Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
A&E >  Food

Full Sail Has 10 Years Of Good Winds

By Rick Bonino The Spokesman-Revie

Ten years ago this September, the first Full Sail beer - a Golden Ale - was cooked up in a modest 15-barrel brew kettle.

To say that things have gone well since then would be an understatement. Today, the Hood River, Ore., brewery makes its beer in 230-barrel batches.

And in honor of its anniversary, Full Sail has come out with a revamped version of that original beer, a limited-edition Very Special Pale (V.S.P., for short) Golden Ale.

The V.S.P. has just arrived in our area in kegs, and should be available in bottles sometime next month.

“It’s what we started with, and we wanted to pay it tribute,” says Jamie Emmerson, Full Sail’s executive brewmaster. “We looked at it based on what we’ve learned over the past 10 years, and we’ve learned a lot.”

Actually, the idea for Full Sail originated in 1984, the year that Oregon’s first microbrewery, Bridgeport, was born. A group of partners in Portland wanted to start a microbrewery elsewhere in the state - maybe Eugene, or Ashland - but couldn’t find financing.

‘The reality was, unless your family had a half-million dollars to loan you, you were out of luck,” says marketing director Jerome Chicvara, a self-described wine snob-turned-beer lover who had moved from Chicago with hopes of opening a vineyard.

He and his partners were about ready to give up when they heard about an abandoned building in Hood River - “a nine-building fruit cannery full of pigeon (excrement),” as Chicvara puts it - and a state grant program for manufacturing projects in depressed timber areas.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Chicvara says. “The craft beer industry was ready to explode. And we showed up with bottled beer before anyone else (in Oregon).”

Full Sail also caught the wave of board-sailing interest that was sweeping the Columbia Gorge, particularly Hood River.

“People came here for the sailing scene, and we got to romance it,” Chicvara says. “We became to Hood River and board sailing what Red Stripe is to Jamaica.”

Even brewers from the bigger boys like Lucky and Blitz-Weinhard helped along the way, selling smaller breweries like Full Sail their old kegs and offering advice. “They knew we were bringing dignity back to beer,” Chicvara says.

Today, Full Sail is one of the big boys in the craft brewing world, producing an annual 80,000 barrels of beer, 100 times more than it made a decade ago.

But the philosophy hasn’t changed. Unlike some other overgrown microbreweries, Full Sail hasn’t switched to an automated, computerized brewing system like the mass-market brewers use.

“It’s still the human tongue, the human eye,” Chicvara says. “This is a hands-on, nose-in-the-hops, head-in-the-kettle brewing operation.”

And the beers haven’t gone mainstream either, adds Emmerson. “If anything, we’ve probably beefed them up with more alcohol, more hops,” he says.

That’s certainly true of the V.S.P., which I sampled on a recent visit to Hood River. While the color is similar to the regular Golden Ale, the body is bigger and richer, balanced by generous amounts of Centennial and Columbus hops.

Still, it’s not overly bitter, Emmerson believes. “There’s a lot of hop flavor, but not that real oily overhang that sticks with you for 10 minutes,” he says.

You should be able to taste for yourself soon.

Hopping around

On the local scene, Northern Lights plans to package on a limited basis its tasty Crystal Bitter in 22-ounce bottles by Aug. 1. Look for it in specialty stores at first; if all goes well, the Airway Heights brewery will add an automated bottling line and broader distribution. …

Bayou Brewing Co. last week launched the first of a planned series of monthly brewer’s dinners, with special menus paired with its brews; look for the next one Aug. 21. Also coming soon are new beers on the lighter (American lager) and heavier (stout) ends of the scale….

Birkebeiner Brewing Co. is offering $1 pints on Tuesdays, with its summery Bavarian-style wheat beer (think bananas and cloves) returning next month. …

At the other extreme, Casey’s Pub & Grill in Post Falls is hosting “Christmas in July” this Friday through Sunday, featuring aged kegs of Pyramid’s Snow Cap, Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Casey’s own raspberry-tinged Proprietor’s Reserve Barley Wine. …

Capone’s in Coeur d’Alene, meanwhile, has snagged some kegs of Lindeman’s Framboise, a raspberry-flavored Belgian wheat beer. Even if you don’t like American fruit beers, the Belgians are in a class by themselves, well worth checking out. …

An orange- and coriander-accented, Belgian-style white ale is due in early August at Solicitor’s Corner - marking the Spokane brewpub’s 100th batch of beer. …

And speaking of anniversaries, Bert Grant’s Yakima Brewing celebrated its 15th birthday on July 1. Grant is planning a new series of seasonal beers, starting in September with a Fresh Hop Ale using just-picked Cascades from Yakima-area fields.

Summer beer-eze

Among the newer, warm-weather beers that have been showing up in bottles: Portland Brewing’s Zigzag River Lager is light and smooth but still flavorful, thanks to some toasty Munich malt and aromatic Mount Hood and Tettnang hops.

Windsock Pale Ale, the latest bottled offering from Montana’s tiny Lang Creek Brewery, is fairly light-bodied for the style but lives up to Lang’s traditional hoppiness, with a lingering, floral finish.

Deschutes’ Cascade Golden Ale isn’t really new, but the recipe has changed, with herbal, spicy Saaz hops replacing the more bitter, fruity Cascades.

Redhook’s relatively bland Blonde Ale tastes more like something you’d expect from the brewery’s big business brother, Anheuser-Busch. It’s not a bad beer, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m drinking one of those imitation Michelob micros.

, DataTimes MEMO: On Tap is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: On Tap, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5446, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rick Bonino The Spokesman-Review

On Tap is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: On Tap, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5446, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rick Bonino The Spokesman-Review

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.

Asking the right questions of your CBD company

Bluegrass Hemp Oil in Spokane Valley offers a variety of products that can be very effective for helping with some health conditions. (Courtesy BHO)

If you are like most CBD (cannabidiol) curious consumers, you’ve heard CBD can help with many ailments.