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Six down for Twelve String

If all goes as planned, Sunday will mark Twelve String’s last anniversary at its current location.

The Spokane Valley brewery is preparing to move to larger quarters nearby on First Avenue just west of Pines Road. But in the meantime, it has a party to throw to celebrate its sixth year of operation.

This year’s anniversary beer is an imperial stout aged for about eight months in tequila barrels. At 9.7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s a bit bigger than the brewery’s regular Double Drop D.

“These were the nicest tequila barrels I’ve ever gotten,” says Twelve String’s Terry Hackler, who has experimented with all sorts of barrel-aged beers. “The tequila flavor is really smooth.”

There again will be free sliders and sides from O’Doherty’s BBQ catering. Doors will open an hour earlier than usual, at 11 a.m., with the party continuing until 5.

“We always have people lined up to get in, and we’re going to be here anyway,” Hackler says.

He’s considering monthly events on Sundays, when the taproom is usually closed, with the next one likely on Jan. 28. A spring version of the annual fall BarrelFest also is in the works.

Around that time, Hackler is hoping to be moving to the new location, which will eventually include a kitchen along with the expanded taproom and brewery.

The former contractor is doing the remodel himself. With a new roof on the building, he now can work on the inside over the winter as well as the outside, as conditions allow.

“I’m making a lot of progress,” Hackler says. “We’re still hoping for late spring or so to at least have a basic taproom open. It’s all about time and money and now weather. I’m just plugging away.”

The time crunch has been eased by the midyear hiring of a head brewer, Kevin Pierce, who spent 17 years at Anacortes Brewing. His first solo creation, the Tremolo Scotch Ale, has been a big seller.

“He’s probably doing 99 percent of the brewhouse side now, which is great for me,” Hackler says.

River City shifts gears

River City is closing its downtown taproom at the end of the year to concentrate on distribution and bottling.

"We have had a great time serving our beer and pretzel menu to the Spokane community, but we are ready to focus on the production side of our operation including bottling in the new year," the brewery says in a press release.

"There are lots of places to drink River City beer throughout our region so we feel as if the Tap Room has served its purpose as we introduced our beers, but now it’s time to refocus our attention on making, kegging and bottling beer. We will be changing up our core beers (and) introducing some new limited releases & collaborations, as well as continuing to produce award-winning beer."

Following Saturday's International Marmot Beer Festival, starting Sunday, all pints will be $2,50 and growler fills will be $10 until the taproom closes Dec. 30. River City still plans to host "garage parties" on First Fridays starting in February along with other special events.

The move comes at a time when brewers across the country are feeling competitive pressures as the number of breweries continues to grow, but overall sales are starting to slow down.

Not having food service put River City's taproom at a disadvantage compared to other downtown breweries that do offer food, says Emily Schwartz, the brewery's marketing and sales director who also managed the taproom.

"Moving forward with things like a bottling line, one-offs, a barrel-aging program, it just made sense to put all of our efforts, focus and funds into that aspect of what we're doing," she says.

River City's owners operated a restaurant brewpub with their former Coeur d'Alene Brewing, but said they were not interested in serving food when they opened River City in early 2013. The taproom was added that November.

In another change, Schwartz will be moving to King Beverage to oversee the distributor's craft beer operations. KBI Craft represents River City and fellow locals Orlison and Selkirk Abbey along with other smaller craft breweries from outside the area.

Schwartz says she will focus on building business for those breweries and training other KBI representatives about craft beer.

The final Downdraft

Downdraft is preparing to close its doors after one last fling starting Friday.

Owners of the Post Falls brewery announced a month ago that they couldn’t afford the extra time and money it would take to succeed in an increasingly competitive craft beer market.

So they’re wrapping things up this weekend beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with more of the beer and merchandise specials that have been offered on a daily basis leading up to the grand finale.

Darker beers and the Project Pale are all gone, but there’s still some Anonymous Amber, Seltice SMaSH, Third Channel IPA and India Rad Red along with a few smaller specialty kegs.

Music will be provided Friday starting at 6:30 by Fair 2 Middlin’, who’ve been around since the brewery opened three years ago. “They told us, well, we’ll have to close down with you guys,” co-owner Aimee Brayman says.

Saturday will feature the Las Brasas Mexican Grill and Iverson’s Smokin Pig BBQ food trucks.

Customer reaction since the closure was announced has been gratifying, she says: “The people that we’ve heard from have all just been super kind. That’s always nice to hear when you’re making a tough decision like that.”

While Downdraft had its best year so far, Brayman says, taproom traffic is unpredictable and it’s hard to nail down tap handles at bars and restaurants with so many breweries in the market.

The biggest issue, she says, has been finding time to make it all work with everyone relying on other jobs as well. (The brewery is listed for sale in case anyone else wants to give it a shot.)    

“None of us has the ability to quit our day jobs and go full-time with the brewery,” Brayman says. “That’s really what you need to be successful. It’s been exhausting – it’s been great, but exhausting.”

They’re particularly proud of the Third Channel, she says: “We’ll put that up against any IPA on the market.”

And they’ll treasure the relationships with other brewers – “We have some great memories sitting in back rooms talking about beer and life” – and with customers.  

“A lot of them have become good friends,” Brayman says. “They’re people who are very important to us.”

A toast to veterans

With Veterans Day being observed today by many government employees, and on its regular date tomorrow by everyone else, several area breweries and craft beer bars are honoring the occasion with discounts:

– Post Falls Brewing is offering a free pint today to veterans and active military, and a free personal pizza from Pi-daho Artisan Pizza for veterans on Saturday.

Steady Flow Growler House has a 15 percent discount for veterans on beer, food and merchandise today and Saturday.

– Veterans and active duty service members get their first beer for free at Daft Badger and Laughing Dog on Saturday, and $1 off pints at Badass Backyard and Quartzite.

– Black Label is offering $3 pints Saturday for active duty military, retirees, National Guard and reservists (with ID).

– Those with military ID get their first beer for free at Enoteca on Saturday, and $1 off beers at Community Pint.

V Twin is pouring half-price pints for veterans Saturday, while Wallace Brewing has a $1 discount.

 

Open-and-shut case?

Customers crowd Slate Creek's taproom for its closing night last Wednesday. (Carolyn Lamberson photo)

Two weekends ago, No-Li’s John Bryant participated in a panel discussion at the Great American Beer Festival about the challenges facing breweries today.

“In this room, we can look left and right, and we probably all won’t be here in three years,” he told fellow brewers in the audience. “I hate to take the romance out of what we’re doing, but we’ve gone from a couple thousand breweries (nationwide) to coming up on 6.000 and it’s getting really crowded out there.”

This past week, Bryant’s words hit home with the announced closures of two North Idaho breweries, Coeur d’Alene’s Slate Creek (already shuttered) and Post Falls’ Downdraft (final weekend Nov. 17-19).

They’re the fifth and sixth local breweries to hang it up over the past four years, following BiPlane (Post Falls) in 2013, Ramblin’ Road (Spokane) in 2015, and Budge Brothers (Spokane) and Zythum (Fairfield) last year.

Declaring trends can be tricky. Most of those decisions have involved personal and family issues beyond any business concerns, and each brewery has its own financial needs and goals.

Downdraft, the only one to publicly discuss its reasons for closing, said it simply can’t afford to invest the time and money it would take to succeed in an increasingly competitive market.

“From a business perspective, we had our best year this year, so we’re really proud of that,” Downdraft’s Aimee Brayman says. “We’ve just been burning our candles at both ends working full-time jobs on top of running the brewery.”

And with competition continuing to grow, she says, “Sadly, I think we won’t be the last to make this type of decision.”

Five years ago, there were nine operating breweries in Spokane and Kootenai counties. Now, even without Downdraft and Slate Creek, there are 33 with at least nine more in various stages of progress.

“Unless there’s a burst in the population of craft beer enthusiasts, every time a new brewery opens, there’s a brewery somewhere else that struggles,” says Jeff Whitman, owner of Kootenai County’s oldest brewery, Selkirk Abbey, which opened in Post Falls in June 2012.

“It’s a tough business,” Whitman says. “We’re struggling. I know a lot of other people are struggling. It comes down to who can stay the distance until things shake out.”

North Idaho can be a particularly challenging market, he adds: “There are still a lot of fizzy yellow beer drinkers over here.”

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One down for V Twin

V Twin is gearing up for its first birthday party.  

The motorcycle-themed Spokane Valley brewery celebrates its anniversary Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. with pint discounts, drawings and food starting at 4.

Owner/brewer Barry Black hopes to have an Oktoberfest ale ready for one of his 12 beer taps, along with the likes of the best-selling Suicide Shifter IPA; the newer, lighter, more balanced Hop On Let’s Ride IPA, his latest favorite; and the popular Hella Jalapeno pilsner.

Black doesn’t get out on his Harley as much as he’d like these days. He stays busy brewing two-barrel batches on his electric system, along with occasional small-batch specialties.

Also in the works are a pumpkin ale, a new stout and a barleywine. “I just keep experimenting,” says Black.

Overall, he says, “We’re just trying to survive. The first year is definitely a learning curve. It’s been a good experience, up and down, sad and glad.”

While business hasn’t quite met his expectations so far, Black soon hopes to begin self-distributing beer to local bars and restaurants.

“It’s been a crazy ride of a year, for sure,” he says. “Hopefully we’re into the home stretch.”

Downdraft announces closure

North Idaho is losing its second brewery in the past three days.

Downdraft said in a Facebook post this morning that it will close its Post Falls brewery the weekend of Nov. 17-19 after three years in business. Regular operations will continue until then.

Coeur d'Alene's Slate Creek on Sunday announced without explanation that tomorrow is the final day for its taproom.

"As we have grown, we've found the market to be far more competitive and time-consuming than it was only five years ago when we contemplated this venture," Downdraft said in its announcement.

"As all of our partners work full-time, we realize that the nurturing and additional funds required to break through in the market have increased substantially. After evaluating our current position, future growth prospects, and how we would define success, we determined that it's best to press pause on Downdraft, for now.

"This has been a hell of a ride that has enriched our lives in many ways. We love and will miss our customers, many of whom have become friends, and thank each of you for support," it continued.

"Last but not least, we have had the honor to work with some of the industry's best and we thank our friends in our local craft community for the laughs and shared knowledge. Simply put: we came, we saw, we drank, and we are ready for our next chapter in life to begin. Thank you for making this venture so rewarding and memorable!"

Downdraft becomes the sixth area brewery to close in the past four years and the third in North Idaho, along with Post Falls' BiPlane in 2013.

Remaining breweries in Kootenai County include Daft Badger and Trickster's in Coeur d'Alene, Bombastic and Mad Bomber in Hayden and Post Falls Brewing and Selkirk Abbey in Post Falls.

Slate Creek runs dry

Slate Creek is closing, just days after being publicly put up for sale.

The Coeur d’Alene brewery has posted a “Last Call” for Wednesday from 5 to 10 p.m., pouring pints and filling growlers of the Norse Nectar juniper pale ale and High Route Hefeweizen for the final time.

Slate Creek has been quietly offered for sale by word of mouth for the past several months. Last Thursday, a Facebook post made that public with a “last chance” pitch to cash buyers.

The entire operation – main 15-barrel and pilot two-barrel brewing systems, recipes, taproom etc. – was listed for $310,000. Two lesser options were offered for $120,000: a majority partnership interest in the whole business, or the taproom and two-barrel system only.

Brothers Jason and Ryan Wing opened the brewery, named after their favorite fishing and kayaking spot off the St. Joe River, in March 2013.

It’s the fifth area brewery to close in the past four years, following BiPlane (Post Falls) in 2013, Ramblin’ Road (Spokane) in 2015, and Budge Brothers (Spokane) and Zythum (Fairfield) last year. Moscow Brewing also closed in 2016, but recently reopened under new ownership.

There still are 33 operating breweries in Spokane and Kootenai Counties, with at least nine more in various stages of progress.     

Bright forecast for Bellwether

Bellwether Brewing turns two this weekend amid a major growth spurt.

The North Monroe brewery is preparing to upgrade to a 10-barrel system to meet taproom demand and begin distributing more beer in Spokane and beyond.

“I’m excited for the future,” says co-owner Dave Musser. “Seeing our overall growth patterns, this is kind of a no-brainer.”

But first, there’s a party to throw on Friday and Saturday – and some special beers to pour.

Friday from 3 to 10 p.m. will mark the debut of Gru-It Ourselves, an herbed beer (gruit) brewed with contributions from customers’ gardens.

“The herbs came through really nice,” says co-owner/brewer Thomas Croskrey, with catnip and lemon balm leading the way and accents of chamomile. At 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, he says, it’s dark brown but not particularly malty, with a mild bitterness from hops and some of the herbs.

There also will be some Seawolf braggot, a 7.9 ABV honey beer, that was brewed when Bellwether first got its license and has been aging for more than two years. Half the keg was poured for last year’s anniversary party, with the rest saved for this time.

Croskrey says he hasn’t tasted it since last year, when it came off a bit richer but not thicker, with a more pronounced honey character.  

Those will be joined on Saturday from 1 to 10 by a fresh hop beer dubbed Luposlipaphobia (after an old Far Side cartoon), brewed with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook from the farm at Big Barn Brewing (where it also will pour for Saturday’s fresh hop festival). It’s 6.2 percent with a reddish tint from Red X and Crystal Rye malts.

The weekend also will include treats, raffle drawings and the launch of this year’s Pint Club; for a $35 fee, you get a metal, double-walled imperial pint glass (20 ounces), fills for the year at regular pint prices and access to special events.

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Taking the plunge

Mountain Lakes Brewing is preparing to test the commercial waters.

Spokane’s next nanobrewery hopes to open as soon as December downtown at the corner of Riverside and Browne. (Sign up for the mailing list on the brewery website for progress updates).

“We’re just two guys taking their hobby to the next level,” says Dave Basaraba, who’s launching the project with business and brewing partner Tim Hilton.

Both grew up in craft beer strongholds, Basaraba in Portland and Hilton in Boston. Both gained greater appreciation for beer’s ability to bring people together, Basaraba while studying abroad in Europe and Hilton while working in a homebrew store.

“What really attracted us to brewing was the community aspect,” Hilton says.

After each ended up in Spokane, they met and began exploring their shared passion. Homebrewing grew from the garage into a business plan that started taking shape two years ago, leading to a serious search for a location over the past year.

They landed at 201 W. Riverside, a cozy brick-walled, tin-ceilinged spot next to the Lion’s Lair bar that was formerly occupied by Puffin Glass Studios. With state and federal permits in process, they hope to begin renovations next month.

The only thing missing, Basaraba jokes, was a canoe already hanging from the ceiling. “We’ll have to bring our own,” he says.

Outdoor adventure will be the theme for the brewery, which takes its name from a 1920s-era promotional postcard Hilton found that reads, “50 mountain lakes welcome you to Spokane.”

The beer will flow from a combination of three one-barrel systems, providing the flexibility to brew a wide range of styles. Regular offerings on the planned 12 taps will include the likes of an IPA, porter, possibly a golden or wheat beer balanced by something bigger such as a doppelbock or double IPA, fruit and spiced beers and typically a lager.

Brewing equipment will be integrated into the taproom space. “We want people to see where the beer is being brewed and make them part of that process,” says Hilton.

“It’s always cool to go to a brewery and meet the brewers,” he says. “With us, you’re not going to have a choice. We’ll be pouring your beer and washing your dishes.”

Millwood Brewing looks future, past

The next local brewery is quietly taking shape in the Spokane Valley.

Millwood Brewing sits just off Argonne on Frederick, but it won’t be hard to find. A large 1940s farm windmill in a corner of the parking lot will boast the brewery logo on its flag. And once you get closer, you’ll see a rooftop weather vane of a French bulldog perched on a bone.

Inside, the theme will be nostalgic with neighborhood and beer memorabilia along with other antiques and vintage-style fixtures.

“There are going to be a lot of things people will be talking about,” says Shelley Watkins, who’s developing the project along with her husband, Chuck.

“I know so many people around here,” the West Valley High School graduate says. “They’re going to walk here, ride their bikes here. It’s going to be a really nice gathering place.”

The Watkins bought the former Cunningham photo studio three years ago, but it took a year to get a zoning change, another year to develop plans and yet a third to nail down building permits.

With construction in full swing, they hope to open for business at the end of October. That will largely depend on how soon they get their sizable 10-barrel brewing system from LaBreck Stainless Works in Hayden and can start making beer.

Plans call for seven regular offerings plus seasonals and small-batch specialties, along with house root beer and cream soda.     

There will be ice cream for floats, and a kids’ table in one corner of the taproom near a stone fireplace with a leather couch and chairs. A mezzanine seating area above will look into the brewery through large glass windows.

Antiques will line a catwalk nine feet above the main bar, including railroad crossing signs and blinking stoplights. Walls will be adorned with old Millwood photos and beer signs that belonged to Shelley Watkins’ father, who worked for the former Joey August distributorship.

“I’m all about vintage,” she says. “I’ve got a lot of antiques.”

The bartop will be fashioned from a pine slab with a winding “river” cut through the middle, filled with rocks collected from the Watkins’ Pend Oreille River cabin and elsewhere.

A glassed garage-style door will open onto a covered patio on the north side of the building, where food trucks will park. That faces the Millwood Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle path along an abandoned railroad right-of-way that’s scheduled for development next summer.

And there are actual railroad tracks as well, adding to the ambience. “They don’t come by that much,” Shelley Watkins says, “but when they do, they’re loud.”       

A killer debut

After years of priming, Bombastic Brewing is about to drop.

North Idaho’s newest brewery arrives Thursday with a release party at Enoteca in Post Falls starting at 5, featuring Attempted Murder vanilla-cinnamon stout and a Citra-hopped pale dubbed Puddle.

It’s the three-year-old project of three avowed beer geeks: former Enoteca owner Russell Mann, who brings business savvy; railroad engineer Phil Hottenstein, who handles marketing; and Matt Skillicorn, a mechanical engineer and longtime homebrewer. Between them, they’ve sampled beers from every state in the U.S. and drank their way through Europe.    

“Our slogan is ‘We know beer,’ and we honestly do,” says Hottenstein, who stars in a “How to Be Bombastic” video series on everything from the best tool for opening a beer to choosing the right glassware and pouring it properly.

There’s also plenty of playful attitude. Beers take their names from groupings of various animals (except for eventual barrel-aged offerings, which will honor assorted deities). Stark but intricate black-and-white label designs come from Hottenstein’s former tattoo artist.

Attempted Murder is a variation on Bombastic’s standard stout recipe, Murder (named after a group of crows), which includes vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, Ancho chilies and cayenne. Since it’s missing those latter three ingredients, it’s “almost Murder”; its label pictures two evil-looking crows, but not the knifed crow corpse they’re standing over on the regular Murder label.

With intense cinnamon balancing the vanilla sweetness, it’s quite approachable for its hefty 10 percent alcohol by volume. On the opposite end of the scale comes Puddle (platypuses), an easy drinker at 5.5 percent ABV.

“We tend to do the biggest beers we can, but we realize everybody isn’t about that,” Hottenstein says. “A beer like Puddle is a good entry point. It allows people to start going up our ladder of beers.”

Other offerings in the works include an IPA, Wisdom (wombats), which opens with the soft juiciness of the New England style followed by a decidedly West Coast hop kick; and an imperial porter dubbed Sleuth (bears), brewed with dark wheat malt and honey for a roasty aroma and smooth flavor.

For now, everything is made on a half-barrel pilot system in the Panhandle Area Business Council incubator at the Hayden airport. While that’s intended for small-batch specialties, negotiations are underway to rent excess capacity at established area breweries for larger-scale offerings – the sort of so-called “gypsy” brewing done by such creative cult favorites as Mikkeller and Evil Twin.

Initial batches are being split between a small keg or two for events like Enoteca’s and a limited run of 22-ounce bottles, which will be available only at the brewery. Bottle releases will be announced through Bombastic’s email list and website.

Hottenstein hopes those will eventually capture some of the excitement of similar release events at breweries in more sophisticated markets, which can draw folks from far away. “I’ve met many people standing in line to get beer that I’m still in contact with today,” he says.

“We want to grow the beer culture in the Spokane area,” Hottenstein says. “You’re going to see craft really taking hold here, brewers getting more experimental, pushing the envelope more. We want to be at the forefront of that.”

Bottle Bay sets sail

Bottle Bay Brewing is making a small splash on the Spokane beer scene.

The home-based brewery’s first offering – a more malt-forward, well-balanced IPA – is pouring at the Rocket Market on the South Hill, where owner/brewer Marco Plastino works.

The rich amber-hued beer checks in at around 6.5 percent alcohol by volume and 65 International  Bitterness Units. A light malt sweetness meets moderate citrus notes up front, followed by a spicy, piney finish from a combination of Warrior, Cascade and Chinook. With a fairly soft mouthfeel, it’s flavorful yet easy-drinking.

(Plastino also is a visual artist; while you’re at the Rocket, check out his large, layered mixed-media piece on the patio wall, “Earth Landing Through Time and Space,” a rather cosmic take on a world map.)

Plastino says he’s still getting his single-barrel system dialed in while beginning to ramp up production. The IPA and an accompanying pale ale should start showing up in a few weeks at other places around town, with growler sales at farmers’ markets also in the plans.

“I’ve got three or four accounts lined up and will go from there,” he says. “We’ll see where this takes me.”  

Wet your Whistle

Whistle Punk has quietly landed on the downtown brewery scene in a big way.

No fewer than 13 house beers are pouring for this week’s soft opening of the taproom in the old Brooklyn Deli bar space, from saisons to stouts, pilsners to IPAs.

“We want to brew new things all the time,” says co-owner Matt Hanson, who runs the business with his dad, Craig; mom, Jeneen; and wife, Daniella.

The beers still are made on the family’s home-based three-barrel system in Newman Lake, from which Whistle Punk has been distributing to bars on a limited basis to build name recognition and test the market.

Now they’re being served in the former Brooklyn Nights lounge at 122 S. Monroe, off an alley between First and Second Avenues.

“I really liked that bar. I hung out there quite a bit,” Matt Hanson says. “It’s kind of funny to be here now.”

He and Craig exposed more of the sunken space’s wood-beamed ceiling and brick and rock walls, and built the assortment of high and low tables (some of the latter at windows overlooking the alley). The copper-topped bar from Brooklyn Nights remains, and is being extended as a penny bar into a formerly closed-off rear space for additional seating.

As busy as they’ve been with all that, they’ve been just as busy brewing to fill up their 14 taps.

On the lighter side, there’s a crisp, filtered American-style wheat beer (5.5 percent alcohol by volume) and a pair of lagers – a Bohemian pilsner (5.6) and a German festbier (5.8) – with delicate but substantial malt characters. An amber (5.9) is lightly toffee-sweet in the middle but finishes dry and roasty.

The standard saison (6.2), earthy and increasingly citrusy as it opens up, is brewed with rye, oats and wheat. There’s also a wheat version (6.5) conditioned on Oregon strawberry puree for a clean, balanced berry flavor.  

Hoppier beers tend to the fruit-forward, including a pale ale hopped with orange-accented Mandarina Bavaria (5.5); a bright Belgian spring IPA with a subdued yeast character (6.2); a single-hop Mosaic IPA with citrus and blueberry notes (6.7); and the flagship Coast to Coast (6.4), a soft, hazy, juicy New England-style IPA with a bit of West Coast bitterness. Adventurous palates will enjoy the aggressively spicy rye IPA (6.5) and a sweeter, more resinous imperial (8.8).   

Maybe most distinctive is the espresso milk stout, conditioned on bourbon-soaked vanilla beans and blended with cold brew Anvil coffee. With a huge coffee nose and more balanced, smooth flavor from lots of chocolate malt, it drinks far easier than its 7.1 percent ABV.  

That and the Coast to Coast will be mainstays, with a rotating selection of other styles. The final tap is filled by a cider, currently the huckleberry from One Tree, which plans to open a tasting room this summer around the corner at 111 S. Madison.

There’s also a limited (for now) wine selection and non-alcoholic options including soda and sparkling water.  

Whistle Punk will celebrate its grand opening starting next Tuesday for Spokane Craft Beer Week, building up to the release of a big, barrel-aged imperial stout on Friday.

Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 3 to 10. Food is available from the neighboring Texas True BBQ.      

Reuben’s arrives in Spokane

One of Seattle’s most buzzed-about breweries has officially launched in Spokane.

Reuben’s Brews kicks off its entry into the local market – the first time the beers have been regularly distributed beyond Seattle – with events today at 6 p.m. at The Lantern Tap House and The Blackbird, and on Friday at 5 at Pints Alehouse and at 6 at Nectar Wine and Beer.

“It was always in our plan, but we never had any beer (to sell outside Seattle),” says Reuben’s founder Adam Robbings.

That started to change with a brewery addition in 2015 that doubled production from 2,800 barrels then to 5,700 last year. Further expansion has increased capacity to around 12,000 barrels per year (about the size of Spokane’s largest brewery, No-Li).

Now Rueben’s has the ability to begin selling beer here, and in Portland in June – which Robbings says is just right.

“We want to be a Northwest brewery that doesn’t have any illusions of grandeur of being anything bigger than that,” he says. “But we want to be doing things the right way so that we’re known nationally and internationally.”  

Reuben’s has earned a reputation from more than 100 awards in regional, national and international competitions over its almost five years of existence, the most of any Washington brewery during that time.

Those have come for beers ranging from sours to stouts, pilsners to IPAs. All are carefully crafted, with more than half a dozen yeast varieties at work in the brewery at any one time and a separate water chemistry profile for each beer.

“I think a lot of our strength is in our diversity,” Robbings says. “We don’t think, what’s our house yeast strain, what’s our house base malt? We think, how do we want this beer to taste? That makes all of our beers uniquely different.”

While the Crikey IPA (the name a nod to Robbings’ British heritage) accounts for more than 40 percent of production, Reuben’s has been attracting attention for its Gose, a tart, German-style wheat beer that won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival the past two years.

That was originally brewed for Reuben’s third anniversary in 2015. “We had never done any kettle souring, so it was a project I could totally get immersed in,” Robbings says. “My mind works well doing new things. We want to be doing new things all the time and challenging ourselves.”

To that end, he recently bought a warehouse that will be devoted to the production of longer-range barrel-aged sours.

Along with the Crikey and Gose, those attending the various Spokane events today and tomorrow will be treated to the likes of Kentucky Common (a dark rye sour), Pilsner, sessionable Daily Pale, Robust Porter and Bourbon Barrel Breakfast Stout, along with several other IPAs: the seasonal Summer, single-hop Azacca, New England-style Mosaic Crush and imperial Expat.

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