Spokane’s Summer Bikes and Brews

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Bikes parked at No-Li Brewhouse

With temperatures nationwide regularly reaching into the 80s, 90s, and 100s, there’s only one conclusion I can confidently draw: summer is here and in full swing!  Here in the good ol’ Lilac City, we’re deep in the heart of the hottest season of them all and loving it.  With cloudless skies as far as the eye can see, multiple lakes less than an hour away, tons of great biking and hiking trails, and some of the best breweries around within the city limits, what’s not to love?

Amy (Goose) and me (Maverick) were the only two goons on a tandem bicycle that day. What can I say? We love fun! Image from Lantern Tap House

This weekend, I was lucky enough to enjoy what I think was the epitome of a Spokane summer experience.  Once again joined by Amy from Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen, I headed up to Spokane’s South Perry neighborhood to take part in the newly expanded Lantern Tap House to take part in their monthly bike pub crawl, though this time around, it was really more of a brewery crawl (or ride).  With about a dozen other intrepid beer lovers, we set off from the tavern in the afternoon sun and headed to our first destination: Spokane’s celebrated No-Li Brewhouse.  Located on a particularly serene stretch of the Spokane River, the wide-open patio of the brewhouse has lounge chairs right on the river bank, as well as a fire pit and picnic tables galore for the enjoyment of sun-loving patrons.  Our ride leader, Mike, ordered up a few pitchers of No-Li’s Summer Wheat for everyone to sip on while we chatted and worked on our tans.  After an hour at No-Li, we steadily mozied on to our next destination.

Enjoying the patio at Iron Goat. Image from Lantern Tap House

Just a stone’s throw from No-Li is Iron Goat Brewing Company, which celebrated its first anniversary just last month.  Once again, everyone grabbed a pint glass, filled it up with the beer of his/her choosing, and scurried to the patio to relax and chit-chat.  Our relaxation efforts were aided all the more by the sudden appearances of an ice cream truck and the Shameless Sausages cart.  After refueling, we summoned our strength for our final destination Budge Brothers Brewing Company, which resided only a few blocks away.  Those who weren’t yet acquainted became so, and we each enjoyed one final, locally brewed pint before heading back up the hill to our starting destination.

By the end of the day, our adventure earned its title of “crawl”; the whole voyage took nearly six hours to travel a distance of only a couple of miles.  Nonetheless, it was a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon: the beer was terrific, the ride nice ‘n easy, and the company amiable as could be.  Lucky for me, and maybe you, too, the Lantern Tap House hosts bicycle pub crawls each month, most with five destinations rather than three.  If you’re looking to ride from a different destination or on a different route, or if you’re still on the lookout for your ideal outdoor beer hangout, there are options to be had here in Spokane.  I encourage you to check each of them out so as to find the one that’s best for you!  Cheers, and ride safely!

Bike Rides Around Spokane

Lantern Tap House Pub Bike Ride – Groups ride from the tap house on South Perry to 3-5 downtown or South Hill pubs.  Rides occur approximately once each month.  Check Lantern Tap House’s Facebook page to find out about upcoming rides.  Note: If running is more your style, there’s also a Lantern Running Club.  They’ll be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, July 16) at 6pm at the tavern to run, and the run will be followed by $2.50 pint night!  Haven’t you heard that beer is a great post-workout drink?

Two Wheel Transit Recyclers at Manito Tap House – The Two Wheel Transit Recyclers meet at Manito Tap House on Thursday evenings at 6:15pm to go for a 60-90 minute ride around the South Hill before meeting back at the tap house for drinks and snacks.  Manito Tap House has a great little bike maintenance station right in front of the restaurant in case you need to make any last minute adjustments to your ride.

Elk Drug Drop-Outs Vintage & Cruiser Bicycle ClubThe Elk‘s bike club meets at the pub at 3pm on the first Sunday each month.  They ride from the Elk, in Brown’s Addition, to No-Li Brewhouse, located near Gonzaga University, and back.  The ride is family-friendly, and anyone and everyone is invited to ride whatever they’ve got!  The next ride should be on Sunday, August 3rd.

Spokane Party Trolley – OK, so this isn’t a bike club per se; it’s more of a club on a bike.  A really big bike.  Like, a big bike that you can ride with a dozen or more friends at once.  It’s crazy fun.  I was lucky enough to get to take a spin on the party trolley for a pub crawl a couple of weeks ago, though the trolley can also be rented for bachelor/bachelorrette parties, family reunions, team building, you name it.  If you’re looking to try it just to try it, the party trolley also hosts Mixer Tours, 2-hour pub crawls that peddle to 3-4 pubs in downtown Spokane.

For information about other Spokane bike clubs, check out the F&*%ing Bike Club’s website.

Thanks to the Lantern Tap House for leading such an excellent bike ride.  Thank you to both Amy from Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen and the Lantern Tap House for the photographs.

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Brown Ale Spice Cupcakes

In celebration of our maiden culinary voyage together, let’s make cupcakes!  Not just any cupcakes, mind you, but cupcakes with beer in them.  Intrigued?  Yes?  I’d hoped so.

As we previously discussed, I am all about making the most of what one has on hand.  At present, I’ve got a whole lot of brown ale on hand.  My dad and I have taken up homebrewing, and as fun as it is (it’s become a bimonthly activity), it results in having copious amounts of beer spread out in various locations around the garage.  As it’s not being consumed at nearly the rate it’s being produced, I’ve taken to finding alternative uses for it; most of these uses involve me sneaking it into a variety of dishes.  That said, here we are, about to create some fantastically tasty spice cupcakes out of beer.

Over the past few years, the craft beer industry has really taken off, resulting in a fantastic new market bursting with all manner of creative brews.  I love the patriotic humor of San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery (really, how can you not try a beer named “Fireside Chat” and featuring a joyfully chatty FDR on the can?), and Oregon’s Rogue Ales never fails to impress (I implore you to check out one of their more recent creations, the Voodoo Doughnuts-inspired Maple Bacon Ale).  For this recipe, I used Nut Brown Ale, produced using a clone kit from Ice Harbor Brewing Company in Kennewick, WA.  Given the brown ale’s traditional roasted, nutty flavor, this beer easily lends itself to being paired with a variety of spices, many of which you likely already have in your cupboard.

This recipe is portioned to produce only six cupcakes- just enough that you’ve got a sweet treat on hand for you and your roomies, but not so many that you feel compelled to have a cupcake with every meal for the next six days just so none of them go to waste (because none of us have ever done that…).  However, if you have an event coming up for which you will require more than six cupcakes, by all means, double, triple, or quadruple this recipe to your heart’s content!

Brown Ale Spice Cupcakes

Adapted from Sweet Tooth

Makes Six Cupcakes

Ingredients for Cupcakes:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown ale (not counting however much you anticipate drinking while baking)

1 Tbs. milk

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ginger

Ingredients For Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1-2 Tbs. milk or cream

1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Equipment:

3 medium mixing bowls (2 if you rinse and reuse one)

1 spatula

1 large spoon

1 whisk and/or electric hand mixer

6 cupcake cups in the pattern of your choosing

1 cupcake pan

1 cooling rack

To Make the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 375F.  In one bowl, add all dry ingredients, mixing gently to combine.  In the other mixing bowl, add all of the wet ingredients, again mixing gently to combine.  Slowly, add wet ingredients to dry and mix with the whisk or hand mixer until just combined.

Place the cupcake cups in the cupcake pan.  Using the large spoon, fill each cup 2/3-3/4 of the way full with batter.  Place the filled pan in the oven.  Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes; you’ll know that they’re done when a toothpick poked in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Remove pan from oven and place on cooling rack.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for five minutes before inverting the pan and replacing the cupcakes on the cooling rack.  Allow the cupcakes to cool on the rack for about 20 minutes, or until they reach room temperature, before frosting.

To Make the Frosting:

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer.  Next, add 1 Tbs. cream or milk and the vanilla and continue to beat until it is well combined with the butter.  Gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, add the powdered sugar and mix with the butter until creamy.  Continue to add powdered sugar until your frosting reaches the desired consistency.  Last, add the cinnamon and mix it into the frosting.

You may spread the frosting atop your cooled cupcakes with a spatula or butter knife, or you may pipe it on to create a lovely frosting mountain atop your masterpiece.

Cheap Trick: If you don’t have piping bags on hand, a sandwich-size Ziploc bag will do just fine.  Simply fill the bag about 3/4 of the way full with frosting, bouncing the bag to get the frosting to the bottom.  Zip the bag shut, being sure to squeeze all of the air out, then cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag to create an opening with an approximately 1/2″ diameter.  Gradually twist the top of the bag to push the frosting out.

These cupcakes will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or until they’re all eaten, whichever comes first.  Have fun and enjoy!