When I heard the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) was opening up more than a month earlier than normal, my wife and I jumped at the chance to drive over to the Methow Valley, which is one of our favorite areas of the state to visit. And no visit to that area is complete without stopping at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop.
When Washington Pass is open, it’s about a three-hour drive from Bellingham to Winthrop, but when it’s closed over the winter due to avalanches and deep snow, it’s a five-hour drive via Highway 2.
We made it to the gate just before the opening time of 10 a.m. on Friday, April 3, and we pulled up just in time to get one of Tootsie’s famous cinnamon rolls.
As we meandered our way across one of the most remote and rugged mountain ranges in the contiguous United States, I ruminated on the news I had recently heard that the Old Schoolhouse Brewery was up for sale.
With all the recent craft brewery sales (10 Barrel, Elysian, and Full Sail, in particular) creating so much consternation in the industry, this shocking news felt like yet another blow to this region. Sure, not all brewery sales are bad, but historically speaking they usually do not go so well for discerning beer drinkers.
I’m a big fan of Old Schoolhouse (I even wrote about it for All About Beer Magazine’s “Great Beers in the Great Outdoors” feature; scroll down on the link to read it), so of course I was concerned.
Beyond Old Schoolhouse’s solid lineup of beers, including Ruud Awakening IPA, Hooligan Stout and some of the best fresh-hop beers you will ever taste, the brewery is a major community hub for locals and tourists alike. It offers the complete package: award-winning beers, delicious food, lots of great live music and a wonderful outdoor space that overlooks the Chewuch River. It would be a shame to lose it.
Fortunately, my worries were eased after contacting the manager, Joseph Weaver, and the owners, Casey and Laura Ruud. Even though the Ruuds only had a seven-year plan from the beginning (to allow them to pursue other personal hobbies), they are in no hurry to sell, and they plan to keep things going until they find the right buyer.
“We are very interested in finding someone who wants to take an incredible brand and expand on it,” says Casey. “Our hope is the right buyer will fully grasp what has been created over the past seven years, and keep the pub experience going so that fans can continue to enjoy our great beer, amazing music and pub life for many years to come.”
Old Schoolhouse has garnered many awards and accolades since the Ruuds took it over in 2008; the business has a quality management and staff securely in place; and the brewery is ripe for growth. All it needs is the right buyer with the vision to take it to the next level, while maintaining its high quality and charm. That’s what the Ruuds want. And that’s surely what Old Schoolhouse fans want, myself included.
Seriously interested parties should contact Chris Falco at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425.883.3111.