Stanwood Artisan Ale and Lager, SAAL Brewing Co. (the acronym is pronounced “sail”) is a small-batch brewery doing it right.
Head brewer and business owner Matt Stromberg, along with his partner and wife, Kristine Birkenkopf, will be making as many as eight small-batch beers when their equipment is installed this October. The newlyweds opened the family-friendly restaurant and brewery just a few months pre-pandemic, riding out the storm by brewing off-site. They’re tickled to seal the deal on owning the historic firehouse as well as their marriage in 2021, upping their game as a destination brewery along the Seattle NorthCountry’s coastal region.
“I like robust flavors, but I also like balance,” Stromberg said. “People always ask what’s your favorite beer and I always say it’s the one I’m holding in my hand now. At the end of the day, good beer trumps all styles.”
Adds Birkenkopf, “this is his end game, where he can be creative.” Stromberg spent years as the bar manager for Washington’s McMenamins chain and later as head brewer for Scuttlebutt brewing in Everett.
Birkenkopf brought to the business her business acumen and past manufacturing management. She personally welded the restaurant’s tables and their patio fencing. And she, along with their former head chef, created the menu, including a blackened cod sandwich with roasted corn salsa, and the popular spicy smoked pork hero, with house-smoked pork, pepperoncini, and a samba aioli. Now serving as the head chef, she brings to the menu her sensibilities around food as a pescatarian and is committed to options for all.
Their vegan customers, for instance, shouldn’t have to eat a salad while everyone else has a full menu to choose from, the couple says.
“I’m a hard-core carnivore and my favorite sandwich on the menu is the Veggie Bahn Mi,” Stromberg said. The crispy tofu sandwich is a vegan option. They also offer a popular Soyrizo taco with pineapple pico and cashew crema.
“We’ve had a lot of talent in the kitchen,” Birkenkopf said.