Bellingham’s brewing community continues to grow and there are more breweries on the way. Around this time next year, Bellingham can expect to have 11 breweries. That’s 11 breweries for 80,000 people. List after list shows Washington is at the top of the heap in the booming craft beer world.
Seattle MET Magazine, has named Kulshan Brewing as one of our state’s “next big names” and it looks to be in great company. The article doesn’t mention Kulshan’s soon to be open second brewery, K2, that will be able to pump out 15,000 barrels a year, making it the 5th largest brewery in the state. See the list below.
Holy Mountain Brewing Co.
Interbay • 1,000 barrels/year (anticipated)
There’s a vaguely culty feel to this new brewery on Interbay’s main artery. It could be the temple vibe in the austere white taproom. Or the name, a tribute to a 1973 surrealist film, and vaguely Masonic logo. Or maybe just the reverence with which other brewers speak of the place. Drinkers sometimes describe Holy Mountain as experimental, though it brews beers, like Germany’s tart wheat gose, that have actually been around for centuries. What’s truly experimental about Holy Mountain: It’s flipped the formula that governs most Seattle taprooms. Elsewhere the IPA is king; here the brewers employ everything from flaked oats to wild yeast to a foeder (a hot-tub-size wooden barrel used for fermenting and aging and a challenge to obtain) to construct remarkable Old World beers and New World variations thereof. For all their saisons and wild yeasts, these guys do like their hops: The Kiln and Cone house pale ale is so lush and citrusy you’d swear it was a fresh hop beer. holymountainbrewing.com
Poulsbo • 1,400 barrels/year
Finding Sound’s 22-ounce bottles on a store shelf is like winning an Easter egg hunt. They’re more elegant than your average beer; so is what’s inside. Technically the Poulsbo brewery embraces classic European beers, like a London-style porter stripped of overt hopping and returned to its roots as a year-round drink. But its particular talents come by way of Belgium: Sound faithfully represents that country’s penchant for malty, toffee notes, then bends those same traditions to suit Northwest tastes; its top seller is the Monk’s Indiscretion, where decidedly Belgian flavors join forces with Citra hop notes. You won’t notice it’s got a 10 percent alcohol level until the moment just before you topple off your chair. Sound’s beers make relatively few appearances outside of bottle shops and the brewery’s own taproom. That changes this summer, when new brewing equipment from Belgium will increase production tenfold, giving Sound a presence far beyond Washington’s borders. Locally, drinkers will finally start seeing it on more tap handles. soundbrewery.com
Central District • 170 barrels
It might seem strange to describe this Central District brewery as a big name when it’s roughly the size of a pony keg. Brewer Justin Gerardy—who spent eight years making cocktails at places like Vito’s and the Hideout before succumbing to his beer urges—coaxes 12 taps’ worth of beer out of a one-barrel system. It’s one of the tiniest commercial brewing setups available, which makes the quality of Standard’s beer even more impressive—like winning a drag race in Fred Flintstone’s foot-powered car. Gerardy likes Belgian and German styles, but his tap lineup generally includes rye IPA, imperial IPA, single-hop IPA, and West Coast–style (read: extra hoppy) IPA. Sensing a pattern here? Standard has become a sort of neighborhood gathering spot, a character Gerardy doesn’t want to lose as he hunts for a larger place where he can make enough beer to go on draft somewhere other than his own taproom. standardbrew.com
Bellingham • 3,100 barrels/year
Drinking in Bellingham is like drinking in miniature Seattle. There are the talented stalwarts (Boundary Bay, Chuckanut), the promising up-and-comer (Wander) and the wildly popular Kulshan, with its kid-amenable taproom, picnic-benched patio, and a food truck parked out front. Our neighbors to the north typically guzzle Kulshan’s beer supply before it has a chance to make it down I-5: Throwing back a pint of its gentle Dude Man Wheat Ale or Bastard Kat IPA (bright, bitter, undeniably West Coast) requires crossing at least two counties. Finally, the brewery is making enough beer to share some with us; look for cans of Bastard Kat on Seattle grocery store shelves this spring, with Full 90 session ale following in summer. Local bars will start pouring a broader range of Kulshan brews, like its smooth porter—formal name Transporter—and some specialty Belgian styles. kulshanbrewing.com
Ballard • 800 barrels/year
Brit-born brewer Adam Robbings has a bit of a problem: His small brewery is not even three years old, but it’s totally at capacity, and the waiting list of bars and stores eager to sell his beer is twice as long as his list of actual accounts. Hence he’s acquiring a larger space just around the corner from his original brewery in Ballard. The expansion means more bottles of Roasted Rye IPA and Robust Porter on store shelves, and a larger 24-tap tasting room where Robbings’s ardent followers can congregate with pints of cream ale or roggenbier (a German-style hefeweizen made with rye). Most importantly, it lets Robbings return to what lured him into brewing in the first place: experimenting with (and nailing) scores of different beer styles from Europe and his adopted Northwest homeland, from his summery Balsch—a Kolsch by way of Ballard—to Blimey That’s Bitter, a punch-packing triple IPA that’s scary smooth. reubensbrews.com
Ballard • 2,000 barrels/year
Beer flavored with coffee or cherries or maple bacon? Not really Stoup’s jam. But even the most familiar of styles become revelatory when made by people who really know their science—cofounders Brad Benson and Robyn Schumacher have degrees, respectively, in chemistry and biology, plus Schumacher is a certified cicerone—a high level of beer expertise akin to an advanced sommelier. The pair (and their third partner, Benson’s wife, Lara Zahaba) describe themselves as “committed traditionalists,” building beers that unroll with a distinct start, middle, and finish. They’re scientists, not fools—this palate-igniting progression is designed to leave you craving another sip. This magic works especially well on IPAs, but even Stoup’s brand new berliner weisse is pretty nuanced for a sour beer (it’s served in proper Berlin fashion with a sidecar of flavored syrup from fellow Ballard biz Soda Jerk Soda). Stoup’s drafts are regulars at Tom Douglas restaurants and Marination Ma Kai, where Schumacher used to oversee the beer program. stoupbrewing.com
Bale Breaker Brewing Company
Yakima • 7,000 barrels/year
When you build a brewery in the middle of verdant hop fields, you best excel in matters of the India pale ale. The 900-acre hop farm in Yakima has been in the same family for four generations, but siblings Meghann Quinn and Kevin Smith (and Meghann’s husband, Kevin Quinn) are the first to actually use the family crop for its intended purpose rather than sell it to other brewers. They opened a brewery on their family farm, the rare beer equivalent of so many wineries perched alongside grape arbors. Bale Breaker’s brewers are unabashed in their love of all things hoppy, but theirs is not a brinkmanship of bitterness: Cans of Topcutter IPA pop with flavors of citrus and pine; even the Field 41 pale ale drinks more like a sessionable IPA, with big hop flavors and a gentle 4.5 percent alcohol level. balebreaker.comGordon Biersch
Downtown • 670 barrels/year
Beer snobs don’t usually gush about chain brewpubs. But chain brewpubs don’t usually have one of the state’s most talented lagersmiths making their beer. Kevin Davey studied brewing in Germany and at Chicago’s prestigious Siebel Institute before becoming lead brewer at Chuckanut Brewery in Bellingham, Washington’s eminent champion of lagers and German beer styles. Now he plies his trade in a rather unlikely spot on the top floor of Pacific Place, in the shadow of the AMC movie theater. Though not so unlikely: Like Davey, Gordon Biersch is all about Germanic drinking, including lots of lager styles like pilsner, hefeweizen, and the darker dunkel. They’re subtle by nature; in less capable hands that can mean bland and boring. Under Davey’s watch flavors are crisp and distinct; in February the company untethered its fixed beer lineup and let Davey decide what flows from the brewpub’s seven taps. Now that might include an India pale lager (the love child of German and Northwest beer cultures) and less familiar pieces of German beer history like a smoky rauchbier, luring beer geeks up four flights of mall escalators. gordonbiersch.com/locations/seattle