Friday, September 28, 2012

Steam Plant Grill & Spokane festival

   New brewery stop last weekend: the Steam Plant Grill in downtown Spokane.  You can't miss it before sundown as the twin smokestacks tower over the neighborhood.  The stacks sent coal smoke out towards Idaho for seventy-some years as steam from the plant heated all the downtown buildings throughout the winter.  Closed in the mid-80s, renovated as a restaurant, brewery with pub, meeting space area on the lower levels.  I add it to the most memorable building adaptations that honor the former use while making good ales.  Others on that list: the firehouse in Tacoma (Engine House 9), the post office in Pullman (Paradise Creek), and the electrical substation in Puyallup (Powerhouse).
    Here, a huge boiler dominates the center of the building from the second floor up to the fourth or fifth.
Dials and gauges have been left on the walls and iron catwalks and stairs connect the levels.  A lot of the brewing had been done in Coeur d'Alene, but that site is not operating at this time, so all the house ales on the Steam Plant menu have been brewed here.
I had a glass of their fine Highland Scottish Ale with a nicely seasoned Kurabota pork chop.  D.B. had a small glass of wine with a hot seafood salad.  We were well beered up from the Spokane Octoberfest a few blocks away, in Riverfront Park.
     The festival, held under state Beer Commission sponsorship, was a great time.  A fair number of the nanobrewers, folks we might never see over on the wet side, attended: Twelve String Brewing and Iron Goat from Spokane, Golden Hills Brewing from Airway Heights, Riverport from Clarkston, the aforementioned Paradise Creek from Pullman.  Northern Lights, as it was known last May when I stopped there, is now No-Li Brewing.  Another name change forced by threats of trademark litigation.  One of the No-Li guys told me they had been doing business as Northern Lights some time before the east coast plaintiff did, but the latter was willing to spend more money on lawyers, money the Spokane guys would rather put in malt and hops.  So it goes.
    A big tent covered a good local band cranking out danceable tunes and long tables where the beer fans could sit a bit and talk the brews.  We met some folks who had bicycled nine miles along the river to get here; they had hopes of a motorized ride back.

Visted 9/21/12)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Walking (Man) in the Gorge

   The Columbia River Gorge is one of those spectacular landscapes that a string of dams, grain barges, railroads, and I-84 can't put a serious dent in.  Stevenson, WA is right in the heart of the gorge; about fifty miles from Portland.  That's the only downside for its excellent Walking Man Brewery: the big Portland brewers keep picking off its talented brewers. (A stand-along website isn't coming up, but google will bring up rave reviews on a number of review sites.)
    They make the beer in the basement of a house (not sure what is going on upstairs):
   They have garnered a good deal of rep with their Homo Erectus Imperial IPA (9% abv).  As I was driving the twisty WA 14 on to Hood River, I passed on that and tried a pint of Fresh Hop Strider Pale (5.5% with a lot of hops for a pale).  On a mild Friday afternoon, about an hour before sunset, this was a primo experience.  The gleaming copper apparatus signals that purity is prized here:
(Visited 9/15/12)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dick's Deli in Centralia

   Sitting on the Thurston-Mason County line, several miles north of Centralia, one finds Dick's Sausage Shop and Deli:
What we know as Dick's Brewing Co. began here, when the late Dick Young  opened his sausage business around 1982.  He started making beer toward the end of that decade, in the same building until steady increases in beer sales eventually led to moving the brewery several miles away.  I posted my visit to the new brewing site in March 2011 but had not been back to the deli/cafe for a while. 
   The dining experience is pleasant in a country sort of way, with red and white tablecloths and knotty pine booths.  The patio outside is shaded by a big hop vine, nearly ready for the harvest now:
   Sausage goes with beer naturally, whereas pairing the charcuterie with wine just doesn't resonate the same.  A good variety of sausages in the deli case probably offers a tasty nibble for any of a dozen beer styles.
(Revisited 9/15/12)

Friday, September 14, 2012

E-Bay's newest: Lake City

   Elliott Bay Brewing, the folks who began in West Seattle and added a nice location in Burien, have been up and running in the northeast Seattle neighborhood of Lake City since last spring.  We stopped off there recently, on the way to a new book event in the area.  The back door, seen from the parking lot, looks inviting.
Prudent drinkers that we are, with a hundred miles of I-5 to drive that evening,  D.B. and I limited ourselves to splitting a taster tray to wash down pretty good burgers.  I particularly liked their Alembic Pale, a moderately hoppy (49 IBUs) pale with 5.25% abv.
Our server explained that all Elliott Bay brews are made with organic ingredients, but not all the barley and hop farmers take the time to get certified by the state as organic growers.  Those folks do go over a farmer's books and records with a fine-tooth comb, so it's understandable that there is a lot of de facto organic stuff out there that doesn't wear the label.
(Visited 9/10/12)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Schoolhouse: Winthrop, Warshington

  Stopped off in Winthrop recently to enjoy a tasty pint in the Old Schoolhouse Brewery's pub deck overlooking the Methow River
Travel companion D.B. is enjoying some of their GABF gold medal IPA in the foreground. Old Schoolhouse added more fermenters last year to essentially double their output and extend their bottled beer territory.  The brew kettle and mash tun are still visible upstairs.
   Out in front, along one of Winthrop's faux-western plank sidewalks, Old Schoolhouse provides cutout photo ops.  Note the spelling of Warshington--this is how dry-side folks are alleged to pronounce our state. 

D.B., who took this shot of me, was born and raised on the dry side and says this is hogwash. Not hogwarsh. 
(Visited 8/22/12)