Beer aficionados reap the benefits as retailers capitalize on liquor law
The privatization of Washington liquor sales has been a mixed bag for seekers of spirits, with prices running higher than the state-store days.
But beer drinkers are benefiting. Two retailers that came to town in the wake of Initiative 1183 – Good Spirits and Total Wine & More, both in North Spokane – are offering impressive bottled beer selections, plus taps for growler fills.
Good Spirits Five Mile, part of a regional chain based in Wenatchee, opened in September at 1804 W. Francis Ave. It carries about 800 beers (suggestions and requests welcome) at prices a little lower than typical supermarkets, in a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere.
There also are a half-dozen rotating growler taps. Offerings last week included IPAs from Boundary Bay and Lagunitas, along with Mac and Jack’s African Amber, Iron Horse Irish Death, Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues, and HUB Lager.
Half-gallon fills are regularly $16, or $14 during happy hour: Monday through Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m., and all day Sunday (containers are another $3). The Dale’s and HUB were on sale for $10 to make room for incoming seasonals, with Deschutes Jubelale waiting in the wings.
Total Wine, in the Northpointe Shopping Plaza at 9980 N. Newport Highway, is the third Washington store for the 13-state, Maryland-based chain (a Spokane Valley outlet is on the way next year).
It’s a drinker’s Disneyland, with aisle after aisle of liquid delights. Navigating the 2,500 bottled beers, arranged by style and place of origin, is an initial challenge, but worth it; prices here are considerably lower, particularly for six-packs (there’s also a build-your-own option).
But bottles are only the beginning. A wide variety of kegs are available, with special orders accepted.
Or choose from among a dozen growler taps. Recent selections ranged from Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse to Laughing Dog’s 7th Anniversary Wee Heavy, Icicle Brewing’s Bootstrap IPA to Widmer’s Brrr and Ninkasi’s Sleigh’r.
Prices ranged from $6.99 to $12.99 for 64-ounce fills; liters also are available. You can buy the growlers themselves for $5.99 and $4.99, respectively.
Assistant manager Jeff Jordan, who oversees the store’s Brewery District, says he plans to bring in more local and regional selections; the growler list is regularly updated on the store’s Facebook page. Monthly tasting classes on various beer styles will begin in January.
One note: The bulk of the bottled beers are stored at room temperature instead of in coolers, which, depending on your degree of geekery, can be a red flag from a freshness standpoint.
Jordan says the store is kept cool enough to prevent problems, and that the stock will be carefully monitored for proper turnover.
Ready, set, brew
The latest scoop on breweries in progress around the area:
All permits finally in hand, Trickster’s in Coeur d’Alene is brewing like crazy to stock up for an anticipated early December opening.
Ramblin’ Road is on the verge of final approval to begin brewing at its Gonzaga-area location and should have limited amounts of its Belgian-style beers on the market next month. The full-scale brewhouse and tasting room are expected to follow next spring.
River City in downtown Spokane is in the final stages of the permitting process for its production brewery (no taproom planned).
Slate Creek, also awaiting permits, is renovating its taproom space in Coeur d’Alene with an eye toward opening early next year.
Moscow Brewing hopes to fire up the kettle in the next few weeks and could still be on track for a 2012 opening.
Chewelah-based Beljica Brewing now has bombers of its gluten-free Handle Hound Pale Ale available at Boots Bakery & Lounge and Halletts Market & Café; for further expansion keep an eye on www.beljicabrewing.com.
Knucklehead lost its planned Newman Lake location, but intends to regroup after the holidays.
C.I. Shenanigans also is looking for a home after closing its downtown restaurant last month; corporate officials say any new venture will continue to include a brewery.
More No-Li love
No-Li Brewhouse continues to bring home honors from overseas events.
Crystal Bitter – a gold-medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival, as well as Japan’s International Beer Competition – earned a bronze at Germany’s European Beer Star, that continent’s biggest beer competition with nearly 1,400 entries.
And both the Crystal and Silent Treatment Pale Ale took silver medals in Belgium’s Brussels Beer Challenge (500 entries).
The winter seasonals keep pouring in from the region’s larger breweries.
Bridgeport’s Ebenezer (6.4 percent alcohol by volume, 40 International Bitterness Units) is a somewhat lighter take on the traditional winter warmer, nutty and fruity with a slightly roasty finish.
Lighter still, at least in color, is Alaskan’s deep-golden Winter Ale (6.4, 27), a malty English-style old ale that gets sweet, floral notes from fresh Sitka spruce tips.
On the darker side, Full Sail’s LTD 06 lager (7.0, 34), a Czech-style black bock, combines flavors of chocolate, coffee, rye bread and dark fruit. New Belgium’s Snow Day (6.2, 55) is more of an American black ale (aka black IPA), full of earthy Styrian Golding hops and roasted malts.
Similarly hop-forward are a pair of personal favorites, Full Sail’s Wreck the Halls (6.5, 68) and Sierra Nevada’s Celebration (6.8, 65). You’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart from their reddish-amber hues, but Wreck balances its spicy, citrusy hops with a medium caramel maltiness, while the Celebration comes at you with piney Chinook hop bitterness over a drier, biscuity body.
And Big Sky’s Powder Hound (7.2, 60), once a more mild-mannered winter warmer, repeats last year’s reincarnation – lighter in color, heavier on alcohol, with a pronounced hop bite. Bad, er, good dog.
Twelve lords a-drinking
The annual 12 Ales of Christmas returns Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Capone’s Pub & Grill in Coeur d’Alene.
This year’s lineup features Celebration, Jubelale, Brrr, Sleigh’r and Snow Day along with Redhook Winterhook, Terminal Gravity Festivale, Laughing Dog Winter, Sam Adams Winter Lager, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, No-Li Winter and Pyramid’s Snow Cap and Super Snow Cap. (Yes, that’s 13; merry you-know-what.)
Your $40 ticket gets you beer samples, food, a T-shirt, entry into the Ugly Sweater Contest and, kudos to Capone’s, a free cab ride home (at least within Coeur d’Alene city limits; the meter starts running after that). Call (208) 667-4843.
On Tap appears the second Wednesday of each month in the Food section. Send beer news, comments and questions to freelance writer Rick Bonino at email@example.com.