didn’t survive the pandemic. In May 2020, brewer John Marti moved out of his apartment and into the brewery to save money on rent, and the brewery was forced to furlough its entire staff. Though it rebounded well enough to fully reopen, on Wednesday Lowercase announced that it was again closing its taproom, this time permanently, in order to focus on wholesaling and direct-to-consumer sales.
“The brewery is not ending, it’s just changing,” Lowercase owner Chris Smith says. “Right now, the complexity of retail isn’t worth it.”
The main problem, Smith says, is that the surrounding Georgetown neighborhood no longer draws the amount of visitors it used to, possibly as a result of Seattleites traveling around the city less and sticking to their own neighborhoods. (National surveys have shown that going out is less important to many Americans than it once was.) “It seems like people have really localized more than they have in the past,” he says. “Traffic is down across pretty much all the neighborhoods.”
Another factor is that in the last few years, Lowercase has started to package its beers in bottles and cans. In 2019, it launched Seattle Lite, a Rainer Beer–style light lager that was sold in classic 11-ounce “stubby” bottles. And when the pandemic hit, Lowercase began canning its beers in order to stay in business.
“We never planned to be a packaging brewery,” Smith says, but packaging offers Lowercase a way to focus on brewing beers without worrying about the ins and outs of running a taproom on top of that. Lowercase plans to start a “can club” that will send subscribers two new beers a month. The brewery will also get more involved in wholesaling and may re-launch Seattle Lite on a larger scale.
While Smith is excited about Lowercase’s future plans, he admits that this is a move driven by necessity — if the taproom were doing 2018 levels of business, the brewery wouldn’t be considering changing its strategy. “Maybe we’re in this place where taprooms aren’t what they used to be,” he says.
The space is being sold to the bakery Deep Sea Sugar and Salt, which is expanding its operations.