Few words come to mind upon hearing about a new brewery trying to open its doors during a global pandemic. Brave. Foolhardy. Nutty.
For Matt and Jill Wurst, a different word might fit better: Audacious.
The Wursts opened Audacity Brewery on Nov. 6 on 10th Street in downtown Snohomish, at the former location of Lost Canoe Brewery.
“What I like about it, is it’s a subjective word and the original ethos for naming the brewery was to not be complacent in the product we’re putting out,” owner and head brewer Matt Wurst said. “In the time of COVID, though, it’s definitely switched to, ‘Who’s stupid enough to open a brewery during this time?’ ”
“But audacious sounds better than stupid,” Jill Wurst said with a laugh.
The two moved here from Portland, Oregon, a year ago when they were lured by the sale of Lost Canoe Brewery’s brewing equipment and the opportunity to open their own brewery and taproom.
Other than the fact they’ve been able to open their own space, not much has gone according to plan. After searching for possible locations to open their brewery along the Oregon Coast and in Portland, the Wursts stumbled upon the Lost Canoe posting. Having very limited knowledge of Snohomish or surrounding areas, they decided to jump in with both feet.
Then their feet were knocked out from beneath them. The day they signed the purchase agreement was the same day that the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. — in Everett, no less — was announced.
“That should have been our first warning sign,” Matt Wurst said with a laugh. “But it didn’t deter us.”
Then the Wursts signed a lease on the building that Lost Canoe once occupied on the same day as the first death due to COVID-19 in the U.S. On a Monday in March they officially moved all their belongings to Snohomish and moved into their new home. That Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee shut everything down.
“That didn’t deter us either,” Jill Wurst said.
Since March, the two worked on turning the brewery into the kind they loved to visit in Portland. They restructured the brewhouse to make it more efficient, they made aesthetic improvements to the space, including resurfacing floors, painting walls and installing large windowed roll-up doors to let more natural light in.
“We never took our foot off the peddle on opening the brewery,” Matt Wurst said. “We really focused on what we envisioned from the start. We can’t wait to fill seats and open those roll-up doors and get people in here.”
In November, Audacity Brewing officially opened its doors to customers. In the time of COVID-19, though, the grand opening was more of a super soft opening with very little fanfare and just a smattering of customers strolling in for a pint after finding out about the new brewery on social media. That’s been difficult for the Wursts, who built their brewery on the premise of being an experience and community-focused place for a pint.
“COVID has made it difficult to meet people,” said Matt Wurst, adding that a number of local brewers have already stopped in for a pint. “We really want to get to know the community and look forward to that day when we can. There’s just no normalcy right now.”
Matt started homebrewing in 2008. In 2014, he decided to get serious, visiting England to take a five-month brewing course at Brewlab Training Services and later taking a short course fermentation program at University of California-Davis.
Shortly after the Wursts moved to Portland from their home in Las Vegas in 2015, thoughts began percolating about opening their own spot.
“The ideal situation for us was something like this where we’re hands-on and pouring beers for customers,” Jill Wurst said.
Matt, who worked as a software developer before opening the brewery, said that he’s not using any of his old homebrewing recipes, but instead creating all recipes from scratch based on the best hops and malts available. He said that beer fans can expect plenty of variety when stopping at Audacity.
On a recent visit, the taplist included everything from a lagered festbier to a winter warmer, with plenty of IPAs and ales in between.
Though COVID-19 has provided numerous challenges to opening their new brewery, the Wursts said they have no regrets.
“We have conversations asking ourselves would we have done this if we knew the whole scope of COVID,” Matt Wurst said, “but, yeah, I think we would have done something like this, or at least been planning for the future.”
“Whenever things get stressful,” Jill Wurst added, “I ask Matt if he’s happier now than he was when he was working in software, and as long as he says yes, I know we’re successful.”
If you go
Audacity Brewing, 1208 10th St., Suite C, Snohomish is open 1 to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday for to-go sales. Limited outdoor seating available. Call 360-294-8742 or go to www.audacitybrewing.com for more information.