Restaurant News & Reviews

First Draught: Sour beers, strange brews from Menace, Wander

One of the joys of craft beer is being able to try something new almost every time you take a trip to the brewery or grocery store.

And lately in Bellingham we’ve had a wealth of breweries testing out some interesting off-beat ales, sours, spiced beers and all kinds of stuff that pushes the boundaries of what springs to mind when you think of beer.

So this month I swung by The Local Public House and Wander Brewing to check out some of their stranger brews.

Menace Chile Bravo. This Menace ale pours a clear, deep, dusky orange-amber, with a light, creamy beige head and a faint peppery aroma of raw diced serrano. Spice sneaks up on you on the back end of each sip. To me it’s the perfect Goldilocks balance of spicy but not too spicy. Outside the context of beer, serrano is about as common as they come, a pepper that’s a few degrees hotter than jalapeno in the raw, but in beer, of course, you get to wash it down with, you know, beer. And while the spice puts this one over the top, I’m most impressed by the base. It’s a texture that’s full, smooth, clean, crisp, and probably a few other buzzwords, too, with just enough subdued hop flavor so this could stand on its own just fine. The pepper, however, is what makes it great. A-

Wander Pomegranate Millie American Sour. Dazzling clarity in this golden-rouge sour, and the body’s as clean and pure in flavor as it is clear in looks. Lives up to the name of the style (sour!), but it’s palatable even to someone like me, who leans toward a good reliable ale or lager nine times out of 10. This puckering 4.4 percent alcohol sour might be the exception to that rule, at least once in a while, when things call for something at the crossroads of mead and beer. B+

Wander Uno Bretto Golden Brett Ale. This cloudy pale gold sour “brett” — short for the Brettanomyces lambicus yeast that gives many sour beers their funk and acidity — gives off a sweeter, fruitier aroma than the aforementioned pomegranate sour. On the palate, notes of pineapple and cantaloupe are evident as advertised, like some kind of sweet-and-sour fruit cocktail. Except this is beer, technically. Mild tartness and mild funk for a sour, in both flavor and aroma, but this so-called ale still veers well off the beaten path. Evocative as each fruity flavor might be, those layers clashed, to my taste, as often as they melded. C

In other brews ...

— Speaking of Menace, the Bellingham Beer Lab met its early fundraising goals by ginning up more than $26,000, meaning it’s well on its way to hosting Washington’s first nonprofit brewery. The plan is for the brewery — a next-door addition to The Local Public House, 1427 Railroad Ave. — to become a (non-literal) launching pad for local home-brewers’ beer. Find out more on the lab’s Kickstarter page.

— Bellingham Beer Week kicks off Sept. 11 with an opening ceremony at Elizabeth Station, 1400 W. Holly St. The lineup for the rest of the week: Oktoberfest at Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen, 601 W. Holly St.; the Second Annual Wander to Wander [Brewing] 1k race ending at 1807 Dean Ave.; Boundary Bay’s 20th Anniversary Party; a nano-brewery night at The Local; and more good stuff that can be found at

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or