Skookum is a brewery about which most people know nothing. It is as mysterious as the name. In Chinook jargon (a local native/English dialect), Skookum is the name of a mythical woodland beast. While Sasquatch sightings seem to be exceedingly rare these days, Skookum Brewery is more frequently venturing out of the forest. Last year at the 2010 Washington Brewers Festival, many people got their first glimpse of Skookum. This year the brewery will once again venture out of the woods and reveal itself at the annual festival on Father’s Day weekend.
Truthfully, Skookum Brewing is not very far off of the beaten path. You have likely driven past it dozens of times and never realized it.
Travel with purpose and confidence
Let’s start out by getting you there. To find this brewery, which is approximately one hour north of Seattle, you need confidence and faith. The brewery is not exactly in plain view–quite the opposite, actually. At the end of this article we provide precise directions. You might think you’ve made a wrong turn because there are no signs to guide you, but you are not lost. Trust the directions, map, or GPS. Skookum might be a bit hard to find but a visit to this brewery is very much worth it.
Relax and soak in the country life. And the beer, of course
Set in the woods, this is one of the most relaxing and peaceful breweries we’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. The buildings—engineered and built by owner/brewer Ron Walcher—are beautiful. The tasting room and brewery is reminiscent of a mountain lodge, with river rock and beautiful timbers.
Across the way, you’ll notice a large and beautiful old barn. Ron and his wife relocated and rebuilt the historic barn piece by piece. In its previous life, it was a dairy barn in Marysville. In his previous life, Ron worked in construction. Judging by the buildings here, he was very good at it.
When we arrived, we found all of the doors wide open, with a nice crowd of people scattered about, indoors and out, enjoying Ron’s beer. We parked ourselves at a large, heavy picnic table just outside the brewery’s garage door, though the patio furniture in the woods looked like a nice option as well. Within moments a woman approached us and offered us beer.
Inside the brewery, you’ll find a 10 barrel system that Ron uses to brew his selection of Skookum beers. His beers are solid. The Jackass IPA was the only one unavailable to us. He was sold out. Instead, he was pouring Olde Tom IPA, which we thoroughly enjoyed, taking a growler with us when we left. We also liked the Cat’s Paw Blonde, which had a nice story to go with it, which Ron was happy to share with us.
We quickly realized that this is a dog-friendly establishment, which made our two dogs very happy. Just as quickly as they fetched our beers, our hosts brought treats and a bowl of water for our dogs. Not long after we arrived a man approached us with a camera and a large, framed poster. He showed it to us–a collage of dogs. “I’m the photographer,” he told us. “We do a Dogs of Skookum calendar every year, so we need to go take pictures of your dogs.”
He leads us to a grassy area next to the barn where he takes a few pictures and explains that they sell the calendars at cost and they just do it because they love animals. Turns out, the photographer is Ron Walcher’s brother-in-law.
This is a friendly place. The service is outstanding, not because they have any deep drive to provide you with top notch customer service, but because they are happy to see you. Everyone seems genuinely glad you’re there. I didn’t ask, but I feel safe in assuming that the three women who were waiting tables and pouring beer are part of the family.
When we arrived, they had just opened for the day. There were already a handful of people scattered about. As time went on, the crowd grew steadily: guys on Harleys, young men in pickup trucks getting kegs, neighbors carrying empty growlers needing satisfaction, and other wide-eyed beer hobos like ourselves.
“I cannot believe it took us so long to do this,” Kim said to me. “This place is awesome. It might be the best place we’ve ever been.” At the moment, it was hard to disagree with her assessment.
In retrospect, that might be overstating it a bit. But just a little bit. I am comfortable saying that the Skookum Brewery is, without a doubt, one of the most inviting and relaxing stops we’ve ever made on our many beer tours.
What, exactly, is Skookum
The word Skookum is Chinook jargon. That is, a native American word that has been interpreted and bent into having meaning in English. Skookum has a couple of meanings. First, it is a word with positive or strong connotations, used synonymously with words like good, powerful, and ultimate. “Holy cow, this beer is skookum!” Second, Skookum is a name given to a mythical woodland beast. A Sasquatch, basically.
Getting there and other info
From I-5 take exit 208 (the Darrington/Hwy 530 exit) and head east on Highway 530.
After approximately .25 miles (a quarter mile) veer right onto Smokey Point Blvd.
Head south for 1 mile and turn right onto 200th Street NE. This road goes over the freeway.
Follow this road west (200th Street NE, a.k.a. King Thompson Road) for approximately 1 mile and turn left onto 17th Drive NE.
Yes, it looks like a private road. You will think you’ve made a wrong turn, but you haven’t. Follow the road, slowly, to its end at the Skookum Brewery.
In order to appease the neighbors, who are less than thrilled to have a popular brewery and tasting room up the road, there are no signs to guide you.
19529 17th Drive Northeast
Arlington, WA 98223
Tasting room hours: