I made the trek to Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, WA, last weekend (iron horse brewery). I did not intend to go to iron horse brewery. Actually I intended to go to Poulsbo and visit Valholl and Slippery Pig breweries. But after stopping for gas and lunch it became clear that I was not going to make the 12:25 pm ferry that I set out for. I looked at my trusty English Springer Spaniel, Bruce, and said, “Do you want to play in some snow?”.
He smiled at me (he always does when we are in the car together) and we headed east rather than west on I-90 for what started out as a three brewery day trip; Roslyn Brewery, Snoqualimie Falls Brewery and returning for diner at the Issaquah Brew Pub (aka Rogue Brewing).
Cloudy Seattle was quickly in the rear view mirror and blue skies and the promise of sunshine appeared before us. It is a beautiful drive in its own right, through forested foothills and dozens of Springtime waterfalls cascading down the rocks along the freeway. Bruce discovered he likes waterfalls, though he does not quite understand how they work.
We got to Snoqualimie Pass and to my amazement there was a thick layer of snow still covering the now closed ski areas. I expected to see some patches, but this was deep, white, albeit a bit slushy snowy goodness.
We pulled over into the Hyak parking lot. There were several skiers there putting on their cross country skis and hiking up the hill. Bruce was so excited. He ran in the snow and chased my thrown snowballs for quite some time before we boarded the Have Beer – Will Travel™ express and continued the journey East.
Next on the impromptu itinerary was a stop at Indian John Hill rest area, and a walk through the woods for a bit of sniffing and four-legged stretching.
That accomplished, I set my sights on Roslyn, which you may know as the place where much of the old tv show Northern Exposure was filmed. They have a fine brewery there that features a tasty pale and dark lager.
Funny thing about plans, though; the helpful highway signs informed me that Ellensburg was only about 20 miles further east. I am a big fan of Quilter’s Irish Death – and to have the chance to have it straight from the source was too much to pass up.
As fortune would have it I arrived at the brewery right as they were opening. This is a dog friendly, beer-only establishment, which will feature their soon-to-be activated mug club.
Today they had six of their current brews on tap:
- Light Rail Ale
- High Five Hefe
- Iron Horse IPA
- Double Rainbow
- Malt Bomb
- Quilters Irish Death
They were all good beers. The IPA was surprisingly drinkable. The Hefe was flavorful and not over-cloved. The Irish Death is the big seller. It sure gets my vote. I was not a big fan of the Malt Bomb when I tried it in a bottle a couple months ago, but on tap it was pretty darn good.
I discovered there are not one but two Iron Horse establishments in Ellensburg, the other being the micro pub in downtown E’burg (gotta keep those college kids happy – CWU is nearby). The Micro Pub had the Mocha Death on tap. It is all the goodness you will come to enjoy in the Irish Death with a bit of coffee and chocolate flavor to boot.
This also is a dog-friendly place and Bruce was the center of attention once again. They have a back patio for outdoor relaxation which was nice today – 75° and sunny. We spent some time here enjoying the sun and the friendly people; oddly enough from Portland, OR and Missoula, MT. Odd how good breweries can extend their market reach.
After a while, Bruce got bored and let me know it was time to hit the road again. So now, refreshed, and energized, we set the autopilot for Roslyn for brewery number two of the day trip. Once again stunned by the scenery, the Cascades jutting high into the cloudless blue sky with contrasting darks and lights from the snow, forests, and rocky cliffs, the horse ranches and dairy farms and the Wild Horse Wind & Solar Facility, a new inspiration epiphanized, and we were on a mission to see if Bruce could pick up any scents from his birthplace in Cle Elum.
I did not remember where the place where his mom and dad were, but I did remember Mama Vallone’s. We stopped there for some wonderful Italian food – well I did – Bruce relaxed in the car.
The plan had been to stop at Snoqualimie Brewing, and Rogue in Issaquah – but feeling fully sated and wanting to get home before dark, we decided to save those for another day. We arrived home, safe and happy from a beautiful day of adventuring for the sake of beer. Apparently we missed on on a perfectly blah, cloudy, day there. I smiled. This is all so worth it.
Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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