For Washingtonians, craft beer is an ever-growing community. The state is ranked as the fifth-highest nationally in its number of craft breweries, boasting 428 in operation at the end of 2020. The same data showed that per 100,000 adults over the age of 21, there were 7.5 breweries — the ninth-highest nationally — meaning craft beer is nothing new.
Within the Bellingham city limits, there are 14 breweries and growing. The 2019 economic impact of craft beer in Washington was over $2 million, so it’s not a secret that people put in the effort to support local beer.
But in Bellingham, there are brewery owners who put effort into both their brews and their communities.
At Northwest Youth Services, Director of Advancement Jenn Daly said there are creative ways local breweries have helped her organization, such as a beer designed by Aslan Brewing Company for their Queer Youth Project.
She said that Northwest Youth Services is a safety net for young people in the community struggling with housing situations.
“Being young means making mistakes, failing and being able to rebound from those,” she said. “And we've seen firsthand what it looks like when young people don't have a safety net.”
The organization has been working with Aslan Brewing Company for about seven years, according to Daly.
“Any organization's biggest hurdle is helping people understand what you do,” she said. “Having a team like Aslan — who is super community focused and dedicated to Bellingham — spread the word is only a win-win-win.”
Aslan’s connection to Northwest Youth Services started with a survival item drive where their patrons could donate items like sleeping bags, tents and tarps, Daly said, and grew to the organization’s own cans of beer, dubbed as B Proud with a rainbow design on the can.
“It wasn’t something we sought out,” Daly said. “We would never assume that a brewery would go out of their way to not only make a beer, but to can it and help us raise money within the process.”
According to Aslan Brewing Company CEO and Owner Jack Lamb, the company tries to collaborate with a nonprofit or community member every month.
“We often design a beer and move in with a call to action to make sure people are looking inward in the community,” said Lamb.
In designing a new beer, Lamb said they often involve a local artist to create the label and then take a look at what is relevant to the nonprofit, such as a dark beer in the winter for Northwest Avalanche Center or a floral hoppy beer for Northwest Youth Services.
“Bellingham deserves businesses that can support education and talented people,” Lamb said.
Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro does its part to help the community with fundraisers and nonprofit events. According to their website, it was members of the community that took interest in the business and helped build the brewery, so they’ve been giving back ever since.
Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro was contacted for the story but did not provide any comments.
Darach Brewing’s Founder Emily Nichols said when her brewery opens in late 2022, she’s planning for her company to also give back to the community to help make it a bit better.
Nichols said she hopes to collaborate with Whatcom Humane Society or another animal-related nonprofit to bring more awareness to pet adoption.
Since Darach Brewery will be adding to the double-digit Bellingham brewery count, Nichols said the beer community is actually one she is quite comfortable with.
“The beer community is an awesome community,” she said. “Talk to anybody and they’re like, ‘if you need any help, you let us know.’ Everybody in the beer industry just wants better beer — if you can bring more people in with a new brewery, bring it.”
Madison Roper (she/her) is a senior reporter for The Front in fall of 2021. The ‘21-’22 school year is her last before getting her BA in news/editorial journalism. She enjoys writing pieces on art, local businesses and events since her favorite part of reporting is interacting with the community. Random conversations on LGBTQ+, mental health, and Asian entertainment are always welcomed. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.