I've been to a handful of Spokane area breweries multiple times and decided that I'm an authority on the subject. Come to find out, there are twenty plus breweries in Spokane County and I haven't even been to half of them. This article is a work in progress and I have my work cut out for me, I promise I'll work hard.
River City Brewing
River City Brewing is my favorite "go to" brewery whether I just want a quick growler fill or stop in and have a pint. River City Brewing has a half dozen or so beers that it always has available in its taproom and they are also pretty easy to find around town. They also have seasonal beers and are always experimenting with new recipes.
Their flagship beer would have to be River City Red. It is a nice crisp beer that gets most of its flavor from the malt without being too bitter and it has a clean finish. River City Red can be found around town and I once had the opportunity to enjoy it at the Elk on cask dispensed from their beer engine and that was a real treat.
VB Stout is probably my all-time favorite beer. The name is short for Vanilla Bourbon Stout. As the name indicates, there is a lot of vanilla and bourbon as well as coffee and dark chocolate flavors in this very rich beer. River City Brewing gets its roots from the Coeur d' Alene Brewery. VB Stout and Huckleberry Ale are two of the carryover beers from CdA that you will always see on tap. You can't find Huckleberry in bottles anymore because River City Doesn't do bottles.
A new experimental this summer was Kung Fu Death Monkey. It is a very well balanced Imperial IPA with a lot of citrus and floral going on and not just bitter pine tree. It is gone now but not before I had the chance to get a couple of pints and three growler fills this over the summer. I hope to see it back next summer.
In their tap room you can often get their regular beers with a different twist. They may have something on nitro or cask conditioned. Sometimes they will run them through an infuser with dry hops or berries. What you won't find in their tap room is food, unless you bring it yourself because River City doesn't have a kitchen.
The No-Li Brewhouse is the absolute winner of the venue category, especially in the summer when the weather is nice and you can sit out on the patio next to a shady calm piece of the Spokane River where you will often times see paddle boarders. It is one of our favorite places for outdoor dining in Spokane. In the colder months you will be restricted to the inside restaurant area or the large bar area, both of which are certainly on the upper end of adequate.
The menu is fairly typical for a Spokane area gastropub. When I say that, understand that the bar is set pretty high and typical means quality ingredients prepared well. The menu will change from time to time, particularly when they have a change of chefs. I will admit that I was disappointed to see their spicy mac and cheese leave the menu a couple of years ago. I really need to try to move past that.
No-Li has some real solid beer offerings which they make right there at the brew house. You can enjoy them right there or at many other local pubs and restaurants. You can also find their beers in bottles and cans in local grocery stores and liquor stores. You will even find No-Li beers sold in local area Costcos. I have personally had their Born & Raised IPA, Spin Cycle Red and Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout.
Born & Raised offers nearly everything that you could expect from a good IPA. The smell and taste are hop forward with an emphasis on pine and citrus taking a back seat. A little darker than most IPAs, Born and Raised also has a fair amount of malt going on. Though Born & Raised is somewhat complex and more than just bitter, my taste leans a little more towards the fruit and citrus flavor of hops. I will try Big Juicy the next time I'm at No-Li.
Spin Cycle Red is hardy enough to pair well with most pub food yet balanced and drinkable enough to drink by itself when you’re thirsty. The caramel flavors from the roasted malt complement the fruit and herbal flavors from the hops. This is a well-balanced red with an IBU of 49, yet it has no noticeable bitterness.
Like many northwestern stouts, Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout, from No-Li is a big bold heavy stout with a whole lot going on. Chocolate, coffee and brown sugar are its prominent flavors. It has an IBU of 100 but there is no offensive bitterness, I'll bet a good chocolate cake has an IBU of at least 100. Wrecking Ball isn't just a beer, it's part of your entree. With a scoop a vanilla ice cream, it could certainly be your dessert.
A couple of years ago during Spokane's craft brew week I was at No-Li and got a real treat. No-Li hosted a small tour of their brewery. They took us step by step through the beer making process as we toured the facility. The brewers who conducted the tour were very friendly and took time to answer questions.
Iron Goat Brewing
Located on 2nd Ave just a stones through away from River City, Iron Goat Brewing is relatively new on the downtown scene. They have been brewing and even bottling beer for years but have only been at their current location for a little over a year.
The Iran Goat is located in a very cool old brick building with large windows and glass rollup doors that let in a lot of light. The taproom has a very industrial look, made with repurposed materials and unfinished steal. More large glass walls allow you to see from the taproom right through to the brewing operation.
When they first opened in this location they didn’t have a kitchen or serve food. At that time they allowed dogs and you would often see people in the taproom with dogs. Now dogs are out and they have been replaced with food. They also provide board games to entertain their customers.
Of course, Iron Goat has their own brews on tap but they also have other local beers on tap. I have seen times when more than half the board is represented by other breweries. It is likely a result of them selling out of some of their own beers. Their own beers always have some kind of goat reference in the name.
Bleating Red is one of my regular growler fills. When my wife and I stop off and have a pint, it is likely we will each have something different. When I fill a growler to take home, there may be a degree of compromise. Choosing to fill my growler with Bleating Red may be a compromise but Bleating Red is not a compromise. Bleating Red is a Irish style red that pours a little darker than most reds, has a little fruit on the nose, a crisp clean flavor of hops and roasted malt and a dry finish. It is more malty than bitter but not to roasty; nicely balanced.
Goatmeal Stout pours completely opaque dark brown; nearly black, with a thick brown head. The nose is dark roasted malt and French roast coffee. The flavor is rich dark roasted malt and grains with strong notes of espresso and chocolate. The feel is smooth and luxurious and the finish is slightly sweet. I have enjoyed Goatmeal Stout at the Iron Goat brewpub as well as other places around town. When we were on a short trip to the other side of the state, I saw Goatmeal Stout at Airways Brewing in Kent Washington. Being at a new brewery, I chose to try some of the beers that they produced but it was still a nice reminder of home.
Next up, Perry Street Brewing.
Written by:Todd Hays