Restaurant News & Reviews

First Draught: Winter beers to warm up to from Boundary Bay, Kulshan, Menace

This time of year, they say dressing in layers can help you to bear the frigid air. So here’s a mini-tour of some seasonal Bellingham beers — from Boundary Bay, Kulshan Brewing Co. and The Local pub’s house brewery, Menace — to keep you warm from the inside out.

Boundary Bay Cabin Fever. A dark brown body and generous milky tan head give this ale a chilly, wintery look. There’s faint molasses on the nose, but the dominant flavor in the profile is rich, smooth brown sugar sweetness. Undertones of holiday spices make it one of the best-balanced beers at Boundary Bay. The brewery can, at times, seem to throw a kitchen sink or two into their beers. This ale’s no exception, though the nuttiness and spice rise through the dark fruit flavors in the body, just enough to make it work. Some still might find it cloying. But I’m inclined to say a winter beer gets some leeway. It’s comfort beer, a good partner for comfort food. B

Kulshan Royal Tenenbaum. Pours a bright orange-amber that is arguably more on the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” end of the Wes Anderson color palette, but that’s nitpicking. As for the p-a-l-a-t-e, expect Christmas trees — literally, because Douglas fir and two varieties of spruce spice this 9.5-percent alcohol ale. It’s a whopper of a beer, with a spectacularly sappy bouquet of hops and (how) evergreen trees on the nose. Fifty-seven IBUs? That’s it? Fooled me. The aroma’s strong, woodsy and convincing. The body’s sturdy and balanced. It’s an all-around winner. A-

Menace Ugly Sweater Winter Ale. Coal-black in the center, red around the edges. A horseshoe of brown-white suds borders the glass but, other than that, this ale pours with little-to-no head. No worries, though, carbonation isn’t lacking in the beer itself. On the nose there are notes of coffee and, less obviously, bittersweet chocolate. In the body you’ll taste more coffee, chocolate and a general deep-roasted sticky darkness. The mouth-feel here is tricky: light on the tongue yet heavy in the back of the throat. That base, and it’s a good base, practically begs for more smokiness in the malt. Not quite a standout, it’s respectable, right around the standard for the style. B-

In other brews …

— Some winter beer honorable mentions: Kulshan’s Kitten Mittens had sold out, on tap and in growlers, last week when I swung by the brewery at 2238 James St., though it’s on tap in bars around town, e.g., Uisce. It’s a darker winter warmer.

— Also, Chuckanut Brewery, 601 W. Holly St., released a Yule Bock on the day after Christmas that’s “guaranteed not to last.”

— Meanwhile up the hill, Aslan Brewing Co., 1330 N. Forest St., is pouring a winter warmer named for SR-542, the highway to Mt. Baker.

— Just a few months after Wander Brewing opened its brew hall at 1807 Dean Ave., a coffee- and cocoa-infused Baltic porter, Global Mutt, is the first beer to be bottled in bombers by the brewery. It won’t be the last, thank goodness.