The Inland Northwest Ale Trail is turning into a highway.
Given the rapid growth in area breweries, the new 2014-2015 map lists 27 stops – up from last year’s 16 – stretching from Yakima to the west to Wallace to the east.
The trail made a mark in its first year, with almost all of the 30,000 maps distributed throughout the region last summer having been picked up by now. “It certainly raised awareness that we were all here and making good beer,” said Iron Goat’s Heather Brandt, one of the organizers.
The new version rolls out starting the first week of August at breweries and sponsors listed on the map, as well as the Spokane Visitor Information Center in River Park Square and many area hotels. A series of kickoff events is scheduled at local alehouses (see information box for details).
Once again, people stopping at breweries along the way can earn a 32-ounce mini-growler (known as a “grunt”) bearing the Ale Trail logo. To do that, they’ll need their map stamped at 12 locations, up from last year’s 10.
If you don’t want to do the driving yourself – which may be wise, depending on your day’s itinerary – Ale Trail tours are available through Spokane Limo Bus (spokanelimobus.com), Spokane Party Bus (spokanepartybus.com) and Group Coordinators (groupcoordinators.com).
• Waddell’s Brewpub, one of the Ale Trail newcomers, boosted its roster of house offerings to nine with two new beers: a traditional Vienna lager (5 percent alcohol by volume, 22 International Bitterness Units) with a soft malt character (which will get bumped up a bit in future batches) and a spicy finish from Tettnanger hops; and a more adventurous Smokey the Beer Porter (5.8, 49) with a subtle smokiness from cherrywood-smoked malt and a long, dry, somewhat astringent finish (which will get dialed down a bit).
• Ramblin’ Road, which recently released a Belgian Wit (wheat beer) made with chamomile, used more of that yeast for a Honey Wit (5.5, 12) which gets its deep amber color and slight sweetness from honey malt, and a distinctively spicy finish from star anise.
• No-Li’s first attempt at a Belgian style is well worth checking out. The draft-only Aksel (7.9, 50) – a popular Belgian boy’s name – is a rich, dark, strong saison with fruit and spice notes, and a hint of tartness.
Meanwhile, the latest addition to No-Li’s year-round lineup, the Rise & Grind oat/coffee/milk stout (6.1, 22), has started rolling out in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles.
Save the date
Mark your calendar, and look for more details in future columns:
• Laughing Dog will celebrate its ninth anniversary Aug. 23 at the brewery in Ponderay, Idaho (just north of Sandpoint). This year’s anniversary beer is a Belgian tripel aged in chardonnay barrels.
• No-Li is again offering a dozen barrel-aged, experimental and infused selections in its second Small Batch Festival on Aug. 23, along with a special bottled release: Wrecking Ball imperial stout aged in Dry Fly triticale whiskey barrels. Tickets are $20 in advance or $27 at the door, as available (the first festival in April sold out in 45 minutes); see NoLi12.eventbrite.com.
• The Inland NW Craft Beer Festival on Sept. 26-27 is moving from its previous home at Riverfront Park to Avista Stadium (and its abundant parking). For ticket information, keep an eye on washingtonbeer.com/ inlandnwcraftbeerfestival.