From beer author book talks to hikes, Octoberfest celebrations, and of course lots of beer, we traded sleep for good times and great brews during Bellingham Beer Week #2.
Bellingham's 2nd Annual Beer Week was perhaps one of the best representations of “The City of Subdued Excitement” possible. Ten days of beer-centric events took place across the city, everywhere from the obvious suspects like our three breweries, to surprising spaces such as movie theaters and dessert cafes. What made it all so Bellingham was the fact that it really shows the collaborative and genuine spirit of this city's businesses and community.
One tangible example that represents this community is the Bellingham Beer Week (BBW) Collaboration Beer. A Belgian-style Dark Strong Ale, the beer is the brain-brew of all three Bellingham Breweries: Kulshan, Boundary Bay, and Chuckanut. The beer was brewed and canned on-site at Kulshan Brewery, and could be found on tap at all three breweries and many bars around town. With a little something for almost every beer drinker—hops, high ABV, and dark roasty malts—BBW Collaboration Ale went down smooth and added a little something extra to savor at each sponsored event.
BBW wasn't just a platform to brag about the beer produced here in Bellingham (though there is plenty to brag about) but was in general a celebration of craft beer. Many taphouses featured tap take-overs and brewers' nights from around the Pacific Northwest and beyond. One such brewery, Fremont Brewing Company of Seattle, even brewed a limited release beer honoring the event. Fremont's BBW #2 Imperial Porter featured local favorite Tony's Coffee along with strong hints of vanilla, coconut, and balanced hop flavor and aroma. This was a brew I made sure to grab an extra bottle of to break out on a dreary winter day.
Bellingham Experience (Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, or simply BE) led a “Boots and Brews” media tour for several out-of-town beer and travel writers hailing from British Columbia, Oregon, and California. One of the main tour events was a hike up at Artist Point near Mt. Baker. As (fledgling) beer/hiking writers ourselves, we were fortunate enough to receive an invitation.
Thursday, September 26th was the perfect day for a hike. After days of rain, the clouds parted in Whatcom County to reveal sunny blue skies. We met our hiking party at Artist Point and set out for Table Mountain, marveling at unobstructed views of mountains Shuksan and Baker. Our visiting writers were awed by the surrounding beauty. Upon encountering snow, one writer in particular (a certain Professional Gentleman of Leisure) could not stay off of it.
Local brewery reps from Kulshan and Boundary Bay came along as well, providing some insight into the brewing community here in Bellingham. These guys (and girls) get along like old friends, not competitors. They also brought some beer to share during lunch – a welcome surprise. Later on we met up at Boundary Bay for Octoberfest beers at the bottom.
Saturday, September 28th was the perfect day to stay indoors. However, we had planned our Beers at the Bottom Hike & Brewery Meetup weeks in advance, crossing our fingers for good weather. We awoke to wind and rain advisories – a rather grim outlook for the day. Arriving at the Fragrance Lake trailhead we began to wonder if anyone would show up. Fortunately they did and we led our group of nine up to Fragrance Lake, then right back down in heavy rain, stopping for few photos and breaks along the way. Drenched, we parted ways near the trailhead and went home to change clothes. Upon reuniting with our group at Kulshan Brewing, we shared some beers and a laugh at our own misfortune. There’s nothing like good company and dark beer to warm you up after a rain-soaked hike in the Pacific Northwest.
Our local book haven, Village Books, partnered with taphouses and breweries to host beer writers' book launches. There's something wildly wonderful about watching an author give a book talk with beer in hand.
Hosted at Chuckanut Brewery, John Holl brought the East Coast flavor during his reading from his new book, The American Craft Beer Cookbook which features 155 beer-centric recipes. The cookbook's structure is what makes this book unique. Some recipes come from the kitchens of brewpubs, others incorporate beers, and some just pair beautifully with a particular style. Holl also spotlights breweries from around the country, and Bellingham's dear Chuckanut Brewery is one such brewery! Chuckanut's menu and brewpub's atmosphere made for a cozy and delicious event space. Holl was also on hand to talk to attendees and sign copies after his book talk.
The second book featured during Bellingham Beer Week is one that has quickly become near and dear to Beers at the Bottom. Victoria, B.C. resident Joe Wiebe had the American release of his book Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider's Guide to B.C. Breweries at Elizabeth Station bottle shop. We were fortunate enough to spend time getting to know Joe during various Beer Week events, and while this book can never be as charming as the real deal—it comes pretty damn close. Wiebe's book covers every aspect of craft beer culture in British Columbia, touching on the history of craft beer in the province, the political landscape concerning beer, and brewery profiles which include the best beer selections. More than just a guide book, Joe's personality and opinions pepper the pages in the form of humorous and informative vignettes. Beers at the Bottom has already taken our copy on a road trip up B.C.'s Sea to Sky Highway and recommends anyone venturing to British Columbia to do the same.
Thanks to Bellingham Beer Week organizers and participants, this year's BBW went down as a resounding success. For more information on Bellingham Beer Week, check out the following: