As of August 2020, beachgoers in Birch Bay now have easy access to craft beer — right at the beach. Owned and operated by Bellingham beer industry partners Jake Gobeille and Darin Hamm, Beach Cat Brewing is Birch Bay’s first brewery. I visited this scrappy little nanobrewery during its first month of operation to meet Jake and taste some beach-brewed beer. Here’s what to expect from Beach Cat Brewing.
Beach Cat’s Story
The idea for Beach Cat Brewing began with Jake (he and his high school buddies used to call each other “beach cats”). Jake spent four years homebrewing before working at Illuminati and Menace Brewing in Bellingham. He met Darin — president of the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild — during his time in the Bellingham beer scene. The two wanted to open their own brewery and soon plans to open Beach Cat were set in motion.
While looking for a location in Whatcom County, Jake serendipitously stumbled upon a space in Birch Bay. It was perfect: big bayview windows, a patio, and a central location in the beach resort town. With so many breweries in Bellingham these days, it was a smart move for Beach Cat to move into an untapped market in Whatcom County. In less than a month of operation, Jake and Darin are already making waves with their new nanobrewery.
Visiting Beach Cat Brewing
Beach Cat Brewing is located right off Birch Bay Drive, in the heart of Birch Bay. A wraparound patio provides bay views from every table. Inside the newly constructed, wood-paneled taproom, my eye was immediately drawn to Beach Cat’s gorgeous epoxy tap handles. Matching sample trays round out the aesthetic: cool, casual beach vibes combined with precise craftsmanship. This casual-meets-craft feeling extends to the beer as well. With punny cat names, these are expertly crafted brews that don’t take themselves too seriously. But don’t let the chill vibes fool you. These cats are making serious beer.
As head brewer, Darin brings 20 years of homebrewing experience to Beach Cat. He and Jake hope to educate customers about beer and the brewing process. Their brewing equipment is visible from the taproom, and both owners are open to questions. Jake tells me that more than one customer has asked for something light (like Bud or Coors) and been pleasantly surprised by Beach Cat’s craft beer. That’s what Beach Cat is all about — sharing great beer with drinkers of all experience levels, educating customers about beer, and of course relaxing by the beach.
Beach Cat offers six of their own beers on tap, along with three guest taps for cider and local breweries. Jake tells me that their only “regular” beer is the Shabby Tabby IPA, a 6.8% ABV beer brewed with Citra, Mosaic & Amarillo hops. During my visit, the tap list ranged from Phantom Cat Australian Sparkling Ale and Amarillo Smash Cat (Single Malt and Single Hop) to English Rex Dark Mild and a roasty O-Darin Dry Irish Stout (brewed in collaboration with Stemma Brewing). A Beach Blonde and Catfish Helles were also on tap. Most of the beers were between 4-6% ABV — providing plenty of refreshing, low-alcohol options for beating the Birch Bay summer heat.
In addition to draft beer, Beach Cat also sells 16oz cans to-go. Special attention has gone into the can label art, designed by friends of the brewery with playful Beach Cat characters for each beer. Fans of this fun and unique Beach Cat artwork can order merchandise from the online shop, or stop by the brewery to check out their latest offerings.
Though Beach Cat doesn’t have a kitchen, you can bring your own food or order from The Beach next door. Like food trucks at other breweries, The Beach will give you a number and bring your order out when it’s ready. They offer burgers, fish and chips, chicken strips and more.
Visiting During Covid-19
Beach Cat Brewing opened during Phase 2 of Washington State’s Safe Start Phased Plan. They’ve implemented social distancing practices from the start to keep staff and customers safe. Outdoor seating is available at picnic tables on the deck, and masks are required unless seated at your table.
Hours and Location
Beach Cat Brewing is open Thursday – Sunday, 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. The brewery is family-friendly and dogs (and cats!) are welcome on the patio.