Growler’s Keep: Northern Bellingham’s beer gem

By |2018-10-18T13:20:58+00:00October 17th, 2018|

We’re all always thinking about where we’re gonna get our next pint, in the beer garden at Twin Sisters, in the Menace taproom or down the street at Elizabeth Station. But having a pint at home has become increasingly popular, luckily Growler’s Keep, located in Bakerview Square Shopping Center, has Bellingham’s to-go beer needs totally covered.

Growlers have become an addition to brewery visits for many local beer drinkers, but why limit yourself to beers from one brewery? Growler’s Keep is a growler filling station with 48 taps with beers and kombucha from a variety of locations. You can find the Bellingham staples there, like Aslan’s Batch 15, but you can also branch out and try different styles from breweries near and far.

Growler’s Keep is operated by Jim and Rachel Sullivan and is coming up on it’s first anniversary. You can fill 64 ounce or 32 ounce growlers with their special counter pressure technology, pushing the oxygen out of the growler, and filling it with CO2, helping preserve the beer’s carbonation, allowing it to sit in your fridge for up to two months. Growler’s Keep is the only system of it’s kind in town, offering flexibility to beer drinkers that may not be able to commit to drinking a growler right away.

After retirement, Rachel’s father was looking to start a business, and upon visiting a growler filling station with the same technology in North Bend, he was eager to bring it to Bellingham. The theme of the shop matches the name, medieval themed with a drawbridge counter, and a castle scene curtain that separates the back walk-in cooler from the front growler-filling area.

The counter-pressure fillers also make it look like a mad-science lab. But a beer mad-science lab is the best kind, right? Jim and Rachel have this thing down to a science.

“They put C02 into a growler so it pushes the oxygen out so it becomes pressurized,” Jim said. Rachel compares it to a 2-liter bottle of soda. In other words, it can last for months in your fridge before it’s opened.

Counter-pressure fillers// photo courtesy of Rachel Sullivan

Growlers are available at most breweries around town, but typically go flat within a day or two, even if you don’t open them. The technology used at Growler’s Keep doesn’t commit you to drinking your 64 ounces of beer right away, making it more convenient to take beer to go. Need a beer for an event on Saturday but only have time to go get it on Thursday? No problem.

Upon opening Growler’s Keep, Rachel and Jim have learned a lot about what they do and don’t like when it comes to craft beer. For Rachel, who thought she just didn’t really like beer before opening the shop, she’s learned that she actually enjoys sours, many of which you can find on tap at Growler’s Keep.

“I’ve discovered new things that I like throughout all of this, I try something new and go ‘wow that’s actually kind of tasty!’ Rachel said.

Jim on the other hand has done thousands of pages of research on craft beer, learning about different styles and nuances on beers he likes. Hefeweizens and styles using Bavarian yeast are Jim’s favorites, since he lived in Germany for a year.

Jim does all the ordering, making sure two of the taps are kombuchas, two are non-alcoholic root beers, and around six are ciders. The rest is a wide variety of beer styles, including a long list of IPAs and making sure there’s a selection of seasonal styles and funkier beers for those of us not riding the hoppy-train.

Drunk Monk on the wall of Growler’s Keep. // Photo courtesy of Rachel Sullivan

Jim and Rachel make sure to include some Belgian styles as well as English-style dark beers, making sure to include local favorites and other PNW staples like Bodhizafa.

A year and a half ago, Rachel and Jim had no idea they’d be diving head first into a booming local beer scene.

“I’ve learned a lot about beer in general just by reading books, it’s been cool talking to people in the industry, and just seeing what people actually like. I knew IPAs were popular, but I’ve found that there’s a lot of people who actually like darker Belgian beers, those tend to sell pretty well,” Jim said.

Northern Bellingham can enjoy beer from all over the Pacific Northwest right in their backyard from Growler’s Keep. For those of us downtown-ers running our errands in the area, Growler’s Keep is definitely worth the stop.

Growler’s Keep is located at 

436 West Bakerview Road

Suite 111

Bellingham, WA  98226 

Open Wednesday thru Sunday, 11:00-7:00

About the Author:

Layne Carter
Tap Trail's Assistant Editor, Layne Carter, grew up in Spokane, Washington but has spent the last five years in Bellingham studying journalism at WWU. When she’s not beertending around town, you can find her biking, drinking beer or biking to a number of local breweries for a beer.