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.

Night Out: Iron Goat Brewing Company

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My friends always assume that I’ll be a whiz at trivia nights.  While I appreciate the votes of confidence, I worry that my trivial acumen will not meet their expectations.  Sadly, my worry became a reality the other night at Iron Goat Brewing Company‘s trivia night when I proved to be knowledgeable about Monty Python character names.  The expectation regarding my value as a trivia team member was not met.  However, our expectations regarding the quality of Iron Goat’s brews were wonderfully exceeded.

Opening nearly a year ago, Iron Goat is one of Spokane’s newer breweries, but it already has a sizable and loyal following.  Iron Goat’s name is a tribute to the iconic garbage-eating iron goat located in Riverfront Park, and the goat’s image is found on the brewery’s logo.  Along with the logo, the names of the brews also have a distinctly goat-y theme: Head Butt IPA, Bleating Red Ale, Goatmeal Stout, Garbage Pale Ale, etc.  This clever play on words and salute to a beloved Spokane landmark, not to mention the outstanding beers they produce, serve to make Iron Goat a staple of the city’s brewing culture and must-see stop on every beer geek’s Spokane beer map.

Like a few other area brewing companies (12 String, Biplane, and Selkirk Abbey, for examle), Iron Goat’s tasting room and brewhouse aren’t located where one would expect to find such establishments.  In fact, Iron Goat’s location is, quite literally, a local watering hole: it’s located in the midst of a neighborhood, and one of the closest establishments is SpokAnimal, a local humane society.  The building itself is about 100 years old and has served numerous purposes over the years, more recently as painter and co-owner Sheila Evans’ studio.  The main room of the building is now painted an altogether appropriate warm rust color and its walls are decorated with numerous goat-centric art pieces.  This room, a series of eight iron goat-topped taps at the bar, and a crowd of beer-loving trivia-goers set the scene for my most recent brew-venture.

This trip was not my first to the brewery, but it was my first time attending trivia night.  My friends and I were attracted to this evening’s contest, in particular, due to the title of one of the advertised categories: (Iron Man) Three’s Company.  Potential Iron Man questions?  We were there.  Even before the festivities began, the place was already packed with beer-toting patrons chatting away before the competition began.  The taproom itself does not offer food, but the growing popularity of food trucks meant that sustenance was not far off: Shameless Sausages was set up right outside.  What could be better than a gourmet hot dog with your favorite craft beer on a beautiful northwest evening?

imageNot wanting to miss out on any of the brewery’s offerings, I went ahead and ordered the sampler. This evening, Iron Goat had eight offerings on tap, five regular brews (Head Butt IPA, the Impaler, Bleating Red Ale, Goatmeal Stout, and Garbage Pale Ale) and three seasonal offerings (the Lawnmower, Cap’n Kidd Scotch Ale, and the experimental Blonde #44).  What with the warm weather and all, I couldn’t resist starting out with a crisp and rejuvenating imperial IPA, Iron Goat’s flagship beer named the Impaler.  At 8.5% ABV and 72 IBUs, the Impaler is a force to be reckoned with.  Brewed with a “fist full of Galaxy hops,” this deep golden brew gives off an aroma that is fruity and tropical, a surprise to the senses when one expects the grapefruit aroma indicative of so many American IPAs.  For all its strength and bitterness, the Impaler is surprisingly relaxing: the bold tropical fruit notes reminded me of sweet green tea, and it was all too easy to envision myself sipping away on a pint while lounging on a beach somewhere.

A bit tamer was the Lawnmower, one of Iron Goat’s spring seasonals and a pleasantly mellow ISA.  The Lawnmower doesn’t scream spring so much as it politely informs you that the season has arrived and suggests you host a barbecue so that it can attend.  The white head gives off a fruity, slightly spicy aroma.  The golden ale is a slaking combination of honey and toasty malt flavors and hints of lemon from the hops.  Its bitterness is more tepid than that of an IPA and lends itself to being a lovely spring session beer.

As the sun began to set and scene outside the windows grew darker, so, too, did the beers.  A standout standout amongst the year-round line-up, Goatmeal Stout was a fine finale to an exceptional evening of beer sampling and a comforting consolation to me upon realizing that film threequel trivia was not my forte (sadly, the aforementioned category was not confined to Iron Man questions).  This stout was the darkest of browns in color with a head the color of frothy espresso.  Unlike its brethren brews, hop aroma was not a defining characteristic of this beer; rather, a hint of chocolate was the only olfactory indication of the flavor that was to come.  With the first sip, I was thrilled to find that the texture was luxuriously creamy and provided nice, easy drinking.  As the aroma suggested, chocolate was the most prevalent flavor in this brew, though notes of coffee were also apparent.  Ending with a delicate roastiness and smooth as can be, Goatmeal Stout was a beer I could imagine becoming my go-to local stout.

With the impending summer season, Iron Goat’s already bustling taproom is sure to be even busier as patrons overflow out of the taproom and onto the patio.  On June 1, Iron Goat will celebrate its first anniversary with a party complete with food, music, and brand-new barrel-aged beers.  Eat, drink, and be merry, indeed!  At present, Iron Goat’s beers can be found on tap throughout Spokane and at beer festivals throughout the state.  I don’t doubt that Iron Goat’s faithful flock will continue to grown, and, in doing so, spread the word about Spokane’s brewing character and creations.

Thank you to Amy at Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen for providing photographs for this post when I foolishly brought my camera but not its memory card.