With a yank, the doors of the old barn are pulled open, revealing a network of interconnected piping, flashing lights and chromed steel woven between ancient boards. With only two barrels of small-batch brew coming from the century-old barn turned brew-station, Atwood Ales’ beer is too compelling to overlook, even in the North Sound’s suds-saturated craft beer market.
Trading quantity for quality and larger depths in flavor, Atwood Ales places small batch Saison- and Bier De Gardestyle beer in front of their customers. These beer styles originate from southern Belgium’s Wallonia region, where farmhouse brewing flourished out of necessity.
After falling in love with beer and the science behind it in college, and while home-brewing and working odd jobs to get by, head brewer Josh Smith returned to his family farm in Blaine with the idea of creating a farmhouse brewery with his father. Smith wanted to bring value back into the farm and revitalize it, making sure the farm would stay in the family for years to come. Little did he know that he and his wife’s extended family would quickly become valuable members of his brewing team.
“After I went to college, my parents didn’t have anyone to do jobs around the farm anymore,” Smith said. “So, when I came back to the farm, I was thinking about our family and knowing my dad, in particular, really loves this place, so how can I carry on the legacy my parents have built on this property?”
The answer: Atwood Ales, with Smith brewing his first two kegs of beer in March of 2016 and quickly becoming a finalist in Seattle Magazine’s “Best Saison in Washington State” in July of 2017. With small-batch beer coming out of Atwood Ales and only two barrels to work with, Smith is able to “play” and experiment with his brewing and the ingredients he uses, including berries, herbs, and hops grown only a hundred feet from the back of the barn, resulting in singular flavors and freshness.
As Atwood Ales continues to grow, the extended families of both Josh Smith and his wife, Monica Smith, have taken on leading roles within the business. With both families chipping in to make sure the beer is bottled, labeled, packaged and prepared for your taste buds, it helps to make the overwhelming days a bit more manageable.
“Having people that want to go on this crazy ride is really important,” Smith said. “I’m lucky to have (two) families that want to be a part of it, contribute, and see it through to its future awesomeness.”
Atwood Ales can be sampled and bought at the weekly Saturday Farmers Market in downtown Bellingham and can be found at most food co-ops in Bellingham.