Local Business Spotlight: Alum founds Wingman Brewers

Posted on Apr 5 2014 - 12:56pm by Guest Writer

By Zach Wittstruck, Guest Writer

With creative beer and a welcoming environment, Wingman Brewers has found a home in the Tacoma community with Pacific Lutheran University-instilled values at its foundation.

Ken Thoburn, an alum of PLU, founded the popular and local brewery.

After graduation, Chinese studies major Thoburn decided that it was time to give one of his longtime passions a shot: brewing great beer for the Tacoma community.

Proving that one doesn’t have to be a business major to succeed in such an arena, Thoburn opened up Wingman Brewers in 2011 and has seen his business thrive well beyond his expectations.

Since its grand opening, Wingman Brewers’ unique beer has found a fond home within the hearts of many who have sampled it.

Though this popularity among the locals is a good indicator it is doing something right, balancing the high demand for its brews and the small size of its business has proven to be a challenge.

In an interview with Tacoma community reporter Jack Cameron, Thoburn said, “We thought it would take multiple years before we got to this point, but the industry moves fast and people want their beer.”

As a Chinese studies major, Thoburn didn’t learn the ins and outs of running a brewery in his daily homework.

Yet Thoburn said it was PLU’s education system as a whole that inspired him to start his own successful business.

“The excitement that PLU professors had in my learning made me grow not only in one subject, but as a person overall,” Thoburn said. “Making sure that I learned as much as I could is what has put me where I am now.”

Interested in applying these lessons to enhancing the Tacoma area, Thoburn said he decided to not only put his effort toward his passion for brewing but also in creating opportunities for charities around the area.

In collaboration with local charities like Elements of Education, Wingman Brewers gives a helping hand by donating a portion of every sale to the organization.

As both an enhancement to its image as a company and a benefit for the community, this type of quality message is in the very foundation of the company.

“Tacoma is a special place for all of us. We’ve lived here for most of our lives and would be exceedingly happy to live and work in Tacoma from the cradle to the grave,” Thoburn said.

Located just across the street from Tacoma Dome station in Tacoma, this brewery house has been sharing its friendly spark with the neighboring community since 2011.

Its beers can be found at several local businesses, including Metronome Cafe, Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante, the Rosewood Cafe and 208 Garfield cafe just across from PLU on Garfield Street.

With his successes after his PLU journey, Thoburn said his message to other Lutes is one created from his own enrichment.

“To anybody who doesn’t know for sure what they want to do, figure out what you like to do and do it,” Thoburn said. “No matter how hard it is, it’s worth it.”