It takes a lot for a place to make anyone’s “go-to list.” You know the one. The one stored in the back of the brain that’s crucial when friends or family come to visit and ask where to go to experience the best the city has to offer. I’ve lived in Bellingham, Washington the last four years, going on five, and I have finally narrowed down my own list, boasting Bellingham’s best. Late night bite? Russian dumplings from Pel Meni’s, without a doubt. A killer cocktail bar? Tie for first between the Redlight and Temple Bar. But when it comes to beer in Bellingham, and the weather is nice, I know I am taking everyone to Kulshan Brewing Co. on James street.
“I kind of just realized that it was time to work for myself and do my own thing,” says David Vitt, the founder of Kulshan Brewing Co. “And so I just scrounged together a bunch of used equipment, and I welded and plumbed for about seven months to get the building refurbished and get the brewery functional.”
Before that, Vitt worked with Fish Brewing Co., and brought his experience to his own brewery. In April 2012, after some help from Vitt’s dad and a few other business partners, Kulshan opened and quickly became one of the fastest growing breweries in Whatcom County. Within a year the number of barrels had to double just to keep up with demand. And now, the folks at Kulshan have opened a second location, dubbed “K2” on Kentucky Street on the other side of Bellingham.
The James street location captures the essence of Bellingham in a single brewpub. With plenty of outdoor seating, customers bring their dogs, bikes and anything else an adventurous soul needs.
And of course, it has the beer. Kulshan’s Bastard Kat IPA took home gold in the 2015 Washington Beer Award in the American-Style India Pale Ale category. “If you are gonna win in any category in the Northwest, you want to win in IPAs,” says Vitt.
Of all of the beer brewed at Kulshan, Vitt estimates about 25 different types, 60 percent of it is Bastard Kat IPA. “It’s a pretty great beer, it’s well balanced, it’s nice and citrusy, it’s not to over the top with alcohol or hops, you can actually drink a cup well,” says Vitt. While this brew seems takes a well-deserved center stage spot, Kulshan has an impressive lineup on tap.
For something a little bit more extreme, ask for Kulshan’s Call of the Woods double IPA. “It’s got a lot of hops in it, and it’s got a kind of cult following for it,” says Vitt.
Aside from their regular taps, roughly eight solid brews, Kulshan features some bold and unique seasonal flavors. The Royal Tennenbaum Christmas ale actually tastes like Christmas in a glass, with Douglas fir, pine-y flavors coming forward. Forget trick or treating for candy with a bucket in hand, it wouldn’t be Halloween, one of Bellingham’s most celebrated holidays, without the Horseman’s Head Pumpkin ale glowing bright orange in a tall glass.
What’s next? Vitt says they are starting to work on barrel-aged beers, and later on they hope to play with sour beers. And with their new location, these aspirations might not be far from coming into fruition. “The beer quality is really good and the canning line is going really well,” Vitt says. Recently, Kulshan has started distributing their product in Seattle. Only a few years old, it doesn’t seem that Kulshan plans on slowing down anytime soon.
Bellingham Beer Week kicks off here on September 11 and goes through September 20. Kulshan will be hosting Session Fest from 12-8 pm at the K2 location. Ten bucks will get you a tasting glass and a koozie.