The Budge Brothers have lived with beer their whole lives. Plus, MacKenzie River pizza comes to Washington.

Brad Budge holding an IPA pig - AMY HUNTER
Amy Hunter
Brad Budge holding an IPA pig

The Budge Brothers, Brad and Bruce, have grown up around beer. They’ve slept next to it.

As children, their grandparents owned the Steamboat Cafe in Coeur d’Alene’s Conkling Park. The boys’ parents, Kevin and Karen, ran it. The Budge Brothers spent their childhood there. “We had a bunk bed on the other side of the draft system,” Brad says.

It’s not surprising, then, that the boys would go into beer. But when they brought the idea of opening their own brewery to the family — “parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts” — the reception was less than warm.

In a kind of debutante ball of beer, though, the brothers plied their elders with 20 different brews of their own making, the family acknowledged their aptitude, and Kevin and Karen decided to be on-hand for every early brewing. “We always did our first batches with our parents,” Bruce says, “because I was kinda ...”

“Underage,” Brad finishes. Quite underage. Eighteen, in fact.

Four years later, the brothers, now 22 and 25 respectively, have opened their taproom, Budge Brothers Brewery, in Spokane’s International District.

The room bears the marks of a self-financed business. “We pieced together our brewery from Craigslist over four years,” Brad says. Aside from four storage tanks they rent, the brothers own everything outright. The walls of the taproom are freshly painted a cobalt blue, but nothing yet hangs on them. Their mustard-yellow chairs were bought in bulk — nearly three dozen — at $3 apiece from a salvage store. As for places to set drinks? There are few. “We need to fork over some cash for some tables,” Brad says.

The taps that serve the beer protrude from their grandfather’s old tackle box. It is the orange of road construction and scuffed from years of angling. The beer that flows from it is uniformly robust without crossing over into parody. Their Hoptrain IPA has a dense, floral nose, due partly to the 19 pounds of hops added after fermentation. There’s a nice bite of hoppy bitterness, but it finishes relatively clean for an 8 percent IPA. Their stout, too, is rich without tasting like alcoholic chocolate milk, and earthy without tasting like a coffee porter.

“Restrained” is the word, which is a welcome change from the usual craft brew arms race toward massive flavors. For the Budge Brothers, this is no race at all. They’re looking toward a lifetime of 10-gallon test brews, honing each beer until it’s ready. They’re not ones to hurry.
“We live with our folks still,” Brad says.

“Mom and dad’s basement,” Bruce chimes in, smiling his big smile. (Luke Baumgarten)

Budge Brothers Brewery • 2018 E. Riverside Ave. • 2 pm-9 pm, Friday-Sunday 426-3340

From Montana to You

If you’ve been to Montana, you’ve probably run into a MacKenzie River Pizza. The restaurant started in 1993 and has since expanded to 12 locations in Montana. On Monday, though, they opened their first Washington eatery in Spokane, bringing the rustic vibe of Montana along with them.

Inside, you can expect to find the northern Rockies lodge feel: Exposed logs and antique skis hang on the walls. The menus feature pictures of snowshoes and fly fishing flies. But while the restaurant itself is definitely themed, the food itself is all over the place; despite the name, MacKenzei River Pizza doesn’t serve only pizza. Devin Cassan, who has been with the company for 10 years and is now the general manager of the Spokane location, says it’s actually their Cobb salad ($8 small; $10.50 large) that is most popular.

“It’s an incredible presentation,” says Cassan, adding that the salad is piled high with chicken, bacon, hardboiled egg, blue cheese, tomato and avocado.

Cassan also recommends what he calls their “modern take” on meatloaf ($12.50), which is made with bacon, ground beef, cheddar cheese and is topped with a smoky glaze and fried onions. His other favorite is the pulled-pork nachos ($12), a dish that he says could easily feed four as an appetizer or two as a full meal.

As for their pizzas, you can pick from several established pies or build your own, each available with the option for original or thin crust. The house recipes range from classic pepperoni-and-cheese to more exotic options like the Thai Pie ($9.50-$16) which is made with Thai peanut sauce, basil chicken, mandarin oranges, scallions, red peppers, peanuts, cilantro and mozzarella cheese. And for those who feel pizza isn’t complete without beer, MacKenzie also features a full bar.

Be prepared to go into MacKenzie River hungry — their portions are on the large side. But that seems fitting coming from a state with the nickname “Big Sky Country.” (Tiffany Harms)

MacKenzie River Pizza 9225 N. Nevada St. Daily, 11 am-close 413-1043

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About The Authors

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.