Food

Melvin Mania

Now brewed in Bellingham

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

If you felt an unusual exuberance in the vicinity of the Fountain District late last week, it was likely radiating from Melvin Brewery.

Thursday saw the release of Melvin’s first Bellingham-brewed beers—indeed the first beers they’ve brewed outside of their home base in western Wyoming—and the response among local hopheads was overwhelming. It was standing-room-only in their bustling taproom as the citizenry welcomed the latest brews to the Bellingham scene by quaffing $3 pints late into the frosty night.

Melvin Brewing has a cult following among the beer cognoscenti, especially West Coast-style India Pale Ale lovers, for their irreverent attitude, bold brewing techniques and what general manager David Powers describes as their “unprecedented density levels of hops, more hops than anybody else in the world.”

The Melvin crew burst on the scene by winning several medals at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, besting more established breweries with a gold medal for their Melvin 2x4 IPA and a silver for their Cherry Bomb beer.

“Nobody had ever heard of us, and to take home the two most coveted awards in the entire beer industry was surreal,” founder Jeremy Tofte recounted in an interview.

Melvin Brewing traces its humble beginnings to the remote ski town of Jackson, Wyoming. In 2009, Tofte began experimenting with a small 20-gallon brew setup in the back of his popular Thai Me Up restaurant. As their reputation grew, they built a full-scale brewing facility in Alpine, Wyoming.

Melvin’s arrival to the City of Subdued Excitement last summer caused a regional stir, generating hordes of ‘Hamsters, customers from Seattle, the Skagit Valley, and British Columbia, and a Seattle Times headline that read, “The best brewery to open in Washington state this year is finally here.”

If it seems odd that Melvin’s first expansion out of Wyoming would land in Bellingham instead of a larger beer-crazed city like Portland, Denver, or Seattle, consider its local roots.

Tofte grew up in Mount Vernon and spent formative years snowboarding at the Mt. Baker Ski Area. He started working for his father’s Western Washington beer distribution company at the age of eight.

His pursuit of powder and tasty brews eventually led him to Bend, Oregon—with its champagne-light snow and legendary Deschutes Brewery—and then on to Jackson Hole.

Melvin’s arrival in Bellingham then is the story of Tofte circling back toward home.

A tour of the new seven-barrel brewing facilities below the taproom revealed a large walk-in cooler, pallets stacked high with hops and malts and four gleaming fermenters, each labeled with the name of a different Scandinavian mythological figure: Freja, Odin, Embla, and Loki.

Brewmaster David Meadows stood among the new brewing equipment Thursday night with a large smile and a pint in hand, waxing philosophical on esoteric topics such as the outer space origins of yeast, the Bible as a misunderstood brewing manual, and the research of Dr. Masura Emoto on the effects of human consciousness on the molecular structure of water.

Meadows, who holds a degree in technology of malting and brewing, spent 30 years in Sweden learning European brewing techniques and opened his first brewery in Stockholm in 2005. His knowledge of the history of brewing beer is vast, and his time overseas taught him how different locales produce different qualities in beer—the malts of Heidelberg, the water of the Pilsen River, how the geology and geography of the land produce different flavors and feelings.

That’s why he’s excited about this new venture in the Fourth Corner, the 351st brew system on his resume. He raves about the quality of the local Nooksack-sourced water—“it’s so soft!”—as well as the ready access to some of the world’s best hops from Eastern Washington and heirloom varieties of malts from Skagit Valley Malting.

“Beer, like wine, should reflect the place it is made, and I’m really excited about discovering the terroir of my new home,” he says.

“We’re not here to say ‘We’re the best’,” concludes general manager Powers. “We’re here to contribute to this amazing Bellingham beer community.”

[Sidebar]

Meet Melvin’s new Bellingham-brewed beers

•Block Away Brown, nutty and smooth with a dry, sweet finish: 6.3% ABV

•MBR, Melvin’s take on a light Blue Ribbon-style beer, with high chugabililty factor: 4.7% ABV

• Peaches Innit, a white pale ale infused with white peach puree: 5.4% ABV

• Mellvingham IPA, loaded with more than five pounds of hops per barrel: 7.4% ABV

Future brews will include an American stout, a Danish red lager, a pilsner, and Swedish-style beers. Meadows is also excited about experimenting with hardwood barrel fermenting, using local fruit and honey to conjure up new varietals. “Wild barrel is the future,” he says.

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