Penn Cove Brewery owners Mitch and Marc Aparicio at their new Freeland location. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Penn Cove Brewery owners Mitch and Marc Aparicio at their new Freeland location. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Brewery in the barn: Here’s Whidbey’s newest craft-beer hotspot

Penn Cove Brewing Co. has expanded its operations to a scenic spot on Whidbey Island with views of Holmes Harbor and the Olympic Mountains.

Grab a beer and take a seat in an Adirondack chair under the shade of giant horse chestnut tree whose limbs stretch out over you like spindly arms.

Penn Cove Brewing Co. has expanded its operations to a 5-acre farm in Freeland. It’s a scenic spot on Whidbey Island to enjoy a pint, with views of Holmes Harbor and the Olympic Mountains.

When owners Marc and Mitch Aparicio opened the new brewery and taproom at Freeland Brewery and Taproom on S. Freeland Avenue, they established the newest craft-beer destination in the area.

For a long time, Whidbey Island was known for its wineries, gardens, beaches and restaurants — not for its beer.

But that is changing. Led by Penn Cove, Double Bluff and Ogres Brewing, among others, Whidbey Island is now drawing craft-beer fans from across Possession Sound. The Aparicios say their Freeland brewery is reason enough for visitors to jump on the ferry.

“We think that the barn will draw people to the island,” Marc Aparicio told The Daily Herald in May. “It’s a chance for them to see what we have to offer. We know that we can create an experience that will allow us to grow simply by word of mouth.”

The brothers founded Penn Cove Brewing in 2015. Their goal was to become Whidbey Island’s largest brewery. Over the years, they’ve built their flagship taproom in Coupeville, added a 10-barrel brewhouse to that location, and opened another taproom in Oak Harbor.

With their second brewery and third taproom in Freeland, the Aparicios have embraced the rustic farmhouse setting.

Designed and built by Cascade Custom Homes, the brewery incorporates the circa 1890 gambrel-roofed barn into the construction. They’re looking for a way to incorporate a nearby farmhouse built around the same time.

As Penn Cove’s head brewer, Erick Adam aims to take the brewery’s beer to the next level. So far, Penn Cove has focused on ales and lagers, but Adam said that the Freeland location will allow his team to venture into more styles, including barrel-aged beers, kettle sours, Belgians and, not ironically, farmhouse ales.

The soon-to-be-built 3½-barrel brewhouse will give Adam more flexibility to brew smaller, experimental batches. There also are plans to build a yeast lab so Penn Cove can grow its own. Adam hopes to gather as many ingredients as possible from island farms, including hops, barley and fruit.

“It’s exciting to think about the new stuff we can produce here,” Adam said. “Beers that are fruity, funky, sour. All of it.”

The old barn and new taproom overlook an expansive field that Penn Cove Brewing plans to turn into an entertainment venue. They’re hoping for live music, beer festivals, car shows and more.

Both Coupeville High School graduates, Marc and Mitch are pouring much of their time and effort into building up the island’s food and beer community. The Aparicio brothers are looking to partner with Whidbey Island businesses as they do it.

“We want to collaborate with local producers as much as possible and bring Whidbey Island together,” Marc Aparicio told The Herald. “That means working with other breweries, wineries, cideries, restaurants, farms — you name it. We want to be known as a Whidbey-grown product.”

One of those collaborations is with Gordon Stewart, head chef of Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill. Stewart operates Reasonably Gordon’s, a food truck specializing in pub grub at the Freeland brewery and taproom.

When Penn Cove approached him about operating a food truck at their new location, Stewart was a little perplexed.

“My first impression was not great,” he said with a laugh. “I’d never worked in a food truck and, honestly, it felt like somewhere you’d start, not a next step from where we were. But I like a challenge.”

Stewart refers to himself as a “culinary evangelist,” so a food truck gives him the opportunity to reach c`ustomers who may not ever set foot in his white-tablecloth restaurant just over the hill. He’s serving Penn Cove visitors Korean pork tacos, Cubano sandwiches, coconut shrimp, elk burgers and more.

If you go

Penn Cove’s Freeland Brewery and Taproom, 5488 S. Freeland Ave., Freeland, is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 360-682-5747 or go to penncovebrewing.com for more information.

What to drink

Until Penn Cove gets its new brewing system up and running, make sure to try these beers on tap:

Madrona Way IPA: This Northwest-style IPA is Penn Cove’s best-seller. Built off a solid malt backbone, Madrona Way has a strong hoppy finish with notes of citrus and pine.

Rocky Point Pilsner: Light bodied with a crisp finish, this pilsner is perfect for hot weather and a relaxing afternoon in the shade. Malt forward, with flavors of biscuit and subtle earthy spices.

Coupeville Lager: Smooth with a malty sweetness and light bitterness, this lager gets extra time in the tank to round off its edges. Finishes cleans and is an easy drinker.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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