If you’ve headed up to Canada, you’ve likely driven through Blaine– a small town nestled just north of Bellingham and right below the border crossing. It looks exactly like it sounds, small and whimsical with a beautiful view– but one of the other hidden gems that Blaine has to offer is on a farm on the outskirts of town. Atwood Ales is Blaine’s first and oldest brewery on five acre farm in a 100 year old barn, owned and operated by Josh and Monica Smith.
Monica goes beyond the role of co-owner– she holds what seems like a dozen other jobs at the brewery as well. She is the Director of Sales, Marketing and Distribution for Atwood, a strictly production brewery, meaning they have no taproom, but she operates a table at the Bellingham Farmers’ Market too, an organization for which she is a board member. Monica is also heavily involved in the packaging portion of brewing at Atwood.
In other words, she oversees a lot of different aspects of the brewery, and makes sure that every relationship Atwood makes is meaningful and productive.
“I spend time researching bottle shops, restaurants and such that I believe are a good fit for our beer, and then set up tastings with the purchaser. It is really important for us to know where all of our bottles are, how they are being stored, and how they are represented, hence one of the reasons that we self-distribute.” Monica said.
Monica is in charge of making sure that relationships between Atwood and their retailers run smoothly. For Atwood, it’s more than just business.
“All of the accounts that we have are more than just a place that carries our beer, they have become what I call “framily,” friends and family. Relationships with other small businesses are very important to me, to cross promote and really support one another; we are a community!”
Monica used to work at Maggie’s Pub in Ferndale where she met her husband, Josh, years ago. It was at Maggie’s that her love for both her husband and for a variety of different beers grew. As many of us do, Monica started her beer drinking career sticking to IPAs. It wasn’t long after she met Josh and spent time working in the beer industry that her palette grew to love other kinds of beer.
“After spending time working at Maggie’s and spending time with my husband I really got interested in everything but IPA’s, and really fell in love with Saison’s, Farmhouse, Sours, Barrel Aged, and Brett. I love the earthiness, the stone fruit, the spice, the malt, the barn, the funk, the goat, and the fecal matter flavors that come out in some of these beers.” Monica said.
While that may sound strange, fans of Farmhouse, Brett beers and beers of similar flavor profiles are familiar with the tastes that are hard to nail down.
“I know that most of that really probably doesn’t sound appealing but they are some of my most favorite profiles in a beer. I half joke with my husband that I would like to baptize a baby goat in one of our beers, just to get a little more of that flavor,” Monica said.
While Atwood is a ways out of town, you can still find them at the Bellingham Farmers’ Market in the Depot downtown. However the beer community extends far beyond the city limits of Bellingham for Monica and Josh.
“I love the camaraderie that the beer scene has, not only here in Whatcom County but really all around. We have met brewers from all over the place and it is always such an encouraging and fun interaction; it’s like a big extended family.” Monica said.
Another passion of Monica’s lies in beer and food pairing–taking the refinement of a beer palette one step further, and goes hand in hand with supporting local farms.
“I am excited to be part of the change that is happening with the beer scene too; such as bringing food and beer together in a way that hasn’t really been done in this area before, really being thoughtful about the pairing and flavor profiles as well as working closely with chefs that are focused on using local ingredients and working with local farmers.”
Local farming is just one way that Atwood is contributing to a more sustainable brewing industry. They are also excited about the ingredients that go into their own beer, including our friends found right down Chuckanut Drive.
“We are really excited to have Skagit Valley Malting too, at this point we are using 80% Skagit Valley Malting for our grain needs. Having them around has really allowed for the opportunity to support local and close that circle of sustainability even more,” Monica said.
When Monica isn’t taking care of one of the many aspects of her job as a business owner, you can find her enjoying the outdoors with her husband and son, or at the bar of one of the other local breweries that Whatcom County has to offer.