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Dog years

On Saturday, English Setter celebrates being in business for four years – or a little over a month, depending how you look at it.

New owners Reece and Jackie Carlson, who took over the Spokane Valley brewery at the beginning of the year, are throwing an anniversary party starting at 1 p.m.

Raffle tickets will be handed out with each beer purchase beginning at 3 for prizes including T-shirts and hats, a six-piece glassware set and a mug club membership.  

Two new beers will be tapped for the occasion: an imperial oatmeal stout, The Grimm, and an IPA dubbed Guard Dog.

At 8 percent alcohol by volume, The Grimm is the biggest beer English Setter has ever done, Reece Carlson says. (Befitting its brawn, it’s served in a 10-ounce snifter.)

“I just feel like we’re missing part of the market,” he says. “I like beers that are big sometimes, I think everybody does.”

Brewed with a biscuity British malt, Maris Otter, its coffee character is accented by an astringent bite at the beginning.

“It almost fools your tongue into thinking that it’s sourness,” says Carlson. “Especially with a dark beer this time of year, I like to have a little pop.”

Guard Dog (7.8 percent ABV, 76 International Bitterness Units) is balanced but has more of a Northwest-style hoppiness than the brewery’s previous IPAs. A bit of roasted barley adds color and a subtle flavor note alongside a citrusy, spicy old-school blend of Summit, Cascade and Centennial.

“There’s still that sweet component that people here always like, but I wanted to pump up that bitter snap,” Carlson says.

Also look for what little is left of his initial new release, The Yard Scotch ale, which sold quickly following its introduction in early January. Another batch should be ready later next week.

Next up will be an Irish-style red, possibly linked to St. Patrick’s Day.

“I like how creative you can be with beer now,” Carlson says. “The thing about craft beer is, if you’re not experimenting, you’re not doing it right.”

He and Jackie also have been experimenting with other parts of the operation. Growler fills of regular beers are now $10 all the time, not just on Thursdays like before.

The pub food menu, turned out by infrared convection ovens, has been spruced up and streamlined. And the Carlsons have added an assortment of board games – along with giant Jenga – and launched a trivia night every other Thursday.

“We’ve been board game people forever,” Reece Carlson says. “It’s a great way to kick back and have a couple of extra beers with friends, plus it gets you off your cell phones.”

Several taproom tables have been pushed together, to enhance the communal atmosphere.

So far, the approach seems to be paying off. January’s business was better than expected, Carlson says, and up from the previous year.

“We’re seeing a lot of younger folks who want to have mug club memberships and be here all the time,” says Carlson, who just turned 27.

“We have such a diverse ciientele – diverse, but not separate. It’s friendly people spending time together.”