Beer on tour: pushing boundaries in the USA

Boundary Bay brewery, Washington

By Liz Dodd

Between the blue skies and snow puffed mountain peaks, it’s been a breath catching cold week in the USA’s Pacific Northwest, where I’ve been earning my keep this week on Cowboy’s Girlfriend’s horse farm.

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Washington state – like much of the US – seems to be awash with craft breweries. It’s Nirvana out here for a hophead like me (ha! accidental Seattle pun!). Short on time, I took local advice and headed to Boundary Bay, a multi-award-winning brewery in Bellingham, northern Washington.

This laid-back, sometime-grunge and sometime-artisan bar and bistro is typical of its trendy hometown. It attracts the town’s own brand of be-Conversed hipster – hamsters, short for Bellinghamster, I’m told – and has an outstanding menu with plenty of Vegan/Veggie options, free hot, local cider and a line of t-shirts.

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A stone’s throw from the Pacific, the independent brewery is nautical-themed, with huge tranches of wood and big, bold paintings of the nearby drydock. It opened in 1995 and sits in a restored 1922 warehouse in the centre of town. The brewery prides itself on bolstering the local economy and community groups. Last year it was named Washington’s 2014 Small Philanthropic Business of the Year.

Most importantly, the beer is superb. With just an evening to get to know the range, I opted for a 6-shot board, which came with a handy cheat sheet.

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All the beers were beautifully balanced, and came just as fresh as you’d expect with the taproom next door.

Here’s a guide to the full range.

My top tips, if you’re lucky enough to be in the area:

IMG_20151130_194234Best Bitter ESB: I’m not generally a fan of bitter (I know, what kind of British beer drinker am I?), but this lovely orange-gold, crystal clear beer was delicious. Some citrus from the subtle hopping, but mostly a smooth, light caramel.

Amber: I’d call this a thick glass of mahogany rather than amber. Warmed, it’s got a lovely, floral aroma, all sugar sweet and marshmallow.

Scotch: Very well balanced, with a whiskey malt finish. The sweet, liqeur-ness is balanced by juicy citrus hops, burned caramel and orange zest.

Oatmeal stout: Soft, rounded, pitch black beer. Gloriously smooth and full-bodied, it tastes like it smells – like strong coffee and dark chocolate.

This is my first time in the US and I wish I had longer to go beer exploring (beerploring!). So far, the US craft scene is everything I’d been promised. Stay tuned for a Best of the Bottles round-up.

Boundary Bay brewery is at 1107 RAILROAD AVE, BELLINGHAM, WA 98225

 

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