According to the Washington Beer Commission, there are now over 400 breweries in Washington. We recently hit that milestone number when The Grain Shed, a brewery and bakery, opened in Spokane as the state’s 400th brewery. It is fitting that this particular brewery is associated with such a significant milestone in Washington beer history. Why? Because The Grain Shed is devoted to using Washington-grown ingredients exclusively.
In October 2008, when we launched the Washington Beer Blog, there were only about 100 breweries in the state. Given the growth rate of breweries across the entire country, it’s not surprising that the number of breweries in Washington has quadrupled in the last 10 years. (In the U.S. the number of breweries has grown from about 1,500 in 2008 to about 6,500 now.)
I am not sure what brewery came in at number 399 or number 401. Maybe Black Fleet Brewing of Tacoma, or Mount Olympus Brewing in Aberdeen, which apparently opened last weekend. The exact order is generally inconsequential, but according to the Washington Beer Commission, The Grain Shed was number 400.
I visited The Grain Shed recently, not long after the brewery opened. It’s a cool place and is unlike any other brewery and bakery I’ve ever visited. Actually, it is the first brewery and bakery I’ve visited. Here’s the deal with The Grain Shed. It is, essentially, the manifestation of a cooperative effort between three closely affiliated businesses: Palouse Heritage Farms (the farm that grows the grains), Linc Malt (the boutique malting house that processes the grains), and The Grain Shed (the bakery and brewery). The hops come from Yakima, but everything else comes from the Spokane/Palouse area.
On one side of the room, the bakery cranks out sweet treats, beautiful loaves of bread, and other baked goods, all sold from glass cases and a bakery counter. On the other side of the room, you’ll find a small brewery with a bar set up in front. They actually brew beer while people are sitting right there watching and drinking. They’ll even explain what they’re doing. They like to describe themselves as a “brewer, baker, social-bond maker.”
As far as the grains are concerned, they focus on using uncommon, not mass-produced grains—ancient, pre-hybridized varieties of grains referred to a landrace grains. These types of less-common grains contain a lot more character than basic, modern two-row barley, which is the backbone of the vast majority of beers, not that there is anything wrong with “regular” malted barley.
For you serious beer geeks, The Grain Shed brews and bakes with stuff like Scot’s Bere Barley, Purple Egyptian Barley, Yellow Breton Wheat, Rosen Rye, and Red Russian Wheat.
The beers are designed to showcase the grains, so don’t expect to get slapped in the face with hop character. Rather, hops are used for balance. I thought the beers were exceptional and very effectively displayed the rich character of the grains involved. It was something of an educational experience. I thoroughly enjoyed both the beer and the edification.
So cheers to Washington’s 400th brewery, The Grain Shed. And cheers to all the breweries that came before and all that will come after.