Head 90 miles north of Seattle, and you will find nestled in the open farmland of the Skagit Valley, the quirky town of Edison, WA. A creative hub inhabited by artisans and farmers alike, there is one place they both come together in synergy, a place called Terramar.
What is Terramar?
Overlooking the banks of the Edison slough, Terramar Brewstillery is as eclectic as this small town. Combining a brewpub, winery, pizzeria, and a newly opened distillery coins their now infamous phrase "brewstillery."
Terramar is the brainchild of Chris and Jen Barker, who, after many starts, stops and life lessons, opened their big barn doors of the brewery in the summer of 2019. This year, on their first anniversary, they celebrated with the grand opening of their newly renovated distillery and speakeasy.
Terramar is a local business that is doing it all, doing it very well, while keeping their commitment to sustaining a lighter footprint on the earth. Once an old slaughterhouse, the Barker's revamped this withering structure into the lively, community gathering place it is today, all while maintaining the existing footprint and upcycling materials.
"Sustainability has been very important for us from the beginning," Chris said. "Every decision made has that in mind." Including their process for making libations. In keeping with their repurposing principles, they make beer and then use the wash from the brewery to make grain-based spirits like whiskey, vodka, and gin in their newly opened distillery.
A Modern-Day Speakeasy
Hearing the term speakeasy, one might recall days of Prohibition and secret handshakes - but walking through the door of the Speakeasy at Terramar, only a hearty welcome and a multitude of smiles greet you.
The airy ceilings with vintage lighting and refurbished woodworking of this aged barn may be a throwback to an older era and a nod to simpler times, a time when neighbors knew neighbors and were always happy to strike up a conversation.
Everyone is welcome at Terramar, where land and sea meet, with a mood fostering good conversation as well as a connection to the world around us. You will not find any large screen TV's to divert your attention, but you will find game nights and an old-style projector playing the classics of the big screen in black and white.
"Our hope is that when folks come to Terramar, they have a place where people can have a conversation, get to know each other, and make new friends," said Chris. This includes canine friends as well, for the brewstillery is a dog-friendly pub. While the brewery and pizzeria are open to families and all ages, the Speakeasy is reserved for 21 and up.
Coming through the door, the first sight is the beautiful and dramatic antique glass infusion tubes and bulbous basin of the back bar. Each glass tube, found by Chris in a deconstructed old dairy, displays colorful flowers from local growers such as Calendula and Lavender, along with culinary herbs and spices such as Cardamon, Rosemary, or Thyme. You might even see a lemon or orange wedge. It is a luxurious piece as well as a central talking point.
The Mastermind Behind the Bar
Behind every great cocktail is a wizard of a bartender. Mikkael O'Donnell is the mastermind behind the Speakeasy bar and he does not disappoint.
Hailing from Alaska originally, he comes to the Northwest via Maine, Chicago, and Colorado, where he worked as a chef specializing in the local foods and flavors of those regions. He holds a passion for understanding where food comes from and how it is grown. O'Donnell spent time working on a farm growing food, which only deepened his culinary experience and 'farm to fork' belief system.
His in-depth knowledge base of flavors stems from his culinary years, making him a master synergist and giving him an edge to truly understand blending cocktails. Whether your tastes are light gin and tonics, old-timey Old Fashioned's, or a more daring venture to try one of his own concoctions, there is something for everyone. "What's your poison? Sweet, sour, or bitter?" O'Donnell asks and then sets his magic in motion creating a symphony of flavors just for you.
The liquors and bitters which grace each cocktail with flavor are all locally sourced and grown, keeping with the integrity of sustainability that is so vitally important to Terramar. Sitting on 5.5 acres of farmland, there is an extensive herb garden where many botanicals are homegrown. They also source most everything locally and within a 10-mile radius, from Skagit Valley malt supplying grain for brewing to local farms like Blanchard Mountain for produce and the grains of Cairn Spring Mill used in the pizza dough.
"If we can do our part by supporting local farmers and producers here in the valley while helping maintain its agricultural roots, then we have done our job," adds Chris as we chat over a smooth bourbon creation with fig, orange bitters, and chocolate notes. Even the farmers get excited, seeing their produce turned into a delicacy for all to enjoy.
The Speakeasy may be the new addition to this hamlet, but its reputation is spreading far and wide. Regular visitors from Bellevue to Blaine make the pilgrimage to spend a languid evening watching the sunset over the vast valley fields.
Where Earth and Sea Meet
Terramar may be a portmanteau meaning earth and sea, yet this brewstillery synthesizes so much more. "This single word captures the essence of our environment and the resources which go into our products, which are derived from the land and sea surrounding us," said Chris.
As we talk, O'Donnell pours a new ale, freshly brewed. It is a version of a Gose beer traditionally brewed in Germany using the saline waters of the Gose River. This refreshing brew embodies the flavors of this beautiful corner of Wa state as only Terramar can produce, using seawater harvested from Samish Bay, giving it a salty tang.
It is the flavor of this land. It is the flavor of Terramar.
For more information, check out their website Terramar Brewstillery, or follow them on Instagram @terramarbrewstillery. Brewery tasting room hours are Wednesday to Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., speakeasy hours are Thursday and Sunday from 3 to 10 p.m. All COVID protocols are followed, including socially distanced tables, masks, and cleaning procedures. While some of the products, services and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.