Boundary Bay Brewing Co., the oldest craft brewery in Bellingham, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
This month I revisited a couple of old standards at the trailblazing brewpub, along with a couple of newer beers.
Boundary Bay Oatmeal Stout. (Emphasis on “meal.”) It’s the monster truck of local beers: charcoal black, a film of dark tan head, and a corpulent body so thick and syrupy you feel like you could turn it upside down and it’d slide out like Hoisin sauce. This stout’s silky, extremely rich and — in spite of the red flag of 9.5 percent alcohol — not overly aggressive in alcoholic kick. Instead you get dark chocolate and deep roasted flavors. Crazier, more complex stouts do exist, but few feel so realized. If you don’t like big bold beer, you’ll hate this. Oh well, more for the rest of us. A-
Boundary Bay Blonde. Pours orange-yellow with faint, quick-to-vanish head. No hop aroma. An ever-so-slight bitter bite on the tongue gets enveloped in a grainy, watery, cloudy body, and masked by a faint honey-sweetness. It’s always on tap at Boundary: the beer for folks overwhelmed by everything else. Sure, there’s a place for that. Beer still can be fantastic without frills, without pungent hops, without a burly body. But this feels uninspired. It’s more boring than drinkable. C-
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Boundary Bay Lightner Lager. How odd to taste tropical fruit in this lemon-colored lager. There’s mango, orange and a trace of pineapple? What is this? Well, on the one hand, it’s unlike your regular clean, crisp, light American lager beer. On the other it’s a far cry from Boundary Bay’s usual robust fare. Compared to the Lightner Ale — which was a decent summer beer, not much more — it’s like two distant cousins who somehow ended up with the same last name, and blond. The lager’s more flavorful, almost juicy. It’s unconventional, out there and interesting. And it’s sure to be polarizing. B
Boundary Safety Break India Session Ale. Gives off a good, strong hop aroma, like tearing open a bag of fresh hops. The bitter flavors in the body, however, conflict with each other, to the point that it distracts from the mouth-feel. So the whole beer suffers. If you find most session ales too flimsy or cautious, that shouldn’t be a problem here. Of note, it’s a gluten-reduced beer, and you wouldn’t know it unless someone told you. Maybe it’s at the head of its class, within that class. Up against other ISAs, it’s near the middle of the pack. C+
In other brews
— All of the cool kids will be at the awkward ’80s prom-themed Bellingham Brewer’s Ball from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Majestic Ballroom, 1027 N. Forest St. Eight Whatcom County breweries will be there: Aslan Brewing Co., Boundary Bay Brewing Co., Chuckanut Brewery, Kulshan Brewing Co., Menace Brewing, North Fork Brewery, Stones Throw Brew Co., and Wander Brewing. Cost of $15 gets you two drinks, appetizers and prom photos. All proceeds go to the Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade.