Like many brewers, Wesley Finger started out brewing at home. He made his concoctions on his mother’s stovetop when he was 18. In 2013, while home from college and still obsessed with brewing beer, Finger had the opportunity to intern at Kulshan Brewing Co. in Bellingham, Washington. Impressed with his work ethic — he washed a lot of kegs — the company offered Finger a position as a cellar worker and he postponed his studies to continue working at the brewery.
By working hard, lots of self-education and taking a brewing science course, he quickly climbed the ladder at Kulshan, becoming lead brewer after two years and then moving into the head brewer role after four years. Since then, he’s come up with a few unique ideas on his own for Kulshan, while staying true to the brand.
1) As the head brewer for Kulshan, you have complete creative control over brewing. What drives your creations?
I take my inspiration from many places. Certainly, a big source is beer that I drink away from the brewery, whether that be at a neighboring Bellingham brewery, at breweries in other parts of the country or, as was the case last winter, at breweries and pubs overseas. There’s a lot of great beer out in the world, and certainly a big source of inspiration is trying a style I’ve never made before that I immediately love, or perhaps an interpretation of a style that I have not tried before that I want to bring back to Kulshan to put my own spin on it.
Another source of inspiration is certainly interacting with and sampling raw ingredients, whether that is malt, hops, fruit juices, etc., and finding the best way to weave them into a delicious brew.
2) A mountain inspired the name of the brewery, does it also inspire your activities during your time off?
Certainly. Outside of work, I can often be found mountain biking or skiing, almost always with a can of Kulshan beer not far away. Bellingham is a city with incredible access to the outdoors, and certainly spending time out in the mountains and on the trails is in of itself an incredible form of inspiration.
3) On that, can you explain how Kulshan — for Koma Kulshan, the indigenous name for Mount Baker — became part of the brewery’s name and logo?
We have always been a company deeply rooted in our community, as our founder is a Bellingham native. Additionally, the mountain culture of this area is a big part of our branding and our identity. Koma Kulshan stands guard over our wonderful little city, and it only seemed right to pay tribute to our local volcano by naming the brewery after it.
4) What is Apero and how did you come up with the idea to make it?
It’s like a spiked seltzer, but better. It’s clean, crisp and refreshing with more pronounced fresh fruit characteristics. We decided to can it so everyone can enjoy this beer at home and on the go. It’s an everyday drinker and is certainly a staff favorite right now.
More and more consumers are thirsty for alcoholic beverages that are bit healthier and lower in alcohol, calories and carbs, and we decided that we wanted to craft a delicious beer that checks all those same boxes. It is fermented with a specialized process that results in an extremely dry and crisp beer, Apero clocks in at 100 calories and only 4 carbs per can, making it the perfect companion for the health-conscious, or for beer lovers who occasionally want something on the lighter side.
For those watching their gluten intake, this beer is brewed with a significant amount of rice making it naturally low in gluten, containing less than 20 parts per million.