Outer Planet ready to brew its first batch, welcome neighbor cheese bar Culture Club

For many new food and drink ventures on Capitol Hill, the first days after openings soft and grand are critical to success. But for 12th Ave microbrewery Outer Planet, this coming weekend — weeks before its planned opening — is when it all begins.

“This weekend is pivotal,” Outer Planet Brewing co-owner Renato Martins tells CHS. “We’ll be brewing the first batch then the countdown begins.”

If all goes well, Outer Planet will be lined up to opens its doors — and its Capitol Hill-brewed taps — in late January. UPDATE: Outer Planet has set an opening date of February 20th. Be there!

The culmination of months of work and on-the-fly learning by Martins and brewmaster James Stoccardo comes in a big week of news for the “nanobrewery” on the groundfloor of a new 12th Ave microhousing apartment building. By spring, Outer Planet’s brewery will be accompanied by neighbor Culture Club, a “cheese bar” concept from Melrose Market cheesemonger Sheri Lavigne.

10869578_582513538548627_3585756488674336909_oOriginally lined up to open the cheese, beer, and wine bar in Ballard, Lavigne was able to find just the right small space for her bar in the new construction on 12th between Denny and Howell.

“I’m surprised,” Lavigne said of landing her next big project on Capitol Hill. “I thought it wouldn’t be so difficult in Ballard but not a lot of new stuff is happening.”

On the Hill and especially 12th Ave, it turns out, lots is happening. The new construction provided Lavigne with what she says is the perfect home for the new bar she hopes will present a more quiet, laid back option for the neighborhood.

“I don’t really like to use the word sophisticated because I want to keep it low brow. It’s gonna be the kind of place where i would hang out,” the busy cheesemonger said.

Lavigne said she’s already stepped away from much of the day to day at Calf and Kid thanks to her rock star manager Hannah Fitzmorris so she can pour all of her effort into creating the new bar. Expect dark wood that will evoke Melrose Market with a lighter area at the front with big windows and a darker back to Culture Club for the 21+ over crowd. The format will be a focus on cheese flights — “three cheeses that are perfectly paired,” she promises — that will present Lavigne with the opportunity to take the recommendations handed out daily from the Calf and Kid counter to the next level. But don’t expect any Karma Chameleon or I’ll Tumble 4 Ya flights. Lavigne said she’s had family help to make sure Culture Club won’t run afoul of any trademark issues but also doesn’t want to push her luck by drawing Boy George’s ire.

“It’s just perfect,” Lavigne said of the irresistible name for the venture. “It’s just as playful as Calf and Kid and it refers to a bar *and* cheese.”

Over on the brewery side, Martins couldn’t resist the word “synergy” when talking about the opportunities for Outer Planet and Culture Club to work together. “We gave her a couple of beers to sample,” Martins said, noting that Lavigne will also benefit from the hard slog of infrastructure improvements Outer Planet has forged in setting up its brewery.

Both projects join a string of new additions to the Capitol Hill food and drink options along 12th Ave. CHS reported earlier this week on Northern Mexico-flavored Chavez ready to open after Christmas only a block away. The 12th Ave Arts building will bring new food options to the street in 2015, headlined by the new Capitol Hill Rachel’s Ginger BeerU:Don Fresh Noodle Station and Pelmeni Dumpling Tzar will also be part of the recently opened complex. Meanwhile, Lark’s move to the Central Agency complex has opened up space for a two-month pop-up in its old 12th Ave space featuring Eastside favorite Cafe Juanita while its longtime home undergoes a renovation.

CHS first reported on the plans for Outer Planet this summer. It joins the Hill’s brewery community with grandaddy The Elysian on E Pike and Optimism Brewing, a venture CHS reported on last December, taking shape after the couple behind the project slapped down $6.15 million for an old auto row showroom and garage at Broadway and Union.

“The Elysian? We are tiny. They’ll probably spill more beer than we’ll make,” Martins told us earlier this year.

Production will focus on keeping Outer Planet’s and possibly a couple of Culture Club’s taps flowing with on premise-produced beers brewed three barrels at a time. OP will start with the Bohemian — their version of a Pilsner — more fitting for a rapid turnaround given high demands on the tiny assemblage of equipment. The IPA and ESB will follow as will a stout and a barleywine. A Blonde, a Saison, a Double IPA, a Belgian and a small assemblage of “carefully selected visiting taps” are also in the plans.

But, first things first.

“We’re very very focused on the execution,” Martins said. “We need to get our first batch brewed this weekend.”

The hard work and the long hours of getting the brewery’s infrastructure were beginning to take their toll, Martins said. But now Outer Planet is so close, he can, well… taste it.

“This is starting to get fun again,” Martins said.

Outer Planet and Culture Club will open in the New Year at 1812 12th Ave. Learn more at outerplanetbrewing.com and facebook.com/cultureclubcheesebar.

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