Friday, July 2, 2010

Bellingham Classic

I've been planning a couple of beer hikes around Bellingham for quite a while and yesterday I was finally able to get my ass up there.  When a place like Bellingham has so much to offer in the way of good beer hiking, unfortunately you can't include every good spot on one hike.   Even though I've visited most of the places on it, I chose this route because it incorporates a hike into the Sehome Hill woods that my buddy (and weird Bellingham local) Miller has been wanting to take us on.  On my next hike up there, I plan to visit several beer spots that I've never been to and definitely make it back over to Fairhaven.

Bellingham Classic
The Fountain / Chuckanut Brewery / Sehome Hill / Boundary Bay / Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

View Bellingham Classic UBH in a larger map

We began in the Fountain District at the shiny new Fountain Bistro just after 1pm.  Link stayed in the car because it was still a little rainy and there is no shelter outside the café.  By the time we sat down at the counter, I was hungry and thirsty as hell.  I don't remember where I heard about this place, but I'm glad we stopped in.  The food, beer, and wine offerings are top-notch.  One oddity that caught our eye was that they have Radeberger both in the bottle and on draft.  Someone there must really like it.

While waiting for our sandwiches, I had a Ninkasi Total Domination IPA and Mandy cracked a bottle of Aspall Dry.  After politely informing me that I could get lynched if I didn't put my laptop away, one of the servers told me that the building is an old Kentucky Fried Chicken.  They're still using the drive-thru for espresso.  On the wall sits a giant portrait of Colonel Sanders -- was this left behind by the previous tenant?  I found all of this very charming.  I was tempted to have another pint, but I had to remind myself that there was a long afternoon and evening ahead.  After finishing our fantastic lunch, we grabbed our bags and Link from the car and headed to our second stop.

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen is less than a mile from the Fountain.  I had intended to weave through the neighborhood more and maybe check out Fouts and Battersby Parks, but I missed the left turn on Farragut Street and we were at W. Holly before we knew it.  In no time at all we could smell mash in the air and we let our noses guide us to Will Kemper's doorstep.

We arrived just in time because in the 40 minutes or so that we were there, the bar area filled up.  I had been here once before a couple of years ago, but I remembered almost nothing about that visit except that the place is very popular.  With my pint of Gold Medal winning Dunkel in hand I walked around and snapped a few pictures and eventually found myself chatting with Mari Kemper, wife and partner of Head Brewer Will Kemper.  We chatted about their tremendous showings at the Great American and Great Canadian Beer Festivals and a little about their plans for expansion in the near future.  It's always nice to see the good guys having success.  After Mandy finished up her Kölsch we shared a glass of the Vienna Lager, another GABF Gold Medal winner.

The next short leg of the hike took us through the central shopping area of town.  Seeing some places like the Up and Up and Bayou on Bay reminded me that this hike was only one of a few that I have in mind for Bellingham and that I'll be back again sometime soon to do another urban beer hike.

We stopped at my buddy Miller's house to drop our bags and grab him and his huge, lazy dog Decker.  Miller had been wanting to take us on a hike up through the park very close to his backyard, Sehome Hill Arboretum.  After showing us some of the recent improvements he's done to the house and yard, we were off to see the woods where he and his boyhood friends used to set off fireworks, drink Tullamore Dew and look at porn.

The hike through the trees and up to the observation tower is short, but pretty steep.  When we got to the top, I realized that I forgot to grab a few "trail beers" from Miller's fridge.  I took a verbal beating for this and I deserved it, but damn it!  Do I have to remember everything?

 This hike just about broke Decker.

By the time we made it down the hill and through part of the Western Washington Campus, returning to Miller's house to drop off Link and Decker, it had been more than an hour and a half since the last beer.  Thankfully, Miller had thought to stock his fridge with Alaskan Amber, which was more than good enough for me.

We got to Boundary Bay just after six o'clock and the joint was already hopping as expected.  We considered waiting at the bar for a table, but Mandy told us about the big beer garden out back and that turned out to be a way better idea.  There was a band playing on stage, a bar serving up most of the BBBC's beers, and two guys slinging burgers and brats at the grill.  I indulged in a couple of pints of the Scotch Ale (still my favorite), Mandy had the Porter and Miller had the newly-released Pilsner.  After two more rounds and an order of onion rings, we decided that all of the kids running around were starting to get on our nerves and we headed down State Street to the final stop.

The Green Frog Acoustic Tavern is everything I love in a beer bar -- great taps, unpretentious atmosphere, good music, a friendly resident dog (Rasputin) -- but when we arrived, the vibe was downright weird.  There were six guys sitting at the bar and none of them were talking to each other or the bartender.  Just staring forward or down at their beer (maybe a Dirty Girl from Boneyard?).  There were two other guys, each sitting alone at their tables, reading.  Mandy, Miller, and I were well into our drinking stride by then and were talking and laughing it up.  My buzz kept me from being self-conscious, but I still kept looking around and trying to figure out what exactly what was going on.

Rasputin, Green Frog's very lovable yutz.

The vibe eventually changed as more and more people arrived and the live music started and we stayed for a few pints of Black 13 (me) and New Belgium Eric's (Mandy).  Or, in Miller's case, a few cans of Rainier.  I'd have liked to stay the rest of the night, but Miller was getting increasingly agitated by who-knows-what and he has rage issues, so we smartly elected to end the night and go back to his place to watch Hot Tub Time Machine, which made me laugh out loud several times and actually put me on the floor once.  ("I write Stargate fan fiction so I think I know what I'm talking about here!")

I was a little bummed to leave this morning, but I'm motivated to go back soon.  I'd like to check out the Up and Up, McKay's Taphouse/Pizza Pipeline, The Copper Hog, Bayou on Bay, and others that people have told me about.  The walk over to Fairhaven (Archer Ale House and Daphne's) and back is beautiful, too.

Keep checking back or follow me on Twitter for more details on the next hike in B'ham..


Dear FTC:  I paid for all of my own food and beverages on this urban beer hike with my own allowance.

1 comment:

  1. I used to work across the street from that KFC washing rental cars. Mmm Popcorn Chicken.