Perry Street Brewing is only three years old, but it’s celebrating a golden anniversary of sorts this weekend.
The headline for 2016 was winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival – only the third time an Inland Northwest brewery has done so in the renowned competition’s 30-year history.
In its second year of entries, Perry Street captured GABF gold for its Session IPL (India pale lager), a former seasonal that since has been added to the year-round lineup. Previous local winners were No-Li in 2012 and the now-defunct Coeur d’Alene Brewing back in 1988.
While he received positive feedback from judges the previous year, owner/brewer Ben Lukes says, “You never expect to go down there and win. The competition is so tough. That’s the level we aspire to compete at, tasting these amazing beers that are all around us and seeing how we stack up against them.”
Lukes also won the inaugural IPA Showdown at last spring’s Spokane Craft Beer Week with his regular India pale ale, which he says also got good notes at GABF this year. “It’s right where we want it to be,” he says.
Perry Street is the first Spokane brewery to experiment with lupulin powder, a concentrated form of the oils and resins in hops. That’s a fixture in the Citra Dust Double IPA, the taproom’s top seller despite (or maybe because of) its hefty 9 percent alcohol by volume.
“We have 50-year-old women in here drinking three of these big beers, and they only weigh 100 pounds,” Lukes chuckles.
He last week launched the first in a yearlong series of hazy, juicy New England-style IPAs, and also plans weekly firkins of infused, cask-conditioned beers.
But beer innovations and awards aside, he says, the major achievement of year three was adding an in-house food menu featuring small plates, sandwiches and salads – including fresh produce from the South Perry farmers market, in season – under the guidance of chef Alisha Van Guilder.
“What she’s been able to accomplish out of an 8-by-11 kitchen is pretty outrageous,” Lukes says. “We wanted to get awesome craft food into our brewery, and people have really responded.”
This weekend’s anniversary activities include the tapping of two firkins Friday – the IPA aged on tangelos, and a tart saison on Meyer lemon and coriander – plus the return of what Lukes calls "a couple of big beer surprises from the past," with 20-ounce pours of all beers at regular pint prices.
That drops to $4 on Saturday, along with music by the Nic Vigil Trio from 4 to 6 and DJ Tony Brown from 7 to 11. There will be raffle drawings at 8:30 for a stand up paddle board (to benefit neighborhood Grant Elementary School) and the Golden Growler.
And on Sunday, take home the glass when you buy a pint and also get 30 percent off merchandise, to make way for the upgraded glassware and swag that are coming to the taproom.
Perry Street produces a modest 500 barrels of beer per year, almost all of which is sold in-house. There’s also limited distribution to select accounts including Manito Tap House, Republic Pi, The Flying Goat, Downriver Grill, nearby South Perry Pizza and Casper Fry, and Durkin’s Liquor Bar.
After the GABF win, Lukes says, he considered adding a couple more tanks and bottling or canning the Session IPL, but hasn’t yet decided to pull the trigger.
“We’re still planning on some growth, but we don’t know what that’s going to be,” he says. “At some point, we’re going to max out this building, and we’ll need to make some choices.
Whatever happens, he says, “We’re so much about the neighborhood. We want to serve the people in the Perry District. Those are the people we love to interact with.”