Ben Lukes, and the South Hill, finally have a brewery to call their own.
On Thursday, the former Big Sky brewer opened Perry Street Brewing in Spokane’s burgeoning South Perry district, joining such beer-friendly neighbors as The Lantern Tap House, Casper Fry, The Shop and South Perry Pizza.
“The idea is to have a neighborhood pub with the freshest beer you’ll get,” Lukes said, “a gathering place where everybody knows each other and has a great time.”
With the rapid growth of breweries across the country, he added: “If there is another bubble, the places that survive will be the ones that have dug in locally and have community support.”
Lukes, 34, grew up in Missoula and got a photojournalism degree from the University of Montana. He began homebrewing in college and became immersed in craft beer culture while working for a small newspaper in the Portland area.
Deciding he’d rather brew beer than shoot photos for a living, he took classes through the American Brewers Guild. In 2006, he returned to Missoula for an internship with Big Sky Brewing that turned into a full-time job.
Over the next six years, Lukes worked in every facet of the operation, from cellaring to the brewhouse to the lab. He started dreaming of his own brewery, and when his wife, Christy, received a promotion allowing them to return to her hometown of Spokane, they began making that a reality.
The South Hill’s first brewpub, Perry Street shares new construction at the northeast corner of 11th and Perry. The exterior is covered with old barn wood. Inside, the feel is airy and industrial, with high ceilings, large windows, exposed ductwork and a reclaimed metal bartop.
A cozy corner space dubbed The Den has a vintage couch and chair and 1980s-era Frogger video game.
Hanging above the taproom is a custom metal chandelier, one of several such pieces on the premises. “We had local artisans come in and we gave them free rein,” Lukes said.
His approach to brewing is similarly creative, nurtured by his years with Big Sky. While many people know the brewery mostly for its Moose Drool brown ale, Lukes said, “They’re some of the most experimental brewers around. That’s the same thing I want to do – not limit myself, play around with everything I can.”
The opening lineup reflects that. The farmhouse-style Biere de Garde (6.2 percent alcohol by volume, 24 International Bitterness Units) is defined by French saison yeast, with fruity, slightly tart notes and a bone-dry finish.
A bready, lightly sweet English old ale (6.3, 35) is all about the biscuit malt, while a single-hop pale ale (5.4, 37) showcases a new variety, Azacca, with its citrusy, melonlike aroma and flavor.
There’s also a crisp Czech pilsner (5.0, 30); a bright, West Coast-style India pale ale (7.4, 77) with plenty of pine and citrus from Chinook and Centennial hops; and a traditional, sweet milk stout (5.7, 14) served through a nitrogen tap for extra creaminess.
Along with the beer, one of the eight taps is set aside for cold-brewed DOMA coffee. A small, appetizer-type menu is in the works; for heartier fare, food trucks will visit regularly, and South Perry Pizza will deliver most nights.
While the taproom will likely consume most of his production, Lukes plans to distribute beer to a handful of accounts around town, to build awareness.
“Part of the distribution plan is to have people from different parts of the city find this little district,” he said, “so we can continue to grow this area.”
• River City will introduce its spring seasonal Inconceivable Imperial Pilsner (7.3, 33) on Friday starting at 5 p.m. at The Lantern, 1004 S. Perry.
• The seasonal Irish Kate imperial red (7.7, 95), named after a prostitute who supposedly started the great Spokane fire of 1889, is back on at Iron Goat. Also look for the return of the mellow Lawnmower India session ale in the next week or so.
• The Steam Plant welcomes spring with another round of the fire-themed 1889 Imperial IPA (8.2, 80), due within the week.
• Waddell’s new dark, deeply malty Shattered Glass imperial IPA (9.3, 85) was brewed in cooperation with former backboard-breaking Gonzaga basketball star Casey Calvary. (No guarantee of a return trip to the Elite Eight this year, though.)
• In Coeur d’Alene, Trickster’s is pouring a piney, earthy Shape Shifter IPA (6.5, 65) that will likely replace the tamer Coyote Morning as the brewery’s regular take on the style.
• Mad Bomber in Hayden has added a rich, smooth, spicy Claymore double IPA (7.7, 92) made with all Chinook hops. Next up: a dark rye IPA, followed by an imperial porter.
• Belated first-anniversary wishes to Slate Creek in Coeur d’Alene. The tasty heather ale brewed for the occasion is long gone, but look for the return of the Fly’n Kilt Scotch soon.
• Pints Alehouse, 10111 N. Newport Highway, is celebrating its second anniversary Friday and Saturday by tapping some treats from the cellar. Doors open at 3 p.m. both days.