In the midst of the pandemic, one Coupeville company has defied expectations by expanding its operations and making plans for other dramatic additions to the business.
Marc and Mitch Aparicio, owners of Penn Cove Brewing Co., say the key to their success is a commitment to the community, conservation and really good craft beer.
Those factors, as well as a nice hard cider or two.
The brothers built a gleaming, stainless-steel brewing facility next to its Coupeville Taproom on South Main Street, and a three-person crew has been cranking out the beer. Many of the brews sport Central Whidbey-related monikers, such as Cedar Hollow Hazy, Blockhouse Imperial Brown, Ebey’s Special Bitter and the famous MussAle — which is brewed with Penn Cove mussels.
The Aparacios opened the Coupeville Taproom in March 2016 with the idea of providing a family-friendly place that offers regionally brewed beer. Bastion Brewing in Anacortes originally brewed their flagship Madrona Way IPA, but the brothers always planned on opening their own brewery.
Last year, the company opened a second taproom in downtown Oak Harbor.
This year, the brewery joined the lineup.
Marc Aparicio, who handles the brewing part of the business, said he is especially proud of the water and energy-conserving aspects of the operation. It has an on-demand water heating system, for example, which cuts the energy necessary to warm the water.
The complex system allows the brewery to recycle water, which means much less is necessary compared to similar-sized operations.
“We’re really concerned about sustainability and the environment,” Marc Aparicio said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
The beer is made from Coupeville water, which is filtered by a new system installed for the town by the Navy that removes chemicals which may have gotten into groundwater from a nearby airfield. The brewery filters the water again before it’s turned into beer.
From wort to keg, brewing beer is both a science and an art — and it’s complicated. The final taste of a brew, Marc Aparicio explained, is determined by a large collection of factors, such as the types of grain, the type of yeast and the other flavor-enhancers added to the batch — from hops to honey to spices and more.
“The temperatures have to be precise,” said Erickson Adam, the assistant brewer. “One or two degrees really makes a big difference.”
The brewers want to use local ingredients as much as possible, whether it’s barley, hops, honey, berries or even shellfish.
The brewery has smaller experimental tanks where recipes are tried out. A pumpkin stout that’s in the works was tentatively named “The Sherman” after the pioneering Coupeville family that famously grows squash and pumpkins.
Marc Aparicio said he’s been overwhelmed by the generosity and spirit of collaboration from other regional breweries. People in the business go out of their way to help each other, he said, instead of competing against each other.
He has other plans for expanding and improving the Coupeville site, including a large refrigeration unit to keep the kegs at the perfect temperature. A number of local restaurants have Penn Cove Brewing beer on tap, but the Aparacios said the priority is furnishing the two taprooms.
It may soon be three taprooms.
Mitch Aparicio, who handles the administrative side of the business, explained that the planned Freeland Taproom, like the other two locations, will be distinct and appropriate for the community it’s in. It will be set in a beautiful historic barn at a scenic site where there will be room for outdoor concerts, weddings or other social events.
Mitch Aparicio has some ambitious ideas for the site, which will include an outdoor deck area with views of the water. Inside the brewery will be an area where customers can watch “a brewers’ lab” at work where smaller or experimental batches are made.
Mitch Aparicio said he hopes to have contests in which people can submit their own recipes, and the best brews, if they are good enough, might go on tap.
From the beginning, the brothers have focused on marketing their business in other creative ways, including video and social media. Since both brothers grew up in Coupeville and graduated from the high school, the community is very important to them. Not only have they created an important gathering spot for locals, but they raise money for local causes, most notably scholarships funded through the Bennett Boyles Memorial Golf Tournament.