On St. Patrick’s Day in Bellingham, Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro has been a most popular place to get your Irish on—no matter what corner of the planet you call “the mother country.” From wall to shamrock-decked wall, they pack in the green-clad revelers like so many coins in a pot o’ gold. Luckily, between the taproom, bistro and beer garden there is plenty of room for all.
Naturally, the (not green) beer flows, authentic Irish music fills the air and curly-haired Irish step dancers fly around like Tinkerbells.
With general manager Janet O’Lightner (she adds the O’ in March) in charge of the details, you can be sure you’ll experience a St. Paddy’s day that’s as close to authentic as you’ll care to have. Add in genuine Irish fare and the heart-stirring sound of bagpipes and drums, and you might think you’ve been transported to the Emerald Isle.
Since St. Patrick’s Day is on Monday this year, it is wise and fitting that the celebration should extend throughout the weekend—so at Boundary Bay, the festivities start on Friday and don’t end until Monday night, when the last leprechaun has thrown in the shillelagh. Special menu items like corned beef and cabbage, cottage pie, Patty melt and shepherd’s pie will be available all weekend, and on Monday, it’s all Irish fare all day.
Traditional Irish step dancers perform throughout the day Friday – Monday, and Bellingham Firefighters Pipes and Drums will perform Saturday and Monday.
Boundary Bay’s Beers for St. Paddy’s Day
Now, the extra shenanigans make St. Patrick’s Day at Boundary Bay a blast, but we all know it’s the beer that really matters. And true to their original-Bellingham-brewpub roots, the crew does not disappoint! Brewer Aaron Jacob Smith and his team have been busy making sure there is plenty of Dry Irish Stout and Irish Red to go around. In fact, the brewery will go through 17 barrels of Dry Irish Stout in the month of March alone! That equals 34 kegs, 527 gallons, 1,054 growlers or 4,216 pints, if my math adds up. I’ve already had two, so that leaves 4,214 pints for the rest of you.
It’s really no surprise that this perennial favorite, always on tap at Boundary, would prove to be extra popular in March. It’s silky-smooth, roasty and so quaffable. It goes very well with food, too.
The Irish Red, which is available in 16-ounce cans for the first time this year, is another good choice for toasting your friends with a “Slainte!” Irish Red is a medium-body ale with a nice malty character, a note of caramel and enough hops to make it interesting. The standard Irish Red is delicious, but I was lucky to also try a special version infused with merlot-soaked apricots. It had a richness that was neither apricot-y nor merlot-y—just very enjoyable.
On my last visit, my companion also ordered a Saison, infused with sweet orange peel, green peppercorn and juniper. I love a Saison and this one did not disappoint.—not too spicy, and very refreshing. Of course, my guy and I can’t visit Boundary Bay without drinking an IPA—the beer that made us move to Bellingham (well, it certainly played a part in the decision). Boundary’s IPA is known for being super-hoppy on the nose, citrusy, floral and bitter—and this one was true to form, just as expected. And, just as expected, it went down fast!
Along with the beer Bellinghamsters have called their own since 1995, Boundary Bay’s kitchen consistently fills our bellies with high quality, mostly locally sourced food. They procure meat, fish, shellfish, cheese, vegetables, nuts, and fruit from local farms, and coffee, pretzels, breads and ice cream from local producers. The seasonal quality comes through in dishes like macaroni and cheese (the best in town), pan-fried oysters, lamb burgers, salmon, humongous salads, fish tacos, yam alechiladas and more. For dessert, allow me to suggest the crème brûlée, which pairs perfectly with the Dry Irish Stout. Ridiculously yummy!
The 5th Annual Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade
We cannot talk about Boundary Bay Brewery on St. Patrick’s Day in Bellingham without talking about one of Janet’s best-ever accomplishments—the Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade! This year marks the fifth year of the parade, which Janet made happen—apparently because Boundary Bay just couldn’t hold all the Irish fun she wanted her community to have.
Each year, the parade is held on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, rain or shine, and in honor of the community’s fire and police personnel. The Bellingham Firefighters Pipes and Drums are featured, along with plenty of kid-pleasing fire trucks. Squalicum and Sehome High School’s marching bands will perform, bikes and strollers will be festooned with balloons and streamers, and kids’ sports teams, local businesses and community groups will strut their stuff. There will even be an appearance by Blitz, the Seattle Seahawks mascot.
The parade begins at noon at the corner of Cornwall Ave. and Ohio St. It travels south down Cornwall, turns left at Chestnut and right on Railroad and ends after turning right onto Maple Avenue. After the parade, check out the Bellingham Farmers Market, visit downtown Bellingham merchants (many featuring St. Paddy’s Day specials), or head to the party at Boundary Bay Brewery. Be prepared to stand in line for a beer, but you’ll have plenty of fun people to watch, great music to listen to and the luck of the Irish to make the line go fast! Besides, beer this good is well worth a bit of a wait—it makes it taste even better.
So there you have it: the makings of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration to remember, at the place Paul Klein, Boundary Bay’s piano player for a dozen years now, says is “the cultural heart of this town.” I will see you there. Erin go bragh!