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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fourth time’s the barleywine

Rick Bonino

Since Twelve String’s Terry Hackler is an IPA guy, it’s no surprise his first three anniversary beers all were imperial versions of the style – regular, black and red, respectively.

But for the brewery’s fourth birthday party Sunday, Hackler cooked up a big barleywine and aged it for six months in Woodinville Whiskey barrels.

“We have a couple of customers who have been bugging me about making a barleywine forever,” he says. “I’m not a big barleywine fan, but I thought, let’s do it and throw it in barrels.”

While it came in at “a nice, easy-drinking 11 percent,” he adds, “It’s remarkably smooth. It doesn’t taste like 11 percent.”

Sunday’s celebration from noon to 5 p.m., with complimentary catered sliders and snacks from O’Doherty’s BBQ, will be one of your few opportunities to taste it.

Some of the four barrels’ worth will be sent to select accounts around the area through Click Distributing East, and the rest will be reserved for future events at the taproom.

Hackler expects it to continue to mature. “For a barleywine, six months isn’t very old,” he says.

Twelve String has continued to mature as well over the past year. Since signing with Click in September, distribution has close to tripled, to around 80 kegs per week, with North Idaho added to the market.

One of the top sellers is Batch 201 IPA, originally released in March. “I completely rethought how to do an IPA,” says Hackler. “It was intended as an experiment, but when we tasted the first batch, we went, wow!” 

It’s full of fruity late-addition Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe, some of the hottest (and priciest) hops around. “I don’t know if I’m making any money on that beer, but it’s extremely popular,” Hackler says.

Along with draft distribution, he plans to begin bottling a few varieties in 22-ounce bombers, probably around mid-March.

And more beer will be going into barrels, something Hackler has pioneered locally. His latest acquisition is eight Cruzan rum barrels, which he says have “way better aroma than the last batch of rum barrels I got.”

He’ll be putting more imperial coconut porter in those, and variations on a golden strong ale, such as a mojito version with lime and mint.

All the activity has stretched Twelve String to the limit. New tanks have boosted production capacity to around 2,000 barrels per year, but there’s no room for more growth at the current location.

That’s why Hackler last summer bought an abandoned former Waste Management office building on Pines Road north of Sprague, about two miles away from the brewery. He’s started demolition work but that’s on hold now until spring, with replacing a collapsed roof the first priority.

The 4,000-square-foot space will house the taproom and eventually a kitchen, with a private event room and a large outside patio. An adjoining brewery of similar size will be built in stages depending on demand.

In the meantime, Hackler says, “We’ll just continue to do what we’re doing, throwing some crazy beers out there and dreaming up new beers to put in barrels.”

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