Restaurant News & Reviews

First Draught: Brews of summer from Kulshan, Wander

Co-owner David Vitt looks over one of the fermenting tanks at Kulshan Brewery Co. at 2238 James St. in Bellingham.
Co-owner David Vitt looks over one of the fermenting tanks at Kulshan Brewery Co. at 2238 James St. in Bellingham. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Just a few summers ago Sunnyland was essentially a dry neighborhood.

That has changed for the better, thankfully, and now two of the best places in town to grab a pint and hang out in the sunshine are the neighborhood’s breweries, Kulshan and Wander, whose tasting rooms are within easy walking distance of each other.

Here are four of their lighter brews on tap for late spring.

Kulshan Full 90 Session Ale. Zesty lemon aroma wafts from this lighter-than-air pale ale, and a lemon-citrus flavor, from soft and clean German Perle hops, easily cuts through the clear straw body. This beer looks weak and feels thin, but wears its frailness well. Ales leave some room for error — some might say it adds character — in the brewing process, compared to lagers, but in extremely light ales like this one the nuances have to be just right. The brewers at Kulshan took some risks that make this ale unique, and most of them paid off. The second glass, however, is like the second glass of lemonade: not quite as refreshing as the first, but still good, and a perfect fit for a summer day. B+

Kulshan Dude Man Wheat Ale. Pours a mostly transparent golden shade that could be mistaken for a pale ale. Goes down like one too: crisp, though not as crisp as a standard European kristalweizen. As the style goes, almost no hop flavor breaks through. Distantly there’s a banana twang, but nowhere near what you’ll get in American hefeweizens. So this one is fine enough if you just want a clean wheat beer. Otherwise it’s too safe, like something folks brew with a first home-brew kit because it’s hard to mess up. There’s little reason to seek it out. C-

Wander Doglost Lager. This bright, pale Pilsner uses well-sourced, off-the-beaten-path hops from Hallertau, Germany, and while the bitterness comes through more than it would in most true European lagers, it’s still very drinkable. Slightly more aggressive, ever-so-slightly rougher, than the gold medal Pilsner that Chuckanut Brewery does so well, it’s a testament to Wander’s command over craft beer that this beer feels so pure and fresh, on par with what other regional craft breweries, like Ninkasi, have been doing to subtly refurbish the classics. B

Wander Uncommon Common. Hoppy upfront, Wander’s clear copper California Common goes down clean, rich and smooth. A milky off-white head dissipates into a ring around the brim. Steam beer, an often underrated style refined on the West Coast, is a lager brewed at ale temperatures, and in this interpretation hop aroma is, again, uncommonly strong for a lager. Yet this beer borrows some Old World stylings, like Bavarian yeast. The body’s malty but not too heavy, like an Americanized Vienna lager. Some will find it uneventful, but not all beers need bells and whistles. All-around, it’s another strong fair-weather brew from Wander. B+

In other brews ...

Aslan Brewing, 1330 N. Forest St., plans to release its beer in cans before the start of summer. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the latest.

— In the coming weeks Kulshan Brewing Co. will open a new brewery and taphouse, dubbed K-2, at 1538 Kentucky St.

— Meanwhile, more Bellingham breweries continue to sprout up: Stones Throw Brewing Co., in Fairhaven, is nearly complete; a neighborhood meeting was held for a potential new brewery, Subdued Brewing, in the Columbia neighborhood, at what’s now Gifford’s Market, 2404 Elm St., though it’s a ways from becoming reality; and yet another, Structures Brewing, announced a hopeful open date of January 2016 in the downtown area.