Beer Trails: Vancouver, the gateway to the Gorge

As we told you in an earlier post (click here), we spent Thanksgiving weekend touring the breweries and pubs of Southwest Washington and the Columbia River Gorge. In this installment, we stop for lunch in Vancouver.

Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub

We had long heard about this place but had never stopped in to visit. In 2007 and 2008, Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub won top honors for Best Brew Pub in the NW Brewing News Readers’ Choice awards. They must be doing something right.

Located downtown in old Vancouver, the historic brick building provides a unique atmosphere that is both historic and utilitarian. Vintage copper ceilings and crown moldings do not distract from the working man’s pub feel. A lovely patio divides the building into two separate sections – one side that welcomes children (the restaurant) and one side reserved for grownups (the bar). On a chilly November day we could only imagine how popular the patio must be during the warmer months.

From the street, it almost appears to be two separate businesses.
From the street, it almost appears to be two separate businesses.

Larry and Ana Pratt run Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub. Their passion fuels the pub’s success. Larry is a native of Maine and has the accent to prove it. Ana is a native of Croatia. The couple has been married for 23 years. Shortly after introducing herself, Ana says, “I tell people that the secret to a long, happy marriage is,” she pauses, throws up her hands and says, “My husband makes very good beer.” We immediately like this woman. 

We found our way to the back of the building where Larry was waiting for us in the brewery. Like most brew houses we come across, this one had a previous life. This particular seven-barrel system came from the dungeon at Elliott Bay Brewing in West Seattle. Larry produces seven house beers and usually has a couple of seasonal beers -or something special- on tap as well.

The 7 bbl brew house, former in the dungeon at Elliott Bay Brewing.
The 7 bbl brew house, formerly in the dungeon at Elliott Bay Brewing.

Larry is a Vietnam veteran who served his country in the most difficult of ways. In other words, he got shot up pretty good. He describes it as being the best and worst thing that ever happened. Obviously an optimist, he tells us that his pension has allowed him to pursue his passions. He’s not the kind of man who could ever just sit back and wait for the check to show up, so he’s always worked. After a career with United Airlines, he decided to pursue his passion for good beer.

Larry tells us that it is not an accident that he graduated into professional brewing. “I started out as a home brewer, but I always knew that this is what I wanted to do. Most home brewers just want to make beer for themselves and their friends, make beer for those home brew competitions, but I didn’t care about that. I wanted to make beer for people.”

The diverse selection of Salmon Creek beers ranges from a well-balanced and quaffable IPA to a winter ale made using rum-soaked oak chips. Yes, rum. The Fresh Hop Bitter and the Oktoberfest were both outstanding; however, it was Brother Larry’s Belgian that won my heart. Made with Belgian malts, noble hops and a touch of Belgian candy, Brother Larry’s is an old style Belgian golden ale that weighs in at 8.4% ABV. My wife, Kim, was driving so I was able to sample most of the beers and enjoy a couple of pints with lunch. No, they were not both Brother Larry’s. I was not ready for nap time just yet.

Brother Larrys Belgian Ale - sweet, golden goodness.
Brother Larry's Belgian Ale - sweet, golden goodness.

We enjoyed the food as well as the beer. The lunch menu is diverse, with a nice selection of salads, sandwiches and delicious-sounding entrées. Kim enjoyed the house chicken salad, which included fresh, warm, roasted chicken. I had the Cuban sandwich – pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle on ciabbata bread. The food was excellent.

We very highly recommend Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub. Larry and Ana will likely be there if you stop by. Make sure you ask to meet them. They are very genuine, warm, and hospitable people. It’s no wonder they’ve won awards for being a great brew pub.

Salmon Creek Brew Pub
108 W Evergreen Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98660
(360) 993-1827

Monday through Wednesday -12pm to 10pm
Thursday and Friday – 12pm to 11pm
Saturday – 4pm to 10pm

By the Bottle

Right next door to Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub we happened to find By the Bottle, a very nice and well-stock bottle shop. This was an unexpected surprise. The proprietor, Arlene Nuñez, was there and we chatted him up a bit about his business.

“I drive a lot, chasing beer,” he tells us. “I’m the hardest working man in the bottle shop business.”

By the Bottle rivals any of our local Seattle-area bottle shops in terms of selection. Arlene regularly seeks out beers that do not otherwise make it to the Vancouver market. His shelves are filled with things that are familiar to us, but must seem exotic to the locals. Of course, he has an assortment of beers that don’t regularly make it to the Seattle market as well. We grabbed a few bottles and a couple cans of stuff we’d never seen in any of our local joints.

We told Arlene about our road trip and about which breweries and pubs we intended to visit in the coming days. He had valuable advise for us. “You’re going to love Double Mountain. It is going to be your new favorite brew pub,” he said. “Oh, and you’re going to Everybody’s Brewing? You have to get the XXX burger.”

He was the second person to tell us about this burger, though we still didn’t know exactly what it was. He gave us directions to Highway 14 and we headed out for Stevenson, home of Walking Man Brewing – our next destination.

By the Bottle
104 W. Evergreen Blvd.
Vancouver, WA 98660
(360) 696-0012

Cheers to our sponsors, like...