Until now Bainbridge Island has served merely as my transit gateway to the microbrewing awesomeness that is Poulsbo (read my previous posts here and here). However, with the recent opening of its own brewery, Bainbridge Island has joined its neighbor beyond Agate Pass among the most exciting West Sound beer destinations…
It’s been a while since I last visited Bainbridge: too long if truth be told. The island is only a short 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle (schedule). The slower pace on the island makes for a relaxing change of scene and picturesque Winslow, the island’s main town, is only a short walk from the ferry terminal. Whether as a day trip or a long weekend – we’ve done both – you really can’t go wrong.
So, this past weekend, with word out that the brewery and tasting room had recently opened, with the promise of a warm and sunny day, and with the ferry beckoning, I dragged The Spouse and The Daughter out with me for the day. This is a true Fueled by Beer trip – leave the car at home – here’s the lowdown…
Bainbridge Island Brewing is located 2.6 miles from the ferry terminal and, except for the final 200 yards along Sportsman Club Road, the entire route is accessible along paved sidewalks (Google Map).
By walking this route, you get to pass all the eating options along Winslow Way and Madison Avenue. This is important because other than peanuts and pretzels there is no food at the brewery; they’re all about the beer. So, before hitting the beer, I recommend you do as we did and plan to explore Winslow awhile, stopping somewhere along the way to eat.
The walk from Winslow to the brewery is gently uphill with no steep slopes to contend with. At a brisk pace the distance from the ferry terminal can be covered in around an hour. The walk back to the ferry terminal, being gently downhill, should take around 50 minutes. Of course this would be a perfect scenario for bicycling as long as you drink responsibly.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that it is possible to eliminate the hike to the brewery by taking a bus from the ferry terminal. However if your day is even half as gorgeous as the one we enjoyed, why bother with the bus. Besides, the bus only saves around 25-30 minutes each way, and where would you eat?
Upon arrival at the brewery I believe most visitors’ first impression will be to recognize how well the space is being used. The form meets function principle has clearly been applied here. Yet the bright, spacious taproom, with its inviting upper level seating area, is still aesthetically pleasing, which makes it altogether one of the nicest we’ve seen.
Evidently a lot of thought has been given to insure those qualities that make people want to visit often and then stay awhile have been incorporated into the taproom design. This was certainly our feeling and all before a single sip had passed our lips.
So, what about those Bainbridge Island beers?
First up in our tasting flight was co-founder and brewmaster Russell Everett’s very first trial on his 10 BBL brewhouse system. Christened Landfall Pale Ale (backstory) this is a quite hoppy yet still nicely balanced pale ale. An excellent start.
Next we tasted Port Blakely Brown from the nitro tap. As readers of this blog know, I’m particularly partial to brown and mild ales, the sessionable styles that NW hopheads seem to shun.
However, when measured against my benchmark browns from Diamond Knot and Schooner Exact, I found this one somewhat lacking. On this occasion it was the only disappointing brew in the flight. It wasn’t bad, just nothing about it stood out. I know this has been an award-winning homebrew recipe for Russell so I’d like to try it again, perhaps when he produces another batch.
Third taste was the beer that without a shadow of a doubt both The Spouse and I agreed was the standout on the day. This one alone made the trip worthwhile. Eagle Harbor IPA is our kind of IPA – not a mouth-puckering hop monster like so many others but a complex nuanced gem of a brew.
The inital nose and mouth feel is full of citrusy grapefruit notes followed by a light malty sweetness that ends with a distinct but not overpowering hop bitterness in the finish. This is the first IPA we’ve tasted that comes close to the only one that has previously blown our socks off: the Little Chief IPA from Snipes Mountain.
Russell Everett, please take a bow!
Our fourth and final taste was Battle Point Stout. As the stout aficionado among us I always defer to The Spouse for judgement. She and I actually shared essentially the same opinion this time. This stout came across very smokey to our taste – almost overpoweringly so – to my palate almost a Rauchbier. We couldn’t discern much of anything in the way of coffee or chocolate notes.
However, what really caught my eye was the two Bainbridge Organic Distillers Battle Point Wheat Whiskey barrels sitting in front of the brewhouse. Aging within is some namesake Bainbridge Island Brewing Battle Point Stout.
Now, readers of this blog may recall my post from Caskfest 2012, where I was blown away by Sound Brewery’s Whiskey Wheat Dubbel aka “WWII”. Bainbridge Island Brewing has some Battle Point Stout aging in exactly the same barrels: I absolutely want to be around when these get tapped.
So, this concludes our tasting experience at Bainbridge Island Brewing – at least for now. Because following closely behind, though not yet released, are the following…
- Point White Wit – summer seasonal – Update – went on tap 7/10
- Bainbridge Bitter – 2nd tryout for Russell’s inaugural brew – the first became Landfall
- Kommuter Kolsch – summer seasonal
- Sandspit Saison – summer seasonal
……….We’ll be back 🙂