Propolis Brewing looks to expand production in new location

By Hannah Ray Lambert of the Leader
Posted 6/23/15

Propolis Brewing has secured a retail and production location in the vicinity of the new Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and hope to open as soon as August.

Co-owners Robert Horner and Piper …

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Propolis Brewing looks to expand production in new location


Propolis Brewing has secured a retail and production location in the vicinity of the new Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and hope to open as soon as August.

Co-owners Robert Horner and Piper Corbett are looking for "community-sourced capital" in the form of micro loans to finance the remodel of the new location. Supporters buy "squares," or $50 pieces of a loan that fall somewhere between donating and investing. "Square holders" do not gain interest; they can be repaid in full.

"We are a for-profit business and we don't just want to take people's money," Horner said.

If the campaign is successful, Propolis is set to move existing production equipment to the new location during the summer and remodel the existing building to receive new production equipment in September. Horner said they plan to produce 10 times as many cases of beer with the acquisition of the additional equipment. Plans also include a taproom, a first for Propolis.


Propolis started in June 2012 and is one of Washington's smallest breweries, working on a one-barrel system that allows it to produce about 1,300 cases per year.

Propolis established a "grassroots, under-the-radar following" in Seattle for its unique ales, according to Horner. Ales are brewed using 100 percent certified organic Pacific Northwest malted barley and wheat. They also include seasonal ingredients such as salmonberry, dandelion, dried plum, citrus and huckleberry.

In the beginning, the business was collecting all the ingredients on its own, Corbett said. "Now we have relationships with farmers," she added, specifically noting Corona Farm and Willow Wind Farm & Gardens.

Horner and Corbett said they are focused on sustainability and community, networking at farmers markets to find ingredients and figure out ways to use windfall crops so they don't go to waste.

"It's about having a different worldview of business in a small town," Corbett said. "What sets our beer apart [is that] we're focusing on beers that are representative of our local place and a traditional style."

It didn't take long for orders to start coming in from out of state, Horner said, especially after Propolis began taking home awards, such as a Great American Beer Festival gold medal for American-style Brett beer and a bronze for Belgian ales in the 2014 Washington Beer Awards.

The latest medals were awarded Saturday, June 20 at the Washington Beer Awards. Propolis took gold and silver for American-style Brett beer, and bronze for herb and spice beers. Propolis beers can be found as far away as Chicago, but the strongest concentration is along the West Coast, in California, Oregon and Washington.

In fact, Horner said, 50 percent of the contributions to the campaign have come from out of state.

However, the pair intends to keep Propolis local and satisfy existing orders with the increased productivity, rather than expand to new locations.

"We want to focus on quality, not quantity, and encourage people to come here, visit Port Townsend," Horner said. "Our intention is to bring money from elsewhere into Port Townsend," he added.

With the promise of a location in a more central area of the city, Horner said, they want to "help encourage this new area by the chamber" and "help make it an artisan community."

The expansion also offers Propolis a chance to hire new employees "to help with production and run the tasting room," Horner said.

While Piper said it's been "wonderful" running everything by themselves, both admitted that it's also a challenge.

"Today, I'm brewing and ordering ingredients, ordering bottles, doing accounting, labeling and cleaning," Horner said. He also designs everything from Propolis' labels to a unique shape for one of their glass bottles.

"Every aspect of this business is designed by us," Corbett said. "The exciting part of [the expansion] will be delegating."


Horner and Corbett worked for a year to get a loan for the new production equipment. Horner said they're also open to working with local investors who want to see a return.

"It's hard to get money as a two-person business that's 3 years old," Corbett said, adding, "We wanted a way for people to help us."

Thus, the community-sourced capital campaign was born.

The campaign has raised $16,550 of the minimum $20,000 goal, as of Monday, June 22. Target funding is $50,000. The campaign minimum equals about a quarter of what they need to remodel the building, Horner said.

Horner and Corbett expect to pay square holders back within three years, though it could be sooner.

"We want to pay people back as soon as we can," Corbett said.

The campaign ends July 1.

For more information, visit the campaign page at


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