A dream come true for two brothers and their best friend
By Don Nelson
Brothers Nate and Jake Young and their friend Troy Anderson have been a tight trio since their boyhood days growing up in New Hampshire. They eventually all migrated to the West Coast, got married and embarked on separate careers.
The three outdoor enthusiasts also discovered and became passionate devotees of the Methow Valley. In particular, they latched on to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop as their favorite place for beer, food and good times.
On one of those stops last winter, Anderson was on his way to the men’s room when he saw a notice on the bulletin board that the pub was for sale.
“My jaw dropped,” he said. Anderson showed the notice to his wife, Jody. “What if we bought it?” he said. Then came another thought that created the motivating incentive to pursue a deal, Anderson said: “What if somebody else buys it and ruins it?”
On the drive back to their home in Carnation, Anderson said, buying the pub was all he and his wife talked about.
“There were all kinds of reasons not to,” he said. “So we decided to come up with some conditions under which we could buy it. But we didn’t want to do it alone, so I reached out to Nate and Jake.”
The Youngs’ instant response, Anderson said: “We’re in … we’re not sure what that means, but we’re in.”
Many months later, what it means is that Anderson and Youngs have purchased Old Schoolhouse Brewery from Casey and Laura Ruud as of last week and are now equal partners in the pub and eatery.
The new partners are excited about taking over the business and becoming part of the Methow Valley community. And all three of the new owners, who were interviewed separately, made the same point about why the brewery was an attractive purchase: they really like the beer.
Jake Young and his wife, Avery, will move to the Methow Valley in September — along with their first child, born on the Fourth of July — to operate the brewery on a day-to-day basis. Anderson and Nate Young will be in the valley as often as possible to help out until they too are able to migrate to the Methow.
Nate Young and his wife, Anne, live in Kirkland with daughter Briar, 2, and son Dexter, 4. Anne has an aunt who lives in Twisp.
“For us it’s a big adventure,” Anne said.
“This fulfills a lifelong dream,” Nate Young said. “We want to preserve the integrity of what Casey and Laura have done.”
The owners and their families will be coming into ownership from different directions. Nate Young works at T-Mobile, Anne Young is a photographer, Anderson works at Microsoft, Jake Young leads bicycle tours and organizes cycle races. The Andersons are both high school track and field and cross-country coaches.
Operating a pub is not an entirely new arena for the Young brothers, who spent many years in the restaurant business beginning in college, including management. “It’s an easy thing to come back to,” Nate Young said. “It’s something I love.”
Nate said he and his brother had been contributing to a joint investment account for years. “We never knew what it was for” until now, he said.
The stake that fund provides makes the Old Schoolhouse Brewery purchase “less of a crazy leap,” he said.
Anderson said he and his wife have been visiting the Methow Valley since 2001, after they heard about the Nordic skiing. Anderson said he started frequenting what was then the Winthrop Brewery, but wasn’t impressed. After the Ruuds purchased the pub, renamed it and started making their own award-winning beers, Anderson became a big fan. “I fell in love with it instantly,” he said. “It was the first brewery I’ve been in where every beer was at least good or better than good.”
“We are beerheads who love craft beers,” he said. “Old Schoolhouse was always our first stop.”
Jake Young said that he has been guiding bike trips all over the world for the past 15 years, and along the way learned a lot about the best wines and beers.
“The Methow Valley has been a special place for all us,” he said. “Nate and Troy are passionate about it.” Jake is a back country skier but is not very familiar with Nordic skiing — something he intends to remedy.
Jake was between guiding trips when he received a text message about possibly buying the pub. His response was immediate: “Count me in.”
“It’s an opportunity to work with Troy and my brother,” he said. “We decided to put our eggs in that basket.”
Jake said he has experience as a restaurant manager but never as an owner. He and Jody will be in the valley full-time in September.
Keeping the core intact
“We are definitely looking to add to the community and grow the business,” Jake said.
He said he appreciates that Old Schoolhouse appeals to locals and visitors alike, and the partners don’t want to mess with that welcoming ambiance. “We won’t be turning it into a west side place,” he said.
The partners’ main interest, Anderson said, is that “the core and heart of Old Schoolhouse can’t change.”
The new owners are keeping the current employees. At a staff meeting last week, Anderson said, “We just told them to keep being awesome.”
“We want to take it from great to amazing,” Anderson said.
For now, the plan is to keep things operating smoothly. Eventually, the partners want to start growing the business and expanding the market for the brewery’s beers.
“We want to help grow the business and take it to the next level,” Nate said. “We want to give a lot to the community … and provide livable wages.”
“Our core is our community,” he said. “We always want to be a place where locals can hang out and feel at home, and be accommodating to tourists.”
“We weren’t interested in buying a brewery. We were interested in buying Old Schoolhouse Brewery,” Nate added. “Everyone knows this is a different way of life, and we welcome it.”
Ruuds staying in valley
The Ruuds are not leaving the valley, but have not decided on what to do next other than some travel and indulging in their artistic interests : Native American flute for Casey and glass artwork for Laura. Casey said the Ruuds “retired” when they bought the brewery and now intend to “un-tire”
“Old Schoolhouse was our retirement,” Casey said.” The idea was to do what you want to do and contribute something to the world.”
“We want to go back and recapture our spirit,” Casey said. “We’ll be drawn to whatever universe happens to draw us … we’ll see where it goes.”
“We’re just going to chill,” Laura said. “Mostly we want to enjoy the valley for all it has to offer.”
The Ruuds began visiting the valley in 1995 and moved here in 2001 from the Tri-Cities area — in part to escape Casey’s high profile in that community. Outside of the Methow Valley he is still widely known as the whistle-blower whose actions — including testimony before Congress — led to safety improvements at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
In 2008, Casey said, “we took over a failed business with a black cloud over it and no experience at the worst possible time … Failure was not an option.”
The Ruuds announced in March 2015 that they had decided to sell Old Schoolhouse. The couple said they always had a seven-year plan for the brewery — and they are sticking to it.