I like beer. Good beer. Not the kind young college whippersnappers chug while attempting a handstand on top of a keg. I’m talking about beer with flavor. The wheaty concoctions which actually taste better when they’re not ice cold.
That’s why I knew immediately I liked Becca Gray. We were discussing beer. Her beer. She owns the Island Hoppin’ Brewery with Nate Schons and Jim Parker. She said:
We kept getting requests for an all-day drinking beer. A sort of Pabst Blue Ribbon kind of suds. But we were never going to make a beer that tasted like Pabst. We just couldn’t do that. Kolch was our answer. It’s light in body, but it drinks like a lager. It’s a beer I enjoy drinking and that’s the only kind of beer we serve.
Becca is true to her word. While visiting the small craft brewery on Orcas Island, I sampled every available selection and some which weren’t even quite ready to pour. The flavor profiles ranged wildly, but one thing was consistent. They were always complex with a smooth finish which made sipping a delight.
A little over a year old, the Island Hoppin’ Brewery is located just a hop, skip and a jump the from the Eastsound Airport on Orcas Island. That’s right folks, it’s within walking distance of where Kenmore Air Express, our wheeled plane division, lands.
Talk about convenience! If you were so inclined, you could easily make it a beer tasting day trip.
Visiting the Taproom
The taproom and brewhouse are located in the same spot. What does this mean for you, the visitor? It means the brewers are usually there. Sometimes, they’re even the ones pouring your beer.
Although, more often than not, you’ll find them cleaning. These folks clean tirelessly. “Being a brewer is 30 percent brewing and 70 percent janitorial,” Nate, the brewery’s master brewer, told me.
Why so much cleaning? Because that’s what it takes to make amazing beer. And, at the Island Hoppin’ Brewery there’s no skimping on any step of the process. Nate even climbs inside the tanks and hand scrubs them.
“There’s an automated cleaning system. A lot of people use it. But, if anything is left behind, it can taint the next batch. That’s not a risk we’re willing to take,” Nate told me.
Beyond beer, the taproom also offers small bites such as a smoked salmon and cheese platter and Island made cheesecake.
Visit. Nibble. Sip. Enjoy. Try to resist ordering a few growlers to go.
It’s pretty darn hard, let me tell ya.