Snoqualmie Falls Brewing

11/25/2011

I have been coming to the Snoqualmie Falls Brewery for so many years I don’t even remember my first time. What I do remember was delicious beer that you tasted while chatting with a brewer, or the owner, in the “brew house”. The entrance was through the loading dock. It was my first time inside a real craft brewery. I was in awe.

You took beer home in growlers. They didn’t bottle back then. I am happy to report that the brewery is not only still going strong, but the new expansion is done and adds more than seating to the place. Although I miss the back room intimacy, the place is now “on-the-beer-map” worthy and much more than a place known only to the locals.

SBC is a small private company, founded by Pat Anderson, David McKibben, Dave Eiffert, LeRoy Gmazel and Tom Antone in 1997. Rande Reed, formerly head brewer of Thomas Kemper and Pyramid, became head brewer at Snoqualmie Falls in 1998. Fourteen years later, they have grown to five 14 bbl open  and two 17 bbl conical fermenters. They condition beer from the open fermenters in ten 7 bbl Grundies, with two additional 7 bbl Grundies used as bright tanks, and are able to produce up to 5,000 bbls a year on this equipment.

They began bottling in 2001 for the local market, and in 2008 acquired a bigger bottling system that has allowed them to distribute their beer throughout the state of Washington and northern Idaho.

With all the Black Friday shopping going on, I figured a nice jaunt up I-90 on a sunny day would be the perfect anti-shopping experience. Who wants to be robbed in the parking lot or pepper sprayed for trying to get a bargain on a few meaningless presents?

As you head east on I-90 toward the Cascade Mountains, you are treated to beautiful forest views. A sort of calm comes to you even though you are driving 70 mph. You could see the new snow line on the mountains, the sun and blue sky providing the perfect contrast. It actually glistened. What a wonderful introduction to winter after several days of flood-producing rainfall in the lowlands.

Take the Snoqualmie – North Bend exit and head to the small town of Snoqualmie, famous for its collection of vintage railroad cars, its proximity to Snoqualmie Falls and for me at least, the Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company.

We arrived at about 1:00 pm. There were a few tables still occupied on the ground floor from the lunch bunch, and no one upstairs in the new loft. I had been there during construction (shortly after my daughter turned 21), but had not seen it finished. They did a wonderful job.

Jamie greeted us and gave us the run down on the menu and the beers. Naturally I ordered the sampler – gotta try ’em all. The menu offered some delightful sandwiches that tweaked our interest. I especially liked the Le Roy Largesse, roast beef, Gorgonzola, roasted garlic, red onion on a panino roll and the gumbo. The sampler included the Haystack Hefeweizen, Copperhead Pale Ale, Wildcat IPA, PGA Amber, Harvest Moon Festbier, Steam Train Porter and the Black Frog Stout on nitro. I particularly liked the Haystack (flavorful without the overdose of clove I taste in so many hefes) and the Steam Train (a full bodied brew with definite coffee, caramel bittersweet chocolate). The stout is exceptional, but it is for in-brewery consumption only. Worth the drive.

The hoppy beers are the Harvest Moon, Pale Ale, and Wildcat IPA. The PGA (which used to be called Pretty Good Amber, but is now known as Perfectly Great Amber and deservedly so) is nicely balanced, a bit hoppy, but not offensively so. If you like these styles, they have excellent expressions of each.

By the time the food arrived, the place was packed both upstairs and downstairs and the servers were moving at a frenetic pace. It apparently was THE perfect place to stop after cutting your Christmas tree. Many of the cars in the parking spaces by the pub were sporting trees as roof ornaments. Even though SBC now bottles extensively, I saw many customers leaving with growlers, many with more than one. This place has definitely built a solid following – a tribute to “doing it right” for many years. Seeing all those growlers going out the door reminded me of my first visits back in the late 90’s.

Keep this place in mind on your way back from skiing at Snoqualmie Pass, heading home from a trip across state, or hiking on Mount Si. It is also close to Snoqualmie Falls, the Snoqualmie Casino and the North Bend outlet mall.

Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker
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