John Robertson is a Bellevue native and a lover of his hometown, though he's quick to decry it as "the biggest void of breweries in Western Washington." He has set out to change this, and the guy isn't messing around. Robertson has joined forces with the former president and head brewer at Olympia's Fish Brewing Company, and is planning to open Bellevue Brewing Company October 1, near 130th Ave NE and NE 20th St.
Their aim: give people a going-out alternative to Bellevue Square, which is why Robertson, a longtime commercial real estate guy, is excited about this semi-industrial space, in the geographic center of town and just around the corners from Intellectual Ventures and the Modernist Cuisine lab. "Bellevue is kind of like a marshmallow; you can poke and poke and poke and never find the center."
Robertson's cofounder, Scott Hansen, started Leavenworth Biers in 1991; the brewery later merged with Fish and installed Hansen as president. The two are old friends, though ask them how you met and all you'll get are chortles and the assurance that it was "in a fun way" not suitable for blogs. Presumably copious amounts of beer were involved.
The two are hesitant to use the term brewpub, but Bellevue Brewing won't exactly be a pretzels-and-folding-chairs type of taproom. The public area is 12,000 square feet (though patrons are encouraged to mingle in the 6,000-square-foot brewhouse), seats about 250, and is divided into spaces that appeal to families, couch-loungers, barflies, and more. A handful of private rooms with AV setups can keep your business meeting well-lubricated. It's also, says Robertson, "our way of keeping the Huskies and the Cougars separated."
Head brewer Tony Powell, most recently head brewer at Fish, is readying 12 in-house beers, which will include a rotating cast of eight and four yearround staples. Currently those staples will be IPA, ESB, a Scotch ale, and an oatmeal stout. The first seasonals in the works are a Belgian-style wit, and a Baltic porter, which Powell says is "halfway between an English porter and a Russian imperial stout."
Robertson is wary of filling people's stomachs with beer without some accompanying food. Bellevue Brewing will serve ploughman's plates (aka locally sourced meats and cheeses), hot and cold sandwiches, huge salads, and handmade pizzas. But again, he says, the focus is on the beer.
The Bellevue Brewing team even has a second location in the works already. Right now the goal is getting the brewery open, hopefully by October 1. Robertson says he's all about adding some "cultural texture" to the town he loves. Also: "Letting people know that Bellevue rocks pretty well."