Spokane’s Shining Beacon of Good Beer
On the Spokane River, not far from the Gonzaga University campus, you will find a gem of a brew pub—Northern Lights Brewing Company and Pub. Back in the day, the brewery was out west in Airway Heights. Mark Irvin moved the operation into the city in 2002 and the locals are glad he did.
I mean no offense, but for those of us who live in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area, where great beer springs eternal, Spokane seems a little bit dry. I actually met a local beer lover and Spokane native who refered to his hometown as, “A vacuous, barren wasteland of bad beer. ” There is a notable exception. Northern Lights Brewing is a beacon of hope: a teeming oasis in an otherwise impoverished desert of lifeless beer. Okay, that might be overstating it, but you get my point. It’s really good beer.
The beer at Northern Lights is impressive. Mark Irvin is a skilled brewer who creates traditional ale styles and specialty ales with equal success. It would be unfair to call Northern Lights anything less than Spokane’s best craft beer. In fact, it might be more accurate to call it Spokane’s only truly-local craft beer. (There are other options, but calling them “local” might be a stretch.) If you love beer and you are visiting Spokane, you must stop by and sample some of Mark’s work. You won’t regret it. For those of us who live on the west side of the mountains, and rarely see Northern Lights beers, it is a treat.
Getting there – Northern Lights Brewing Company is located at 1003 East Trent Avenue (at Hamilton) in Spokane. It is right across the street from Gonzaga University’s baseball stadium in the Riverwalk Building. We have heard some people describe the location as difficult to find; however, if you trust the address, your navigation device, or cab driver, and if you know that the brew pub shares the building with other businesses, you should have no problem finding it. In addition to the blue Northern Lights sign, keep your eyes peeled for a highly visible sign for Bankok Thai, the restaurant with whom they share the building.
Once you’re there – This is a true brew pub. The brewery is on premises, just behind the bar. The atmosphere and décor at Northern Lights Brewing Company is almost fancy. Although it is friendly and inviting, it is upscale for a pub. This is no dingy tavern. The food can be best described as chic Northwestern pub fare. You will find a broad selection of the usual suspects (fish and chips, hamburgers, etc.) as well as some more creative options (salads and other entrées).
Upon first entering, take a moment to let it sink in. You might not immediately understand the lay of the land. The pub is expansive and sprawling. The bar area has tables, booths, televisions, and otherwise resembles what you imagine in a pub; however, the rest of pub deserves and requires some exploring. The open-air part of the pub, outside the bar, features arcade games and pool tables in addition to scattered seating options.
Outside the back door you’ll find a lovely patio seating area that is right on the river. When we were there, the river was very high—frighteningly high, actually. It was an impressive display of Mother Nature’s fierce power. It’s easy to imagine it being equally peaceful and passive on a warm summer day.
If the weather is agreeable, the patio is where you want to be. Well, unless it’s time for March Madness. You’ll want to be inside watching a television in the bar if the Gonzaga Bulldogs are playing (as they usually do) in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Our server assured us that on game days the pub fills up with enthusiastic students and staff.
If you live in Spokane, none of this is news to you. If you are visiting Spokane, make Northern Lights a destination for lunch, dinner, or just to sample some beers. You will not regret it. Tell ‘em the blog sent you.