By Iron Chef Leftovers
A few of us recently went on a brewery tour of the Bainbridge/Poulsbo area to celebrate loyal blog reader Annie’s birthday. We hopped the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge and left the driving to the guys from the Peninsula Brewery Tour company (more on them later) and hit 4 breweries – Bainbridge Island Brewing, Sound Brewery, Slippery Pig Brewing and Valhalla Brewing. We did have a dog on the trip (except for at Bainbridge and I forgot to ask about their 4 legged friend policy), so I can rate the breweries on that also.
Bainbridge Island Brewing – They have a very nice looking brew pub a few miles from the ferry terminal in a strip mall/industrial park. Their next door neighbor is a winery and there is a distillery across the parking lot, so you could possibly make a destination out of just this one location. Bainbridge has a nice selection of beers, both light and heavy that will keep just about any beer drinker happy, and offer 2 tasting flights – one with their light beers and one with their darks. The light beer drinkers in the group gravitated toward a very nice Kolsh (although I personally thought their Saison was the best of the lights) while the hop-heads seemed to enjoy the Hoptopus double IPA. I personally thought that the best beer in their lineup was their Battle Point Stout – which had great malt character and a pleasant smoky/chocolate finish with notes of coffee. The pub itself is large, with seating on both the first and second floors, a rolling garage door that opens up the brewery and a small patio out front with additional seating. Oh – they also have a barrel aging project going on.
The Beer – 4 ferries out of 5. I didn’t have anything that I didn’t think was at least drinkable and most were very enjoyable beers
The Atmosphere – 5 gentle breezes out of 5. Beautiful building and an interesting brewing system. Nice place to hang out and have a few beers. They have a few snack items, but no food to speak of.
Dog Friendliness – No Rating. Not sure if you can bring the pooch inside, but you can probably grab a seat on the patio and have Fido there.
*Updated from Annie S: when I called them prior to the trip they said “bring the pooch they are allowed and you don’t have to be outside and she was super nice about it.
Sound Brewery – The brewery I was most looking forward to seeing based on what I said on this article. Located in a warehouse off a main road in Poulsbo, it isn’t the prettiest building you have ever seen, but they do have a small tasting room and patio with the brewery taking up most of the space. Their beers tend to gravitate more toward Belgian styles and/or hops, so you won’t have a ton of choices if you are looking for something that is in the kolsh vein. If you like hops, the Humulo Nimbus is an outstanding double IPA, their Endendre beers are fantastic beers using Chimay yeast and if you want to go to the dark side, their Ursus beers are incredibly good. We also got to try a sample of their Belgian Quad aging in a whiskey barrel – it was amazing and I would make a trip back just for that. My one disappointment was that they did not have Mayan Cave Bear on tap – I have wanted to try that and we missed it by about a week.
The Beer – 5 foghorns out of 5. I didn’t call them one of the 5 best in the state for nothing.
The Atmosphere – 3 mechanics out of 5. It is a neat tasting room, but it feels like it is in a warehouse (maybe because it is in a warehouse). It is pretty small space for drinking but the patio is a nice touch.
Dog Friendliness – 5 squeaky toys out of 5. No issues bringing the pooch inside.
Slippery Pig Brewery – Perhaps the oddest place on the trip for many reasons. It is located (literally) on a farm at the end of a dirt road, just minutes from Sound. Their brewing space was probably about the size of the bus we were on and their “taproom” wasn’t so much a room as a covered shelter. Then you have the beers. While most breweries will brew an occasional “off the wall” beer, Slippery Pig doesn’t do anything mainstream. Leave your preconceived notions at the door and order up a sampler of their beers. I really liked the White Chocolate Sour Cherry Stout (lots of subtle white chocolate with hits of cherries), the Blueberry Saison (not overpowering like most blueberry beers) and the Porkapolypse – a pale brewed with spices and hot peppers, this was the first time that I had a pepper beer that the pepper really played a background role without overpowering everything else. It is easy to see why these guys win at Strange Brew every year. There were a few misses, but you have to expect that when you are dealing with beers this off the wall. They are definitely worth the trip to visit.
The Beer – 4 Gonzos out of 5. Strange combinations that mostly work, so there is nothing wrong with that.
The Atmosphere – 4 sties out of 5. A great outdoor space on a nice day with a nice farm setting around you and a good spot to have a picnic as we did. Probably not a great place to hang out in the winter. The only thing that kept them from getting a perfect score was their lack of bathroom facilities – they have porta potties.
Dog Friendliness – 5 fetches out of 5. A big open space to hang out with Fluffy.
Valholl Brewing – Valholl is a beautiful location on top of a hill overlooking the water in downtown Poulsbo. The tap room is gorgeous, open with lots of wood (and tables made from driftwood) and a sizable brewery in the back. There is a small patio out front, but overall this place is pretty small. The beers were solid, with a wide range of styles to make just about any beer drinker happy. While there was nothing that was undrinkable, there was also nothing that stood out above the rest of the beers – not that this is a bad thing – the beers are solid and you could easily spend all day drinking in this place without a complaint. My favorite of their lineup was the IPA, but I don’t think that there was a beer I tried that I wouldn’t recommend. They don’t have any food (like all of the other places we visited), but you are close to town center, so there are options.
The Beer – 3 longboats out of 5. A solid lineup but the lack of anything truly outstanding keeps them from making it from the very good to the great category.
The Atmosphere – 5 Valkyries out of 5. I am pretty sure that this is what a drinking hall in Valhalla would look like. I kept expecting to see a Viking walk through the door the entire time we were there.
Dog Friendliness – 3 belly rubs out of 5. Not a ton of space and Fido needs to be outside to enjoy a brew with you.
A word about Peninsula Brew Tours – These guys were great, especially putting up with 12 fun loving beer drinkers like our group. They have a comfortable bus that seats 14 and will pick folks up at either the Bainbridge or Bremerton Ferry terminals. The two owners, who also act as your tour guides, know their beers, know the breweries and were fun to hang out with for an afternoon. Since we had most of the seats on the bus, we were able to dictate the stops, but they do have a tour of both the Poulsbo and Bremerton areas they run for $35 a person, which is a steal considering you don’t have to slog a car onto the ferry from Seattle (or drive around to the Kitsap Peninsula), you don’t have to worry about driving brewery to brewery, their bus is much more comfortable than your car, they know the brewers/breweries so they can get you a tour that you wouldn’t otherwise get on your own and you can load up a growler and drink on the bus between stops.
If you are planning a brewery tour (or even a winery tour) to the Kitsap Peninsula, give these guys a call. They are located on the web at http://peninsulabrewtours.com/ or can be reached by phone at 360-275-8200. These guys will give you a better experience than you will probably have putting it together on your own. For that, I rate them with 5 Huge Thanks for a Great Afternoon out of 5.