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Half Lion Brewing Co: Bringing Three Cities Together with Beer

David Westby began home brewing beer 11 years ago.  In December 2009 Adam Shay joined Westby in brewing Half Lion at their first brew site in Enumclaw.  The pair knew their brewing potential, so partnered with Jason Nelson, and moved their brew site to Auburn.  Now, three years after first opening their taproom in Sumner the Half Lion Brewing Co partners have opened their second location, in Kent, Half Lion Public House. 

Half Lion’s Sumner Taproom opened January 30, 2016.  The taproom has a rustic mountain and logging décor, which gives an overall relaxed atmosphere.  The location is family friendly and hosts weekly trivia, a rotation of food trucks and special events.

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Half Lion Public House celebrates its grand opening with a ribbon cutting | Photo for the Auburn Examiner

The newly opened Half Lion Public House is in Kent at the Riverbend Golf Course.  The new location offers diners “a family friendly, full-service restaurant & bar, offering American Pub Fare, along with our delicious handcrafted beers,” describes the website.  In addition to the offerings of the restaurant, Half Lion also has brought back beverage cart service for those on the golf course.

The Half Lion Brewery owners give back to the community to thank their supporters. Some of the ways have included hosting charity events for local nonprofits like the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation and Bob Jones Memorial Scholarship, fundraising for local schools, donating items to silent auctions, and helping to raise funds for fallen Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney.

“If something happened to me, I would want the community to be able to take care of my family and show them love in their time of need,” said Nelson.

Half Lion’s Auburn Roots

Though Half Lion’s brewery and taproom are in Sumner, and the new location is in Kent – its connection to Auburn runs deep.

Nelson was raised in Auburn and attended Auburn Riverside Highschool.  His family was one of the first to live in the original Lakeland Hills development.  Growing up, Nelson and his friends built an expansive tree house in the woods above the fledgling Lakeland Hills development.  He now lives near where that very treehouse was.

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Main Street Auburn (1915)| Photo courtesy of Banana Museum

One of Half Lion’s beers is the Peckinpaugh Hybrid.  This is because Westby’s Great Grandfather was Charles Irving Peckenpaugh (he always went by “Peck” in life, even by his wife). “He co-opened his first Drug store in Auburn in 1922,” shared Westby. “After a falling out with his first business partner, [Peck] was going to move towns.  [However], other businessmen in Auburn convinced him to stay and helped him open what would become Peckenpaugh Drug Store in 1935. That was the Peckenpaugh-Manson Drug Store on A-street and Main.”  (editor’s note: this location is the current location of A Little Knitty yarn shop)

“In 1946 Peck had a Heart Attack (he survived) but stopped working,” continued Westby. “My Grandpa John graduated from UW Pharmacy in 1948 and took over his Dad’s half the business. In the late 1950’s he opened a second store on M-street.  He also was the Pharmacist for the Auburn Hospital.

They closed the first store sometime in the late 1960s /early ’70s, and Grandpa retired and sold his portion to Will Anderson and Ken Stracken in 1988. Anderson continued to own Peckenpaugh Drug until he retired and closed the store in 2016.”

Why Half Lion?

The name Half Lion comes from an experience after brewing the first batch of beer. At that time, Westby and Shay were brewing at a friend’s house.  That friend owned a Great Dane named Tonka.  While several friends were over trying their beer, the conversation arose of how Great Danes were bred to hunt and kill lions (which isn’t true).

On the way home, one of their friends was puzzled and seemingly in awe. When asked what was wrong, he admitted that “I just can’t believe that Great Dane is half lion!” During the earlier conversation, he had been confused and thought Tonka was bred not to hunt and kill lions but was bred with a lion.

When it came time to name the beer, this story kept coming up.  The partners knew there was no other name for their beer but Half Lion. “We have such a great time brewing together with friends and family it was fitting that a friend that had just enjoyed maybe one too many of our beers would be the guy to give us our name,” said Nelson. “At the end of the day it’s all about friends, family, and fun at Half Lion and that’s why we love brewing beer.”

The Rugged Luxury of Real Beer

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Shay(R), Westby(L), and Nelson(M) brewing beer, November 2014 | Courtesy Photo, Half Lion Brewing Co.

Half Lion regularly introduces new beers.  Most recently Assistant Brewer Dane released a limited run brew, Pilot Batch Mosaic Hazy #7.  In addition to their ever-changing line-up, the brewery has these staples on tap: Log Show Blonde, Peckenpaugh Hybrid, Albert’s Amber, Suntop IPA, Elk Camp Kölsch, Target Tree IPA, Lahar Stout.

“Auburn business owners are always excited to see us and love supporting other local businesses,” said Shay. “They really enjoy telling their customers about all our local roots and ties, as well as how much we love supporting the local community.”

Regular spots in Auburn to find Half Lion beer include Oddfellas Pub & Eatery, Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro, Bogey’s Public House, Stack 571, and Hops N Drops.  Cans of Half Lion Beer are also available at the Lakeland Hills Towncenter Haggen, Total Wine, and the Half Lion Taproom.

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