Best of The Northwest 2014: Breakout Breweries Break the Mold

pourFThis time of year – every year for the past six – I’ve compiled my most memorable experiences from travels around the Pacific Northwest – my heart and ‘hood – to come up with those I especially want you to know about. I say this just about every year because just about every year it’s true: This was a real banner year. The creaky Washington paradigm of “Nothin’ but Brits” is beginning to crumble. Oregon and Idaho breweries are not just pushing the envelope as much as ignoring the very existence of an envelope. Good breweries, promising breweries, and some right out of the wrapping paper have become great.

You’re going to read some names, here, that you’ve never heard or read. Two in particular – Tin Dog Brewing of Seattle and Big Block Brewing of Sammamish, Washington – are barely larger than the changing rooms Nordstrom’s. John Julum’s operation at Big Block, especially, is easily the most intelligently conceived, laid-out, and strategized nano-brewery I’ve ever come across. The whole brewery, because of his neighborhood’s CC&Rs, is in his garage! And he routinely has ten or twelve beers on tap, all amazing and all in decent quantities. This level of ingenuity is what sets the NW apart from the rest of the US and 2014 was the year of its full flowering, when breweries like De Garde, in sleepy Tillamook, Oregon, are birthed fully formed and hit the ground absolutely flying.

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