From early on, Jordan White knew Chuck’s Hop Shop’s Central District location would be a success.
“The very first night, I remember looking around and thinking, ‘This is Chuck’s Hop Shop.’”
Seattleites are an easy sell on craft beers, White said. The community already had a baseline knowledge, and love, of small breweries, and the city is home to many well-known brands. While there are quite a few notable beer stores in the city, they knew that the Chuck’s Central District location should thrive, considering a dearth of direct competition in the area.
A year on, White, the store’s manager, says it was humbling opening the shop in a new neighborhood –- the first Chuck’s at 656 NW 85th has been a Greenwood fixture for about five years. In that time, White said, the store had time to refine the business model to the point that they already knew what worked and what didn’t. But he was still not fully prepared for how excited the community has been about the store.
Ben Rainbow, a Judkins Park resident, said he used to frequent Chuck’s Greenwood location before the Central District shop opened. Rainbow said he’s been coming to Chuck’s CD since the soft opening with other beer lovers.
“The selection is the best. It’s always fresh and thoughtful,” he said.
Chuck’s opened in early January 2014 at 20th and Union. The store is beer focused, with 44 beers on tap, in addition to six ciders, two wines and three non-alcoholic beverages. It’s also known for its bottles. When the store first opened, White estimated there were 800-900 different bottles available, and he said that number has only gone up in the past year.
While some beers that don’t sell well are dropped from the rotation, there’s a hydra-like growth with multiple others waiting to take its place.
“Every day, a new brewery is coming to Washington State,” White said.
The store tries to set itself apart by carrying craft beers that appeal to aficionados and casual drinkers alike. There’s no way Chuck’s could compete with big chains on price when it comes to brews like Budweiser and Coors, so Chucks’ has carved out its niche in other beers.
“We want to offer a selection outside of what QFC and Safeway has to offer,” he said.
White said his favorite thing — beyond getting to taste dozens of different beers a week — is when he can turn a customer on to a new flavor. While he and the rest of the staff aren’t bashful about saying if they dislike something, they’d rather talk about what they do like, and use that to help people uncover new favorites.
‘We want to challenge them to try something new,” he said.
He is also noticing a shift in drinking habits. IPAs are still the reigning champ, and likely to be for the time being, but White sees sour beers rising in popularity.
“It’s kind of like, the next levels,” he said.
Rainbow said when he goes to Chuck’s CD, he often has a pint or two, then grabs a bottle to take home.
And yes, you can bring children. Chuck’s does serve a couple food items, just enough to qualify as a restaurant and not a bar, though even the staff doesn’t recommend them. Instead, they have a rotating schedule of food trucks which park in the small lot just in front of the shop.
“We’re not passionate about food, so we leave that to the professionals,” White said. And while feeding Amazonians in South Lake Union is a big money maker for those trucks during lunchtime, in the evenings, Chuck’s is a top location.
“There’s not a better spot to be at 5 p.m. on a weeknight,” he said.
Going forward, White hopes that during the second year, the store will make a few tweaks to the already successful formula.
For one, he hopes to give more information on the draught beer list. As it stands, they can either put the name of the beer, or a description, they hope to be able to do both, at least, in the future. White said they are also exploring ways to make the patio more all-weather friendly, though they haven’t yet figured out just what shape that will take. And the food truck lineup will likely shuffle a bit, often because truck owners move to different locations or go out of business.
To celebrate their one-year anniversary, Chuck’s is holding an anniversary party January 10th and 11th. They expect to have a lot of hard-to-find, one-off beers on tap, along with at least 30 barrel-aged sours and a S’more Stout anniversary beer made by Urban Family Brewing. The beer, which was brewed with graham crackers (among the more traditional ingredients) will be available in bottles and on draught.
At 6 PM on the 10th, White plans a special anniversary thank you toast.
While most of the time, the beers will only be available in small tastes, White said they may start filling growlers on the afternoon of January 11th.
Chuck’s Hop Shop is located at 2001 E Union St. Hours are Sunday-Thursday 11 AM to midnight, Friday and Saturday: 11 AM to 1 AM.
For a current draught list, and a calendar of which food trucks will be at the store, visit chuckscd.com.