For Matt Morrow, it’s like Christmas in … well, December.
Morrow had hoped to have his Trickster’s Brewing Co. in Coeur d’Alene up and running by July, if not sooner. But license and permit delays kept pushing the date back.
When Trickster’s finally opened its doors Dec. 1, the Lake City welcomed its first brewery since Coeur d’Alene Brewing closed two years ago.
“It’s been a long 12 months,” Morrow said. “I wanted to walk away more than a couple of times, but I had so much into it. I was past the point of no return a long time ago.”
Morrow, 27, grew up in Tulsa but relocated to Colorado, where he discovered the two loves of his life: his wife, Emily, and brewing beer.
He began his professional career washing kegs at Ska Brewing in Durango, working his way up to assistant brewer during his three years there while also finishing a degree in philosophy and business. After a brief, unpleasant stint as a head brewer elsewhere, he decided to open his own place and started searching for a location.
When his father noticed a news story about Coeur d’Alene Brewing’s closure, Morrow checked out the demographics and liked what he saw. “I was looking for a college town or a tourist town, and this was both,” he said.
Morrow came up for a visit during Car d’Lane last year. Before long he had leased space in the Commerce Park of Coeur d’Alene and was assembling a sleek 8.5-barrel brewhouse manufactured in China by Zhongde (he’s also their regional distributor).
The adjoining taproom is more homespun, with handmade tables, chairs and base for the concrete-topped bar. “I tried to put as much personal touch into everything as possible,” Morrow said.
That includes the brewery’s name, a nod to a key figure in Native American folklore. While the trickster takes the form of a raven in Morrow’s Choctaw heritage, for a logo he’s opted for the coyote common to the Kootenai and other tribes: “It’s a little easier to humanize.”
The personal touch also is evident in the three beers on tap so far. Cougar Bay Blonde (5 percent alcohol by volume, 37 International Bitterness Units) is crisp and biscuity, with a distinctive, earthy hop character from Fuggles and Northern Brewer.
Coyote Morning IPA (5.9, 55) is fragrant from Nugget, Liberty and Cascade hops, with spicy, citrusy flavors floating on a fairly light malt body. Both the alcohol and bitterness are on the subdued side compared to increasingly aggressive American interpretations of the traditional British style.
“With all of the beers here, I’m looking for balance,” Morrow said. “I like to drink my beers, not get hammered on them.”
His favorite, and the early crowd-pleaser, is the Bear Trap Brown (5.3, 29), with a rather dry, chocolaty maltiness accented by the same hops used in the IPA.
Being between Montana, with its Moose Drool, and hop-loving Washington, Morrow said, “OK, let’s make a hoppy brown.”
He hopes to get established in Coeur d’Alene, then expand distribution into Boise and eventually Spokane. The beers should start showing up in 12-ounce bottles in a couple of months, with cans likely to follow at some point.
“It makes sense, with the lake. It’s better for camping, better for hunting,” said Morrow, an avid outdoorsman.
He has a range of seasonals in mind down the road: coffee stout for winter, pale ale for spring, Kolsch for summer followed by a Vienna lager leading into an Oktoberfest.
Next up, due around Christmas, is a fourth year-round offering, an amber ale based on Morrow’s longtime go-to recipe.
Except now it has a new name, a tribute to Trickster’s trials and tribulations: Inspector Stonewall.
Let it flow
Along with the snow, winter seasonal beers have started arriving from area breweries.
No-Li’s renamed Winter Warmer (7.5 ABV, 55 IBUs) is the usual blend of complex hoppiness over a bright, toffeeish malt body, with a twist: Northern Brewer substitutes for the former Chinook, lending grassy, minty notes.
The rich, malty 12 Strings of Winter (7.0, 46) at Twelve String shows subtle signs of sweet orange peel, Balinese vanilla bean and cinnamon as it works its way to a dry finish. A bigger malt bomb, the 10° from Selkirk Abbey in Post Falls (10.0, 40), is full of fruity, spicy, candyish flavors in the Belgian quadrupel style.
Budge Brothers and Iron Goat, near-neighbors in northeast Spokane, each is offering a hearty stout in the 9-percent range: The 13th Reindeer, an eggnog version made with milk sugar and holiday spices, at Budge and a roasty Russian imperial at the Goat.
Spokane’s Steam Plant is keeping its popular pumpkin ale through the holidays, while BiPlane in Post Falls is preparing a bourbon barrel porter for Christmas. In the meantime, there’s a Viking-style ale brewed with heather and gale instead of hops.
MickDuff’s in Sandpoint has a huge Mountain Stoat Imperial Stout (11.8, 75), named after the short-tailed weasels that hang out at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, that’s aged in oak bourbon barrels.
Laughing Dog’s Cold Nose, widely distributed in previous winters, is available only at the Sandpoint-area brewery this year in limited bottles and on tap. On the way for end-of-the-world Dec. 21 festivities is 14 Dogs of the Apocalypse (which is what it takes to equal four horses, according to owner Fred Colby).
Look for it on draft at the brewery and select accounts – assuming we all survive, anyway.
• Twelve String is celebrating its first year of operation with an Anniversary Ale double IPA (9.0, 100). On tap at the tasting room, it also will be featured in release parties tonight from 6 to 9 at Pints Alehouse, 10111 N. Newport Highway, and Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Hop Shop, 3803 S. Grand Blvd., joined by a cask-conditioned 12 Strings of Winter and barrel-aged Blackberry Stout.
• Six beers from Iron Goat will be pouring at Post Street Ale House, 1 N. Post St., from Thursday through Sunday.
• Spokane’s newly licensed Ramblin’ Road Craft Brewery has secured the first commercial account for its Belgian-style beers. Look for the spicy Saison later this month at Manito Tap House, 3011 S. Grand Blvd.
And Selkirk Abbey hopes to begin distributing its Belgians in Spokane next month. Speaking of anniversaries, it’s already aging an undisclosed first-anniversary beer; mark your calendar for June 29, 2013.