Bellingham Beer Week 2017 – 24 hours of American craft beer

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The beer lineup at Aslan Brewing April 22, 2017.

We had less than 24 hours to take in Bellingham Beer Week 2017. Here are some highlights.

I love the East Vancouver craft beer scene, but every once in awhile you want something a little different. So when, while imbibing a few local brews not long ago, I got into a conversation with a couple up from Bellingham who mentioned that city’s 10 craft breweries, I was intrigued. And when I saw that a whole week dedicated to the city’s suds scene was coming up, I made it my mission to check out some of the beers being brewed in our neighbour to the south.

First, a few facts vis-a-vis Bellingham Beer Week. It’s now in its seventh year, and the first in April (up until this year, it’s been held in the fall). The 2017 edition was eight days long, from April 21 – April 28, and features events every evening, and during the day on the weekends. Participants included eighteen venues, including breweries, taphouses and restaurants, most within walking distance of downtown.

We spent only one night and a couple of afternoons (April 21-22_ checking out the local craft, but suffice it to say we discovered some lovely beers and some great breweries, and we can’t wait to go back again to try some of the places we missed but heard lots about, like Wander Brewing. Here are some of the highlights we were able to cram into our 24 hours of Bellingham Beer Week.

Day 1 – April 21

Boundary Bay Brewing – It’s hard to miss BBB, which is in the heart of downtown and one of Bellingham’s oldest breweries (if not the oldest). Big and airy, with a convivial tasting area as well as a bistro, it sports a nautical theme inside and we had our first taster here, along with some very decent pub grub for lunch. if memory serves, the Neighbourhood Watch kettle sour (a collaboration between Boundary Bay and Gruff Brewing) was a favourite.

The Local Public House – After settling into our airbnb (located about 10 minutes’ drive from downtown, owing to our late booking—it seems the downtown hotels fill up on Beer Week weekends), we headed back downtown to the Local Public House for another taster. If memory serves, Structures‘ Endless Bummer Pale Ale was the best of the six local beers we tried.

Elizabeth Station – And I’ve died and gone to beer heaven. Elizabeth Street Station is a taphouse/coffee joint/corner store/beer store all wrapped up into one family-friendly location. The beer cooler selection is killer. When we arrived, the beer can races were on. As you’ll see from the photo, it was hard to choose from such a grand selection, but we loved the three Fremont beers in the middle.

Beer menu at Elizabeth Station April 22, 2017

Kulshan Brewing K2 – Our final adventure of the night took us to Kulshan Brewing K2 (so named because it’s the second location for the local brewer). We caught the tail-end of the Beer Olympics, and seized upon an unoccupied table set up for beer pong (popular in French Canada). The beer was fine, though I think I’ll need a second trip in a more sober frame of mind to fully appreciate.

Unidentified French Canadian beer pong player at Kulshan Brewing K2 during Bellingham Beer Week 2017.

Day 2 – April 22

Aslan Brewing – A beautiful brewery unspoiled by a single TV set, Aslan had been recommended to us and we loved it. It seems like a favourite among local beer aficionados, and I can see where, with its high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, this is the place to be on a sunny day (as rare as those may seem these days in the Pacific Northwest). We sat at the bar and enjoyed samples of four of their beers, including their flagship Ginger Rye Ale and special release Captain Planet IPA.

View from Aslan Brewing.

Structures Brewing – I have to say this was my favourite brewery, based on its heavy metal vibe (although that could’ve been an anomaly – “We’ll be blasting doom and psyche all day in celebration of Record Store Day” reads an Instagram update for April 22) and stoner-rock flavours. It’s a small place with a brick and wood interior that gives it an industrial feel. Their smallest size is 10 ounces so we shared only one, the Yellow King, a delicious bourbon barrel-aged saison.

Inside Structures Brewing during the first Saturday of Bellingham Beer Week 2017. Imagine doom-metal and psyche-rock while looking at this picture.

Gruff Brewing – Our last stop before heading over to Elizabeth Station for some beer-to-go and the ride home, Gruff is has a minimalist interior outfitted with a few pinball games and a generous back yard with a view (again, it’s probably spectacular when it’s sunny and warm). We had time/inclination for just a small sample each, including the 007 IPA. Definitely one to try again, the beer and the brewery, for next time.

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