Those who thought 2014 would bring the collapse of the Inland Northwest's craft brewing bubble are going to have to wait — and wait for a long while, it seems — for that prognostication to become reality. If anything, this year proved that the region's beer drinkers are still very much thirsty for locally made suds and will welcome more of them.
The spring saw the opening of Ramblin' Road Craft Brewery, which specializes in Belgian-style ales. It's just a few blocks from Gonzaga, and conveniently for beer tourists, only a stone's throw from the No-Li Brewhouse pub. In the increasingly trendy Perry district, former Big Sky brewer Ben Lukes and his wife, Christy, opened Perry Street Brewing, offering a wide array of creative brews (thanks to Lukes' use of multiple yeast strains) inside the slick space. English Setter arrived in Spokane Valley with rotating beers, almost all with dog names, while Newport got into the game with the arrival of Top Frog Brewery. In North Spokane, Waddell's, already well known for their South Hill pub, began making their own beer.
The already established breweries continued to grow, with Orlison Brewing Co. installing its own canning line and taking those cans — including the ALS-fighting Pilsner 37 inspired by Steve Gleason — to more and more stores and bars across the Northwest. Iron Goat expanded production and also had the chance to collaborate with craft heavyweight Ninkasi Brewing on a triple IPA. River City Brewing rolled out excellent seasonal beers like their Afternoon India Session Ale and the Riverkeeper IPA, the latter of which raised funds to maintain the health of the Spokane River.
No-Li won big at a winter beer festival in Seattle in December, thanks in part to their increased focus on barrel aging, which they also showcased at a pair of sold-out small-batch festivals at the brewery. At the far north end of the region, Kootenai River Brewing Co. out of Bonner's Ferry was the only Inland Northwest brewery to medal at the Great American Beer Festival, with a bronze for their Scottish Ale. In Kettle Falls, Northern Ales rolled out its first canned beer, the Grouch Lager.
To fit the boom in both the number of breweries and beer drinkers, the Inland Northwest Craft Beer Festival moved from downtown Spokane to take over the entire outfield of Avista Stadium, home of the Spokane Indians. It was also ample space for Twelve String Brewing to display its impressive 10-tap pouring system for the big crowds that came out on the unseasonably warm late-September weekend.
Looking forward, Black Label Brewing began brewing last week with plans to soon open a tap room in the Saranac Commons space in downtown Spokane. It doesn't stop there — additional breweries have applied for liquor permits and may very well open next year. ♦