LANGLEY — The wonderful world of beer will pop open soon in the rear of the city’s old fire hall on Second Street.
“It’s kind of neat what we’re trying to do here,” Michael McMahon of Clinton said Monday. “It’s going to be a lot of fun being able to share.”
McMahon and his wife Victoria have been working frantically to get the 1,000-square-foot space in the former fire station ready for their new business, Langley Brewing, a hands-on beer-making operation that will guide visitors through the entire process.
They hope to open the brewery in March, after they receive approval from the federal Tax and Trade Bureau, which governs the sale of alcohol. They already have state approval and a lease from the city.
Meanwhile, they plan to open their home-brew supply wing of the business next week, offering everything needed to get started — grain, malt, yeast, brewing equipment and more.
“When we’re all ready, you can learn how to brew, you can get brew and you can take home products to make brew,” McMahon said.
Materials for wine-making also will be available, he said.
Visitors to Langley Brewing will be able to observe beer-making, taste the samples and buy bottles of beer to take home. They will be able to sign up for classes covering the entire process, or for specialized segments.
McMahon said he is working with the glass-blowing operation already in the front of the firehouse to come up with Langley Brewing monogrammed tasting glasses and bottles, both plain and fancy.
He hopes to install a reading area with comfortable chairs and a library of books about brewing and wine-making.
“It will be the only facility of its kind on the South End,” he said.
McMahon also hopes to offer a limited amount of cheeses and other finger foods.
“To me, beer and food are synonymous,” McMahon said. “They’re truly the good things in life.”
McMahon has been working with Langley metal artist Tim Leonard to fashion the interior. There are lots of stainless steel, copper-colored wall panels and suspended ceiling panels that will resemble clouds.
There also will be a mural on one wall depicting the stages of the brewing process.
McMahon’s stainless-steel mash tanks, kettles and fermenting containers will be prominently displayed on a raised platform on the main floor.
He said the brewery at first will offer three “flagship” beers, along with other specialties. Featured will be:
• “Langley Schlager,” an American-style lager made from rice, corn and barley. “It’s the simplest of beers, and the hardest to brew,” McMahon said.
• “Useless Bay Sweet Espresso Stout,” blended with coffee from Useless Bay Coffee Co. next door. There will be both catenated and decaffeinated. “When we first tried it, we were more wired than buzzed,” McMahon said.
• “Amber Waves of Grain,” made from about 20 different grains. “So-o good,” McMahon said.
He said he hopes to turn out 16 to 21 kegs of beer per week. “Quality starts to wane past that point,” he said.
McMahon, 34, is a South Whidbey native who left as a teenager, and returned about six years ago.
A home-brewing enthusiast and a carpenter by trade, he wanted to try something else. A friend told him about an opening at Leavenworth Brewery just over the Cascade Mountains, and the rest is suds history.
When he returned to South Whidbey, McMahon planned to set up his Olde World Ales and Lagers at his Clinton home. Then he heard about the firehouse.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” McMahon said. “It’s such a great space.”
He said he’s put in hundreds of hours getting Langley Brewery started, and expects to put in hundreds more. He said his wife will continue with her job at the Star Store across the street until the brewery becomes established.
“It’s a slow process, but if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right,” McMahon said. “If the world’s a stage, then you have to have a pretty stage.”
And his ultimate goal, he told the Langley City Council in October just before his lease was approved, is to grow his own barley and hops on the island.
“I want to get back to the artisan concept, where everything in the beer people taste comes from the same 12 square miles,” he said.