If you’re a person who’s been comfortable with visiting a restaurant in the past few months, perhaps you’ve already visited Talking Cedar, the newest member in the family of businesses owned by Chehalis Tribal Enterprises. If you haven’t, and you are comfortable going into restaurants, a visit to Talking Cedar is worth the drive!
Talking Cedar began brewing beer in May. They opened the doors of their restaurant to the public on June 30, 2020. Late in December, they celebrated the success of their first batch of canned IPAs. “We didn’t know if we were going to pull off a batch of canned beer before the end of the year,” explains Jason Summers, the brewery’s business manager. “I very proud of the production team. The product is consistent with our premium standards, and we’ve managed to keep up with on-tap demand at all of our draft locations and still make two great beers to can.”
Talking Cedar beer is available on draft at their restaurant in Grand Mound, the Great Wolf Lodge less than a mile down the road, and the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester. You can also find their PNW IPA at The Westside Tavern in Olympia and Pints & Quarts in Lacey. The restaurant is the only place you can sample all of their offerings and fill a growler with any of them. It’s where you’ll find limited-edition beers like their SMASH IPA or their Pepper and Patty Imperial Pastry Stout.
Although getting their draft program off the ground was their priority, Jason and his team have had their sights set on canning beer from the start. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do from the beginning,” Jason says. “The plan wasn’t to do it right away but in the world of COVID we needed to get product into all avenues of retail as quickly as possible.” Jason started communicating with Ryan McFarland of Craft Canning + Bottling in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Craft is a mobile canning company that operates out of Seattle, Portland and Denver. Ryan is part of their sales and onboarding team. “It’s been absolutely awesome working with Talking Cedar,” Ryan says. “This year has been a real journey for them, and today was the culmination of all our efforts. I think we’re all looking forward to the next run.” Ryan and two Craft operators worked alongside members of Talking Cedar’s brewing team to get the job done on canning day, the windy, rainy Monday before Christmas.
The IPAs they canned were brewed in The Annex, Talking Cedar’s temporary primary production facility. In the near future, they’ll move the bulk of the brewing the 60-barrel system housed in the 35,000 square foot facility it shares with the restaurant and a Heritage Distilling production facility. Jason and his team plan to continue Talking Cedar’s experimental and limited-edition brewing program from the Annex indefinitely, but in 2020 this three-and-a-half barrel brewing system produced every drop of Talking Cedar beer.
Several years ago, the Chehalis Tribe decided they wanted to enter into the craft beer market. The brand name Talking Cedar was a process to develop. “The tribe wanted a brand that reflected Native American values and sensibilities, but we didn’t want to commercialize the Chehalis history and culture,” explains Chris Richardson, managing director at Chehalis Tribal Enterprises. “As a middle ground, we came up with Talking Cedar.” It honors the tribe’s tradition of oral storytelling as well as one of the key materials used in their basketmaking tradition.
The Chehalis Tribe has partnered with Heritage Distilling from Gig Harbor, WA. Talking Cedar is home to a craft spirit tasting room offering samples of Heritage spirits including Brown Sugar Bourbon and naturally flavored vodkas like raspberry and huckleberry. The Talking Cedar restaurant menu features signature cocktails made exclusively with Heritage spirits like the Brown Sugar Sour and the Spicy Mango Mule, to name a few.
The brewery at Talking Cedar is concocting some darn tasty beer. They encourage you not to take their word for it. Craft beer lovers in Thurston County and beyond should prioritize sampling a Talking Cedar brew sooner rather than later if they haven’t already. You can find six-packs of 12-ounce cans at select locations around the region. You’ll almost always find a pint of Kolsch, Juicy IPA, and PNW IPA on tap at the restaurant and growler filling station, but that’s also where you’re guaranteed to find pours of their limited-time offerings like the Bad Bear IPA, the Scotch Style Ale or the Berry Shake Imperial IPA. Following the pandemic, Talking Cedar plans to introduce a live guided tour so visitors can walk through the entire facility and see, hear, touch and smell the production of craft beverages from ingredients to bottling!
Talking Cedar sits on reservation land at 19770 Sargent Road SW in Grand Mound. Tribal leaders have elected to keep Talking Cedar’s restaurant open for indoor dining with strict capacity limits, masking requirements and above-and-beyond sanitation measures. You can enjoy brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. To go orders are accepted during regular business hours seven days a week but may be limited during their busiest times. You can always pop in to fill a growler, too!