If you are traveling either direction on Highway 20 between Sedro Woolley and Concrete, and you are an attentive driver, you will see a diamond-shaped caution sign that says, “Beer Crossing.” Look for the sign 0.8 miles west of Baker Lake Road: about 400 yards east of Memory Lane. Once you see the sign, you will notice a pair of adjoined octagonal buildings on the south side of the highway. There is a modest sign and a cute old milk truck decorated with the Birdsview Brewing logo. If you don’t see it on first pass, turn around. Go back and find it. We don’t want you to miss Birdsview Brewing.
Birdsview Brewing is an unexpected gem of a brew pub–a welcome pit stop for any beer lover making the trek over the North Cascade Highway. When you stop by the pub, you will undoubtedly meet the proprietors, Bill and Kris Voigt. If for some reason they are not there, you are sure to meet at least one of their five children. Usually, you’ll meet the whole family. They will make you feel welcome with their sincere hospitality, tasty beer and delicious food.
Bill Voigt and his wife Kris have done many different and unlikely things in their life together. They share an independent spirit and have never liked working for anyone but themselves. For the past 25 years they’ve found a number of creative ways to avoid working for the man. Birdsview Brewing is just the latest expression of their independence. Now, instead of making windsocks or headboards, they’re making beer and delicious food to accompany it.
How did this whole thing get started? Let’s just say that Bill started brewing at gunpoint. Read the whole story to find out more.
A few years ago, Bill won a shotgun in the local fire hall raffle. Kris was not about to let him get a gun so Bill opted to take the money instead of the shotgun. He used the money to buy his first home brewing kit. It didn’t take long and he was hooked on the art of brewing. He transformed part of his upholstery shop into his brewhouse. He created a sort of home-pub, mounting three taps onto an old refrigerator. The upholstery shop quickly became increasingly popular with their friends — Bill’s team of experimental beer test dummies.
When a pool table showed up in the shop, it was clear that this had become more than a hobby. Bill decided (with some insisting from his wife) that it was time for them to get the pub out of the house. It was time to take the leap and open a brew pub. So Bill and his brother built a brew pub in the front yard. The kids, who had watched their parents pursue one wild-eyed idea after another, were skeptical but supportive.
The pub opened in 2006. With fingers crossed, the Voigt family hoped for the best. It didn’t take long for the community to embrace the new pub. Now, it is the place to be in the lovely hamlet of Birdsview, Washington.
There is something very familial and holistic about Birdsview Brewing. The Voigts erected the building on the property upon which they were already living and had raised their five children. Dad makes the beer. Mom runs the pub. The kids fill in the various gaps.
To put the pub and the beer to the test, the Washington Beer Blog’s Beer Posse — a crew of six hungry and thirsty beer geeks — rolled in for lunch on a Thursday afternoon. When we arrived, we were greeted by Jason Voigt, who was tending bar and quickly offered us samples and opinions of the surprising array of beer styles. His father, Bill, was in the brewhouse making beer. Mom and one of the daughters were making and serving the food. Get the picture? A family venture for sure.
If I said that the Beer Posse were surprised by the quality of the beer, I would be grossly understating the truth. Having only heard vague rumors of a brewery out in yon mountains, we were not expecting much. We planned to politly sample bad beer, smile half-heartedly, and quickly move along. Oops. Instead, we were stunned.
The beer is as excellent as it is unknown. Bill Voigt’s beer doesn’t make it out to any of the regional beer festivals. He doesn’t distribute his beer beyond the pub’s four walls (five walls actually). When we visited and talked to Bill, we tried to convince him to start making the trip into the city at least once a year for one of the festivals. He didn’t sound too terribly interested. He seems perfectly happy to be a truly local brewery serving beer to truly local people. Well, and the occasional wayward beer lover as well. Refreshing, actually, but for you and me that means a trip up Highway 20, some 22 miles east of Interstate 5, to enjoy his product.
A particular standout was the Ditsy Blond Ale. Yes, we liked the blond. I know that sounds funny. I mean, the Beer Posse are a pretty serious bunch of beer geeks. We were very surprised to find that a blond ale was our favorite. Usually blond ale is an afterthought. Brewers reluctantly offer something “light” to appeal to people who generally are frightened by any beer that actually has character. Usually, blond ale is a euphemism — a flavorless, bland and uninspiring substitute for a brewer’s better creations. Bill Voigt does make a beer that he laughingly calls Birdweiser.
Ditsy Blond is an exception to the rule. Seriously, The Beer Posse usually gravitates towards IPAs, bocks, porters, and other more savory selections, but we elected to get a growler of the blond to take with us. Actually, we got two. All of the beer styles that we sampled were memorable and truly worthy, but we took the blond with us.
Let’s talk about the food. I had the jalapeno burger — a spicy double-decker that honestly was one of the very best pub burgers I have ever had the pleasure to wrap my lips around; however, wrapping my lips around it wasn’t easy. This is a very big burger. Everyone at the table –there were six of us– got something different. Nobody was disappointed. Everyone sampled. Everyone shared. Not me. Nobody, I mean NOBODY, was touching my burger. They would have lost fingers if they’d tried.
Normally, if you’re looking to tour the brewery and/or meet the brewer, I would advise you to call ahead and make sure the brewer is going to be there. There’s really no need to do that if you are planning to visit Birdsview. Just stop by and you will likely have a chance to meet the whole family.
If you are traveling to Winthrop, or if you are going over Highway 20 for any reason at all, you have no excuse. You must stop and enjoy Birdsview Brewing. You will not regret it.
Tell ’em that the blog sent you.
You can find Birdsview Brewing on the Web at:
38302 State Route 20 Concrete, WA 98237