Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis. This blog is part of a continuing story, click here to go back a post!
It had been a long day, my Dad, our friends Mike and Laurie and myself had driven over two hundred and forty miles along the Colombia Gorge from Portland, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington. On the way we stopped at a few breweries, Full Sail in Hood River, Pendleton's Prodigal Son and finally Dragon's Gate Brewery in Milton Freewater, right on the State border. Throughout this gruelling ordeal (it's a tough life taking in stunning scenery and tasting lots of beer) I had been suffering with the flu but had swallowed a proverbial spoonful of cement in an effort to toughen up. By the time we had reached Mike and Laurie's farm on the outskirts of Walla Walla I was feeling worse for wear but I attempted to suck it up one last time and we headed out to the Red Monkey Lounge for some beers and a bite to eat.
Open Daily, except when I'm in town...
No sooner had I sat at the bar and been served a super fresh pint of Stone IPA things took a turn for the worse. The room started spinning and I broke out in a cold sweat, I was bundled into Mike's car and sent straight to bed having not even taken a sip of that gleaming, golden pint. Don't fret for me though, the juries still out on whether or not I actually like Stone IPA and my Dad later informed me that he polished it off on my behalf so at the very least it did not go to waste.
I awoke after almost twelve hours sleep feeling considerably better than I had the day before, I wasn't yet one hundred percent but after I had consumed the delicious breakfast smoothie Laurie had whipped up I felt like I could (almost) take on the world. Laurie also kindly gifted me with several bombers of beer from Northwestern Breweries that aren't often found in the liquor stores of Colorado. Highlights included a bottle of Pike Brewing Monk's Uncle Triple, No-Li Brewing IPA and a bottle of Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA, I just hoped that they survived the journey back to Colorado with us. Thanks again to Laurie for all of these beers, I just wish I had been well enough to drink them when I stayed over!
My Dad and I had a few hours remaining in the Northwest before it was time to head back to Fort Collins so with Mike having to go to work, Laurie, my Dad and I set off to visit Laht Neppur brewery in the nearby town of Waitsburg. Before we headed to the brewery my Dad insisted that we visit his favourite record store, Hot Poop, which describes itself as a 'Bing Bang Music and Stereo Shop.' My Dad visits the Northwest on business quite regularly and this is clearly evident when Jim, the owner of Hot Poop, emerges from behind the counter with a handful of new records that he had put to one side for him. Hot Poop is just about the most idiosyncratic stores you will ever visit, Jim sells records, guitars, drum kits, hi-fi's, televisions and well, just about anything else he can cram in between his four walls. I can guarantee that this is probably the only store in the world where you have to climb over piles of stock in order to reach most parts of the store. If you're ever in the Walla Walla area, Hot Poop is a must visit.
Walla Walla is deep in Washington wine country, the town has a whole street lined with tasting rooms and once you are out of town the landscape is interspersed with many a vinyard but predictably it's only the beer that I'm interested in. Eventually we arrive in Waitsburg (on the way there we drove past the family home of Adam 'Batman' West!) and pull up to the entrance of Laht Neppur brewery only to find out that they are closed. Well I'm sorry Laht Neppur, but I'm writing this off as your loss on this occasion, you had the opportunity RIGHT THERE for me to visit your brewery but you dang went and missed it. So we drive all the way back to Walla Walla looking for a place to stop for a drink and a bite to eat and eventually arrive at a cosy looking bar called the Green Lantern.
I was worried at this point that the dreaded flu was about to take hold yet again as I was starting to feel a little worse for the wear but I decided, probably against my better judgement, that now was the time to ditch the tasters and get back onto pints. The Lantern had Racer 5 on, I love Racer 5 and was about to order a pint when Laurie stopped me and demanded that I had to have something from the Northwest. I'm glad she did for if she hadn't I wouldn't have tried the delicious, juicy IPA from Diamond Knot Brewing which went down a treat and when I saw the bottom of that glass I felt like I'd turned a corner and was ready for more! I washed down my lunch with a pint of the Ninkasi winter seasonal Sleigh'r, a dark double altbier, not a style I'm usually keen on but this was delicious, full flavoured and yet still gloriously drinkable, in fact I've been thoroughly impressed by every Ninkasi beer I've had on this trip.
Until the next time, Walla Walla.
Soon it was time to head to the tiny Walla Walla airport and begin the long journey back to Colorado via Seattle, sadly we only had a couple of hours in between flights so we had no hope of exploring this city but it had been a fantastic few days in the Northwest, a plethora of amazing beers were drank in the company of some wonderful new friends. The short flight from Walla Walla to Seattle was operated by Alaska Airlines who have a different rotating craft beer available each month and the best part is that it's free. Sadly on this flight the beer was Kona Koko Brown, a brown ale brewed with coconut which sadly has the unfortunate honour of being the worst beer I tried on this trip. There was nothing technically wrong with it, it was well brewed and nicely carbonated but for me the coconut in this beer just does not work. Not only did the coconut seem to give the beer an almost soapy taste but it had a viscous, oily texture that I found off-putting. Still, I held my nose and sank it anyway, it was free after all.
It was less than an hour before we landed in Seattle and once we had found our terminal my Dad and I settled into a nice little bar where I had my final beer in the Northwest, for this trip at least, an IPA from Alaskan brewing. It was another solid IPA but like every hoppy beer I had drank since drinking Pliny a couple of nights beforehand it seemed a little on the quiet side flavour wise. Still, it ticked all the boxes and helped bide the time in the terminal. Soon we were winging our way back towards Denver International and I had a few more days of beer based FUN awaiting me in Fort Collins. When we arrived in Denver my Dad collected his bag and to our abject horror it was dripping with a liquid that smelt decidedly beery. Thankfully there was no broken glass but the bottle of Ninkasi Tricerahops had at some point decided to blow it's top and unload it's contents into my Dad's luggage.
It was past midnight when we arrived in Fort Collins and it was snowing a blizzard outside. Sadly there was no rest for the wicked, we had to be up early next morning as we were heading to nearby Loveland to brew a beer with the towns newest brewery...