You might think Steve Ewan named his new Spokane Valley brewery Hopped Up for his love of hoppy beers.
Or you might suspect it has something to do with his other passion, for classic and muscle cars. Or the origins of his building across from University City Mall as an IHOP.
In any case, you’d be right.
“I like having a theme for the brewery, but I didn’t want a single theme,” said Ewan, who opened for business this week. “It’s real versatile. I’ll be making a lot of different beers.”
While the first impression of the place is IHOP’s iconic A-frame architecture, inside it’s been remodeled into a bright, inviting taproom with open-beam ceilings. The signature décor is a large concrete slab in the shape of a foaming mug behind the bar.
On a shelf above sit some pieces of Spokane brewing history: a wooden box that once held Gilt Top beer (“the kind your neighbor drinks”), a Bohemian Brewing bottle and keg.
Back in the brewery is another artifact – the original 12-barrel electric brew kettle from Hale’s Ales when it was founded 30 years ago in Colville, nicknamed “Noah’s Ark” because of its shape and wooden siding.
Mark Irvin launched his Northern Lights Brewing (now No-Li Brewhouse) in 1993 using the old Hale’s brewhouse. Ewan, who’s been home-brewing for 15 years, bought the system from Irvin 10 years ago, when he began planning to go pro.
“I told everybody I was going to start a microbrewery, and they’d go, ‘Oh, yeah, sure,’ ” said Ewan, a longtime welder in the auto collision/restoration trade.
Last fall, he finally found the right location and took the plunge, buying the 1971-vintage structure that housed an auto dealership after its restaurant days. It’s an appropriate setting, since Ewan graduated from University High School and lives nearby.
The business is a family affair, along with wife Sue and daughters Amanda Sue and Annette, the self-described “brew-istas.” They’ll also be serving beer-steamed hot dogs and some snacks.
While Ewan still is getting the hang of converting his homebrew recipes to big batches – “I’ve got the flavors down,” he said, “I need to work on the body” – the early results are promising.
His easy-drinking Quality Cream (5 percent alcohol by volume, 13 International Bitterness Units) shows some malt sweetness in the middle before finishing crisp and clean. A limited-edition Raspberry Champale version, fermented with homegrown berries, is nicely tart.
Fender Bender Brown (4.1, 26) is flavorful for a lower-alcohol beer, with roasty notes from chocolate and black malts. Also on the lighter side is a dry, roasty Gidget’s Black Stout (4.9, 32).
Perhaps the most impressive offering is the rich, chocolaty High Performance Porter (6.0, 34), with its complex layers of flavor.
Hops start to make their presence felt in the Overload (8.3, 55), a sort of imperial amber that borders on India pale ale territory.
While some IPAs are on the way, don’t expect any hop bombs.
“I like a nice, malty IPA with a floral character, so that’s what I tend to brew,” said Ewan, who grows some of his hops at home.
Among his 10 handles are two nitro taps that use a mixture of nitrogen and the typical carbon dioxide, contributing a creamy mouthfeel and rounded flavors to lighter beers like the cream ale and darker ones like the stout.
And if “nitro” makes you think of drag racing, well, maybe you’re starting to get into the Hopped Up spirit.
Another brewery is also coming to the Valley. Hanson Brothers Brewing plans to begin operations in Newman Lake this fall as a three-barrel distribution nanobrewery, with a downtown Spokane tasting room to follow.
• Original brewer Doug Martindale is back at BiPlane Brewing in Post Falls and expects to reopen Tuesday following a temporary closure.
The Steam Plant’s new summer offering is a dry Citron Saison (4.5 percent ABV), brewed with wheat, lemon zest and Belgian yeast, that starts out lemony and slightly spicy before finishing clean and a bit bitter.
The first in a new line of seasonals from the former Golden Hills Brewing in Airway Heights – now renamed Orlison – is a light (4.1 percent) pilsner dubbed Havanüther. We’ll have more on both the rebranding and the beers next month.
And Trickster’s in Coeur d’Alene will unveil a new year-round “mystery beer” today at 4 p.m., with $3 pints all night.
Four North Idaho breweries took home medals from the North American Beer Awards, presented June 1 at the Mountain Brewers Beer Fest in Idaho Falls.
Post Falls’ Belgian-style Selkirk Abbey won golds for its Deacon pale ale and St. Augustine rye saison, while MickDuff’s in Sandpoint earned a gold for its Irish Red Head and a silver for Strom Hammer IPA.
Walking away with bronzes were Laughing Dog out of Ponderay for its Huckleberry Cream Ale, and Kootenai River Brewing from Bonners Ferry for its Rye Ale.
• No-Li is one of 76 small and independent craft breweries selected to participate in this weekend’s SAVOR beer and food event in New York City, presented by the Brewers Association.
Selkirk Abbey will celebrate its first anniversary June 29 from noon to 7 p.m. with live music, sandwiches from Big Bear Deli and the debut of the big, rich St. Joseph imperial saison.
The brewery, which is doubling its capacity to a 15-barrel system, also will sell the first of its bottled beers at the bash. The 22-ounce bombers will begin rolling out to stores next month.
Meanwhile, Selkirk’s sister brewery, Laughing Dog, will release its IPA and 219-er pilsner in cans in mid- to late July – the first area brewery to join the growing aluminum revolution.
Mark your calendars for these events featuring local breweries, and look for more details in a future On Tap:
• Spokane on the Rocks: Craft distillery and beer tasting, live music and food. June 29, Spokane Convention Center/INB Performing Arts Center ( www.spokaneontherocks.com).
• Bikes, Brews & BBQs: Motocross show, beer tasting, barbecue competition, food trucks, family entertainment. June 29, Kootenai County Fairgrounds, Coeur d’Alene ( bikesbrewsbbqs.com).