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Bushnells engineer a beer-brewing business in Redmond | SLIDESHOW
The Bushnells are passionate about beer.
As he walks through the family’s newly established brewery in Redmond, Kevin Bushnell’s face lights up and his voice shakes a little with excitement as he talks about the process of brewing. As he explains each step, his hands mimic the actions, adding emphasis.
For someone with an engineering background, he thinks it’s perfect for him.
“I love the art, love the science, love the chemistry, the engineering of brewing,” Bushnell said.
It started innocently enough. A few years ago, while running a liquor store in Longmont, Colo., Bushnell purchased a homebrew kit from Left Hand Brewery and subsequently put it on a shelf in the garage where it was quickly forgotten.
About a year later, he found the kit again and tried his hand at the brewing process. It went off with a bang — quite literally — as he fermented the beer too long, causing it to pop off the lid and spray onto the ceiling.
Bushnell was hooked.
“As soon as I brewed, I knew we were going to do this,” he said.
He spent the next several weeks learning as much as he could about the homebrewing process, eventually drafting his son, Kempton Bushnell, to help. Together, they estimate they brewed about 20 batches in the first three months. The quality varied as they tried new recipes, but that didn’t deter them.
“It wasn’t about brewing at that point, it was the obsession about learning and expanding a homebrewing kit,” Kevin said.
The brew kit expanded with the help of Kevin’s other son, Kennedy Bushnell, who built several versions of the homebrew system. He even designed the system used at their brewery. It uses an electric heater instead of the traditional gas-heating units used at most breweries.
After Kevin accepted a job at Microsoft, causing the family to move to Washington, they eventually decided they wanted to turn their homebrewing into a full-fledged business.
“We are spur-of-the-moment type of people,” Kempton said regarding the opening of the business, which is named the Bushnell Craft Brewing Company.
While Kevin works at Microsoft during the day, Kempton is in charge of the brewing.
Kempton said they chose Redmond because of the other established breweries in the area. The close proximity to the Mac and Jack and Black Raven breweries gives the Bushnells a way to gauge their success as well as a blueprint on how to succeed in the brewing industry.
“This is something I want to do for the rest of my life, so I want to at least in a way compete with their quality of beer,” Kempton said.
While they eventually have plans to expand, the Bushnells want to keep true to their homebrewing roots by connecting with the homebrewing community as much as possible. They plan on hosting homebrewing lessons and even competitions, with the winning brewer being able to feature their beer in the taproom.
“We are homebrewers and we want people in the homebrewing community to get that professional feel,” Kevin said.
They plan on having six beers on tap at all times and one rotating seasonal beer. Each beer is named with both a sports theme and the name of a family member. The “Dirty Shirley” blonde ale, for example, is named after Kempton’s grandmother. “BoFuss,” an amber ale, is firstly named after Kevin’s favorite athlete — Bo Jackson — and is secondly a funny tribute to it being the first beer that Kevin and Kempton brewed together.
“Both of us brewed it,” Kempton said. “So BoFuss brewed it.”
While beer is the main attraction, the family also plans to sell food in the taproom.
Kristin Bushnell, who runs the kitchen, calls the it “pub food with a twist.” Everything in the kitchen will be made with locally sourced ingredients.
Between working in the kitchen, working the taproom and brewing, Kempton admits that the days are long — he often puts in about 12 hours of work a day — but the ability to try new things and a love of brewing keep him going.
While they don’t have a grand opening planned for the taproom, it is currently open and running on a limited basis. The taproom is located at 8461 164th Ave. N.E. in Redmond. The Bushnells hope to host a grand opening event in August.
They are excited for that day.
“We don’t do anything small,” Kempton said. “We do everything huge.”
Joshua Bessex is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communications News Laboratory.