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Boundary Bay Brewery celebrates 28 years

Bellingham brewery is among those on the fresh hop trail

Boundary Bay Brewery owners Ed Bennett
Boundary Bay Brewery owners Ed Bennett
By Brandon Fralic CDN Contributor

Bellingham’s oldest brewery celebrated 28 years on Saturday, Oct. 7 with an Oktoberfest party. Boundary Bay is the foundation of Bellingham’s beer scene — the quintessential brewpub in a city of suds. 

“In 1995 we opened our doors,” co-owner Janet Lightner said to the cheering Oktoberfest crowd. “We’re still here thanks to all of you and our great community.”

Only a handful of Washington breweries make it past 20 or 25 years. Trends change and new, exciting breweries emerge, sometimes putting “classic” brewpubs out of business. Boundary Bay has managed to stay relevant in the Pacific Northwest’s ever-changing beer landscape through strong community engagement, its bustling restaurant, and an ever-evolving beer program. 

Since founder and co-owner Ed Bennett opened it in 1995, Boundary Bay has brewed more than 8,000 batches of beer and served an estimated 10 million pints. That’s a whole lot of beer, from their classic IPA and Scotch Ale — both brewed since the mid-’90s — to today’s seasonals and limited releases. Boundary has struck a balance between its legacy brews and trendier styles to keep just about everyone happy. On the trendier side, Boundary’s latest beer releases are made with fresh hops from Yakima. 

“We are so fortunate to be in the Pacific Northwest, where we can hop on the ‘fresh hop trail’ to Yakima,” marketing director Shanna Sheridan-McInnis said. “Our own Casey Diggs drives down to Yakima, leaving before sunrise to return mere hours later with arguably the best and freshest hops in the world, allowing our brewers to create something so uniquely fresh and delicious, it’s practically magic!”

This year, they’ve created three brews using fresh hops from Yakima: Bine to Bay West Coast IPA, West Coast Pilsner, and SabroCadabro Hazy IPA. Now on tap at the brewery, all three beers were also served at the annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival (FHAF) in Yakima. 

photo  Brewers Connor Cottrill, left, and Erik Hartzog pour fresh hop beer Saturday, Oct. 7 at Yakima’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival. (Photo courtesy of Boundary Bay Brewery)  

Festivals and awards

I drove to Yakima to attend FHAF on a warm October evening. The sold-out outdoor festival is considered one of the country’s top 10 beer festivals.

Held since 2003, the concept is simple. Beers served at FHAF are made with fresh Yakima Valley hops. Most fall into IPA and pale ale categories, but brewers can make whatever they want with the essential ingredient. More than 70 breweries attended from the Pacific Northwest, so attendees could sample fresh hop beers made in Bellingham, Yakima, Astoria and beyond.  

Tasting hoppy IPAs at a beer festival is highly subjective — a single bitter beer can “wreck” your palate for the night. So I’ll leave the judging to the judges. 

Boundary Bay’s SabroCadabro was a top-three finalist in the fresh hop Hazy IPA category. And Wander Brewing’s Fresh Hop Googly Eyes won first place in the Imperial IPA category. These brews won’t be around much longer, maybe a week or two, so seek them out in Bellingham while you can.

While we’re on the topic of award-winning Bellingham beer, I should mention Kulshan Brewing’s results from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Kulshan won a gold medal for its Cuppa Joe Coffee Brown Ale. Made with cold-brewed Brazilian coffee from Maniac Coffee Roasting, Cuppa Joe is a low-alcohol (4.2%) English Brown Ale — perfect for a drizzly Bellingham afternoon. Additionally, Kulshan’s Hefeweizen won a silver medal at GABF. You can find both beers at Kulshan’s Sunnyland and Roosevelt locations.

Brews and spirits news

Chuckanut Bay Distillery is releasing its newest spirit, a green-hued absinthe infused with anise seed, fennel seed, hyssop, lemon balm and wormwood botanicals. Celebrate the release of Madame Richelieu Absinthe at a “roaring ’20s-themed” party at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13. The event takes place at Chuckanut Bay’s neighboring bar and restaurant space, Penny Farthing. Tickets are $45 and include traditional absinthe service and unlimited access to hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening. Costumes are encouraged.

Lost Giants Cider Company will host Sippin’ on Cider, a cider-tasting festival, from 2–7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14. This event benefits Shifting Gears, a local nonprofit. “As a major fundraiser for our organization, this event will contribute to continuing our mission of offering outdoor recreational access to women of all backgrounds — a true win-win,” Executive Director Krysy Keller wrote in a news release. General admission is $40 with a 4-ounce tasting glass and eight drink tickets, live music and access to food trucks. Hard seltzer and non-alcoholic cider will also be available.

Kulshan’s Trackside beer garden will close seasonally at the end of October. Celebrate Trackside’s “last hurrah” at a Halloween dance party on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Trackside is open between May and October each year. 

Hops on the Rock, the Orcas Island beer festival, returns Saturday, Nov. 11. Held under a big tent in the streets of Eastsound, the annual beer fest attracts more 25 breweries, cideries and wineries. Tickets are $50 and are available to purchase online. 

Brandon Fralic’s Drink Cascadia column runs the second week of every month. Reach him at

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