Bellingham Gets a New Lager-Focused Brewery 

by | Aug 6, 2023

Bellingham now has another lager-focused brewery, a large project that opened its doors on Friday, August 4, in the Cordata neighborhood across from the Community Food Co-op. Larrabee Lager Co. is helmed by Sam Milne — previously a head brewer at Kulshan and Spokane’s Brick West — together with his wife Kate.

The beer-hall-size space, which previously housed a Chinese buffet and banquet room that closed abruptly during the pandemic, has been outfitted with a spacious brewing facility, open kitchen  and a long, high-ceilinged seating area featuring picnic-style tables, roll-up garage doors and plenty of room to host a crowd.

In fact, that’s the primary focus of the new space — bringing people together over beer that doesn’t have to feel too challenging.

“I love hops, but I also love a beer that I don’t have to think too hard about while I’m drinking it,” says Milne of the lighter lager styles he’s excited to create at Larrabee. “I enjoy brewing lagers because they don’t allow for any way to hide any imperfections in the beer.”

Milne earned a Glen Hay Falconer Foundation scholarship through the Siebel Institute to study brewing techniques and technology in Chicago and Germany, which helped him hone his passion for German-style beers.

As at El Sueñito, the large Mexican-lager-focused brewery that opened earlier this year in the Sunnyland neighborhood, Larrabee’s mentality reflects a slow-building trend away from the intensely hoppy beers that have long defined — and largely continue to define — the Pacific Northwest beer scene. Given that it’s not uncommon to see a local beer menu with more than half its listings iterating on that same style, the increased focus on local lagers is a welcome change for many, including those who continue to love their IBUs and those who might otherwise reach for a cider.

Also like El Sueñito, this lager brewery is a family affair — not only were the Milnes’ kids a lively part of the pre-opening party crowd, Milne’s brother Ben will be heading up the kitchen as Director of Pizza Operations, slinging New York-style ingredients atop Neapolitan crusts. The food menu also includes lager-ready snacks like seasoned Spanish peanuts and soft Bavarian pretzels, with a few salads tossed in for good measure.

The beer menu at Larrabee will open with a wide variety of lighter German styles, including a Helles lager, Mexican amber lager, dunkel lager, pilsner, kölsch, gose, hefeweizen, and one cold IPA. Drinkers will be surrounded by framed sepia photographs of Northwest wildlife and industry (trout, elk, bears, eagles, moose, fishermen and loggers are all present) and vintage Northwest beer memorabilia spotlighting the likes of Henry Weinhard’s, Olympia and, of course, Rainier (including under the deeper-cut name of Sicks’).

Is Milne going for the feel of a vintage dive bar or a Bavarian hunting lodge? He laughs, and says “I hope people see it as all of the above.” He adds that the company’s duck logo and motif aims to evoke that vintage lodge feel without replicating the usual visual tropes that define similar spaces. 

While sipping on an inaugural pint of Larrabee’s cool and crisp signature Helles lager when they open the weekend of August 4-6, visitors to the brewery should make sure to take themselves on a self-guided tour of the eclectic duck-related décor tucked into the various available corners and surfaces of the space.

Larrabee Lager Co. Grand Opening Weekend: August 4–6, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. || 4151 Meridian Street, Suite 100, Bellingham


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