When Barry Chan moved out to Seattle from the East Coast for an engineering job, he found himself unsatisfied with the corporate world and promptly quit. He dove into the thriving homebrew scene, reading and learning as much as he could about beer. During this time, his longtime friend Ray Kwan was traveling the country looking for potential investors and pitching business ideas. It wasn’t until the two caught up over a crabbing trip that they formed the partnership that led to Lucky Envelope Brewing.
In 2015, Kwan and Chan opened the doors to their Ballard neighborhood brewery and have been churning out standard brews — like the Helles lager, Chan’s favorite which took home a silver medal Sip Northwest’s 2018 Best of the Northwest — and culturally inspired beers like the Mijiaya, a historic Chinese beer which they tap for Lunar New Year celebrations. Here he chats the reason for the brewery’s name, what he’s jazzed to introduce to the masses and his love of pairing beer with tater tots.
1) What is the meaning behind “Lucky Envelope?”
Ray and myself are both of Chinese descent. In Chinese culture, there’s this tradition during major celebrations, especially during Lunar New Year, and it kind of extends to major celebrations like graduations, weddings, even when my daughter was born. The older generation will give the younger generation a red envelope with money inside. The red envelope symbolically wards off evil spirits and the money inside is supposed to bring you good luck. So loosely translated, it [means] “lucky envelope” in English.
2) What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
Probably one of the coolest things recently is we’ve been working on is our spontaneous fermentation program. We take beer freshly brewed that’s not fermented and then we pump it into a stainless steel vessel that’s open to the air overnight. So as the beer cools, different microbes that are literally hyper-local, literally in our driveway fall into it and then they’re able to grab a hold and ferment. There are a lot of yeasts and beer-friendly bacteria that are floating around in the air so what we essentially do is we capture it, we put it into barrels and the barrels will spontaneously ferment. Those will be out six to 12 months down the road.
3) What tunes are you playing when you’re brewing?
Really depends on the day. A lot of the times we’ll be boring and listen to podcasts. But I know we have a station that goes between Flaming Lips and Talking Heads and kind of rotates through music from within that time period and genre. We listened to a little bit of the B-52s earlier, a lot of Hall and Oates. We listen to beer podcasts — the Brewing Network, there are a couple of other ones like the Master Brewers Association of America, to try to keep everyone’s heads in the brewing. And then over the past couple of months, we’ve been doing a little Wu-Tang, too.
4) What is your favorite food to eat with a good beer?
I would say it definitely depends but, with good beer and good company, the food can be almost anything. But if I think about it… almost anything out of the smoker would be awesome. Other things I enjoy would be a good charcuterie, things that fulfill that smoky-salty that makes you want to drink another beer. And tater tots. Always tater tots.
Photos courtesy Lucky Envelope Brewing