When it comes to beer destination towns, one would be hard pressed to find a locale more up and coming than Bellingham, Washington. As of 2014, the town had just three local breweries, but the number has quickly ballooned to over a dozen now. And they’re not only locally popular, either -- the breweries in this tiny (but mighty!) collection have been awarded medals from beer competitions across the globe.
Here are 10 breweries that prove Bellingham is a top beer destination.
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Aslan is quickly becoming a local favorite -- both for its outstanding beer and beautiful space. And it’s one of the few breweries in the country that produces Certified Organic beer! Pair that with their hearty pub food (e.g. waffle fry poutine; pork carnitas tacos), and you’ll understand why it’s an easy place to spend the afternoon. Make this brewery a priority on your visit list, and you won’t even have to travel to Narnia to experience true magic.
Recommended beers: Disco Lemonade, Simcoe Slice
Boundary Bay is the cornerstone of the Bellingham beer scene. Founded in 1995, it’s over a decade older than any other brewery in town, and well loved by the locals. In fact, even the space is older than most -- the brewery is located in a restored historic warehouse from 1922. With a sizeable taproom, restaurant, and patio, this is a place that you could easily spend an entire day. Especially if you’re full from eating Boundary Bay's Scotch Ale-enhanced beef stew and bangers & mash served with onion gravy from their Oatmeal Stout. And don’t forget to wash it all down with the popular 7.5% ABV IPA (Inside Passage Ale). The hops are grown a few hours away in the Yakima Valley, so soak up all that fresh beer.
Recommended beers: Galaxy Single Hop, Dry Irish Stout
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Don’t let the 2008 opening date fool you -- this brewing team has been around since before most of its millennial patrons were even born. Which explains its 2009 Great American Beer Festival win for small brewpub of the year (trust us, that’s a pretty big deal). Mari and Will Kemper, the dream team behind this decorated brewery, have opened breweries all over the world since the 1980s, and came back to Bellingham to grace us all with incredible local beer (especially those award-winning German-style brews) and food. Enjoy the tuna poke or pickled eggs with a cold one on the patio if the sun makes an appearance!
Recommended beers: Kölsch German Ale, British Brown Ale
One of the newest kids on the block in the Bellingham beer scene, this cozy tap room and brewery opened in a space well over 100 years old that has been everything from a blacksmith shop to a glass blowing facility. The locals are keen on its new life as a beer slinging community gathering spot, filling the place nightly. I mean, would you pass up an Oyster Stout made with fresh local oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms? I think not.
Recommended beers: IPA 007, Gose
Founded by Bellingham natives who brew award-winning creations, Kulshan is one of the fastest growing breweries in the county, doubling the size of its brewhouse a year after opening, and opening a second brewery just two years after that. You can partially blame a bastard for this: the popular Bastard Kat West Coast IPA. Stop in for a pint and enjoy a bite from one of a few rotating local food trucks (e.g. Goat Mountain Pizza Co.; Hot Mess) parked out front.
Recommended beers: Red Cap, Transporter
This brand new location for one of Wyoming’s favorite breweries is a homecoming of sorts. Owner Jeremy Tofte grew up in and around the area, spending his winters snowboarding at the local Mount Baker. He brought his well-respected brewing palate back to Whatcom County to brew up some beer for the locals. Not just remakes of the stuff found in Wyoming, either, but new beer specifically brewed for the Pacific Northwest. Oh, and Melvin just won the Brewery Group Brewer of the Year at GABF this year. That’s high praise! Help ‘em celebrate by going to their Bellingham brewpub, ordering a 2x4 DIPA and pairing it with a Drunken Master Burger (bacon-onion jam, smoked gouda) and shishito peppers with lime juice and bonito fish salt.
Recommended beers: * (Asterisk) DIPA, Melvin IPA
Although this brewery opened recently, the team’s been in the brewing world for years. The small, friendly, taproom is housed in a converted auto body shop for a delightfully artistic and industrial vibe. And we mean artistic, as they recently displayed some of the finest artwork that could live in any room: paintings of George Costanza. The small four-barrel system seems to be in constant operation, and the beer just keeps getting better. Peep that pretty Menace Red.
Recommended beers: Red Ale, Dry Stout
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This brainchild of two former Vermont-based brewers, this smaller brewery has found a place in the hearts of locals. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the beer isn’t your typical lineup of IPAs and stouts. A quick peek at a recent taplist shows a 3.8% ABV table beer, a dry-hopped saison, a raspberry sour ale aged in oak barrels with the creepiest name possible (Carcosa!), and a bottle of peach saison partially aged in wine barrels.
Recommended beers: No Sleep Stout, Group Think
Here's a brewery that has the soul of an adventurer. Built around a love for the outdoors and those who enjoy it, the taproom’s décor is inspired by the spirit of those who love to get out and explore the local trails and forests. If weather permits, the patio is a delightful place to enjoy your pint by the fire-pit. Children and dogs are welcome to join, too (though not in the drinking!). Enjoy one of three year-round beers, like the Centennial and Citra hop-packed Neighborhood IPA or the 4.2% ABV Flat Penny Pale Ale. On rainy days, Stones Throw's chocolatey Two-Dollah Porter sure will hit the spot (though the fire pit will have to wait another day).
Recommended beers: Raincountry Liquid Sunshine Lager, Two-Dollah Porter
With outstanding beer, a charming taproom, a more than welcoming staff (you'll feel like family), and a taproom full of adorable dogs, we can’t imagine a trip to Whatcom County without a visit to this space. Wander alone is worth the trip to this little corner of the USA. Their beers have won multiple Washington Beer Awards in a variety of styles -- everything from a California Common to a Foreign Extra Stout -- so make sure to take your time drinking through their entire portfolio. And if you’re lucky when you arrive, they’ll have some of their GABF-winning Wander Barrel Project beers available.
Recommended beers: Global Mutt Baltic Porter, Wanderale Belgian Blonde