Brandon Fralic | 08/10/2020 | Craft Beer, Craft Beer - archived, Insider Blogs |   

Introducing Otherlands Beer in Bellingham, Washington

On June 25, 2020, a new brewery and cafe opened in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood. Pairing rustic lagers and farmhouse ales with European-inspired street foods, Otherlands Beer is a welcome addition to the diverse Whatcom County brewing scene. This self-described “funny little family-owned brewery & cafe” is fast becoming a local favorite. 

From Boston to Bellingham

Owners Karolina Lobrow & Ben Howe worked in the service and brewing industries for years before settling into their new Bellingham space. The two met while working at Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachusetts. Ben’s brewing resume includes Enlightenment Ales — his Boston-based nanobrewery noted for its bière de champagne and saisons — along with time spent brewing in rural Denmark and at Wayfinder Beer in Portland, OR.  

When Ben and Karolina were ready to create their own brewery, the first step was finding a location. Portland was oversaturated so they began looking into other northwest beer cities. Bellingham’s exciting beer scene made sense, and the area already felt like home to Karolina (she’d attended school here). When Ben and Karolina reached out to Bellingham beer industry folks for advice, they were met with encouraging words. “Come here and do something different,” they heard. “Be a part of the tapestry”.

The name “Otherlands” encompases Ben and Karolina’s experiences in other lands near and far — from where they first met in Cambridge, MA to their time spent in Europe. Karolina’s family is from Poland; Ben traveled during his time in Denmark. The name “Otherlands” represents those places and traditions that they draw inspiration from and hope to share with their new neighbors in Bellingham. The name is also meant to evoke a sense of otherworldly magic. “Imagine...a little pub in your favorite book,” Karolina says. “It encompasses the feeling that we wanted to create with this place.”

The Space

Otherlands Beer is housed inside a newly-constructed building on a quiet neighborhood street. Downstairs, a few tables offer views into the brewhouse and a garage door opens to additional outdoor seating. Upstairs, the naturally-lit dining room and 6-seat bar provide a cozy guesthouse feel. There’s a sense of warmth and hospitality in the cafe, like sitting in a friend or family member’s living room. This feeling was further illustrated for me on a recent visit, when Karolina’s Babcia (Polish for “grandmother”) made a special batch of cookies to coincide with Otherlands’ Polish Pilsner beer release. Where else can you enjoy grandma’s cookies at a brewery?     

The Beer

Otherlands’ beers are simple, yet flavorful and complex. You won’t find a long list of hazy IPAs or pastry stouts here. Ben brews rustic lagers, farmhouse ales, and hoppy beers that are highly drinkable and pair well with food. “Our goal is to make easy-drinking beers that are soft, flavorful, and delicate,” Ben explains. “We want to have an approachable portfolio of well-curated beers hitting a couple different marks. So we'll always have something hoppy, we'll always have something super easy-drinking and light. We'll always have one or two farmhouse ales on — yeast-forward, nice, dry Belgian beers.”

I’ve tasted through the tap list and found each beer to be delightful. Ben’s lagers and saisons are especially enjoyable — a testament to his time spent traveling and brewing around the world. Keep an eye on Otherlands’ ever-evolving draft list by visiting the cafe or their beer page.

The Food

The cafe at Otherlands beer features a seasonal menu of “European inspired street foods”. From Street Frites (Belgian-style fries) to pierogies, latkes and fresh salads, the offerings are hearty and unique. You won’t find a menu quite like this anywhere else in Bellingham. Of the several dishes I’ve tried, the Midsommer Grain Salad (beet hummus, quinoa, kale, fresh seasonal veggies, lemon juice and olive oil dressing) and pierogies (potato and farmers cheese filling served with your choice of spicy berber curry sauce or traditional rye crunchies, sour cream and beer onions) are two instant favorites that keep me coming back for more. 

Ben and Karolina’s vision for the menu is executed by chef Noël Keyes of Dead Beet Food. Noël started as a dishwasher at Homeskillet before gaining kitchen management and recipe development experience in Seattle restaurants. Upon returning to Bellingham in 2020, she found a home at Otherlands. Noël’s fun, flavorful recipes pair perfectly with Otherlands Beer. “It’s really exciting to expand beyond what people tend to imagine when they think of a brewery kitchen, which is the classic burgers, fries, etc.” Noël says. “I’m hoping to give people something a little different that really enhances the amazing beer that Ben has been brewing”. 

Visiting During Covid-19

Otherlands Beer opened during Phase 2 of Washington State’s Safe Start Phased Plan. They’ve implemented social distancing practices and an hourly cleaning plan from the start to keep staff and customers safe. For those who feel more comfortable sitting outside, the cafe offers 5 outdoor tables. Inside, tables are spaced 6 or more feet apart — with the windows and garage door open for cross-ventilation. Masks are required unless seated at your table. 

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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