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Co-op brew corner

Co-op Brew Corner:  The Marvel of Melvin

For many it’s no surprise to hear the Pacific Northwest is the epicenter of a craft brewing Renaissance.  Independent microbreweries are opening across Washington State, Oregon and British Columbia.  Skagit and Whatcom County alone host over 20 breweries.  Our local Skagit Valley College offers a Craft Brewing Certificate program with hands-on brew laboratory experience and internship opportunities at local breweries and distilleries.

According to the agricultural 2016 Hop Harvest Report, hop acreage in the United States is in its fifth consecutive year of growth, up 17% in the Pacific Northwest.  Hop farmers in Oregon and Washington pulled in a record 91.8 million pounds of hops, supplying over 96% of the U.S. crop.  In 2016 America grew 40% of the world’s hops.

It’s no wonder such a region inspires so much quality craft brew.  Many Skagit county breweries, such as Birdsview, Chuckanut, and North Sound Brewing produce draft beer, exclusively by the keg, pint or growler.  Visit the Co-op’s Third Street Café for an exciting, seasonal selection of local and regional craft beer.  The Co-op’s Beer and Cider department also features many local brews from Boundary Bay, Kulshan and Wander Brewing of Bellingham.

Melvin Moves In

A standout brewery that has recently moved northwesterly is Melvin Brewing.  Not yet a decade old, Melvin’s lifespan does not limit its talent or success.  Since 2011, its brews have garnered dozens of awards, including a Gold Medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival for Melvin IPA in the Fresh/Wet Hop Ale category.

The heart of Melvin started beating in the small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  With big ideas and even bigger barrels of hops, Melvin is now headed by a trifecta of Owner and Mount Vernon native, Jeremy Tofte, Co-Founder/Drunken Brewmaster Kirk McHale, and head Production Brewer, Dave Chichura.  The team started in the back of a Thai restaurant on a 20 gallon brewing system in 2010 and upgraded to a 100-gallon system in 2011.  These days they brew on a 30 barrel system with “big shiny tanks and centrifuges and things.”

Melvin Brewing also got an early boost from their home state.  As part of a program to encourage local exports, Wyoming awarded Melvin Brewing a $3 million dollar grant to build a production facility.  This new home base landed in the mountain hamlet of Alpine (pop. 700).  Thanks to the expansion, Melvin sent their first kegs out to the West Coast in January 2016 and Melvin’s IPA 6-packs released on April Fool’s Day 2016.

The Liquid Lineup

Lifting expectations and bucking the trend: it’s classic Melvin.  Their beer is first and foremost well-crafted.  Inspired by the natural abundance of Northwest hops and American grown malted barley, Melvin’s brews are fermented and dry hopped longer than many domestic ales.  Plus the Melvin team has a full lab to check brew consistency and quality on an hourly basis.

The flagship Melvin India Pale Ale is drinkable alchemy: an approachable IPA where brewers extract flavor from herbal, spicy hops without imparting an overpowering bitterness.  Melvin produces an impressive array of styles, from their bright, blonde Killer Bees to the intense, high octane 2×4 DIPA.  The Melvin brew team is adaptable– look for new seasonal and limited release imperial ales in their RIIPA (Rotational Imperial IPA series) – where past highlights have included the Drunken Master, Asterisk, and Citradamus.

Small batch brewed and improvisational, keep an eye out for whatever Melvin offers next.  But don’t let your encounter end there.  Venture north and visit Melvin’s new brewpub.

Hubert Melvin Pale Ale – 6% alcohol by volume / 66 IBU – officially designated pale ale; Melvin’s Hubert packs the punch of a light, English style IPA, with well-rounded malts straddling a floral bouquet of hops. Pair it with smoked pork nachos, fall veggie stew or chicken lettuce wraps.  $11.99 per 6-pack, 12 oz.

Melvin India Pale Ale – 7.5% alcohol by volume / 80 IBU – the original, the ice breaker. Melvin’s IPA is like lying down in a hop field, and pouring beer all over yourself.  Grapefruit and cut sweet grass aromas and followed by a pleasant piney resin and caramelized malts.  Pair it with: fish ‘n’ chips, burgers or a charcuterie plate.  On sale now for $11.99 per 6-pack 12 oz. cans.

2 x 4 Double India Pale Ale – 9.9% alcohol by volume / 98+ IBU ~ a consummate award winner, Melvin’s 2×4 is a strong and hoppy ale. Rich and fragrant, this imperial pairs surprisingly well with sweet desserts, such as cheesecake or burnt custard with raspberries.  2×4 is available for $11.99 per 4-pack 12 oz. cans.

Killer Bees American Blonde Ale – 5% alcohol by volume / 15 IBU – this bee-inspired blonde is crisp and refreshing. Light malts and a hint of clover honey combine to create a friendly, drinkable champagne-like ale.” Maybe remove “ale” from the first sentence, and leave it as: “this bee inspired blonde is crisp and refreshing.”

Pair it with:  CURED smoked salmon and Co-op Deli Caramelized Onion dip, on rye toast with pickles and capers.  Killer Bees is on sale for $9.99 per 6-pack, 12 oz. cans.

Melvin Brewpub Bellingham

2416 Meridian Street ~ Bellingham, WA

“If your beer is not madness, it’s not beer.”

Enter Melvin’s new location in Whatcom County with an open mind.  Their brew pub is a low-key, stylish way to experience the snappy Melvin brand.  The crew is planning to expand into an attached brewing facility later this year.

Immerse yourself in an ambiance of a modern yet nostalgic brewpub.  Rustic, oversized lighting fixtures dangle as hip hop tunes and vintage Kung Fu action films play on flat screens.  The beer menu is extensive, featuring some Melvin collaborations, with ciders and guest taps.

Their food selection is friendly, yet adventurous.  Look for standard pub fare–fish and chips and burgers–but why not venture out for the Pad Thai dumplings with peanut sauce?  For (meat) burger fans: don’t miss the Drunken Master cheese burger with house made bacon onion jam.  Or go West Coast fusion: try Melvin’s Beer Miso Ramen with gochujang chicken or tofu, cooked in a 10 hour broth.


Craft Brewing Academy, Skagit Valley College –

Melvin Brewing –

Skagit Tap Trail –

USA Hop Growers of America –

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.