Since the late 1800s, many breweries have come and gone in the Bellingham area, including Happy Valley Brewery, Whatcom Brewing & Malting Co., Bellingham Bay Brewery, North Cascades Brewing Co., Whatcom Brewing (Frank-n-Stein Pub), Orchard Street Brewery and Mount Baker Brewery.
Bellingham Bay Brewery, maker of 3-B beer:
Fortunately, we have a whole new crop of excellent breweries that seem to be here to stay, plus some more on tap, and they come with a diverse mix of names. Bellingham-area brewers have been inspired by everything from rum runners to the king of the jungle, and Northwest Native Americans to a sense of wanderlust.
If you ever wondered about their names, here’s a little background on each one:
Boundary Bay Brewery
Bellingham’s oldest brewery is named after Boundary Bay on the U.S.-Canada border. During Prohibition it was a major crossing point for rum runners who smuggled Canadian booze into Washington (“bootleggers” smuggle alcohol across land).
This historic reference and other nautical themes are exemplified in the brewery’s logos and other imagery:
Here’s a photo of the actual Boundary Bay (in the distance and to the left; White Rock, B.C. is on the right), viewed from Semiahmoo Spit:
According to the book “Bootleggers and Borders,” by Stephen T. Moore, one bootlegger even managed to tunnel under the border at Boundary Bay. That was apparently quite successful, Moore writes, until “Slim” Cameron, a game warden on routine patrol, accidentally fell through the tunnel’s roof.
The Blaine Act initiated the repeal of the 18th Amendment (the 18th Amendment established Prohibition in the United States), which was later adopted as the 21st Amendment in 1933, but this Act wasn’t named after the thriving rum-running and bootlegging scene around Blaine, Washington, at the time, like some might like to believe. The Blaine Act was sponsored by Wisconsin Senator John Blaine.
“Chuckanut” is a Northwest Native word that means “beach on a bay with a small entrance” or “long beach far from a narrow entrance.” More specifically, the Nooksack word chúkwenet means “beach or tide goes way out,” and some suggest that it refers to Chuckanut Creek, where it empties into Chuckanut Bay.
For Will and Mari Kemper, who own Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen and live on Chuckanut Drive, the name seemed like a perfect fit.
“Chuckanut Drive is a beautiful drive and a real Northwest treasure,” Mari says. “Chuckanut beers are beautiful to look at and enjoy, and we think of them as Northwest treasures as well.”
Aslan Brewing Co.
When Jack Lamb, Frank Trosset and Pat Haynes were putting together a plan for their brewery, they wanted the name of the brewery to stand out and to reflect their ideals. They had some ideas, including Galbraith Brewing Co. (nearby Galbraith Mountain offers lots of hiking and mountain biking), but the three breweries in Bellingham at the time all had geographic-based names (Chuckanut, Kulshan, and Boundary Bay), so they wanted to go a different route.
“I really wanted our co-founder and head brewer Frank Trosset to decide the name because I thought the identity of the company should resonate closest to those in charge of handling our most precious asset: the beer,” Aslan Brewing co-founder and CEO Jack Lamb explains. “Frank chose the name Aslan because, as a 100-percent Certified Organic brewery, we wanted our name to be recognized as a powerful force rooted in nature. A lion is the King of the Jungle and a regal figure, and aslan is the Turkish word for lion, so it just aligned with our desire to operate a world-class brewery with commitments to preserving the raw and exotic elements of the world.”
By the way, while Lamb is a fan of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” he says there’s no connection between Aslan Brewery and the Narnia series. “We figured the language had been around much longer than the story about a lion named ‘Lion,’” he says with a laugh.
Kulshan Brewing Co.
Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy named Mount Baker after his 3rd lieutenant Joseph Baker, who saw the mountain in 1792. Of course, the Native Americans of this region had already noticed the mountain, and they named it Koma Kulshan, or simply Kulshan, which means “white sentinel” or “white mountain” with a “punctured wound” or “crater.”
For Dave Vitt, founder of Kulshan Brewing Co., naming his brewery after the nearby volcano stood out because of its regional significance, but he also felt the Native name for the beloved mountain held more meaning than simply naming it Mount Baker Brewing. He also wanted a name that inspired a bit of wonder in people.
“It’s a conversation piece and a bit of a mystery for folks who don’t know the meaning,” he says.
But what really sealed the deal on the name for him was when he learned about the Kulshan Tavern, a historic Fairhaven bar that is no longer open. “My parents and their friends drank there in the ’60s and ’70s during college, and so many older folks that I talk to speak fondly of that haunt. I love that bit of history.”
The North Fork Brewery
The North, Middle and South Forks of the Nooksack River all merge together near Deming, before this mighty river meanders its way into the north side of Bellingham Bay. As you might guess, The North Fork Brewery is adjacent to the North Fork of the Nooksack River, which parallels Hwy 542 for a good distance.
The Nooksack Indians from this region called the South Fork “always-clear water,” the Middle Fork “always-murky water,” and the North Fork “the next point.” Regarding the latter, perhaps they meant “the next pint,” because the North Fork Brewery is where you’ll want to have your next one.
Wander Brewing Co.
Chad and Colleen Kuehl came up with the name for their brewery while on a long overseas trip, where they met all sorts of people and experienced many cultures. They came home from that trip with a better understanding of what was really important to them in life – as well as a rough business plan for a brewery. After living in San Francisco and Seattle, they visited Bellingham, fell in love with the area and decided to open their brewery here.
“We purposely leave the definition of Wander a bit open for interpretation,” they say. “For us, Wander is travel, exploration, creating amazing craft beers and working hard toward what makes us happy, while also being community conscious. For others, Wander might be biking, doing crossword puzzles or whatever makes your mind happy.”
Menace Brewing Co.
This brewery’s ominous name actually has a sweet story. Menace Brewing co-owner Brandon Petersen has a relative with special needs, and instead of calling people by their real names, she assigns them with cartoon character names. For one reason or another, Brandon was given the name Dennis the Menace. It stuck, and it carried through to the brewery’s name, save for the Dennis part.
Gruff Brewing Co. (not yet open)
“Deciding to start a brewery was easy,” says Chris Bierman of Gruff Brewing. “Coming up with a name was far more difficult.
“Throughout the process, we (Bierman, Eric Wight and Jameson Longman) came up with a metric sh#! ton of names, none of which we could all agree on. We knew the brewery we were trying to describe, but we didn’t know its name.”
They wanted something that was simple and to the point.
Finally, after a few beers and multiple arguments, they stumbled across the name Gruff, and they instantly knew they had it. It was short, unceremonious, rough and gritty.
“It was a perfect fit,” Bierman says. “The name embodies our mentality to focus on hard work to craft great beer.”
Stones Throw Brewery (not yet open)
Stones Throw owner Jack Pflueger and head brewer Tony Luciano have known each other for many years. In fact, “Stones Throw” has been Tony’s name in Jack’s phone for at least 10 years. So the name has some history, but it also reflects the image and outdoor lifestyle that they want to achieve with their brewery.
“Over the years, we talked about opening a brewery at some time or another,” says Pflueger. “I’ve always wanted to start a business that incorporated something I’m passionate about, and I think we realized that we were finally ready to take the leap.”
Both Pflueger and Luciano wanted to open a brewery close to where people live and play, and Fairhaven seemed like the perfect place. Not so coincidentally, the location of the brewery, which is still under construction, is just a “stone’s throw” from downtown Fairhaven, Bellingham Bay and the Chuckanut Mountains.