Issaquah brewery wins big at 2024 World Beer Cup

Formula Brewing owners explain the stiff competition and their passion for great beer.

Formula Brewing, wedged between Tibbetts Creek and Interstate 90 at 1875 NW Poplar Way in Issaquah, opened in 2020 and has thrived since, winning 13 state and national awards for its beer, and its first four global awards at the 2024 World Beer Cup (WBC).

These four awards were a testament to the Formula’s meticulous attention in crafting over 200 “true-to-style, delicious, sometimes questionable, sometimes experimental, but uncompromisable [beer],” said Danny Bohm, one of the Formula Brewing owners.

At the 2024 WBC, held in Las Vegas in April, Formula Brewing entered 10 beers — the maximum entry for each brick-and-mortar a brewing company owns. The brewery competed among 9,300 beer entries from 50 countries across 110 categories.

With the odds stacked against the smaller brewery, the results shocked the Formula team: winning a gold medal for their English Imperial Stout, Touched by Chaos; two silver medals for their Helles Lager, Chasing Planes, and their German Pilsner, Line in the Sand; and a bronze for their English Brown Ale with Rye, dubbed the Simpatico.

“One is happiness. Four is completely unprecedented,” Bohm said while explaining the stiff competition against “sharpshooters” from Germany or Europe who entered styles that they honed for centuries.

Each category underwent a tiered evaluation process, some requiring five levels of assessment before reaching the finalists. The evaluations were conducted by a diverse panel of judges traveling from 37 different countries, according to the WBC website.

“We call it the Olympics of beer for a reason, that 80% of the judges are actually brought in from other parts of the world,” said Formula Brewing Master Brewer Jesse Brown. “Those palettes from Japan and South America and Germany are going to have different experiences. So we’re really proud that people from all over the world found our beers to be really good.”

When it comes to making award-winning beer, the brewery prides itself on its variety of hops and malts from places such as Yakima, Washington, to around the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

“While some corporations use the same few malts or hops in all their beers to save money, it’s kind of the opposite here. In fact, the brewer has no budget,” Bohm said.

The gold-medal beer, Touched by Chaos, a rich English Imperial Stout infused with espresso and chocolate notes, epitomizes the brewery’s commitment to crafting true-to-style brews.

Brown said the “bold, boozy and heavy” beer undergoes an old-style, double-mash process — to yield the richest part of the malt — and exclusively contains British malts and hops, all to ensure an authentic flavor.

Formula’s custom 15-barrel build allows beers to mature over months without the need to expedite production to make room for new brews, relieving any time constraints, Bohm said.

“There’s no rules. There’s no strict corporate constraints or mandates coming down. Except have fun making a kick-ass product,” Bohm said.

This variety of ingredients and luxury of time ensures each beer has a distinct individual flavor and can closely recreate any historical beer styles Brown is chasing on his travels to expand his knowledge of different beer styles.

One of the award-winning beers, Chasing Planes, was inspired by Brown’s travels to Bavaria, Germany, where he said they only drink Helles beer, a style he has been brewing throughout his career: “[I] travel to Germany to drink beer and think beer, come back and try to chase some of those things that I remember in Germany. So I have a passion for these styles.”

Outside of manufacturing quality beer and winning awards, Brown and Bohm emphasized the importance of what Formula Brewing calls the “out of glass” experience — the customer experience.

“We want people to come here and just enjoy the experience… and it’s my job to be back here and be obsessed and passionate about what I do,” Brown said.

Although Formula Brewing is known as the first brewery, taproom and beer garden in Issaquah, Bohm wanted the brewery to be more than “the town’s watering hole.”

“What I wanted to add in the city is the energy you see all across Europe, especially Germany, where there’s beer gardens, beer halls, beer taverns, you can come and go and walk around,” Bohm said. “That is just timeless energy because those formats have worked so well.”

This model has allowed Formula Brewing to connect with the community by hosting twice-monthly drink and draw events, and pet adoptions, ski-gear donations and wedding parties.

Bohm and the team aim to provide Eastside residents with quality brews and experiences without the needing to travel to Seattle or Ballard.

“Now they can get award-winning beer in their backyard,” he said.

Those looking to taste any of the four WBC award-winning brews will need to act quickly due to Formula’s ever-changing menu. Bohm emphasized that the brewery has never had, and likely never will have, a flagship beer.

”We’ve got a good process, we will always be looking to iterate, he said. “But we are a place that is uncompromising on quality across any style.”

Formula Brewing is open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more information about Formula Brewing’s food and drink menu or events, go to their website.

(Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

(Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

Formula Brewing beer garden. (Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

Formula Brewing beer garden. (Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

(Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)

(Cameron Sires/ Sound Publishing)