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Exploring Anacortes, one beer at a time

Rounding up pubs, breweries and new additions on Fidalgo Island

The Brewmaster’s Outpost plans to open Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Cap Sante Marina’s food pod, offering beer, wine, cider, seltzer and non-alcoholic beverages to-go.
The Brewmaster’s Outpost plans to open Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Cap Sante Marina’s food pod, offering beer, wine, cider, seltzer and non-alcoholic beverages to-go. (Photo by Brandon Fralic)
By Brandon Fralic CDN Contributor

Seaside Anacortes is known more for its maritime industry, natural beauty and ferry traffic than its beer scene.

But like any proper seafaring town, Anacortes operates its fair share of pubs and breweries. Base yourself in the delightfully walkable downtown, parking anywhere along Commercial Avenue between 3rd Street and 9th Street. This stretch contains the bulk of A-town’s bars — perfect for an old-fashioned pub crawl. 

Anacortes pubs

Union Tavern is my favorite place to begin. Striking just the right balance between modern and classic pub culture, Union combines great beer, food and service in a casual, good-vibes environment. A massive blackboard announces Union’s 18 taps, which range from IPAs to nitro, cider and “others.” Featuring a nice mix of local and out-of-state breweries, Union gets my vote for the best tap list in town. 

Union Tavern has 18 taps, good food and strikes the perfect balance between modern and classic pub culture. (Photo by Brandon Fralic)

Kitty-corner to Union Tavern, you’ll find the Wheelhouse Bar at Village Pizza. The 13 beers on tap here range from “domestic” (Coors Light and Rainier) to craft, with eight rotating drafts to keep things interesting. The Wheelhouse Bar’s biggest draw is its atmosphere. The maritime-themed pub operates as an unofficial museum, adorned with 100 captioned images from Anacortes’ fishing history. They also serve excellent family-style Italian food (pizza and pasta) from neighboring Village Pizza.

Known locally as “The Brown,” Brown Lantern is the longest-standing bar in Anacortes. Established in 1933, the Brown is a timeless, well-lived-in community gathering spot serving a solid selection of beer and bites. They lean heavily into nostalgia, with both Guinness and Kilkenny Irish Cream on draft. On the local side, you’ll find Northwest classics like Black Butte Porter, Mac & Jack African Amber and Manny’s Pale Ale on tap. 

Anacortes breweries

Across the street from the Brown is Anacortes Brewery & Rockfish Grill — a Skagit Valley staple since 1994. The 30-year-old brewery is showing its age these days, but still makes for a good family-friendly spot to grab dinner and drinks, and enjoy live music. Though they’ve dabbled in some experimental styles recently, I prefer Anacortes’ no-frills classics: West Coast IPAs, porters and stouts.

While you can’t easily walk the 5 miles from downtown Anacortes to Bastion Brewing, it’s absolutely worth a stop on your way out of town. Bastion’s all-ages brewpub opened in 2016 and offers a wide variety (between 13 and 16) of house-brewed beers. If you’re interested in the brewing process, Bastion’s unique open brewery format is excellent for watching the brewers at work. When it comes to beer, you can’t go wrong with Bastion’s hop-forward, but not-too-bitter flagship Sky Pig IPA. 

Bastion’s all-ages brewpub opened in 2016 and is located 5 miles from downtown Anacortes. They offer a wide variety of beers, and an open brewery format where visitors can watch brewers at work. (Photo by Brandon Fralic)

Coming soon: The Brewmaster’s Outpost

Anacortes will gain another beer business in February. The Brewmaster’s Outpost plans to open Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Cap Sante Marina’s food pod. A cluster of tiny “huts” and food trucks, the Portland-esque pod features a variety of food options — from Dockside Dogs to Turkish Coffee — and soon, beer. 

A second location of Renton-based The Brewmaster’s Company, the Outpost will offer beer, wine, cider, seltzer and non-alcoholic beverages to-go. The shop will stock brews that can be difficult-to-impossible to find in Skagit Valley, including options from Ravenna Brewing (Seattle), Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa, California), Varietal Beer (Yakima Valley) and Block 15 Brewing (Corvallis, Oregon).

Both Brewmaster’s locations are dog-friendly — they even make their own dog treats using spent grain from the brewing process.

The Anacortes Outpost will be open 3–7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Stop by during February for grand opening discounts and to give the Brewmasters team a warm welcome.

April Brews Day is back

Tickets are on sale now for Bellingham’s biggest beer festival. Started in 2001 as a fundraiser for Max Higbee Center, April Brews Day takes place during Bellingham Beer Week on Saturday, April 27. This year’s event will be held at Bellingham’s downtown waterfront, near Waypoint Park and Kulshan Trackside, with more than 65 craft breweries and cideries in attendance.

Before the pandemic, April Brews Day was held at Depot Market Square. Organizers took advantage of the event’s three-year hiatus to plan a triumphant comeback at the waterfront in 2023. 

“We felt a deep void with the absence of April Brews Day during the pandemic and it was such a joy to bring this event back in 2023,” Max Higbee Center Executive Director Kait Whiteside said in a press release. “We heard from volunteers, ticket holders and vendors that last year was the best April Brews Day to date.”

General admission tickets are $50 in advance ($60 at the door) and include eight tasting tickets. VIP tickets ($75) include 10 tasting tickets and 90-minute early admission. With roughly 4,000 attendees expected, it may be worth springing for those VIP tickets to avoid the crowds. All April Brews Days proceeds support the Max Higbee Center’s community-based recreation programs for people with developmental disabilities.

Brandon Fralic's Drink Cascadia column appears monthly. Reach him at drinkcascadia@gmail.com.

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