Monday, May 30, 2011

Skye Book and Brew; browsing and sipping

   Off the west coast of Scotland lies the Isle of Skye, famed for rock climbing, spectacular scenery, and hiding out Bonnie Prince Charlie from the English after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 (the prince spent most of the time in drag, dressed as a lady's maid).  A resident of Dayton down in the Palouse wheat country thought it would be fun to open a brewpub that commemorates this far off island, met another local who wanted to open a bookstore, and the result was this most unusual combination.
Inside, it really is a working bookstore as well as a working brewery and family-friendly restaurant.
And of course, there are pictures and souvenirs of the rugged island that inspired the name.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Ice Harbor: definitely in Kennewick

   Ice Harbor Brewing Co. is in the old part of Kennewick, with two locations.  The main brewery is a few blocks from the Columbia River, which the Snake River has just joined a mile or two upstream.  The company also operates a riverside location, the marina pub.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blackfoot River Brewing in Helena

   Down in Last Chance Gulch, in the heart of Helena, Blackfoot River Brewing was brewing up a storm to celebrate American Craft Beer Week (the hour was well before 8 p.m.).  A tour of the brewing works was drawing a crowd, and their usual growler fill price on Wednesdays ($7.00!) was sweetened with a first pint free for on premise consumption.
    While our Washington brewers take pride in sourcing most of their hops in-state, Montana brewers feel the same way about their barley. I chose a single malt IPA, derived from Crisp Maris Otter barley grown in eastern Montana (and then bittered with our Simcoe and Cascade hops).  The notes added that it had been floor-malted by hand on the premises. This was one of nine permanent brews; there were also three seasonals. A nice brewery in a town full of memories.
(Visited 5/18/11)

In Missoula at the Kettle House

     After deliberating for a pint's worth, I decided to sort Montana breweries into the next-door regions group, even though the state does not touch Washington.  Idaho's panhandle, while extravagantly beautiful, has very few breweries, and western Montana, which has many, does drain into the Columbia.  So here I was, in Missoula on a fine spring day, looking at the Kettlehouse brewing works on the railroad tracks over Orange Ave. Mt. Sentinel was reflecting the late afternoon sunshine off to the east.
 Inside, I studied the four choices (an IPA, a Scotch ale, an amber and a pale) and caught a bartender's eye to ask about them.  "Sorry," she said, "last call was five minutes ago."  Well, it was a production brewery without a restaurant and 8 p.m. didn't seem like an unusual closing time for such establishments.  "It's state law," she continued, "brewpubs have to close by 8 unless they buy a tavern license, and we can only sell two pints to a customer."  Fellow on a stool nearby chimed in, "the beer laws here are downright medieval."  I figured it was probably not a good time to identify myself as a former staff attorney for the Montana legislature, who worked on a revision of the state liquor laws back in 1975-76.  But that was several years before the craft beer movement was even born.
    It turns out that the tavern owners lobby had defeated the small brewers lobby at the legislature on a bill to extend closing hours to 10 p.m.  Kettlehouse has a nice looking system, with a separate lauter tun and a canning line.
The railroad puts together freight trains just outside the door, so every now and then the sound of boxcars coupling comes crashing through the bar.
(Visited 5/17/11)

Snipes Mountain

   Snipes Mt. Brewery in Sunnyland takes its name from the ridge north of the town, which takes its name from Ben Snipes, one of the earliest cattle ranchers in Washington's territorial days (1850s). The brewery's website recalls this history and the logo is a longhorn skull.
The kitchen serves up local and seasonal when it can. This cold spring, asparagus was the first local pick from the fertile Yakima valley.  I tried beer battered asparagus with their Moxee Pale Ale, which was a delicious pairing. This packs quite a bit more punch than their regular pale ale, 7.5% abv and an IPA-like 70 ibu. I found it tangy and satisfying.  Between regular and seasonal pours, they had 12 brews on tap this day.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rattlesnake Mountain: Kennewick or Richland?

   Rattlesnake Mountain Brewing Co. is listed with a Kennewick address in Northwest Brewing News, but the Kennewick city limits sign is a block or two to the south, which would put the brewery in Richland. The brewery is housed within Kimo's Sports Pub and overlooks the Columbia River.
The pub area is decorated with boxing ring paraphernalia and posters from many sports notables. Big banners proclaim their support of the area's minor league hockey team, the Tri-Cities Americans. One of their nine brews is called Americans' Amber, in fact. I tried their Helluva Hefe, giving my approbation to the policy of not providing the lemon slice unless it was requested.  Production has been geared to a level sufficient to support the restaurant, but my server said they are beginning to develop tap accounts at other establishments. 
(Visited 5/16/11)                                                          

Richland's Atomic Brewpub; another historical aside

    Dropping into the Tri-Cities from the west, the first city is Richland, home of the Atomic Ale Brewpub.  One needs to know a bit of history about the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb in World War II to appreciate the names of the brews here. The government took over the little town of Hanford, just north of Richland, in 1943, turning it into a huge project to create plutonium for the bombs being put together down in Los Alamos. Housing for the thousands of workers was built in Richland and many stayed after the war as the reactors were converted to generate electricity. Here was the tap list on a day in May:
The building formerly housed an A&W drive-in and a wide roof still covers much of the parking area.
 They had just run out of the Seaborgium 106 Scottish Ale (who knew that physicist Glenn Seaborg had an element named after him?) so I settled for a schooner of Half-life Hefe, malty and fruity.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Riverport, down in Washington's First Corner

   If Bellingham is the Fourth Corner, nw-most city in the nw-most state of the lower 48, then Clarkston, down in the se-most end of the state, should be the First Corner, right?  Whatever, they have a nice little brewery beside the Snake River there, d/b/a Riverport Brewing   and I stopped to visit them on my way to Montana. Stopped by recently to visit with Pete the brewer and his wife Nancy in the tasting room.
If you follow the link to their website, the first image is the logo for Bedrock Bock next to a banner about trying their seasonal ale. But the bock is not a seasonal any longer, Pete said.  He brought it out in the springtime a year or two ago, but popular demand would not allow him to retire it, so he brews it year-round now. Many beer styles associated with a particular season do tend to sell less outside that season, he opined. He cited Rogue's Dead Guy Ale as a bock that sells better in the fall and winter because Rogue doesn't call it a bock.
     Style names aside, Riverport features the local geography in its names.  Seven Devils IPA refers to the mountains on the Idaho side of Hell's Canyon, a few miles south of town.  Grande Ronde Rye is named for the river that zigzags along the Oregon-Washington line, cutting a dramatic canyon en route to the Snake in Hell's Canyon.  River Rat Red and Old Man River Stout can be about either the barge traffic headed down to the sea or the jet boat excursions up the Snake into Hell's Canyon. Ol' Harold Barleywine is another story, though. The brewery owns a 1952 Chevrolet delivery truck they call Ol' Harold and Pete ramps up the barleywine to 13.5% ABV, almost enough alcohol for the truck to run on.
(Visited 5/16/11)