Bellevue Brewing serves up ‘more than beer’
BY CELINA KAREIVA
“I’m a music fan, so when I think of brewing, I think of jazz,” John Robertson says. “There’s a lot of borrowing in jazz that goes on. That’s how it evolved. Well, brewing is similar. You taste other beers and you try and hit those notes with your beer.”
Last month, Robertson and his team of brewers, chefs and personnel, opened Bellevue Brewing, the first craft distillery of its kind in the city. The 12,000 square foot space, includes a 20 barrel brew house, rooms for entertaining, and a 22 inch projection screen, while promising a family friendly atmosphere.
Robertson and his business partner, Scott Hansen, first thought of the idea over drinks one day. Pondering life and their own careers, the two began to realize that the business venture had potential.
Hansen, who founded Leavenworth Biers, had long been in the business. And though Robertson’s background was in commercial real estate, he’d always taken an interest in craft brewing.
In January of 2010, the business partners formed the entity. Though they admit it wasn’t easy. Finding a location of the size needed, was particularly difficult and because it’s a quasi-governmental endeavor, says Robertson, every step of operations has to be carefully reported.
But Robertson points to places like Portland — which has 40 breweries within city limits—and sees potential for the Eastside to develop a similar scene.
“What’s changing is the locavore movement,” says Robertson. “People are looking to eat locally, and do business locally. After the recession, people’s mindsets have been thrown up in the air, and…their attitudes are changing.”
Beer has four main ingredients: grain, water, yeast and hops, says Robertson, gesturing to the tall stainless steel vessels at the back of the taproom.
“Upfront when you’re designing a beer, there’s a lot of–’I want it to taste like this.’ Or, ‘I don’t want it to taste like that.’ There’s a lot of compiling [ideas].”
Robertson adds the food menu at Bellevue Brewing Company is unlike any other brewery – to ensure that the locale isn’t just a destination for its beers, but its food as well.
Compared to the deep-fried approach to most pub menus, Robertson lists beer cheese soup, traditional Caesar salad and a Scotch ale bread pudding. Lead chef Rick Lowell also used favorite brews as inspiration for several courses, like homemade ice cream made with BBC’s own stout, stouthearted chili and BBC stout-braised bratwurst.
Having worked at Daniel’s Broiler and for five years as executive chef for Bill and Melinda Gates, Lowell brings his own set of expertise to the team. It only made sense to apply the same care to BBC’s food menu as it did its beers, said Robertson. A testament to their commitment to fresh and local eats, BBC does not even own a freezer.
But what distinguishes Bellevue Brewing from its predecessors, Rock Bottom Brewery, and Redhook Ale up north, is a commitment to community, says Robertson.
When he and Hansen, first committed to the business venture, both agreed that it had to be “about more than beer.” True to those founding principles, five percent of all profits will go toward charities for children. Robertson says that mission has become especially poignant after the tragedies in Connecticut. They hope to hold charity events and fundraisers in the space as well.
Bellevue Brewing Company is located at 1820 130th Avenue N.E. Suite 2, Bellevue.