Craft brew pub, soccer bar Moonshot Brewing to open in Kennewick

Ryan Wattenbarger and Hilary Bird will be ready to share their craft brews and love of soccer with the Tri-Cities in May.

The Tri-City couple are opening Moonshot Brewing at 8804 Victoria Ave., Suite 130, in Kennewick, near the Gage Boulevard and Steptoe Street intersection.

“I think we can be open in the first half of May,” said Wattenbarger, whose last day as head brewer at Snipes Mountain Brewery & Restaurant in Sunnyside was March 29.

It’s a dream come true for the couple, who met at a friend’s wedding in Boise. They eventually got married and added a baby girl named Norah to the family.

“We did our business plan three years ago. It took us a couple of months to put together,” Bird said.

But that wasn’t the hardest part.

“It took 18 months to find a building,” Bird said. “We looked at buildings where it was more for office space. We looked at older buildings in downtown Kennewick where it was going to cost too much money to remodel. We wanted to be centrally located in the Tri-Cities.”

The new $1.2 million building was built by Jason Zook, owner of Smile-A-Mile Painting of Kennewick, who moved his growing business into the strip mall in 2018. It’s next door to Garland’s Gymnastics.

Moonshot joins a growing number of craft breweries in the state, which boasts 402, according to the Washington Beer Commission. That’s No. 2 in the nation, according to the Brewers Association.

A total of 510,682 barrels are produced in the state per year. That’s 2.9 gallons of craft beer for every Washingtonian 21 years and older, said the Brewers Association.

The brewing industry’s direct economic impact, when coupled with the revenue generated by way of distributors and retailers, totaled more than $6 billion in 2014, according to the Beer Institute.

For Wattenbarger, who grew up near Sunnyside’s hop fields, learning the craft of brewing was a natural fit, although it took him a while to figure it out.

He said he tried teaching as a career “and that was not for me. I went to study at the Yakima Valley Collect’s Grandview Wine Technology program. I realized I was good at it.”

He worked at a few wineries, but he wasn’t satisfied.

“Harvest was hard,” Wattenbarger said. “It was three months of not seeing (Hilary).”

So he found an opening at Snipes Mountain as assistant brewer. In less than a year, he stepped into the head brewer position.

It was the move that clicked.

“The brewery seeds were planted about five years ago when we started a website,” said Bird, who will be general manager of Moonshot. 

Wattenbarger agreed: “I think the two of us fell in love with craft brewing. At Snipes, I was allowed to do everything. I was given carte blanche.”

That’s why he still enjoys brewing beer.

“For me, when I was making wine, I was ushering the grape to its best state,” he said. “But in beer, I get the full palette. I can use my creativity.”

That’s what he’ll do at Moonshot.

He and Bird are already touting three beers on their website: Sagittarius, their flagship IPA; Flanigan’s Red Ale; and Libra, their flagship pale ale.

The red ale was an award-winner at Snipes.

At Snipes, Wattenbarger made 15-barrel batches in the tanks, which created 30 kegs. 

“But if it didn’t work, we’d still have to sell it all,” he said. 

Beers at Moonshot will be made in a 3.5-barrel Stout system, enabling Wattenbarger to experiment with smaller batches.

“By using a 3.5-barrel batch, we make four or five kegs. If they work out, we can make it again,” he said.

He said that they will be experimenting.

“We’ll be barrel aging stuff,” Wattenbarger said. “We’ll use local fruits. I’ve done a few of those with fresh peaches.”

Wattenbarger said when the brewery opens, it should be able to seat 100 people in 3,240 square feet of space.

“We’ll probably open with five taps of our beer. But eventually we’ll have eight to 10 taps for our beer, plus some rotating handles for other beers,” he said.

There will be no kitchen, but Wattenbarger and Bird would like to bring in food trucks.

“And with Uber Eats, people can have food ordered and delivered here,” Wattenbarger said.

For Bird, working as general manager will be a welcome challenge.

“I’m excited to get back to running a business, helping the community and being involved in the community,” she said.

Moonshot Brewing will be a soccer-themed bar, too, as Wattenbarger and Bird are serious Seattle Sounders fans.

“We’re huge soccer fans,” he said. “We wanted this place to fill our needs, where people can support the Sounders. We wanted a place that will be family-
friendly. Beer and soccer are the only things in my life right now.”

Moonshot also will be dog-friendly to leashed pets.

Moonshot Brewing: 8804 Victoria Ave., Suite 130, Kennewick; moonshotbrewing.com; Facebook; Twitter Instagram.

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