Well folks, it’s the end of 2015 and if you’re like me, you have no idea how we all got here already. Are the months deliberately flying by to make us feel old? Luckily, we have plenty of wonderful beer, wine and cocktails in Bellingham to distract us from such thoughts and keep us content as we say goodbye to yet another year. Realizing that life is indeed short makes it even better to get together with friends and loved ones over a lovely glass of Syrah or barrel-aged stout in the winter, a pilsner or margarita in the summer, a pumpkin brew come fall or a springtime rosé enjoyed al fresco.
And so, I lift my glass and raise a toast to all of you who shared a drink, a story, or a laugh with me in 2015. Let’s review just where and when we might have done that.
2015 Beer, Wine and Cocktail Highlights
Looking back over my year, I fondly recall some great drinks and good times had with friends at our local bars, pubs and restaurants. Some highlights:
- We added to our growing list of Bellingham craft breweries with the opening of Structures Brewing. I enjoyed everything I tried there and am really looking forward to the wide variety of beers James and Ryan will be brewing.
- Kulshan Brewing added its second location and a 30-barrel brewhouse, called K2, on Kentucky St.
- Boundary Bay Brewing increased its brewing capacity to about 8,000 barrels annually, and expanded its barrel-aging program, too.
- The Racket Bar and Pinball Lounge opened next to the Shakedown on State St. What a blast!
- I was so excited when the Black Cat reopened in Fairhaven. Have you checked it out yet?
- La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza’s fantastic cocktail menu was a very pleasant surprise. (The pizza is always amazing, btw).
- I got to hang out, drink beer and get stamped with two of the founders of the Tap Trail (also two of Bellingham’s coolest people, by popular opinion).
- I hunkered down for the long winter ahead by warming up with fall cocktails at Redlight.
- We welcomed the inaugural Bellingham Cocktail Week, Sadly, I was out of town for the entire week but I shan’t allow that to happen in 2016! I heard it was epic.
Bellingham Brewery Medal Winners for 2015
It’s always exciting when local breweries do well in beer competitions, and 2015 was a stellar year for awards.
2015 Washington Beer Award winners:
- Chuckanut Brewery: Gold for Kolsch, Silver for Dunkel, Bronze for Helles and Marzan
- Aslan Brewing: Gold for Blueprint Session IPA and Witbier, Silver for French Indian Farmhouse Ale
- Menace Brewing: Gold for Irish Red Ale
- Kulshan Brewing; Gold for Bastard Kat IPA and Hop Howdy Belgian
- Wander Brewing: Bronze for Wanderale Belgian Blond
- Boundary Bay Brewery: Silver for Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout
2015 North American Brewers Association winners:
- Aslan Brewing: Gold for French Indian Farmhouse Ale
- Boundary Bay Brewery: Gold for Trappist-Style Dubbel, Silver for Ski-to-Sea ESB, Bronze for Imperial Oatmeal Stout
- Chuckanut Brewery: Gold for Marzan, Bock and Dunkel, Silver for Kolsch
- Wander Brewing: Silver for Together Belgian Dubbel
2015 Great American Beer Festival winners:
- Chuckanut Brewery: Gold for Kolsch, Bronze for Dunkel
- Wander Brewing: Gold for Wild Warehouse
Well done, locals!
And here are my personal award winners:
What’s Ahead for 2016 in Bellingham Beer, Wine and Cocktails?
2016 should be the year for another three or four Bellingham breweries, depending on how things go for Gruff Brewing, Stones Throw Brewery, Subdued Brewing Co. and Menace Brewing (which is moving to Bellingham from Ferndale.)
Plus, the Bellingham Beer Lab should be well on its way to opening. After a successful KickStarter campaign, this brewery incubator, creative space for both amateur and professional brewers, and non-profit brewery (Washington’s first) will be built next door to The Local on Railroad Ave. The BBL will allow home brewers to brew their beers and launch them to the public. Profits will go to charity. We can expect the BBL to host brewing classes, competitions, judging panels and other beer-related events, too.
The Island Tonic Company recently opened on Lummi Island. According to a press release, their signature amber-colored concoction, NeverClear, is a tantalizing blend of citrus, lemongrass, and cinchona bark (the natural source of quinine,) that attempts to faithfully reproduce the flavors that originally made the gin and tonic popular. Order online or look for it at your favorite bar.
What’s on My Radar?
Here’s what I’m looking forward to:
- Visiting Chuckanut Brewery for an insider’s look and tasting.
- Reporting on more of Bellingham’s best Happy Hours.
- Sitting down with a sommelier to talk wine.
- Going behind the scenes at Ciderhead.
- Finally checking out Gruff, Stones Throw, and perhaps one or two other new breweries!
- More wine tasting at Whatcom County Wineries.
- Recruiting additional Research Support Professionals to accompany me on my expeditions.
I love hearing about new cocktails, wines, beers—all the exciting developments that make Bellingham one of the best places in the PNW to enjoy the products of our local breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries, meaderies and cocktail bars.
Let’s make a deal: you send me your ideas and tips, and I’ll keep imbibing and writing all about them.
Here’s to a healthy, safe and happy 2016 for all of us. And please remember if you’re drinking, don’t drive.