A forester. A horticulturist. A pilot. An awning salesman.
Mike Hale has done many things in his lifetime, but undoubtedly he’s best known as the founder of Hale’s Ales Brewery in Washington State, one of the pioneering craft breweries in the country.
Mike was born and raised in the Bay area in California. His boyhood home in the Sonoma Valley was located adjacent to an airstrip, sparking a lifelong interest in aviation. Mike attended UC Berkley, graduating in 1965 with a major in forestry. His career as a forester was short-lived. “I got into forestry for my love of forests but the job of forester seemed to have more to do with cutting forests down.” Instead, Mike moved into horticulture, buying a business that grew grape vines for the booming Napa Valley wine industry.
In 1976 Mike sold the business, packed up the family and moved to the idyllic small town of Colville in NE Washington State with semi-retirement on his mind. But retirement wasn’t in the cards for Mike.
Mike’s interest in beer started in 1982 when he experienced a small revelation while touring England on a bicycle. The English beer he tasted in small villages across the country was different. It tasted great! It was brewed locally and tasted fresh and floral and quaffable. It was not the beer Mike had known in the states. As his appreciation for English ale deepened, Mike conceived the idea of returning home to Colville to open his own version of the small English village brewery.
But, how? First, Mike wanted to learn the fundamentals of commercial brewing and, consequently, he arranged a brewing apprenticeship at Gales Ales Brewery in Horndean England. After about a year on the job, Mike headed home with a plan, the brewing know-how and even a centuries old brewing yeast strain to start building his own brewery. Back at home Mike gathered a small group of friends who pooled their labor and resources to build a small brewery.
On July 4th 1983, Hale’s Ales Brewery in Colville, Washington, opened with the release of the brewery’s flagship, draught only beer, Hale’s Pale Ale American Ale. Mike’s dream of starting his own small brewery had come to fruition and, in a larger sense, the American craft brewing revolution was underway.
Since its founding, Hale’s has operated breweries in Colville, Kirkland and Spokane Washington. However in 1996, Hale’s consolidated all production at its current, and remaining, location, a state-of-the-art 30 barrel brewery and pub in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (center of the universe). Around this time Mike’s wife, Kathleen joined the enterprise as pub manager in Fremont.
Today, Mike and Kathleen live on the Olympic peninsula and are still actively involved in the management of Hale’s Brewery. Mike is an avid pilot and takes to the skies whenever his schedule allows. His son, Sam, is a commercial pilot for Alaskan Airlines.
With a little luck, a little inspiration and a lot of determination, Hale’s has become the longest running independently owned brewery in the NW. Cheers to many more years!