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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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On Tap: Spokane Brewers Festival offers dozens of beers in one spot

It’s like turning the heart of the Inland Northwest Ale Trail into one big cul-de-sac.

The inaugural Spokane Brewers Festival, Friday and Saturday in the Spokane Arena parking lot, features 35 regional breweries and cideries along with food vendors and live music.

“There are so many craft breweries popping up all over the place and so much good beer out there,” said Matt Gibson, the Arena’s general manager. “We just wanted to create a fun event where you don’t have to pitch out a lot of money to come and have a good time.”

Like its inspiration, Portland’s venerable Oregon Brewers Festival, there’s no admission fee; you buy a tasting mug (good for both days) and pay for drink tokens as you go.

Gibson originally envisioned the event for October in conjunction with the Spokane Chiefs hockey season. But when those logistics didn’t work out, the planning accelerated to a summer schedule, with details taking shape over the past six weeks.

“I’m so happy it’s come together as well as it has,” said Gibson, who singles out Ale Trail and OBF organizers for their help and advice. “It really just amazes me that we’ve had such great feedback, participation and support from all these breweries.”

The lineup includes 18 of the 22 operating breweries in Spokane County: 238, Badass Backyard, Bellwether, Bennidito’s, Big Barn, Black Label, English Setter, Hopped Up, Iron Goat, Little Spokane, New Boundary, No-Li, Orlison, Perry Street, River City, Steam Plant, Waddell’s and Young Buck.

They’re joined by Eastern Washington’s Icicle (Leavenworth), Iron Horse (Ellensburg), Laht Neppur (Waitsburg), Northern (Kettle Falls), Paradise Creek (Pullman), St. Brigid’s and Ten Pin (Moses Lake), Top Frog (Newport) and Yakima Craft; North Idaho’s Downdraft and Post Falls (Post Falls), Rants & Raves (Moscow) and Slate Creek (Coeur d’Alene); two farther-flung breweries, 54-40 from Washougal, Washington, and Ordnance from Boardman, Oregon (who heard about the event through OBF organizers); and the cideries, D’s Wicked (Kennewick) and One Tree (Spokane Valley).

Each will start with two offerings on tap, with a third in reserve in case one of the others runs out. The beer list runs the gamut from fruit beers and sours to porters and stouts, with plenty of IPAs in between.

No-Li is bringing three beers prepared specially for the festival: Royal Slacker with double the orange and vanilla, a peach/cherry Cherry Bomb Big Juicy IPA and Mint Chocolate Chip Rise & Grind.

The real treat will be the opportunity to try several beers from smaller, more scattered brewers all in one place, Gibson said. “That’s what this is all about, seeing what they have to offer,” he said.

The first keg arrives by horse-drawn carriage for a pre-opening ceremony Friday around 2 p.m., with taps starting to pour at 3. There’s music by Carli Osaka at 3, Ragtag Romantics at 5 and River City Roots Band at 7, with Tyler Aker (noon), Lucas Brookbank Brown (2), Fat Lady (4), Working Spliffs (5:30) and Silver Treason (7:30) on Saturday.

Food will be provided by Azar’s and the Thai Lunch Box and Fork in the Road trucks, with additional treats from Black Fire Kettle Corn, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Pete & Belle’s Ice Cream.

Along with the beer and cider, River City is serving its root beer, which will be free for kids (allowed if accompanied by a parent) and designated drivers, and $1 per pour for other drinkers.

You also can bring your own food and nonalcoholic beverages, like water – which wouldn’t be a bad idea, since the asphalt will heat up fast from the forecast 90-degree temperatures. (There also will be drinkable water at the cup-rinsing stations, and bottled water for sale.)

Tents with attached misters should help keep things cool, Gibson said. Potted trees and shrubs are being brought in to “kind of green it up a little bit.”

While there’s been lots of interest on social media, Gibson isn’t quite sure what to expect attendancewise. But ever the optimist, he added: “As soon as we’re done with this, we’re going to turn around and start planning for next year.”

More ales and trails

The Spokane Brewers Festival isn’t the only game around the area this weekend. The fourth annual Ales for the Trail, on Saturday from 2 to 8 in Coeur d’Alene’s McEuen Park, will benefit the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation.

The 26 participating breweries are Idaho’s Boise Brewing, Daft Badger, Downdraft, Grand Teton, Laughing Dog, Mad Bomber, Kootenai River, Post Falls, Rants & Raves, Selkirk Abbey, Slate Creek and Trickster’s plus Eastern Washington’s Bale Breaker, No-Li, Orlison, Paradise Creek and River City; Montana’s Great Northern; and Ballast Point, Deschutes, Elysian, Georgetown, Goose Island, New Belgium, Ninkasi and 10 Barrel. North Idaho Cider also will be on hand.

Your first six 5-ounce drink tickets are included in the $30 admission (additional tickets $2 each). There also will be food trucks and live music. For advance tickets and more information see

Brewery watch

Laughing Dog is moving its taproom from the original location on Fontaine Drive in Ponderay, Idaho, to its new production facility on Schweitzer Plaza Drive; it reopens Aug. 27 for the brewery’s 11th anniversary party.

Twelve String’s new 22-ounce bottles have started arriving at area specialty stores as well as Yoke’s and Rosauers supermarkets.

Freshly tapped

Orlison’s latest large-batch ale is Boulder Garden Brown (6.1 percent alcohol by volume, 24 International Bitterness Units).

Big Jilm Imperial Porter (11, 35) is another heavy hitter from Post Falls Brewing.

Selkirk Abbey is pouring a new vintage of its 10° quadruple (9.8, 45), released every other year in rotation with the 12° Belgian strong dark.

Bellwether’s Honey Hop (8, 60) is a braggot IPA hopped with an assortment of American and English varieties.

The Truancy Double IPA (8.2, 87) at Bennidito’s Brewpub, a collaboration with Seattle’s Schooner Exact, stars Simcoe and Mosaic.

On the sour side, there’s a new Cherry Sour (6.3, 16) from Iron Goat and a Wild Strawberry Sour (4.4, 5) from the Steam Plant.

Little Spokane’s creamy, copper-colored Cool Hweat (it’s a “Family Guy” joke) is hop-forward and unfiltered (5.7, 43).

Save the date

Orlison’s community pint night Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m. benefits Liberty Park Child Development Center.

The Blackbird hosts a five-course River City brewer’s dinner Wednesday at 6:30. Cost is $60 (includes tax and tip); call (509) 392-4000.

Hopped Up presents its fourth annual Art, Music and Beer Festival on Aug. 20 with artist booths, food trucks and live bands.

Twenty breweries and three bands are on tap Aug. 20 for Silver Mountain’s annual Brewsfest.

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

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