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Originally published Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:32 AM

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Small Poulsbo brewery goes for extreme flavors

Brown sugar, cinnamon, sweet potato.

Kitsap Sun

POULSBO, Wash. —

Brown sugar, cinnamon, sweet potato.

It's not an ingredient list for the common beer.

"It's a stout that tastes a little bit like Thanksgiving dinner," said Jeff Holcomb, the owner and head brewer at Valholl, a new Poulsbo microbrewery that had its grand opening last Friday.

Holcomb, a former U.S. Marine and prison guard, says lovers of pale, watery beers made in vast batches for the world market may get knocked off their bar stool by the robust-flavored, small-batch brews he makes for just three Kitsap bars and any courageous beer-drinker that ventures into his Front Street tasting room.

Valholl's beers are high in alcohol content and pack a punch with surprising flavors. Anise, cherry wood, tarragon, and pecan are featured boldly in the brewery's current selection of seven beers.

"I never do anything basic," Holcomb said. "I go extreme. I always get weird with everything."

Valholl is the first brewery within Poulsbo's city limits. Thomas Kemper Brewery operated near Poulsbo, but it wasn't technically a part of Poulsbo, Holcomb said.

"Poulsbo's never had a brewery, and we wanted to be the first," he said.

It won't be long before Valholl has some friendly competition from two more Poulsbo breweries.

Sound Brewery's facility on Bovella Lane, near Viking Avenue, is rapidly taking shape, and Slippery Pig Brewing, which will specialize in organic brews, is planned for Finn Hill Road.

"I lit off and all these other guys came behind me, but we're good friends with all of them," Holcomb said.

Justin Hooks, one of five other guys helping Holcomb open Valholl, doesn't see the three Poulsbo breweries battling over the local beer market.

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"We make beer. We drink beer," he said. "It's a laid-back culture."

The three Poulsbo breweries will join three other Kitsap breweries: Hood Canal Brewery in Kingston, Silver City Brewery in Silverdale and Der Blokken Brewery in Bremerton.

Holcomb hung out long enough at the now-defunct Heads Up Brewery in Silverdale that the owner put him to work. He spent five years brewing at Heads Up before it closed in 2008.

His brewing operation at Valholl is humble. The 660-square-foot former sign shop has a bar, some taps and three small brewing tanks that could fit in a mid-sized closet.

It's cozy, but the bar's garage door does open up to an expansive, hillside view of Liberty Bay. Holcomb plans to put in a small beer garden, and maybe host a homebrewer's festival in the parking lot.

He took the name for Valholl from the Icelandic equivalent of Valhalla, the Norse warriors' heaven.

"I saw that word with that umlaut and thought it fit in with whole Poulsbo Norse thing," he said.

Holcomb, who began selling Valholl beers to local bars in late August, is already planning an expansion. Larger fermenting tanks are on the way to give the brewery 12 times the production capacity. He also plans to add a restaurant component if the brewery expands to a larger location.

"That's all part of the ultimate goal," Holcomb said. "But right now, this is a place to hang out and drink some beers."

And that's good enough for Hooks.

"I love this project," he said. "We're making beer for people. How much fun is that?"

---

Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/

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