Another year, another Bellingham Beer Week (BBW) in the books. 2016 was a milestone for the annual celebration, marking a lustrum of beer-centric events promoting our local breweries. Attending BBW has become a tradition for my partner and me — as predictable as dressing up for Halloween and frequenting Boomers during Boomuary. The dates go on our calendars as soon as they are announced. This year’s festivities ran ten days, September 9 – 18, 2016 And as the Community Food Co-op ad on the back of the BBW guidebook proclaimed, “If a ‘beer week’ is ten days long, we’re all for it!”
We attended our first BBW back in 2013. At the time there were only four (!) breweries county-wide, and the Bellingham beer scene was bursting with potential. Times have changed since then. We now have 10 or 12 breweries in Whatcom County (depending on if you count both Kulshan locations and soon-to-be-open Menace Brewing). Who’da thunk that our brewery count would triple in three years?
In addition to Bellingham’s brewery outbreak, other changes have been happening behind the scenes. BBW is now run by Tap Trail, a local business that promotes Bellingham beer and breweries to visitors and locals alike. Tap Trail’s new beer map and passport were released just in time for BBW 2016, now with 22 locations. Grab one at any brewery or taphouse in town (or at the Visitor’s Center) to collect stamps, and earn prizes for drinking local brews. How cool is that?
As for the events, we always try to attend as many as possible. Some newbies popped up (literally) this year — adding to the merriment — while classics like Chuckanut Oktoberfest keep the party going. Without further ado, here are the BBW events we made it to in 2016.
Melvin + Wander PopUp Fest
What, you ask, is a PopUp Fest? It’s quite simple. Take an empty parking lot, rope it off, bring in a gazebo, some standing tables, food trucks, and a trailer full of beer. Announce the secret location at the last minute and bam! PopUp Fest. The first of its kind at BBW, this event was put on by Wander and Melvin — two well-respected breweries in our community. But since when is Melvin part of our beer community?
Jackson, Wyoming’s Melvin Brewing is best known to hop-heads for its Alpha King Challenge and World Beer Cup award-winning 2×4 Double IPA. Combining excellent beer with slick, distinctive marketing, Melvin has recently become more visible in Washington due to distribution — you’ll find them on tap and in stores around Bellingham. But there’s more to the story than that. Melvin confirmed earlier this year that they are opening a brewery in Bellingham at 2416 Meridian Street, the very site at which PopUp Fest was held.
As such, 2×4 was on tap at PopUp Fest, along with Melvin’s Hubert Pale Ale. 2×4 was love at first sip. A 10% ABV fruit punch of utter madness (If your beer is not madness, it’s not beer — according to Melvin), 2×4 is tropical and delicious and goes down a little too easily. Wander’s Black Currant Millie Sour was a tasty followup, tart and refreshing, glowing ruby in the sunlight. Crooked Stave, deGarde, Midnight Sun, Mother Earth, and other breweries rarely seen in Bellingham were also on tap. Proceeds from the event went to Our Treehouse, a Whatcom County non-profit organization.
On the second day of Beer Week my B’ham gave to me…two pints of bier and a bratwurst on a steamed bun. Chuckanut’s Oktoberfest ran all day Saturday, September 10 from noon to midnight. Entertainment included yodeling and costume contests, live music, games, and more. Of course, beer is the reason for the season and Chuckanut makes some of the best German-style lagers in America.
We stopped in for food. Outside, Street Dogz Wiener Wagon was busy serving up the goods, with plenty of brats and sauerkraut to go around. We secured a seat at the long outdoor tables, between an intense game of giant Jenga and the live band. Needless to say, good times were had by all. Prost!
Boundary Bay’s 21st Birthday Block Party
The following weekend, we headed down to Boundary Bay for their 21st birthday party. As the oldest brewery in town, Boundary knows best how to throw a massive party. And party, we did.
We didn’t even make it inside the brewery before we had beers in hand. A tent was set up outside, pouring Traverse Red IPA and a unique, one-run brew: the FemAles Fresh Hop Pale. As everyone should during fresh hop season, we opted for the Pale. Brewed by Whatcom Women in Beer, this collaborative effort was the brew-child of several women in the local beer industry. We found it to be smooth, maltier and less bitter than expected, and ultimately very drinkable. The beer was initially released a few days earlier at the FemAles BBW event, with proceeds donated to the Pink Boots Society.
As we sipped our Fresh Hop Pales on Railroad Avenue, a light rain fell and zipliners soared overhead. That’s right, Boundary Bay went all-out and brought in a portable zipline for their 21-run. After watching a few brave souls take the plunge, we headed down to the beer garden where Baby Cakes was covering everything from Adele to Justin Timberlake. We found ourselves Rolling in the Deep and unable to Stop the Feeling, respectively. Then came Michael Jackson, and the realization that The Way You Make Me Feel, Bellingham Beer Week, knocks me off of my feet. Until next year, cheers!