When it comes to variety, Menace Industries seemingly has the craft beer scene covered. Whether you want different styles of craft beer from a multitude of different sized breweries around the Pacific Northwest, beers from national favorites like Founders Brewing Company, or a cold pint of The Local’s “House Lager” (Rainier), you’ll likely satisfy your craving at any of their three locations.
The local craft beer conglomerate owns The Local Public House, The Annex, Menace Brewing, and is adding one more brew component to their resumé: Bellingham Beer Lab. You’ll soon be able to thank owners Tom Raden and Ben Buccarelli for enjoying a pint brewed by a local homebrewer, too.
Bellingham Beer Lab (BBL) began as an idea for a cooperative brewery. While those definitely exist, there were too many hands on deck to BBL to materialize, and the concept eventually evolved after Raden and Buccarelli took over and created a kickstarter in 2015.
educating them and bridging that gap between homebrewing and commercial brewing
It seemed simple, Raden and Buccarelli wanted to provide a community-oriented educational platform for local homebrewers and beer fanatics. At the time, the brew scene in Bellingham was in it’s peak of growth (which is hard to determine, since it’s been growing so consistently for the last decade), and The Local was about to gain The Annex, and Menace was close to opening their Meridian location.
Lately, after a busy season for Menace Industries, you can find Raden putting the finishing touches on the industrial brewing equipment that BBL provides for local homebrewers. In the meantime, BBL has been collaborating with commercial brewers at Menace Brewing, using their equipment and making beers like the Gose-uh Gose, a collaboration between the two and candidate for Bellingham’s best beer in 2015.
“Primarily, it will be people from the homebrewers guild. It’s about teaching them, educating them and bridging that gap between homebrewing and commercial brewing since there’s a lot of nuances and differences that take place when you make that jump.” Raden said.
While the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild, a local club that brings homebrewers together to promote the craft and help brewers hone their skills, will be the majority of the people accessing BBL, the space isn’t limited to members of the BHG. But there is hope that people who are aspiring homebrewers and don’t know where to start use the space as well.
“We’re hoping to do some community-oriented classes. It would be nice to do a once a month or bi-monthly class where a small handful of people get to come in and learn how to make beer.”
But what happens to the beer made in the lab? If brewers are yielding industrial quantities with industrial equipment (not like having that to yourself would ever be a bad thing), it makes sense that they would be enjoyed by us lucky and thirsty Bellingham beer drinkers. The Annex plans to reserve a tap for BBL beer, donating all of the proceeds to a variety local non-profits like the Max Higbee Center.
While profits aren’t returned to BHG, they will have a huge hand in not only providing connections to people to brew in BBL, but in recipe creation as well.
“We don’t want to keep it completely limited to the brewers guild people. But we also want to maintain some control over it and knowledge of who’s producing product that is gonna be sold, and hopefully sell well, and give back to some other organizations that help make Bellingham what it is.” Raden said.
In short, BBL is an educational platform and opportunity for brewers to put their work out there and be on tap alongside local favorites like Chuckanut and Kulshan, without having to be their head brewer.
As for the opening date for BBL, it’s hard to say. Right now, the equipment is installed and Raden is ready to see eager homebrewers putting it to use. Licensing has proven to be the hard part. Despite the challenge of clarifying every licensing detail with the Tax and Trade Bureau, Raden was confident to say that the BBL will be in full swing within six months.
If you’re becoming more curious about the BBL, you will have a chance to see it this Saturday, October 14, when The Local celebrates their 4th anniversary. By then, Raden plans on having it accessible to the public to visualize what has been and will be labored over in a matter of months. Besides an inside look to the BBL, there will be $3 pints served all night in The Annex, a Menace Brewing tap takeover, food specials, and prizes given away, like memberships for The Local Mug Club.
The number of talented brewers in this town are not limited to ones working in the dozen or so breweries we all frequent. BBL is providing a space to perfect the craft of homebrew for some, as well as showcase their talents to the rest of the beer community.