Tapping In with Dave Morales

By |2019-03-01T15:12:41+00:00March 1st, 2019|

Dave Morales has worn a lot of hats in the Bellingham beer community. If you’re a brewer, you’ve probably made a beer with him or learned a thing or two from him. If you’re a beertender, you’ve more than likely served him a cold one at one point or another. If you’re a homebrewer, you’ve probably bought equipment from him somewhere along the way. If you keep up to date on Tap Trail, you may have heard his voice on the Tapped In Podcast.

Dave’s lifelong journey with beer began in Austin, TX in his mid-twenties, when gave a roommate’s homebrewing project a shot while he was away. After moving to Alaska for a while, he ended up in Washington state, where Dave was one of the first hires at Pike Brewing Company in Seattle, which opened in its current location in 1996. While Dave never officially brewed at Pike, being a part of the original team gave him the opportunity to have a hand in just about everything,

“I worked at Liberty Malt Supply as well, did tours for Pike, and hung out in the brewery every second I could,” Dave said of his eagerness to be taught. The beer that pushed Dave to decide he wanted to make beer was Pike’s 5X Stout.

Dave was introduced to this beer at the original Pike location, where the original brewhouse was kept. Eric Jorgensen of North Fork now uses the mash tun from that brewhouse in his own brewery.

As Dave puts it, these early beer jobs made him a jack of all trades, and master of none. After three and a half years at Pike, Dave and his wife moved to Michigan, where he had what he thought would be his last brewing experience. Little did he know, he would soon become part of Bellingham’s early craft beer history.

When Dave first entered the Bellingham beer community, the only existing breweries were Boundary Bay Brewery, where Dave worked his first Bellingham brewing job, and Orchard Street Brewery.

In fact, Dave had only been to Bellingham once on his way home from Alaska, where he slept at Larrabee Park in his van and visited Archer Alehouse.

“Nobody really got it yet. Boundary was popular during the day,” Dave said, recalling when Boundary closed at 9 on a Friday night, pre-craft beer wave. This was back before people realized they could go out for a beer on a Monday night, prompting the early craft beer scene’s Monday Night Project, getting people in the door for a Monday night pint.

Action shot of Morales working at Boundary Bay in 1999.

Years after working at Boundary on the brew team, Dave decided he wanted to open a bottle shop. This was some time before the opening of Elizabeth Station, and the first ever business of it’s kind to come to Bellingham.

Dave opened The Bottle Shoppe on Holly next to where the old Mallard’s Ice Cream location used to be, no what’s nestled between Old School Tattoo and Tadeo’s. It was essentially a hallway, but carried a couple hundred beers and often hosted tastings for the slowly growing population of craft beer nerds in town.

As Dave describes it, he wanted to carry the beers that no one else wanted, things you wouldn’t find other places because they were a little too weird to sell well. While the size of this operation was significantly smaller than that of Elizabeth Station’s, it paved the way for the bottle shop business model in Bellingham.

After this project had run its course, Dave found other ways to keep his passion for craft beer alive. Through the years, Dave worked at North Corner Brew Supply and taught home brew classes with owner Robert Arzoo.

By the time The Bottle Shoppe was closed, there were a few more breweries in town and craft beer was on the rise as what would become Bellingham’s biggest identifier on a national scale. As passion projects like the Bellingham Beer Lab came into fruition, Dave became a point of reference for many. Because of his experience as a home brewer, professional brewer, business owner, and beer drinker, Dave was well-seasoned at an early point in Bellingham’s craft beer story.

“There are so many hoops you have to jump through [when opening anything beer related], I’ve either jumped through or attempted to jump through most of them. I’m so happy that the beer community is where it is right now and that there’s still new blood coming in,” Dave said.

As the new blood kept coming, places like Chuckanut, Aslan and Wander and Kulshan had gotten on their feet throughout the years, and craft beer had really started to take off. This was when Dave, alongside close friend Chris McLanahan had gotten started on the plans for a brewery of their own.

The idea for Subdued Brewing, which would have likely ended up in the Fountain neighborhood near where Menace is now, was just retired two years ago. While it was at it’s most active point, it would have been a place for friends and neighbors to relax and grab a pint in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Dave and Chris had blueprints drawn and held community meetings to ensure they were hearing the voices of neighbors and community members. Like many small breweries in the beginning stages, funding can be an issue.

Morales and McLanahan

Two summers ago, Melvin Brewing Bellingham was about to open, and Menace had been open for a while in the same neighborhood. This was around the time that the concept of Subdued Brewing became a thing of the past43, but Dave is still an active member of the Bellingham beer community.

Because of his involvement in many local beer-related projects, Dave is well known throughout Bellingham. Part of his charm and memorability, however, is his indifference to being well-known and remembered. More than a couple beertenders in town have taken his card to start a tab and replied: “So you’re Dave Morales!”

“I think some people know my name, but may not know my face and that’s okay, I really don’t need to be that person,” Dave said. Relatability is part of what makes Dave such a great interviewer. His positive notoriety around town and his ability to make a person feel just as known over a pint or on his podcast.

Now, you can find him drinking a cold kölsch at his house, where he always  has home brews on draft.

“Belgians have always been my jam, but I have recently fallen in love with kölsch, seriously,” Dave said. Brewing a kölsch is a new venture for Dave. This month’s batch will be his third attempt at a recipe he is working on perfecting. Beyond making and tasting beers of his own, Dave sticks to the classics, meaning he has a standing case order at the Community Food Co-op for an annual case of Sierra Nevada Celebration.

“Cascade hops, 2-row malt, neutral yeast…what’s not to love?” Dave said of Sierra Nevada’s classic general brewing style.

If he’s at his house sampling beer from his deck’s kegerator, there’s a chance he’s about to record an episode of Tapped In, the podcast featured on our website, where Dave interviews brewers and brewery owners about what they’re working on bringing to the beer community. His first ever guest was North Fork’s Eric Jorgensen. Most recently, you can find an interview with Jason and Kim Harper who are opening Stemma Brewing this summer. Keep your eyes peeled for an interview with Chad Kuehl of Wander Brewing coming soon!

Dave truly is the perfect person to be the podcast host. He’s a Bellingham craft beer pioneer in more than just a few ways, and his charisma for people and beer leave him being one of the more well-known and well-connected members of the industry. He’s truly had one of the biggest hands in developing the beer community into what it is today, and tells that story well on Tapped In. Give it a listen!

 

About the Author:

Layne Carter
Tap Trail's Assistant Editor, Layne Carter, grew up in Spokane, Washington but has spent the last five years in Bellingham studying journalism at WWU. When she’s not beertending around town, you can find her biking, drinking beer or biking to a number of local breweries for a beer.