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Friday, May 7, 2021

No nonsense, just good beer

Bellingham’s latest brewery, Gruff Brewing Co. provides customers over 16 beers on tap

Co-owners of Gruff Brewing Co. Eric Wight (top), Jameson Longman (middle), and Chris Bierman (bottom) attempt a long pour in front of the Gruff Brewing Co. on Sept. 20, 2016
Co-owners of Gruff Brewing Co. Eric Wight (top), Jameson Longman (middle), and Chris Bierman (bottom) attempt a long pour in front of the Gruff Brewing Co. on Sept. 20, 2016 // Photo by Morgan Stilp-Allen

Roughly four years ago, three friends who shared a passion for beer had an idea to start their own brewery. After several years of planning, Eric Wight, Jameson Longman and Chris Bierman have seen that idea manifest itself into Bellingham’s latest brewery, Gruff Brewing Co.

Bierman, Longman and Wight were born and raised in Bellingham.

“Chris and I were neighbors growing up, and Jameson and I went to preschool together. We all went through every grade of school together,” Wight said.

The trio operates Gruff entirely on their own without any other staffers.

“Even though we grew up with each other and had this [relationship] formulated, all of our skills complement each other really well. Where one of us is weak the other person is strong,” Longman said.

Gruff had its soft opening on August 19 at 104 E. Maple St. #101. Unlike other Bellingham breweries, Gruff is a nanobrewery. This means less overall production and recognition than your typical commercial brewery or microbrewery.

“There’s no bullshit here; we just make beer.”

Chris Bierman, co-owner and brewer

According to U.S. law, a brewery can produce no more than 15,000 barrels of beer in a year to be classified as a microbrewery. While there are no laws regulating the use of the term nanobrewery, nanobreweries typically produce even less beer than microbreweries.

While this may sound like a small business, Bierman, Gruff’s brewer as well as co-owner, sees this as an opportunity to play to his strengths. Gruff’s status as a nanobrewery allows Bierman to make a variety of brews and infusions that larger breweries simply don’t have the time to attempt.

“We’re able to have 16 beers on tap,”  Bierman said. “And 16 different beers every week too,” Jameson added.

Equipped with eight fermenters, Bierman isn’t limited in what he can brew. His latest creation was a witte infused with sage and blackberries. Bierman debuted the beer for Bellingham Beer Week, hosted September 9-18 this year.

The only one to leave Bellingham, Bierman was living in Seattle at the time when Longman and Wight approached him with their business proposal.

Bierman had always dreamed of owning a brewery or a pub and, thanks to Wight and Longman’s persuasiveness, the dream is now a reality.

The trio debated on the name of the business before finally settling on Gruff.

“We like Gruff as a descriptive word. It suits us,” Bierman said. “There’s no bullshit here; we just make beer. We don’t over-advertise. None of our beer names are named after a bike trail or anything like that.”

Gruff takes pride in its quality, Bierman said. The taproom is furnished with straight-dimension wood on the bar, tables and ceiling beams. When weather permits, patrons can step outside and enjoy a beer on Gruff’s patio setting.

Open Friday through Sunday from noon to 11 p.m., Gruff Brewing Co. is a welcoming and fun atmosphere thanks to its owners and a few pinball machines.

Gruff has yet to receive its designed logo coasters, so for now customers are welcomed to create their own designs on blank coasters.

“It’s sort of like coloring pages at restaurants, but for adults instead of kids,” Wight said.

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