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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A killer debut

Rick Bonino

After years of priming, Bombastic Brewing is about to drop.

North Idaho’s newest brewery arrives Thursday with a release party at Enoteca in Post Falls starting at 5, featuring Attempted Murder vanilla-cinnamon stout and a Citra-hopped pale dubbed Puddle.

It’s the three-year-old project of three avowed beer geeks: former Enoteca owner Russell Mann, who brings business savvy; railroad engineer Phil Hottenstein, who handles marketing; and Matt Skillicorn, a mechanical engineer and longtime homebrewer. Between them, they’ve sampled beers from every state in the U.S. and drank their way through Europe.    

“Our slogan is ‘We know beer,’ and we honestly do,” says Hottenstein, who stars in a “How to Be Bombastic” video series on everything from the best tool for opening a beer to choosing the right glassware and pouring it properly.

There’s also plenty of playful attitude. Beers take their names from groupings of various animals (except for eventual barrel-aged offerings, which will honor assorted deities). Stark but intricate black-and-white label designs come from Hottenstein’s former tattoo artist.

Attempted Murder is a variation on Bombastic’s standard stout recipe, Murder (named after a group of crows), which includes vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, Ancho chilies and cayenne. Since it’s missing those latter three ingredients, it’s “almost Murder”; its label pictures two evil-looking crows, but not the knifed crow corpse they’re standing over on the regular Murder label.

With intense cinnamon balancing the vanilla sweetness, it’s quite approachable for its hefty 10 percent alcohol by volume. On the opposite end of the scale comes Puddle (platypuses), an easy drinker at 5.5 percent ABV.

“We tend to do the biggest beers we can, but we realize everybody isn’t about that,” Hottenstein says. “A beer like Puddle is a good entry point. It allows people to start going up our ladder of beers.”

Other offerings in the works include an IPA, Wisdom (wombats), which opens with the soft juiciness of the New England style followed by a decidedly West Coast hop kick; and an imperial porter dubbed Sleuth (bears), brewed with dark wheat malt and honey for a roasty aroma and smooth flavor.

For now, everything is made on a half-barrel pilot system in the Panhandle Area Business Council incubator at the Hayden airport. While that’s intended for small-batch specialties, negotiations are underway to rent excess capacity at established area breweries for larger-scale offerings – the sort of so-called “gypsy” brewing done by such creative cult favorites as Mikkeller and Evil Twin.

Initial batches are being split between a small keg or two for events like Enoteca’s and a limited run of 22-ounce bottles, which will be available only at the brewery. Bottle releases will be announced through Bombastic’s email list and website.

Hottenstein hopes those will eventually capture some of the excitement of similar release events at breweries in more sophisticated markets, which can draw folks from far away. “I’ve met many people standing in line to get beer that I’m still in contact with today,” he says.

“We want to grow the beer culture in the Spokane area,” Hottenstein says. “You’re going to see craft really taking hold here, brewers getting more experimental, pushing the envelope more. We want to be at the forefront of that.”