Having To Adapt – things are changing again (we’re doing our best)

You are probably up to speed on how bad the Covid cases are going. We have been paying close attention, both on any changes to the business requirements, but also just on a human level. I think everyone was anticipating a fall spike, which is where we are at now. In anticipation of this, we had planned some natural steps to help be a part of keeping our community safe. We have four things are changing now, or imminently, and I wanted to let you know about them. Here is the TLDR version:

1) We added heaters to each of our outdoor tables under the canopy. Tomorrow we will be adding the “walls” to the canopy to keep everyone dry and (somewhat) warm.

2) We are going to limit eating and drinking here to the outdoor space (even more heaters arriving in a few weeks).

3) We are creating a new way to order online that will launch probably tomorrow. It will be simpler, but so much easier, than our current version. We want a system that works well, and is easy to use. We’ll be changing up items monthly, and adding fun things.

4) Also ready by next week will be a simple way to get growlers of beer to go (a growler swap program).

Bonus reminder: Makeworth starts serving coffee here this coming Monday.

You want the full versions?? Continue on…


Heat Outside!

Not much to add here, except that we have one for each table under the canopy, and we have additional bigger heaters for the space coming in a week or two. All the data we can find says outdoor seating is so much safer than indoors.
Inside is for shopping. Outside is for eating and drinking. Starting today.
I would LOVE to be able to go out and have a beer, especially if the worst I had to worry was catching a cold. I miss those days SOOOO badly.

We have been anticipating that things could get worse, and so we invested in the outdoor space. It’s not finished (we have more lights, more decorations, more heat) and we’ll keep adjusting/improving as we go. We are very happy with the setup.

But the math is there. Anyone can see the cases exponentially growing. This is putting a LOT of pressure on the relationships of those who work here, and we just can’t wait until something goes wrong, until someone gets sick. We knew it was possible things we go bad, and so we have the outdoor seating ready!

And also we want people to be able to come in and shop without having to worry about others without masks inside the space. As people aren’t leaving town or getting together much this holiday season, we are anticipating potentially more customers coming in to get nicer beverages to celebrate at home with (yes, my family just cancelled our Christmas plans, what was a fun annual Suncadia trip with my parents, siblings and inlaws. And am pretty bummed out about it. Trust me, I’m having a niiiiiice beer on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And NYE.). So we need the space inside for what is about 85% of all our sales.
New Online Store
Our current/previous store was a labor of love. It was the huge project Charles and I, with our website guy Keith, took on and made work while the store was shut down for four months. It was great.

As long as we didn’t have actual customers come in to the store.

Once that started, inventory became a total disaster.

If you’ve bought from us, you know this. I doubt there is a single person who bought online that we didn’t have to call at least once to say “hey… so we are out of four of the 13 items you bought…” And the site has just continued to get worse as time goes on.

So we hit a hard reset, and decided to go to about 20 items, that we can do well. We are going to focus on mixed packs we put together, specific brewery packs, and apparel. And hopefully pizza. We have some hurdles to overcome on that.
Here is a screenshot of a prototype:


Growler Swap Program

We have been hesitant to fill growlers here, as it is very tough to do without cross contamination. Using a hose we connect to the tap, which goes into a container that may or may not be sanitized. And then using that same tube into the next person’s growler… just felt like that wasn’t going to be a good scenario.

We have talked about it, and come up with a way that we can have sanitized growlers here available for purchase, OR available for a swap, if you bring us a standard sized growler (64oz) with standard sized lid. We’ll have like six that you can choose from (if you care), and we’ll take yours from you, and thoroughly sanitize at the end of the day, before putting it back out on the shelf for the next day’s swap. Should be pretty straight forward.
That’s the news for now. Just trying to stay on top of it, and making sure you know what is happening here.

Cheers and Courage

Pizza Cat Beer #1: Stemma Pizza Cat IPA

Starting tomorrow (Thursday) we have a brand new beer available for a limited time: the Pizza Cat #1: the Stemma Pizza Cat IPA. It is a hazy IPA brewed for us by Jason and Nigel at Stemma. Did I help? Well… I did go down while it was being brewed, and gave the stainless steel tanks a little love pat. So yes, I’d say I played an important role in the creation of this beer.

We will have the beer starting Thursday in both in cans and on draft, for the month of November (or until we run out).

“You promised me a deal”:
Right. We wanted to create a beer + pizza deal, but it got slightly complicated. But here is what we came up with:
You can buy a 4-pack of the Pizza Cat IPA, and get $2 off any pizza.
This way you can get the pizza you want with this awesome beer. We were trying to come up with a beer plus pizza for one price, but that would limit it to one specific pizza. This way you get $4 off the cost of four beers, AND $2 off the cost of your favorite pizza.
And you know what? If you usually get two or three pizzas (like I do for the fam) we’ll give you $2 off EACH pizza.

We are doing it all this weekend!
(“weekend” being questionably defined by us as Thursday through Sunday).

Pizza Cat and Pizza

Want pizza but want to do your part by not going out and risking exposure?

No problem. You call us, tell us what you want, and we’ll take your card over the phone.
We’ll have a sandwich board up on the sidewalk alongside Holly Street. You can pull up to that, and call us. We’ll run both beer and pizza (assuming it’s ready) out and put in your trunk or wherever you tell us.
NOTE: we put your pizza in line right after you call us. So just call us whenever you are getting hungry! 360-733-8982.

Artwork created by @artbyciara. Seriously, if you aren’t following her on instagram, you are missing out. She is taking the world by storm, from right here in Bellingham.

Pizza Cat

I Voted Today! (Pale Ale, of course)

Happy Sunny Saturday! (or, perhaps if this gets to you later, not so sunny and not so Saturday)

We tapped the “I Voted Today” pale ale from Holy Mountain! It’s been a long time since we all got stickers at the polling booth but I think as long as you sent your ballot in, you are probably ok drinking an “I Voted Today.” (I remember voting at age 18 at the Elk’s Club on Old Samish Way, which depending on your age will either be a nostalgic or an annoying sentence). Heads up: Tim K, behind the bar today, says he is only serving this beer to people who actually voted.

(ps we don’t have these crowler labels – it’s just a graphic from Holy Mountain)

Sour beers, hazy beers, and law suits

Looking back when we started this business in 2012, there are three things that were true then that are laughable now: 1) breweries sent each other cease-and-desist letters when they used the same name of their beer, 2) “everyone” knew that beer should be clear, never cloudy, and 3) sour beers were so costly, difficult, and even dangerous, that almost no breweries did them.

First off, just go on Untappd.com and search for any beer name. It takes a VERY creative beer name to find that only one brewery has made it. Now this idea seems laughable, considering how many breweries exist.
Below is a funny example of how these occasionally used to play out:


I remember a local brewer came in our store back then on a day we tapped a keg of a “dandelion pale ale” from Machine House, which poured very thick. Very thick. I don’t want to embarrass him, so instead of using his real name let’s just call him “Eric Jorgensen,” from the large-scale production brewery The North Fork (*wink*).

Anyway, Eric was incredulous. No, actually more than that he was stunned, and could not stop talking about it. Imagining pouring a beer like that and handing it to a customer (which is of course what we were about to do…) and just laughing at who would make a decision to create and serve a beer like that.

Oh how innocent we were.

We opened in March of 2012, and we set out the goal to have a sour keg on tap once a month. And that. Was. Impossible. There were none, or almost none. I remember rumors of sours but when we made calls or talked to people, they just did not exist. We got some from Europe including the Duchess, or others like Monk’s Cafe. Full Sail made a Berlinerweisse in bottles that people who knew about it came and bought all of them. Maggie opened her pub in Ferndale not that long after us, and said her goal was to have a keg of sour on every week. We didn’t even scoff or roll our eyes because we knew that just wasn’t going to happen.

There was, however, Cascade (Portland). Cascade was this amazing outlier of a brewery that sold basically only sours. Wow they were good, and wow they were hard to get. They were definitely some of the biggest “white whale” beers in the country at the time.

At the time, many breweries said they would never make sours, because they were afraid of the wild yeasts taking over the brewery and unintentionally infecting all the beers they were making. Others looked at the Cascade beers aging in huge foeders and other massive wooden tanks, and said that it would be very expensive to do AND very risky because they had no idea what type of beer would come out of that barrel.

One of the best well-known breweries making in the world is Cantillon in Belgium. They have been harvesting the same wild yeast for 300 years, and so they have very good idea of what will come out of those tanks. But most breweries looked at that and it just didn’t seem worth the risk. Even if someone could make a good sour, it appeared that each batch would probably be different than the last one, because wild yeasts were never consistent. At least that is what I kept hearing over and over.

When we convinced Cascade to sell us a keg for the first time, I had to drive to Portland with a big bin filled with ice to keep the keg cold. They now have dozens of flavors but at the time had only a handful for sale, such as Blueberry, Apricot, and Strawberry. I got everything they would sell me; I was like a kid in a candy store.

By far my favorite Cascade beer is their Honey Ginger Lime (although this is also the tea my mom used to make for a sore throat…). It has been a while, but we just got cans in from them. I am slightly worried that my tastes have changed since I last tried this beer, but will intentionally keep my expectation properly gauged. We also brought their Apricot in, as a throwback to the good old days. Feel free to pick up either if you are in. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


More on empathy

(Caveat, in story form): my wife asked me the other day if I thought that (her preferred candidate) would win. I said I did think so, and that I was sure of it.
Her: “Really? What makes you say that?”
Me: “Umm… well, a lifetime of positive thinking, instilled in me by my parents and grandparents…?”
Her: “So you don’t have any specific inside information or knowledge that leads you to this conclusion?”

I am pretty optimistic. I have working diligently to hone this specific skill (#smileyface).

Second caveat: the following “stop and consider others” take may come off as preachy, and may not be the punchy take-down you might have been hoping for.

But I’ll be honest, the divisions between people around here is really bumming me out (#grimace).

You know what has made me the most frustrated? It’s all the defaced and stolen political signs around. More as a metaphor, that is. Statistically I think we all know who will get Washington State’s electoral college votes for president, and the governor vote is basically a shoe-in too. I have yet to find a single person who honestly thinks that WA will vote in any other way.

So why are we angry about it? Frankly, and I don’t mean any disrespect to any one person, but doesn’t it even seem like the flag and sign wavers are just wasting their time?

But I don’t mind peaceful, normal election year behavior. “Normal” is people with wool hats holding signs on busy corners, people with flags and car stickers, people over overpasses holding signs I can’t read and waving, and of course robo-calls.

“Not normal,” at least not normal in my lifetime around here, is people so upset about something, or perhaps passionate, that they are doing things that provoke, that harm, or that destroy.

Inside a mountain somewhere in Texas, a giant clock is being built. Perhaps it is done already. That clock is being built to survive 10000 years. I listened to an interview with Danny Hillis who is the designer who talked about the idea of it being about thinking not just of, the next few years, or even our own lifetime, but considering a much larger time horizon, things far beyond our lifetime.

I worry that our short term focus is ruining relationships, and the opportunity for relationships, because of someone who will be the news for the next four years. That we will wake up in 2024 and realize that we have lost neighbors and friends over someone who lives on the other side of the country who is intentionally trying to divide us, and that we allowed him to do that. Do you think that in 2054 you will look at your neighbor and think “that horrible person voted for (whoever) and I will never forgive them”? My grandparents had a hard enough time remembering who they voted for, but I can’t imagine right now is all that much crazier than Kennedy v Nixon, Goldwater v Johnson, or really Bush v Gore. I mean go back to Jefferson v Adams that led to the most famous dual of all time, AND the 12th Amendment had to be created.

Here is what I want to say: neighbors are one of the most under-rated parts of life (literal neighbors, but also people at our jobs, in our city, sitting just down from us at a nearby table having pizza). These are people who have chosen to live here, and they are the people that will help you, and will need your help. We may have forgotten this because we have gone a while without a major incident, like a huge wind storm, an earthquake, or a pipeline explosion. Remember New York after 9/11 and how friendly it suddenly became.

We need you guys, and we plan to be ready when you need us. Letting short term things like elections make fools of us by doing long term damage to our relationships is just not worth it. Decency, common courtesy and just being nice is losing, and it’s awful to watch. No one has their yard sign vandalized and thinks “that vandal was right: I should maybe consider the opposing opinion.”

Over the last handful of months, I have been accused of “taking political positions.” Here is the only political positions I have taken: we need to treat each other better, and we need to empathize first.

Empathy in practice is putting yourself in their shoes (as much as possible). Empathy is realizing that we have got to where we are at mostly because of the people around us, the information available to us, the family we had, the experiences we’ve had, the friends we’ve had, almost none of which was in our direct control – and that set of factors is is exactly what has led every other person to think the things they have. No matter who that person is. If we choose empathy, we don’t get to pick and choose who deserves empathy (ok, there are a few outliers, but I doubt it the guy across the street from you is Hitler. If you think that I “don’t know [your] neighbor,” one of my neighbors has a car boneyard in his yard and has never acknowledged me in three years. But I try and wave every single time I get the mail. Someday.) But you know what? People don’t change because ideas are jammed down their throats. We change when we have experiences that show us that life is different for others than we imagined. That our own experience are not the same as everyone else’s.

One last additional thing: no matter what we think and what we think we know, we all have ideas right now that we will be embarrassed of in 10 years (and Facebook posts…). Let’s not pretend like we have all the answers and know everything. I have lots of terrible opinions from my twenties that are regrettable.

Lots of conversations are needed (and I don’t mean “Facebook conversations”), lots of meals (and drinks) shared, and some true empathy. Only then will people start to see things just like you see them (I’m just kidding! I could not find an appropriate laughing/winking/smirking emoji that would do the trick here).

Cheers, and Courage
-Patrick

New A+ beers en route, Makeworth Pop-up, and a Circus Tent!

Elizabeth Station

Hello!

What season is this anyway? Seems like the only place that Halloween is happening is at retail stores, right? Is it too early for Christmas lights? Does it matter?

I hope you’ve been enjoying the changing of colors and the pumpkins (and pumpkin spice), the honeycrisp apples and the fresh hop IPAs. It looks like there will be a lot of new seasonal beers this year, as breweries search to make creative beers that aren’t just more IPAs (oh, there are plenty of those coming out too). I am excited to see what’s new over the next few months :)<

I have a number of updates for you, and some things I’d like you to consider. Some conversations starters, perhaps. I’ve loved the conversations, you’ve all given us a lot to think about and talk about here, and I thank you. I want to encourage you to continue to come bring your ideas and start impromptu chats when you are here (or email us!).

If you had a chance to read my last email sent it September, you know it was very history heavy. I am making good on my comment about learning more about the history of the two Native American tribes in our area, although I have a long way to go. The Deming library definitely has a handful of good resources, although of course it is closed at the moment. If you know of good resources, please let me know.

On the subject of history, I came across an interview with the writer Chuck Palahniuk recently. He was asked about the process of writing, and creative writing, and he mentioned this:

“So many of us are used by aspects of our history, of our past, our experience. Without fully understanding them. And once we can unpack them” (in this seemingly innocuous world of fiction writing) “then we can more fully look at them and be aware of them and not be used by them.”

And that is exactly the point I was trying to make in my previous email. Learning history is not as much about learning facts; history’s importance is about realizing that until we understand our own past and that of our world around us, it can push us around and make us do what it wants. Shadows of history can plant ideas into you that you never would have put there yourself. Understanding what came before us helps us see the forces that are pushing us around and how we can make up our own decisions if that was good or not.

An apt metaphor is parenting: the easiest thing to do in parenting, when facing a decision that the answer is not obvious, is to look back to how you were parented and do the same. “Should I spank my kid? Well, I was spanked and I turned out ok.” “My kid is behind in math? Well, I wasn’t great at math and I turned out ok so I’m sure it will be fine.” I’m not judging those decisions, I’m just saying that most of the time we just drift into doing whatever our parents did. Sometimes that’s fine. But sometimes our history has planted seeds in our heads, jerking us around and we aren’t stopping to learn about it.

(It does takes work. But it’s very freeing, and can be piece of the puzzle to stopping cycles of negative decisions)


Limited Time Beers of the Highest Order:

JesterKing

We get lots of requests for lots of products. We do our best to get them. It’s not easy, unless a brewery already wants to send their products to our state.

So often we have to wait and watch and listen and when something comes up, pounce.

And occasionally, perhaps once a year, we get something in that is unexpected and thrilling and BIG (meaning, the ones people ask about a lot).

This is going to happen twice, actually, this week (watch for the other one on IG)

But coming up the end of the week (or perhaps early next week) are five different beers from Jester King. I’ll tell them to you now so you know what to expect: Cerveza de Mezquite, Das Wunderkind, El Cedro, Kollaborationsbier, and Noble King.

I will let them introduce themselves, here below, but I did want to add that Amber and Ron who own Garden Path in Burlington were at Jester King for a long time and I’m sure have amazing stories. You should go visit them.

Anyway, Austin TX’s Jester King Brewery describes their beers/brewery/vision, in their own words:

“Located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Jester King Craft Brewery is an authentic farmhouse brewery committed to brewing artisan ales of great depth and character. At times drawing influences from the world beyond traditional brewers’ yeast, Jester King’s beer is not rushed to market but allowed to mature – often in oak barrels – to create the most enjoyable, interesting and exciting beer we can make. An additional layer of complexity is added to Jester King’s bottled beers by allowing a second fermentation to take place in the bottle. As part of its commitment to sustainability, the slow food movement and Texas, Jester King beer uses as many organic and local ingredients as possible and will soon be brewed with harvested rainwater.”


Meet a new neighbor:

October 23-25: Pop-up Coffee Shop

Makeworth Market will be taking over our cafe space THIS WEEKEND! (with the possibility of more, perhaps sooner than later)

We would love for you to come and try their drinks and meet their wonderful staff. We are definitely excited to have them here.

This weekend will be from 9am to 3pm, and will have their coffee, tea and pastry menu.


Outdoor Seating update: we have massively upgraded the outdoor seating area!

Starting today, we have a huge, sweet tent up to cover lots of outdoor tables and chairs. We have sides we can lower in the rain and wind too. Over the next week we will be adding more tables and chairs, and hope to be able to have plenty of outdoor seating 🙂

For now we ask you to come in and we will find you a table. It’s just easier and more organized this way.

This is where the generosity of our neighbors becomes very helpful: after 4:00 you can park in the dentist parking lot across the street M-F (all day Sat and Sun). Parking will be slightly strained, but I see parking on Holly Street open all the time, as well as on Broadway. It shouldn’t be too tough (We are all moving our vehicles further away, to make sure you have closer spots.)

I’d love to know what you think!


Lastly, I’ll leave you with two wonderful quotes I came across this week. I’ll let them take us out, so I bit you farewell from this point.

“The life lesson I wanna share with you guys is to always speak your truth. Always speak your truth and do your best to speak your truth with compassion, with a little bit of poise, with a little bit of dignity, with respect and with empathy, even when speaking your truth means you’re gonna dive into some conversations that might make people a little uncomfortable.” -The Rock Dwayne Johnson

“Women will have achieved equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” -RBG

September Business Update, and Local History Discoveries

Hello!

This is the business side of the two emails I am sending out, the “top part of the mullet” so to speak. The beer stories in the other email are the “party” half, if you prefer that (you should have already got that).

So grab a beverage, kick back and I hope this is an encouragement to you.

We built Elizabeth Station upon the idea of a community having a place to meet, talk, discuss, get to know each other, learn from each other, and care about and take care of one another. Learning and listening are two huge pieces of what we value.

In light of the current pandemic, I want you to know that these are still the heart of this. It’s also a part of why I am writing about subjects unrelated to our products. Because the fact is, this place never was about the product – it was always about conversation and relationship.

It’s also not about me telling you what to believe. I hope you haven’t read it like that. My hope is it will be a form of inspiration to challenge you and/or to encourage you toward some form of action. Doing, learning, reading, talking, listening, challenging, changing, whatever your form of growing is. I have been overwhelmed by the

Which leads me to this:

Thanks to Raven Shaw from Sitka, AK for letting me use her “Proud Oyster” graphic here. You can find more of her hilarious and great stuff at ravens-random.myshopify.com.
You can also find her on Instagram at instagram.com/quickdrawmccaw, and she has a lot of fun stuff there. The eyeball earings are my favorite.
We’ll also have some of her stickers here soon, BTW.

I love this graphic, a sort of twist on the “lemons into lemonade” saying. And I have tried to make this my muse as there is a lot of tough stuff happening around us right now. I am trying to focus on what I can control and what I can do. I have not yet defined what “thriving” would look like for me in this time, but certainly using the extra time I have with my kids as best as I can is one part. Certainly searching learning and reading about tough subjects I have long ignored. Definitely listening and trying to see who will put up with a conversation with me. Trying to understand more about perspectives and life experiences different than my own. For sure trying to avoid saying things I will regret later, which is no easy task.

If you did not know, the first Thursday of each month is “Free Museum Day” in the greater Seattle area (full list here: freemuseumday.org/sea.html). This is one of the things I miss the most during these times. This has been a periodic day I look forward to of tremendous inspiration and learning. I grab my kids and take them to as many museums as we can pack in. Tanks and planes that look “like they just came off the factory line in 1940” at the Paul Allen “Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum” is a favorite. Has led to conversations about war and tactics and the Holocaust and how humans treat each other. The Wing Luke (“of the Asian Pacific American Experience”) in the International District has a full convenience store/market preserved since the day it closed – full displays off all the products they sold. Of COURSE this is exciting for me (and maybe only me). It led to fantastic conversations with my kids about Bruce Lee, life for immigrants both now and before they (my kids) were born (“what the world didn’t begin the day I was born??”), Chinese New Year, and the Cambodian Killing Fields. I knew very little about that, and it was hard. My kids aren’t that old – 6, 9 and 11. The fear I see in their eyes when we have conversations about how terrible people can be to other people breaks my heart each time. My middle son asked me “what the worst thing someone has ever done to another person?” and I replied “I don’t think you want to know” and he quickly said “ok don’t tell me.”

I don’t want to know either.
But I think understanding the past is a key part to understanding the present and planning the future (no, this is not my original idea).

So that’s what a “pearl” looks like to me: a posture of realizing how little I truly know, of listening before speaking, and assuming I can learn from any situation even the hard and scary ones. And this means taking hard subjects, facing the fact that I know less than I think, and then going and doing something about that. I really want to learn about more of the past, and more of the present.

But imagining and knowing that I can create a pearl out of this is the first step.

OK, on to the business update part of this email!
Starting with Pizza:

Yes, pizza!

A LOT of you tried the pizza, and a lot of you came back for more. Thanks, that’s awesome. It means a ton to us.

Either 1) you loved it or 2) you didn’t love it but didn’t tell me (optional third choice: you did not love it, but you love us. Life is rarely binary).

I got a lot of very good feedback, and no bad feedback. Actually I did get negative feedback but it was from two friends who said it took longer than I had told them it would (one was 20 minutes instead of 10, and had to wait for 40 min – he timed it. It is fair to be unhappy with a 40 minute wait).

(If you didn’t complain, and you have constructive criticism for me, please email me or come find me Tues-Sat. I do want to know. That’s part of the “conversation and relationship” element of this place!)

The comment that made me the most happy was this: “my kids usually hate crust. But with your pizza they fight over it.”

There was a comment someone said which was “my crust was burned.” But in context that person was being surrounded by a happy family, so we didn’t know how to take that. Yes, we singe the crust. No we are not changing that. We like it that way.

A few added details worth knowing:

-You all have been buying about 40 pizzas per day so far. The highest was 57 in one day, and we were worried about running out the next few days. It was awesome. Way past our expectations.

-Our oven is a high-temp electric oven. We are paying the extra money for 100% Green Power from PSE (that’s what it says, anyway). I’m not sure, but I think the extra wind power coming through the power line gives the cheese a little extra flavor 😉 It certainly makes me happy.

You all have been extremely generous. I sincerely appreciate the love and encouragement you have shown us. August was a month that will help us put a little hay in the barn for winter. All your tips were amazing and I will not speak for everyone here but I’m pretty sure everyone working here is equally grateful for your support (quick note: neither Charles nor I take, nor can take, tips and so it all goes to the crew. Which is how it should be). It definitely is impacting all of us in a positive way and I am very deeply thankful to you.

Thank you.


A Fun Local History Story: Claire’s Market at 1400 W Holly St

A wonderful source of local history is the Whatcom Museum Photo Archives, and the curator/administrator Jeff Jewell. He is absolutely incredible.
Note: no one I tell to go has ever gone on their own. So I have to take people, like demand they go with me. And then we go and the can’t leave because there is so much incredible stuff there. A search engine to find the history of anything you want to know about. Photos of famous people, photos of every old building, photos of what the drive up to Baker used to be like and the drive out Chuckanut used to be like. I could go on and on. But Jeff is just about as good as the collection: if he has time he will tell you stories about anything you could possibly want to know about. An amazing local historian. Highly, highly recommend a visit (Jeff says it should be open again in a few weeks, hopefully).

Here are a few photos of the building we now occupy from days of yore.

My favorite part of the history of this building is that they had some sort of contest where the winner got a puppy. We’ve talked about bringing this back, perhaps with kittens, but not totally sure the health dept would love it. But if you work for the humane society and have ideas, hit me up!

Claire’s was the first business in Bellingham to have a parking lot!
(Is that Dean’s car I see in there?)

(The boy with the hat in the front is about as excited as my kids get while getting their photo taken)

I thought I knew a lot about Bellingham history, but actually when I start to look into it, I am amazed at how little I know. Custer Bridge (like the General Custer, Custer’s Last Stand, etc) I know nothing about, Lairmont Manor must have some history, Fairhaven Library I heard was a Carnegie building? expelling Chinese immigrants and later Sikhs (click here for a fascinating interview with current County Executive Satpal Sidhu regarding this event… and yes Mr Sidhu I DID see you and your team in here a year or so ago!). I did listen to a fascinating talk about the founding of Bellingham/Fairhaven/Whatcom and how most of our waterfront was created by infill. (Once the area was parceled up for purchase, the lots in the ocean were cheaper than those on land. Ha!) And Holly St, which of course we are on here, was supposed to be 13th Street but those in charge at the time decided it was an unlucky number.

For your entertainment, here are another couple pieces of more recent local history that happened while I was young. Although I am about to turn 40, so this is more for people who moved here the last 20 years or so:
-The WWU park-and-ride near the freeway used to be a drive-in theater, basically all of my childhood. More people have got their first kiss in that lot than probably any other location in town 🙂
-Where REI is now used to be a big toy store. Called “The Children’s Company.” And it was awesome.
-Kulshan Middle School burned down before it could ever be used. It had to be rebuilt. My memory is it was an electrical fire started from a pop machine cord.
-Kulshan Middle School also had a competition to name the school mascot. My dad desperately wanted it to be the “Gravediggers.”
-There used to be a yearly carnival that set up along the spit, where the Bellwether Hotel is now. I think this might have transitioned to the mall parking lot, but that might be unrelated.
-Boomers has always existed. Since time began.

But alas there are also other not so fun parts of our history. I’m guessing you know more about this than I do, but here is something I found fascinating (in the bad way):

A Non-So Fun Local History Discovery: Bellingham KKK Chapter (circa 1920s)

Despite living here a big portion of my childhood (Happy Valley, Fairhaven, Sehome) and decent portion of my grown life, I am embarrassed to say I don’t know a ton about local history (and I love history). That I can remember no one has ever talked about the following events with me before and I have never bothered to look them up. Here is something not so fun or cute:

-According to the following article, the “strongest chapter” of the KKK in Washington State in the 20th century was here in little ol’ Bellingham, in the 1920s. Click on these words for a link to a fascinating article about this, including a massive rally in Lynden, a parade through Bellingham, a mayor giving the key of the city to a KKK member, the Bellingham Herald supporting the klan (no I am not going to capitalize it) and a little on what the klan has evolved into here over the decades.

The most bewildering line from the article is: “Bellingham Mayor John A. Kellogg addressed the convention while standing in front of an enormous electric cross, and concluded his remarks by presenting Grand Dragon EB Quackenbush from Spokane with the Key to the City.” It is then followed by what I think is the most chilling sentence: “During his speech, Kellogg also acknowledged Bellingham City Attorney Charles B. Sampley, described by the Bellingham Herald as ‘a prominent Klansman’ who the crowd ‘hailed as a conquering hero.’”

-The article not only quotes from but actually has scans of the old-timey articles it references, too. Totally worth spending a little time reading about burning a cross on Sehome Hill, klan picnics at Cornwall Park, and other events that are less than 100 years old.

This all has to mean something to us now, right? Or can we just write this off as things that happened in the past?

I love and miss my Grandpa, who passed away this past February 27th. He moved to the area with his parents when he was a toddler, perhaps around 1929 or so. We have spent lots of time together in my life, having lunch at least monthly in his last years. I learned a lot from him and valued a lot of his opinions and ideas. He was tremendously influential in my life, and many of the values of serving people in this business have come from him.

It would be terrifying to imagine that someone whose grandfather was in the Bellingham chapter of Hitler’s “Silver Legion” (read the article) or later the anti-communist McCarthyism witch hunts would listen and value their grandfather’s values and ideals. Right? I feel like our past has many more tentacles grabbing the present than we care to give it credit for. I would like to believe I can choose the good parts of my past, and leave behind the bad parts. But do I even really know what those are, if I really think about it hard?

Sigh.

More to learn. I don’t know about you but I can’t sit with the nagging thought that there is a problem and I feel like I can do nothing. My Grandpa did not like to talk about uncomfortable things, and so we didn’t. But now I wish I had asked more about both his childhood and youth and what he saw and learned. I am now just left with books and websites.

Well, let’s wrap this up. What now?

Personally I have realized most recently that I am dreadfully ignorant about the Lummi and Nooksack tribes and their history and culture. So that’s next. I have been coaching kids’ soccer in the Baker area, and have had the chance to coach some wonderful Nooksack kids. I feel like in order to love them better I should learn more about their history, and more about them as people (both “a people group” and as individual people).

My final toast before we depart for now:

May our future be better than our past.
Let us live at the borders of our ignorance, always pushing farther and taking new ground.
To Empathy, and the work it takes!

Yours,
-Patrick

September Beer Stories

Metier Brewing: Washington’s First (and only…?) Black-Owned Brewery

We started getting requests for Metier Brewing back in May, mostly off of an article from Wine Magazine. listing them on a list of “10 Black-owned breweries [in the US that] make great beer.”

Metier is known for their award-winning Coconut Porter called “Black Stripe.”
We have carried their beers for the past few months, including Black Stripe, their “Trail Blazer” Pale Ale with a label featuring Major Taylor, a professional Black bicyclist at the end of the 1800s who set world records.

I spent some time with Rodney and his staff, and highly recommend you take the trek to Woodinville to check out their brewery. They have a group of the nicest and most fun staff you will find.

Many of you tried their New Zealand IPA and their Wheat ale as well, and we have a keg of their Raspberry Cream ale we hope to tap in the next few days.

IPAs and Russian River Brewing: a Tale of Cold Beer

One of the most common beer-related questions we get here is “do you have Pliny the Elder IPA?” or similarly “do you carry anything from Russian River?” If you have not heard of this brewery or beer, “Pliny” is one of the highest rated beers, and most sought-after breweries. People line up around the block and down the street at their brewery for their annual release of the Triple IPA called “Pliny the Younger.” And no we don’t have any, because they picked up their beer and left Washington State in 2013.

(If you haven’t tried their beer, if you are in the Napa area, it is definitely worth going out of your way to get. I believe you can find it occasionally in Oregon still, and if you can get some, do. It’s an IPA even my IPA-hating friends really have liked.)

(if you see any for sale in WA, it is probably bootlegged!)

This provokes another question though: why did they leave? Do they not like apples, or everything being ever green?

It turns out the answer has to do with refrigeration.

I mean, indirectly. The real answer has to do with that they didn’t have enough beer to go around. They posted a letter that said as much (the letter was originally supposed to be just for distributors, but it got out and they finally posted it on their own website), but this was at the same time that our liquor laws changed, and both BevMo and Total Wine were arriving to the state en force.

Our new liquor laws, sponsored by Costco and recently voted in, put negotiating power in the hands of wine and liquor retailers. Those aforementioned big-box alcohol retailers could now negotiate pricing on wine and liquor (but not beer) directly and leverage their volume to get better buying prices.

And if you’ve been to any of these stores, you know that almost all their products sit warm on shelves. They sometimes have a few cooler doors, but those usually house beer where the descriptor “cold” is the best thing you can say about it (or perhaps “cheap,” leaving “tastes good” as a distant third).
It turns out that some breweries really really care about the quality of their beer, and will have nothing to do with places that keep their beer warm.
In Russian River’s letter they started by clarifying that “The beer we are not sending to Washington is going straight to Downtown Santa Rosa to feed the machine we call our brewpub. It will not be distributed to other wholesalers.” But then continued by saying “I did, however, address the difficulty we have had managing our brand in Washington, which appears to be due to some unique state liquor laws. But that’s not why we pulled out. That only helped us decide which market.”

Covid has created a number of very interested changes, one of the biggest is brands that used to only put their beer in kegs now putting it in cans or bottles. Cloudburst Brewing, near Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, is one of those brands, a brewery that makes life-changing IPAs. Other beer too, but they are renowned for their hop-forward beers, and for hating Anheuser Busch. When Cloudburst released their cans for the first time ever, they made keeping their cans cold a requirement to purchasing them for resale. When I got their first email that included buying cans back in June, they had this disclaimer: “Cans must be stored cold. No floor stacks, end displays, or bar top sales. COLD means refrigerated the whole time!”

They are not the only brewery. There are many like them that. I have talked to some who tell me stories of finding bars keeping their kegs stored warm, and tell me they won’t be back to sell those bars more beer again.

A quick Google search will tell you why this is, but here is the short version: oxidation speeds up quicker when beer (or anything, really) is not kept cold. Allaghash Brewing has a great line about this on their website: “Think of it this way: as the temperature of your beer goes up, the effects of oxidation increase exponentially. So a beer sitting at 60 degrees Fahrenheit will retain its original flavor for much longer than a beer sitting at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Yes, there is a moral to this tale. I’m guessing you have figured it out by now 🙂

We currently pick up or get delivered directly from over 25 breweries and five cideries (quick rough count), including from Seattle (Standard, Holy Mountain, Cloudburst, Lowercase, etc), Tacoma (E9 off the top of my head), Bellingham (Wander, Atwood, Structures, Aslan, North Fork, Kulshan, Chuckanut, Boundary and, well, actually I think nearly all of them), Yakima, Corvallis, Portland, Bend, Eugene, and a few other smaller places like Goldendale, Woodinville and Burlington.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to list all of those. But there is a lot of great beer coming out right now, and getting it fresh and keeping it fresh is a passion of ours! (and tasting it fresh…)

The Mask Conundrum

I have really tried hard to figure out why people don’t want to wear masks. This boggles my mind. I have heard a few reasons, the only of which I can kinda sorta sympathize with is that people are tired of figuring out what you have to do in each different store some of which have different policies.

I had a rant building there for a minute, but that doesn’t matter anymore.

Anyway, we ARE worried about keeping our community safe. We want to be a part of the solution towards keeping everyone safe, and so we have asked everyone to wear masks here.

This is now a moot point, in that everyone is now required to wear masks everywhere. So that makes our life a lot easier. We have hand sanitizer in many places, and a (mostly) clear path to follow which avoids creating bottlenecks.

For those who have medical conditions or other reasons you can’t wear a mask, we do have solutions for you: we continue to offer our website that has 90% of the items in the store available. You can also call us to order. We will still bring your items out to your car, or deliver them to your house. If you order online because you have a medical condition, let us know that and we’ll even refund you your $5 delivery fee.

Speaking of which…
The Website:
As for the website, we have made some changes. The logistics behind running a website that is also a live store are quite complicated. So we have had to make the following changes:
-Pick-ups available on Tuesdays and Fridays, unless you get the confirmation email ahead of time that we have picked it all and it’s ready. This is mostly so that we can have the best chance at having all the items you ordered (although by the nature of it, we will never be perfect at this).
-We have a designated parking spot for order pick-ups.
-Delivery is available Tuesdays and Fridays as well, for the same reasons.
-We have most of the items online BUT will not be able to add some limited items. We will do our best, but it’s complicated. Some items will lag in getting entered, as there are so many new items it is hard to keep up in a timely manner. However, the added benefit of the website is that even if some items cannot fit on our shelves, we can offer them via the website. I have a growing page of “online only” items on the website.

The Store:
The store is now open daily from noon to 7pm.
So far, 99% of people have been fantastic. We have loved having you all back, and it’s nice to see so many smiling eyes.
We are very content with the new layout of the store, and there is lots of space for people to move about.
We are working on our new food menu, but there is still electrical work that needs to be completed. More info on that coming soon.
We have new pizza kits, and slushies as well (the mojito slushie is so good). Pizza kits are available online, but slushies are not as it just can’t keep frozen by the time we deliver it. But feel free to call us from the parking lot if you don’t feel comfortable coming in!

And yes you can now come have a beer or cider inside the store. As every restaurant is the state has, we have about half the seating we used to have. But we’ll find you a nice seat to enjoy your time and/or company with.

As always, please let us know if there is anything we can do better. As a friend of mine likes to say “in this crazy time there are not many right answers. But there are plenty of wrong answers.” We’re just trying the best we can, and adapting to new info as it comes out.

Lastly, my favorite meme of the week:

Cheers and Courage,
-Patrick

P.S. I have got a lot of very nice comments and feedback from my email titled “On Empathy.” I loved reading your stories and they have helped me to learn more too. As I reread that email yesterday, I realize that even today I would have made some changes to that email because of things I have learned since the short time ago that I sent it. I am glad it has been helpful to many people, and I am especially happy to hear some of you say it helped spur you to do something, like pick up a book, or have a conversation. It’s not easy. It’s going to take work and time. I bought “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo last week, which so far has been quite impactful on the way I’ve been thinking about the world. I would highly recommend this, if you are looking for something. I tend to be more of a literature guy though, and if you are more into that I recommend Richard Wright whose books were very impactful to me as a college kid.

The Cautious Opening – How We Do This

We open for shopping this Saturday! We are excited to welcome you back in. We want it to be easy, safe, and clear how it will work here. So we are going to over-communicate.
So here we go!

You are invited!

When:
starting this coming Saturday, from noon to 7

What:
in-store shopping, with over a hundred new beers including cans and bottles from Cloudburst, Holy Mountain, Stormbreaker, Urban Family, Aslan, Wander, Old Schoolhouse, Varietal, Ex-Novo, Lowercase, Manny’s Pale Ale, Ferment, Block 15, Ale Apothecary, de Garde, Stoup, Thunderland Mead, and more I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Why:
well… beer? Fun? I guess?

How:
we are taking it carefully. we are going to request that everyone wears a mask. This is to protect those with deficient immune systems, and those caring for people with health issues. We have masks if you forget yours, no worries. We are also going to limit the amount of people in the store in line with state regulations, to make sure we all have a lot of space.
Signage should be pretty clear about the best way to get around the store. If you have questions, just ask!

Also:
yes, we had originally said we’ll be open on Friday. But we want to respect the Black Lives Matter strike planned for Friday, and are going to wait a day.

we are going to be ready for people to drink a pint here the following Friday, 6/19. Look for that killer tap list early next week. We were hoping to have our pizza program up and running by then, but it looks like an electrical complication may slow things down for a little bit (coming soon!)

online shopping: we are still going to do online shopping and delivery as well. The days and times available for this will change some, as will what we can offer online. But the experience should be pretty similar as it is now, with changes coming as we merge the online store and physical store. It’s a lot more difficult than we thought it would be to have both of those work together.

We appreciate you all, and just ask for a little patience and kindness. Hope to see you soon.

VISIT OUR ONLINE STORE

On Empathy

The first time in my life someone chose to intimidate me because of my race, or perhaps more likely because of my (presumed) nationality, was about fifteen years ago, when I was living abroad. If you travel enough, something will eventually happen to you that you stop and think “wait, I just got picked on (or stolen from, yelled at, punched, etc etc) because of what they assumed about me based on my skin color.” It’s not a nice feeling, but it also was not traumatic. It did not change my life. It happened a handful of other times in the five years I lived south of the border, and I got to believe that I “knew” what it was to feel racism.

I fell in love and got married in Mexico, some of the best years of my life. It was wonderful and magical, adventurous and romantic and everything a young man could hope for in the first 25 years of life.

We moved to the US around the time of the Great Recession, and my wife started to have bizarre incidents around here that I could not figure out. I tried to rationalize them away, try see how she must be mistaken about the exact meaning of the words when she told me about how the director of the international school at WCC had told her she “needed to be legal” first in order to get into college. I would laugh when she would talk about being afraid of the border patrol (I thought she was joking!) and we both laughed when I took her to Canada and while crossing the border and she said, quite indignantly, “wait, where’s the WALL?”

But darker things happened. Things I couldn’t explain away. Things that would never happen to me. Bizarre little things, and big things. Things that she cried over and I couldn’t figure out a way to give people the benefit of the doubt like I always did in my life. Things that people needlessly said or did for no other reason than being mean. Things that otherwise nice people said that were just awful.

And I realized I had no idea what it felt like to experience racism. When I started seeing the world through her eyes, I started seeing things that boggled my mind. And made me furious. Why in the world would that car salesman block the door inside the show room and ask her what she’s doing here? I could not come up with a single reason that would happen, and I could absolutely never imagine it happening to me. Never. Those words would never be said to me. What would cause someone to say those words to my wife in that way? I was there to hear them too, just far enough behind her that the salesman didn’t know we were together. I am baffled to this day what that was all about. Or why would that employee at the hotel pass her in the hallway and ask her to come down to the desk so they could “verify that she was a guest in the hotel” after we had been there for more than a day. What? I can’t for a second imagine those words being said to me. It would be totally crazy. I’d lose my mind on social media about it.

And I started to realize that the silly things that happened to me in Mexico were nothing like the fear that my wife felt when going certain places, or in big parts of daily life. No one stared me down for no reason, leaving me wondering what they were thinking. No one asked me “are these kids yours?” No one said “let’s just speak in English and he won’t understand” with just me standing there.

I wonder about my kids’ lives. What they will have to deal with. They look more like me than my wife. What does it mean that that makes me feel relieved? What does it mean that I think they’ll have more opportunities, a better job, less challenges in life, than if they looked more like her? Am I wrong? Am I a terrible person?

Or perhaps I feel even worse because I’m not wrong? That their life experience will be more like mine and less like my wife’s, based just off of how they look on the outside?

I think no one wants to feel like they “had it easy.” Everyone I know has some sort of “I had a rough childhood” or “it hasn’t been easy” or “it wasn’t just given to me” life story. I think we all honestly want to be validated for the hard work we have put in in this life. The idea that my hard work is devalued because I started with an easier life is very hard for almost everyone. Has anyone ever said to you “well, my life has been pretty easy up to this point. Basically I was just born into the right family, at the right place at the right time of history, and that explains my life”? In our core I think we all believe that we have earned whatever we have ended up with, perhaps we will admit some small dose of luck but in general I have earned what I have done and gained.

Until I started to see life in this part of the world through my wife’s experience, I only saw life from the vantage point where I was standing. I had fully believed the quote that “the universe is conspiring to help us.” I had been born towards the top of the mountain, and couldn’t imagine that being born at the bottom of the mountain meant anything different. In my experience things generally went well when you did them exactly as I had. I guess I could kind of imagine that some people had less than me, but certainly they could get to where I was at with a little work, right? But we are all given the same climbing boots and supplies, right? This is America, where everyone has the same opportunities. Right? I worked hard to climb the hill up from where I started, and certainly that meant just as much starting from any vantage point. Looking down the hill didn’t seem that far for people below me to be able to reach where I had arrived at. If I can do it, anyone can.

It wasn’t until I was forced to see life from a different vantage point that I started to see what life was like in a place I wasn’t interested in visiting. To be honest I don’t think I’d have ever actually taken time to think about life from someone else’s point of view that deeply. Humans are pretty selfish and I haven’t been a great exception to that rule.

But when forced to, I saw obstacles that were never apparent from my vantage point. To see unexplainable occurrences that didn’t make sense from my life experience. To see systems that did not offer her a chance unless she spoke English fluently. Systems that required money to get up into. Systems that looked suspiciously like white people ran them, and mostly just let white people through (wait, she’s the only non-white person on this flight, and also happens to be the only person on this flight selected for a “random” search???)

You know what was easier? To just imagine that she was mistaken. That she must have heard or understood wrong. That this country was as tough as she imagined it was. That she just needed to work harder. No one had offered me a hand up. She just had to keep her head down and she could get up here. Figure it out. She is just getting in her own way, or blaming others. They didn’t mean that when they said that to her. She needs to grow thicker skin. Stop letting others decide for her.

It took work to stop all that, to start to assume that she is right, that her feelings are valid, and that she just wants to be loved and to be a part of and bring value to this community and this world. That bad stuff happened to her that I never had to deal with. That the mountain was higher than I thought it was. And to stop and to ask her how she sees things that I take for granted. To open myself to see the world from her viewpoint.

We can all do that. We can start now, if we haven’t started yet. And if we started years ago, we can still do it better today. There are so many humans out there who need our listening ears, our love and compassion and understanding. We can help change so much for the better. We can do so much more.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening to our story.
I’ll probably do less long-format things like this as we all start to get busier lives. But I felt like today was an important day to share.
Much love,
-Patrick

Things are changing fast

Wow, what a few months can do

Ok, so here we are! It’s nice to finally get a chance to stop and send out some communications.

First: thank you. You guys have been awesome. Thanks for sticking with us, thanks for helping us along with this new process, helping us break and fix the website, your suggestions and comments, and for your patience. We never wanted to be in the online sales business – that is never why we started this!

But we are making it slowly but surely.

There are tons of updates. But for now, let’s talk about beverages, and the industry. There are a few fascinating things happening locally and around the world.

First and foremost: every brewery is desperately trying to get their beer into cans and bottles. Those with their own canning lines (see: Aslan and Kulshan) are pumping out new cans. Both of those breweries are sending us about two new beers per WEEK. It is insane. But pretty awesome. We heard 122 West just bought a canning line, we have seen cans from Stemma and Boundary (and bottles), and Wander at a clip I have never imagined.

This means that there are LOTS of new beers available CONSTANTLY. On average we used to get 15 new beers per week, of maybe 50 new beers available. Now we are being offered 100 new beers weekly and we are trying to figure out what you all will want, while keeping a balance of styles, prices, etc. Phew.

Traditionally, in down times people get more price sensitive. We are working hard to find great beers, but also beers that anyone can afford now too. We are looking at options, and have created a tab on our website called “Specials and Mixed Packs.” We will see a lot of specials coming up because there is so much beer on the market right now. We want to be a store that anyone can afford to buy at, so we are paying special attention to this.

Kegs are getting old, too. Everywhere. That is a big problem. We are going through a decent amount of crowlers here, but we are thinking about all the restaurants that will start back up whenever the beginning of phase 2 happens. There will be some hard decisions to be made on the side of breweries, distributors, and retailers as how to deal with that cost (or some may simply choose to serve old beer, too). We have some great beers that can be cellared (which we bring out for special events) and we also have a reasonable supply of IPAs that will still be ok for a little while longer. We have bought a few kegs from local breweries in the past few months, but are just about ready to start bringing fresh beer back in.

It has been a crazy time. I have lots more to say about employees, next steps, goals and changes, safety, and other stuff, but I’ll leave you here at this point.

Elizabeth Station