Wildland Cooperative brings environmentally conscious beer, and more, to Green Bluff

Wildland Cooperative brings environmentally conscious beer, and more, to Green Bluff
Erick Doxey

Not yet 2 years old, Wildland Cooperative may seem like a newcomer to Green Bluff, but the people behind this brewery, winery, farm and market have deep roots in the community.

Brewing at Wildland Cooperative is done by Michael Townshend, while his wife, Vanessa Swenson, handles the more customer-facing aspects of the business. The two previously managed the Townshend Cellars tasting room on the property, which was originally founded by Michael's father.

Mount Spokane dominates the view through the large glass windows of their newly remodeled taproom, which feels appropriate for the couple who first met just down the hill at Mt. Spokane High School.

"We're very fortunate to be on Green Bluff, to be able to live on Green Bluff and to work on Green Bluff. It really is a privilege. We want to try to honor the land a lot and give back to the community in a way if we can," says Townshend.

Wildland Cooperative brings environmentally conscious beer, and more, to Green Bluff
Erick Doxey

Aspects of how they are honoring the land and community are reflected in the name itself. Wildland Cooperative is worker-owned, and their farming practices are no-till and organic.

For their small-batch beers, Townshend uses ingredients from LINC Malt, another local cooperative. For the strawberry kettle sour that was on tap earlier this summer, the strawberries came from another Green Bluff grower, Walters' Fruit Ranch. The fresh hop beer set for this fall will feature hops grown right behind the taproom.

There is a seven-barrel brewing system in the works, but for now, Wildland Cooperative's beers are brewed on a truly micro level with a one-barrel system. While it may lack size, it allows for constant experimentation.

click to enlarge Wildland Cooperative brings environmentally conscious beer, and more, to Green Bluff
Erick Doxey
Michael Townshend and Vanessa Swenson operate Wildland Cooperative.

"To be honest, [we're] just throwing anything at the wall right now," says Townshend. "I'm doing a kettle sour series. It's strawberry for now, and I just pressed a bunch of pie cherries because I'm going to do a cherry sour next. When there's seasonal fruit from other farms up here, we're trying to use local fruit and ingredients wherever possible. A raspberry wheat. Something peach in the future."

For the less adventurous palates, old standbys like pale ales, ambers and IPAs are in the regular rotation as well.

The taproom also offers wine by Townshend Cellars but with varieties exclusive to Wildland Cooperative. As part of their environmentally conscious approach to business, they offer growler, or "wowler," fills of their wines.

"We do a pretty significant savings when you fill up your wowler, because the whole idea is to reuse it many, many times. And it saves us from having to buy bottles and corks and then have to throw it all away," says Townshend.

Wildland Cooperative brings environmentally conscious beer, and more, to Green Bluff
Erick Doxey

The local focus extends beyond their beverage offerings as well. Just inside the taproom entrance is a small market area stocked with artisan-made goods from T-shirts and jewelry to craft salts and spices and even prints from local artists like Swenson.

"Vanessa's an artist, and she sells it from here," Townshend says. "One of the things we really wanted to do is highlight local artists up here and do our best to provide really fair commission rates."

Like the rest of the Green Bluff community, business at Wildland Cooperative is heavily influenced by the seasons and the ability of customers to make the trip up from Spokane. The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday from May through December. While that may seem late into the winter, well past the fall harvest rush that brings the largest crowds of the year to the area, there's still reason to make the trip up at that time.

On top of everything else they have going on, Wildland Cooperative operates a 20-acre Christmas tree farm on the property.

"One thing I've had to learn is to adjust to the seasonality of a farm business. You have to just change your whole perception about what work is and when work is. Right now, it's summertime. A lot of people are going to the lake all the time. Well, I'm going out pulling weeds and mowing," Townshend says with a laugh. "Which I love because it's on land that I love and I get to be in a beautiful spot."

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