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Hoist the Ales

by Kate Calamusa


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San Juan Island Brewing

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island; 360.378.2017; sanjuanbrew.com

The summery Harbor Hefeweizen; crisp The Light Keeper IPA; the refreshingly dry Westcott Bay Belgian Summer Ale; the seasonal August brews from San Juan Island Brewing alone are enough to make your mouth water. But, add in such nautically themed, year-round favorites as the San Juan Pilsner, Bull Kelp ESB, and of course, the Yachter’s Daughter Helles Lager, and it’s easy to see why this Friday Harbor standby is a longtime favorite amongst boaters and islanders alike. Brewing 2,400 barrels a year in 32 unique styles, San Juan Brewing is located just two blocks up from the ferry dock in a family friendly spot that features both spacious indoor and picturesque outdoor dining options. Along with beer flights, rotating hard ciders, and frosty pours of whatever brew’s on tap that day, SJB slings classic American-style pub fare that includes pizzas, sammies, soups, and salads. And trust us, nothing else hits the spot quite like the pairing of a crisp, zesty pilsner like the San Juan Czech with the brewery’s signature freshly popped popcorn, topped with Parmesan and brewer’s yeast, as you watch the sun go down on another perfect summer day.

Cease & Desist: Friday Harbor Beer House

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island; 360.726.3705; instagram.com/fridayharborbeer/

Tucked just underneath Downriggers restaurant, this low-key beer house may boast of “warm beer and cold attitude” on their (quite humorous) social media feeds, but savvy visitors soon learn that the opposite proves true. The convivial atmosphere here often sparks stirring conversations, the stunning marina views cannot be beat, and dogs are always welcomed. Featuring a rotating selection of hand-picked beers—a recent look at the big chalkboard menu revealed ales from such Pacific Northwest favorites as Reuben’s Brews out of Seattle, Astoria, Oregon’s Fort George Brewing, and both Kulshan Brewing and Structures Brewing of Bellingham—as well as a few seasonal hard ciders and seltzers, Cease & Desist also offers light snacks such as chips and peanuts for you to munch on as you belly up to the bar to order a few rounds.

Island Hoppin’ Brewery

Eastsound, Orcas Island; 360.376.6079; islandhoppinbrewery.com

If you are island hoppin’ this month, you’d be remiss to not actually go to Island Hoppin’. The first, and only, microbrewery located on Orcas, this homey tasting room offers a rotating selection of their own craft brews, which range from puckery IPAs to reds and warm stouts. Our absolutely favorite on a hot summer’s day, though, is the Feel the Burn Chili Blonde, a spicy summer sipper that can be served up michelada style with Clamato, mango juice, Worcestershire sauce, pepperoncini juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, all in a glass with Tajin on the rim. Outside food is always welcomed, but the brewery also offers a plentiful selection of bites that includes a local cheese plate served up with Girl Meets Dirt Jam or smoked salmon from Lummi Island Wild. Be sure to check their social feeds before planning a visit, as the bustling little joint frequently hosts live music, trivia nights, or visiting local food trucks to amp up the already enjoyable atmosphere.


Double Bluff Brewing Company

Langley, Whidbey Island; 360.333.9113; dblfbrewing.com

Back south in Marine Area 8, Double Bluff Brewing churns out an impressive and interesting roster of beers influenced by such Northwest ingredients as sour cherries, stinging nettles, and even hops sourced from backyards and farms all across Whidbey Island, and proffers them all in a kid- and dog-friendly spot where you can bring along your own picnic fare. Park yourself at one of the outside patio tables and linger over such all-time greats as Double Bluff’s Anthesian India Red Ale, a 2019 award winner; Marissa’s Amber Ale, named for the brewery’s co-owner; and the brewery’s bestseller, the amazingly drinkable Kölsch German-style blond ale that taps into head brewer Daniel Thomis’ Swiss roots. On summer weekends through Labor Day, Double Bluff is hosting a back alley summer concert series to provide music for your tastings, and on the horizon, the brewery recently announced they’ve secured new, bigger digs in downtown Langley to expand their operations. We’ll drink to that!

Ogres Brewing

Clinton, Whidbey Island; 425.418.9005; ogresbrewing.com

Located in Historic Bailey’s Corner, and featuring live music most Friday evenings, Ogres Brewing has a devoted local fanbase, and it’s easy to see why: The team crafts homestyle brews using seasonal Northwest ingredients such as a blueberry blonde ale for summer, a rich dark porter in colder months. Visitors are welcomed to the eclectic garage tasting room by a mural of two ogres enjoying a pint. Ogres fanatics know to order up a hearty burger or panini at the Bailey Corner Store next door, then bring it on over and get to the difficult business of tasting the evening away.

Penn Cove Brewing Company

Coupeville & Freeland, Whidbey Island; 360.682.5747; penncovebrewing.com

Whidbey’s largest brewery, with locations in both the towns of Coupeville and Freeland, Penn Cove is a beer lover’s paradise thanks to their immense selection of creatively brewed options. Summer favorites include the Bell’s Strawberry, crafted with locally-grown berries from Bell’s Farm, Mutiny Bay blueberry blonde, and the limey and frothy El Coupacabra Mexican lager. For those colder, summer-into-fall evenings when you are headed back from nabbing one last batch of crabs, be sure to linger over a luxurious Captain Coupe’s Black lager. The Freeland location will also feed you especially well as the on-site Braeburn Restaurant food truck dishes out mouth-watering fried chicken sandwiches topped with apple-bacon slaw, plus loaded tots, and a truly sublime black bean burger.

Thirsty Crab Brewery

Clinton, Whidbey Island; 360.341.5158; thirstycrabbrewery.com

Satisfy your crabbing desires, then wet your whistle with some Thirsty Crab. What’s not to like here? Opening their tasting room and restaurant just over a year ago, which is conveniently situated a mere two blocks from the Clinton ferry docks, Thirsty Crab Brewery is all things approachable and friendly, from the staff to the hand-lettered selection of rotating brews that usually includes a nice assortments of IPAs, ambers, some blondes and our personal fave: the jalapeno Hefe. We suggest ordering a frosty pint of the latter, and pairing it with a brat topped with coleslaw, bacon, and BBQ sauce from the brewery’s accompanying food truck, Build-A-Brat, for a truly satisfying supper.

Ale Spike Camano Island Brewery

Camano Island; 360.939.2434; alespike.com

Open Thursdays through Sundays on picturesque Camano to suit those weekend warriors, Ale Spike is situated in a lively warehouse space outfitted with string lights, warm wood decor, and a roll-up garage door that opens up for access to a petite, but very pleasant, patio. Other fun additions like retro VHS movies playing on the big screen TV, pop-up pinball events, and a genuinely friendly, approachable attitude towards brewing beer make Ale Spike a true destination. Sip and savor such ales as their bitter English Boom, a malty and hoppy Firechicken Red, and our personal fave, the Sunshine Blonde crafted with Skagit Valley malts, white wheat, and a touch of honey malt for sweetness.

Hoist the Ales

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