The business takes its name from two things available at the tavern: a skep is a dome-shaped beehive – mead is wine made from honey — and a skein (pronounced “skeyn”) is a quantity of yarn. A knitting circle of 12-16 people meets weekly at the business, Ross said.
There’s also a monthly cribbage tournament, board games and cards for customers to use, but no television. That’s by design, Ross said, wanting to encourage an atmosphere that will stimulate conversation.
“If you sit at the bar, expect to be engaged,” he said.
Ross, 55, spent 30 years in the grocery business, starting when he was a sophomore in high school, then moved on to property management. Unsatisfied with that line of work, he decided to open The Skep & Skein. It recently celebrated two years in business at 2106 Harrison Avenue in west Olympia, a shopping center destination that also shares space with Grocery Outlet and a Dollar Tree store.
“It’s not your typical location, but it’s worked,” he said.
Part of the inspiration in opening the business was that Ross had been making mead at home for about 10 years. He still prefers beer to mead, but he enjoys the process of creating mead and sharing it with his friends and customers. He also experiments with flavors, having recently created raspberry, green tea and cranberry meads.
But the tavern features more than just mead.
The business also has 15 craft beers and one cider on tap, as well as bottled beers, more ciders and Churchkey, a beer brewed in
Seattle that is sold in a flat-top steel can and comes equipped with a can opener or “churchkey” to open it.
Another unique feature about the tavern is that it does not serve food, but allows people to bring their own food or snacks or even order takeout or have food delivered from nearby businesses, Ross said. Customers at the tavern can find menus for Apollo’s, Vic’s Pizzeria and Wally’s Sandwich Shop, which is next door to the tavern.
Wally’s co-owner Anna Lampe-Martin said the tavern’s customers regularly visit her business to order a sandwich to enjoy with their beer, mead or some other beverage.
Lampe-Martin, too, has visited The Skep & Skein Tavern for a glass of mead.
“It’s definitely my favorite over there,” she said.