I sat at a table in the Archer Ale House (1212 10th Street) in Bellingham Washington contemplating what to do. There was a lofty goal in front of me, The Bellingham Tap Trail. Being that I was only in town for a few days. Could I really collect 8 stamps before I left, to obtain my treasured tap trail prize? The two boys to the right of me had attempted the complete trail… in one day… but they had not finished. Instead, they were invited to leave from one of the tap trail establishments participating. Not overly shocking as completing that many breweries and pubs in one day could be considered borderline alcoholic, but let us give them an A for effort.
My attempt would be far less than the boy’s attempt, as I took the shorter of the two options. 8 stops as opposed to the entire trail of 19 stops.
Later I met up with my friend Amy, another fellow beer drinker. Amy and I had once lived in the same town as I do now. A few years ago she had moved to the Bellingham area for work. When we met up I mentioned the Bellingham Tap Trail and like me, Amy is never one to shy away from a challenge, especially one that includes beer drinking.
Amy quickly reviewed the list on the tap trail and plotted out our course. Our first stop was Aslan Brewing (1330 N Forest St). When faced with any sort of beer challenge I always fuel up on food. It is really the best way to handle things. I ordered the street tacos, where you can choose between the rockfish, sweet potato or the pork. Or if you are like me, order one of each. My favorite of the three was the pork taco, a spicy sauce added a bit of flare to the taco.
I also ordered a flight of beer starting off first with the Anniversary XIPA, a 7.8% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and a 65 International Bittering Unit (IBU) This beer had a slight lemon flavor to it and was brewed to celebrate Aslan’s second birthday. Hops used are Mosaic, El Dorado and Azacca. The beer has since been retired from Aslan’s line of beers.
Speaking of lemon, as did the FIFA with a 6.2% ABV and a 55 IBU, which paired up with a grapefruit flavor and was enjoyed much more by me. FIFA stands for French India Farmhouse Ale. Hops used are Bravo, Cascade, Jarrylo, Mosaic and Sterling delivering the citrus and piney notes you will pick up on this beer.
I moved on next to the Batch 15 where I was greeted by citrus flavor and a nice hoppy bite. This beer has a 6.7% ABV and a 70 IBU and uses the Bravo, Citra, Chinook and Simcoe hops.
The Blueprint Session was my next taste and delivered a nice piney flavor with a 4.2% ABV and a 42 IBU. This beer uses the Centennial, Citra, Chinook and Simcoe hops. This beer has also been retired from Aslan’s lineup.
I picked up my last taste, the Ginger Rye Ale with a 5.4% ABV and a 24 IBU. Ginger and rye are probably two of my most favorite flavors but this beer did leave me with a bit of heartbreak as I felt it was too gingery. Hops used werer Cascade, Nugget as well as some lime flavoring.
There is inside and outside seating and we sat outside as it is dog-friendly and we had our dogs with us.
We moved on to our next location, The Cooper Hog (1327 N State Street), where I picked up a beer from one of my favorite breweries, Dogfish Head and their Immortal Ale, which is a barley wine with an 11% ABV and a 50 IBU. Inside seating and outside seating is available, but again we sat outside so we could have our dogs with us.
Our next stop was the Schweinhaus Biergarten (1330 N State Street), an outside beer garden that is dog-friendly.
I ordered the Crazy Bitch Double IPA from Northwest Brewing Company with a 7.5% ABV and a 110 IBU. The beertender was quick on the sass and fired back “what did you just call me?” I, of course, returned friendly banter with a “you heard me”. It was here when I realized that my father’s side of the family may come from Canada, but I have a lot to learn about the metric system. The beertender asked me what size glass I wanted of my Crazy Bitch, encouraging me to go with the liter. A liter, that didn’t sound like much. And then he handed me the HUGE glass of beer and I instantly wanted to punch myself in the face. I was, in fact, a crazy bitch for ordering that much beer.
Fortunately, it was a great beer and I shared some with Jovi, so I could save myself from telling you how much of a lush I am. OK, I did not really share with Jovi, she helped herself to my beer, but really I wasn’t going to stop her, it was a lot of beer.
Structures Brewing (1420 N State Street) was our next brewery. It was here that I snapped my most favorite photo of Boomer and Jovi. Paws of love! It was also here that I tried the Black Saison a 5.3% ABV and an unlisted IBU. I found this beer to have a nice hop balance with no coffee notes, which makes me a big fan! We were able to have our dogs with us, if they sat on the sidewalk, while we sat inside at a bar top next to the sidewalk. It was a compromise we were willing to make.
Boundary Bay Brewing (1107 Railroad Ave) was next on our list. Outside seating was at a premium, so we found ourselves inside seating. Unfortunately, this did mean our furry companions had to stay in our cars.
Here I ordered a tasting flight of 4, starting first with the Safety Break Session IPA. This beer has a 4.5% ABV and a 75 IBU. This beer has a soft flavoring of hops which pairs up nicely with the style.
My next taste was the Cedar Dust IPA with a 6.5% ABV and a 66 IBU. Although there are no cedar notes, this beer does have an earthy flavor that works in conjunction with some citrus notes.
The IPA was up next with a 6.4% ABV and a 78 IBU. Although this has a pretty decent IBU, I found it not to be very hop punchy. Not necessarily a bad thing, although this is an IPA and one does look for some punch.
My last taste was the Not Shawn’s Saison with a 6% ABV and an unlisted IBU. This was also not Brittany’s saison. Lemon flavors overpowered the beer and made it less than enjoyable.
Chuckanut Brewery (601 W Holly Street) was our next stop where I refrained from a tasting flight and settled on the Pilsner with a 5% ABV and a 38 IBU. This beer delivered on its promises of a crisp and light beer, just as a pilsner should be. We also picked up some food here, some bangers and mash to help offset the beer we had consumed.
Our final stop was at Kulshan Brewery (1538 Kentucky Street) with my final tasting flight. The flight arrived on a cute cut out of Washington State with the tasters in small mason jars. I started out with the Sunnyland IPA, a 5.5% ABV and a 62 IBU. This beer is a solid IPA with grapefruit notes. Up next was the Bastard Kat IPA with a 6.66 ABV and a 70 IBU and notes of citrus, including orange and pine.
The last three beers were not on Untappd or on Kulshan’s website, so aside from their names and a brief description I wrote while tasting the beers, I do not have much on these beers. I assume these beers have most likely been discontinued. The Common – nice balance of hop and flavor, IPA X2 good, bold citrus hop and the Ris, malty with a roasted flavor.
It is important to note that some of these locations on the tap trail do change annually, be sure to check the tap trail website for their most current listing of participating breweries and tap houses. Maps can be picked up at participating breweries and tap houses. Maps can only be turned in at the visitors center, downtown information center or The Local Public House. Each place has different hours and days open, so keep that in mind when trying to turn in your map. If you are there on a weekend like I was, you may not be able to turn your map in until a weekday. Or you can beg your friend who lives there to turn in your map and then plead again for them to mail you your “major award” after completing the trail.