Bellingham craft beer lovers have a new reason to celebrate! Structures Brewing is open for business in downtown Bellingham. Conveniently (for pub crawling) located between Wander Brewing and Aslan Brewing, Structures Brewing adds even more depth to the rapidly growing Bellingham craft beer scene.
I caught up with co-owners (and brewers, servers, cellar people and building renovators) James Alexander and Ryan Miller a week after they opened to get their story and of course, taste some beer.
James and Ryan are experienced brewers who met through the Pittsburgh brewing scene, and shared a desire to branch out with more creative beers. Once they decided on starting a brewery, Bellingham made sense. They found a suitable space at 1420 State St., and did the build out on their own, starting with gutting it to the walls. They kept the industrial look and the roll-up door, which will come in handy once the weather cooperates. Inside the space, wood, brick, metal, cinder blocks and pipes combine to create a simple, comfortable atmosphere. Even the Courier font on their sign speaks of a classic, simple and old school vibe.
Structures doesn’t boast a big tap room, but there’s room enough for you and 25 or so of your buddies (but not their kids—no minors allowed). They’re deliberately staying small for the foreseeable future, so they can keep tight control over the quality of their beer. In fact, you won’t find Structures brews anywhere but the brewery for the first two years, while they develop the right relationships with pubs and restaurants around town.
Back in the brewery, I was excited to see a number of barrels, both new and previously used, the products of which are already available for your enjoyment.
And speaking of enjoyment, I got to taste each beer they’re pouring and was very impressed. First up was the Saison (6.3% ABV), which is aged in oak barrels. Different from any Saison I’ve had before, with less citrus than I’m used to. It was crisp, clean and dry, and as I sipped, it reminded me of a dry white wine, but without the grapes. Next I tried the Black Saison (5.3%ABV), fermented with a Brettanomyces strain. I definitely got a little Brett funkiness on the nose. But just a tad. It was malty, nicely balanced, also dry. The Table Beer (5.4% ABV) is their most popular so far. It’s also fermented with Brett, with—again—a very crisp finish. The Citra Pale (4.6% ABV) was very nice on the nose, with a little biscuit on the palate.
And now for something really different: the Blanc Generation (4.8% ABV), which is their version of a Mandarina Bavaria Hallertau Blanc pale ale. Brewed with—you guessed it—Mandarina Bavaria and Hallertau hops, it’s similar in style to the Citra Pale, yet drastically different in taste. This one emphasizes those lovely hops. It’s a little acidic on the nose and beautifully bitter on the tongue—not for bitterness’s sake, mind you, but an elevated bitter taste that I really enjoyed. The Blanc Generation blew my mind a little bit. I followed it with the Double IPA (8.5% ABV), which was really, really good. Very, very nice. Pretty, pretty perfect. No doubt, it will be well-received in hop-loving Bham.
The terms “crisp” and “dry” can be used to describe each of Structures’ beers, along with “flavorful,” “aromatic” and “balanced.” Also, “wow!” I must have used that universal (and trite) expression of delight no fewer than a dozen times while tasting Structures’ beers. But their beers truly did wow me.
And I expect you’ll be impressed, too. James and Ryan plan to rotate new brews in with the popular ones, and to keep experimenting and tweaking as they go. Your favorite brew might taste a little different next time you stop by. It will likely have a new name too, because it will truly be a different beer. As for the regular lineup, there won’t be one. They’ll balance best sellers with the beers they want to brew, with a focus on quality they feel will come through in every batch—and they have high hopes their patrons will trust it’s all going to be good.
James and Ryan are brewing to style, but to their palates and specifications for mouthfeel and other attributes. They enjoy the science behind creating the profiles they’re striving for, and know exactly what they want to achieve. They’ve put in a ton of time and effort into creating their beers and their brewery, because it’s all they want to do. “We don’t do anything else,” James said with a laugh as Ryan nodded in agreement. They love having folks come in, taste a beer or two, and take a growler home to share with friends. And that’s been happening a lot since they opened. In fact, while I was there, two gentlemen came to the door and tried to convince them to let them in at about 2:30 (they open at 3:00). I’ve no doubt they came back on time.
After visiting with James and Ryan, and tasting their beers, I got the feeling that they are not doing this for themselves—they’re doing it for the love of and passion for beer. I sensed that they simply have to do what they’re doing, because their beers already exist inside them and are demanding to be brewed. Sounds dramatic, I know, but trust me: these two have a mad passion for their craft and a precise vision for their brewery. I predict we will all be the better for it.
1420 N. State St., Bellingham WA 98225
Wednesday through Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Structures Brewing on Facebook