Local taproom receives inclusive employer honor

The Brewmaster’s Taproom won “Inclusive Employer of the Year” for King County

Nonprofit Vadis offers an award by county for employers they work with. For the first time a Renton company received “Inclusive Employer of the Year for King County.”

The Brewmaster’s Taproom, located at 2000 Benson Road South, is the company that received the award this year, specifically owner Marley Rall.

The kid and dog-friendly taproom received the award Jan. 24, at a fundraiser they held for Vadis on their “Brewer’s Night” that celebrates local brewers and customers.

“(Rall’s) mission, and her heart, is huge,” Deanna Wentz with Vadis said.

Vadis is an organization that provides training, support and opportunities for any individual with disabilities, primarily developmental disabilities. They then match qualified applicants with employers, and support the business and employee in any way needed. It has four offices, with the King County location in Tukwila.

When Rall was told about the award, it was difficult for her to comprehend.

“I don’t feel like people should get an award for doing what they’re supposed to do,” Rall said. “You’re not a martyr, you’re not a soldier. There’s a person who has a specific skill set, you need that and this person fills it for you.”

Then she found out they wanted to do a party for her. Rall refused — she doesn’t like the spotlight and gets red even getting a thank you in her own bar during trivia nights.

Eventually they settled on a fundraiser, and a special beer for the night. They donated a dollar for every pint sold, along with all the proceeds of the new brew going to Vadis.

Wentz said Rall was already a big advocate for supportive employment and insisted on a fundraiser.

Despite her insistence the event not be a thank you for her, Vadis still gave Rall a cake.

For the special brew, Rall turned to Airways Brewing in Kent. Aaron Gibbs with Airways jumped on board. Gibbs is a regular at Brewmaster’s Taproom and friend of Rall’s.

“We want to support her and support anyone being able to get a job,” Gibbs said.

They’ve created a Hazy India Pale Ale named “Hazel’s EFA,” which stands for employment for all.

Gibb’s daughter Hazel, age 4, got to create the brew, deciding the fruits and squishing them. She chose grapes and pineapple, an interesting choice given Gibbs and his daughter’s allergy to pineapple.

“I had a little bit of the beer and my mouth started itching,” Gibbs said with a laugh. “Sometimes it’s not about us, it’s about having fun and letting other people enjoy it.”

Brewmaster’s began as a beer-themed bakery in 2015, with the taproom opening up in 2016.

Right before opening, Rall was approached by a neighbor in Vadis who explained their program.

Her first employee hired through Vadis was Elliott, who helped with general cleanup and maintenance of the taproom. He and his mom later moved away to Atlanta. Then Rall hired another Vadis employee, Debbie.

One regular customer, Starfire CEO Ben Oliver in Tukwila, saw Elliot at Brewmaster’s Taproom and it encouraged him to ask Vadis for an employee, Rall and Wentz both said.

Rall said she would hope every employer would want to work with Vadis. She said she understands other business owners might worry they’re asking too much or expectations are too high. But Vadis makes it clear if an employee couldn’t handle certain qualifications, then they wouldn’t be right for the job, just like anybody else.

Rall said she has interviewed between 60 to 70 people for Brewmaster’s Taproom, and maybe hired seven or eight. She currently has five employees, one being from the Vadis program.

Rall added previous negative employer situations have taught her to be sensitive to all her employees’ needs.

She has almost kicked someone out for screaming at her employee, but the customers for the most part understand what she and her business are all about.

Her perspective is, if they can’t be accepting of everybody in our society, they don’t need to drink in her bar. That’s not what Brewmaster’s Taproom is about, Rall said. Besides the craft beer and baked goods, the business is about supporting each other.

Every month they have a fundraiser, mostly hyperlocal companies like Renton Academy, occasionally a big one like Planned Parenthood. They usually donate a dollar every pint. She just sends in whatever amount of money they make to that organization.

In 2018, they raised almost $20,000 with these fundraising events.

She said her husband asked her recently what her end goal is with Brewmaster’s Taproom. She said what she was doing, right now, is the end goal.

“I work really hard, I’m broke and I can’t work for anybody else. So let me do something that is creating the community that I want and crave,” Rall said. “Sometimes small business owners struggle with that, they’re counting every penny. I feel lucky enough to have a great set of regulars that gives me the bandwidth to say: ‘This is what I care about, I want to support it, and are you behind me?”