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New digs for the Dog

An older Laughing Dog – 11 years now, to be precise – is still learning some new tricks.

The Sandpoint-area brewery recently moved operations to 805 Schweitzer Plaza Drive in Ponderay (off Highway 95 behind Taylor Chevrolet), a mile north of its former location on Fontaine Drive.

The taproom isn’t open yet, but the public can get its first look at the facility during Saturday’s anniversary party from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with food, games and live music.

As always, there’s a special beer for the occasion – this time, a light Helles lager, a departure from past heavy hitters like last year’s barrel-aged imperial rye ale, which clocked in at 12 percent alcohol by volume.

“We wanted something everybody could drink,” says owner/brewer Fred Colby. “We went kind of all-out last year for year 10, so we decided to back off for year 11.”

Laughing Dog is starting to catch up with production after beginning to brew at the larger new space in mid-July. Plans call for an eventual brewhouse expansion to double or triple capacity from the current 7,000 barrels per year.  

The immediate improvement is a canning line that was delivered Monday, which will be a big boost for efficiency. The brewery previously relied on visits from a mobile canning operation.

“Being able to start canning ourselves on our own schedule will be nice,” Colby says. “Once a tank is done we can process it and get the order out the door.”

That will help Laughing Dog keep up with growing demand. After a recent successful launch in Utah, it will expand distribution to Nevada next month, with Arizona and Northern California under consideration.   

The brewery also distributes directly to Idaho, Washington, Montana, Oregon and Alaska, and reaches another 15 to 20 states through its arrangement with Total Wine stores.

No opening date has been set for the taproom, which is under construction. “We don’t want to open it up just so-so – we want it to be right,” Colby says.

It will be slightly smaller than before but have a familiar feel, with the bar and other fixtures being moved over. And in keeping with Laughing Dog tradition, dogs will again be allowed inside. They were prohibited at the previous taproom when food service started in March, but that never really took off and there’s no room for a kitchen in the new location anyway, Colby says.

“We’re just going back to what we used to do, and used to do best,” he says.