Sunday, September 22, 2013

Republic Brewing Co., way up there

   Sitting on a barstool in the Republic Brewing Co. taproom, pondering the lineup, I see a regular come in off the street and call out a number.  217, let's say.  The barmaid takes a long wooden handle and slides the hook at the end around a ceramic mug hanging from the ceiling over the bar.  The highest number is something over 300 and that many mugs are for sure hanging up there.  Pretty good numbers for a mug club, you'd think.  Consider this: Republic's entire population is just over 1,000 and all of Ferry County, up where the Rockies and the North Cascades merge into one big bunch of mountains and roll into British Columbia, the county has about 7500 people. A lot of the adults here are drinking Republic's craft beer.
   The brewery is in a building that once served as the firehall.  The doors can still slide up.
 Billy Burt, the brewer and owner (with wife Emily) tells me his Big Mischief Porter won a gold medal in the robust porters & stouts category in a judging competition conducted by the state Beer Commission in June. I try a half pint (6.6% abv) and appreciate the coffee-chocolate maltiness.  Billy says sales are entirely in the county, here, two restaurants in town, and one in Okanagon County next dloor.  His two-barrel system works hard to meet the local demand.
  More mugs are called down and filled as the last sunny Friday of summer becomes a mellow late afternoon. Conversations are slow-cadenced, country talk. A brick patio out back is styled a beer garden and the hallway has a blackboard with a tongue-in-cheek history of beer.
  As the board indicates, the brewery opened in 2011 and was two years old in June. Its fame may spread a bit beyond Ferry County, as Republic has joined the Inland Empire Ale Trail, a Spokane-sponsored collect the stamps program similar to the trail in Bend, Ore.  Inland Empire's trail lists sixteen brewpubs, and one only needs visit ten of them to win the prize (a quart mini-growler).  Still, the beer lovers of Spokane would be well rewarded if they take the scenic drive up to Republic.
(Visited 9/19/13

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