When it comes to beer — like most things in life — we’ve all gotta start somewhere. My love for Bellingham beer began at Boundary Bay on my 21st birthday nearly a decade ago. In the years since I have observed the Bellingham beer scene blossom — from a two-brewery town to today’s boomtown of over a dozen breweries. And with more breweries on the way, “Beeringham” shows no signs of slowing down.
If you’re new to town, just visiting, or exploring Bellingham’s independent breweries for the first time, the sheer number of Tap Trail stops in Bellingham can be overwhelming. Where does one begin?
To point beer-curious folks in the right direction, I’ve rounded up six of Bellingham’s most time-tested brews. Many of these are personal favorites. Yet they also represent the wide variety of styles brewed here. Yes, we tend to champion our IPAs in the northwest, but you’ll find more than bitter brews on this list. To back up my claims, I’ve included links to the most popular Bellingham brews from trusted beer rating site, Beer Advocate. As they say, respect beer!
These are the three oldest breweries in Bellingham proper (excluding the excellent North Fork Brewery in Deming). Boundary Bay started brewing in 1995 and remains a local favorite. You’re not a true Bellinghamster if you don’t own one of their classic Save the Ales hoodies. Chuckanut came along in 2008, winning Small Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009. Kulshan Brewing was founded in the Sunnyland neighborhood in 2012 and has since opened a 30-barrel brewhouse at their second location, K2.
Boundary Bay’s classic India Passage Ale (IPA) was one of the first IPAs brewed in the northwest. Its 78 IBUs are offset by a big malt bill, balancing out the bitterness and making it the perfect gateway IPA for newbies to the style. It was the first IPA I can remember trying, and I’ll continue to raise a pint of Boundary Bay IPA for many years to come.
Perhaps tied for popularity is Boundary’s classic Scotch Style Ale. Boasting the same strength as Boundary Bay IPA (6.4% ABV), the Scotch is significantly sweeter, with relatively low bitterness. And it has stood the test of time. First brewed in 1995, this beer makes for an excellent introduction to the Bellingham beer scene — it’s one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Bellingham beers still in production today.
Admittedly, I don’t always drink German lagers. But when I do, I prefer Chuckanut — and I’m not alone. Winner of countless awards for their German-style “bier”, Chuckanut continues to crank out the highest quality beer year after year. Most recently, their Pilsner Lager and Kolsch German Style Ale (both 5% ABV) took home Gold Medals at the World Beer Cup. Both styles are a great place to start — not only at Chuckanut but in the Bellingham beer scene as a whole. Diehard lager lovers will not be disappointed.
The most popular Kulshan beer on rating sites is Bastard Kat IPA, hands-down. Think classic West Coast IPA — crisp, piney, and full of citrusy Cascade hops. It even comes in at a devilish 6.66% ABV. Find this one in the green cans at local beer shops and markets.
On the other end of the spectrum, Russian Imperial Stout is consistently among Kulshan’s highest-rated beers. And for good reason. This boozy brew (9.5% ABV) earned Double Gold, tying for Best Stout in Sip Northwest’s 2017 Best of the Northwest awards. It’s a silky-smooth introduction to the Kulshan lineup — seamlessly straddling the line between bold and approachable. A true Kulshan classic.
These are just six of the hundreds of beers brewed locally in Bellingham. For further exploration, check out Bellingham’s New Classics — including beers from Wander, Aslan, and Structures. Because once you’ve experienced a few Bellingham classics, there’s no turning back.