There are a dozen qualities we look for in our search for Bellingham’s Best Beertender; whether its a certain level of charm or an abundance of beer knowledge, just to name a few, your favorite beertender probably fits the frame perfectly. The beer drinkers of Bellingham have spoken this year, and tomorrow is your last chance to cast your vote. Though it’s really a win-win situation with these two, we thought we’d tell you what we know about them before the polls close.

Kamarie Astrid

Kulshan Brewing

Kamarie is one of many friendly faces behind the bar at Kulshan Brewing, but also wears many other hats, including mother, professor, board member, and artist.

“Mostly I’m just a huge fan of living and being an active member of the community in Bellingham,” Kamarie said.

She entered the beer industry about three and a half years ago, you might recognize her from one of the many other places she has bartended around town for the last twenty years, like The Up & Up, The Horseshoe, The Cabin Tavern, and the list goes on.

The last few years she has found a pretty perfect home at Kulshan, a truly community-oriented brewery.

“Kulshan Brewing is great. The folks I work with are actually my friends, many of us share similar interests outside of beer, and the product is pretty fantastic,” Kamarie said. “All that aside, the best part about working for Kulshan is really our super fabulous customers. We are very much a local brewery supported by a whole bunch of really wonderful local folk that make working there super wonderful.”

It helps that she gets to sell a large variety of high quality beers, too. If you’re an IPA-lover in Bellingham, you’ve probably at least dabbled in the Bastard Kat IPA, which is one of the most popular beers Kamarie pours.

“It’s such a great example of a classic, Pacific Northwest style IPA; nice and hoppy and weighing in at a cool 6.66% ABV it’s always a crowd pleaser,” Kamarie said.

But Kulshan does a lot of different styles, and does them well, including a seasonal favorite that you’ll catch Kamarie drinking once the weather gets colder.

“This is the season that I really dig into the barrel aged porters and other silky, dark ales. How can you not? But locally, The Royal Tannenbaum Ale from Kulshan is delightful. I’m a big fan of botanical liquors (gin), so this piney and well balanced ale is one I wait for with anticipation all year. Once it’s tapped, I will most likely default to it for the rest of the season.”

Kulshan is an integral part of the Bellingham beer community, which has progressed and changed over the years as far as the beer and the relationships between breweries, and Kamarie has gotten to witness those changes.

“The Bellingham Beer industry is so supportive. I don’t think it was always that way, but that is how it has grown. Frequenting other breweries and knowing what’s great there is a personal passion of mine. And it seems to be a similar passion for many brewery folk here in town, so we all get to know each other outside of our establishments. In my world beer equals community,” Kamarie said.

You can often find her at Menace drinking one of her favorites, Chili Bravo and visiting her friend and our other contender for the Bellingham’s Best Beertender Award, Katie Johnson.

Katie Johnson

Menace Brewing

Katie is yet another familiar Bellingham face that you more than likely recognize if you’ve ever sipped on a local brew. She’s currently working at Menace Brewing, which quickly became a Fountain District staple upon it’s opening just a couple years ago.

Beyond Menace, Katie has also worked at Kulshan Brewing. In fact, that’s where she entered the Bellingham beer industry in August 2012, when she met Tom Eastwood, who was the head brewer at the time– she moved into a room in a house that he was moving out of. After meeting Eastwood, she met Jim Parker, who has had an impact just about everywhere in the Pacific Northwest beer industry, and delivered a handwritten message on the back of a Kulshan coaster to a friend of his who owned a bottle shop in Vancouver, WA.

The combination of these two connections and her consistent smile while she’s pouring beer helped her land the Kulshan job, where she ended up falling in love with the beer industry. Since then, she has worked at Chuckanut Brewing, Cascade Barrel House, and now she is one of the amazing beertenders at Menace, where she’s been since it was just an idea.

“Menace is wonderful. There is so much to say! I’ve had the privilege to watch a best friend build his dream and live it. Watching a garage transform into what feels like an extension of our living space has been amazing,” Katie said. “I’ve worked at a few different breweries. Each one unique in it’s own individual way, but Menace has the best neighborhood feel to it. Working here has been an endearing experience.”

Outside of pouring beer, you can find Katie hanging out with her loyal feline friend, Hobbes, or working on a very cool art project called the Bellingham Brew Deck. She has been working on a series of portraits of people in the Bellingham beer community, and you can read more about that here.

This season, Katie has been hooked on the Chuckanut Rauch Helles and the Menace Dry Stout on Nitro, one of the more popular beers she serves, alongside the Best Bitter and the Chili Bravo.

Like Kamarie, Katie sees the importance of getting to know breweries outside of her own in Bellingham and has scene the industry change over the last number of years.

“I feel like a group of brewers, like artists, only elevate each other in process, creativity, innovativeness and editing, as opposed to the latter. What comes to fruition is a developed product with unique nuances, only identifying to that specific brewery. While the rest of us get to drink it and be merry!”

Both of these beertending ladies have awesome and very fine tuned beer palettes. Go visit both of them in person after reading this for the sake of drinking a beer and experiencing it for yourselves, and don’t forget to vote here.