Laughing Dog Brewing, part 1

A few weeks ago we flew out to Spokane, WA for a little vacation and family time. We had three big things on our itinerary. First, spend time with June’s 93 year old grandma who’s confined to a nursing home. Second, hang out at Laughing Dog in Idaho and drink good beer. And third if we had time, check out other local taprooms. We visited 6 breweries in 4 days and it would have been 7, but one taproom was closed. In most cases we dropped in and had each brewery’s sampler and moved on. The lone exception was Laughing Dog Brewing in Ponderay, ID. We got a hotel room within walking distance to the brewery and spent several hours each day there.

This wasn’t our first time at Laughing Dog. We stopped by the tap room for a sampler last April but couldn’t stay long. On the first trip we wanted to check them out because they just started distributing in Nashville. I Googled them when I heard they were coming to town and found they are from the same little town in Idaho where June’s aunt lives. We had a good time and knew we had to get back. This time we had two evenings with nothing to do but hang out and enjoy the taproom. The staff and locals are really friendly and made us feel welcome. As you can guess, Laughing Dog is dog friendly and several roamed freely in the taproom. Our favorite was Virgil. Virgil’s person is a local regular and you could tell Virgil a frequent visitor. He was a beautiful black lab who reminded us of our Harley (we miss that big boy). We didn’t get to meet Ben, the Laughing Dog dog, but several other dogs stopped by. One of the best parts of the taproom are the free snacks, appropriately served up in a doggy bowl. The beers were all good but we’ll tell you more about them in part 2.

The owner, Fred Colby, made us feel right at home. We talked about brewing and he gave me some tips to improve my homebrew. The best part was that he gave us some great beer that wasn’t on the taps. We got to try several special beers and you could tell Fred’s a guy who’s really proud of his beer. We tried the fresh batch of Dogfather which has just been bottled. Also, we got to taste this year’s fresh hop beer, which Fred pulled right out of a tank. It was fantastic. Fred’s also a partner in Selkirk Abbey, a Belgian-influenced brewery in Post Falls, ID. I told him I was disappointed that the Selkirk Abbey taproom was closed when we stopped by. The next thing we know, he goes in the brewhouse and comes back with a pint of their Saint Stephen Saison that he had hidden away. I love Belgian beers and this one was great. It’s hard to believe Selkirk is a new brewery, their beer is really good.

Before we left, Fred gave me a tour of the brewhouse and I got to see the brewing equipment and a forest of 30 and 60 barrel fermenters. He’s cranking out a huge amount of beer and selling it in 30+ states and a few Canadian provinces. FYI, Ponderay is only about 50 miles from the Canadian border. During the tour I also saw a piece of bottling equipment Fred had just bought from Linus at Yazoo. It’s a small world. The funny thing is I recognized it from my various tours of the Yazoo brewery back in Nashville.

We’re already planning on going back to the area in the Spring. Of course we want to see grandma, but we also need to get back to Laughing Dog. The panhandle of Idaho is a gorgeous place and you should visit if you haven’t yet. For folks from the east who haven’t seen it, it’s hard to describe the beauty of the Northwest mountains, and the beer is better than the scenery.

Also, we want to offer a big congratulations to Laughing Dog for taking home the bronze medal last Saturday at the Great America Beer Festival for their IPA in theĀ American-Style Strong Pale Ale category. Cheers!