Bainbridge Island Brewing celebrates its first year

Art Carbajal pours a pint at the Bainbridge Island Brewery
Art Carbajal pours a pint at the Bainbridge Island Brewery's tap room on the Coppertop Loop.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

It’s time to celebrate, but don’t expect the champagne corks to go flying. Instead, Bainbridge Island Brewing is looking to pop the top of a few brewskis.

The island’s own brewery has been pumping out a bevy of beers for one year now and is celebrating its first anniversary with a birthday bash from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, June 30 at its tap room in the Coppertop Loop.

“We’re putting some special beers on,” said owner Russell Everett. “We’re gonna have music. We’re gonna release our first anniversary ale. And we are doing a greatest hits of the last year; some beers that were really popular.”

Such hits include the Battle Point Square Whiskey Barrel Stout.

Another popular, if not curious, endeavor was what the brewers like to call “Beeritos” — a brew that incorporates Cool Ranch Dorito’s in its mix and results in a beer that’s smoother than its moniker. The brewery produced it for last year’s Strangebrew Festival in Port Townsend.

Bainbridge Island Brewing’s anniversary ale is another unique addition to its lineup. The ale is an 11.5 percent wheat wine, aged in used cabernet sauvignon barrels.

The wheat wine is a bit of a dessert following the brewery’s five-course lineup of flagship brews. The flagship line of beers are the brewery’s standard products and include the Kommuter Kolsch, Bainbridge Pale Ale, Port Blakely Brown, Battle Point Stout, and its most popular beer, Eagle Harbor IPA.

That’s in addition to the more than two dozen experimental beers that the brewery has dabbled with since opening its doors last June.

Everett has been perfecting his flagship recipes since day one, constantly bringing them up to a higher standard of quality. The beers today bear a more mature flavor than their counterparts one year ago.

“The beers have evolved,” Everett said. “We don’t brew them exactly the same way each time. I try to round out the rough edges and make tweaks here and there.”

The evolution has proven successful. The island has come out in massive support of its young, hometown brewery.

“That bedrock of support on the island allows us to get our beer out there,” Everett said. “ And the island’s been very supportive of us and receptive of our beers.”

Bainbridge Brewing taps have sprung up at restaurants and bars across the island. Community support has helped so much that the brewery’s production is up by approximately 25 percent from when it started.

Beyond the taps, Everett is proud to have forged relationships with neighboring organizations such as the Island Music Center which provides live music at the tap room on Thursdays. It has also gotten cozy with Bainbridge Organic Distillers — located across the street from the brewery in the Coppertop Loop — who have provided used whiskey barrels for the many aged beers with which the brewery has experimented.

“It’s a nice symbiosis that we have with the distillery,” Everett said.

He further noted that each experimental whiskey barrel batch has proved to produce great beer, and customers agree. It’s something that he said he wants to continue as the brewery moves into the future.

With one year behind him, Everett is looking ahead to the next step for Bainbridge Island Brewing, and that step is a cautious one, of growth.

Or as Everett puts it, “measured growth.” The brewery already has added one additional fermenter which has helped increase its capacity.

“We keep so many different brands of beer up and running all the time, so the next big project will be finding way to brew more beer in the space we have,” he added. “And probably getting some bigger fermenters and possibly adding more staff.”

The brewery is looking to maintain its tap presence on and off the island, but is also investigating the possibility of bottling its beers and placing them onto store shelves. But Everett said that this notion is still very young, and the brewery has a lot to consider — such as space and logistics — before it can move into the bottling realm.

Still, it’s a notion that Everett spends considerable time pondering.

For now, Everett and his colleagues at the brewery are enjoying their moment of reflection and triumph as they leave their first year behind them.

“It seems like it’s been a lifetime,” Everett said. “It’s been quite an adventure over this last year.”

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