The Tri-Cities’ newest brewery will throw open its doors on Dec. 31.
Located in unincorporated Kennewick at 92308 East Locust Grove Road, Wheat Head Brewing is the culmination of five years of hard work. The new owners are excited to welcome the public from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
It’s been a family affair. Tina Miller Phillips and her father, Loren Miller, teamed up to bring the vision to life.
Tina’s husband, Trevor Phillips, took on a lot of the workload during construction. Then she and her dad brought it home with the finish work.
The 2,400-square-foot taproom features a hangar and garage doors that can open up to views of the Tri-Cities and beyond. A patio deck is home to a number of handmade steel fire pits. A large outdoor area will serve as a playground for kids and dogs.
The facility has three hookups for food trucks.
The venue also is ready to host weddings, and perhaps down the road, some farmers markets or other events.
“We’ve had a great team of family and friends to help us get across the finish line, but it’s been a long road,” Tina said. “We’re tired. We’re at the end of our rope. But hopefully our community can celebrate the New Year at Wheat Head.”
Truth be told, she’s pretty excited, too.
The journey began five years ago when Tina, a wedding filmmaker and photographer of eight years, was looking to create a venue for weddings and other events, such as farmers markets, on her family’s farm.
The only problem was county officials told her the land could only be used for agriculture-related activities because of how it was zoned. Options were opening a brewery, distillery or winery.
She and her dad chose a brewery, paying homage to the almost 5,000 acres where the Miller family had grown red wheat.
They knew nothing about making beer.
“And all the hops in the universe are in our backyard,” Tina said. “We’re farmers. But the brewing culture fits with our values of community, welcomeness and fun.”
Tina’s grandfather, Glenn Miller, bought the farm decades ago. Her dad graduated from Kamiakin in 1978 and was at Washington State University when his father passed away suddenly.
At the age of 18, Loren left college and became a full-time farmer. For more than 40 years, he worked the land until finally retiring.
“He started leasing the farm. Then I got him tied up in this,” Tina joked.
But the venture has allowed the two of them to work together. They built the concrete bar in the taproom, the tables and the bar’s wood trim, among other things.
“(Loren) says I got my creativity from him,” she said.
Family history is everywhere on the grounds, with photos and used wood from the farm’s old barns everywhere you look.
They added other amenities, including a 20,000-gallon water tank for firefighting, a well and an engineered septic system.
When they needed more money to pay for the project, Loren sold a parcel of land.
Tina worked hard on the brand to get it just the way she wanted.
“I worked two years on the branding because I knew how important it was,” she said. “I knew we had the time, too.”
The family found an experienced brewer in Dan Howe.
Loren is well-connected in the community, and through another friend, he and his daughter discovered Dan Howe, a chemical engineer who works at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
But when he’s not working there, his hobby — maybe call it an avocation — is making beer.
“I brewed my first extract in 2012,” said Howe, who admits to having 10 taps at his home. “I’ve got 200 home brews behind me.”
Tina said she tried Howe’s beer and loved it, and they all agreed to work together.
It’s been a long journey for Howe, too.
“Oh man. It’s really been a rollercoaster,” he said in a Dec. 1 phone interview. “We started the project in 2018, got sidelined by Covid. Then the actual building, finding a leak in the chiller. Finally, I’m just about ready to start brewing. But I’m excited. I’m just vibrating.”
There will be 16 taps in the Wheat Head taproom.
Tina and Howe agreed that they’ll open with five beers. There also will be some cider, wine and non-alcoholic beverages on tap, and possibly other local beers.
Howe’s star beer will be a cream ale.“It’s a beer I’ve been most proud of,” he said. “I do brag about it. People will tell me they don’t like beer, but they like this.
Together the partners appear to make a great team.
“Tina is a wizard in marketing,” Howe said. “My big thing will be to make the beer. I hope that beer speaks for me.”
A gathering place
Tina has this vision of customers sitting on the patio — drinking beer, talking, eating food — all while watching the combines driving by during harvest. She said people are craving “back to your roots” experiences these days.
“We want this place to have a casual atmosphere,” she said. “It’s modern enough to hold high-end events, but inviting enough that you want to come and stay awhile.”
She’s said she’s heard multiple times from people that the Tri-Cities needs a venue like this.
“We hope to become a destination attraction,” she said, “and put Tri-Cities breweries, as a whole, on the map.”
Go to: wheatheadbrewingco.com.
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