In 2018, Melvin Brewing in Bellingham faced public criticism after an employee was accused of sexual assault. The brewery then posted insensitive content on its website, garnering even more backlash from the community. When Melvin eventually closed its Fountain District location in 2019, Bellingham-local Gary Pickering saw an opportunity to bring new life to the space.
Pickering opened 122 West Brewing Co. in September 2019, naming the brewery after the longitudinal line that runs through Bellingham and several other locations that are important to him, including Portland, Seattle, and Whistler.
As a longtime beer fan and former home brewer, Pickering wanted to make his mark on the Bellingham craft beer scene. Most of all, he wanted to create a space for the community to come together and share good food and a solid brew.
“We’re getting lots of locals from the neighborhood [and] getting lots of great feedback…” Pickering says. “Our mission is to create great beer, great food, and have a nice, comfortable environment for people to come and relax and hang out.”
Starting with mostly beer, 122 West has begun to expand its menu, which features classic pub bites such as reubens and burgers. The brewery has also begun hosting live music and events throughout the week.
“We have really been focusing on getting live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and that’s starting to come together,” Pickering says. “So far, the musicians like playing there, and it seems like our guests like when we have live music as well, so that’s great.”
At any time, 122 West has about 10 to 15 handcrafted beers on tap. Pickering’s favorite is their Sultana Double IPA; the beer packs a punch at 8.6% alcohol by volume.
“[Our brewer] likes to experiment and try new things,” Pickering says. “We work with what we can get and we get creative and we’re able to make pretty awesome beers.”
The brewery hasn’t started bottling or canning their beers yet, but they distribute kegs to other local breweries and restaurants so Bellingham residents can get a taste of what they’re working on. For Pickering, the next step is selling 122 West beer in local stores, so even more people can taste what they’re brewing.
What’s really important to him, though, is making sure people know that 122 West isn’t Melvin — it’s a brand new business with a mission to bring the community together through great beer. Other than inhabiting the same location, they’re not associated with Melvin in any way.
“I think it took a while to shake what I call the ‘Melvin Hangover,’” Pickering says. “But we’re a new brewery, 122 West Brewing Company, and we’re all locally owned.”
To taste for yourself, stop by the brewery’s location at 2416 Meridian Street in Bellingham. To learn more, visit 122westbrew.com.
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