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Arbor Crest Wine Cellars archive

As the Square Wheel turns

Square Wheel Brewing just keeps rolling along.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars’ recently launched in-house brewery so far has been serving its offerings on Thursday and Sunday concert nights at the Cliff House tasting room in the Spokane Valley. Those end this week, with Rachel Bade McMurphy’s jazz trio tomorrow and Top 40 tunes from Common Ground on Sunday.

But the beers will be back for Arbor Crest’s first Oktoberfest on Oct. 10 from noon to 5 p.m., which also will feature food, wine and live Latin music by Milonga.

And discussions continue about offering the beers at the Cliff House on a regular basis. Brewer John Mielke, who recently upgraded to a five-barrel system, is planning a stout to go along with his initial three releases: Mildred’s Blonde, Royal’s Red and Square Wheel IPA.

(The Cliff House is the former home of inventor Royal Riblet, who created the square-wheel tractor that’s on display there, and had a wife named Mildred.)

“The beers have been well-received so far,” Mielke says. “People have been calling us about kegs to go.”        

Pints to pour at Arbor Crest

It’s official: Arbor Crest Wine Cellars is in the beer business.

The Spokane Valley winery received final state licensing approval today and will start serving house-brewed Square Wheel beers at its concert event Sunday at the Cliff House, featuring David Raitt & The Baja Boogie Band.

“We’re good to go. I’m excited about it,” says John Mielke, a member of the family that owns the winery who oversees the brewing operation.

Three beers will be pouring on Sunday: a blonde, a red and an IPA.

Arbor Crest has planned for a few years to add house beers to its tasting room lineup to broaden its appeal.

A new varietal

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars is getting into the beer business.

The Spokane Valley winery has long planned on pouring house-brewed beers at its Cliff House tasting room to accompany its award-winning wines. Now Square Wheel Brewing, named after an historic tractor on the site, could launch within the month.

“Many of our customers who come up for concerts and other events just don’t drink wine,” says general manager Jim van Loben Sels. “You’ve got to look at every way to increase your sales.”

Arbor Crest actually received its brewing license in 2012, but the project got put on hold for lack of time and resources. It took off again when van Loben Sels’ brother-in-law, John Mielke, agreed to take over the brewing operation.

Mielke, who’s been brewing for a couple of years, is putting together a 5-barrel brewhouse but is working for now off a smaller pilot system. He plans three initial styles – blonde, red and IPA – with some seasonals to possibly come later.

“We’re just going to start slow and get a feel for how it’s going to go,” Mielke says.

While it’s licensed to make the beer, Arbor Crest needs additional permits to serve it, which are in progress. Van Loben Sels hopes those will be in place by the end of the month, though he admits August may be more likely.

“We thought would have everything ready to go for start of season,” he says.  “We’ve been producing beer, we just can’t sell it up here.”

The tasting room has been able to sell bottled beers from other producers, which is less profitable, under a snack bar license. The restaurant license required to serve draft beer also will allow Arbor Crest to prepare food onsite and offer tableside service on the tasting room patio.

“We’ve been talking for long time about how to enhance people’s experience,” van Loben Sels says. “We could have an awesome bistro up here.”

The beer will be a premium experience, with pints expected to sell for around $8, he says.

 “We don’t want people to come up here and think it’s a beer pub,” says van Loben Sels. “We want to sell wine first, and have beer as an add-on.”

And while he’s waiting to see how beer sales affect the atmosphere at the Cliff House, he says, “If it folds in seamlessly, there’s no reason not to do it.”