Penn Cove Taproom opening on So. Main

Two Coupeville natives, brothers Marc and Mitch Aparicio, this week expect to see the first tangible result of their long-standing interest in beer and brewing. The Penn Cove Taproom plans to open for business at 103 S. Main St. in their home town.

“We want to be a place where the community gathers and where we can help build the craft-beer industry on the island and nearby,” said Marc, 45, Penn Cove Brewing Co.’s sole full-time employee at the moment.

“We want to be involved with Coupeville, by serving beer and food at festivals, helping tourists have a great time here and just by creating jobs, paying taxes and being part of the Chamber of Commerce.”

The taproom’s high-ceilinged home, a former insurance sales office, will hold 50 and seat 30 — enough for most occasions, but small enough so that on a winter’s night when only 10 people come out, it still feels cozy, Marc said.

For festivals, a tent out front will add 50 more seats.

The room will have 14 taps, to showcase a wide variety of beers. For the moment, that won’t include anything brewed by Penn Cove itself, because Marc doesn’t have his brewer’s license yet. Instead, the tap room will serve beers from Island and surrounding counties, where “there is an amazing amount of good beer being brewed,” he said.

South Whidbey’s two breweries, Double Bluff Brewing Co. in Langley and tiny Thirsty Crab, of Freeland, will be represented, as will Oak Harbor’s Flyers.

Numerous other regional breweries will also be featured, including Port Townsend Brewing Co. and Mount Vernon’s North Sound Brewing Co. and Farmstrong Brewing Co.

The brothers bought high-quality gear — taps, as well as dispensing and refrigeration systems — to ensure they’re serving their “guest beers” just as the brewers intended.

“It’s my responsibility to these brewers to make sure we serve perfect pours,” Marc said.

Most of the beer will be served from so-called sixth barrel kegs, containing about 5.2 gallons, which makes for 42 pint-size servings. Smaller barrels mean more changes and so more work, but also the possibility of rotating through more varieties.

“My goal is when people walk out, they’re excited to come back, to see what’s new,” he said.

Also on tap: hard cider and mead. A reach-in cooler will stocked with non-alcoholic beverages. Trivia and maybe even karaoke may be on hand.

Brother Mitch, 48, will be in charge of marketing.

Food is planned — lunch for sure, and maybe also dinner — but the only menu item nailed down so far is mussel chowder. With its top-secret recipe, the taproom plans to compete in the Penn Cove MusselFest March 12-13.

A big-screen TV will show sports.

Hours will be 11 a.m to 10 p.m.

“We don’t want to be a 2 a.m. bar,” Marc said. “That’s not our clientele.”

Most customers are expected to range from 35 to 65 years old and to come from the island, including Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The taproom is directly across the street from a bus line directly to and from the base, which could increase driver safety.

The location across from Coupeville Elementary School doesn’t trouble the school at all, Marc said. It even sent a letter to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board proclaiming its support.

Without legal permission to brew, the brothers for now will focus on exploring and perfecting recipes, and Marc will continue brewing from his home, though by law he can’t sell his product. The brothers will explore contracting with another brewery to produce their recipes, Marc said.

Beer has only four ingredients: Flavoring such as hops, yeast, starch such as malted barley and water. But factor in other influences such as brewing temperature and time, March said, and that basic palette can yield a nearly infinite variety of tastes.

He envisions the future Penn Cove Brewery turning out mainly specialty beers — those with big flavors and high alcohol content. A good example, he said, is Ditzy Blonde, from Birdsview Brewing Co. in Concrete. Such pale ales are usually mild and low-alcohol, but this one is 8 percent and “a really big beer.”

It will be available at the taproom.

He might experiment with barrel aging, or with some of the grain coming from Skagit Valley Malting in Burlington. That business aims to produce small batches of temperature- and moisture-controlled custom malts made from locally grown grains.

“What they’re doing is really exciting,” he said.

With a start-up budget of roughly $60,000, the Aparicio brothers hope to be in the black within five years. It could be much sooner, though, depending on how much business they get during festivals and at the tap room.

In addition to launching the business, Marc, a retired Coast Guardsman, coaches baseball for Coupeville High School, his alma mater, and teaches at two online colleges. He’s been dabbling in home brewing since 1996. Mitch currently works full-time in telecommunications.

The brothers looked at other locations for their tap room, including Oak Harbor. But “we’re from Coupeville, so we thought we needed to be here,” Marc said.