SEATTLE – Ryan Vanderpol is an engineer by trade. So even though he deals with more of the business side of the brewery on Seattle's Greenwood Avenue, the science is still close to his heart.
"It's a science to a certain extent but it also gives you the ability to be a little creative and brew whatever you want," he said at Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. "Purpose has gone into creating a unique product and there's so much variety."
Flying Bike opened in August, marking a unique milestone in Seattle business.
"Flying bike is the first cooperative brewery on the west coast," said Vanderpol, who is on the Board of Directors. "We took the business model of a coop and applied that to a brewery so we're solely owned by our members."
More than 1,600 members are now a part of Flying Bike.
"We were home brewers that had these big aspirations and then we did some research into how much it costs to open a brewery and none of us had pocketbooks that were that big," Vanderpol said.
A love for beer is not only helping reshape an industry here but also on the state's east side. This past year, despite drought and a heat wave, Washington hop growers produced a record 59.4 million pounds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture National Hop Report.
Craft brewing appears to be helping fuel that and that sector has also increased prices for hops.
"We've seen now a buildup back up to our highest acreage ever this past year driven by craft growth," said Ann George, Executive Director, Hop Growers of America.
Washington growers produced 75 percent of the United States hop crop in 2015, according to the USDA.
Much of the boost in production came from an increase in acreage, now up to 32,158, according to the USDA. Yet strong harvest numbers hide losses that some Yakima Valley growers suffered on certain hard-hit varieties because of the heat.
Cascade, Zeus, Simcoe, Centennial, and Columbus/Tomahawk, were the leading varieties in Washington, accounting for 52 percent of the State's hop crop.
"The beauty of this particular expansion of our industry is that while we still have a handful of very large industrial brewers that use the majority of our hops, we now have a lot of customers so even if one customer has a hiccup ...the chances of the whole system spiraling downward as a result of that are considerably lower," George said. "We're hoping it will give our growers world wide a much more stable demand picture moving forward. While we might see shifts in popularity from one variety to another and from one region to another, hopefully we won't see those huge swings up and down that our industry has historically suffered."