Friday Harbor now has a brewery and it’s located in a boat shop — because this is Friday Harbor, so of course it is.
Called The Friday Harbor Oar House, their mantra is “brewed by locals, for locals” and the location leans more towards “hard to find” than “easy to miss.” One might conclude that visitors to the island aren’t welcome, but after a few trips to the brewery, I’ve found that isn’t really true.
Visitors to Friday Harbor fall into many categories, but seasoned boaters and informed wildlife lovers that frequent San Juan Island are more along the lines of new friends that the locals haven’t met yet. Which is why some of the tables in the brewery are large to encourage strangers to sit together. That feature, according to co-founder Mike Close, has been fun to watch over the last several months. It helps build community, which is near the core of why the brewery exists in the first place.
There’s another category of less informed tourists (“uh, no, we’re surrounded by salt water”). While certainly not excluded, there’s no red carpet laid out for them with a convenient storefront and a catchy sign encouraging walk-ins. There’s no real store front at all, and the sign is a single word that is direct and to the point. “Beer.”
Founders Mike Close and Bob Williams were both home brewers and had been part of a beer making club. Presumably over pints, one bad idea led to another and it seems their collective feathers may have been ruffled a bit when all the other communities in the Northwest could claim at least one brewery and usually dozens, yet Friday Harbor had been without one since 2008.
So on February 18th of this year, the “Oar House” opened its doors. They brew small batches. Really small batches. One at time. Why? Because that’s all the equipment they have. One brew magic system, a one pass chiller, two conical fermenters, two bright tanks and 18 one half kegs. All batches are hand measured, hand stirred…