Tim Augustin, who co-founded Ben’s Bottle Shop in Vancouver with Ben Christly, said that the two were “barely able to get this place open on Christmas Eve 2015 and it (has) been a whirlwind ever since.”
Now, Ben’s Bottle Shop is currently a nominee in the USA TODAY 10Best 2022 Readers’ Choice award for the Best Beer Bar in America.
“Our original goals were basically the same as they are now, to provide a comfortable place where one can purchase, drink and discuss some of the world’s great beers, both locally and internationally,” Augustin said. “We are at our heart serious beer nerds. In fact, when we opened we had two Certified Cicerones on staff – Ethan is one of them and is still with us to this day. We have also put a great deal of effort into our food. Our current Chef Zach Cappocia is one of the most talented in the region and the world will really get to experience our culinary evolution once we get a hood system in. This town already had a great beer culture and tradition when we arrived and our goal all along was to participate and enhance that and it has been a lot of fun attempting it.
Although Christly is still in town and connected to the Ben’s Bottle Shop business, Augustin said he bought him out right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it was for most businesses – especially restaurants – Augustin said the pandemic was extremely difficult. Luckily, he said they had/have an amazing team that were able to muddle through with limited, new rules and, in general, a populace that was (for good reason) not too interested in nightlife and entertainment.
“There were some brutally slow times, but our neighborhood and regulars are both amazing and they kept us going,” Augustin said. “I tried (just) about everything during it, even beer delivery, which at the very least gave me something to do. Thankfully all that is over and while in general the world is a mess and who knows what is in store for the future, we are thrilled to still be in the game.”
A panel of experts and 10Best editors were the ones who chose nominees for the 2022 Readers’ Choice award for the Best Beer Bar category, and the contest first launched on Sept. 26. Augustin said he said he believes Ben’s Bottle Shop got the attention of this predominantly East Coast contest through Beer Kulture. Lattisha Cook, the CEO of Beer Kulture, is one of the three expert judges and Augustin said Ben’s was one of the only non-breweries to participate in their Kulture4DaKids school supplies drive in which they collected supplies and did a small fundraiser for Vancouver Schools and Evergreen Schools.
“I say (the contest) is predominantly East Coast because we are literally the only West Coast spot and even the legendary Falling Rock from Denver is closed,” Augustin said.
In 2018 and 2019, Ben’s Bottle Shop won the title of Best Beer Bar in Washington, according to The Brewers Association (craftbeer.com). Unfortunately, Augustin said the pandemic “gutted” The Brewers Association and they have not since attempted to host the award.
As far as the future of Ben’s Bottle Shop goes, Augustin said their food offerings are “on a level seldom seen in the beer world.” He said Chef Zach Cappocia is extremely talented, so patrons may want to revisit Ben’s culinary options.
Augustin also said they are looking forward to a lot of fun events in general as the year progresses.
“Ethan and Lynette have been working really hard on our wine program and we have some really rare biodynamic wines on the shelf right now that are forefront of ‘wine hype’ these days and hard to get,” he said. “We are also fortunate to have an event space, unlike other taprooms, that groups can reserve for private parties. We have hosted rehearsal dinners, retirement parties, work socials and even several baby showers.”
Voting for the 10Best 2022 Readers’ Choice award for Best Beer Bar will continue until Oct. 24. People can vote once per day, per category, per person. Once the voting is complete, the top 10 winners will be announced Nov. 4. Those wishing to vote can do so here.
“Otherwise, we just plan to keep doing the best we can to bring glory to Vancouver and our neighborhood and just in general take care of people and have fun – what hospitality and beer is all about really,” Augustin said.
Ben’s Bottle Shop is located at 8052 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Suite 2002, in Vancouver.