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On Tap: Arbor Crest winery caters to beer crowd

The inspiration behind Arbor Crest’s house-brewed beers: this old square-wheel tractor invented by Royal Riblet. (File)
The inspiration behind Arbor Crest’s house-brewed beers: this old square-wheel tractor invented by Royal Riblet. (File)

Arbor Crest should soon be pouring some house-brewed beers to accompany its award- winning wines.

Square Wheel Brewing, named after a historic tractor at the winery’s Cliff House Estate in the Spokane Valley, will launch as soon as all permits are in place, possibly later this month.

“Many of our customers who come up for concerts and other events just don’t drink wine,” said general manager Jim van Loben Sels. “You’ve got to look at every way to increase your sales.”

Arbor Crest received its brewing license in 2012, but the project got put on hold for lack of time and resources. It took off again when van Loben Sels’ brother-in-law, John Mielke, agreed to take over the brewing operation.

Mielke, who’s been brewing for a couple of years, is putting together a five-barrel brewhouse but is working for now off a smaller pilot system. He plans three initial styles – blonde, red and IPA – with some seasonals to possibly come later.

“We’re just going to start slow and get a feel for how it’s going to go,” Mielke said.

The Cliff House tasting room has been able to sell bottled beers from other producers under a snack bar license. The restaurant license required to serve draft beer also will allow Arbor Crest to prepare food on-site and offer tableside service on the patio.

“We thought we would have everything ready to go for the start of the season,” van Loben Sels said. “We’ve been producing beer; we just can’t sell it up here.”

Pints will be priced as a premium experience, at around $8. “We don’t want people to come up here and think it’s a beer pub,” van Loben Sels said. “We want to sell wine first, and have beer as an add-on.”

And while he’s waiting to see how beer sales affect the atmosphere at the Cliff House, he said, “If it folds in seamlessly, there’s no reason not to do it.”

Brewery watch

• Badass Backyard Brewing in Millwood has set its grand opening for Aug. 1 from 2 to 8 p.m. The home-based operation, with a tiny 10-gallon brewing system, plans to open the first Saturday of each month and eventually add the third Saturdays, with growler fills by appointment at other times.

• Downtown Spokane’s planned brewery incubator project, with space for five startup breweries, is moving from the former public market on East Second to the historic Luminaria Building, 154 S. Madison St. An attached taproom is expected to open by October, serving guest beers, wine and spirits, with the brewery operation to follow.

• Bombastic Brewing is working toward a winter opening at the Panhandle Area Council business incubator at the Coeur d’Alene Airport in Hayden. It will contract with other breweries to produce its regular beers, with a smaller in-house system to create specialty offerings for limited bottle release.

• Ramblin’ Road has closed its taproom for renovations. It expects to reopen by the end of summer, and continues to produce beer for barrel-aging in its wild and sour program in the meantime.

Freshly tapped

• The new version of River City’s sessionable Afternoon IPA (4.9 percent alcohol by volume, 65 International Bitterness Units) is hopped with Amarillo, Equinox and Centennial for citrusy, tropical fruitiness with spicy, earthy undertones.

• Slate Creek also has released a session IPA called Camp Chair Summer Ale (4.9, 42).

• At the other end of the spectrum, Perry Street’s new Double IPA (9.5, 95) is smooth and fruity from a combination of Citra, Equinox, Centennial and Cascade.

• Tin Roof IPA (6, 72), with a pronounced, complex hop character from Summit, Zythos, Willamette and Columbus, has joined the regular lineup at recently opened Bennidito’s Brewpub.

• Twelve String’s Harmonic Hefeweizen (5.1, 24), a straightforward interpretation of the traditional unfiltered German wheat beer, has a citrusy orange character and hints of banana and clove.

• Waddell’s offers another German classic with its light, crisp Krushin’ the Kolsch (4.8, 20).

• Red Rover (5.5, 19) at New Boundary in Cheney is a malt-forward Irish-style ale with strong toffee notes.

Save the date

• River City’s Christmas in July celebration Saturday starting at 3 p.m. will feature eight hearty styles from the past winter, including limited quantities of Congratulator Eisbock and Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (one 8-ounce pour per person of each, as supplies last). Bring in a new, boxed toy for Toys For Tots and get a coupon for $2 off a regular pint.

Send beer news, comments and questions to senior correspondent Rick Bonino at
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