SPOKANE, Wash. - Bellwether Brewing Company has built its identity on Old World style with a Northwest flair.
"It's so much fun coming up with stuff that is just outside of the realm of mainstream beer," says co-owner and head brewer Thomas Croskrey.
And just outside of that realm is where Bellwether has found its niche. Croskrey can be a bit of mad scientist when it comes to beer.
"He'll come up and he'll be like, 'Smell this!' And it's nothing like I've had before," marvels co-owner Dave Musser.
Croskrey enjoys recreating ancient and historical beers, specially Gruit style ales, which were popular in Europe in the pre 1500s.
"Not too many people that are taking out hops and replacing them with something like four to twelve different botanicals, blending those together, and then getting this highly different profile," explains Croskrey.
Croskrey experiments with all kinds of botanicals, even using pine needles from a Christmas tree.
"I don't have any Juniper branches around, but we just had Christmas time, so we chopped up our Christmas tree from the tap room and that is in the beer."
Another part of its identity is in collaborating with other breweries, which helped Bellwether out when it was just getting off the ground three years ago.
"We were like, 'Wow! Why are you helping us?' And they were like, 'It's going to be good for all of us,' recalls Musser. "And we see that as not only were we finding a niche for us, but we're helping grow Spokane's beer scene also."
There's no doubt the road construction project on N. Monroe St. was difficult for a lot of local businesses. But after three years at this location, not only is Bellwether Brewing able to survive, it can thrive.
"The community loved when the brewery came in," says Croskrey. "There's a lot of other business camaraderie."
"But it's also a neighborhood place," adds Musser. "Where it's like Cheers, where people know each other's names."
Bellwether produced around 150 barrels of beer in 2018. But with its new ten barrel system, that number will increase dramatically in 2019, which means it plans to up its keg distribution.
"So different bars, restaurants, things like that," explains Croskrey. "Definitely focusing on the Spokane area."
It's also considering canning its beers as it continues to grow. But Bellwether never wants to lose its niche.
"Our goal has always been to be a neighborhood place and we want to stay that," says Musser. "And we always want to be experimenting and doing different beers."
And that'll be just fine for its loyal following.
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