If you’ve been a part of the Bellingham craft beer crowd for more than a year or so, you’ve probably noticed a few new breweries popping up here and there. You’ve probably also noticed that even when a new one opens and becomes the talk of the town, the rest of the breweries that have been on the scene, no matter how long, are still packed every weekend.
Evan Pollock noticed these things too, but as a director of a new documentary about the Bellingham brew scene, he takes special note on the details of this friendly competition among breweries.
Pollock teamed up with local photographer Damian Vines to start a project highlighting the back of house “unseen masters” of the Bellingham beer community. Pollock and Vines started with organizing a roundtable discussion among brewers at Wander Brewing, and will go as deep into the brews as featuring barrel makers, and hops and malt farmers.
Easy. Bellingham has the market to be Bend, without the existing breweries there already. Bellingham also has the outdoorsy types and like-minded individuals with biking followed by a nice cold beer on their mind.
The roundtable, moderated by Tap Trail’s Scott Pelton, allowed eight brewers from local breweries to be in the same space and discuss the industry– what makes Bellingham unique? What drives the competition while upholding a sense of community among breweries?
“What we witnessed was awesome,” Pollock said. “Because all of these businesses have such a friendly competition going on, that we allowed that to drive the story and drive the way that this documentary is going to be filmed. We wanted to showcase this community, not just individuals.”
The breweries involved in the roundtable ranged from old school locals like Boundary Bay and North Fork to the newer kids on the block like Gruff and Menace. From favorite brew experiences to what aspect of each brewery influences the beer itself, the brewers were free to share details that beer drinkers may not think about when enjoying a Kulshan or an Aslan beer, but instead offered unique insight to the back of house minds.
Once the beer and conversation started flowing, the participants in the round table realized the friendly competition among breweries and what set each apart was something they had been wanting to talk about.
“You want to make sure you enter it [that conversation] very wisely. Everyone had that initial tension but as soon as that question was laid out in front of them, they realized there is a great camaraderie amongst them all. They all have their own thing going.” Pollock said.
It’s safe to say that each brewery in Bellingham has it’s own style. Rather, Aslan has something completely different to offer than Wander, who has something completely different to offer than Chuckanut or Structures. Bellingham craft beer fanatics are well versed enough to recognize some of these nuances and differences, which might be why our market can in fact support eleven breweries. While they are so different, the brewers and business owners of the roundtable do have a common denominator of being in the same industry and having the same passions.
Instead of competing to put each other out of business, they’re pushing each other to be better and celebrating each other’s successes.
The brew community extends well beyond the beer drinkers, bartenders and brewers in Bellingham. Pollock will be heading to Yakima to catch the hop harvest in the peak of it’s season and attending the hops festival. Though this only scratches the surface of the amount of moving parts Pollock hopes to feature, he knows that there is a wealth of information to cover.
“By no means will this be a feature film– we’ll cut it a little shorter than that. We know that there’s an ocean of information out there, but we hope to cut a good size river through it.” Pollock said.
Right now, the working title is “Brewingham”, but Pollock assures us that it’s subject to change if another title comes more naturally.
What’s next for Pollock and Brewingham? With enough funding, he hopes to do roundtable discussions in beer communities beyond Bellingham, and start a similar conversation in other brew economies. Who knows, maybe we’ll see this brew series on Netflix one of these days. It’s safe to say the thousands of members of Bellingham’s brew community would all tune in.