Washington’s Rogue Outpost

My efforts to find Puget’s Perfect Pint have focused so far on the Seattle metropolitan area. And why not? Within the Seattle city limits alone, 28 breweries vie for my attention. And if I cast my net further out across King County, to include the eastside ‘burbs, the number rises to 39. Statewide, Washington has 136 licensed breweries.

Clearly, Seattleites don’t just like to drink craft beer, they’re also willing to sustain its local production. All of which makes yours-truly the proverbial kid in the candy store I talk about in my About This Blog page. So what could be better?

Well, hard as it is for me to get my head around, I recognize that Seattle’s amazing concentration of microbreweries comes nowhere close to matching Oregon – particularly the city of Portland – which has 36 breweries at last count.

Statewide, Oregon has 110 breweries. Although 110 may be 26 less than Washington, consider Oregon’s much smaller population: 3.8 million versus 6.6 million. Plus Portland has 50,000 fewer people than Seattle – now that’s uber-impressive suds-support.

What’s all this got to do with my quest for Puget’s Perfect Pint? Well, you only have to walk down the beer aisle in my local Bellevue QFC grocery store (Kroger) to see how Oregon brewers compete beyond their borders. There are many but arguably the rock star of them all is Rogue Ales.

Rogue is known for their insanely long list of diverse beer offerings: some pretty conventional and some bordering on the crazy (Chipotle Ale for example).

Add their eyecatching packaging, and the (somewhat pretentious) creed for doing business they call their Fundamental Agreement, and you end up with what in my mind amounts to the Ben & Jerry’s of beer.

And just like Ben & Jerry’s is usually the most expensive ice cream, so is Rogue usually the most expensive beer – so expensive in fact that I haven’t purchased any at the grocery store. But there’s more than one way, as I recently discovered, to get your hands on a Rogue.

One of the few eastside brewpubs I have been unable to get to until recently is Issaquah Brewhouse – owned since 2000 by Rogue Ales.

As such, Issaquah is Rogue’s only outpost in Washington and the only brewpub I know where Rogue Ales are available on tap. Now that’s what I call a worthwhile Fueled by Beer trip.

So, taking advantage of my daughter’s day off school for Veteran’s Day, also an off-work day for me, we decided to make a trip together by bus to Issaquah. The plan was to visit the Salmon Hatchery, then stop for lunch at the Issaquah Brewhouse to sample the Rogue ales and Rogue’s special Root Beer.

To get to downtown Issaquah I recommend taking the ST 554 express bus from downtown Seattle, Mercer Island P&R, or Eastgate P&R – get off at the downtown Issaquah stop on Sunset Way. Most Metro buses only serve Issaquah transit center: they do not go to the downtown area.

Issaquah Brewhouse

Issaquah Brewhouse

Downtown Issaquah is an interesting place to explore by itself and the Brewhouse is centrally located near the intersection of Front St and Sunset Way. It’s a seat yourself place that I’ve heard can get busy during peak dining hours although we had no problem mid-afternoon on a Thursday.

The food selection is good: solid pub fare common to all Rogue pubs. Many items are prepared using Rogue Ales – my Brutal Rueben sandwich for example was made using Brutal Bitter simmered corned beef and sauerkraut made with Shakespeare Stout – yummy. Daughter gave two thumbs up to her Caesar Salad and Rogue special root beer.

Rogue Sampler

Rogue Sampler

As you would expect the beer selection is large: 30+ taps, with over half being Oregon-brewed Rogue ales or those brewed onsite at Issaquah Brewhouse. I had the sampler: pick any 4 from the beer list; each served in a 5oz Rogue tasting glass. My choices were Rogue’s XS YSB and XS Scotch, plus Issaquah’s Contra IPA and Menage a Frog Belgian Tripel.

In all honesty I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Rogue brews or the Contra – much better examples of each type elsewhere in the area – but their Frog Belgian Tripel was superb. I’ll return for more of that and to give Rogue a 2nd chance by trying some of their other ales (like Ben & Jerry’s, there’s so many to choose).

Pricewise, the beer seemed expensive – $6 for 4 samples; elsewhere you get 5 or 6 tastes for the same cost. The food – pretty comparable price-wise with the better brewpubs I’ve visited, and quality at the upper end of the spectrum.

The visit was short but sweet. We enjoyed Issaquah Brewhouse and look forward to returning soon. If you’re wondering about the Salmon hatchery: it was closed by the time we left the brewpub.

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