Somewhere in Bellingham, WA Kulshan Brewing Company is opening a beautiful beast of a brewery. They’re calling it K2 and the name is fitting. Not only because it’s Kulshan Brewing Company’s 2nd location in Bellingham, it’s also really big…like the mountain. 14,000 sqft with elements of I-beams, exposed wood, bolts, cement, rafters and a large open layout will all bring the customer closer to the Kulshan brewing process. I dropped Kulshan Brewing‘s owner, Dave Vitt a line. He was kind enough to meet me for a tour and answer a few questions.
Rolling up in my car I could tell construction was in full swing. People busily moving pipes, sawing and hammering. All adding to the impending lively fervor that this brewery will create once it’s complete.
The first thing I realized when I walked in was the intimidating beer cooler. It reminded me of the Gate to Mordor in Lord of the Rings, but more cheery because you damn well know there is beer behind it instead of Ringwraiths and evil.
“I never had a cooler that was big enough,” Dave says with a smile. Well, now you do. The new cooler will house about two weeks worth of beer.
- Opening scheduled for March 2015
- 11,000 sqft + 3,000 sqft mezzanine
- 30 barrel system
- Capable of 15,000 barrels a year
- 26ft wrap around bar
- 20 taps
- 110ft grain auger
- 1 BIG ASS cooler
Everything at K2 was designed by Dave Vitt owner of Kulshan Brewing Company.
To run K2, Kulshan will be hiring 10 more employees. When I met Dave in late 2011 one of his interests in owning a brewery was the ability to offer jobs to people in Bellingham. He should be proud because K2 and the James St location will now employ nearly 40 people total.
Kulshan has now expanded 3x since they opened. The idea to expand to this location was conceived over a year ago. That means after only being open for 1 1/2 years Kulshan knew they had outgrown their space. I’ve heard it’s foolish to open a brewery with anything less then a 15 barrel system these days. Well, Kulshan now has two of them, with room to grow. The old space on James St. topped out at around 2,400 barrels. The new space will add an initial capacity of 5,000 more barrels. Half of that production will go directly into their new canning line. At full capacity K2 will produce 15,000 barrels a year. A volume comparable to the heralded levels of Boundary Bay Brewery.
Since Kulshan Brewing started Dave hasn’t had time to brew because he’s been running the business. He’s left that in the capable hands of Tom Eastwood. At K2, he hopes to have more of a hand in production. “It’s something I miss,” he says.
K2 will mainly be brewing Kulshan’s high volume beer like Bastard Kat IPA, Red Cap, Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale. But the 20 K2 taps will offer the rest of Kulshan’s line as well. Right now, Kulshan is only in Whatcom and Skagit. Their caning line will help them gain the regional coverage they want, including pushing into Alaska. Below, you see a massive stack of empty Bastard Kat IPA cans inside the “Gate of Mordor.”
The Tap Room is going to be pretty stinking sweet. You’ll enter into it through two big swinging doors. Bellingham’s top metal designer and fabricator, Black Fin Design, will be building the tap room tables. The sheet metal walls to the north and west will be cut out and replaced by big windows. I see similarities with the James St. location, such as lower ceilings for intimacy, excellent lighting, a brewery built in an old industrial warehouse and a cross mixture of industrial and wood designs. All a very Northwest aesthetic.
The move will also free up space and creativity at the James St. location. “We’ll be able to experiment more at the James St. location. I’d really like to allow the brewers to start brewing their home recipes.” The Tap Trail will be getting an extra brewery AND more varied beer as a result.
We moved to the mezzanine for the last part of the tour. The mezzanine actually used to be a floor at the old Super Feet factory in Ferndale. The mezzanine was broken down, all the beams were numbered, it was delivered on a 53 ft flatbed truck and then reassembled back into place at K2. Dave pointed out the numbers still visible on the footings of the beams.
It looks like employees are going to be pretty happy. Upstairs Dave wants to put in a pool table for staff and create a real Kulshan culture. “It’s gonna be like Google, but better!”, he says. An employee break room will have a full kitchen and lockers.
We then moved onto “The Lab” where Kulshan will do all it’s QA, QC and yeast propagation. That’s were the magic happens! Right now it’s not so magical as it just looks like a drywall job, but I’m sure it’ll be cool. The Head Brewer’s office will look out onto the brewery floor. That brewery floor was laid down by Bellingham’s own Foundation Restoration.
Walking back downstairs Dave said, “I was just down in Bend, OR – They have the whole Bend Ale Trail thing down there. I heard someone say, ‘The same company that started the Ale Trail down here started the one up in Bellingham!'” It’s nice to know that the word is getting out on the Tap Trail, even if it isn’t all true.
K2 will also be getting the word out on Bellingham’s beer culture is. K2 will reshape the Bellingham Tap Trail. It will increase awareness of Bellingham’s beer by expanding Kulshan’s reach into the region, as well as allow for more experimentation. Before hopping in my car I asked if he had anything else to add, “Tell people to keep buying beer! We have lots of bills to pay.” I think we can do that.