Nate McLaughlin has heard them all.
There’s the story about how Justice Brewing was founded by a group of retired cops. Or the one about an old judge building a small brewery empire in north Everett. There’s plenty of origin stories concerning McLaughlin’s brewery, and his policy is to confirm them all.
The truth, which concerns Sam Adams beer, Paul Revere and a few pints, is a little less exciting.
What is exciting is the operation McLaughlin has built in a small out-building off of Chestnut Street in Everett. Starting with a small 7-gallon system, McLaughlin created Justice Brewing with the ultimate Do-It-Yourself spirit.
McLaughlin outfitted all of the electrical and plumbing for the building that houses that brewery. McLaughlin hand built his own keg stands and learned welding to modify his equipment, which now consists of a 55-gallon mash tun and brew kettle. His grain mill is powered by a modified hammer drill.
Housing the beer is no different. His fermenting tanks are giant plastic tubs he bought from Petco. The kegs are old throwaways from Emerald City Brewing and Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot. He bottles his own beer in 22-ounce bottles one at a time.
“That is my core belief,” McLaughlin said of the DIY ethos. “That is the way most home brewers are. They start any process and discover, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ ”
Working for FedEx for three years, McLaughlin socked away the money he earned working loads of overtime to start the brewery. Three years ago, he began brewing full time out of the small out-building, which was 25 feet behind the house he rented. Recently he and his wife purchased a home in Everett, but Justice Brewing remains with an agreement with his former landlord.
Part of that agreement is the brewery can only have visitors at certain times. (Customers who want to visit Justice Brewing are by appointment only.) McLaughlin said that doesn’t keep people from popping up at all times, knocking on the door in search of a cold pint.
Because of that, plus the limitation of space, McLaughlin, who grew up in Lynnwood, is in search of a new space for his brewery. He said he really wants to stay in north Everett, and is looking for a space that can house the brewery and a small taproom.
“It’s just a good city,” McLaughlin said when asked to explain his love for Everett.
A longtime home brewer, McLaughlin learned a lot as a member of the Cascade Brewers Guild and the Greater Everett Brewers League.
In 2008, McLaughlin took a craft brewing class at Chemeketa Community College taught by Portland brewers Van Havig, of Gigantic Brewing, and Matt Sage, who was head brewer at Bridgeport Brewing at the time. Once a week for five weeks, McLaughlin would wake up at 4 a.m. and make the trek to the school near Salem, Oregon, for the 8 a.m. class.
“I really discovered my love for sours during that class,” McLaughlin said.
On a recent afternoon, upwards of 15 kegs and barrels filled with sours sat in a section of the small wood-framed building to avoid cross-contamination with the ales fermenting in the cooler. Most of the containers were filled with Didactic, a Flander’s brown sour stout, while a large whiskey barrel housed Oswald, a sour oak-aged stout.
A lot of the beers McLaughlin brews are experimental in nature. McLaughlin recently finished brewing his third batch of High Stupitidy, an imperial brown made with hemp seeds and bacon, for April 20 (4/20, get it?). He’s also continuously brewing single batches, testing them and tweaking the recipes.
His flagship, White &Nerdy, is not an IPA — sacrilege in the Northwest — but rather a Northwest-style Belgian wit. He bottles a beer called Experience Everett that is an imperial stout brewed with coffee from Everett’s Velton’s Coffee.
“The market is saturated with IPAs,” McLaughlin said. “It’s hard competing with the number of cheap sixers of IPA.”
McLaughlin eventually cracked and brewed an IPA. Whiter &Nerdier is a more hop-forward version of White &Nerdy, while Whitest &Nerdiest, a triple white IPA, takes it up a notch.
Back to the true origin of the name Justice Brewing. McLaughlin said he was sitting around with some friends talking about how Paul Revere was the face on Sam Adams beer bottles, not Adams.
“We talking about creating a Paul Revere beer and putting Sam Adams on the bottle, and I said, ‘That wouldn’t even do it justice,’ ” McLaughlin said. “It just kind of built from there.”
Unlike its beer, Justice’s origin story is mundane.
Everett, 425-835-2337, www.justicebrewing.com
The brewery is located in an outbuilding behind the house at 2414 Chestnut St, Everett. Entrance is via the alley and parking is on the street or at Garfield Park. Visiting hours are between 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and are by appointment only. Find Justice Brewing’s beers at Sno-Isle Coop, Brews Almighty, AFK Tavern and The Hop and The Hound.