Terramar Brewstillery: A new beer destination worth the drive

By |2019-09-30T18:06:35+00:00September 30th, 2019|

You’ve definitely passed it if you’ve ever taken I-5 North to Bellingham, or maybe you’ve visited when you want to eat a world class breakfast at Tweets Cafe. Either way, Edison, Washington has several hidden gems, especially for a town its size. Two things that were missing, according to residents; beer and pizza.

This is where Terramar comes in.

Terramar wears a lot of hats; brewery, distillery, pizzeria, family-friendly gathering place for locals as well as those coming to see what they’re all about. Since Terramar Brewstillery opened at the end of August, the word has spread quickly, meaning they’re almost always slinging beers and serving up creative pizzas.

So far, you can find just a handful of beers on draft at Terramar, but several more are coming. When we sat down with the Terramar team, their head brewer, Greg Spore, had just arrived to start his work. Spore, a former brewer from Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna, AK, had been there for literally a matter of hours.

You can probably tell, this place is fresh in every sense of the word. Fresh as in brand new, yes, but also a breath of fresh air for beer lovers in Bow-Edison.

Owners Jen and Chris Barker have had the vision for a farm brewery since 2015. While doing a lot of searching for a farm property to make their vision a reality, they encountered some obstacles with Skagit County laws around tasting rooms for breweries. In short, if you’re a winery, you can have a wine tasting room. However in Skagit County, things are much more complicated for breweries.

Chris and Jen Barker with brew dog Fezzik (counterpart Frankie not pictured)// photo courtesy of Jen Barker and Genuine Skagit Valley

“We were looking for a property and Edison has always been kind of our hometown,” Chris said. “We really wanted to stay close to Edison. We found this property in 2015, and started doing our due diligence. The property was neglected for a long time so we had to do environmental surveys.”

// Photos courtesy of Jen Barker

Barker explained that the structure Terramar now exists in, had been there for decades.

“One of the [required] things is that we had to work within the footprint of the existing building,” Barker said. “It’s all grandfathered in, so we couldn’t do anything outside of what was here already. The first part of the building was built in 1890 and it was a slaughter house and it ran as a slaughter house until 1996 or 1997.”

“The people that live around here are multigenerational and they come in and tell us ‘oh yeah, I would come here as a second grade field trip to the slaughterhouse and watch everything from beginning to end,’” Jen Barker said. As gruesome as all that is, it’s cool to know the history behind the building in which Terramar now exists.

The next challenge with opening Terramar came from the desire to serve mixed drinks and cocktails on the premises. According to certain Skagit Valley laws, in order to serve cocktails in your establishment, you need to have eight distinct menu items available for purchase. This is where the pizza comes into play.

Chef Kainan and the local wood-fired sweet corn// photo courtesy of Jen Barker

“What goes better with beer than pizza?” Chris said. Chef Kainan Landholm, heads the kitchen that puts out unique and delicious pizzas, like the Fuzzy Piggy, a crowd favorite with Washington peach, prosciutto, Samish Bay vache, ferndale farmstead caciotta, walnuts, oaxacan chili puree, local honey, and arugula. Another unique crowd favorite includes the Clamdango; Samish bay clam escabeche, knutzen farms potato & whey puree, kale, manchego, green peppercorn aioli.

Terrmar is hoping to get the rest of the permits needed for their cocktail lounge and tasting room, which will be in the building adjacent to the main taproom, near the kitchen, before the end of the year.

“Once the distillery is up, we’ll have the tasting room to go with that, and that will be a different vibe then in here,” Chris said. “It will be 21 and over and kind of a speakeasy, lounge-y feel to it.”

While the cocktail lounge gets in motion, the new Head Brewer, Spore will be honing in on a Terramar-specific style.

“One of the reasons I was really excited about taking this job was the raw materials that are in the area. After brewing professionally in Alaska for a couple years, and a little in Wyoming and Washington before that,” Spore said. “That’s [local materials] probably the thing I’m most excited about, is being able to use everything from Skagit Valley Malting, to the local flora and fauna, really flexing those creative muscles.”

Terramar currently has an amber, a porter, a saison, and a couple pale ales on draft. Spore is looking forward to diversify that lineup.

Spore wants to use as many local ingredients as possible, and stay true to the name (Terra meaning land and Mar meaning sea).

“I’m a big fan of producing high quality, clean beers, but also being experimental, so I kinda believe you’ve gotta know the rules to make them. I’m excited to push some boundaries here and create some delicious tasting beers,” Spore said.

Spore referred to a few local breweries that have found their niche in past years, such as Chuckanut mastering pilsners and lagers, and is looking forward to finding what Terramar is going to accentuate as their strength. As of now, Spore and fellow brewer, Mike Armstrong, are really loving the idea of appealing to the farm-centric community and putting out some tasty saisons and farmhouse beers. Part of this means sticking to local malt provider, Skagit Valley Malting.

Because Terramar has a winery license as well as a brewing license and spirits endorsement, they will eventually dabble in cider making as soon as the brewery is dialed in.

They have room for about 12 beers, a few ciders, and right now they are also making house-made sodas (seriously, try their ginger soda). Currently, one tap is home to a keg cocktail, created by their General Manager and resident cocktail expert, Eric Bemis.

“As of right now, I have the blueberry basil cocktail martini on tap, and we’ve just been blowing through keg after keg of that,” Bemis said. He was expecting his first batch to last two or three weeks, and they blew through it in 3 days. Seeing the demand for craft cocktails has been promising, and don’t worry– there’s more to come.

Manager Eric Bemis and bar manager, Amanda// photo courtesy of Jen Barker

Currently, Terramar is using Heritage spirits for their infusions. Once they have their distillery dialed in, there will be a variety of cocktails and infusions all made on their property.

“There’s definitely a market for the cocktail-on-tap so I think we will probably end up doing two,” Bemis said. “I have a hazelnut fig Old Fashioned that will likely launch during our grand opening.” This event is supposed to take place during Halloween weekend, so mark your calendars for a trip to Bow!

A full pound of basil from Blanchard Mountain Farms sits in 10 liters of vodka, it’s mixed with fresh-pressed Bow Hill blueberry juice, limoncello and citric acid.

So far, everything is being incredibly well-received by locals and tourists. While the distillery won’t be open until later in the year, the grand opening will be on Halloween weekend for what already exists of Terramar (10/31-11/3).

If you’re looking for an opportunity to try some really awesome cocktails, beers, and pizza, and mix up your current dine out routine without going too far out of town, Terramar is definitely worth checking out. If you just need a snack on your way south, it’s the perfect pit stop just five minutes off of I-5. Hell, maybe check it out on your way back north, too.

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.