Illuminati Brewing is in the final stages of permitting and will open in Bellingham’s industrial district off of James St..
After deciding not to follow through on their original plans on Northwest Ave, Subdued Brewing’s owners Chris and Dave have opened the possibility of putting together a smaller iteration in one of our neighborhoods. They are in the initial stages of information gathering and we hope we hear more soon.
We’ve heard of at least two breweries in the works, with one hoping to open somewhere in the waterfront district. We’ve been told that plans for the waterfront brewery are finalized, funding is secured and the plan is moving forward. Expect to hear more about them soon. Just yesterday, a lease was signed for Bellingham Cider Company that will go into the west end and basement of the Cascade Laundry Building on Prospect St. It will have a full kitchen and will be in one of the most prime locations in Bellingham.
Melvin Brewing is probably going to have the biggest impact on Bellingham and our city’s craft beer industry. I’ve talked to Jeremy Tofte at Melvin and they have big plans for distribution in the coming years, with hopes to push further into California. This is why they just bought eleven (11) 240bbl tanks for their Wyoming brew house. Melvin’s Bellingham branch will be much smaller with only a 7BBL system with an intent to service the neighborhood and city.
Bellingham has many internationally and nationally renowned breweries. But Melvin will be bringing something different to our town than just beer. It’s a big name brewery that has some in our craft beer community wondering what kind of impact they’ll have on our little bayside beertown. “How will they fit in?”, is a question I’ve heard asked from multiple people within our craft beer community.
Melvin’s opening is a perfect symbol of what’s happening to Bellingham on a whole. We’re a town who is trying to hold onto its unique identity, while welcoming the change that is inevitably coming. How do we do both?
This town’s momentum isn’t going to be stopped and we don’t have full control over its direction. Much of the change we see in the coming years will be an organic byproduct of our own momentum and its that momentum was bound to attract a “Melvin.” We should welcome this change, work with those that come here to create beautiful things and build the community we want.
Bellingham’s taphouses are a huge part of our city’s beer scene. Elizabeth Station has not only become a regional source for craft beer, but an organizing force in our community – bringing awesome beer events and collaborations. McKay’s Taphouse has an unending series of events, brewery nights and houses our city’s most extensive draft list at over 50 taps.
Overflow Taps in Lynden has coupled philanthropy with beer and the result has been success. So much success that they are opening a second location in Barkley Village. The Local and the Annex have a carefully curated selection of beers. The Local has also shifted to more of a dining experience that you can pair with their beer 25 taps.
Schweinhaus is one of our most unique taphouses. Part outdoor beer garden, part sports bar, all beer. Their central location will benefit them longterm and we’re all excited to drink beers in the sun there soon. The competition in the local craft beer market has put stress on our businesses as well.
The Copper Hog closed a month ago from a combination of owed back taxes and the draining of business from the breweries that were popping up around it. There are plans and hopes for an iteration of the Copper Hog to open in the coming months after some planning.
Differentiating as a taphouse in a sea of breweries will be key for future Bellingham’s taphouses. Our other beer bars such as Uisce, Archer Ale House and Maggie’s Pub all offer you something unique in both beer and culture. Taphouses will continue to be an integral part of Bellingham’s craft beer community and we expect to see more popup in the years to come.
What’s to come?
Brewery expansion and local market health is really a factor of macro market trends, real estate and a healthy local economy. I reached out to experts in our community and asked them each a series of questions, to get a feel for where the greater community sees Bellingham’s craft beer market is and where it is headed.
Annette Bagley, Bellingham Tourism
Has Bellingham’s tourism industry been positively impacted by craft beer tourism?
Craft beer tourism is a rapidly growing niche in the U.S. travel market. We are proud that Bellingham was ranked a Top 20 Beer Destination on the Beer Tourism Index by Travelocity and the Brewer’s Association in 2016.
Travelers interested in craft beer also tend to prefer a hyper local food experience, and beer pairs well with hiking, biking, and paddling, which are the cornerstone activities of the Bellingham experience. This makes craft beer tourism a perfect fit for the Bellingham destination.
As a prize redemption location for the Bellingham Tap Trail, we regularly see individuals at the Bellingham Visitor Centers who have traveled here primarily to enjoy the beer scene.
What changes do you expect to see in 10 years and how will it impact tourism?
The boom in Bellingham craft breweries over the past 5 years has been remarkable. We hope to see it continue to grow over the next 10 years. The more breweries we have, the more of a beer destination we become. We would also like to see more guided beer tours and educational experiences that appeal to visitors year-round. Today’s travelers are active, engaged and searching for the authenticity Bellingham offers.