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

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.

Chuckanut Brewery

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.

Aslan Brewery

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

Aslan Brewery Bellingham Tap Trail

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.

Wander Brewing

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.

Kulshan Brewery

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

Go East!

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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.

Locations

All the ones I have listed are walkable from downtown Bellingham. I’ve listed them according to the walking path that I had taken.

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