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Bellingham is known for its scenic hiking trails, consecutive rainy days and a vast selection of locally crafted beers with plenty of places to drink them. Despite it’s small size, Bellingham now has more breweries per capita than Seattle or Portland, with 12 breweries currently in operation. As the beer scene has expanded, brewery owners have created a community of support so that bar-goers can always enjoy a frosty pint. Sales in the craft beer industry have continued to grow, and not just in Bellingham. According to the Brewer’s Association, craft breweries increased to 12.3 percent of the overall U.S. beer market in 2016 from 5.7 percent 2011. Bellingham’s love of beer is evident in its recent brewery-boom. Within the last five years, Bellingham has welcomed eight new breweries onto the scene: Kulshan Brewing Company, Aslan Brewing Company, Wander Brewing, Stones Throw Brewery, Gruff Brewing Company, Structures Brewing, Menace Brewing, and now Melvin Brewing Bellingham. Melvin Brewing is Bellingham’s newest addition to the brewery scene. Located on Meridian street, Melvin opened its doors on Saturday, June 3, for a soft opening. Although Melvin Brewing originated in Jackson, Wyoming, owner Jeremy Tofte has ties to Washington, since he is originally from Mount Vernon. Melvin currently has three local beers on tap from neighboring brewers: an amber from Kulshan, French India Farmhouse Ale from Aslan and Together Belgian Dubbel from Wander. Some might think Bellingham’s student population would contribute to the number of dedicated beer drinkers keeping the brewery industry afloat. However, local brewery employees say students do not necessarily make up the majority of patrons. Kamarie Astrid, a beertender at Kulshan, said the amount of students frequenting Kulshan’s locations is actually very low. “The college population is probably the least influential in the actual breweries because the students generally tend to go to Aslan or whatever is downtown, when we have lots of breweries popping up everywhere,” Astrid said. Astrid has observed that Kulshan tends to attract more of a Generation X crowd. “I think what it has to do with is the fact that we have a really great culture of people that are owning [and running] businesses in town,” Astrid said. Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro is Bellingham’s largest operating brewery, and has earned both local and national acclaim for popular beers like the Scotch Ale, which has been brewed since the day Boundary opened, and the Cedar Dust IPA. The brewery will be celebrating 23 years of business in September of this year.

“It’s working within a group of people that are much like family. The other brewers in town, and the company that we work with are all very good-hearted. We’re all working as if we were family.”

Jack Pflueger, Stones Throw Brewery owner
Bailey Pugmire has worked for Boundary Bay since she started washing dishes at 12 years old. Her mother has worked at Boundary Bay since a year after it opened, and is the longtime partner of Boundary Bay’s owner, Ed Bennett. Now 26, Pugmire continues to work various positions throughout the brewery, including on the floor, in the kitchen and in the office. Pugmire plans to continue work in the brewing industry long-term. As more breweries make Bellingham their home, the town attracts beer connoisseurs from near and far. Pugmire views the rise in the number of breweries positively. “The more breweries that come, it’s also putting us on the map too. So we’re a location to come to now,” Pugmire said. Pugmire mentioned that Boundary Bay has seen a change in sales from the popularity of beer to-go in bottles and cans, which gives drinkers the options to enjoy their beer outside of the brewery. This is partially due to the fact that there’s so many more locations to get beer to-go, like gas stations, grocery stores and other bars and breweries. Boundary Bay plans to expand their canning efforts to meet growing demands. Bellingham’s craft beer selection ranges in its variety of styles. Jack Pflueger, owner of Stones Throw Brewery in Fairhaven, was excited to join the growing number of craft brewers in Bellingham when he and business partner, Tony Luciano, opened the brewery in 2016. “We definitely had to be a part of a high-caliber industry being in Bellingham. It’s exciting to become a part of that, and learning how to and all of that was very motivating,” Pflueger said. Pflueger said he was not intimidated by the competition from other breweries, because of Bellingham’s appreciation for local craftsmanship. “Bellingham definitely enjoys seeking out things that are made locally, by local artisans and local craftsmen,” Pflueger said. “In other towns, big industry may speak louder than what we have here.” Patrons of Stones Throw appreciate a good IPA, which Pflueger said is their best-seller. For Pflueger, the best part of working in the beer industry, aside from making something, is the people that he has the opportunity to associate with. “It’s working within a group of people that are much like family. The other brewers in town, and the company that we work with are all very good-hearted. We’re all working as if we were family.”
Kelsey Kennedy (left) and Jaci Fisher enjoy beers in the sun outside of Melvin Brewing on Monday, June 26. Fischer tried the Killer Bees and Kennedy had the 2x4 DIPA. // Photo by Lexi Foldenauer
Astrid from Kulshan remarked that they’ve found their niche in earthy beers with a high hop profile. Astrid said she often visits other breweries to try what else is out there. “Chuckanut Brewery makes the best light German-style ales of anybody, probably in the state, probably in the Pacific Northwest. They have internationally award-winning beers,” Astrid said. Astrid also gave a nod to Boundary Bay’s Scotch Ale, and explained how people in the brewery scene enjoy each other’s individual craft. “Boundary has the market on Scotch Ale in this town like nobody’s business. I don’t know that we’ll ever make a Scotch Ale. Why would we?” Astrid said. In addition to building a relationship between fellow breweries, Bellingham brewers make an effort to stay connected to the local community through various volunteer efforts. Employees from Kulshan and Boundary Bay both dedicate time to bike maintenance on the Galbraith trail. “The brewery itself donates a lot of beer to a lot of not-for-profits in town, and we have a softball team and a soccer team. We just try to be involved in the community as much as we can,” Astrid said. Boundary Bay recently adopted Cedar Dust trail on the Galbraith trail, which is where the name of their IPA originated from. Each year at the end of Bellingham Beer Week, an annual tour of local breweries, Boundary Bay hosts a bocce ball festival. “We are a very close family when it comes to the other breweries,” Pugmire said. “I love everybody in the brewery scene.”   Bellingham beer lovers will have to wait and see who will be next to join the brewery scene.

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