Spokane’s fall beer festival has a new name to match its new energy.
The former Spokane Oktoberfest is now the Inland NW Craft Beer Festival, returning to Riverfront Park on Sept. 27-28.
It’s an indication of just how far the local beer culture has come, said Eric Radovich, executive director of the sponsoring Washington Beer Commission.
“We felt when we started the event (in 2010) that people in the Inland Northwest might not be quite ready for the craft beer scene, though there were a few breweries over there,” Radovich explained. “But we felt most folks were familiar with Oktoberfest, the party atmosphere, so we started that way in hopes of introducing people to craft beer. “
Last year, the lederhosen, bratwurst and oompah music gave way to barbecue and classic rock, though the Oktoberfest name remained. But given the rapid recent growth in area breweries and taphouses, Radovich said, “It was time for this event to join the rest of our (festivals) as a branded craft beer event.”
The name change also reflects a broader geographic focus. For the first time, two North Idaho breweries – Selkirk Abbey and Wallace Brewing – are part of the mix.
That’s a recognition of the cooperation across state lines that has led to the Inland Northwest Craft Brewers association and its newly launched Ale Trail project, said Radovich.
“It’s OK to serve some Idaho beers there,” he said. “They make good beer, too.”
And while half of last year’s two dozen breweries came from the West Side, this year, 19 of the 27 Washington participants hail from east of the Cascades.
Spokane-area breweries include Hopped Up, Iron Goat, No-Li, Orlison, Ramblin’ Road, River City, Steam Plant and Twelve String. They’re joined by Alpine, from Oroville; Bale Breaker, Yakima Valley; Hopping Frog, Newport; Icicle Creek, Leavenworth; Iron Horse, Ellensburg; Laht Neppur, Waitsburg; Northern Ales, Kettle Falls; Paradise Creek, Pullman; Republic Brewing; Riverport, Clarkston; and Yakima Craft Brewing.
Making the trip across the mountains are Diamond Knot, Dick’s, Elysian, Fremont, Georgetown, Northwest Brewing, Sound and Colorado-based New Belgium, which partners with Elysian on some beers.
Pumpkin beers are a particular focus of this year’s lineup, with around 15 expected, Radovich said. (Look for more details on the beer offerings in the next On Tap.)
“It’s just another way to keep things fresh,” he said. “We want to have something new to offer each year.”
Marketing the event has been a bit of a challenge. Attendance has inched up over the previous three years, but still has fallen short of the 3,000 ticket buyers that the commission needs to break even.
“I’d be surprised if this year we’re not in the black,” Radovich said. And given the city’s history of events like Bloomsday and Hoopfest, he’s hoping for bigger things down the road.
“Once it catches on,” he said, “the people of Spokane will come.”
Rest of the fests
There are two opportunities to taste a variety of beers in North Idaho on Saturday:
• Selkirk Abbey, Laughing Dog, Trickster’s, Slate Creek, Kootenai River and No-Li are pouring at Ales for the Trail, to benefit the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, from 1 to 7 p.m. in the lakeside parking lot of Beachouse Bar & Grill, 3204 E. Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.
Tickets include a stainless steel pint cup and five 6-ounce samples; $24 in advance at alesforthetrail.event brite.com or $30 at the door.
• At least nine breweries – including hometown BiPlane and Selkirk Abbey plus Wallace, Iron Horse, Northwest Brewing, Portland Brewing, Pyramid, Firestone Walker and Samuel Adams – are lined up for the River City Brewfest, from 2 to 8 p.m. at Nate’s New York Pizza, 920 N. Highway 41, Post Falls.
All-you-can drink tickets are $30, through rivercitybrewfest.event brite.com or at the gate (free admission for designated drivers).
• Also on Saturday in Spokane Valley, Hopped Up Brewing, 10421 E. Sprague Ave., will host a variety of visual artists and musicians from 4 to 8 p.m. for Hopped Up on Art, Music and Beer. Check out painting demonstrations, including a spray-can graffiti artist, and the new Blackberry Stout.
• The latest limited-edition release from River City Brewing is Riverkeeper Red (5.3 percent alcohol by volume, 38 International Bitterness Units), a hoppier version of the regular River City Red (5.6, 16).
It’s being served at tonight’s Dirty Martinis for Clean Water fundraiser (see spokaneriverkeeper.org) and will make its way around town, including a special event Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pints Alehouse, 10111 N. Newport Highway. A portion of proceeds from all sales benefits Spokane Riverkeeper, a nonprofit program protecting the Spokane River watershed.
• A single-hop Amarillo red ale (5 percent ABV, 60 IBUs) is the first offering in No-Li’s new draft-only Expo Series. It’s relatively dry and a bit roasty, with some grassy notes before the signature citrus/orange Amarillo character kicks in. Next up: the same recipe, but made with Simcoe hops.
• The Steam Plant will be pouring an aromatic LTD Pale Ale (6, 20) until the arrival of a traditional Oktoberfest lager around the end of next week.
• The Electric Slide Imperial IPA (8.3, 120) is back on tap at Twelve String, this time with Simcoe, Centennial and Citra hops in place of last year’s all-Calypso version.
A tequila barrel-aged Drop D Stout is scheduled to arrive by the time you read this, followed later by an imperial Mango Mambo given the same treatment. Also on the way are fresh-hop ales using newly harvested Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra cones from this year’s crop.
• Iron Goat has brewed a Spohop community fresh-hop ale from more than 60 pounds of various hop varieties contributed by customers, plus some from the brewery grounds. Look for it later next week along with a strong all-Centennial version, to be joined later by a lighter Citra rendition.
Eat your beer
No-Li is hosting a brewer’s dinner Sept. 25 with a menu crafted by new Executive Chef Branden Moreau, formerly of Manito Tap House.
It includes the debut of the brewery’s Summer Wheat aged in Dry Fly wheat whiskey barrels, accompanying sockeye salmon cakes, as well as a Crystal Bitter and prickly pear ice; wild boar bratwurst paired with Born & Raised IPA; and a brownie served with both Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout, and ice cream made with that beer.
Tickets are $40, including tax and tip. Call (509) 242-2739 for reservations.