Longtime brewmaster looks to elevate Valholl to new heights

During COVID, Valholl Brewing in Poulsbo underwent some ownership and philosophical changes to bring the quality of its beers to another level, led by former Silver City brewmaster Don Spencer.

Spencer, and three other locals, took over majority Valholl ownership in 2020, shortly after he left Silver City in Silverdale, where he had worked since 1996. His first brewing job was at the old Thomas Kemper brewery in Poulsbo.

Valholl is Poulsbo’s first brewery, opening in 2010. The business moved to its location on 3rd Avenue in 2013.

“I felt like I had taken Silver City as far as I could take it, and I was sort of looking for a new challenge,” Spencer said. “The new owners of Valholl then reached out to me.”

He said he has history with Valholl’s new location.

It “used to be the library so I remember coming here as a kid. We got some new energy here in the building, and I’m putting my skills to good use. I’ve never been happier. I am fully vested in this brewery.”

At last year’s Washington Beer Awards, Valholl won gold medals for its Kilted Viking Scotch Ale and Blind Squirrel Weizenbock, a silver medal for its Zwickel Pilsner and a bronze for Moe Street British Pale Ale.

The brewery is expanding its wholesale business by offering three kinds of beer (flagship IPA, Golden Warrior, Kilted Viking Scotch Ale) in 22-ounce bottles in stores such as Town & Country and Marina Market in Poulsbo, along with Butcher & Baker Provisions in Port Gamble.

“I wanted to … dial them in a little bit to where I thought they should be,” Spencer said about improving the beer quality. “We have invested a good amount in instrumentation and quality control to do a bigger dive into analyzing our beers … and really driving repeatability and consistency in the process.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Spencer said business is slowly improving as more people become comfortable in group settings again. He said the space inside is limited but they also have outdoor space that is popular, especially during spring and summer. Valholl does not offer food, but the business often partners with food trucks on weekends. Spencer said folks can also bring in or order their own food.

Spencer was born and raised in Poulsbo, graduating from North Kitsap High School. He said beer piqued his interest at a young age, even before he was legally allowed to drink it. The longtime brewmaster recalled in high school during career day when he said he wanted to work in the beer industry at a time when there were only a handful of breweries in the state.

“I used to ride my bike to town and go to the local stores where they had bulk food, and I would get barley to take home, and I’d malt it myself,” Spencer said. “That was really my interest, kind of the science of it. While everyone else had other interests, that was cool to me. It took me a little bit of experimentation and reading at the library to figure out how things were done.”

Valholl is open from 2-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.