Friday, December 16th, 2016
4 Bellingham Beers Inspired by Northwest Washington
Brandon Fralic

Boundary Bay. Chuckanut. Kulshan. North Fork. It’s no coincidence that nearly half of Whatcom County’s breweries take their names from nearby mountains and waterways. From Mount Baker to the Salish Sea, Bellingham’s natural beauty inspires arts and crafts of every kind — including craft beers. After all, beer is mostly made up of water — flowing down from the mountains via rivers and streams before making its way into the bay (and our pint glasses).

Mount Baker: The inspiration for many a-brew.

In addition to breweries named after the local landscape, several Bellingham beer recipes are inspired by the Great Outdoors. Here are four northwest Washington-inspired brews to pair with your next outdoor adventure.

The Landscape: Galbraith Mountain Trails

Galbraith Mountain is Bellingham’s world-renowned mountain bike playground. Accessible by bike from downtown, the area contains a massive network (over 50 miles) of trails maintained by The WHIMPS Mountain Bike Coalition. But don’t take my word for it. Our Outdoors blogger, Todd, has first-hand experience on the mountain. Check out his Best Bets for Mountain Biking in Bellingham for the rundown.

The Beer: Boundary Bay Cedar Dust IPA

Award-winning Cedar Dust IPA.

The first beer in Boundary Bay’s Galbraith Mountain Series, Cedar Dust IPA was introduced in 2013. Tap Trail voters named Cedar Dust their favorite Bellingham beer in 2015 — a considerable honor in a town full of excellent beer. Cedar Dust IPA is a bold northwest style, made with four varieties of hops grown exclusively in Washington. Its piney aroma and smooth, earthy mouthfeel may invoke sweet singletrack daydreams — or call up memories of the mountain.

The Landscape: Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan.

Shuksan is perhaps the most picturesque mountain in Whatcom County. Often photographed due to its ease of access and striking, precipitous peak, Shuksan has quite literally become the poster child of the North Cascades. It’s no wonder there’s a beer named after this 9,131-foot behemoth.

The Beer: Kulshan Shuksan Russian Imperial Stout

Named after the Lummi word for Mount Baker, Kulshan Brewing embraces the outdoors in their marketing, branding, and their beer. Kulshan’s Shuksan Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) is a fine example. This full-bodied brew is as dark as a backcountry night at Mount Shuksan itself. Because the RIS style is so bold and strong (Kulshan’s comes in at 95 IBU and 9.5% ABV) this one’s best enjoyed in moderation.

Atwood Oyster Stout

The Landscape: Drayton Harbor

In Blaine, Drayton Harbor is separated from Semiahmoo Bay and the greater Strait of Georgia by Semiahmoo Spit. This natural resource is the home of Drayton Harbor Oyster Company. After a long history of oyster production in these waters, contamination issues forced their closure for years. A 3-year community cleanup and restoration effort successfully brought oyster production back to Drayton Harbor in 2004. Today, you can visit Drayton Harbor Oyster Company seasonally, and enjoy a unique beer made with their oysters.

The Beer: Atwood Dark Harbor Oyster Stout

While an oyster stout may sound odd, Atwood Ales reminds us that it’s a rather natural pairing. According to their description, “Beer and oyster shells have been hanging out together for hundreds of years, with oyster shells providing a source of calcium carbonate for adjusting brewing water chemistry.” Dark Harbor is brewed with oysters from Drayton Harbor — located just 2 miles from the brewery. It’s a clean stout — not particularly oystery — with a hint of brininess. Pair it with fresh oysters at Drayton Harbor Oyster Company for the full experience. 

The Landscape: Chuckanut Mountains and Skagit Valley

The Chuckanut Mountains are a year-round destination for hikers, bikers, trail runners, backpackers, and horseback riders between Whatcom and Skagit counties. At their southern terminus, the Chuckanuts give way to Skagit Valley’s fertile farmlands and — further south — the snaking Skagit River. It’s here that Bellingham’s own Chuckanut Brewery has established a second location, affectionately know as South Nut.

Skagit Valley from Blanchard Mountain in the Chuckanuts.

The Beer: Chuckanut Skagit Blonde

A most crisp and refreshing brew, Skagit Blonde showcases 100% Skagit Malt from locally grown barley. This comes as no surprise, given South Nut’s proximity to Skagit Valley Malting. The two businesses are neighbors at the Port of Skagit County. Skagit Blonde debuted during summer of 2016; only time will tell if it will be back again next year. Until then, Chuckanut offers an impressive lineup of ales and lagers to keep Whatcom and Skagit drinkers satisfied.

Until next time, cheers!

Also see our Beer page for more posts about Bellingham Craft Beer.


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About the Author:

Freelance writer Brandon Fralic has called Bellingham home since 2006. He writes about the outdoors, travel, and craft beer for a variety of regional publications. In 2013, Brandon co-founded Beers at the Bottom to highlight trails and ales in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.