Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bellevue Brewing Company - a solid foundation for a brewery

Story by Kendall Jones

This is the first in a series of stories I will write about the Bellevue Brewing Company. I find myself emotionally invested in this one. While the building of a new brewery is a beautiful and glorious thing that always tickles my fancy, this one hits really close to home. In this post, I want to lay the foundation: the story behind the Bellevue Brewing Company (find them on Facebook).

A Sprawling Beerless Wasteland

John Robertson doesn’t want to offend anyone by saying it aloud, but he cannot help recognizing that Bellevue is behind the curve when it comes to craft beer. He does not call it a "beer wasteland" because he wants to badmouth Bellevue. He sees it as a problem that he intends to fix.

Robertson fully recognizes that Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Bellevue makes some excellent beer. He also knows that Rock Bottom is a chain of breweries spread across the United States. He knows that the Taphouse Grill has one-hundred-something beers on tap. You do not need to remind him about those two downtown establishments or any of the sadly few other places around town that offer a barely passable selection of craft beer. He knows Bellevue inside-out. He is a native and a current resident.

Like Robertson, I am also a Bellevue native: it is my hometown. I grew up there and spent a significant portion of my adult life there. I have a realistic opinion of the beer scene in my old stomping grounds. When it comes to beer, Bellevue needs some tough love.

We recently met with Robertston at the Pumphouse Bar and Grill (one of the better places to drink good beer in Bellevue) to talk about his plans to open the Bellevue Brewing Company. His enthusiasm is infectious. His motivation is pure of heart. His success seems imminent.

Good Beer and Baseball Jerseys

Instead of building something in one of downtown Bellevue’s glass towers, which might more aptly match many people’s stereotypical visions of a Bellevue brewpub, Roberston has secured a location in a much more modest part of town. Instead of designing a pub with a polished, corporate or franchised feel, he is creating a place that is casual and comfortable. Rather than worry about creating a logo that tests well with focus groups, he seems more concerned about how it will look on a Little League baseball jersey.

“No doubt the beer must be great,” Robertson says. “All of the other things we want to do start with great beer. In this market, you cannot produce an inferior product and expect people not to notice.”

(below - Behind the modest storefront, a vast space awaits--a blank slate.)

Robertson tells us that he is ready to assemble a team that will quickly put Bellevue Brewing Company on the beer map. He says that he is looking for, and assembling, the best of the best. We get the feeling he is farther down the road to building his brewery team than he’s letting on. He is noticeably tight-lipped about that part of the plan.

You can read the complete story, including more pictures, on the Washington Beer Blog (Click Here.)

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