From their origin story and exploration of styles, to their ethos of quality through hard work and building community through conversations over beer, Bellingham Washington’s Wander Brewing has become one of the state’s most award-winning, yet still flying under-the-radar breweries.
Founded in October of 2013 by the husband and wife team of Chad and Colleen Kuehl, Wander Brewing became Bellingham’s fourth production brewery when they opened their doors in May of 2014. Seven years prior, while the couple resided in San Francisco, they’d been exploring the brewery landscape throughout Northern California, with Chad eventually taking up homebrewing in the Summer of 2007.
A few years later, whilst backpacking around the world for 13 months, they created a business plan for their brewery. In 2011, Chad attended brewing school at Vermont’s American Brewers Guild, then spent a few years brewing part-time in the early days of Hilliard’s Beer in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Meanwhile, Colleen was planning to undertake an education through Portland State University’s Craft Brewing Business program.
Before setting up shop in Bellingham, they sold their house in Seattle and put that money toward Wander’s one-of-a-kind 20 barrel brewhouse and taproom, all housed under the same roof. It’s a former ship repair warehouse replete with 33-foot high ceilings and the remnants of a heavy duty crane system.
Within their first year, Wander got started on their barrel program, becoming one of the first in the state to utilize a coolship to spontaneously inoculate their wort, in turn creating mixed-culture ales that provide a sense of local terroir. Since it’s inception, the Wander Barrel Project has produced roughly 60 different barrel aged and foeder fermented beers, including Lambic-inspired and Farmhouse Ales, Bourbon barrel-aged Barleywines, Saisons, and Fruited Sours.
The intimacy of having a completely open brewhouse – including two 620 gallon American Oak Foeders, barrels, horizontal and vertical fermentation tanks, all located next to their ever rotating 15 taps, is something to behold. It’s certainly created a unique environment that the community has embraced as a beer-focused gathering space, where beer quality is at the forefront of Wander’s mission.
That mission is quite easily summed up by their name – the concept of examining every style and a willingness to explore new directions on established styles, as well as their paper airplane branding – the notion that each plane is a distinct creation that flies differently and finds it’s own destination. It’s resulted in a diversity of complex and delicious options including Fruited Sours, Export Stouts, various IPAs (Hazy, West Coast, Single Hop, Fresh Hop, etc.), Lagers, Belgian Ales and much more.
With this creative passion at the fore, Wander has created over 260 distinct beers, the results of which have garnered the brewery in excess of 32 different medals including 4 at GABF (all gold) and 18 from the Washington Beer Awards where they were awarded Large Brewery of the Year in 2018.
We’ve been partnered with Wander Brewing since December of 2017 and have spread the word across Oregon about their amazing creations ever since. We’re excited to feature six different beers of Wander’s right now, all of which can be found at stores this week:
- Billy Crystal IPA ~ NE Style IPA ~ Billy’s back! Our annual tribute to the Hollywood legend’s birthday, Billy Crystal is brewed entirely with the most sought after lots of Crystal hops from our friends @crosbyhops. This easy sipping juicy haze packs a delicate balance of earthy spice along with floral fruity notes brought to you by this most under appreciated American hop variety – 6%.
- Coconut Correspondent ~ Export Stout ~ Our classic foreign export stout with a coconut twist. Medium bodied with a rich bold roasted grain profile balanced by silky sweet toasted coconut – 6.4%.
- Correspondent ~ Export Stout ~ This two-time GABF Gold medal winning Foreign Export Stout (2019, 2017) features European specialty malts, American hops, and house ale yeast. Crimson edged black. Smooth mouth feel. Roasted grain, sweet molasses, baker’s chocolate, subtle char – 6.4%.
- Global Mutt ~ Dessert Baltic Porter ~ Coffee sourced direct from the farmer in Brazil, fair trade cocoa nibs from the Democratic Republic of Congo, chocolate from Theo’s in Seattle, water from Bellingham, hops from Yakima, and specialty malt from Europe dance together in this BIG Baltic porter… a true Global Mutt – 7%.
- Pineapple Mango Millie ~ Fruited Sour Ale ~ The latest offering of our rotating fruit sour ale. Kettle soured with lactobacillus before undergoing fermentation with Pineapple & Mango using our house ale strain. Colorful, crisp, dry, tart, subtle fruit – 4.4%.
- Wander Litely ~ American Lager ~ Gold Medal, GABF 2020. A carefully brewed American lager. With a stripped-down malt bill of pilsner malt and flaked barley, Wander Litely is light and dry with a slight graininess balanced by a whisper of floral and earthy hops – 4.2%.
Content sourced from Wander Brewing, Washington State Craft Beer, Bellingham Business Journal, Cascadian Beer Podcast, Craft Beer & Brewing, Tap Trail, Washington Beer Blog. Cover photo by Raelee Marie Photography.