One of the nation’s first tank bars will open in a historic Seattle location

Bartender pouring a beer at a tank bar.
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It is not the nation’s first, as they originally stated, but it is still a cool development on the Seattle beer scene.

An esteemed local chef and restaurateur, Renee Erickson, is jumping headfirst into the craft beer biz and is already making waves. The intention is to create one of the nation’s first brewery tank bars. (The initial announcement on social media said “first,” but the language has been softened.) The James Beard Award-winning chef is teaming up with RailSpur to introduce a new business, Lowlander Brewing, in an iconic and historic Seattle location, the former home of FX McRory’s in Pioneer Square. (Above: a bartender pouring a beer at Howling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar in London. Photo by Kim Jones.)

Beyond a restaurant, this will be the home of Lowland Brewing. Beyond a brewery, it will be a dedicated tank bar. Un Po Tipsy Pizzeria will provide the food and Lowland Brewing will provide the beer. The whole plan is expected to come to fruition in early 2025.

Renee Erickson and the building that will house the new brewery and tank bar.
Chef Renee Erickson and the building at 419 Occidental Ave. From Instagram.

For the uninitiated, a tank bar is a sustainable way for a brewery to serve beer. Some say it is the best way for a brewery to serve beer. The beer is poured, by the bartender, directly from specialized conditioning tanks into your glass. Tank beer, as they call it, focuses on freshness and integrity.


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What’s a Tank Bar?

Serving draft beer from special serving vessels (tanks) instead of kegs is not new. Many breweries and brewpubs do it. Large tanks are filled with beer and kept refrigerated, then the beer travels some distance from the tank to the tap. The refrigerated tanks are often in a separate room, unseen by the consumer. A tank bar is different.

What sets a tank bar apart is the kind of tank from which the beer is served. The tank is right there, with the tap coming straight off the tank. The bartender turns around and pours your beer directly from the tank.


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Howling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar.

The tanks are temperature-controlled. Glycol-jacketed, for you industry folks. The beer is carbonated and served however the brewer wants the beer served. While many breweries use serving tanks of various kinds, these types of serving tanks are different. Or so I’m told. Admittedly, some call it a gimmick. I call it interesting. It’s an attraction, and if it helps get consumers excited about craft beer, I am all for it.

My wife, Kim, and I visited Howling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar in London in 2017. We didn’t know it, but Howling Hops was the UK’s first tank bar. It had only been open for two years. The beer was breathtaking and the experience was different. We have not been able to stop thinking about it ever since. We walked away from Howling Hops wondering how long it would take for the tank bar concept to cross the Atlantic.

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Kim and Kendall enjoying a beer at Howling Hops.
We loved Howling Hops!

At least one other tank bar of this kind is open in the USA. Fayetteville Beer Works opened last year in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The brewery says, “There is no traditional wall of taps here. Go ahead and order, then watch our staff walk to your tank of choice and pour the freshest beer in Fayetteville directly from the tank.” That’s the tank bar experience in a nutshell.

Also, folks around the Seattle area might be familiar with Cairn Brewing in Kenmore (recently acquired by Postdoc Brewing). They use suspiciously similar tanks, though I am waiting to learn more about their serving tanks.

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Know the Players

  • First up is Renee Erickson and the restaurant group known as Eat Sea Creatures. The group includes Boat Bar, The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter, Westward, Deep Dive, and others.
  • Next, RailSpur. Named for the railways that once ran through the area, RailSpur encompasses three historic warehouse buildings in Pioneer Square, Seattle’s first neighborhood. Constructed of brick and timber, the structures — and the corridors between them — once connected the Great Northern Railway and the bustling port of Seattle.
  • Finally, Lowland Brewing. We expect to learn more about the brewery itself soon.
  • Location. FX McRory’s opened in 1977 and operated for 40 years in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood at the corner of Occidental Avenue and King Street. It was a popular spot for those headed to, or from, Mariners and Seahawks games. Among many other things, it was the first bar to put Redhook beer on tap in 1982, when craft beer was in its infancy.

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