Spokane, Washington, isn’t like what you remember. Yes, Gonzaga University men’s basketball is still the pride and joy, while fast food chains, auto dealerships and vacant old structures continue to reside on many corners, but the city of Spokane is committed to turning both perception and city planning around. The first step toward that has been the $64 million waterfront park renovation along the Spokane River, which includes an ice rink and manicured lawns, set to complete in late 2019. What you also might not be able to recall is Spokane’s booming beverage scene. The greater Inland Northwest tallies 41 breweries that mark up the map of its ale trail, many with establishment dates back a decade ago, while the state’s first distillery resides on the fringe of Gonzaga’s campus. Here are seven essential imbibing stops when on your next visit to the Lilac City.
Views with a glass of wine at Maryhill Winery. One of the latest tenants to the newly minted Kendall Yards community on a bluff above the river bank, Goldendale-based Maryhill opened its second tasting room location in its owners’ hometown. The large main tasting bar is walled in by warehouse-height windows for optimal views, while racks brim with the wide variety of Maryhill wines to enjoy there or at home. Don’t skimp on the tasting flights options and try the award-winning rosé when it is available or the juicy Barbera from the Proprietor’s Reserve line.
Community beers at No-Li Brewhouse. The godfather of Spokane beer, formerly Northern Lights Brewing Co. prior to rebranding in 2012, this brewing mainstay not only produces “Spokane-style” beers but it brews beers for Spokane. With sell-out festivals that consume the city like Frost Fest and small-batch beer parties at its riverside brewpub, No-Li also hosts locALE Mondays and monthly Legends of the Northwest, both celebrating local community and landmarks with take-home etched pint glasses, like those faced with Mt. Spokane or the Great Fire of 1889. Be sure to set up camp on the patio in the summer — which also touts an additional walk-up bar — as it is one of the best seats beer can buy in the sunshine. Grab a pint of Big Juicy IPA or any of the limited edition barrel-aged beers on tap to seal the deal.
Experiential tasting at Dry Fly Distilling. In the same building as No-Li, distilling pioneer Dry Fly recently remodeled its tasting room to encompass a range of experiences surrounding its distillates. From a sensory station holding the Washington-grown base grains and tours to a list of miniature craft cocktails and views of the barrel-stacked rackhouse, the laid-back atmosphere entices guests to stay and enjoy the environs. Pick from five different whiskies to sample straight or test them in a cocktail and take the recipe and a bottle home with you to give it a go on your own.
Northwest feel and taste at Iron Goat Brewing. After consumer demand urger them to expand, Iron Goat Brewing recently moved into a historic building that was a former mechanic school in western downtown Spokane. Using repurposed materials found in the building, the team furnished the taproom and bar with wood and iron quintessential to its Northwest look and taste. For the most part, the beers stay on the straight and narrow for the standards, like the Goatmeal stout and the Head Butt IPA, but the brewing staff gets dorky in the back with a secluded room for wild fermentations and mixed cultures. The mainstay beers have been to spread across the state, debuting in Western Washington for the first time last year, but the nerdier ferments stay exclusive to the taproom so don’t miss a chance to taste anything that’s been in a barrel.
Where beer dreams come true, Steel Barrel Taproom. The next new pairing: Spokane beer and ceviche. Connected to Zona Blanca, the eccentric ceviche bar of chef Chad White (of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” fame), Steel Barrel lets beer (and cider) pour through 26 taps, mostly all from the Northwest and a large majority of that from Inland breweries. Behind the back wall of the bar is the in-house brewery incubator, a community production space for startup brewers to brew their dreams to life, each to be served inside the taproom. Try one of the small-batch sour ales from Young Buck or the Cryosaic pale from Little Spokane, both current incubator residents.
Wine and peculiarities at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. One of the state’s oldest wineries also preserves a history of its property that helped to shape Spokane and was recently honored for it — Arbor Crest was presented with the Stewardship Award for Historic Landscape by the Spokane Preservation Advocates in November. The winery’s historic Cliff House is perched 450 feet above the Spokane River valley, first built by eccentric inventor Royal Riblet with sweeping panoramas unlike anywhere else in the area. The richly decorated property sports an arched basalt gatehouse that leads to a three-story Florentine-style mansion, with landscaping oddities ranging from a life-size checkerboard to a basalt-carved pool, croquet court and a stone gazebo at the edge of the cliff. Best known for its on-site summer concerts, the tasting room is best known for its award-winning wines, like the savory Cabernet Franc from Conner Lee Vineyard.
Pure Spokane fruit at Liberty Ciderworks. The Spokane Valley was the fruit belt of Washington State over 100 years ago. Today, its trees are still in the ground, but only a select few fermenters are sourcing fruit from these apple orchards. One such maker is Liberty Ciderworks, the small-batch cidery in downtown Spokane. Focused on specific apple varieties and what each can do when blessed with yeast, Liberty only uses whole apples, pressed with a rack-and-cloth press, fermented to dryness and aged, all in a Lilliputian cellar space. The taproom and bottle shop also sports a storefront with the owners’ favorite ciders from outside their walls, including gems from the UK and New York. When available, ask for a glass of the Spokane Scrumpy, made from roadside and backyard apples in the city in a partnership with Second Harvest food bank.