In music, harmony is a combination of notes and chords that create a pleasing sound. It could be said that food and drink compose their own form of harmony: an ideal pairing that makes appetites sing. For Resonate Brewery + Pizzeria in Bellevue, the classic duet of beer and pizza, made with an artisan flair, has become a smash hit.
“I’ve been brewing for about 15 years, so it was really my love of craft beer that led us down this path,” said Mike Ritzer, Resonate’s co-owner and head brewer. “Five years into home brewing, I started getting more serious about it, started entering competitions to get more detailed judging notes over how I could improve.”
Ritzer studied and qualified for the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) to judge the competitions in which he was an award winner many times over. Taking that thirst for knowledge a step further, he enrolled at the Siebel Institute in Chicago for a concentrated course on brewing. “I got to study with some of the greatest brewers in the country. That was amazing,” he raved. The intensity of the program only encouraged his love of brewing, and he knew he could take it further.
“It really clicked when I was at a craft brewer conference and a speaker said, ‘You know craft beer just resonates with the community …’ And I’m like: That’s it!” he recalled. An avid guitarist since his teens, a brewery evoking both music and beer made Resonate ready to rock.
Realizing the vision of a full-scale restaurant and brewery was a team effort, thanks to his partner in business as well as in life Lyanne Ma. Wife, mother, and principal co-owner, Ma is, as Ritzer describes her, “the glue behind the restaurant.” She handles the daily tasks of running the business as well as being its communications manager. In their travels, finding hidden-gem restaurants and brewpubs was a must, and Ma was the one researching and organizing the itinerary, helping to form the early concept of Resonate.
A rockstar brewer needs a rockstar venue, and while taprooms have been a proven success in the region, serving only beer wasn’t enough — the couple knew they wanted to open a full-scale brewpub. They searched the Eastside for a location large enough to handle both dining and brewing; diligence and a bit of luck rewarded them with a last-minute find in a shopping center just a few minutes from their home in Newcastle. What used to be a Chinese restaurant was transformed into a stylized industrial hangout. It was a family effort to renovate the space, with their kids helping to refurbish old tables and chairs left behind. A local artist created custom pieces for the walls, pizza and beer-themed riffs of favorite album covers. Large booths line one end of the restaurant, and long wood tables with benches offer open seating for families. What often happens is that separate conversations about beer become communal, and tables get moved together. The owners love seeing that; it speaks to the neighborhood atmosphere they wanted to create from the start.
Weekday regulars living nearby will stop in after work, and there’s a steady weekend crowd from Seattle to Everett, who make it a point to see what’s new on tap.
There’s humor in a nitro-tapped oatmeal stout named Haulin’ Oats, or a daily special pizza called Specktacular, Spectacular featuring the Italian/Austrian cured ham. But Resonate’s menu is seriously fresh and from-scratch. Its pizza dough recipe reflects the same love of process and transformation that goes into making beer. The dough ferments for three days, giving the crust a crisp chew and depth of flavor. The same starter for the pizza is used for the sourdough-style loaves baked in-house, sliced for its bruschetta. Its menu showcases ingredients, right down to the hearty salads, and there’s a bit of a rocker rebel streak in the flavors — there’s a pizza that marries spicy with sweet by adding a drizzle of honey.
A large window in the restaurant provides a view of the brewery half of Resonate, a front row to beermaking in its many stages. You could be treated to the perfume of roasted coconut used in the Paradise porter, or the toasted aroma of barley in the Lithium German-style Altbier. A half-dozen staple beers are always on tap to cover a range of flavor profiles, as well as a couple of open taps for seasonal specialties and guest breweries. Nearly an entire wall is dedicated to a comprehensive beer menu, mapping out the ingredients and specs like Alcohol by Volume (ABV) for the brew nerds, as well as a visualization of an International Bitterness Unit (IBU) scale to estimate a beer’s flavor balance, for those who want to select based on taste.
Resonate does growler fills in stainless-steel pitchers that, unlike the typical glass jugs, block light exposure that can affect beer. The brewpub goes one step further by offering Crowlers of beer, an extra-large 32-ounce can, filled and sealed on-site, allowing people to keep beer even longer.
The care that went into every aspect of Resonate is in the details, as is the siren song of a true passion. “It’s everything that I love doing,” Ritzer said of beermaking. “It’s creative; you have the engineering side of it, the science side of it — it just consumed me.”
Being able to combine a love of music with beer makes Resonate’s success all the more sweet. “I was sure I was going to be a famous guitar player one day,” Ritzer said. “But hopefully that’s going to now be my son.” Following dreams could be a family business. resonatebrewery.com