If you're a craft beer fan in this region, you should be well aware of the Inland Northwest Ale Trail, a program that encourages (perhaps "dares" would be more accurate) curious beer tasters to hit up at least 10 of the region's breweries. The reward: a mini-growler, and of course the satisfaction of a job well done.
You can chip away at the Ale Trail over the course of the summer, or, as we saw done recently — attack it in one day on bike. In May, a squad of thirsty riders took off from Trickster's Brewing Co. in Coeur d'Alene and made their way to downtown Spokane, hitting up a 10-pack of pubs and tasting rooms along the way. (Find video of the adventure at Inlander.com.)
"Realistically, riding from Coeur d'Alene to Spokane and stopping at 10 breweries, it's not an easy thing. I mean, we're 20 minutes from closing here," says Ian Siemer, part of the cycling squad, looking back at an emptying River City Brewing tap room.
"It's not an easy thing, but everyone slowed down and was really patient with everyone and it was total camaraderie. That's awesome."
We don't recommend that you try this feat. First off, that's a hell of a lot of bike riding for the inexperienced rider. And 10 beer stops makes for more swilling than most could handle. That said, we suggest a pared-down version of this tour, one that doesn't take you all day or across state lines.
This downtown-centric loop keeps you mostly on cycle-friendly streets and bike trails. Start at River City, then cross the Monroe Street Bridge to hit the Centennial Trail. From there, head east to No-Li Brewhouse and sit by the river with a cold pint before riding less than a quarter of a mile to Ramblin' Road Craft Brewery. Ensure that your chain is well lubricated, your brain less so, then pedal east on the Centennial Trail, cross the Iron Bridge and make your way to Mallon Avenue. From there, it's about a mile to Iron Goat Brewing, where you can drink on their patio. If you think you've got it in you, head south about three-quarters of a mile to Budge Brothers Brewery and call it a day.
Or you could do the whole thing in reverse. It's a free country.
Here's a tip, though. You can treat this like a rafting trip — get picked up from your final destination by a "support vehicle" that can take all the bikes back. You should be done biking by this point. You've earned a rest.
Learn more about the Ale Trail at inlandnwaletrail.com.
When the temperatures rise, it's tempting to let go of your devotion to local brews and grab something cheap and fizzy. Don't do it. Your local craft brewers have your covered.
Here's a brief roundup of what's out there this summer. No-Li Brewhouse has a Noble Hop Extra Pale that rings in at 6 percent alcohol by volume and features Noble hops from the Yakima Valley, giving it a fruity tinge. If you're a hop-head but want to have a beer or two in the summer sun, there's 12 String Brewing Co.'s India Session Ale, a fully hopped beer that tastes like an IPA, but without as much alcohol. Similar to that style is River City Brewing's Afternoon ISA. Also a session ale, it drinks exceptionally smooth.
Moving on from the ales, perhaps you should spend the summer experimenting with the Kolsch, a German-style beer that's an excellent antidote for a sweaty day. Perry Street Brewing will have one on tap, while also rotating in a Czech-style pilsner and eventually a saison. Trickster's in Coeur d'Alene debuted their own Kolsch earlier this month, too.
CELEBRATE THE DOG
One of the early entries into the Inland Northwest craft-brewing boom, Laughing Dog Brewing, is turning nine years old, if you can believe that. The brewery, located just outside Sandpoint in Ponderay, is celebrating nearly a decade making dog-themed brews with a big ol' party on Saturday, Aug. 23 from noon to 7 pm. The party features live music, food and other activities, in addition to the chance to win a year's worth of free beer.
BEERS FOR A CAUSE
Most beers will make you feel good, but not necessarily good about yourself.
That's not the case this summer with the emergence of Riverkeeper IPA from River City Brewing. The brewery recently partnered with the Spokane Riverkeeper and Numerica Credit Union to create Riverkeeper IPA, a full-bodied, Northwest-style ale made with hops and grains from the region.
A portion of each keg sold goes back to the Spokane Riverkeeper, a program of the Center for Justice which aims to protect and maintain the Spokane River — making sure you and your kids, and your kids' kids, can swim and fish in it. So drink up, and remember every beer you don't drink hurts the river. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you?
"We wanted to highlight this work with a linchpin in our beer lineup, because to us, IPAs and the Spokane River are really important," says River City Brewing co-owner Gage Stromberg.
Meanwhile, Orlison Brewing Co. has debuted its Pilsner 37, a crisp, warm-weather beer that now is available in cans. The beer is a partnership with Team Gleason, the ALS-research nonprofit founded by Spokanite and former WSU and NFL star Steve Gleason. Proceeds from the sale of the beer go toward Team Gleason's efforts to fight ALS.
It's a good beer — and it comes in 16-ounce cans, making for a perfect camping companion.
WINE AND TUNES
Come summertime, one of Spokane's most respected wineries, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, becomes one of the region's busiest music venues. Thursday nights, the winery hosts the Performers on the Patio series, which welcomes a wide array of singer-songwriters and jazz outfits, as well as visual artists, jewelers and craftspeople. On Sundays, Arbor Crest is home to the Concerts on the Cliff series. Those shows feature big crowds for an eclectic mix of shows, ranging from country to blues to Motown.
In all, there are 40 music events to choose from — as long as you're 21. See the complete schedule at arborcrest.com/concert-series.
A SUMMER CLASSIC
You look like a damn fool if you're drinking a gin-and-tonic at a Christmas party. Maybe it's the lime that does it. Who knows? But it's gin-and-tonic season again, and even if you're the lamest Coors Light-only-bro-dog or just-Chardonnay-for-me yoga addict, give it a try before Labor Day comes and makes it socially reprehensible for you to have one.
Get some gin. Good gin. Like Dry Fly Distillery's locally made stuff. Make it stiff. A shot and a half, maybe. Then add tonic water. Real tonic water, not the diet stuff. Cut a thick wedge of lime and give it a squeeze before you drop it among the fizzing ice cubes. Stare at the setting sun and remember that summer is only three months long here — and that's if you're lucky. ♦