River Time Brewing opens in downtown Darrington

Get out of hand at River Time Brewing’s new space in downtown Darrington and you just might find yourself behind bars in the basement.

Not really, but the old building on Emens Avenue does have quite a history. At different times over the years, it housed Darrington’s city hall, library, fire department and police station.

“There are still bars in the basement,” said River Time co-owner Troy Bullock.

Now it houses a brewery.

In July, River Time Brewing, which opened in January 2014, took over the building. Bullock and co-owner Lon Tierney moved in a new 3-barrel brewing system, a large walk-in cooler and other bar amenities.

It was a big step for Bullock and Tierney, who opened the brewery out of Tierney’s garage on his vacation property along the Stillaguamish River outside of Darrington. They not only increased their brewing system from a 10-gallon system to a 3-barrel system, but also brought on Neil Comeau and Kristin Lavelle as co-owners. Comeau, who lives in Darrington, is River Time’s established face and runs the day-to-day operations, while Lavelle takes care of much of the marketing and paperwork.

Both Tierney and Bullock, who live in Lake Forest Park and Mill Creek, respectively, work in the tech industry in Seattle, so having Comeau and Lavelle was a necessity to having a brewery location open more than just weekends.

“We’re really lucky to have found them to be part of our family,” said Tierney.

The brewery’s name and motto — “Beer at an appropriate pace” — were birthed at the original location as Tierney and Bullock tipped back beers and watched the river go by. Bullock, who grew up in Kentucky, equated it to the “lake time” he enjoyed as a kid.

As Darrington’s economy makes the slow shift from logging to tourism, River Time was aided by Adventure Cascades, which takes people white water rafting. Not only did it help them meet Comeau and Lavelle, who are both guides, but the Adventure Cascades vans taking people rafting would often stop at River Time’s old location on the way back for a pint or two. Often the makeshift beer garden would become a mixer between locals and tourists.

“A lot of people miss the river location, and we do too, but we’re trying to keep the community mixer feel to it,” Tierney said.

While River Time was thinking about expanding, Big E Ales was a big help. Tierney and Bullock would often meet for management meetings at the Lynnwood brewpub and soon they were peppering Big E’s owners with questions.

“They gave us a lot of advice,” Bullock said.

As for the beer, Tierney and Bullock wrote most of the recipes, with Bullock and Comeau overseeing much of the brewing. On tap recently was the brewery’s IPA, Son of Peddler, Change My Life Scottish Ale, Batch One Kolsch (the first beer brewed at the new location) and a Pepper Kolsch. For the grand opening, Bullock said they are planning on also pouring a brown IPA and a hoppy Irish red.

River Time isn’t the first brewery to open in the large brick building. Whiskey Ridge Brewing, which has subsequently moved to Arlington, once housed its operation in the building. When Whiskey Ridge left, officials with the town of Darrington looked for another brewery to fill the location and happened upon River Time.

“Darrington has been really great,” Bullock said. “They’ve been excited to have a brewery in town. Most of our business is local people. We get city council members in here all the time and the mayor, Dan Rankin, stops in from time to time.”

On a recent evening, three co-workers from Hamptom Lumber, Walt Pittson, Richard Osenbrock and Jonathan Forrest, all of Darrington, tipped back pints of beer at the River Time bar. All three said they try to stop in once a week.

“It’s nice to have other choices than just one place,” Pittson said.

Eventually, Bullock said they want to have a permanent beer garden along the large sidewalk in front of the brewery, as well as increase brewing capacity with new equipment and get food in-house (right now they just serve bags of chips and other vendor items).

But, as their motto states, it’ll be at an appropriate pace.

Aaron Swaney: 425-339-3430; aswaney@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @swaney_aaron79. Follow the Hops and Sips blog at www.heraldnet.com/hopsandsips.

Grand opening

River Time Brewing’s grand opening is noon Sept. 5 at the brewery at 660 Emens Ave., Darrington. There will be live music, a beer garden and a cornhole tournament. The food truck Heavenly Fire Kitchens will be serving wood-fired pizzas. For more information, visit www.rivertimebrewing.com.

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