Women have been a part of beer’s history from the very beginning. In fact, it was women who were the first to brew, the first to introduce hops to the process, and were the sole driving force behind the creation of beer. Over the years, however, women were pushed out of the limelight of beer, slowly turning the industry into a male-driven one.

This series on the Tap Trail fights for women to take back the spotlight. Bellingham is filled with tons of kick ass, beer-loving ladies, and it is time for the community to know their presence and their story.

Boundary Bay BreweryThis week, we highlight Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro General Manager Janet Lightner.

If you glimpse into the soul of Boundary Bay, you’ll find Janet Lightner filled with nothing but peace and love for Bellingham.

Boundary Bay has been a local institution for nearly 21 years, both in the craft beer industry and the Bellingham community. General Manager Janet Lightner is integral to the success of Boundary Bay.

From creating a healthy and supportive workplace for her employees, to building relationships and partnerships with businesses in Bellingham, Janet cares deeply for her  community.

Before arriving at Boundary Bay in 1997, Janet was very involved as a chef in Bellingham’s foodie scene. Having been a farmer, Janet really pushed for restaurants to join the Farm to Table movement. After working at several Bellingham restaurants, helping each refine their identity and develop a menu, Janet moved onto Boundary Bay. She didn’t think she would be there long…

“The environment and challenges at Boundary Bay became so dynamic,” Janet says. “It’s so much fun to see the growth and changes, I’ve never been bored!”


As the chef at Boundary Bay she began to revolutionize the menu, making it more “restaurant oriented,” without losing the pub feel. Pairing food with beverages has always been important to Janet, although her previous experiences were with wine pairings. As the craft beer trend was relatively young there wasn’t much research on beer pairings, so she had to teach herself.

As time passed, Janet became invested in other aspects of the company, and eventually she moved to a new role: general manager.

“Boundary Bay feels like home; it feels like family,” Janet explained. “It’s so comfortable here. I love to see the staff stick around, buy homes in Bellingham, and start families of their own.”

Janet’s path has taken her from Grand Canyon to Mt. Everest, but returning home means the world to her. She’ll do anything to help build up the community she loves.

“My favorite part of this whole process has been finding home,” Janet explained. “I like to travel and visit other places, but I always can’t wait to come back home to Bellingham and Boundary Bay.”

Janet Lightner with friends from Nepal. Boundary raised funds following the massive earthquake there last year.

Janet Lightner with friends from Nepal. Boundary raised funds following the massive earthquake there last year.

Over the years, Boundary Bay has helped support hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

With Janet’s guidance and heart Boundary Bay has created long-lasting relationships with nonprofit organizations. The support helps to raise funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations; from Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center’s annual Bocce Ball Tournament to Max Higbee Center’s April Brews Day.

“It’s not just business, its people,” Janet says. “We’re all just a bunch of humans with hearts.”

With the influx of new breweries in the craft beer scene over the past few years it’s helped to carve new paths in the industry.

“For the longest time, I was the only woman in a ‘boys club,'” Janet says. “It’s been amazing to see more women joining the industry over the years!”

Bellingham is a great place for women to get involved in the brewing industry, says Lightner.

“We have all have a common goal,” Janet explained, “to make this community known for great beer and make every tap handle in Bellingham a local one.”

A great support system exists within the Bellingham Beer Scene. Janet’s proud that Boundary Bay has been around long enough that whenever a brewery runs into a problem and seeks assistance, they’re usually able to help.

“Boundary Bay has always been very DIY oriented,” Janet says. “From the very beginning, we’ve had to think outside the box. Nowadays there are so many different resources, it’s an exciting time to be working with craft beer!”

Not only is Boundary Bay a pillar for Bellingham beer, but Janet also explained how the presence of new breweries pushes them to expand their practices.

“It makes you want to stay relevant,” Janet explained. “We’re having fun in the brewery, trying new and interesting things because of the competition.”

Janet and Ed with their Silver Medal for Old Bounder Barley Wine.

Janet and Ed with their Silver Medal for Old Bounder Barley Wine.

New flavors and styles are constantly being experimented with. The hope is that when somebody visits Bellingham they are still able to enjoy the classics they love, but can also enjoy new and innovative brews.

Janet Lightner is more than the just the General Manager at Boundary Bay. Her passion always makes her strive for more. Whether it is for her employees, who affectionately call her “Mama J,” or for the Bellingham community who she holds so dear, Janet’s always willing to go the extra mile.

“Boundary Bay and the Bellingham continually provide me with blessings to last my lifetime,” Janet says.