Skagit County’s youngest brewery, North Sound Brewing (NSB), has only been around since 2010. The taproom is small, they don’t serve food, and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the location. But NSB brews the best beer in the Valley.
I grew up in Skagit County. Before moving to Bellingham for college, I lived in nearly every town in the area including Mt. Vernon, Burlington, La Conner, and Sedro-Woolley. At the time I was too young to appreciate Skagit’s beer scene, but Bellingham has since turned me into a beer lover. Nowadays, a visit home isn’t complete without a stop at one of our local brewpubs. NSB is usually at the top of my list.
North Sound rocks the typical no-frills, warehouse style brewery with attached taproom. Outside, the beer garden invites summer visitors to bask in the sun while sipping a Cherry Wheat. Step into the taproom and you’ll find a few tables and some barstools – seating for 20 or so happy patrons. Nine taps range across the beer spectrum from light to dark, with just about everything in between. Peek over your beertender’s shoulder for a glimpse into the brewery itself. Unofficial “tours” are occasionally offered by the owner, Kurt, who started as a homebrewer and has turned his dream of opening a brewery into reality. Kurt can often be found wandering the taproom, casually chatting with customers about his latest concoction.
On this particular outing, we tried the Bitter Rain ESB and Bourbon Barrel Release Big R Imperial Red. NSB’s ESB is stronger (6.1% ABV) and a bit more bitter than most ESB’s we’ve encountered, with a mildly aggressive hop bite. Like most of NSB’s beers, this is a good example of their Northwest style – taking a traditional beer recipe and making it bolder. The Bourbon Barrel Red is a slap in the face. Strong yet well balanced, it weighs in around 10% ABV with a smooth whiskey finish. We only have one word for it: damn.
Beyond North Sound’s regular taps, they offer several specialty options. Kurt’s X-batch label is used to designate “unique, one-run beers”. More often than not, X-batch means big, bold, experimental brews. Get these while you can, because they don’t last long. Another uncommon practice we noticed at NSB is their Suggested Blends. Kurt encourages patrons to mix their beers. For example, combining the ESB and Stout makes a Headless Horseman. Perhaps this will become a trend in the craft beer industry?
If by now we haven’t convinced you that NSB makes the best beer in Skagit County, do yourself a favor: go down to the taproom and get some. If it’s Wednesday, bring your growler along for $8 fills. And tell ‘em Beers at the Bottom sent ya!
North Sound Brewing is our go-to Brewhub for Mt Vernon area hikes, including the following: