On a recent Saturday afternoon, Kim and I found ourselves north of Seattle visiting some new and new-to-us beer destinations. Stops along the way included Stanwood, Camano Island, Burlington, and Edison. The tour took us to three brewery taprooms and one alehouse that is in the process of transforming into a brewery. (Above: Terramar Brewing, photo via Facebook.)
Ale Spike Brewing – Camano, Island, WA. (1244 N Moore Rd Unit I-1, Camano, WA 98282) When Naked City Brewing shut down its taproom on Camano Island, it created a beer vacuum. In Physics 101 I learned that “nature hates a vacuum,” and apparently the same thing is true in the world of beer because the local beer nerds, many of whom were gutted by the closing of Naked City, have enthusiastically embraced Alespike Brewing.
Chris and Lyna Pepper operated a bottleshop in nearby Stanwood but shut it down to operate their brewery and taproom a few miles away near the airport on Camano Island. The cozy taproom boasts up to ten Ale Spike beers on tap. The brewery uses a three-barrel system to create the beer, and they don’t have enough tanks to brew more than once or twice a week, so don’t expect to see a lot of the beer outside of the taproom.
My favorite thing: A.D.I.D.A.S (All Day I Dream About Stout), a lovely oatmeal stout.
SAAL Brewing – Stanwood, WA. (10209 270th St NW, Stanwood, WA 98292) Matt Stromberg brewed beer for Scuttlebutt Brewing in Everett for over 20 years, so he knows a couple things about making beer. Not too long ago, Matt quietly bid farewell to his long-time gig with designs on opening a brewery of his own. He and Kristine Birkenkopf (business partner and girlfriend) took over an existing business in downtown Stanwood: a bar and restaurant located in a historic firehouse.
Currently, SAAL Brewing (pronounced like sail) offers a very carefully curated list of guest beers, since they do not have beers of their own. Stromberg has his eyes on some equipment and hopes to begin building out the brewery soon, but a realistic best-case scenario would probably see them pouring their own beer in the spring of 2020.
One of the first things they did when they took over the building, they revamped the kitchen. Not just the menu, but a physical purge as well. SAAL offers a menu that is both familiar and creative. Kristine is something of a food geek and has cleverly created a mix-n-match menu that accommodates folks with no dietary restrictions as well as those seeking vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free options.
My favorite thing: an absolutely killer tofu wrap, and the history of this very cool old building.
Garden Path Fermentation – Burlington, WA. (11653 Higgins Airport Way, Burlington, WA 98233) Located near the Skagit Regional Airport, not far from Chuckanut Brewery’s South Nut location, Garden Path Fermentation creates beers that are elegant, refined, and sumptuous.
Local beer nerds are probably already familiar with the story of Amber Watts and Ron Extract, who left jobs at Austin, Texas’ renown Jester King Brewery and headed north to the Skagit Valley, where they cultivated wild yeast from the local flora and from the biomass-rich Skagit Valley air before opening the brewery where they would put it to use.
If you are the kind of beer lover who gets jazzed when you hear words like “coolship” and “foeder,” this is your kind of place. Because of the nature of the beers, it took Garden Path some time to actually begin producing beers for us beer lovers to enjoy, adore, and covet. After all, wild ales will be ready when they are ready and not one minute before. Today you will find a lovely selection of beers on tap at the brewery’s comfortable taproom.
I could tell you more about Garden Path Fermentation, but if you are attracted to this kind of beer, you are probably already salivating and making plans to visit. Like moths to the fire, we are helplessly drawn. You might find Garden Path beers at better beer bars and retailers around the greater Seattle area, but only if you’re lucky and timely.
My favorite thing: every beer, every single beer.
Terramar Brewing – Bow, WA. (5712 Gilkey Ave, Bow, WA 98232) If the address says Bow, know that the town is called Edison. The cool little village is now home to Terramar Brewing, an ambitious project that is currently a brewery and pizzeria but will eventually be a distillery and hopefully a concert venue as well. They refer to themselves as a “brewstillery.” Chris and Jen Barker, the owners, teamed up with a local brewing legend, Mike Armstrong (formerly of Skagit River Brewing and Farmstrong Brewing) to bring the Terramar Brewing to life.
The historic building was once a rendering and meat processing facility and more recently was used as a chop-shop operated by an organized crime syndicate. Seriously. It’s a matter of public record. Given those distinctions, the property was uncommonly well-suited for transformation into a brewery.
Currently, Terramar Brewing is serving up beer and pizza in a family-friendly environment but the plan is to add distilling to the mix before too long. Behind the building, there is a large, grassy berm that they hope to transform into an amphitheater.
My favorites thing: the town. I absolutely adore this little corner of the world.
There are plenty of other breweries to visit in the Skagit Valley and surrounding areas, so make your plans and plot your course, but consider these stops along the way.