In Series #1, we ran down a list of breakout beers that were in some way significant to the local beer scene. It was a short list based mainly on my experience of being a part of the scene in the late 90’s and early aughts as well as my enthusiastic participation as a beer drinker and brewer. But it didn’t tell the whole story. Not knowing if there would be a second installment, hard decisions were made and beers, especially more recent ones, were cut in the interest of brevity. While it can never be a completist’s list as new beers are ever emerging, this article is meant to give a nod to some more beers that are either pushing boundaries in some way, are unique to the region, or might be flying under your radar and should be on your to-do list.
Here are a handful of beers that we fill need to be included
Aslan Brewing Company – Disco Lemonade
Named due to the tart and sour nature of this beer (and an apparent love of German nightlife), Disco Lemonade does not contain any actual lemonade yet is light and refreshing with hints of lemon. Berliner Weisse dates way back and at one time was the most popular beverage in and around Berlin. After nearly disappearing, it has enjoyed a renaissance both in the States and abroad with the recent popularity of sour beers.
As most things beer in Bellingham, Aslan’s take on it is a bit stronger, clocking in at 4.5% ABV as opposed to the more traditional 3-3.5%, but is traditionally hopped with German Hallertau at a bargain basement rate of 4 IBU’s. And yes, that is a single-digit IBU level. I know. Strange but true. For those who like a bit of sweet with the tart, you can include a shot of raspberry syrup.
Menace Brewing – Chili Bravo
I am a lover of chile-infused beers. It is rare that I don’t have my version on tap at home. Much like food (which beer is to me), the heat from the peppers should not overpower the flavor of the base beer. Ben Buccarelli understands this. Chili Bravo is a straight up American Pale Ale conditioned with Jalapeno and Serrano chiles. The hint of heat you feel about halfway through the pint nicely complements the bitterness of the hops. When it’s on tap, which should be soon, it’s my go-to. And of course pairing it with food just elevates it.
Wander Brewing – Uncommon Common
Originally called Steam Beer, this style was commercially produced on the east coast during the mid-1800’s and then later popularized by Anchor brewing in San Francisco. Anchor trademarked the term “Steam Beer” in 1981, so it is now referred to elsewhere as “California Common”. The twist on this beer is that it’s fermented with a lager yeast but at ale fermentation temperatures. Since lager yeasts are meant to ferment low and slow at cooler temperatures, when you throw them into a warmer environment they tend to go nuts, generally rendering the beers very carbonated and dry.
Most brewers, like bakers and chefs, can’t just take an accepted base recipe as is. Part of the art of brewing is putting your stamp on a given style. With the addition of Belgian Abbey malt, this beer truly becomes an Uncommon Common.
Kulshan Brewing Company – Transporter Porter
Fun fact: Way back when, Boundary used to have a porter. I wish I had kept the original recipe, but alas, it is lost to time, although it probably exists in the annals of Boundary’s early brew sheets. When it went away due to lack of popularity, it was a sad day for those of us that enjoy a dark ale that resides in that grey area between a stout and a brown.
Kulshan saw that a former standard was missing in town and offers the Transporter year-round. Sessionable at 5.1% ABV, the addition of wheat and flaked barley lend this beer creaminess, while chocolate and brown malts evoke coffee and cocoa notes. Porter has a rich history that’s worth exploring, so you may as well start your research here.
North Fork Brewery – Entire Sour Series
Eric Jorgensen is not afraid to be ahead of a curve. Since 2012, he has been quietly producing barrel-aged sour beers on his small system which only produces the equivalent of six standard kegs per batch. Named after Pixies songs, the output is continuous and varied. While occasionally found in town, you must generally head out to Deming to sample these and his “normal” offerings. Just go. Do it. And if you’d like to hear him talk about his beers, and bears, be sure to catch the “Tapped In” Podcast.
That wraps up Series #2. Again, this is not a list of the most popular or the “best” beers of Bellingham, although these are all delicious. Let us know if you’d like to see a third installment and if you have beers you feel have been significant to the scene in some way. But more importantly, go out and support your local breweries. They work hard to spread the gospel of beer to you. Cheers.