When my husband Mark and I decided to spend a week on a glacial lake near the border of Idaho and Canada, we knew we’d find some good canoeing and hiking, and hoped for a Twin Peaks-esque diner or two, but we didn’t know what to expect on the drinks front. Were we destined for seven days of diner coffee and macrobrews, or would we find that even mountain folk appreciate good drinks? Having found great drinks in unexpected places in the past, we hoped for the latter.
We weren’t disappointed. On the drive from Portland to Idaho, we discovered two craft breweries and a tiny natural foods store/ice cream shop with an incredibly well-stocked beer fridge. In Roslyn, Wash. (pop. 1,017), an old mining town in the Cascade Mountains—and the filming location for the 1990s TV series Northern Exposure—the Roslyn Brewing Co.’s taproom and beer garden weren’t open, but we vowed to stop for a pint on our way back through town. At Lefties store and ice cream shop, we stocked up on brews for the week, choosing from a good selection of Belgians and rare domestic microbrews. Half an hour later, we stopped in rural Ellensburg to fuel up at Central Washington Biodiesel and stumbled on Iron Horse Brewery, home of the appropriately named Rodeo Extra Pale (the whole town is gearing up for the 75th “diamond jubilee” Ellensburg Rodeo later this month.) The brewery wasn’t open, but now we're looking for Iron Horse brews at Northwest stores and restaurants.
In Sandpoint, Idaho, the biggest town (with a whopping 6,000 residents) near the lake we were visiting, we found yet another craft brewery, Laughing Dog Brewing, and a brewpub, MickDuff’s, where we sampled a deliciously creamy-spicy house-brewed rootbeer and a house IPA. Next door at Three Glasses wine bar, locals and tourists quaff Northwest wines, and several other Sandpoint restaurants feature wines from the local Pend d’Oreille Winery and other Idaho makers. (Did you know there are more than 30 wineries in Idaho?) Also in Sandpoint, on a quest to find an alternative to a major chain coffee retailer, several residents pointed us toward their local roaster, Monarch Mountain Coffee, where we had the best espresso we’d supped since Portland. The Monarch Mountain coffeehouse had a dozen single-origin coffees on hand, proudly displayed behind the counter in large glass jars.
On the trip home, back in Roslyn, Wash., we nursed a Roslyn Lager at the Brick Tavern, an old miner bar that’s said to be the oldest operating tavern in the state (check out the gargantuan, original bar, complete with a gutter of streaming water that runs under the stools, for spitting into), and marveled at a week’s worth of local drink finds.
What are some of your favorite out-of-the-way drink spots? Surely there are some good ones in your neck of the woods, wherever you live. -Kate Darling
(Photo: Roslyn Brewing Co.)