Bellingham is a perfect example of the vitality of the Washington craft beer scene. In the past six weeks three new beer-focused businesses opened in Bellingham: a new brewery, a very cool and uncommon beer store, and a re-invented beer bar and live music venue.
This past weekend we ventured north to Bellingham to visit Kulshan Brewing, Elizabeth Station, and the Green Frog Cafe. In the coming days we will share our reports about each of those three places. Today we start by introducing Kulshan Brewing.
Be sure to check out the second installation in this series about Bellingham.
Just north of downtown, in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood, Kulshan Brewing recently opened for business and began distributing beer to local accounts. Kulshan’s IPA was an immediate hit around Bellingham, especially at a local pub called the Copper Hog. The night Kulshan IPA was released, thirsty patrons at “the Hog” guzzled their way through a keg in just a few hours .
The highly anticipated opening of the Kulshan Brewing Company tap room happened on Monday, April 2nd. The first Saturday was particularly eventful: the Kulshan tap room served 642 pints, 106 pitchers, 24 schooners and 41 sampler trays. On top of that, they sold 77 growlers to go.
Kulshan is still recovering from the madness of its grand opening week. In order to keep beer flowing at the tap room, they stopped non-retail sales. That means no keg sales to other bars until they have a chance to catch up. They are busily working to do that.
Brewmaster and owner, Dave Vitt started his brewing career as a home brewer in Bellingham. Eventually that led him to a job at Fish Brewing in Olympia, where he worked for several years. Kulshan Brewing is the realization of his dream to build his own brewery from the ground up.
Kulshan Brewing is using a 7-barrel brewhouse that once belonged to Dick’s Brewing. A few years ago, when Dick’s Brewing installed a new, larger system, Kenneth Reister bought the brewing equipment from Dick. The mash tun and brew kettle are currently on loan to Kulshan Brewing. Kenneth Reister plans to use the brewhouse when he opens his own brewery (Reisterbrau, in Olympia) in a couple of years. Kulshan says that by the time that happens they hope to have a 15-barrel brewhouse in place.
What to Expect
The tap room at Kulshan is large and friendly. It is bright and cheery. Just beer, no kitchen. Your children are welcome in the large outer room but not at the bar. You’ll often find a food truck parked out front or you can order takeout from any of the local restaurants.
We arrived at the tap room just after noon on Saturday and found several people already enjoying pints. A food truck was parked out front serving barbeque fare. The flow of customers was steady and we saw at least one person walk away dejected because he could not get a growler of IPA. At the time, Kulshan was serving from the last keg of IPA in existence and was not filling growlers. Of course the IPA shortage is only a temporary inconvenience.
Like other breweries, Kulshan has a brewery dog. Her name is Lucy and she may shyly greet you upon your arrival. Be patient with her; she’s slowly getting used to the crowds.
We tasted samples of Kulshan’s American Wheat, Pale Ale, IPA, CDA, Porter and Imperial Stout. They were all solid. Lifting the taster-sized glass to my nose, the hop aroma coming off the IPA was strong and inviting. This beer is a hop lover’s dream, brewed with ample quantities of Cascade and Apollo hops mostly added at the very end of the boil. We also found the Porter to be exceptional. For me, the real star of the show was the CDA.
Like many other new breweries, Kulshan recognizes the importance of its retail business. They offer long hours, opening daily at 11:00 a.m. On Friday and Saturday the tap room is open until midnight, Sunday through Thursday until 10:00.
Kulshan Brewing Company
2238 James St
In the coming days we will tell you about two more very cool and very new Bellingham beer destinations.