RAYMOND — Roughly three years after starting Willapa Brewing in Raymond in 2016, the McMurry family has taken another step toward bringing more of their hearty brew to the masses.
A soft opening was held Thursday, May 2, at 405 Minnesota Ave. in South Bend, the site of their new building and beer garden where more than 20 light, dark and barrel-aged beers were tapped.
A 1890s steam donkey across the street serves as a steady reminder and unlikely inspiration.
“Our theme is logging related, and it’s really handy that right outside the window is an 18th century steam donkey,” said general manager and brewer Ryan McMurry.
“All of our beers are named after logging terms.”
There’s the Cork Boot Brown, a brown ale inspired by the rugged ‘caulk’ boots loggers often wear. Misery Whip Wheat is a pale wheat ale named after the strenuous two-man crosscut saws once used to cut trees. Double Bit Black IPA is a Cascadian dark ale inspired by the two-sided type of ax. Skunk Cabbage IPA, among the best sellers, is a New England-style IPA named in honor of the odor of the hops released during brewing. Several variations have since spun off from the popular brew, including a Hazy IPA.
“We can’t keep it in stock,” McMurry said. “It sells as fast as we make it.”
There are about 30 beers that they rotate through seasonally. The IPA and stout beers are particularly popular and are among the mainstays spread across 21 taps. Their core beers are distributed among a dozen different accounts.
“When we get this place up and running, we expect to do 200 to 300 barrels a year,” McMurry said.
A full flavor and body is a common thread through their brews.
“All of our beers are hearty, full ales, there’s nothing light or lacking in flavor or ingredients,” McMurry said. “We don’t cut any corners.”
Some of the varieties routinely exceed 9 percent alcohol content, including Double Knee Whiskey Stout, which recently won a gold medal at the 2018 Washington Beer Awards. McMurry said they used local barrels from Wishkah River Distillery in Aberdeen in making the winning brew.
“We now have several barrel-aged beers, which takes a long time,” McMurry said. “The one we’re releasing as soon as we open has been in the barrel aging for over a year. The barrel-aged beers exceeded our expectations.”
While the beer ages in the whiskey barrel, it begins to take on some of characteristics of the bourbon.
“It’s richer and a little stronger,” McMurry said.
New building, beer garden
Opening a bigger location to better serve their beer was always part of the plan, McMurry said.
The building, once occupied by Absolute Plumbing and a residential apartment, adds about 3,000-square feet of indoor and outside room to serve and sell their beers.
“This has to happen for us,” McMurry said. “Where we’re located, we don’t have a big enough brewery to distribute widely. And you don’t make very much money by distribution, you have to have lots of volume. We’ve built our customer base over the past couple years. We have a really good following and product, and now we get to sell it directly to people on a regular basis, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
A considerable remodel started in April to prepare the space for its new use. Using rough-cut timbers, they milled a couple thousand board feet of lumber for the entryway, interior walls and fence surrounding the outside seating area.
McMurry defined the overall ambiance as “refined rustic.” Pizza and house-brewed soda will be available in addition to wine and cider. The original location at 556 Mill Creek will continue as the sole brew site for now.