The Top Craft Breweries on San Juan and Olympic Islands
PHOTO: Propolis Brewing, Port Townsend. (photo by John Roberts)
I call it serendipity. Travel tends to bring about an amazing convergence of life's pleasures that serves to enhance what was already slated to be a wonderful experience.
How else can I explain the fortunate circumstance of my first Un-Cruise Adventures sailing — a weeklong exploration of the San Juan and Olympic Islands off the coast of Washington state — also coincidentally being a craft beer-themed cruise? I was going to be on that boat on those dates either way, but to find myself getting to experience the natural beauty in that region and doing so while in the company of three beer experts and more than a few fellow passengers who could best be described as beer aficionados?
READ MORE: 7 Cruise Lines to Enjoy Craft Beer at Sea
I enjoy beer and consider it an important part of my travels. I'll always seek out a few brews for which a particular destination is known. Some people like their wines; I am a beer guy, 100 percent. So, I was extremely pumped to find that I was on the cruise line's lone craft beer sailing of the season.
Washington long has been on the leading edge of the craft brewery boom (these smaller-scale brewers are opening at a rate of about two a day, according to the Brewers Association), and we got to savor several breweries. It's a fitting reward, settling in to a small family-owned spot for tasty brews after a day of hiking or kayaking around the islands.
Thanks to Kendall Jones of WashingtonBeerBlog.com and his wife, Kim, who led the brewery tours while we sailed with Un-Cruise Adventures on Wilderness Discoverer, and to Lindsay MacNevin, a travel writer who focuses on beers, for sharing a few brews with me onboard and for offering their expertise.
Now, here are the best five microbreweries you can get your fill of while sailing in the San Juan and Olympic Islands and other waters off the coast of Washington.
Island Hoppin' Brewery, Orcas Island
The largest of the San Juan Islands deserves a fantastic microbrewery, and this is it. The delightful tasting room is open year-round, seven days a week, and displays the fresh beer offerings on a chalkboard, which also lists a small selection of appetizers you can nosh on while savoring your brews. Find seven beers on tap, to have in pints or flights. Try the Elwha Rock IPA (be sure to ask the story about the name) or the robust 8.3 percent ABV Old Madrona Imperial Red. (33 Hope Lane, Eastsound, Washington)
Port Townsend Brewing Co., Port Townsend
A highlight here is the large outdoor tasting garden. While the brewery features about two dozen year-round, seasonal and specialty brews, make sure to grab a pint of the Hop Diggidy IPA, Peeping Peater Scotch Ale or the brewery's traditional Pale Ale, MacNevin said. Owner Kim Sands is a constant and friendly presence here and aims to make sure everyone is having a good time and always has a full glass. (330 10th Street, Port Townsend, Washington)
Propolis Brewing, Port Townsend
With a small but cute taproom set up just paces away from the brewing tanks, you'll fall in love with this place and its owners, Robert Horner and Piper Corbett, who craft beer with an emphasis on natural flavors, often foraged from forests and fields around Port Townsend, like cherries, heather, dandelions and wild flowers. MacNevin recommends Beltane, an elderflower saison, Old Bruin, a bourbon barrel-aged Flemish brown ale, and the Wyrt Farmhouse Stout. This is the place for trying creative, non-traditional beers. (2457 Jefferson Street, Port Townsend, Washington)
Anacortes Brewery, Anacortes
This is a well-established craft brewer, and you can find its beers distributed all around Washington. The brewery was started in 1994 and has grown to feature more than 30 varieties. The brewery is attached to the Rockfish Grill restaurant where you can pair beers with pizza, burgers and seafood. Get the Broadsword Scottish Ale or the Mai Oh Maibock, said Kendall Jones, whose WashingtonBeerBlog.com is the leading info hub for all things beer in the region. (320 Commercial Avenue, Anacortes)
Diamond Knot Craft Brewing
Co-founders Bob Mapher and Brian Sollenberger started crafting brews as a hobby (this is how many of these breweries began, it seems) and an award-winning beer business soon emerged. The brewery crafts more than 600 barrels a month and features a brewery and alehouse in a prime spot on the Mulkiteo waterfront. Jones recommends Diamond Knot's Extra Special Bitter and Industrial IPA. (621 Front Street, Mukilteo)
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