Breakout Brewer: Holy Mountain Brewing Co.

Holy Mountain Brewing Co., a small 10-barrel brewery in Seattle, opened in 2015 and immediately developed a cult-like following. Here’s their story.

Emily Hutto Jan 23, 2017 - 5 min read

Breakout Brewer: Holy Mountain Brewing Co. Primary Image

Holy Mountain Brewing Co. is not just a nod to Mount Rainier, the ominous holy mountain that looms over Seattle—it’s also the name of an album by the band Sleep, a favorite of the brewery’s heavy metal–loving owners, who met working at Schooner EXACT Brewing (Seattle). “I was running the sales program and Colin Lenfesty was a brewer,” says Co-owner Mike Murphy. “The experience and connections Colin and I had in the local beer community allowed us to promote the [Holy Mountain] brand and build quite a bit of local buzz before we even signed a lease.”

That lease was signed on a building across the street from the Southwest Queen Acre Greenbelt in downtown Seattle. The space is bright and clean and blasts metal music.

Old World meets New on Holy Mountain’s tap list, where the beer styles range from pale ale to mixed-fermentation saisons and barrel-aged farmhouse ales. “Barrels, Brett, and hops,” says Murphy about the brewery’s eclectic beer list. Almost always on that list is Holy Mountain’s house pale ale, Kiln & Cone: a bold, clean-drinking American pale ale liberally hopped with rotating hops varieties. “We don’t make any one beer year-round, though,” he says. “We make a wide range of wood-influenced and mixed-culture beers, along with rotating hops-forward clean beers instead.”

A couple of those wood-influenced beers are The Goat, a rustic Brett saison brewed with barley, rye, oats, and wheat and fermented in a foeder with a mixed culture for 3 months; and The Seer, an “aggressively hopped” saison loaded with Galaxy hops, fermented with a house saison culture, and aged in an oak foeder with Brettanomyces. The Goat and The Seer are among the thirty beers that Holy Mountain has bottled. “Some of those bottles are one-offs; some will be re-released,” says Murphy. “The Goat, The Seer, The Ox, Witchfinder, Clarette, Phosphene, and Misére au Borinage are among those that will be coming back.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The beer list at Holy Mountain is “ale heavy,” though “we love lagers,” Murphy proclaims. “Three Fates is our Czech-style Pilsner, and I can’t stop drinking that beer every time we release it! Lagers take quite a bit of time and tank space, so they’re not styles that we can keep around all the time, but when we brew them, we’re committed to brewing them the right way.”

The lack of flagships or year-round beers is unlike a lot of craft breweries in the area, not to mention that the beer styles at Holy Mountain stand out among the IPAs and hoppy pale ales that Seattle is known for. That was the goal: offer a concept and beers that weren’t already being done. “We noticed the demand that was growing in Seattle for beers we loved to drink and brew: mixed-fermentation saisons, barrel-aged farmhouse ales, etc.,” says Murphy. “There weren’t any Seattle-based breweries focusing exclusively on oak-aged and oak-fermented beers. A few Seattle breweries at that time had small-scale barrel or sour programs, but our intention was to turn the regular format on its end.”

Murphy and Lenfesty very intentionally set out to do things on their own terms. “Be our own bosses, not cave to trends,” says Murphy. “That remains a driving factor for us. We’re still set on making beer that we want to drink and doing things our own way.”

Next for Holy Mountain is the expansion of the brewery’s oak program to 200 wine and nearly 100 whiskey barrels. A fourth oak foeder is on the way as well. “We’re bottling and kegging more beer than ever to keep up with demand, but we’re doing everything we can to grow in an organic, manageable way.”

Meet other breakout brewers, find dozens of beer reviews, and get practical advice and tips for getting the most out of your brewing in every issue of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Subscribe today.

PHOTO: RUSSELL LO

ARTICLES FOR YOU