A few years ago, Daniel Thomis and his wife were looking for a new place to live. They wanted to leave Boston, where Thomis worked in cancer research at a pharmaceutical company. They each took a quiz online, answering 50 questions, to find out where their ideal new home would be. One suggested location they had in common was Langley, Washington, on Whidbey Island. So they checked it out and eventually moved there. And not too long after, Thomis opened Langley’s small but successful Double Bluff Brewery (112 Anthes Ave., 360-333-9113).
Double Bluff is a bit of a hobbit hole. Shaded by trees, it serves seven housemade beers, two of which are rotators (they also serve a cider from Seattle Cider Company). Sitting in the taproom, its walls a clean white, Thomis tells me he’s been running the place for about five months (it opened in October).
“We can’t make enough beer,” he says, offering samples of his suds, all of which are worth a second sip. The standouts are the kolsch and porter, both immaculately smooth for beers often rough on the palate. Thomis, a home brewer since 1995, employs a small one-and-a-half barrel system at Double Bluff, which also serves the sharp India Red Ale and a clean-drinking Belgian White IPA.
While Thomis continues to beef up the food available, looking to outsource it to eateries in town that will deliver, one great snack option at Double Bluff is the pretzel with three dipping sauces, the highlight of which is the curry mayo. The pretzel is made with “spent grains,” or the mash left over from brewing, which traditionally brewers fed to livestock or used for compost. But instead, Langley’s Sundance Bakery dries the grains, batters them with Double Bluff beer, and transforms then into sumptuous salted soft pretzels.
Along with beer, conversation is of paramount importance to Thomis. It was a conscious choice, he says, not to install a television in Double Bluff, which is already dog- and kid-friendly. He also hopes to add summer outdoor seating.
The conversation, like the pretzels and the beer, is evidence of the mindfulness Thomis brings to his brewery. “I very carefully modeled my business on this location,” he says. “For me it was really scary to invest my own money. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll have to get another job in the pharmaceutical industry, which I really don’t want to do.”