The beer scene in Bellingham just keeps booming. The city is now home to more than a dozen breweries with even more on the way. In recent months, two new breweries opened and two of the existing breweries opened new taprooms. But that’s not all! Another new brewery is poised to open later this spring and another local brewery will soon open a new taproom downtown.
What’s most exciting about all of these developments is that these openings don’t just add more of the same to the local beer scene, they add more character and more flavor. Let’s go over each of these and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
El Sueñito Brewing
The highly anticipated brewery/taproom/tamale shop has filled the bellies of local beer lovers and foodies ever since opening in mid-February. I visited on a Friday afternoon, at about 2:00, and the place was nearly packed. The supply of tamales was already getting low, but more were on the way. The locals tell me it’s been like this since El Sueñito Brewing opened for business.
The tamales were huge and delicious, and the beers were solid. When the weather improves, the garage doors will roll up and the crowd will sprawl onto the west-facing patio out front. El Sueñito Brewing’s location is in the heart of the Sunnyland neighborhood, which means it is within easy walking distance of a half dozen other breweries. Read our original profile of El Sueñito. (1926 Humbolt Street; All-ages taproom and tamale shop; dogs welcome.)
This taproom-focused brewery opened in December. The location is familiar to local beer lovers; it’s the former home of The Green Frog, which was a beer-focused live music bar. The focus at Darach Brewing is farmhouse-style ales, mixed-fermentation beers, and other creative concoctions. When I visited the menu even included a couple of raw ales, also known as “no-boil” beer. You probably aren’t familiar with that beer style, but trust me, Darach Brewing’s Operatic Raw Ale is delicious.
Darach Brewing is the brainchild of Shawn Vail and Emily Nichols (above), two veterans of the local and not-so-local beer scene. Shawn’s brewing experience includes time at Stone Brewing (CA) and Lakewood Brewing (TX). Locally, he’s brewed at Fish Brewing, Chainline Brewing, Magnuson Café & Brewery, and Garden Path Fermentation. (1015 N State St; all-ages, no-kitchen taproom; dogs welcome.)
From its small brewery and taproom downtown, Structures Brewing has served delicious beers since 2015. Now it is also open in a new and larger location down the street in the building that was previously the home of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen. The original Structures location is currently closed for some reimagining, but the new spot in the Old Town neighborhood is glorious.
If you were familiar with Chuckanut Brewing’s layout, you might find this a bit disorienting. It’s all good, the layout and the decor are just drastically different. The front door now faces Holly Street and the beer garden now wraps around the front of the building, for instance. Inside, they’ve moved the bar and completely remodeled the place. In time, they’ll expand the beer garden out back and add a second bar out there. I ate a delicious veggie burger and drank a delicious Helles lager, among other things. (601 W Holly Street; all-ages taproom and kitchen; not sure about dogs, but they do have a large beer garden.)
North Fork Brewery Barrel House and Beer Shrine
The location up the highway in Deming has long been a top destination for beer pilgrims, but now you can enjoy the beers straight from the source without the extra drive. This location is the brewery’s dedicated spot for spontaneous and mixed-culture wood fermentation. In other words, lots of barrel-aging happens here.
The North Fork Barrel House is cozy and, although it opened just a few months ago, already feels like it’s been there forever. The selection of beers on tap, and in bottles to go, is sublime. No surprise there. (1900 Grant Street; taproom with no kitchen;
Garden Path Fermentation, the Great Northern
At its facility in Burlington, Garden Path Fermentation creates exceptional beers using hyperlocal ingredients and native Skagit Valley yeast. I’ve described the beers as “beautiful,” which is a very uncommon type of lofty praise coming from me. Garden Path is now poised to open a second location, on Commercial Street in downtown Bellingham. Locals might recognize it as the former home of Uisce Irish Pub.
They are going to call this location the Great Northern Bottle Shop and Lounge. They’ve been working on transitioning the spot for some time now and I understand there are currently some delays to navigate. Rest assured, I will keep you posted when they’ve established an opening date. (1319 Commercial Street; taproom and bottleshop.)
Larrabee Lager Company
As the name suggests, this coming-soon brewery will focus on creating lagers. In fact, the brewery at Larrabee Lager Company was specifically designed to produce lagers. While they’ll focus on Pilsner, Dunkel, Helles, and other lager styles, they promise to occasionally dabble in Cold IPA and other ales. They also intend to offer a communal-style beer hall that encourages laughter, discussion, and newfound friendships.
Larrabee Lager Company’s location on Meridian Stree is north of Interstate 5 and will be a welcome addition to a part of town that currently enjoy no brewery to call its own. Currently, the brewery has its sights set on opening in late May. I will keep an eye on things and make sure you know when a firm date is announced.