Photo by Nick Kelly / Faithlife Corporation

Touring the Breweries of Bellingham

The nearby college town is a hot spot for local beer. Here’s where you’ve got to stop.

This is the third in a four-part summer series in which we’ll travel to nearby and not-so-nearby Washington towns to check out the beer scenefrom Bellingham to Port Townsend, Anacortes to Leavenworth, we have your beer-inspired weekend trips covered!

If you’re planning to visit one of the nearly two dozen breweries in Bellingham for a taste of their latest concoction, you’d better venture out early. On a visit to the college city 90 minutes north of Seattle, one thing about its brewpubs will become very clear: They’re quite popular. So popular, in fact, that new breweries are sprouting up all over. Given the amount of craft beer and its rising popularity among Bellingham’s residents and college students, we wanted to check out the scene and offer thoughts on some beloved locations.

Boundary Bay Brewing (1107 Railroad Ave., 360-647-5593) is the first place anyone visiting Bellingham for beer should stop. It’s central and historic. Many folks in town talk up the beer, the quaint public-house atmosphere, and the food at this award-winning spot, established in 1995 out of a restored 1922 warehouse. But what to drink first? Boundary Bay’s IPA (with the very recognizable green tap handle) is perhaps the most quintessential Northwest IPA there is. Sure, other breweries make great double IPAs, or IPAs with more floral qualities, and even the popular India Session Ales have earned much interest, but Boundary Bay’s dry and hoppy version of this beloved style is wonderful.

Perhaps the brewery’s second most popular beer—and rightly so—is the Scotch Ale, a semi-smoky, semi-malty, caramely red that, unlike many other Scotch ales, is not syrupy and cloying. If you’re looking for eats, try BB’s vegetarian black-bean burger with roasted potatoes or their succulent fish tacos.

The more one learns about beer in the Pacific Northwest, the more one comes across mostly ales: the maltier, thicker version of the beer family. But Chuckanut Brewery (601 W. Holly St., 360-752-3377) has chosen, for the most part, another path for its suds production: pilsners and lagers, traditionally lighter and more carbonated. Though Chuckanut does make a stout and an IPA, its German- and Vienna-style beers are some of the region’s best. The award-winning brewery, which opened eight years ago, offers a clean and delicious Helles lager, a bright Märzen, and an ever-so-slightly hoppy Maibach, set to be released in May. Another standout is its Dunkel, with a dark sunset hue and enough body to satisfy any beer drinker. For eats, try the housemade pickles and the Beer-BQ Hawaiian pizza.

Established in 2013, Aslan Brewing Company (1330 N. Forest St., 360-778-2088) is only about a half-mile from Boundary Bay. This brightly lit, wide-open taphouse serves an array of housemade beers (all 100 percent organic), including a fine red ale (thinner than Boundary’s Scotch Ale), a very drinkable stout (for those afraid of the traditionally heavy dark brew), a pineapple-forward pale ale, and a standout IPA—what they call their “Batch 15,” as light as it is floral. Bonus! Aslan (yes, like the name of the lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) serves waffle fries, whose aroma fills the room with such a warm, salty scent they’re nearly impossible to resist. JAKE UITTI

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