It’s strange to call a brewery underrated that has won a Gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, especially in such a hot category as American-style Brett Beer but that’s exactly what Port Townsend, Washington’s Propolis Brewing is. Worthy to be mentioned alongside breweries like Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and The Ale Apothecary, the brewery is making not so much strange but old world rustic ales, the likes of which are rarely seen these days. These are beers brewed with nettles, spruce, cedar, and elderberries, like the ancient and obscure “Sahti” (a rare style that The Ale Apothecary also brews), brewed through a wooden trough. What is even more impressive is that Propolis has been doing it for three years on a one barrel nano system and distributing to Oregon, where a small but adoring niche of beer geeks have been singing their praises for a few years now. Now is your chance to help the brewery fund a full size brewery and taproom.
3-year old Propolis Brewing is dedicated to French/Belgian farmhouse ales, wild/sour/brett beers, and–most uniquely–low to un-hopped saisons with the additions of locally harvested spices, herbs, roots, berries, and other strange naturally foraged ingredients. These amazing herbal, floral and spiced concoctions will change your perceptions of beer and leave an impression that the brewers have memorized the book of Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. The remedy for overhopped ales, Propolis’s beers are often flavored by the addition of spelt, oats, and stranger spices like spruce, elderflower blossoms, sage, and hyssop.
Primarily available in minimalist 750ml bottles and the odd keg, the Propolis Brewing beers more than warrant a slightly higher price tag that still comes under some of their more buzzed-about contemporaries. Reminiscent of the soon-to-be classic story of Mike Wright, who founded Beetje Brewing in his garage and eventually scaled his production up twice into new brewhouses at The Commons–the Propolis Brewing team is attempting a similar rare feat.
Propolis Brewing is at once a model to hold up of how you both can and can not succeed as a nano brewery. Despite accolades and fans, the brewery simply can’t keep up with a one barrel brewhouse, and the beer is not profitable enough for a big expansion. It’s at this point that most nano brewers give up, while a few dig deep for investors, bank loans, grants or whatever they can do to scale up.
I have gotten to know co-founder/brewer Robert Horner and partner Piper Corbett just a little through the Portland Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival, which has featured a Propolis booth the last 2 years. As humble and passionate founders with a passion for inspiration and quality, they strive towards merely getting a toe rather than a foot in the door of the industry. Recently parting ways with Oregon distributor Point Blank, 2015 is a year of new beginnings for Propolis.
Robert and Piper have found an existing building they hope to move the brewery to on Jefferson Street near the Pourhouse and West Marine in Port Townsend. The new brewery will be a new destination in Port Townsend, with a real 10bbl brewhouse and full taproom to showcase the high quality ales. To reach its goal, the brewery needs to raise about $50,000 and is utilizing Community Sourced Capital, part of Fund Local Project, a statewide initiative launched by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The program is similar to the Oregon Community Capital project that Eugene’s Agrarian Ales has raised over $59,000 on (and counting), which is just 36% of the goal. Propolis Brewing is attempting to raise $50,000 in public shares, or “squares” as they are called, for $50 a piece. The idea is for small businesses that need to raise less than $100,000 an opportunity outside of a bank loan to borrow money repayable within 3 years. Honestly, this is a way to invest in a project with fewer benefits than a Kickstarter, because there are not necessarily any rewards or interest. In many ways this is a more honest investment in a company’s future and an initiative to the community who can support up and coming businesses. Like Kickstarter, the Community Sourced Capital funding requires a minimum; in Propolis Brewing’s case, the company needs to reach at least $20,000 by June 19th, and as of this writing has raised $2,500.
Support small breweries, support small and local by helping fund the Propolis Brewery & Taproom, or at the very least seek out a bottle of the eye -pening brew. Let me recommend the Gold medal-winning Beltane – Golden Elderflower Saison Brett, or if you cannot find that one, the 5-grain herbal saison — Granum.