There are new hands holding the leash at English Setter.
Jeff and Anita Bendio, founders of the four-year-old Spokane Valley brewery, have sold the business to a younger couple, longtime customers Reece and Jackie Carlson.
It’s the second local brewery sale announced this week. Downdraft in Post Falls reopened today under new ownership.
“We’re really excited,” Reece Carlson says. “We both love beer, and we’ve both worked at restaurants and bars for a long time. It’s always been a dream of ours to do something like this.”
Jeff Bendio, who turned 61 last month, says the sale allows he and Anita to move toward retirement. He also has an engineering practice, and she’s a Mary Kay cosmetics consultant.
“Getting up to go start brewing at 4 in the morning gets old,” Bendio says. “It got to the point where I said, I don’t want to work that hard.”
Bendio says the business has been growing at a rate of around 20 percent a year. “It did well, and we had a great time,” he says. “If I was 35 again, none of this conversation would be happening.
“But it’s a good time for us, and it’s a perfect time for Reece and Jackie. They’re going to be able to devote the time and energy to it. We’re handing them a working brewery that’s ready to take to the next level.”
Reece Carlson, who’s been homebrewing the past couple of years, regularly brought his beers to Bendio for feedback. He was surprised when Bendio called one day and asked if he and Jackie wanted to buy the business.
“It floored me,” Carlson says. “I didn’t see that coming in the slightest. We felt really honored and really blessed that they came to us.”
While the sale became official on Monday, the Carlsons have been running the business since October to gain experience and Reece has brewed the last few batches of beer.
He plans to keep customer favorites around on five permanent taps, while introducing new recipes for the other four rotators.
The first, a Scottish ale dubbed The Yard, debuts next week. Toward the end of the month, look for an imperial chocolate oatmeal stout called The Grim (after the ghostly black dogs of British folklore).
The Carlsons also are aiming for a livelier atmosphere, with more games for customers to play and more TVs.
“There’s a big corner of the market that we’re missing in terms of a younger crowd,” says Reece, who turns 27 this month. “We want to make it a fun place to come and spend time together.”
Another change, at least for now: While going through paperwork to prepare for the sale, Bendio discovered that his current license doesn’t actually allow anyone under age 21 in the taproom, which has been operating as family-friendly until 4 p.m.
“We’re going to feel things out over the next few months and see what our customers want,” Carlson says.
There are no plans to change the name of the business for the foreseeable future. “The dog theme is amazing,” says Carlson, who has two of his own. “The beers kind of name themselves.”
And don’t be surprised to see a familiar face around the brewery. “I’m not just walking away,” says Bendio, who continues to help with the transition. “The difference is, I’ll be paying for my beer.”