You know the feeling you get after a long workday, when you come home, put on some flannels and pour yourself a fine craft brew? It’s called “completely relaxed,” which is how you’ll feel when you walk through the door at McKay’s Taphouse and Pizzeria, located on East Maple Street between downtown Bellingham and Sehome Village shopping center.
I’m not suggesting you wear your jammies to McKay’s, but I’m not sure anyone would notice (or care) if you did. The pub, established in 2008, has a distinct neighborly feel, with its obvious regulars and a welcoming vibe for we who aspire to that goal. The décor is—you guessed it—beer-centric, with stained glass, a fireplace and Tiffany-style lamps for that pubby ambiance. Throw in an authentic-looking jukebox and several pinball machines, and you have all the ingredients for a fun evening.
But wait! We haven’t even begun to talk about the beer. Or the pizza. Or the live, homegrown music. Or the special events. All of which combine to make McKay’s the happening, hopping place it is, every night of the week.
First, the Beer
McKay’s Taphouse has 50 available taps, plus a cask engine, dispensing beer and hard cider. The selection changes practically daily. On my latest visit, our choices included brews from Bellingham, up and down the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains and across the pond. Whether you are a certified hophead, a Belgian devotee, a lambic lover or just an average beer-drinking Joe or Jane, you are sure to find something to your liking.
I recently sampled three beers:
- Island Hoppin’ Lime Kiln Lager – Darker than I’m used to for a lager, with a nice malty flavor. It finished a bit thin, I must say.
- Ninkasi Belgian Single Ale – Ninkasi’s ode to the session Tripel. This one had a lot going on! Kind of funky on the nose, it actually reminded me of an oaky Chardonnay. But it tasted completely different than the aroma. Slightly spicy and very drinkable.
- Stone Cali-Belgique IPA – Stone’s IPA made with Belgian yeast and dry-hopped with Chinook hops makes for a very interesting combination of floral aroma, apricot and bitter lemon flavors, and nice hoppiness. Another lovely, quaffable brew.
Also available on draught were a selection of IPAs, ales, stouts, barleywines and ciders from Boundary Bay, Elysian, New Belgium, Stone, ASLAN, Great Divide, Fremont, Stone, Finnriver, Sierra Nevada and Strongbow. Oh, and PBR.
If that’s not enough selection for you or your mates, fear not: McKay’s has about 100 bottled beers in stock, including Lagunitas, Dogfish Head, Deschutes, Firestone, gluten-free Harvester and Widmer Omission, and lots more.
McKay’s Taphouse is big on brewer’s nights, too. Twice a month on Tuesdays, they invite breweries in to show off their special brews, give away swag and make some new fans. Recent brewer’s nights include Bellingham’s new Aslan Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada (which did a 49-tap takeover of the place), Stone Brewing Co. and Iron Horse Brewery. Rogue Week happens April 28 – May 4.
Next, the Pizza
McKay’s is also a pizzeria, so we ordered a super-cheesy pie to soak up the brew. Like McKay’s, it wasn’t fancy or pretentious—rather, it was total comfort food. With about a half-dozen cheeses on top of the soft and chewy crust, it paired very well with our beer selections. My companion also ordered the Greek Salad, which he topped with bacon and pesto dressing. I didn’t know what to make of that combination, but according to him, it worked. His exact words: “This is the weirdest, most delicious salad ever.” Other McKay’s nibbles include sandwiches, chicken wings and appetizers.
Music is regularly on the menu at McKay’s. During our visit, like every Tuesday, it was supplied by Marvin Johnson on piano, this week joined by Thomas Harris on saxophone and Mitzi Moore on vocals. The trio kept everyone’s toes tapping to a wide variety of both well-known and more obscure tunes. There’s live music on Thursday nights, too, ranging from acoustic blues to funk, jazz and bluegrass.
McKay’s is run by really nice folks, from owners Dave and Lydia McKay to bar manager Paul Christiansen and assistant manager Hope Rietzen. Together, they’ve hosted countless brewer’s nights, tap takeovers, fundraisers and Trivia Nights. With happy hour from 11:00 a.m. until
6:00 p.m. every day, and plenty to drink, do, listen to and eat while you’re here, McKay’s Taphouse is a must-try destination for any beer aficionado.
McKay’s Taphouse is just like home—that is, if your house is warm, fun, comfortable and filled with hundreds of delicious beers.
McKay’s Taphouse and Pizzeria, 1118 E. Maple St. Bellingham, WA 98225 360-647-3600
Hours: Sunday – Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Thursday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.
Trivia Night every Wednesday
McKay’s on Facebook
Oso Landslide Fundraiser
On another note, I’d like to cordially invite all of you to join me for a special fundraiser for Oso Landslide families, hosted by the organizers of Bellingham Beer Week and taking place Friday, May 2 at Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen. You can enjoy beer from each of Bellingham’s breweries (of course), food, raffle prizes (wait ’til you see the list of donated prizes!) and a silent auction (ditto). Plus music and fun all evening long. All proceeds go to Oso relief, through the Red Cross. I’ll be there selling raffle tickets, so be sure to bring some cash–you might win something awesome, and it’s for a very good cause.