That's the Spirit

Why drinking locally made beer, wine and spirits is a win-win for the region

No Li's John Bryant
No Li's John Bryant

Drinking local isn't just about walking to your neighborhood pub for a pint; it's a win-win mindset that benefits a range of folks, from the producer to the consumer to the communities in which they all live and work.

That's the approach with the Inlander's Drink Local campaign, which you'll see plenty of during this year's Inlander Restaurant Week. Each menu features a Drink Local option, giving you a chance to taste a locally produced beer, wine or spirit at a discounted cost.

The spirit of Drink Local is always on display at Spokane's No-Li Brewhouse, which has positively impacted Spokane and surrounding communities in a number of ways. More than 60 No-Li employees live in Spokane, contributing to its economic base through taxes and local spending. No-Li's use of local products — Northwest barley malt, Yakima hops — supports neighboring agriculture, which in turn helps other regional brewers in pursuit of raw materials.

No-Li's success — they were named 2015 National Beer Wholesalers Brewery of the Year and 2016 Washington Large Brewery of the Year — has enabled them to give back to the community, too. In addition to charitable donations and partnerships, they've created innovative programs, such as an upcoming collaboration with the Spokane Symphony or the LocALE Monday program honoring a different Spokane neighborhood per month.

"We're making the financial pie bigger," says No-Li owner John Bryant, whose past experience includes vice president of sales and marketing at Deschutes Brewery and chief operating officer of Odell Brewing Company. In the past five years, says Bryant, Spokane has increasingly become known as a craft beverage destination, similar to places like Fort Collins, Colorado, and Bend, Oregon.

The region's brewers benefit through collaboration and pushing each other to improve, says Bryant, while the customer benefits from good products that are consistently obtainable. Local restaurants carrying local beverages — not only beer, but wine and distilled spirits — also benefit, including from increased tourism as Spokane's reputation as a food and beverage destination grows.

Although the number of local craft breweries has outstripped wineries and distilleries, they share some of the same sentiments about drinking local.

Liberty Lake Wine Cellar's Mark Lathrop says that small-production wineries give you access to the winemaker and the wine, including how it was made and what its unique features are. "It makes drinking wine a little more fun than it would usually would be," he says.

"We're all doing this because we love it," adds his wife, Sarah Lathrop, who notes that many winemakers in the region also have a day job. "When you're doing something that you really enjoy, versus just paying the bills, it comes across to the people that you're serving," says Sarah.

"And most of the time it carries through to the product, too," adds Mark.

That's important, says Bryant, who cautions that it's unfair to ask a customer to buy local just because it's local. The product still has to be the best.

"We're working really hard to honor the promise that some of the best beers are made in Spokane," he says. ♦

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