If you stop into State Street’s newest brewery expecting West Coast classics, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for—but IPAs are just the tip of the iceberg at Darach Brewing Company. Their diverse beers will please most palates, with offerings including dark beers and even several guest taps. However, the heart and soul of Darach are their farmhouse ales and wild ferments.

Darach (pronounced dar-rock) means “oak” in Gaelic, and its name references the spirit barrels used to age beer. Co-owner and Brewer Shawn Vail has been in the beer industry for a decade, but it wasn’t until he joined forces with his now-partner, Co-owner Emily Nichols, that this idea of owning a brick-and-mortar turned serious. 

“Her dream was to open a tap room,” Vail says of Nichols. “And so we started talking more and more about that, and then just decided to go for it. So in 2019, we started doing research, and then 2020 put together a business plan, and then started searching for a location.”

Photograph by Cocoa Laney

Vail and Nichols toured several buildings, and the location they landed in is likely to be familiar to those in the Downtown Bellingham music scene. 1015 N. State St. was once home to the Green Frog and the Firefly, the latter of which closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Installing a brewery in the basement of an ex-music venue was no small feat, but Nichols and Vail pulled it off.

While the welcoming ambiance of the upstairs pays homage to its predecessor, its new incarnation is also wholly unique. Darach is both family- and dog-friendly, and while they do offer limited snacks, patrons are encouraged to bring in food if they so wish.

As for the beers themselves, Vail says they fall into three loose categories: farmhouse, hoppy, and dark. Nichols is herself a lover of dark beers, and so she makes sure to keep them on tap no matter the season.

As for Vail, he’s passionate about wild beers that are spontaneously fermented from yeast in the air. He feels that this genre is often underrepresented in Bellingham, and while not all of Darach’s brews are spontaneous or farmhouse, he does take care to keep offerings consistent.

“How I tie in the non-farmhouse beers is I still use farmhouse strains [of yeast] to ferment those,” he says. “Particularly, we do a lot with the Kveik strains, which are Norwegian farmhouse strains.”

Some folks come to Darach specifically for the funkier ferments, like the Trip to the Farm. This unique brew is pasteurized, not boiled, a process that leaves the character of the grain intact. Others stumble into the tap room with no expectations—and for Nichols, seeing the surprise on new patrons’ faces is one of the highlights of the job.

“I’ve had so many people walk in and be like, ‘Oh, you have hazy IPAs? I don’t want a hazy IPA. Let me try this,’” says Nichols. “And they’re like, ‘Oh. Oh, you guys know what you’re doing.’”

Photograph by Cocoa Laney

Going forward, Vail and Nichols are excited to begin releasing spontaneously fermented beers as well as brews aged in bourbon barrels. But even ahead of these more experimental brews, Darach has quickly garnered a name for itself in the Bellingham brewing scene—and beer lovers of all stripes are invited to stop in and find out why.

“The words getting out and around,” Nichols says. “And it’s really exciting to see new people come in and be really excited about what we’re doing.” 1015 N. State St., Bellingham, 360.778.1596, darachbrewing.com


"I’ve had so many people walk in and be like, ‘Oh, you have hazy IPAs? I don’t want a hazy IPA. Let me try this,’” says Nichols. “And they’re like, ‘Oh. Oh, you guys know what you’re doing. - Emily Nichols"