A couple years ago, Jesse Nelson owned a web design and marketing business that was leaving him unfulfilled. He knew there was more he wanted from life, and he felt an urgency to give back to the world through his work.
That opportunity came when his friend Adam Stacey and brother-in-law Josh Libolt approached him about opening a tap house. Their idea was an establishment that would be as much about water as it was about beer – a place where 25 cents from every pint sold would be donated to help create clean water in developing countries.
Instinctively, Nelson knew this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for and committed to making it a reality. In February 2016, after lots of sweat, planning and heavy labor, the three partners opened Overflow Taps in the historic Waples Building on Lynden’s Front Street.
“I feel like this has been in planning our whole lives,” he said, as he gestured toward the 45-seat tap house. It’s a warm, cozy place with an eye-catchingly sleek wood bar, beautiful handcrafted bar stools, earthy interior tones and an electric fireplace against one of the walls. There are board games so customers can chat over beer and some friendly competition, and a large pull-down screen means those who want to watch big sports games can do so – without Overflow Taps becoming a sports bar.
To help developing countries gain access to clean water, Nelson and his partners are working with Charity: Water, a non-profit organization based in New York City. By September 2016 the business had raised $5,300 toward the global water crisis. “Every time we blow a keg we celebrate the fact that someone is accessing clean drinking water for the rest of their life,” he explained. “We’ll pour that customer’s beer into a 20-oz glass engraved with the phrase ‘One Keg, One Life.’ It helps us tell the story, and gives the person drinking the beer a story to tell as well.”
The months before Overflow Taps’ opening weren’t easy. The three partners first approached banks for funding but their requests didn’t go down well. “Either they didn’t like the charity component, or they didn’t think Lynden was ready for a tap house,” Nelson recalled. Undeterred, Nelson, Stacey and Libolt knew they weren’t prepared to compromise on either component of the business. They used crowd funding, peer-to-peer loans and help from various family members to raise the funds they required. Business mentorship came from the owners of Aslan Brewing Company and Wander Brewing, and they invested their own heavy labor, designing and building the entire space themselves.
Overflow Taps opened to an enthusiastic audience, offering a choice of nine beer taps, one coffee tap, a wine tap and two cider taps. To give patrons a taste of the various craft beers available, the taps are rotated daily and feature local beers and some from further afield. Hungry customers are encouraged to order in food from area restaurants and to ease the choices, a box of menus is kept on the counter. And Drizzle Oil Olive and Tasting Room and Avenue Bread are popular options just steps away.
Nelson said Overflow Taps has attracted both local residents and visitors, including cyclists from across the border who’ve stopped for a quick craft beer before biking home. “We have people who come in, don’t even drink and still give us money toward the charity,” Nelson reflected. “Lynden is a very charitable community, and that’s shined through for us.”
106 5th Street in Lynden
Open Thursday – Sunday at noon, Monday – Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. To see Overflow Taps at its busiest, come after 7:00 p.m. – the tap house buzzes with energy until midnight Thursday through Saturday, and until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.