Structures Brewing is Bellingham’s newest announced brewery. They are apart of the 12 active and planned breweries in our fair city. These 12 will give us more breweries per capita than Seattle Washington and push us towards further regional and national recognition in the craft beer world.
Stuctures Brewing is owned by James Alexander and Ryan Miller. They hail from the vaunted craft brew hills of Vermont where craft beer has legendary status. But they haven’t just been living in Vermont these past years. James and Ryan have worked in breweries and ciderhouses from Pittsburgh to Olympia. James has interned at Fish Brewing, Hop Farm Brewing, Rivertowne Brewing and Otter Creek Brewing. Ryan has worked at Rock Bottom, Arsenal Ciderhouse, Church Brew Works and Otter Creek Brewing as well.
They found their way to Seattle a while ago and considered opening up one there, but when they heard of and visited Bellingham they decided this was where they wanted to lay down roots. They’ve really enjoyed the community that they’ve met so far and are happy to see people welcoming them.
James and Ryan plan to have Structures Brewing open by sometime around January 2016. While that may not seem too far off for those who know about the often arduous building and permitting process, I can assure you they are well on their way. Permitting is already in motion and their 4 ten barrel tanks will be delivered by the end of this month, so keep an eye out for those rolling down the street.
They invited me down to their brewery last week for a chat. When I walked into their space (the location of which will remain unreported for now), I was happy to see four puncheons under a blanket. When I asked where the puncheons were sourced from they Ryan smiled and said, “We got them from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Oklahoma.” That made me happy. If you don’t know who Prairie is, you need to check them out. They make some of the best beers in the US. Locally, we’ve already seen barrel aged offerings from Kulshan, Wander and Aslan, but it looks like barrel-aging will be at the core of Structures.
“The heart of Structures is geared towards barrels,” – Co-owner Ryan Smith
Most of the construction work is being done by themselves. From what I gleaned, they are competent carpenters and craftsmen. This DIY approach will keep their costs down, which means they won’t be in as much debt as other breweries. This translates to lower cost beers.
James said, “Most beers will be $3-$4. But if you’re drinking something like a barelywine it is obviously going to be more expensive.”
The interesting thing about Structures is the layout. I was asked not to share photos of the blueprints, but I can tell you that walking in off the street will take you into an intimate pub seating area with walls of exposed brick. The brewery will seat about 25 people between the tables and a bar. Their aesthetics fall inline with the northwest: Craftsmanship, exposed brick, wood, natural accents, pseudo-industrial. A door will slide open to the street for planned sidewalk seating. Any bottling wouldn’t happen until year two.
Their low overhead approach means they are prepared to sell as few as 180 barrels in their first year, but hope to sell much more. For perspective, Wander Brewing sold 743 barrels in 2014 and Aslan sold 842. I told them keeping up will be their biggest issue.
James said, “How much we make will depend on how Bellingham reacts to us.”
Our mission is to design quality, vibrant and balanced beer on a daily basis, while working with mixed fermentations to create innovative beer for the future. Quality is what motivates us, and creativity inspires us. Staying true to our passion of making small, artisinal and authentic batches of beer for our community, friends and family will forever be our goal. – Structures Brewing mission statement.
Getting to know the Structures guys, their business philosophy is very much in line with the likes of Stones Throw, Gruff, Subdued, Bellingham’s newest planned breweries. They will be focused on small batch, local and in house taps – experimentation and low volume, driven by craft beer lifestyle as opposed to production. This falls in line with the growing trend of smaller breweries throughout the US that are showing success due to their lack of reliance on distribution and unnecessary complexities. These smaller breweries are much more likely to weather pricing wars and market fluctuations while remaining closely tied to their communities.
We’re happy to have James and Ryan apart not only the Tap Trail community, but also the Bellingham community. We’ll be following them as the progress and let you know as things change. I’ve gotten to know them over the past couple weeks and they will fit right in. They are going to offer another unique brewery to our already impressive list of breweries. A distinct style, mission, perspective and personality that will be another reason Bellingham will start popping up on more craft beer destination lists.