Subdued Brewing is Bellingham’s newest brewery, but it is a long way off from becoming a reality. Opening a brewery takes time. Just ask Fairhaven Stones Throw Brewing or Gruff Brewing. Permitting, funding and renovations all have to fall into place at the right time.

Subdued Brewing is somewhere between permitting and funding and they are just starting both. Last night at the Community Food Co-op’s meeting room on Forest St, the owners of Subdued, Dave Morales and Chris McClanahan, held a public meeting to discuss their intentions and plans for the proposed space at 2404 Elms St, or Gifford’s Market. It was a well attended meeting with about 35 community members making it standing room only.


Subdued Brewing public meeting


In order for the brewery to be built Subdued Brewing must propose to change the use of the building via a “conditional use permit.” It’s currently designated as a grocery store. The city plans say that a “drinking establishment” is a conditional use. To change use to a “brewery”, the first step is have a public meeting with the neighborhood and community to inform and field questions. That is what occurred last night.

Community Concerns

City Planner Brian Smart who attended, said one of the intents of these meetings is to determine whether the community is bringing “confetti and balloons or pitchforks.” The vibe of those at the meeting was more of the “confetti and balloons”, but with reservations.

All the adjacent property owners were present. Some live within 25ft of the proposed brewery and their concerns varied from parking, to noise, smell, light pollution and beyond.

One neighbor expressed concerns about alley traffic and whether the city would pave the gravel alley to the east of Giffords to accommodate what they see as an increase in traffic. Smart said if it were to be paved an “increase in use” might lead to storm water concerns. In response to concerns about drunkenness, Subdued announced that they will be serving beers somewhere around the 5-6% ABV range. There was an audible, “Huh” from a few people, as if they were surprised by the perceived low alcohol content.

Chris and Dave, handled the questions with great care and seemed to offer a number of answers that left people feeling more at ease. The presentation was thorough and well thought out. They consistently reiterated the importance that this project will not be happening over night and hope to have doors open one year from now. One of the first slides in the 15 min presentation is below and properly sums up what the tone of the brewery will be.


Project concept slide from Subdued Brewing public meeting

What We Learned

As you can see from the slide, the general feeling McClanahan and Morales gave is a brewery intending to be very neighbor friendly with no intention of “sticking out”, as Mr. Morales put it. Subdued plans to be a 3,600sqft brewery, seating 80-90 people, but that the plans are very “fluid.” The brewery will focus mainly on “self-contained clientele” and will be easily accessible by foot and bike. Food would be provided by trucks, such as those at Kulshan and Wander Brewing, and small bar snacks. They claim they’ll be the only brewery in town with a designated growler station so you don’t have to wait in line. 75-80% of sales will be on site. They will be experimenting with solar, whether that be in the construction phase or further down the line.


Subdued Brewing architectural drawings

Here’s what they call their “Vision Statement”,

To establish Subdued Brewing Company as a preeminent brewery through the creation of a broad spectrum of extraordinary craft beers that can be savored by our customers at all phases in the evolution of their palettes.

That’s pretty verbose, but I guess it gets the point across.

Despite the few concerns, all those that attended seemed to lean pretty heavily towards general excitement for a new brewery in The Fountain District. Someone speaking for a group of the neighbors said, “Almost everyone would welcome a really nice brewery in our neighborhood.” Subdued just kicked off it’s fundraising and are going through the initial stages of permitting. They are a long ways off and we expect more to change with this project. But if the response from last night’s public meeting was any indication, the public has their back and we can expect Subdued pints in the not so distant future.

We’d like to gauge your sentiments about Subdued Brewing. Take our poll below.