Will the Predator try to kill Ted, Kathy, Millie and Ken as they enter No Li Brewery?
Perry Street Brewery
1025 S Perry St #2, Spokane, WA 99202
No Li Brewery
1003 E Trent Ave, Spokane, WA 99202
Iron Goat Brewery
2204 E Mallon Ave, Spokane, WA 99202
Laughing Dog Brewing
1109 Fontaine Dr. Ponderay ID 83852
(Though, in another spot on their site, they list it as Sandpoint)
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 20 years.
My oldest brother, Ted Carman, escaped to the west coast, and eventually Spokane, Washington, many moons ago, and now also has a cabin in Sandpoint, Idaho. Despite all my tours as an entertainer I have never been west of Texas, and haven’t seen my oldest brother since 2007, the brother who started my life’s adventure into music in the late 50s. So last week we flew out to Spokane via Seattle. What a great opportunity to see him, his wife, his grownup kids and discover…
Joking aside, what we did do had to be limited. Millie and I weren’t even sure if we were going to get out, and that if we didn’t, no big shakes. The object here was visiting family. Plus, Ted and Kathy aren’t all that geared towards beer hence, even if we did get out, we knew any reviews would be brief.
Three of the four breweries are in Spokane, one in Ponderay, Idaho. Maybe Sandpoint? I saw both cities mentioned on sites that seemed connected to the brewery. Four was all we had time for, on a three day, mostly family-related, visit.
Leaving the Ted and Kathy Carman castle we swooped down like eagles off the hill into Spokane. Maybe “vultures?” “Pigeons?” If writing about beer, perhaps… “swallows…” might be more appropriate?
Immediately, on our right: Perry Street Brewing, in a standalone building that looked like once upon a less fermentation-prone time it could have been a bank. The brewery was in the back: you could see the brewers though glass windows and door.
Annoyance crept into me like slow fingers scraping across a fermentation tank. The best, and easiest, way to introduce non-beer people to the infinite world of Craft is offering a sample tray. I was told Perry doesn’t sell one. One wonders why. Yes, you can get individual samples, but when it comes to the less than Craft initiated it’s, oh, so better to have a pre-prepared presentation to gently place before them, then discuss the different styles. Deep conversation usually follows. What do they prefer? What do they like? Dislike? What have they never tried that seems suited to their other preferences in cuisine; sweet, sour, sharp…? Often it’s all there: right in front of them for them to try…or not. They choose. If you just simply offer samples you select, glass by glass, they feel obligated, and maybe even feel “obligated” to claim they like it because you chose it for them. With a sample tray you avoid the perception that you’re acting as if you know what’s best for them.
They had an excellent barleywine. Yes: a bit too dark for the style, not sweet enough when it comes to my preference. But preference isn’t the point here, to style is… somewhat, but tasty trumps all, for this is a business, and business is about what customers crave. There was a Dubbel, a Saison and a Scottish ale, all fine: but that’s all I remember.
The tasting room was nice and warm; the kind of place if it had just been Millie and I would have felt comfortable settling in and getting a better idea what Perry had to offer. But we couldn’t.
I feel it unfair to go beyond what I’ve already typed. The short three hour window was calling.
So off to the brewery I had already decided to check out if we went anywhere in Spokane: No Li, a brewery that had been called Northern Lights, but due to trademark issues became No Li.
About a week before winging our way west I checked on breweries in the area and immediately noticed one had the most to offer, and more interesting brews, than any on the short, unfortunately dated, list I had tracked down via Google. Considering that No Li is one of the longest lasting, most known, breweries that were part of the craft revolution in Spokane, its location is a surprise: a building which houses many small businesses.
No Li has several rooms weaved into the rear of the old building, all guarded by a huge metal predator. Apparently we didn’t look tasty enough, probably due to Carman’s sauerkraut and pig’s knuckles-based genes, so… as you can see… we entered and sat unmolested.
Did they have a sample tray? Absolutely! But I saw one brew I absolutely had to try: a Russian Imperial called Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout. When they say “full bodied,” they mean it. Could they pack anymore dark, delicious, grains in this liquid Nirvana?
On our sample tray: Jet Star Imperial IPA, Amar-Oh-Oh!, Sleeve Tan Saison, Rise and Grind and Oyster Stout. All brews were mild versions of both what was declared to be special about them, and their base styles: the Oyster slightly salty, Omar; a barely red beer (at best) with the slightest hint of lacto. This was fantastic for our partners in crime whose pieholes might have been stressed by anything too extreme, but somewhat disappointing for us brew warriors: those who perpetually seek excessive battering of the taste buds.
Considering No Li’s long term success, congrats are in order. The very modest approach is probably best when pleasing so many palates, yet offering so many variations on brews usually sought by more experienced craft beer lovers like Millie and I. For us the other, off tray, sample we tried: whiskey barrel brew, was moderate whiskey barrel at best, but firm for Ted and Kathy.
But we had to travel on to another beer dimension. A dimension of dark, light and hoppy. To a wondrous land of alternate brewkis…. the signpost up ahead reads “The Iron Goat.”
It’s hard to find, being in a semi-industrial, mid-class, at best, neighborhood. You’d swear you’re just going to see gran and gramps, or Uncle George. The building is like an old brick office for a quarry. It’s easy to miss, easy to think it’s been recently abandoned.
Yes, it’s hard to, ”get your goat.”
The goat’s insides… ew! Sorry, but “goat’s insides?” Well, OK, the interior don’t reflect the exterior’s sense of slight, short term, abandonment. And, as an added plus, they did have sample tray.
Perry Street Brewing take note…
Praise be to the tradition of offering sample trays!
On the blessed tray… Head Butt IPA, The Impaler IPA, Garbage Pale Ale, Goatmeal Stout, Bleating Red Ale… sense a trend here? …and a seasonal I simply don’t remember.
On Saturday we went to see Ted and Kathy’s cabin in Idaho, then we ended up in the dog house. Literally, in some ways. Apparently part of the motif at Laughing Dog is an open arms invite to all well behaved dogs.
I loved it.
Unlike my Twilight Zone intro, a lot of pale brews were on this tray. Little difference in srm (color, basically) from what I remember. It was almost as if they brewed the same batch then added spices, hops, whatever was called for the brews to be slightly different. They chose our samples, if I remember right.
Here is what I seem to remember was on the tray, taken from Dog’s site: Huckleberry Cream Ale, Pale Ale, Cream Ale, Alpha Dog Imperial IPA, Grapefruit Pale and 219 Pilsner. We may have had samples of Citra IPA too, and a Rye IPA too.
Anyone else notice hoppy and SRM/color-based pattern here?
I don’t think we had the Annubis, a coffer porter, but I offered it once at one of my legendary Beaver River Beer Tasting events, and we all enjoyed.
Ted loved the Huckleberry, if I remember right, and while it was soft in the background: still excellent. Definitely a cream ale. All were as advertised, though I really wish there had been more of a dark beer mix on tap at the time. The Grapefruit was interesting, in that I was told there was no actual “grapefruit” in it: Simcoe. I’m guessing a small amount added towards the end of the boil to get aroma and avoid that “delightful” cat urine-like smell.
Oh, no! And I neglected to bring my cat’s litter box with me? Gee, “so” unfortunate. What a missed “opportunity…” NOT. Guess all I could do was sink into a glass of a brew with superb, gentle, most likely late additions, of Simcoe.
This was my first visit west of Texas. As mentioned earlier I had pre-researched breweries in the area. I found only three to four breweries/brewpubs in Spokane. Wrong. There were far too many to visit in 4 hours, total. Much like the rest of the country, there has been quite the explosion.
Another excuse to visit, perhaps?
Spokane, Washington at night, courtesy Wiki