An old barn in Freeland has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind pub and brewery where customers will be able to sample gourmet fare from a food truck or even rent a beautiful house conveniently within stumbling-distance across the parking lot.
The venture is the latest for Penn Cove Brewing Company, which started out with a small taproom in Coupeville five years ago and has grown to include a location in downtown Oak Harbor and a brewery in Coupeville that produces bountiful brews with Whidbey-inspired names.
This time, brothers Marc and Mitch Aparicio partnered with South Whidbey resident Randy Urquhart, who had been hoping to open a taproom on South Whidbey when he learned about the Aparicios’ similar hopes through Steve Shapiro of Island Athletic Club.
Plans for the site were waylaid temporarily by the pandemic and other obstacles, but crews are hurrying to get the building prepared for the Thursday, May 27 opening, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The Freeland Taproom is the Penn Cove Brewery’s most ambitious project yet and will continue the community-oriented business plan in working with a local chef and artist, incorporating local ingredients and hiring local employees.
“I feel like this place here is going to go crazy,” Urquhart said from a balcony on the barn that has views of the Olympics in one direction and Holmes Harbor in the other.
South Whidbey residents will inexorably be drawn to the taproom by food from Chef Gordon Stewart of the well-known upscale restaurant, Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill. He will have a food truck on site, called Reasonably Gordon’s, that will offer food inspired by the brewery and local ingredients.
The menu will include a $13 chicken and waffle on a stick, with waffles made from spent grain from the brewery along with house-made rosemary bacon, fried chicken and cayenne-spiked porter syrup. Also, there will be Cubano sandwiches with pork shoulder braised in Penn Cove porter, ham, melted Swiss and dijon aioli with jalapeño pickle relish on a Cuban-style baguette.
Urquhart said the construction utilizing barn wood and distressed metal sheeting enhances the rustic feeling of the structure.
The partners are also working with South End artist Mark Wacker, who has created chandeliers, sconces, signs and other works that combine an old-timey, rural aesthetic with a touch of steampunk.
Last Wednesday, Wacker delivered a decorative wall fish, called “Swim Up Steam,” made from reclaimed wood and metal pieces, and signs for the parking area. Wacker, who was a design engineer with Boeing, said he made the various pieces to fit the unique environment.
The property includes a two-story house with four bedrooms on one level and a two-bedroom apartment below. Mitch Aparicio said the house has a lot of potential, such as a rental for people who attend a wedding reception or a brewing club event at the site.
And then there’s the beer. The flagship beer for the Freeland Taproom is Holmes Harbor Happy Lager.
The brewery within the barn will have a yeast lab and brewing equipment that’s conducive to small-batch, experimental brewing. Mitch Aparacio said they hope to engage with the home brewing community on South Whidbey and possibly host guest brewers.