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Country Life B8 • lyndentribune.com • Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Farm-to-bottle

Blaine’s Atwood Ales produces beer using local ingredients, recently took home national award By Brent Lindquist brent@lyndentribune.com

BLAINE — Josh Smith doesn’t need to go far to find the ingredients he uses to brew beer. Smith owns and operates Atwood Ales with his wife, Monica, and his parents, Stephen and Leslee. They take their identity as a farm brewery and apply it to just about every facet of the brewing process. Many of the ingredients used in the beers he produces are grown just a few hundred feet away from the brewhouse. Atwood Ales recently received national recognition at the eighth annual Good Food Awards in San Francisco. The brewery earned a Good Food Award for its rhubarb sour ale, called Rhuty.

Josh Smith finishes up brew day last week in the brewhouse at Atwood Ales. The brewery’s name comes from a family middle name shared by Josh, his father and his grandfather. (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

Monica Smith walks the Atwood Ales farmland. Many of the brewery’s ingredients are harvested on-site. (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

The brewery “The overarching theme is Belgian and French farmhouse,” Josh said. “Inside of that, the philosophical approach is using local stuff and using what’s in season. Those are the driving factors for our choices. What’s growing, what’s ripe, what’s fresh, and also just what’s interesting.” Josh grew up on the Blaine farm on which the brewery is now located. When he headed off to the University of Idaho to study landscape architecture, his parents sold off their cattle, making room for what would later become their farm brewery.

Josh ended up back in Whatcom County around when the economy crashed in 2008 after working for a year as a landscape architect. “Things just weren’t being developed or built,” he said. He worked seasonally as a landscape architect in Bellingham while also bartending, home-brewing and working as a barista. He worked part-time as an assistant brewer and bartender at Frankenstein in Ferndale. After about a year and a half doing that, he met Jim Parker, a longtime stalwart of the Whatcom County craft brewery scene. They worked to-

gether on the Bellingham Beer Lab, a communitysupported project that never quite got off the ground. However, Josh learned a lot through his experience as a bartender and brewer, and in January 2015 Atwood Ales was incorporated, with Josh, Stephen and Leslee as the coowners. “Josh wanted to open his brewery, and he asked his dad, ‘What do you think about me turning the barn into a brewery?’” Monica said. “His dad said, ‘I’ve been waiting five years for you to ask me that.’” See Atwood on B9

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018 • lyndentribune.com • B9

Early spring tasks in the garden

Monica Smith pours a pint of Atwood Ales’ Autumn Rabbit beer. (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

Atwood Continued from B8 Stephen currently works as the farm’s manager, and Leslee helps with bottling and at the farmers market. She works as a fulltime lieutenant with North Whatcom Fire and Rescue. “Everything I learned, I basically moved over toward this project,” Josh said. “Then, about a month after we filed the incorporation paperwork, Monica and I went on our first date.” Frankenstein had become Maggie’s Pub, and Monica was working there at the time. Josh was a customer, and later he worked there and Monica was his customer. “Where I got my start in brewing professionally was where we ended up meeting,” Josh said. All of the equipment in the brewhouse was purchased on Craigslist, including a modified hydrotherapy tub that now serves as a mash tub. They started modifying the existing farm structures in the summer of 2015, and Josh brewed his first batch of beer there on March 18, 2016. Atwood Ales sold its first bottle on May 14, 2016, at the Bellingham Farmers Market. “The first batch brewed was the oyster

stout with Drayton Harbor Oysters, our first wholesale account,” Josh said. “We dropped that off on the way to the farmers market. We had the oyster stout, our Grange farmhouse ale, our Lodge Scottish ale and our Biére de Garde.” The Grange farmhouse ale and Dark Harbor oyster stout are two of Atwood’s regular offerings, along with Mo’s Saison (named for Monica) and the No Whey, Bro sour blonde ale. Beyond those is a wide variety of rotating beers using all manner of local ingredients. There’s the Spiced Crab Gose, created in collaboration with Lynden Liquor and combining a Gose-style sour ale with crab boils. The Raccoon Bacchanal is a sour grape saison named for the raccoons that routinely savage the farm’s small crop of grapes. Josh has used many different ingredients in making unique beers since Atwood was founded, including freshly pressed apple juice, honeysuckle flowers, sage, rosemary, stinging nettles and more. Every batch of beer is different. Their brewing choices are limited, however, by the philosophy of the brewery. “It is, in some ways, like wearing a pair of handcuffs,” Josh said. “We try not to do things that are too far out of season or things that are too far out

of things that are localish.” Equipment is also a limiting factor. Temperature control is not a feature on two of the brewery’s three tanks, so the weather around the brewery is always a consideration. Atwood Ales uses a two-barrel brewing system, making it one of the smaller outfits in Whatcom County. By comparison, Boundary Bay uses 17 barrels, Chuckanut Brewery uses 10 and the North Fork Brewery uses about three and a half. Atwood Ales has 60 hops plants of five different varieties planted on 16-foot trellises in the hopyard behind the brewery. Currently, all of those hops are picked by hand. Many of the ingredients used are grown right on the farm, and about 80 percent of the grain used comes from Skagit Valley Malting. Eventually, the Smiths hope to grow some of their own grain on-site to make entirely estateproduced beers a possibility. The business    Monica works as the brewery’s director of sales,

marketing and distribution, and she handles the balancing act that comes along with running a small brewery. “We’ll grow a bit, and hopefully, within two years, we’ll have a taproom in downtown Blaine,” she said. A big part of Monica’s job is handling the brewery’s wholesale accounts, which range from Vancouver, B.C., all the way down to Tacoma. Opening a taproom might force Atwood to shrink its wholesale account numbers down a bit to make room, and Monica said she might not be ready for that yet. She said relationships with customers and finding the right fits for Atwood’s beers are important facets of her job. “I want to make sure they’re going to spots where they’ll be displayed properly, stored properly and represented properly,” she said. The Smiths plan to remodel the old barn to make room for a walk-in cooler, more barrel space, more tanks and a bottling line. “It’ll be a big help,” Josh said.

Where to buy Atwood Ales Lynden — Drizzle, The Green Barn, Lynden Liquor, Northwood Market, Overflow Taps (rotating) Check www.AtwoodAles.com for more information and a beer finder.

Small Farm Expo Feb. 24 at fairgrounds Seminars on half hour, UW speaker at noon   WHATCOM — The third annual free Small Farm Expo will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, on the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden. Whether you are trying to grow your own food, making a transition from hobby to business, or already operating a small farm business, this event can offer help in every situation.    There will be hands-on exhibits demonstrating the latest in agricultural innovation, products and services as well as seminars by local veterinarians, financial advisors and horticulturalists.    Designed to be an informal meet-and-greet and networking event, visitors will find opportunities to engage with exhibitors and other farmers. Discover

new resources to improve and expand crop productivity, animal health, pasture quality and homesteading happiness.    Over 35 different organizations will be represented, including tractor suppliers, agronomists, veterinarians, butchers, master composters, solar providers, financial resources for farmers, and more. There will be presentations on the half hour, with a special talk from noon to 1 p.m. Refreshments are available for purchase as well as lunch from Good to Go Meat Pies.    The seminars are:    • 9:30 a.m. “Energy Conscious Farming”    • 10 a.m. “From Hobby to Business”    • 10:30 a.m. “Animal Disease Traceability”    • 11 a.m. “Low Stress Animal Handling”    • 11:30 a.m. “Mud- and Stress-Free Farming”    • 1 p.m. “Orchard and Pruning Basics”    • 1:30 p.m. “Common

Ailments of Sheep and Goats”    The mid-day keynote address is by Dr. David Montgomery, professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington and author of “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” “The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health,” and “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.” Combining ancient wisdom with modern science, Montgomery offers a vision of agriculture becoming the solution to environmental problems, helping feed us

all and cool the planet.    Hosted by the Whatcom Conservation District and Whatcom County Public Works, this event is free and open to the public. Check out the WCD website or event Facebook Page “Small Farm Expo” for updates.    Free tarps and free soil testing will be available to qualifying farmers, while supplies last.    For more information, visit www.whatcomcd.org/ small-farm-expo or contact Aneka Sweeney at 360-5262381 ext. 103, asweeney@ whatcomcd.org.

  With gradually improving weather and daylight hours getting longer, spring is in the air. Look outside and you’ll be sure to find your bulbs sprouted, trees and shrubs starting to bud and life bursting forth throughout the garden. As you start your spring clean-up around the yard and make the first gardening to-do lists, here are some early-season jobs you’ll want to accomplish.   First, it’s time for spring pruning. Keep in mind, though, that some plants should not be pruned at this time, so before you get lopperhappy, have a game plan. Right now is not the time to prune many springblooming shrubs. The best time to cut back those plants is right after they bloom. So, if you have rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs, forsythia, pieris or any number of other spring bloomers, wait until later this spring to prune.    Now is a great time, though, to start pruning most of the other plants around your yard. Depending on how old your rose bushes are and how diligent you’ve been with pruning over the years, you should plan to cut roses back to six inches to a foot tall. Also thin out all but the youngest, healthiest three to five main “canes,” or branches. Aggressively pruning this way in early spring will remove any wood damaged by winter cold or wind and reinvigorate your plants for the coming season.    Late winter is also a good time to prune your fruit trees, so if you haven’t already started this, get to work! Remember, fruit trees stay healthiest and the most productive when given proper air circulation in and around the foliage and fruit, so try to prune out any branches that angle toward the center of the tree and thin out any crowded or crossing branches.    Secondly, now is the time to start treating your plants preventatively for insects and diseases. Aside from a good freeze around Christmas, this winter has been mild, so undoubtedly many more insects and fungus spores have survived the winter than we’d prefer.   That said, treating for pest and disease issues early in the season is a relatively easy task. For insect-susceptible shrubs and trees like some varieties of spruce and flowering cherries, Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub In-

By David Vos

sect Control is an easy-touse, effective insecticide that requires no spraying and provides a full year of protection against insects — just water it in around the base of the plant. For non-flowering trees, apply Bonide Tree & Shrub anytime; for flowering trees, apply right after blooming.   To address issues of both insects and diseases with one product, several options are available to provide broadspectrum control. Bonide All-Seasons Oil is a great dormant spray for insects and some diseases, Copper Dust or Spray controls a wider variety of diseases, and Fruit Tree & Plant Guard provides easyto-use control of a wide range of both insects and diseases throughout the growing season. In any case, consult a local garden center for guidance on the best product and timing for your plants to achieve the best results.    Finally, it’s time to begin planting! Bareroot fruit trees are available at many local nurseries for cheaper than the potted equivalents will be later in the season, and with no rootball to manage, they’re incredibly easy to handle as well. For your containers, winterblooming heather makes a great long-lasting shrub that can be transplanted into the yard later this spring. And, of course, spring primroses and pansies provide unbeatable color for the coming months.    As we enjoy the first signs of spring, make the most of the mild weather and enjoy the life-giving sights and smells of a new year!   Editor’s Note: The Vander Giessen Nursery website currently leads “remembering Ada Vos, 1926-2018” and celebrating her life with a tribute from the family. Ada, “a second-generation owner and longtime face” of the business, died on Feb. 3 at age 91. She and husband John ran their beloved greenhouse operation for many years together.   David Vos is general manager of Vander Giessen Nursery Inc. of Lynden.

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B10 • Wednesday, February 14, 2018 • lyndentribune.com

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Country Life February 2018  
Country Life February 2018  
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