Sunny Saturday found me hiking in Washington State’s beautiful Larabee Park and then cruising down scenic Chuckanut Drive to Mount Vernon where I decided to stop by North Sound Brewing Company.
According to their website, NSB (I love breweries with good acronyms btw) focuses on “Old world inspired, unfiltered small batch ales”. This is an excellent mantra and one that made me curious to visit this brewery.
North Sound Brewing is pretty easy to find since there is really only one bridge connecting the town of Mount Vernon. Head west over the bridge and keep driving until you think you may have missed it and then look for the unassuming warehouse/garage with barbed wire fencing – I was pretty excited to think the beer was so good it needed protection!
There is a nice sized patio out front; lots of flowers, wooden picnic tables and even some music. Inside is pretty darn tiny with the bar and about four or five tables. They do not serve food but offer nibbles (chips, nuts) and let you order in food as you drink; one table got pizza while we were there.
Despite the small size, there were an impressive nine beers on tap and one cask offering. Since they boast a generous pour size we decided to split the ten beers.
Before I get to the beers I would like to say they have some of the friendliest staff I have ever encountered at a brewery. It makes a big impression on me when the employees take an interest in making sure the customer gets the most out of their visit.
Big Bend Blonde – Pale blonde in colour, very light bodied and easy to drink. Blondes are always a great way to start a taster tray by getting your beer senses slightly primed for the onslaught of flavours to come.
Mystery Wheat – Very pale gold in colour. Quite light in body and not much in the way of spiciness. Reminded me a bit of a pilsner but I did not really get the full-spectrum of wheat beer character.
Cherry Wheat (Cask) – Wheat ale brewed with Jolly Ranchers(?). Pretty rose gold colour, cloudy but far too tepid with an artificial cherry flavour. Lacking the depth and character casking usually imparts to ale. This one was a misfire for me.
Bitter Rain ESB – I am a BIG fan of bitters but this one did not really do it for me. Brown in colour, some head and a bit of cloudiness. Bitter on the finish. Hop dominant without enough malt to really balance this one out for me.
Goosetown Brown – Lots of coffee on the nose, which was a surprise for a brown. Very sweet with an almost sticky mouthfeel. Smooth with a decent amount of body. Overall one of the better beers in the line-up.
Slainte Stout – Deep black brown with caramel coloured head. Foamy, smooth almost dry, reminds me of Guinness draught. Not the kind of stout I gravitate towards but for those that like a starter stout this would be a good option.
North Sound Imperial Porter – Deep black brown in colour with caramel hued head. I get a slightly herbal taste from this one, almost medicinal, which never sits well with me.
Hop Chops IPA – Bright gold with clean white head with some lacing. Lots of citrus nose, bitter finish. A middle of the road IPA that won’t scare hop-o-phobes or enrapture hop heads but works for me.
Opie IPA – Rose gold in colour with some white head and lacing. Strong bitterness on the finish with that distinctive pungency imparted by rye. Not bad but not remarkable.
To Hell in a Hop Basket Imperial IPA – Almost amber in colour with white head and lacing. Very sweet on the nose. A touch sweet in flavour and a nice bitter finish. I think this is the best of the IPA’s we tried.
Well to sum up I am not sure what to say but Washington breweries and I have been a little hit and miss as of late. Part of me wants to embrace and support every new kid on the block; the resurgence and continued strength of real ale is a cause obviously near and dear to my heart BUT on the other hand I want to be forthright about the places I recommend.
Would I recommend you visit North Sound Brewing Company? I would say try it but with the caveat that I am not sure you will be blown away by their beers. There are many great things about this littler brewery and if I were a local I am sure I would keep them on my radar; however, I doubt I would make another trip to Mount Vernon just to visit NSB.