Often when writing an article for the magazine, my mind begins to wander. I get the strangest urge to stand up, stretch my legs, hit save, and head out to wrestle an alligator. It all sounds a bit bizarre, but it was a standard day in the life of MLB pitching great Rube Waddell. In 1900, baseball was in its beginning stages of fandom, and nobody filled the seats like the eccentric league leader in strike-outs for six consecutive years. They would come in droves, buy their peanuts and cheer on the team. There was just one problem: every once in a while between innings, as the team took the field, the pitcher’s mound would look resoundingly empty. Rube was known for throwing back a couple of cold ones and letting his whim get the best of him. After a handful of beers, baseball bored him and legend is he would leave for leisure activities such as chasing fire trucks and putting alligators in figure four death-locks.
Now, much like the beginning of 20th century baseball, the beer industry has taken that wondrous leap with the American audience. Our new past-time doesn’t have home-runs and RBIs, but there’s plenty of home brews and IPAs. Waddell’s Brewpub and Grille, located north off of Francis at Cedar Crossings, has spent the last three years perfecting their craft . . . beers, that is. With food featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and brewing madmen Bryan Utigard and Adam Wardle racking up medals at the 2016 Washington Beer Awards, their good news snowball just recently turned into an avalanche. In my latest tour through their marvelous in-house brewery, sales and marketing manager (and self professed Dragon Slayer) Matty Smith leaked to me that Waddell’s Brewery Co. just negotiated a distribution deal to be Spokane’s sole brewery with Columbia, one of the nation’s finest beer, cider and non-alcoholic beverage distributors. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, the company has distributed some of the best known brands in the beverage business since 1935. Today Columbia Distributing and its more than 3,000 employees service more than 20,000 retail customers, covering more than 135,000 square miles in Oregon, Washington and California.
“This is a real game changer for us,” Matty says as we sample a new recipe right from the keg. “It is allowing me to focus on expansion, taking Inland Northwest beer and sampling it across the entire Northwest. My dream has always been to have my own brewery.” It’s obvious that his vision is clear: Waddell’s is his baby, and he is taking it by the reins.
Aside from grabbing a Cougar Gold cheese smothered burger and a cold one right off the tap at the Brewpub, you will now have the pleasure of finding them throughout bars, restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Northwest. With plans to infiltrate Seattle, Oregon and eventually Northern California, Waddell’s is looking to be that beacon of light putting Spokane on the map. First to hit the shelves this summer will be Waddell’s newest creation “SpoLite,” a simple lite beer with aim to compete against some of the industry giants like Budweiser, Coors, and Kokanee. “We aren’t the first craft brewery with the idea to create an inexpensive lite finish beer,” says Matty. “But many of them have never been marketed correctly. The hope is to turn over that large populace of brand beer drinkers into familiar local options. Not to scare them away with craft terms like pilsener or lager.”
Thirsty yet? These are the droids you are looking for. Soon to follow SpoLite’s entrance into the marketplace are a variety of their year-round libations:
Left Hook IPA—A generous amount of Cluster, Northern Brewer and Galena hops come together to produce a well balanced beer. Light brown malty color, and a medium body for a more sessionable IPA.
Fireman’s Amber Ale—A nice red amber hue with a good malty flavor and a slight character of Cluster hops. Easy on the palate all the way down.
Smokey the Beer Porter—The smokiness is subtle and pleasant. Roasted Barley and Black Malt add to the color and full tasting experience to this beer.
Alligator Stout—This is a nice big black beer loaded with chocolate and coffee aromas, good roasted notes and breadiness. Rich, sweet in flavor and a nice amount of hops to balance it out.
If you are a regular and are looking toward the beer hazy horizon, be excited to know they have a few new tricks up their sleeve as well. I overheard talk of a new Barrel Rider Series Barrel aging program with Opus One red wine barrels, as well as Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey and Bourbon Barrels. I got up close and personal with the recently released Super Sour Series. Notably, Blackberry Sour packed with 180 pounds of organic local Marion berries and their Peach Kiwi Sour featuring 80 pounds each of white peaches and kiwi.
If you are playing beer Pokemon and you just need to catch them all—Waddell’s rotates 80 percent of their 50 different tap handles. A perfect opportunity to put some of the region’s best IPAs, Fruit Beers and Porters down your throat. If beer isn’t so much your thing, they have an avid craft cocktail and wine menu. If you need a little bit of summer in your winter like I do from time to time, the NW Huckleberry Lemon Drop is a Northwest tribute to the classic . . . sweet and tangy with that little extra kick.
The trick to a great bar, is even greater food. I always fall victim to the old “I’ll just peak at a menu” routine. Even the non-hungry can’t resist fried mozzarella cheese curds or a beer braised bratwurst grilled to perfection and loaded on a fresh Petit Chat Bakery hoagie bun. Just chat with front of house manager Janet Walther and you begin to get the picture of what Waddell’s Brewpub is trying to do. Create a friendly community atmosphere that uses classic eats and beer at the hub to cultivate memories. It’s all about the experience. Walking the 7,200 square foot restaurant feels much like four different atmospheres. Family restaurant with large tables and televisions, tight knit local brewery where you want to high five the patron next to you, swanky wine bar with full-on fireplace and furniture, and a giant space for private parties and events. The latter is a segregated great room on the north side of the buildings that opens up to seat about 70. They host birthday parties, business meetings and have catered full events in what really has an amazing ski-lodge atmosphere.
At the end of the day, Waddell’s isn’t only the hero that Spokane needs, it is the hero that Spokane deserves. General Manager Matt Rounsley has built a three year foundation into a staple of the Northwest. An evolving community driven establishment that sources local ingredients, delivers creative and innovative product and thrives on shaking hands at drinking stations and event booths all over town.
It doesn’t really matter if you are there for a hop heavy IPA, chipotle chicken wings, your company’s holiday party or to catch happy hour deals before Monday Night Football, by the time you leave you’ll have created a memory. That’s the most beautiful thing about this culture.
Every appetizer and beverage around a table pays homage to the time we humans have spent around campfires. The times we’ve created poetry in our people. It’s about a togetherness where the glue just happens to look a bit more like potted beer cheese. This little place called Spokane is building something. It’s special and you can lead the pack, create a legend and still make it an exciting adventure—just ask Rube Waddell.
Follow Waddell’s Brewpub and Grille’s food and alcohol specials and events on Facebook and Instagram @waddellsbrewingco.