Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brewery Profile - Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham, WA


In a region where big, uber-hoppy ales reign supreme, Chuckanut Brewery has distinguished itself by making world-class lagers. Sure they also brew some ale, but it is the lagers that have set them apart. Since its inception in 2008, Chuckanut has become one of Washington’s most highly decorated breweries. It is perhaps the most under-appreciated brewery in the state, not because of the beer quality but because of the beer style. That is, they are not famous for their IPA; they are famous for their amazing Kolsch, Vienna Lager, Dunkel and other German-style lagers.

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen opened in the summer of 2008 in downtown Bellingham, marking the return of one of the American craft beer revolution’s founding fathers, Will Kemper, to his brewing homeland.

To help you appreciate the story of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen, here is a brief history lesson. In 1985 Andy Thomas and Will Kemper opened a brewery in Poulsbo. Thomas Kemper beers were among the first craft beers available around Washington, becoming a popular local brand. As a bit of a lark, the company decided to make some soda pop, which ended up selling quite well. (Click here to visit Chuckanut’s blog and see some great photos from back in the day.)

A few years later, Thomas Kemper Brewing “merged” with the company that would eventually become Pyramid Breweries. Not long after, the new business entity abandoned Thomas Kemper beers and turned Thomas Kemper into nothing more than a brand of soda pop. It was an unceremonious end for a beloved brand of beer and a callous reminder that beer is beer and business is business.

That is all water under the bridge. Since the demise of Thomas Kemper Brewing and its beers, Will Kemper has traveled the world helping companies set up craft breweries. From Mexico to Turkey, Will and his wife Mari have spread the gospel of good beer far and wide. In 2008 Will and Mari Kemper returned to Washington and opened Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham, a full-service brewpub open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The brewery also distributes its beer as far south as Seattle, where you can find it in the better beer bars around town.

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen offers a delicious menu of both food and beer. While Will Kemper is the genius behind the beers, Mari Kemper makes certain the kitchen performs on par with the brewery. Mari is a big advocate of using local ingredients as much as possible, sourcing much of the kitchen’s meat and produce from local farms. In some cases, local farmers feed the brewery’s spent grain to livestock, producing meat products that eventually make it back to hungry customers at Chuckanut. The circle of life, as it were.

Unlike most local brewers, Will Kemper focuses on traditional German-style lagers. The brewery itself is a marvel of modern brewing technology, affording the kind of precision required to make lagers of such outstanding character. Working alongside Will, you’ll find Kevin Davey, who has been brewing at Chuckanut since 2009. In addition to being an award-winning home brewer, Kevin also attended the Siebel World Brewing Academy in Chicago and the Doemen’s Institute in Germany.

Quite literally, Chuckanut Brewery produces some of the best craft lagers in America. Back in 2009, Chuckanut made its first trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver (perhaps America’s most prestigious beer competition) and brought home a whopping four medals along with the titles of Best Small Brew Pub and Best Small Brewer. In 2010, Chuckanut brought home another two medals. Recently, at the 2011 GABF, Chuckanut hoisted another four medals and won the titles of Best Small Brewing Company and Best Small Brewer. The brewery’s performance at the World Beer Cup and North American Brewers Association awards is equally impressive.

If you’re heading to Bellingham, a stop at Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen is a must. Call in advance and see if a brewery tour is scheduled (often, Saturday’s at noon).

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen
601 W Holly St
Bellingham, WA
(360) 752-3377

Courtesy of the Washington Beer Commission at www.washingtonbeer.com


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