It’s starting to be the case that I can measure how long I’ve lived here in Bellingham, Washington by how many breweries have started up, and, in one case, have shut down.
Back in November 2009, I wrote about the two breweries we had at the time — Boundary Bay Brewery & Chuckanut Brewery — both are still going strong, winning numerous awards for their craft beers and ales, and, according to Wikipedia, Boundary Bay has become the largest brewpub in the country based on the number of barrels sold per year.
And when I mentioned in that 2009 post that Boundary Bay better watch their backs, because Chuckanut had significantly stepped up their game, having won the 2009 Best Small Brewpub award at the Great American Beer Festival (they won the Best Small Brewing Company award in 2011), I deemed this welcome and healthy local competition.
But when I heard rumblings some months ago that another new brewery was opening up in Bellingham, I really had doubts that our small city could support three breweries, especially considering that there were also several bar/restaurants in town that served good selections of craft beer.
Enter Kulshan Brewing Company, which just opened a few weeks ago, and already all doubts have been put to rest.
I went there last night for the first time, the place was packed, everyone was raving about how good the beer is, myself included, and so it seems they will really have to screw up big time in order to fail.
The ambiance is casual and comfortable, the crowd was a nice Bellingham cross-section, and they have a novel approach to food that I was initially skeptical about: food trucks.
They currently have three different trucks that rotate throughout the week, offering sandwiches, BBQ, and pizza depending on the day, and they plan to eventually widen the selection. Early criticism of the idea suggested that people won’t want to eat out of to-go boxes when they are out drinking $4+/pint beer, but the folks I talked to LOVED the idea, reported that the food was great, and, best of all, considering how pricey the beer is, the food was cheap! (My friends had the Cuban Dog from StrEAT Food last night, which was huge, delicious, and only $4.50!)
Finally, the beer.
I sampled all of the brews that they had flowing and was VERY impressed with how consistently good they were. Not all of them were unique or stood out, but they seemed solid, delicious examples of the styles they represented.
American Wheat Ale: Let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t like wheat beers. I tasted it, didn’t care for it, but folks who I talked to who were drinking it said that they liked it.
Bastard Kat IPA: I was doubtful when it was poured, because it was so light in color. Other light-colored IPAs I’ve had were WAY out of balance, insane hops and not enough malt, resulting in a beer that is too bitter for me. Bastard Kat, on the other hand, was a good example of a standard Pacific Northwest IPA, with great, citrusy hops and plenty of them, but balanced nicely with just enough malty goodness to make it HIGHLY drinkable. Yum!
Midnight CDA (Cascadian Dark Ale): Basically a dark IPA, this was my favorite of the bunch. Pours almost black, and has a really nice, full viscosity without being syrupy. The hops weren’t as dominant as the IPA, but nor were the malts overbearing. It was surprising how drinkable it was. I’m not sure what the ABV is, but the alcohol was not overpowering (nor was it for any of the beers, for that matter).
Porter: Probably the most unremarkable of the bunch, but not in a bad way. It’s simply a good example of a Porter, with very tasty roasted malts, a light, drinkable body, and a dark, rich color. Porters aren’t my favorites, but I think that a Porter fan would enjoy it very much.
Russian Imperial Stout: This, to me, was nearly an exact copy of my favorite imperial stout, Lost Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Kulshan’s is undeniably delicious, with a high alcohol content nestled in heavily roasted malts. Not a beer for sunny weather, in my opinion, so I’d be surprised if they kept it on tap for much longer.
Sadly, they had just run out of their other beer — Good Ol’ Boy Pale Ale — so I wasn’t able to try it, but people were talking about it and saying it was a great session beer.
I’ll be returning to Kulshan for sure, and I recommend it heartily!