Tapping into the community
The warm hall of The Local Public House bustled last week as loyal patrons and Bellingham’s brewing royalty gathered to share beer, food and high spirits in celebration of the pub’s second full year of business — and the changes soon to come.
For the anniversary event held on Tuesday, Oct. 13, all 22 taps were dedicated to beer and cider made in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Many of the brewers were also present, and swag from local breweries was raffled off.
Co-owners and Western alumni Ben Buccarelli and Thomas Raden opened The Local as a place to showcase local beer. Brews on tap are sourced from Washington, Oregon and Canada to represent the Cascadia brewing scene, Buccarelli said.
The pub also serves as the taproom for the Menace Brewing Co., Buccarelli and Raden’s first business.
Menace Brewing started from Buccarelli’s garage. After his father exposed him to homebrewing as a child, Buccarelli began the hobby while attending Western, he said.
Buccarelli graduated in 2010 with an English degree and continued to work day jobs as he licensed the brewery out of a small space in Ferndale in 2011, he said.
“We just had this pipedream of brewing for a living,” Buccarelli said.
The brewery was so small it had only a half-barrel brewing system, which produces only about $30 of profit for every 15 hours of work, Raden said.
Homebrewing sparked the beginning for Raden as well, and his experience brought him to Buccarelli in 2012, Raden said.
Joining the Menance team, Raden brought with him a two barrel system that he designed and fabricated on his own.
Buccarelli and Raden met while Raden was working on a college project at Kulshan Brewing Co., where Buccarelli was an employee.
Since joining Menace, Raden has expanded the brewery’s output by about thirty times. He has used his welding skills to build several new brewing systems, Raden said.
Shortly after graduating from Western in 2014 with a business degree in operations management, Raden joined Buccarelli in establishing The Local.
Menace remained the pair’s secondary work until they opened The Local, Buccarelli said. Since then, they have been dedicated fulltime to the pub and brewery.
The Local still is working on expansion and furthering their place in the community as
the team currently is working to open the Bellingham Beer Lab.The Beer Lab was first proposed as a cooperative “incubator” brewery in 2012, which never got off the ground, Buccarelli said.
Attendees of the anniversary event spoke fondly of the pub, and many were frequent visitors.
The Local is his first stop when he wants a drink, Brewer at Aslan Brewing Company, Andy Beer said. The pub has a good attitude and its tap list shows support for the local brewing community, he said.
“The name is exactly what it shows,” Beer said.
For Bellingham’s 2015 beer week, which took place September 11th-20th, the pub hosted an event featuring brews from 16 nanobreweries across Washington. Each brewery is too small to distribute the beer they make, so Buccarelli and Rob Whitney, The Local’s restaurant manager, drove to each one and picked up the kegs themselves, Whitney said.
With the pub’s dedication to local brewing and Raden and Buccarelli’s roots as homebrewers, The Local supports homebrewers in the community, hosting events such as an annual brewing tournament, Buccarelli said.
Bob Boroughs and Sullivan Vanderboom have also been regular customers since The Local opened. The atmosphere is comfortable and the place itself cooks up innovative food with good service, Boroughs said.
“I think it’s the only true pub environment in Bellingham,” Boroughs said.
Now Buccarelli and Raden are taking on the Beer Lab under the Menace name. They acquired the space next door to the pub, and received the keys the week before the two-year anniversary, Buccarelli said.
Planned as a small, nonprofit brewery licensed under Menace, the Bellingham Beer Lab will be a place where community members can use the space and equipment to brew their own recipes, Buccarelli said.
The experimental beer will be sold at The Local and proceeds will be donated to a charity of the brewer’s choice.
The idea is to support the Bellingham community, Buccarelli said. The new project will also help homebrewers build a brand and potentially work toward opening breweries.
A Kickstarter campaign funded the project in July and community members turned out in force, Whitney said.
On the final night of the fundraiser, a crowd watched in the Kickstarter’s progress on a screen in the pub. When the goal was met, the room burst into tears, Whitney said.
“I have no doubt it’s going to work,” Raden said. “The community supports it. We’re all excited about it.”
With freshly broken ground on the beer lab and two successful years of business, the team looks forward to future events and anniversaries at the pub.
“Bellingham definitely is a beer-loving community,” Buccarelli said. “We like to cater to that and we hope that people like what we do.”