Bellingham is not a mythical place to any Metro-Vancouverite. The tantalizing allure of cheap gas, cheap cheese, and discount clothing found at Bellis Fair Mall is a secret to few. But Bellingham has a charm that far surpasses anything that can be found north of the I-5 (that’s where you will find, malls, strip malls, covered malls, forgotten malls, and a plethora of legal marijuana options). South of the I-5 you will find a collection of towns that grew up to become present day Bellingham, a city that is independent of Seattle and Vancouver, with a culture that rivals either city.
Your first tip when touring Bellingham is to skip the mall and head south of the I-5 heading straight to Elizabeth station. Elizabeth station in my estimation may have been a gas station at one point built in what I’d guess (I may be way off here) is a sort modest Mid-Century Modern Style making use of the plethora of wood product in the Pacific Northwest. This building houses not only Elizabeth Station but also the ultra moderne (yes I added an extra “e” to “modern” to add cache’. Emphasis is my own) Primer Coffee shop which you should visit the morning after to enjoy a real cup of coffee. Elizabeth station is a Craft Beer Mecca. It is the love child of love a love triangle that produced a lovely child, the players in this production being a down-to-earth coffee shop, The bottle shop of your dreams, and 20 taps of the most wonderfully curated beers you have ever seen north of the border. Elizabeth station will leave your head spinning. You should pace up and down staring at the cans in cooler, most of them will never come north of the border unless you bring them, You should grab a can bring it to the counter and have the wonderful bar staff pour that sucker right in a glass while you make more hard decisions at the cooler window, but wait don’t forget to take a look at the tap list and see what can also be had fresh.The key thing hear is to play it safe enjoy a beer but don’t spend too long in there because next you are going to the source.
Breweries, you love them, I love them, Bellingham is having a polyamorous relationship with them. Bellingham has 10+ breweries in town. You will not visit them all, so stop worrying, list tickers are lame. You should probably have some food and a good place to do this is at Aslan brewing. We totally get Aslan up in Van City. Batch 15 is a great beer and Aslan will have it, but you should also have some of their other beers too. Aslan will likely have 10+ beers on tap most of them will never make it north of the border. Recently their NEIPA game has been taking off but experiment and try something new. More importantly eat. Aslan has a great restaurant space with huge bay windows for looking out of, their menu is smallish but well curated and executed and great value. Happy hour affords you incredible value. Heads up… Their poutine is not Canadian, but it is a great take on our home classic and a vegetarian option to boot as the gravy is made with mushrooms.
You are going to leave Aslan satiated for solids but thirsty for flavour. You are gonna head down the street to Structures Brewing. Structures, a Monument to hazy beer. A brewery this size likely only exists because of the haze craze, and they should make no apologies for it. Structures like may breweries in the states is known for selling out of beers on release day so coming in and grabbing a pint might be your only chance to get some… so get some. Recommendation for Structures? Fuzz, the iconic North East IPA is a dynamic beer, changing at the whim of the brewer. What you get release may not be the same beer at the next release… so enjoy it while it lasts.
Finish it off a couple blocks away at Wander. Wander Brewing (no not the local couple behind @WanderbrewBC) is built in a spacious ware house where you will see several Foudres doing their thing making delicious beer. Wander is one of the larger breweries in #Bham (what locals call it) But I always head there and enjoy one of their sours or wild ales.
At this point you are 3 sheets to the wind and depending on your mood there are several routes to take… I recommend Red Rum Tiki Bar or Kombucha Town which is known to get wild (and have Kombucha, my favourite hangover drink). But there is more to see tomorrow.
The following morning you should wake up and take stock… How much beer did you come home with, was there anything you love and have to bring home. Head to Primer grab a coffee, and oh hey you are back at Elizabeth station so grab whatever you need to bring home, But don’t head home yet.
Vancouver is Beautiful, but that beauty doesn’t stop at the border. There are incredible spots in and around Bellingham that warrant exploration (with a Bhamian beer in hand!) so walk down to the waterfront, or drive down to Deception pass there is so much more than a stupid mall.
Bellingham is much more than a mall, and more than deserving of being explored.