There’s more to Bellingham than the Costco where Canadians do some cross-border shopping when the dollar’s doing well. (In fact, this became such an issue that residents were calling for Americans-only hours at the Costco.)
However, there are many other great reasons to visit Bellingham. For a city of over 80,000, it punches way above its weight when it comes to craft beer, with 16 breweries and tap houses. A mere two hours away from Vancouver on the Amtrak Cascades, it makes for the perfect day trip.
A disclaimer, before we get started: I’ve only included breweries in this round. You can find the full list of breweries and tap houses here. I’m partial to rich, punchy flavours, and tend to favour porters/stouts, and like a good PNW girl, a can’t say no to a well-rounded IPA, so this will colour my judgement.
Boundary Bay Brewery
Probably one of the most centrally located of the breweries, Boundary Bay Brewery has been around for a long time. It’s the best established, having been in the business for over 20 years. The tasting room is cosy and nautical-themed with paintings of ships and boats, and two canoes are prominently displayed on the wall. Their beers pack lots of flavour into traditional and non-traditional styles. Of all the breweries, it was the busiest (probably because it’s also family friendly). Website
Bottling the Irish Red Ale today! Brewed in honor of the annual Bellingham St. Patrick's Day Parade, this Irish Style Red Ale is an smooth, easy drinking, lighter bodied ale with a deep red hue. It has a low hop bitterness and a toffee-like roasted, dry yet malty, clean finish. #beer #craftbeer #Bellingham #redAle #irish #bellinghamstpatricksdayparade #bhamstpats #bottlesofbeer #22s #pnw
Cedar Dust IPA: Voted Bellingham’s best beer, it contains 4 varieties of hops. It’s quite unique with a sweet, rich, almost creamy flavour.
Asalted with Caramel: I loved this beer, created specially for the Strange Brew festival. It combines their oatmeal stout and scotch ale for a heavier brew which still goes down smoothly. Bonus: the glass comes with a salt rim to balance out some of the sweeter notes.
Safety Break ISA: This was recommended to me as one of their most popular beers. It’s refreshing, packs a gentle punch with some hops without being overwhelming, and makes for easy drinking.
Make no mistake about it, Chuckanut Brewery is a traditional, German-style brewery. Their master brewer spent years in Germany perfecting his craft, so if you’re a fan of pilsners, you’re in luck. A tasting flight is available, 4 for $6. None of them really stood out for me, but the outstanding food menu more than makes up for it — do give the clam chowder a try! Website
Kolsch: A fairly malty kolsch which would be refreshing on a hot summer day.
Pilsner: Generally, I’m not a fan of pilsners, but this sharp, punchy pilsner was palatable and fairly easy drinking.
Landbier: My favourite of the bunch. A collaboration with Wayfinder Beer (Portland), this sweet, toasty lager would be a good way to introduce your non-craft drinking friends to craft beer.
From tie-dyed lions to mosaic tiles to indoor greenery, a visit to Aslan Brewery is not just about the beer, it’s an experience. (Though the beer doesn’t disappoint, at all.) Located in a big, bright and airy space, it accommodates large crowds without becoming too packed. All their beers are organic, and options for teetotalers are varied, with their non-alcoholic beer and house-made root beer and ginger ale. For beer-drinkers, the 5-8 seasonals and 6 flagships are a real treat. Website
Mosaic IPA: Hoppy without being overwhelming, with strong grapefruit notes. For an IPA, it’s certainly easy drinking and would be a perfect summer beer.
Ginger Rye: I’m usually disappointed by things that claim to be ginger-flavoured, but this was not one of them. A well-spiced, full-bodied rye with plenty of delicious ginger flavour, this was probably one of my favourites from the day. (Non-drinkers must try the ginger ale, equally punchy ginger flavours.)
American Stout: Extremely aromatic with coffee and toffee flavours. Rich flavour, solid body, in many aspects what I’d consider a perfect stout.
One of the newer breweries in town, Wander is an unpretentious joint located in a warehouse on the edge of downtown Bellingham, complete with high beams and a to-die-for colour scheme. The roster of beers is creative and ever-changing, and a food truck provides sustenance for hours of drinking. Flights are 5 for $8, and the varied selection will keep you busy. Did I also mention that it’s dog friendly? The only downside is that it’s pretty dark, so photos don’t come out quite as you might expect! Website
Boot Toss Triple IPA: This is an interesting one. As a triple, it’s heavier, sweeter, and thicker than IPAs usually go. It’s hoppy without being overwhelming, though I can’t imagine drinking large quantities of it. This one’s heavy on the ABV as well, at 10%.
Plum American Sour: If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a good sour. This one has lots of delicious plum flavour, but isn’t necessarily mouth-puckeringly sour. For something with more bite, the apricot sour is worth a try.
Warehouse Farmhouse Saison: Refreshing and made me wish for summer, sundresses, and lounging on deck chairs.
Despite ample seating inside and outside (on the patio), Kulshan was completely packed on a Saturday night. The beer list is fairly extensive, with some creative brews. Flights are available, at 6 for $7.75, and served on the most adorable Washington State beer flight paddle. They have two locations, one just outside downtown Bellingham (really close to Wander Brewing) and a tap room on Kentucky Street. Website
Coffee Nitro Stout: As a person who is allergic to coffee, I tread dangerously all the time when it comes to coffee/espresso stouts. This was no exception, and didn’t disappoint. A lighter, extremely quaffable stout with lots of coffee flavour — can I just have this in the morning?
Transporter Porter: This porter punches way above its weight. Rich, full-bodied, and thick, you could have easily mistaken it for a stout.
Royal Tenenbaums Christmas Ale: It’s January, goddamn it.
All the ones I have listed are walkable from downtown Bellingham. I’ve listed them according to the walking path that I had taken.