Last week, Bellingham was the place to be for craft beer fans, as the second annual Bellingham Beer Week kicked off. And from where I was sitting (glass of beer in hand), it was a resounding success. Every venue I visited was packed with happy imbibers of some of the finest craft beers the region has to offer. Here are some of my favorite events from this happy, hoppy week.
- Behind-the-scenes brewery tours at Kulshan Brewing Co., Boundary Bay Brewery and Chuckanut Brewery. Each brewery’s set up was as unique as the beers they produce. Our tour guides were all friendly and informative, and there was beer to taste along the way! What could be better?
- Elizabeth Station’s Mikkeller Brewer’s Night. Mikkeller is a San Francisco brewery with Danish roots. On tap were some of their sour beers, a style Elizabeth Station features every Monday. I admit, I have never sought out sours, but I was happily surprised by the offerings:
- It’s Alive! – This one is not a sour—it’s a Belgian Strong Ale, hoppy, thirst-quenching and styled after a Trappist beer.
- Spontanpeach – My tasting mates didn’t give this one high marks, so I skipped it. (Hey, it was a long week, so I had to choose wisely.)
- Spontangooseberry – Sour, for sure, but smooth. I tasted apricot in there.
- SpontanCassis – Fruity aromas, sour cherry flavor with a dry finish.
The lesson here: don’t be shy about trying something new. As owner Patrick McEvoy said, “We assume that everyone who walks through the door wants to learn more.”
- McKay’s Taphouse. I’d been looking forward to checking out McKay’s for some time, and Bellingham Beer Week was the perfect time to do it. McKay’s has a real pub feel and super friendly atmosphere. We kicked off BBW there, with Schooner Exact brewer’s night, and returned again mid-week for Machine House night:
- Schooner Exact Brewing Company is in Seattle, and I’ve been a fan since they started. My mates and I enjoyed their King Street Brown Ale, West Point Pale Ale, 3 Grid IPA and Hop Vine IPA. Then, the brewer walked in with a keg of Indian Summer Ale, so we had to try that. It’s a hoppy brown ale with a dry aftertaste. Once it warmed up, it had some nice caramel notes.
- Machine House Brewery is also in Seattle, and during their brewer’s night, we were treated to music by Br’er Rabbit, a Bellingham-based Americana/roots band that brought the house down. But on to the beer: we tasted a Dark Mild, a Golden Ale, and an English Bitter, all served from casks and hand pumped without CO2. All three were a real treat and a nice contrast to the American-style beers I usually drink. That’s what Bellingham Beer Week is all about: discovery.
- Boundary Bay Oktoberfest. Speaking of discovery, I’ve lived in Bellingham for 11 years, and have never been to Boundary Bay’s Oktoberfest. And I’m half German! This was my year to fix that. Boundary’s beer garden was filled with happy people, many dressed for the occasion and vying for the title of Mr. Lederhosen and Ms. Bavarian Beer Maid. A great time was had by all, with the Pickled Herring Band providing “oom-pahs” and the kitchen turning out bratwursts and German potato salad. And lest I neglect the beer, Boundary was serving its traditional Harvest Ale on cask—perfect for the celebration. The ale was even served in big, handled mugs, for optimal toasting. Ein Prosit!
- Food and beer pairing with Kulshan Brewery and StrEAT Food. Food made with beer, paired with beer. What could be better? We sampled a hard cider cabbage puree, paired with Tieton Dry Hop cider. Both were delicious. I also loved the Spent Grain Falafel Pita, made with spent IPA grains, and paired with one of my favorite Kulshan brews—the Good Ole Boy Pale Ale. We tried Braised Beef Po’Boys made with Kulshan Transporter and a Celtic Breakfast Cup paired with Dude Man Wheat, and creative sides like Tarragon Potato Salad and Apple Almond Slaw. Everything was YUM.
And then came dessert. Beeramisu, Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée and Chocolate Malt Pot de Crème, all paired with Kulshan Russian Imperial Stout. All were fantastic, but the combination of chocolate malt and Russian Imperial Stout still haunts my dreams.
Alas, I missed a few events from my original list, from the highbrow (cheese-and-beer pairings) to the decidedly low brow (IPA throw downs, Barleywood Squares and corn hole), but there’s always next year!
Bellingham Beer Week organizer Aubrey Laurence said that everyone involved wanted to elevate craft beer, create awareness, support local businesses and have fun. With the wide variety of events, and over 20 participating businesses, I’d say they achieved all of their goals.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to ease into fall, Bellingham Beer Week is it. See you next year. Cheers!