Bellingham breweries come in many forms, whether it be a full restaurant with a high level of production and distribution, or a small taproom with outdoor seating and a view. There’s a beer out there for everyone, each brewery offering our little beer-centric town something very different. Over the last six years, the number of breweries in town has more than doubled. Over the last ten, Menace Brewing has set the bar high for what it looks like to be an engaged, community-oriented part of the Bellingham beer world.
Menace hasn’t always been what it is now, only a few years ago moving into their Fountain District space, in fact. Ben Buccarelli, co-founder of Menace Industries, has been working on Menace since 2009 where it was essentially a garage-sized operation that grew into a taproom, brewery, restaurant and beer bar. Menace Industries includes Menace Brewing, The Local Public House, The Annex, and Bellingham Beer Lab.
Over the last month, Buccarelli and business partner Tom Raden have been in the process of signing Menace over to a new team of leaders. Bellingham locals and experienced brewers, Ryan and BJ Flood have taken the reins on making Menace beer and brought their hand-selected ownership and management team with them.
With brewing history at Kulshan Brewing Co. and Illuminati Brewing Co., the Flood brothers are no strangers to the Bellingham beer community, making Buccarelli and Raden confident that they were passing the torch that was Menace Industries into the right hands.
“All the things that Tom and I had created, were all the things they were looking for,” Buccarelli said. “It was kind of serendipitous. If it feels right and the opportunity presents itself, you go for it.”
Just because Buccarelli and Raden are no longer technically owners of Menace, doesn’t mean you won’t see them around the brewery or downtown spaces. Starting a business, nonetheless a successful brewery, is by no means an easy feat. Buccarelli and Raden have made the dream of owning a brewery come true, and while rewarding, there’s much more both of them want to do in the future.
The Flood brothers and their team were looking for an opportunity to start a restaurant, brewery, and community learning space for people passionate about craft beer- much like what Buccarelli and Raden had created within Menace.
“Tom and I have vested interest in seeing this thing succeed,” Buccarelli said. “We handed it off to people who we think can continue that we started. To make sure that happens, we’re hanging out to make the transition as seamless as possible.”
While passing the torch and putting a soft ending to this chapter of their lives is bittersweet for Buccarelli and Raden, its comforting to know they are putting their brain child into capable hands.
“Every brewery has its idiosyncrasies,” Buccarelli joked about getting to know a new brewhouse. “It was cool to watch them take to it in there and realize, ‘oh, we’re gonna be fine. These guys know what they’re doing.'”
While the Flood brothers originally had the intentions of starting something new, spaces for restaurant/breweries in town are limited. After conversations with Buccarelli about a potential future at Menace, the offer they were given was one they couldn’t refuse. In other words, selling to this particular team felt like it was right for both parties.
“It was basically a weekend decision for us. We realized we needed to make this decision now,” Ryan said of the whirlwind that has been the last month.
The team is made up of Ryan Flood, Master Brewer, Brayden Flood, Director of Production, Joseph Jeffrey, Business Operations Manager, Kory Dyer, General Manager, and Jake Gobielle, Brand Manager.
While a transition in ownership and management seems like a big change, the Flood brothers and the rest of their team know they have a good thing going, meaning not much will change for local Menaces like yourself.
With new brewers come new beers, but you’ll still see some of the old favorites around, like Chili Bravo and Muiness.
“Ben’s been making such awesome beer for so long, we didn’t wanna come in and just change it all. We came in and learned exactly how Ben made his beer so we could recreate it. Then we could decide little changes and make baby steps so there wasn’t crazy new beers coming out right away. It was a well-oiled machine they had going,” Ryan said.
So far, they have introduced a few rotating IPAs of their own and plan to keep that program going. They also have a French Saison fermenting currently, and recently introduced Mama Flood’s Raspberry Cream Ale, a beer made specifically in memory of their mother. It’s refreshing, fruity and a perfect beer to kick off their newest endeavor.
Menace already has new stools and plans for some reclaimed wood trim, more greenery and a little more art here and there. As Ryan puts it, they’re essentially giving Menace Industries a fresh coat of paint. The Local will remain the same, but receive an interior facelift, as will Menace’s logo.
“With Menace and The Local and the Annex, Ben and Tom did such a good job and they’re so well-loved around here,” Ryan said. “We’re just gonna freshen it up a little bit.”
The most changes will probably happen in the Annex according to Ryan. There have been conversations about renaming it or rebranding it into something that ties all three locations together.
“We want it to be something that includes Menace as a brewery, The Local as a restaurant and the Annex as a taproom,” Ryan said. “We’re not getting rid of the pool tables or anything like that. We might rearrange a bit so you can hang out there and still play pool and shuffleboard comfortably.”
Something that Ryan and his brother are looking forward to getting moving again is the Bellingham Beer Lab, a not-for-profit brewery that gave home brewers the opportunity to brew on commercial equipment, located in the back part of the Annex.
“We have enough good friends in breweries around town where we can have guest brewers come in so people can get to know styles that are outside of our own,” Ryan said.
Menace will now also be working with Bellingham Technical College to design a program for creating a standard of service. This means that if someone is hired or is looking to be hired in the service industry, they can get their Cicerone Certified Beer Server, Sommelier certification, food handlers permit, MAST permit and once they’ve completed the program, they can invite their friends and family to the Annex and show off their knowledge and skills.
While the sale of Menace happened quickly, there has clearly been time thought put into this decision on both sides, making it far more than just a transaction. For Buccarelli and Raden, one door closes and many more open within and beyond the beer community. For the Flood’s and their team, things are just getting started.