Sunnyside residents have a new hangout — for a few days a week, anyway.
The Varietal Beer Co. taproom at 416 E. Edison Ave. opened its doors April 28 and is now serving beer Thursday through Saturday.
The owners are hoping to expand their hours to Wednesday through Sunday this summer, but first they need to have enough beer to get through five business days.
“We’ve been contract brewing with a few places over the past year, and we expect to have our brewery up and running by the middle of June,” said John Cope, who owns the brewery with four others: Chad Roberts, Chris Baum, David Paulsen and Karl Vanevenhoven.
“But until we can start making more batches, we need to limit our hours,” he added. “We don’t want to run out of beer.”
Varietal launched last spring and served its first beer at the 2017 Summer Ale Fest. They are currently working on two or three selections for this year’s festival on June 23.
Over the past year, the owners have been contracting with nearby Snipes Mountain Brewing, as well as Bale Breaker, Bron Yr Aur and Single Hill, to make their products.
They’ve even experimented with some espresso beans from Basalt Roasters, and are working on a collaboration with Dwinell Country Ales of Goldendale this spring. They also have worked with the Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Seattle.
“We spend a lot of time talking to other breweries,” Cope said. “It’s a really close-knit community, and if you have questions or need help, you can always turn to others in the industry. That seems to be true up and down the West Coast. Everyone has been really friendly to us.”
The owners are waiting on some brewing equipment to arrive over the next couple of weeks, and they hope to start ramping up their production on site by the middle of this month.
They are planning to host a grand opening in mid to late July.
In the meantime, Varietal is hosting customers three days a week until 9 p.m. Children are welcome, and the owners are planning to eventually allow people to bring their dogs.
“Dog-friendly businesses are really popular on the west side and in Bend (Oregon), and we’d really like to introduce that here,” Cope said. “It’s not something that’s normal around here, and we think Sunnyside can really use it.”
The taproom is roughly 2,000 square feet and can accommodate 99 people (the entire building is about 5,000 square feet).
An outdoor patio with picnic tables will be available by this summer, adding another 30 seats for thirsty travelers — and, of course, locals.
Cope said the community has responded well to the new taproom, located in the former Funny Farm liquor store.
“People really enjoy being here,” he said. “We’re not a bar and we’re not a Starbucks. We’re a place you can come to visit with friends, or do some work, or hang out with your family. We don’t want people to feel like they have to drink beer when they come in here. It will take some getting used to, but people are coming around to the idea.”
Under the terms of their microbrewery license, Varietal cannot serve wine or prepared food. They offer pre-packaged snacks and currently have five beers on tap. The bar is equipped to handle 16 taps at one time, giving the crew plenty of room to expand their menu.
It’s been a relatively slow build for the Varietal owners, some who still have full-time jobs aside from the brewery venture. (Vanevenhoven is the chief operating officer at YCH HOPS.)
Their idea is to create something entirely unique in the lower valley — perhaps the entire Yakima Valley — while drawing attention to the hops capital of the world.
“We want to make people proud of what we produce around here,” Cope said. “We’d like to expose that part of the Valley more outside of the brewing community. With other places doing the same thing — Bale Breaker, Single Hill, Wandering Hop and more — we think that kind of exposure will bring us attention on a national scale.”
Adding to Varietal’s exposure is its location in the historic Port of Sunnyside district.
The port has been working with Varietal and other businesses, such as Co Dinn Cellars, to repurpose old buildings and turn them into modern-day amenities for a growing city.
Cope said port officials, including Executive Director Jay Hester, have been instrumental in the year-long process of creating a one-of-a-kind Lower Valley establishment.
“They are the best landlord you could possibly have,” he said. “They bring a lot to the table and they do it in an altruistic way because they truly want these businesses to succeed. They have pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we are reaping the benefits. They have been amazing to work with.”