Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Sound Beverage owns the Melvin Brewery building on Meridian. In fact, Sound Beverage owner Dean Shintaffer owns the building.
Bellingham, get ready to tack on another brewery to your belt. The timing of Melvin Brewing opening in Bellingham couldn’t be better. Our boutique Beer Town is at its apex of craft beer culture. It’s fitting that Jeremy Tofte, owner of Melvin Brewing, and Bellingham native, has returned to his roots and to add to Bellingham’s craft beer history.
Melvin Brewing is a nationally renowned brewery and was named Small Brew Pub of the Year in 2015 at the Great American Beer Festival. Their 2×4 IPA has won the prestigious Alpha King Award, two years in a row at the GABF. They have collaborated with Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Bellingham’s own Wander Brewing (2x), Great Notion and Fort George. Melvin is also rapidly expanding. The eight new 240 barrel tanks they just bought are for distribution expansion and can production. Tofte tells me they just sold their first kegs in San Diego and that’s just the beginning. There are also plans for more Melvin Brew Pubs in other cities. Their Wyoming location saw a 3848% increase in volume between 2015 and 2016 and some in the industry tell me those new tanks may account for a 3x volume increase over its current volume. This is a brewery on the rise and Bellingham is a big part of that.
Melvin Brewing (aka MelvingHam) will likely open sometime later this week at 2416 Meridian Street and it will make for 11 breweries in Bellingham and 13 in Whatcom County. We have an about idea of when exactly they’ll open, but in an effort to help out the new 20 employees and not set too many expectations, we’ll just let it play out. Might be best to stop by every now and then to see what’s going on.
So what is going on at MelvingHam? Well, a brewery with a full kitchen will be opening and serving all of Bellingham. Business hours will start off 4pm to 11pm, everyday. The kitchen will be serving apps and dinner first, but in a few months, Tofte tells me, hours will expand and lunch will be on the menu.
Like all things Melvin, the kitchen reflects an eclectic flair. Tofte called it, “Asian inspired pub food.” This is going to be an interesting twist for Bellingham, but business as usual for Melvin. They’ll be serving up things like “Pad Thai Dumplings”, “Beer Miso Ramen”, “Grilled Flat Iron Steak”, “Melvin Burger”, “Tofu Po’ Boy” and many others. Prices range from $8 apps to $25 entrees for steak and salmon. The Asian theme is a perfect symbiosis with the other elements of Melvin, including the nunchucks on the entry doors. Melvin Brewing was founded in Jackson, Wyoming and was originally called Thai Me Up Restaurant and Brewery. From the website
Thai Me Up was founded in 2000 by a ski bum [Tofte]. A restaurant and brewery that plays kung fu on the TV and hip hop over the hi-fi. TMU offers American influenced modern Thai cuisine, as well as, classic Thai dishes.
You’ll notice the playful use of graffiti to cover where the soon-to-be placed 7bbl system is meant to be. Yep, MelvingHam won’t be brewing up a single beer until later this fall when the brewing system is put in. Until then, all beers will be coming from Wyoming, or your local Bellingham breweries. Graffiti also covers the walls of the bathrooms. Some of the tanks will be located right in the tap room, as you sit at the bar. The rest will be located in the basement where the cooler sits and for keg storage.
I’m a firm believer in the power of the individual. Jeremy fits into the mold of so many business and brewery owners I know and call friends. They are somewhere between calculated dreamers and avant-garde blind risk takers. He has an air of eccentricity coupled with a friendly steady hand. I’ve gotten to know Jeremy over the last 12 months and I can see why Melvin Brewing is making the moves it has. He’s willing to take risks and solve problems creatively.
Jeremy said he likes to come up with an idea and run with it, even though he may not fully have the answer. Tofte lives a peripatetic lifestyle. He lives in his van with a motorcycle attached to the back. He follows the snow, or mountain bike trails and travels around the country spreading the Melvin gospel. It’s an alternative lifestyle that is the root of what has been called Melvin’s “irreverent brand.”
All talented individuals surround themselves with other talented individuals. MelvingHam is full of them. Bar Manager, Melissa DePierro, who moved here from Denver and worked at Crooked Stave Artisans Distribution. Yes, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project owns a distribution company. After distributing Melvin through CSA, she moved out here three days ago. A while back she heard Jeremy say he needed a Bar Manager at the new location. She dropped everything with little thought and made the move. She’s funny, detail oriented and personable. She’s a great fit for Melvin’s style.
David Powers will be the General Manager. When I walked in he was giving a staff meeting to the 20+ new hires. David seems exactly like the person that should be doing this job. When I met him he was friendly, but clearly focused on his job as there were things to be done. People were milling around, construction was under way and tape was being ripped from boxes.
Interestingly enough, Melvin Brewing’s space is owned by Sound Beverage owner Dean Shintaffer. Tofte is a native to Bellingham and, as you’d expect has relationships throughout the community just like anyone else. The whole remodel was worked out with the owners of the building and Schintaffer covered most, if not all the remodel. And it was a big one.
So this is obvious by now, but any of those cans or draft from Melvin you see around town are all distributed by Sound Beverage. But this relationship doesn’t stop Melvin from creating community outside of it.
As you’ll notice MelvingHam will have ~10 taps dedicated to Bellingham’s local breweries. Honestly, as a business decision, that surprised me and I’m curious how that will work for them. But this decision wasn’t just about community building. When I asked Melissa, Bar Manager, why they decided to do that, she said, “We don’t offer many of the styles our local breweries do.” It’s true. Melvin won’t be brewing up any stouts, or things like that.
Bellingham’s craft beer community showed up in force for the soft opening. When I showed up Ben and Katie from Menace, a mere two blocks away, where there. Eric Jorgenson from North Fork Brewing was recalling an experience he had with Jeremy from years back. Soon to be followed by Chad and Colleen from Wander and members of the Bellingham Home Brewers Guild. Also my good friend Steve DeMoney from Chuckanut Brewing showed up. It was a full show.
While I sipped away at my Citradamus IIPA, I watched as the the man known as the Wood Slayer, flipped the switch on the huge back-lit Melvin logo hanging from the wall. Its purple light glimmered off the wide screen TVs that were playing Kung Fu in the background. The bustling of a new exciting business was mixing well with the clinks of glasses and scooting of brand new stools. This was the scene of Bellingham growing into itself.
Bellingham, Melvin Brewing may have started outside the walls of our quaint little bayside city. It may be a bigger brewery with a bigger reach, but it has roots here and its success is a testament to what Bellingham can brew up. Tofte had dreams of opening MelvingHam years ago, long before our town’s craft craziness. They are bringing a crew of new people to our town, with new beers and new ideas. Show up like the community that you are. Not just for the beer, but to help create something new and exciting. Breweries are our city’s incubators of culture and creativity, so keep supporting all of them.