Published on November 28th, 2014 | by Brook Ellen West


Brewing odd in a variety of flavors: Odd Otter opens

A northern walk on Pacific Avenue is an invitation to step backward through time. Train rails act as tour guides, leading to the history they wrote in cut stone and red brick.

Warehouses built shoulder to shoulder are points on Tacoma’s commerce timeline and harbored in this historic street, near old city hall, the newest entry is being written at 716 Pacific Avenue. The sign on the street level window reads: Odd Otter Brewing Company.

The brewery, which takes up residence in a building originally built in 1888, is in the final stages of renovation and construction, so I met Derrick Monroy and Owen McGrane, two of the five owners of Odd Otter, next store at Cafe Vincero. The story of how the five Odd Otter owners came together reads like the definition of serendipity, and they told me it all started when John Hotchkiss couldn’t buy the beer he wanted.

John was thirsty for a hard-to-find Canadian beer and shared his dilemma with his neighbors, Derrick and Pablo Monroy, who then nearly replicated the beer during their first attempt at home brewing. John, also an Odd Otter owner, was so impressed, as were the palates of their friends and family, he urged the Monroys to share their beer with the world.

This team of three expanded to five with the addition of their friends, Teresa Smith, and Owen, whose response to John’s brewing-related Facebook post reconnected the two since they last worked together as interns at Madigan Army Medical Center.

The lucky connections don’t stop there—Derrick’s husband, Pablo, served in the Navy and is currently in the Army National Guard while the brewery space itself, whose bricks were laid over a century ago, was a Soldiers and Sailors club during World War I and an African-American USO during World War II.

Odd Otter 3

A customer checks out the new tasting room at Odd Otter.

Beer brought the owners together and beer is what will set their brewery apart, Derrick says, explaining that it’s their “beer selection, variety, and interesting ingredients” that make Odd Otter, Odd Otter.

Bananas, chai, spruce tips, molasses, coconut, strawberries, cinnamon, plums, maple syrup, and a bourbon barrel are just a few flavor hints as to what awaits the Odd Otter taproom. Here are a few more:

Featured brews:

Blonde Otter, Momma Otter’s Pancake Porter, Jolly Otter ESB, Hoppy the Otter IPA, Comrade Otter’s Russian Imperial Chocolate Stout, Ember Amber

Seasonal brews (just a sample):

Big Burly Barley, Cherry Chipotle Cider, Strawberry Blonde, Brandied Apricot Blonde, Coconut Chai Porter, Blind Otter, and Kentucky River Otter—a Prohibition-style sour beer brewed in that bourbon barrel I mentioned.

“We’re not like the otter guys,” Owen says, repeating one of Odd Otter’s mottos and a true statement about the depth of their ambitious menu. It’s a reflection of the decade’s worth of home-brewing experience Owen brings to the mash and the owners’ overall dedication to odd.

“We’re different, we’re quirky,” Derrick reiterates. With ties to both the military and LGBTQ communities, they envision the atmosphere at Odd Otter to be “a place where you can enjoy beer and be yourself.”

Considering Tacoma and beer go together like wet and rain, the widening of Tacoma’s brewing landscape doesn’t appear to be ruffling many feathers.

“Everyone has been very receptive, very welcoming,” Derrick adds, referring to South Sound brewers and restaurants who have already expressed their support for Odd Otter. In addition to tasting room hours on Friday and Saturday (expanding to seven days a week in 2015), be ready to discover Odd Otter brew on tap rotations, at farmer’s markets, and beer festivals.

Odd Otter 2

Behind the scenes operations at Odd Otter.

The doors open at 716 Pacific Avenue to welcome Kickstarter supporters and investors on Friday, November 28 to a pre-opening party, and officially open to all beer seekers Saturday, November 29, from 4 pm-2 am.

Though the opening is coming up fast, the owners of Odd Otter already have an eye on the future.

“Otter World!” Derrick laughs. “It’s going to be the Busch Gardens of beer.” Dreams of hops-inspired theme parks aside, the owners have established philanthropy as a cornerstone of the Odd Otter mission.

“We want to give back to the community any way we can,” Derrick continues. Whether it’s donating beer, the brewery space for events and fundraisers, or cash, they want Odd Otter to be in a position to contribute to such deserving organizations as Wounded Warrior Project and Paws on Deployment, a program that fosters pets while their owners are deployed on military mission, and Camp Ten Trees, a summer camp in Seattle for LGBTQA youth.

For all of this to work, people need to like Odd Otter beer. A truth that hasn’t seemed to escape the owners. Among their parting words, Derrick exclaims, “Keep it odd…but the beer will be good!”

Tasting room hours are Friday-Saturday 4 pm-2 am through the end of the year and will open daily in 2015.

Odd Otter Brewing Company 716 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402



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About the Author

Brook Ellen West received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry before turning her life around to become a writer. Her poem Is Anyone Normal? was read aloud during an elementary school assembly.

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