by Laura Steiger, Outreach Team
Photos by Matt Curtis
Atwood is the middle name of brewmaster Josh, his father, and his grandfather (all Smiths), but they named the family brewery Atwood Ales because, as Josh explained, “it is a lot more interesting than Smith Brewing.”
Like many farm kids, Josh Smith left the family farm to attend college, and after graduation he got a job in the city. Several years later, the tranquil beauty and rural lifestyle lured Josh, his wife Monica, and their son, back to the farm in Blaine where Josh grew up and where his parents still live. But, they didn’t return to the farm to be beef farmers.
After 10 years of home brewing experience, Josh had a new vision for this family farm.
It took about seven years from the initial concept for Atwood Ales to their official first sale on May 13, 2016—a date that Josh and Monica proudly recalled. Since then, a legion of fans is propelling the business to great early success.
Josh and Monica lead the Co-op visitors through the hops. The farm is very diverse with fruit trees, vegetables, several varieties of hops, and lots of native plants.
Atwood Ales is quite different from the typical local breweries.
Not so much a collection of towering stainless steel tanks and gadgetry focused on producing IPAs, Atwood is based on hundreds of years of old-world farmhouse-style brewing with just an added dash of stainless steel tanks and gadgetry. Josh described it as “more artistic and less controlled—reflective of the farm itself.” They produce a variety of beers including farmhouse, barrel aged, sours, and more.
The brewery is a mix of custom two-barrel brewing methods with a dash of new technology.
Cordata Beer Department Buyer James Weddle and Atwood Brewmaster Josh Smith discuss all things beer.
The heart of the brewery is in the 100-year-old barn where the beer is produced in a custom two-barrel system, bottled in 750ml bottles (no six-packs in sight), and bottle conditioned in the upstairs loft. The process plays with elements of the natural farm environment, utilizing open fermentation, crops grown on the farm, seasonal wild foraged plants, and other local elements like oysters. Yep, oysters!
The brewery is a family affair. Josh’s dad, Stephen, lends his farming expertise; Josh’s mom, Leslee, helps with packaging and at farmers markets; Josh is the head brewmaster; Monica handles the sales, marketing, and distribution; their son, Xavier, contributes ideas for flavor profiles and catchy names like “No Whey, Bro”; Monica’s dad, Steve, helps with packaging; Monica’s mom, Nancy, helps with packaging and at farmers markets; and even farm dog, Keera, has a brew named after her.
The Atwood Ales family (from left): Monica, Josh, Xavier, Leslee, Stephen, and farm dog Keera.
Next up for the burgeoning small brewery is further renovation in the barn to enable increased production, additional varieties, and more barrel space.
Next time you’re in the beer aisle, pick up a bottle of Atwood Ales and taste the new old-world style of farmhouse brewing. It might be your first, but I promise it won’t be your last.