Tucked behind a Shell gas station, right before Highway 20 splits south towards Whidbey Island, is Bastion Brewing Company. Weekday lunchtimes draw the local working crowds. Visit in the evening and you’ll find the barstools filled with patrons sipping well-deserved beers after long days or refilling their growler jugs to take home. The weekends can be a bit louder with bands performing, casual parties thrown by military members, and groups gathered around Bastion’s TV screens cheering on favorite teams. This is laid-back, casual dining at its finest.
The word bastion means a stronghold, a fortress, and a person or thing regarded as the standard, but to owners Joe and his wife Cristine Behan, the word stands for much more. A few years ago the Navy couple was deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan (today called Camp Shorabak) where a friend of theirs passed away. The strength of the word has taken on new meaning since then. “It’s special,” said Joe Behan.
Behan, a former Navy pilot and 22-year veteran, is a down-to-earth guy with a disciplined and well-thought-out attitude when it comes to business. A home brewer for many years before deciding to venture into commercial brewing, he didn’t want to start as anyone’s apprentice. Behan hired an experienced consultant to help him build a system, then hired a head brewer for Bastion.Together they focused on building recipes and smoothing the production process. Recently Behan hired an assistant brewer, allowing him to turn his attention to full-time management of the venue.
The Behans opened Bastion Brewing Company in September 2016 after a long summer of hands-on renovation. From the start, they’ve used top-shelf malts and aromatics supplied by Crosby Hop Farm in Oregon. You’ll find all your favorite brews done right. The Bastion Amber Ale is slightly nutty while the Bastion Oatmeal Stout is hearty with deep notes of dark chocolate and coffee. Right now, their spring Saison will be on tap as well as a slightly fruitier version of the American Wheat.The brewpub has 13 taps plus a nitro tap.
For the indecisive, Bastion serves tasting trays; for the beer-averse, there’s cider; and for the adventurous there are beer cocktails like Lemon Shandy, made with Bastion’s Radbuza Pilsner and Lemon Basil Cider. Order your drink at the wood-trimmed bar then take a seat anywhere. For food, you’ll visit the kitchen side of the brewery.
Bastion Brewing Company is divided into two spaces: a dining area complete with booths and a bar area adjacent to the vats brewing Bastion’s beer. A thick concrete slab-topped counter commands the dining space. Order your food at the register, then take a number. A server brings the dishes right to you, regardless of what room you’re seated. You can expect casual, hand-crafted meals with high-quality ingredients. This is a place where hand-crafted really means hand-crafted: handbreaded chicken and onion rings, hand-cut fries, hand-formed patties. Behan believes in the hands-on approach. “We do it with our beer, we might as well do it with our food,” he says.
On the menu you’ll find classic salads like Cobb and Garden, no-fuss burgers that can be gussied-up with an array of add-ons, including roasted jalapeños, onion straws, pineapple, and crispy chicken wings drenched in your choice of sauce. I ordered a fried-fish sandwich with a side of onion rings. The food arrived quickly—impressively quickly. Even more impressive was the quality of this fast-made food. Hot, crispy onion rings accompanied the equally crisp fried fish. A soft bun held the sandwich together. Biting through the Panko-crusted exterior revealed a succulent, flaky fish filet. Sandwich toppings were meant to complement the fish: fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, tangy pickles, and unassuming melted Swiss cheese. Halfway through the soft bun gave way, turning my sandwich into a five-napkin sort of meal in the best way possible.
Kids can share in the fun too. Bastion’s menu offers kid-sized meals with a choice of sides that let parents decide if their kids need a serving of vegetables or can splurge on French fries. There’s also a dedicated children’s area with toys, books, and even kid-sized chairs. These small details allow parents to sip a beer with friends without worrying if their kids are having fun.
This is the kind of place where local art decorates the walls, the bar tables have trivia cards just in case your conversation stalls, and feel-good music plays in the background—you know, the kind you’ll sing along with after a few beers like The Who’s “My Generation” and Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel.” Bastion offers Hero Discounts for military, firefighters, and police officers. They’ll advertise local businesses on their glassware, and offer generous growler fill-up discounts on Sundays and during the occasional “Kill the Keg Specials” when it’s time to finish one off. This summer Behan plans to rope off the parking lot on weekends to host an outdoor beer garden complete with live band performances. Bastion Brewing Company is the kind of place you go to relax, have fun, and not take yourself too seriously. As Behan puts it: “Beer and chicken wings, what else do you need?”
Bastion Brewing Company
12529 Christianson Rd., Anacortes
360.399.1614 | bastionbrewingcompany.com