Meet Barry Chan and Raymond Kwan, owners of Lucky Envelope Brewing in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The duo have been friends for about 15 years and run Lucky Envelope Brewing where they use traditional and not-so traditional ingredients in their beers, like lychee and even peanut butter. Before opening their award-winning brewery, Barry fell in love with craft beer in college and bought his first home brewing kit in 2008 while working as an engineer. Raymond worked for a decade in the corporate finance world and always wanted to own a business and be his own boss. The two joined forces to open Luck Envelope in May 2015 where they’ve been serving culturally inspired beer ever since.
Bonus: Through the month of May, a portion of the proceeds made from Lucky Envelope’s pints, four packs, and growlers will benefit Seattle’s Asian Counseling and Referral Service.
Get to know more about Barry and Raymond in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s something your customers may not know about you or your business?
Raymond: The name Lucky Envelope comes from the Chinese tradition of the elder generation giving the younger generation red envelopes filled with paper money. The color red is meant to ward off evil spirits and bring good health, and the money inside is supposed to bring prosperity to the person. Traditionally, these are usually given out at major life events — weddings, having a child, graduating from school — but I think since then, it’s evolved into more of a more frequent give from the elder generation to the younger generation. For the two of us, thinking about red envelopes brings back a lot of good memories from our childhood and of our upbringing in Asian-American households, and we thought it really would resonate with our customers that we’re incorporating some of our cultural heritage into the way we’ve approached the business.
As a business owner, what’s the strangest or craziest idea you’ve ever tried?
Barry: We’ve had a few that we’ve tried [he laughs]. Probably three, four years ago, we tried to make a ramen beer just for fun. We took the noodles as part of the grain ingredients and then we threw the flavor packets in there too and we fermented that out. And, yeah, it was terrible. The ones that turned out really well that was almost on a whim was our Two Pepper Pale Ale. We throw habaneros and shishitos into a beer, we cut the ribs and seeds out so it’s just a lot of habanero and shishito flavor and some citrusy green pepper too. So, there’s a little bit of heat, but not too much. That’s one of the wild things we did that ended up being one of our regular releases.
What’s your favorite part about Ballard and why?
Raymond: Ballard was always one of the top neighborhoods for us to try and find a location. The community has been great — the pandemic really brought out the importance of us remaining with the community. And it wasn’t until we were just doing to-go out of our tasting room for those first few months of COVID, that we saw a lot of our regulars purchasing from us and supporting us the best way they could even though they couldn’t have conversations with us at the bar anymore or sit outside with their friends without a mask on. That sense of community, having that support, is something we’ve always had. But the pandemic really brought out how important it is for small businesses like ourselves to be able to connect with the community.
Barry: I would claim, without anything to back it up, that Ballard has one of the highest density of breweries in a square mile — I mean, we’re up to 13 [breweries]. It’s really nice to be able to walk around, or just email people and have that relationship with them. We’re all competitors, but we’re also very supportive of each other. It’s always, if you need some sugar, borrow it. If you need some yeast from us, absolutely, go get your stuff. It’s a tight-knit community — the brewers and all the workers in the breweries — and we’re all looking to help each other out. This almost comes to be a cliche thing, but the rising tide lifts all boats mentality is very much alive and well in the brewing industry.