Chuckanut Brewery has crafted some of the most impressive beers in town and, in some cases, the nation.
Yet sometimes it feels like, locally, Chuckanut doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Maybe it’s because European-style lagers don’t fit with the Bellingham beer ethos like robust American ales do.
But beer pioneer Will Kemper and his team at Chuckanut tend to get plenty of respect at national competitions, and the proverbial trophy case got a little more crowded this year. On Black Friday the brewery tapped a fresh batch of its Dunkel (“dark” in German) lager, a brew named the best in the country, for its style, at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
All three of the beers below earned national gold medals at one time or another. You can find them on tap at the brewery and, now, in pint-sized bottles around Bellingham.
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Chuckanut Vienna Lager: Toasty, mildly sweet malt stands out, among a host of subtleties, in this calm traditional lager. The crisp, smooth, bright, bronze-orange body is dangerously drinkable. The lager’s lighter on the palate than it looks, and sweeter, too. Noble hops, subtle on the nose, resurface tastefully in the finish, imparting a clean, almost minty aftertaste. Pairs great with spicy food. If it’s your first trip to Chuckanut, don’t walk out the door until you’ve tried this beer, one of the brewery’s greatest hits. A
Chuckanut Dunkel Lager: Pours ruby-brown and gives off a very faint aroma. Starts out sweet, then on comes the roasted malt bitterness, and almost zero noticeable bitterness from hops. A subtle rich candied sweetness lingers. Here in the Pacific Northwest, beer people might expect more potency. Maybe, given the hype that comes with national awards, you’ll find this Dunkel underwhelming, and to put it bluntly, some people will wonder what the fuss is about. But be patient. Sip very slowly. Get to know it. You might fall in love with this German lager for its dark, faintly woody, rich roasted refinement. And even if it’s not your thing, there’s little to dislike. B
Chuckanut Kölsch Ale: Like a shy cousin to Chuckanut’s sparkling Pilsner, the cold-conditioned Kölsch delivers a mild honey-like sweetness in its straw-colored, brisk and icy body. Light in flavor, it’s refreshing in summer or a welcome break from more portly ales in winter. Trying to describe this style often boils down to a few entirely accurate, yet entirely unhelpful, adjectives: crisp, light, clean. That means nothing until you try it for yourself. How does this Kölsch distinguish itself from the next one? By being crisper, lighter and cleaner than any Kölsch I’ve tried in the region. Like almost every beer at Chuckanut, expect delicate flavor and nothing overpowering. The best time to try it —and try it and try it — is on Tuesdays, Kölsch Night, when it’s $1.50 per Stange glass. A-
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