Fans of traditional German lagers and Euro-style ales have long known that Bellingham’s Chuckanut Brewery is where to find properly brewed examples of their favorite beverages. Brewmaster Will Kemper and his co-owner and wife Mari have worked hard to perfect their product and deliver clean, balanced and true-to-style renditions of classics such as Pilsner, Kolsch, Alt, Marzen, Helles, Dunkel, Bock, Fest Bier, British Pale Ale, Schwarzbier and many, many more. As a chemical engineer and graduate of UC Davis’s Master Brewers Program, Will was well-prepared for both sides of brewing: the chemistry involved as well as the manufacturing process. He has had a hand in brewery start-ups from Monterrey, Mexico to Istanbul, Turkey and many in between.
Chuckanut Brewery opened in Bellingham in 2008, and quickly built a solid reputation for quality, as well as an enthusiastic fan base, both locally and throughout the Puget Sound region. Whether you enjoy them from the tap or a bottle, Chuckanut’s ales and lagers are solid and consistently excellent. The taproom is cozy and in nice weather, you can grab a beer and hang out on the waterside deck. And the exciting news is that the taproom will soon expand from six to 10 taps, so more beer styles will be available every day! Look for it sometime in March.
Second Location Will Increase Production
Growing demand for their most popular brews–including Pilsner and Kolsch–has led to the exciting news that a second Chuckanut Brewery with an initial production of 5,000 barrels (building to 15,000) is opening soon in the Skagit Valley. (The Bellingham brewery setup is 2,500 barrels.) After a few construction delays, they hope to be open in June. “We need the beer to be ready for summer,” said Mari. “Every summer since we opened, we’ve had waiting lists, both because we make different styles of beer from other breweries, and because many of our beers are lighter-bodied, and people drink them more in the summer.” The new location is also close to Skagit Valley Malting. “I’m so excited to know the farmers who are growing the barley and the guys who are malting it,” she said. “Not many breweries can say that.”
With this local connection, they were able to request a very light malted barley to use in a Mexican-style lager. It’s available exclusively at Tom Douglas restaurants in Seattle, specifically Cantina Leña. “We loved Mexican beers when Will was setting up two breweries in Monterrey, so we thought we’d experiment in conjunction with the malting house,” said Mari. “It’s a great beer, especially low in IBUs, very balanced, with a slight bitterness. Drop a lime in and it’s fruity and perfect for summer.” They’ll be introducing the new brew on February 17 at a Chuckanut Brewery Beer Dinner at Brave Horse Tavern. The Mexican-themed dinner is in conjunction with Cantina Leña, and features five courses paired with Chuckanut lagers.
Once the new facility (affectionately known as “South Nut”) is up and running in the Port of Skagit’s Innovation Zone, look for a new line of beers made with local malted barley and Washington State hops. There will be no restaurant, but an outdoor beer garden and food trucks will provide plenty of space to relax and enjoy a beer and a bite. Of course, the Bellingham facility (North Nut) will continue producing award-winners, and focus on research and specialty beers.
Menu Features Local Products
Mari Kemper is an enthusiastic (to say the least) supporter of local Whatcom County farmers, too. “From the start, we’ve sought out local farmers, butchers and suppliers for the ingredients that make up our special Locavore menu,” she said. “Terra Verde Farm, Cascadia Mushrooms, Barlean’s Fishery, Hempler’s Meats and other local producers are proudly featured every day at our restaurant.”
Menu items vary with the season, but you’ll find everything from New England-style clam chowder, local salmon, authentic wursts and classic pub favorites like burgers, pizzas and salads, each ready to pair with a delicious draft from the kegs.
Award-winning Chuckanut Brewery Ales and Lagers
While Chuckanut’s menu deserves accolades of its own, the beer has been winning prestigious competitions around the globe since they opened. Here’s just a sampling of the honors they’ve racked up:
Brewing Network Beer of the Year 2012: Chuckanut Pilsner
Great American Beer Festival: National Small Brewpub & Brewer 2009 (in their first year at the GABF!), National Small Brewery & Brewer 2011
World Beer Cup: Kolsch, Silver 2012; Dunkel Gold 2010, Silver 2014
Great American Beer Festival: Dunkel Silver 2013, Gold 2014; Pilsner Gold, Silver 2009, Bronze 2010, 2011; Alt German Ale Gold 2013; Vienna Lager Gold 2009 and 2010, Silver 2012.
North American Brewers Association: Dunkel Gold 2014 and 2015; Kolsch Gold 2014 and 2013, Silver 2015; Marzen Gold 2015; Yellow Card Golden Ale Gold 2013; Helles Gold 2013; Pilsner Bronze 2011; Vienna Lager Silver 2013; Bock Silver 2009, Gold 2015.
Washington Beer Awards Dunkel Bronze 2013, Silver 2014; Kolsch, Gold 2014; Yellow Card Golden Ale Silver 2013, Gold 2014; Helles Gold 2013; Pilsner, Silver 2013; Vienna Lager Bronze 2014.
Northwest Brewing News Readers Choice Award: Kolsch 2013; Pilsner, 2010 through 2014; Vienna Lager, 2014; Bock Gold 2010 and 2012; Fest Bier, Gold 2011, 2012, 2014.
You can see the full list here, and it’s organized by style.
Washington Beer Open House and other Chuckanut Brewery Events in Bellingham
Every Monday night at 6:00 is $3.00 Pint Night. Tuesday at 5:00 is $1.50 Kolsch night. Friday at 6:00 is $8.00 Liter Stein Night. Hoppy hour is from 4:00 – 6:00 Sunday – Thursday, with $1.00 off beer and wine and special menus.
February 20: Washington Beer Open House, from noon to 4:00 p.m. Take a brewery tour at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30, talk to the brewers and try the unfiltered Kellerbier, straight from the tank. Then hop on the bus to go to the next brewery. Participants include Boundary Bay Brewery, Aslan Brewery, Wander Brewing, Kulshan Brewing and K2.
March 11: Tapping of the Dry Irish Stout.
March 12: Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Look for the Chuckanut crew in the parade. That evening, celebrate with a band and special menu. Spend the 17th in a cozy setting with Irish music. All month, enjoy Marzen (March) Lager.
May 1: May Day Beer Dinner, 6:00. Make it a beer weekend by making reservations for the May Day Beer Dinner, which happens the day after April Brews Day.
September 10: Oktoberfest, as part of the Bellingham Beer Week 2016 celebration. Beer Week is September 9 – 18.
The Beer is the Draw at Chuckanut Brewery
Chuckanut Brewery attracts beer lovers from near and far, which is great not only for them, but for Bellingham’s growing craft beer scene. For that, we owe a great deal of thanks to Will and Mari Kemper. It’s obvious that their success didn’t just happen; but when you really know what you’re doing, you insist on perfection and you put all you’ve got into your passion, good things usually result. And their good thing is a product that speaks for itself, and reflects the love that Will and Mari Kemper, all their brewers and their staff have for giving us the very best beer they can make.
Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, 601 Holly St., Bellingham, WA 98225
Winter Hours: Open every day at 11:00 a.m. Kitchen ’til 9:00 Sunday – Thursday , ’til 9:30 Friday and Saturday. Bar open later.