The first thing that catches your eye walking into Chuckanut Brewery, one of Bellingham’s older craft breweries, is the impressive display of medals and awards that adorn the entry walls.
The gold and silver is impossible to ignore, and is one symbol that attests to how carefully crafted and well-loved their brews are. The second, and maybe more important thing, is the line beer of taps that are behind the bar.
After one of my recent visits to this craft brewery and restaurant, I became curious as to the history behind the countless awards. I wanted to know how Chuckanut became distinguished for its beer, while continually offering a menu full of enticing dishes.
Owners, Will and Mari Kemper have traveled the world gaining brewing experience, enhancing their brewing skill, and spreading frothy joy in places as diverse as Mexico and Turkey.
The influences from their travels through England, Belgium, and Germany are evident in the excellent lager-style beers for which they are known, and in the menu, described as “Euro-pub with an American twist.”
According to Allison, after coming to Bellingham, the couple fell in love with the area and decided to raise their children here. They were inspired by the beauty of the region, and wanted to create beers as divine as the Chuckanut mountains themselves.
With a background in chemical engineering, an extensive list of breweries where he held prominent positions, and many impressive titles under his belt to boot, Will Kemper is an expert in brewing practices. As the son of renowned Brewer Thomas Kemper, owner of Kemper Brewing (one of the original craft breweries in the area), Will grew up with a familiarity of the art of brewing.
Chuckanut is one of Bellingham’s older breweries, opening in 2008. Since then, Will’s experience has resulted in the many award-winning beers. Recent award highlights include three gold medals and a silver in this year’s North American Beer Awards for their Dunkel, Marzen Lager, Bock, and Kolsch, respectively. With close to 1.5K entries, taking home four awards is no small feat.
With a number of silver and gold medals to its name, the Kolsch is a light, top-fermented beer that makes a versatile food pairing. It especially complements lighter fare, from salads to seafood, and while fruity and gently malty, it won’t overpower delicate flavors. The low IBU’s of 22 are a crowd-pleaser for those who tend to be attracted to easier flavors. The original gravity level of 11 Plato translates to a milder 4.5% ABV in this ale. *Beer lingo explained below.
On the more robust side, the Dunkel Lager boasts its own fair share of silver and gold. The alluring reddish-brown brew claims a light bitterness (22 IBU’s) that intermingles with malted toffee and chocolate notes for a bold flavor. The darker beer pairs well with meats and hearty veggies. With the warm flavors, this is a good choice for a chilly day. Pair it with the Sausage Plate for a comforting winter meal. The Dunkel has an original gravity level of 13.5 and is 5.5% ABV.
With beer this good, it is impressive that Chuckanut’s food is equally as satisfying. Mari Kemper is responsible for the menu, and provides tempting options for meat-eaters, veggies or vegans. Allison explained that the menu has been designed to appeal to locals and visitors.
With menu features that pair perfectly with Chuckanut’s beers, Northwest-grown ingredients and classic European-inspired options, Mari’s touch has inspired selections that will entice any diner. The restaurant’s semi-industrial setting decorated by Northwest outdoors-inspired memorabilia lends to its easy atmosphere.
Chuckanut’s chef treats diners to ingredients that are sourced as locally as possible. In fact, the Locavore Menu, changed monthly, islargely inspired by what is in season in the dependable Northwest. Sourcing from a long list of Whatcom County producers including Terra Verde, Avenue Bread and Claus’ Meats ensures that the ingredients on your Spanish Mushroom and Potato Pizza are about as fresh as they get.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, Allison recommends a Rueben–corn beef with sauerkraut–or maybe a sausage plate—both classic beer food done right. The Beer Drinkers’ Special, a classic German combo, is a sausage-lover’s heaven—for $8.95, you can choose from a wurst, curry wurst, chicken, or veggie sausage with all the fixings, Tim’s potato chips and a pint of your favorite Chuckanut beer.
Along with serving up great fare, Chuckanut demonstrates a commitment to community and social consciousness. In addition to a zero waste pledge and using high-efficiency lighting, they use steam captured from the brewing process to clean the kegs. Possibly most interesting is Chuckanut’s practice of reusing the spent grain from brewing to feed local animals from sourcing farms.
While all the aforementioned medals are impressive, the real proof is in rich, smooth flavors of Chuckanut Breweries’ beer. It’s a perfect time to visit with a few friends to grab a bubbly brew that you won’t soon forget. And if you haven’t been in a while – it’s time to get in again and try something new from the rotating Locavore menu.
The memorable beer and food will leave you satisfied, and with Chuckanut’s commitment to the local community you’ll feel great about supporting this local spot. The attentive staff and easy atmosphere top off the experience. If you’ve been recently, you know exactly what I mean. Enjoy!
- Chuckanut Brrewery and Kitchen, 601 W. Holly St., Bellingham, WA, 98225
- (360) 752-33377