It’s been said before how unique the Bellingham beer community is. In Bellingham, instead of competition between breweries, you’ll find support and genuine companionship. I have seen no greater example than my experience with H2O’s Bellingham Brewer’s Night Tap Takeover and Karaoke in Anacortes.
It’s 5:30 pm on Thursday. You’re sitting on the couch, eating beer and ice cream for dinner, browsing through Netflix trying to decide what you want to waste your life with. Suddenly, you get a call from Eric Jorgensen, head brewer of North Fork Brewery, insisting you leave immediately and meet up at Aslan Brewing to catch the Baker Bus heading to Anacortes.
What do you do if you’re presented with this pressing situation with basically no information at all? Well, if you’re me, you urgently call your boyfriend and best friend, tell them to drop everything they’re doing, and race to Aslan.
Loaded with beer and representatives from the craft community, we boarded the Baker Bus with zero expectations of what the night had in store. Once we landed in Anacortes (a little disoriented I might add) we walked into H2O to a giant round of applause and a sea of cowboy hats. It was just as confusing as it sounds.
The whole night was a giant celebration of Bellingham craft beer. Each brewery contributed two kegs of beer, and a special menu was created using the beer on tap. This meant people had the opportunity to drink Boundary Bay’s Cedar Dust IPA, and then try a coconut curry made using the very beer they were drinking. Or they could drink a North Fork Blonde Sour while eating a fruit crisp made from Wander’s Apricot Millie Sour. It provided a new way to experience some of the local beers we’ve grown to love here in Bellingham.
Bellingham beer was flowing and conversations were pouring. In one night at one table, people from just about every Bellingham brewery got to hang out, drink each other’s beer, and watch each other make complete fools out of themselves via karaoke. And if that’s not enough, everyone went onstage to sing/dance back up for Kulshan’s very own Suneeta Eisenberg’s undertaking of Baby Got Back. If that’s not true support, I don’t know what is.
I’ve gone to plenty of brewers nights, but none have felt quite like this. There was an overwhelming feeling of pride for Bellingham seeing its beer community out supporting each other. The world of craft beer can often be filled with pretentiousness and snobbery, which is why it’s so encouraging to have a welcoming community in Bellingham filled with people who are in their job for the love of beer. A community that would drive almost an hour out on a Thursday to sing, dance, drink and celebrate each other’s craft beer. A community that hopes for its peers to succeed just as much as they do.
All night I paid witness and heard stories of the genuine compassion shared amongst the Bellingham Craft Beer community. Aslan Marketing director CJ Good spoke of when Boundary Bay was the only brewery in town, and how essential it was to her. CJ, who lived at the top of a hill, would go to Boundary Bay after work because, in her own words, “The only way I could get up the hill to my house was if I was drunk.” There, she met current Boundary Bay Operations Manager Casey Diggs, who later became her close friend and roommate. CJ never imagined that in a few years, she would be working for a completely different brewery, but she still acknowledges Boundary Bay as the pivotal pillar that set the stage for craft beer in Bellingham.
It’s a beautiful sight to see: an industry full of companions, not competitors. I’m often asked how I feel about the rising number of breweries in Bellingham, and honestly, I think they’ll all be welcomed with open arms. Bellingham’s community is one filled with positivity and encouragement. When one brewery struggles, the others will come running with support.
Whatcom Brewer’s Night in Anacortes felt like a love letter to the Bellingham Craft Beer Industry. When representatives from various breweries can come together, get drunk, and rap a love song to big butts, then you know it’s not just an industry. It’s a community that welcomes you, teaches you, supports you, and encourages you. This is why Bellingham’s craft beer scene is thriving.