Local breweries rise to Strange Brewfest occasion

Charlie Bermant, charliebermant@gmail.com
Posted 1/24/17

There is no category that carries a stronger “buy local” vibe than beer, with three breweries calling Jefferson County home base for their brewing enterprises.

The Port Townsend Brewing Co., …

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Local breweries rise to Strange Brewfest occasion

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There is no category that carries a stronger “buy local” vibe than beer, with three breweries calling Jefferson County home base for their brewing enterprises.

The Port Townsend Brewing Co., Propolis Brewing and 101 Brewery differ in size, scope and offerings, but each offers a regionalized beer-tasting experience.

“Craft producers all bring something unique,” said Propolis co-owner Robert Horner. “People want to try different things and flavors, which draws a lot of people in.”

All three breweries are participating in this weekend’s Strange Brewfest, a compendium of bizarre beers, but the standard output for each is a bit off center.

“To make something from scratch and have it come out as something people enjoy is rewarding,” said 101 Brewery owner Melody Bacchus. 

Propolis co-owner Piper Corbett added, “This is like what happened in the Old World, where people would make beer and ales that represented a certain place.”

The three breweries are different sizes and target different markets, with none of them viewing the others as competitors.

101 BREWERY IS NANO

The 101 Brewery in Quilcene is the smallest of the three, producing about 1,800 gallons per year of four different brews: Peckerpole pale ale, Sidewinder white wheat, Hook Tender honey brown ale and Look Out stout. While the business employs about five people, the brewing is supervised by Bacchus and her son-in-law, Mark McCrehin.

The brewery celebrated its third anniversary last November, while Bacchus has owned and operated the Twana Roadhouse for 20 years.

Bacchus said the operation qualifies as a “nanobrewery,” because of its small size and low production. This makes the enjoyment of the beer a limited experience, open only to those who come into the bar or take a growler home.

Bacchus doesn’t expend any effort on marketing or publicity, aside from sponsoring a Web page, and doesn’t expect to expand, with growth limited by the business’s connection to a septic system. Should Quilcene get a sewer system, she could increase production.

“We are the only brewery on Highway 101 between Shelton and Port Angeles,” she said. “Our customers are those who drive up the highway, so they are a captive audience; there is only one way in and one way out.”

The brewery’s customers are evenly divided between locals and tourists, with many of them traveling around deliberately seeking new beer experiences. A share of these visits are random, while others are more deliberate.

PROPOLIS HAS A PALETTE

Propolis, founded in 2012, produced about 12,000 gallons last year and makes 24 different beers (from a rotating palette of 36) annually. Corbett and Horner are the business’s only employees and they split all the duties.

Propolis’ regular output includes several brews that could be characterized as strange, using local herbs and plants for flavor in addition to (or in place of) hops. The brewery operated out of a garage for the first three years of its existence. Its tap room opened last year, and that opening increased visibility and the need for more production.

The business doesn’t have standard offerings as such, with the same product tasting different from one year to the next. The tap room also serves several brews that are exclusive and not available anywhere else.

Propolis, which distributes primarily on the West Coast but has made its brew available in other locations, has the widest area of circulation. 

Port Townsend Brewing Co. distribution is mainly in the Northwest, while 101 Brewery customers are people who just happen to be driving by.

Port Townsend Brewing Co., founded in 1997, has about 13 employees and produces around 93,000 gallons annually of 10 different brews.

SPECIAL BREWS

All three microbreweries are producing special brews for the Strange Brewfest.

101 is serving a licorice honey brown ale and a pepperoni pizza brown ale.

Propolis plans to serve a variety of options, including a cedar and honey imperial ale, barrel-aged dandelion and chicory stout, and whiskey-sour-barrel-aged golden ale.

Port Townsend Brewing Co. is to produce OK Stupid, a chocolate cherry stout.

All three report that business is good, and that Jefferson County is a hospitable environment.

“It’s not so much that Port Townsend is a good place to do business; it’s that it is a good place to live,” Horner said. “The quality of life is a big part of us wanting to be here.”

“Our business is sustainable,” said Port Townsend Brewing Co. co-owner Kim Sands. “We get a good balance of locals and tourists. But people here like beer, and if there were two more breweries here, it would still be sustainable.”

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