Ah, the glamorous life of a beer traveler. Tuesday morning I awoke at 2:40am with a scheduled departure from our house at 3:30. Calls for the make-up girl at that ridiculously early hour prompted my friend Andie to respond with, “It doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s 3:30am!” This was just the beginning of the journey, though, as our flight from San Jose to Seattle left at 6:40am. Why in the world would we plan such a sadistic schedule? Well, first of all, I don’t make the schedule. But secondly, it’s one of the sacrifices one makes for the glorious reward of beer travel.
We arrived in Seattle at 8:30am and drove directly up to Bellingham. The home to a couple of fantastic breweries, no stop in Bellingham would be complete without a visit to Boundary Bay Brewing. We’d been there before, so it wasn’t new to “The List” but that didn’t matter because we knew the beer would be fantastic.
They weren’t quite open when we arrived, so we anxiously waited outside for the door to open. While pacing the sidewalk, I peeked through the gaps in a hops-covered chain link fence to see a gem of a beer garden hidden below. Unfortunately it was overcast and breezy out, unusually cool weather for the Pacific Northwest in July, so the beer garden was not an option.
Instead, we sat at the bar an enjoyed a quick round. I opted for the Pilsner. With its surprisingly dark golden color and assertive flavor, this brew caught me off guard. I guess that’s what I get for ordering it by saying, “I’ll justhave the Pilsner.” I had immediately scolded myself for feeling like my choice of a (usually) subtle, lighter style of beer needed qualifying. One sip of the bold brew hit home the lesson that lighter styles do not necessarily equate to pale, flavorless beverages. Chris characterized his IPA and Glacier single hop IPA choices as “wonderfully well-crafted hoppy beers.”
After a quick stop, we were on to the beer highlight of the day: Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen. A short drive from Boundary Bay, Chuckanut is surrounded by a motorcycle shop and boat works. We drove in between the brewery and the pub (connected by an awning up above) to the convenient off-street parking lot. Like Boundary Bay, Chuckanut had a quaint outdoor seating area. The weather remained the same, however, so we opted for the cozy cafe-style inside.
Chuckanut was a highly anticipated stop. We had tried their beers at GABF last year and thoroughly enjoyed them. More importantly to me, however, was that they specialize in German-style beers. Our sample set included a Blonde, Kolsch, British IPA, Pilsner, Alt, and Vienna Lager. In a rare agreement of what beer to have a pint of, both Chris and I chose the Kolsch. In fact, as I was to see later on the menu, Tuesday is Kolsch day where later that evening stanges of Kolsch could be had for only $1.50 each. We weren’t going to be around later that evening, but it was okay because we enjoyed our full pint of the deliciously refreshing brew.
Chuckanut has a full kitchen with menu offerings listing the use of fresh, local ingredients. My perfectly-sized individual pizza with shallot sauce, peaches, and thick-sliced bacon was quite light and paired well with my beer. Also not one to pass up bacon, Chris enjoyed a BLT with the tastiest yam tater tots I’ve ever had. (Okay, the only ones I’ve ever had, but you get the idea…)
Besides the excellent beer and food, we found the staff to be friendly. It was nice to be in like-minded company as I discovered that the bartender, Dillon was also a German beer-style fan. Toward the end of our visit, co-owner Mari Kemper took the time to chat with us. The tales of her and her husband Will’s brewing history was captivating. Not only was Will a partner in the original Thomas Kemper Brewery, this brewing couple has assisted with the establishment of craft breweries in the unlikely locations of Mexico and Turkey. Mari’s story about the many years of putting in hard work before finally opening Chuckanut made our beer travel look positively glamorous. It goes to show that it’s slow and steady hard work and not instant recognition that creates longevity in this business.
We left Bellingham with a bit of giddiness; quite possibly due to the lack of sleep or perhaps because the town is a fun beer stop. Most likely, however, it was because we were headed into Canadia to visit family. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with my brother and his family, including a quick stop at Mission Springs Brewing in Mission, BC. The best part of the evening, however, was that even with telling the U.S. border agent that we’d walked into Canada, had nothing to declare, and had only been there a few hours, he let us back in. I giggled as we crossed the street to our rental car parked next to the discount gas station. Such is the glamorous life of a beer traveler…