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Beer from Here: Family-friendly taprooms just make sense

Single Hill Brewing Company

Penny Sue Hauk, 3, plays on the patio near her parents during a visit to Single Hill Brewing Co. in downtown Yakima last June. Area breweries are offering more family-friendly environments to accommodate customers with children.

I have this photo of my younger brother, sister and myself in which I’m 6 or 7 years old, sitting at a long picnic-style table covered in beer steins. The photo was taken in Augsburg, Germany, at a beer hall. My mother was in the military, so we were stationed there for several years. Consequently, I have quite a few of these bier hall photos.

My strongest memories of those early beer-hall experiences are: One, all the smaller kids getting atop the tables while the whole hall danced the chicken dance; and two, sitting family-style with people of all ages visiting and reveling in the moment. It was part of the culture. My mom did a really good job of keeping backpacks stocked with coloring books, paper dolls and little toys to help keep us busy. Looking back, I realize this was a way for her to spend a fun evening with friends and not have to dump her kids off at a sitter.

I was recently reading a national beer blog’s review of a new brewery. The review was pretty matter of fact: food, beer, music, kid space. Cool. It sounded like a fun spot. But then in the comment section, there were some pretty negative responses with regard to the brewery creating a space for children.

One commenter thought it was inappropriate to bring children to a brewery. Really, why? How is it any different than bringing the family to a restaurant where mom or dad might have a few beers? Hopefully the element of personal responsibility is ever-present. If you are going to be consuming alcohol, then you designate someone to drive who is not, right?

The whole subject made me think of Single Hill Brewing Co. Since its beginning, the proprietors — husband-and-wife duos Ty and Via Paxton and Zach Turner and Kristina Weyer, both with young families of their own — have been very intentional about creating space for the littlest among us in their taproom culture. Because he’s definitely done more thinking on the subject, I decided to ask Ty Paxton the reasoning behind Single Hill wanting to be inclusive of kids.

Why Single Hill decided to create the kids area: “In the initial stages of writing our business plan, Zach and I discussed key aspects of our culture that are important to us. It was clear that being a family-friendly social space was paramount in defining who we are. Not only is it a growing trend in the craft beer industry, but we also have young families of our own and wanted to create a space we would want to hang out at, a space we would be proud to take visiting guests to.

“Also, after doing some primary market research, we identified a need for family-friendly establishments in our community — establishments that cater to most demographics and are inviting for everyone. With all of this in mind, we made a decision to designate an area of our space for little ones to enjoy, including educational books and toys that promote motor skills and growth. It’s a big hit!”

Ty has a thoughtful response to those who might think otherwise: “A brewery with a family-friendly atmosphere is no different than a restaurant. The only difference is, you can’t drink hard alcohol around your kids, just beer. I realize that there are some who disagree with our decision of being a family-friendly brewery. In my experience, it seems most of these individuals have personal issues with drinking in general and may have a narrow sense of our culture.

“We do not promote getting drunk. In fact, if you appear intoxicated you won’t be served. Our goal is to create a healthy culture that brings people together to live, work, play, create and grow, surrounded by appreciating the art and craft of beer. Food and drink is one of the most historically proven avenues to grow community. I believe this is one of the fundamental reasons why the craft beer industry is beginning to recognize that having a family-friendly atmosphere is more than OK!”

I agree with Ty. We want these places to be reflective of the communities they are in. If that includes a bunch of families, so be it. Those early beer-hall experiences are some of my fondest memories from our time in Germany. I’m glad there was such a fun place where my mom could spend time with both her family and friends. For me, taprooms that are inclusive of all ages often have a very relaxed, homey vibe and naturally lend themselves to being community hubs.

This is the type of place I want to spend time in.

Here’s another fun detail Ty wanted to share with all of you out there in kiddo land. Coming soon to Single Hill: “Zach’s wife, Kristina, recently engineered and built an outdoor activity wall approximately 7 feet wide and 5 feet tall. It includes interactive games that relate to our brewery and our local Valley, including a cutout of Mount Adams. We’re excited to install this soon. It will likely be mounted on our south wall near the lawn.”

Malissa Gatton works in hops and beer in the Yakima Valley. Her column, Beer from Here, runs every two weeks in SCENE.

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