Bellingham’s Fountain District has been devoid of a neighborhood watering hole for far too long. Enter Menace Brewing: the long-anticipated brewery and taproom transplant from Ferndale. Shuttered in 2015 to uproot and move to Bellingham, Menace is now back in action as the Fountain District’s neighborhood taproom.
Menace Brewing opened its doors to Meridian Street in January 2017. My first visit (the brewery’s second day of operation) is telling: within minutes of opening, 25 thirsty patrons fill the space. But it doesn’t feel crowded. Mixed seating provides the option to sit at a booth or utilize stand-up tables, while open views into the brewery and big, bright windows create a roomy atmosphere.
On a return visit, I sat down to chat with beertender Katie Johnson and co-owner/brewer Ben Buccarelli. The story goes that Menace started up in Ferndale in 2011, producing small batches of beer and eventually serving them at their sister business, The Local (also owned by Ben and business partner Tom Raden). Upon deciding to move to Bellingham, Menace shut down operations for a year before springing back to life at its current location.
Ben explains that moving Menace into a former auto body shop was a classic case of “the right place at the right time”. Remnants of the auto shop remain, from garage doors to the stand-up pine tabletops — converted from car frame supports. The repurposed bar is made from a former Tukwila bowling lane. Small convertible tables from the former Fountain Bistro can accommodate separate parties or combine into a single, long table. The space is pieced together with intention, much like Menace’s beers.
With its 4-barrel brewing capacity, Menace is a small batch brewery. Ben sees the brewery’s size as an asset, allowing them to focus on quality, consistency, and variety in their recipes. Small batches allow for experimentation, so we can expect to see several styles from Menace as they progress. Current offerings include Chili Bravo, Foreign Extra Stout, IRA, Beer’s Lite, and Cascade SMASH (single malt and single hop). You can also find guest cider and beer on tap.
Menace brews tend to be clean, light-bodied, and full-flavored. After sampling nearly everything Menace has to offer, my partner and I found that we preferred Chili Bravo and the Stout. Both seem to be popular choices — especially the Washington Beer gold award-winning Chili Bravo. Made from jalapeno and serrano peppers with a balanced malt base, Chili Bravo delivers just the right amount of heat without overdoing it. You don’t have to be a thrill-seeker to enjoy this pleasantly spicy brew.
In other brews, Menace plans to collaborate with Bellingham Beer Lab in the near future. This won’t be their first one-off recipe: in 2015 Menace produced Denial IPA after Bellingham Tap Trail voters named IPA their least favorite beer style. We’ll see if they decide to bring that one back into rotation. For now, watch for the ESB, Wheat, and another IPA coming soon.
Nuts and Bolts
Menace Brewing seeks — and is well positioned to become — the neighborhood gathering spot. Locals are encouraged to walk or bike to the brewery, and most seem to be doing just that. Friendly staff make Menace all the more welcoming. Kids are ok, too — bring your well-behaved little ones along. Future plans include an outdoor patio beer garden, complete with a gas-powered fire pit to keep patrons warm on chilly nights. For now, the pit serves as a piece of art within the brewery itself. Stop by Menace to check it out next time you’re in the neighborhood!
Menace Brewing is located at 2529 Meridian Street in Bellingham, on the corner of Meridian and North.
Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 3pm to 10pm, Friday – Saturday from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.