Recently I re-visited Skagit River Brewery, located in the picturesque tulip-forward town of Mount Vernon, WA, with an eye for sampling their entire beer line-up.
The brew pub itself is pretty typical in it’s layout, decor and pub grub menu items; there are lots of wooden tables, bar seating, chalkboards and viewing areas so you can watch beer being brewed or at least see a bunch of kegs and tanks. They have a large patio at the front for warmer weather patrons and host live music on Saturdays.
Where SRB really stretches their wings is in their beer menu boasting a very diverse line-up consisting of everything from a light lager to multiple kinds of IPA’s to brown ale to gose – oh yeah I said gose – to homemade root beer (non-alcoholic one presumes). Usually I have a bit of an aversion to places that claim to have mastered too many beer styles, kind of like driving by a Greek-Italian-Chinese restaurant and having that nagging voice in the back of your mind saying, ‘yeah but do they do any of them well?’ nonetheless, like any good beer blogger, I forged ahead and did my duty or dutiful drinking.
Par for the course several beers were off-menu and a few seasonal taps ready to take their place on the taster tray. For a very reasonable twelve dollars my beer drinking partner and I were able to sample the ten beers currently on tap.
The beers we tried were (descriptions are from the brewery):
Del Rio Lager This true American lager is light bodied with a nice balance of pilsner & honey malts that creates a crisp citrus flavor.
SRB Hefeweizen True Bavarian hefeweizen with low hop bitterness and relatively high carbonation. Noticeable hints of banana, clove and vanilla.
Skagit Brown Ale Our brown ale fills your mouth with rich roasted barley and caramel flavors, & finishes smoothly with no bitter aftertaste.
Farm to Market Ale English bitter with a deep russet colour, balanced by a distincly malty aroma and finishes with citrus & fruity hop character.
Helmet Pale Ale Medium bodied pale, which finishes with clean & crisp hoppy profile.
Sculler’s IPA A dry and roasty version of this old London style. Generously hopped for both aroma and flavor this beer is robust yet very drinkable.
Gospel IPA Single malt IPA carries distinctive hop characteristics from Amarillo & Warrior hop varieties. Strong grapefruit & citrus profile.
Gose German Sour.
Black Jack Lager Dark style lager with an intense roasted & chocolate malt profile. Light bodied with clean & crisp finish.
Trumpeter Stout Based on the Russian Imperial. A huge beer with rich layers of smoke, chocolate, roast, caramel, jet fuel, motor oil and hops.
If I had to use one word to describe their beers I would have to say safe. All of the offerings were drinkable but nothing really stuck with me. Of the twelve sampled I would have to say the stout and the gose impressed me the most; the stout for its’ rich sweet character and the gose for the sheer audacity of trying to create this style -the gose was pretty tame all in all kind of like a starter sour for the faint hearted. The Black Jack lager would be an easy order with a nice balance of roasty coffee notes while staying firmly in session territory and the Brown ale likewise. Of the IPA’s I enjoyed the Sculler’s most. Not being a big IPA fan, I liked the balance and strength of the Sculler’s because I often find too much grapefruit hop a bit harsh. Del Rio was far too light for my palate, even for a lager, and the Farm to Market Bitter was a bit of a miss. Their hefe was pretty true to the style but I found the clove a bit too strong.
Overall impressions, Skagit River Brewery is brewing good but not great beer and this is exactly what they claim to do. It is one of those places you would not hesitate to stop into for a pint but not the kind of place you would drag non-beer geeks to when you want to score conversion points. Also, I love that such a small town supports this brewery because it is tangible proof that craft beer really can and does reach the masses.