In 2014, after retiring from a 22-year naval career, Joe Behan realized he could pursue the entrepreneurial dream he always wanted. He traded in his EA-18G Growler fighter jet controls for pint glasses and founded Bastion Brewing Co. in Anacortes, Washington.
A regular homebrewer for most of his life, Behan and his wife, Christine, decided to create Bastion toward the end of 2015. The space they found on Craigslist used to be occupied by a Mexican restaurant and provided ample room for their warehouse brewery and taphouse plans.
“I never had a single minute of commercial brewing experience before I started Bastion,” Behan admits with a laugh.
The couple quickly hired Laurence Livingston, an expert from brewing consultants Kettle and Still in Corvallis, Oregon, to help him establish and execute the foundation of the brewery. Livingston moved up to Anacortes for the summer of 2016 to work with Behan on beer recipes and Bastion’s brewing system, making sure everything was functioning properly.
Originally, Behan didn’t plan on serving food at the brewery, he just wanted to focus on the beer. But the lot they purchased already came with a fully-operational kitchen, and they decided to take advantage of it. “At first I was concerned about opening a restaurant,” Behan says. “But honestly our restaurant helps our beer sales quite a bit and people love our food.”
Ordering food at Bastion is a unique experience. It is similar to having an onsite food truck that never leaves its stationary location. The brewery has two sides, one for the taphouse and the other for the restaurant, but your food and drink follows you to wherever you decide to enjoy it. It’s simple, but refined — good pub eats that arrive fast and fresh.
Plus, it is always an added bonus to pair food with a delicious craft beer, such as the Bastion oatmeal stout or Cascadian Sunset red IPA. With 14 beer and three cider taps, there is always something good pouring at Bastion.
Due to all the traffic Bastion gets during the lunch-rush hours from the nearby oil refinery, Behan says they are working on establishing a delivery service for their food.
In addition to serving food, live music has also been huge in drawing more patrons to the brewery, Behan says. With weekly Saturday night concerts and a bi-monthly summer concert series in the works, Bastion is quickly becoming one of Skagit Valley’s premier music venues to experience a live performance at.
“I am fearless now as to what we can accomplish,” Behan says. “It’s been a blur, but where we are at six months into the business is better than I could have imagined.”
The Saturday night shows take place inside the brewery, with a removable stage set up between all of the brewing equipment, providing a nice backdrop for the musicians. Bastion has a professional sound system and stage lighting that turn the show into more than just live music at a brewery.
Already in talks with the state about building an outdoor beer garden, Behan is excited about their summer concert series that will feature bigger regional acts. The beer garden won’t be the only viewing area to have a pint and enjoy the music, Bastion will be closing off their whole parking lot to bring in a bigger stage and accommodate more concert-goers.
Only six months into their brewery life, Bastion is still but a fledgling, but Behan is happy with where they are and optimistic about the future.
“We’re figuring things out as we go along, but I’m not afraid, I know we can do this,” he says. “In the next five years, I believe people will know the name Bastion Brewing throughout the state of Washington.”