Blaine’s Atwood Ales balances growth with farmhouse philosophy

By Oliver Lazenby

Blaine’s first brewery, Atwood Ales, is coming up on its one-year anniversary and it’s been a big year for the little brewery.

About a year ago, Josh and Monica Smith, along with Josh’s parents and son, were preparing the brewery for health department inspections. On March 18, they brewed their first batch, an oyster stout. Soon after, they were selling beer at Drayton Harbor Oyster Co. and the Bellingham Farmers Market.

Now, Atwood Ales beer is available at about 30 locations from Blaine to Seattle.

Joshua Smith of Atwood Ales. Photo by Steve Guntli.

“It’s been exciting and fun,” said Monica, who directs sales and marketing at the brewery. “We’re moving right along and our beers have gotten a really good reception.”

The Smiths have plans to keep growing, but ultimately their farmhouse brewery will stay small. One of their long-term goals is to grow and produce all their ingredients on the land surrounding their brewery, on Sweet Road outside Blaine. Atwood Ales has included at least some “estate” ingredients since day one.

“We don’t ever want to be huge anyway,” Josh said. “We want to maintain our smallness and our ability to adapt, expand, experiment and create more of a niche, artisan product while still hopefully making a living.”

Josh, the head brewer, is inspired by the farmhouse tradition of brewing, developed in Belgium, France and Germany, in which brewers use mostly homegrown ingredients and brew on a small scale.

The farmhouse brewing philosophy also includes using what’s on hand, which often includes a wild card ingredient or two. And consistency isn’t prized the way it is elsewhere in the brewing world.

Atwood Ales’ saison beer – a French farmhouse ale – changes each time it’s produced. If you find a Mo’s Saison by Atwood Ales on the shelves now, it’s probably brewed with rosemary and sage and Tettnang hops grown at the Atwood estate.

For the Brewery’s anniversary, it’s releasing a Mo’s Saison that includes Brettanomyces – a yeast that’s traditional in farmhouse ales but rarely used in modern brewing. It adds “barnyard” or “fruity” flavors, Josh said.

Despite its growth, Atwood Ales still doesn’t have a taphouse, but Monica said they hope to open one in Blaine by next year. The company had opportunities to move to Ferndale, but is committed to Blaine, Monica said.

“Drayton Harbor Oyster Co. is doing a great job bringing awareness to what Blaine has and we’re hoping to be a part of it,” she said. “We really want to be in Blaine. We just want to see Blaine come alive again.”

The Smiths also plan to open the brewery for tours and other events in the next year. For more information, visit atwoodales.com.

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