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Running Tab: No-Li Brewhouse learns from past, lives in present, looks to future

Owner Cindy Bryant, chef Avont Grant and owner John Bryant at No-Li Brewhouse on May 5. (Don  Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)
Owner Cindy Bryant, chef Avont Grant and owner John Bryant at No-Li Brewhouse on May 5. (Don Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)

When you first meet No-Li Brewhouse owners John and Cindy Bryant, they are genuinely warm and friendly, without being overbearing, and you quickly learn that they absolutely love running their local and family-owned brewery.

During this coronavirus pandemic, No-Li Brewhouse has stayed busy raising $40,000 to aid COVID-19 efforts, donating 1,100 meals to schoolchildren and releasing a new flavor of its hard seltzer line Day Fade, and No-Li Brewhouse continues to contribute to its community, the Logan Neighborhood.

“Together we raised over $40,000, and the No-Li Kitchen rallied to create over 1,100 nutritious and hand-packed meals,” No-Li Brewhouse chef Avont Grant said in a news release. “This is the spirit of community. These funds go directly to providing daily nutritious meals and financial support to those on the fringes.”

“It was really fun, and it was a great opportunity for my back-of-the-house team to give back to the community,” Grant said during an interview at No-Li Brewhouse on May 5. “It’s what No-Li Brewhouse is all about. It was an opportunity to give back to a community that has given to me.”

“When the government said they were shutting down schools, I said, ‘We need to feed these kids because they’re not going to have food for a week until the school district kicks in,’ ” said Cindy Bryant, also at No-Li Brewhouse on May 5. In fact, there were enough meals to feed families from other school districts and neighborhoods, John Bryant, sitting next to his wife, added.

No-Li Brewhouse, working with Big Table, Spokane Food Fighters, Logan Elementary, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, Ultimate Bagel (who also donated meals) and Zome Design, raised the money along with supplying the meals.

No-Li Brewhouse, meanwhile, continues to run its daily business as best and as much as possible. While offering a limited takeout menu, No-Li Brewhouse launched a new flavor of its Day Fade Hard Seltzer this month: mango.

Two Day Fade Hard Seltzer flavors were launched in early 2019 – huckleberry and Rainier cherry – while new flavor mango has now become Cindy Bryant’s favorite.

“Creating our first hard seltzers was two years in the making,” John Bryant said. “You use a completely different yeast, and you really need a lot of analytical and laboratory support. Everything must be super pure and sterile all the way through. Every aspect of the brewery needs to be sanitized, and it has improved our products.”

Since the launch of the hard seltzers, huckleberry has remained, as the flavor is popular and the fruit indigenous to this area, but in the last month Rainier cherry became black cherry, and mango was launched. People are really enjoying the mango hard seltzer, the Bryants said. “I like these three flavors, and we’ll see where it goes,” John Bryant said.

After opening in 2012, No-Li Brewhouse was severely damaged in 2015 by a windstorm, followed by a freezing snowstorm, and the lessons learned from that challenge, including being careful with all expenditures, have carried over to present day.

“Early on, it is easy to feel sorry for yourself like all of us right now, but when we went to Logan and watched Avont’s crew give back … that was motivating,” John Bryant said. “It’s easy to get down in this environment. Through this process, it gives you new hope and inspiration.”

“We have our family, and we have this business and community engagement, and that is what brings us joy. We learned from the windstorm from that point forward we have to be more diligent and prepared for anything because it could happen again – and it did with this pandemic. It is painful for many people, but we can get through this.”

Along with running a business in the community, Cindy Bryant reiterates why it is important for No-Li Brewhouse to give back to the community:

“Logan is our community. During the quarantine, No-Li has been all about community and what it means to be local. We appreciate all the locals who have shown up and ordered takeout, growlers of beer and hard seltzer to go,” said Bryant, who substitute teaches and volunteers at Logan Elementary, as well as acts as a court-appointed special advocate for foster children in the system.

“People have shown their support by purchasing Stay Strong Together T-shirts that have directly funded Big Table and Spokane Food Fighters, Riccelli’s nonprofit. We live in a community who cares and supports one another.”

My first visit to No-Li Brewhouse was last June with a co-worker, and it stands as one of my favorite memories from my first year back in Spokane. The outdoor back patio next to the river was an exemplary way to spend a warm evening, and the elevated food and spirits were a perfect pairing.

“I look forward to seeing people smile again while enjoying their food here,” Grant said. “Feeding people makes me happy, and the kitchen is my happy place. And people need to try our new halibut sandwich!”

“It will be nice to have a nice night out again by the river,” Cindy Bryant said. “It will be nice to get everyone back together again,” John Bryant added.

After meeting John and Cindy Bryant and Avont Grant, it all makes sense now why I felt the love, food and spirits at the proudly family-owned No-Li Brewhouse.

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