Incubator Brewery/Steel Barrel Taproom
154 S. Madison Ave., Spokane, WA
Opened: June 2016
The story: This unique project combines a brewing system shared by budding commercial brewers who want to test the waters without having to open their own businesses (initially Little Spokane and Young Buck), an adjoining Steel Barrel taproom and the Zona Blanca ceviche bar by former “Top Chef” contestant Chad White.
The scene: The historic Luminaria building downtown has been remodeled into a mixture of industrial chic and English pub styles. Reclaimed wood tops the tables and bar, an old inverted mail bin serves as a chandelier and wall lighting fixtures were fashioned from former Kaiser Aluminum smelting ladles. The keg cooler is housed in an ornate safe that once stored fur coats, dating to the building’s past as a fur trading company. Shades of gray make up the color scheme, with a large Steel Barrel logo on the tile above the taps and beer signs lining the walls. The taproom and restaurant occupy the shorter end of the L-shaped space, with the larger room offering darts and shuffleboard on a table made from vintage bowling alley wood. Seating is at long and short high tables, with rail seating in the main room and a few chairs and benches near the bar. There’s also a spacious courtyard patio and room for a separate banquet space. The overall vibe is more like a bar than a typical brewery taproom, largely because of the hard liquor and later hours, and tends to attract a younger crowd.
Food: White, who has traveled extensively in Mexico and also owns restaurants in Tijuana and San Diego, serves up several varieties of ceviche (based around raw seafood cured in lime juice) along with other Mexican-themed dishes. No alcohol is allowed in the restaurant, which operates under a different license, and you pay separately there and in the taproom.
TVs: Two in the main room plus one over the bar.
Live music: None yet.
Specials: Happy hour daily from 3 to 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close with $1 off house-brewed beers, $3.50 well drinks and daily cocktail special.
Brewhouse size: Seven barrels
Beers: Along with a handful of rotating house offerings, there’s a carefully chosen selection of guest taps by local and other regional breweries; individual brewers are highlighted in occasional tap takeover nights. Six-ounce pours are available along with full pints.
Other options: Custom cocktails (with house-made simple syrups), cider and wine on tap.