Updated Apr 12, 2012 - 12:25 pm
A Beer Lover's Guide to the Skagit Valley
With the 29th annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival already underway, locals and tourists alike will once again be descending on the Skagit Valley to see millions of tulips bursting with color. For the past several years now my wife and I have made a tradition of venturing up north to celebrate the arrival of spring by wandering through the tulip fields and having lunch in one of several beer-centric brewpubs and restaurants in the area.
The more we explored and experienced what the Skagit Valley communities of La Conner and Mount Vernon had to offer, the more surprised I was at the quality and selection of beer. Call me naive; I never expected it to be this way, but I have seen the light and thought I'd share the wealth with all of you in case you're planning a trip to see the tulips and find yourself parched and craving a beer.
This information I'm providing is good all year round, and I strongly encourage you to discover all that Skagit County has to offer, from Deception Pass State Park, to the majestic North Cascade Mountains, and the sprawling farmlands in between. Taking any number of day trips or longer outings in the area will make you realize why so many people love the Pacific Northwest. But let us not lose sight of our true love, beer, and where to find it in the Skagit Valley. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, as no doubt I'll leave something off worth mentioning, but rather a list of places I have experience first-hand.
La Conner Brewing Company -
The first few times my wife and I experienced the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival we would simply meander through the valley, drinking in the vibrant colors of spring, stopping to take a closer look here and there. Ultimately our unplanned drives would lead us to La Conner for lunch at the La Conner Brewery for a pint or two and a delicious wood-fired pizza. Open daily at 11:30am, this brewery fills up with diners quickly so expect a bit of a wait. Don't hesitate to accept the hostess' offer to seat you in their garden terrace even if it's a bit chilly out, there are ample heaters and the ambiance is quite nice.
Address: 117 1st Street La Conner, Wa 98257
North Sound Brewing -
The newest brewery in the Skagit Valley, North Sound opened its doors in September of 2010. Don't let their youth fool you though, they make quality hand crafted ales. My wife and I actually happened upon their brewery and tasting room in route to the tulip fields driving along SR 536, or the Memorial Highway. Having no previous knowledge of their existence we made a quick u-turn to grab a pint. I've since made it a point to stop into this friendly outlet to have a beer whenever I am adventuring in the area. I am particularly fond of their creamy, dark and smooth Slainte Stout and would highly recommend it. It should be noted that they do not offer any food, but allow you to bring in your own fare.
Address: 17406 State Route 536, Unit A Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Skagit River Brewery -
Visible from the freeway, the Skagit River Brewery has served me many burgers and pints of beer over the years. Because Mount Vernon is roughly the halfway point between Everett (where I grew up) and Bellingham (where I attended WWU) I'd often stop in while heading north or south for a quick bite to eat, and while I don't make the drive as often as I used to I still venture in for a pint of Sculler's IPA and a growler fill when I'm passing through on I-5. The brewpub features outside seating allowing for leisurely meals and drinks in the sun, weather permitting of course.
Address: 404 S. 3rd Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Empire Ale House -
Located in old town Mount Vernon, Empire Ale house features warm and inviting earthy tones and perhaps more importantly 17 rotating taps of delicious craft beer. Easily my favorite eatery on the list, this beer lover's outpost pours several beers brewed by local Skagit and Whatcom County breweries, as well as those from more distant locations. On one particular visit last December they had a 2010 Boundary Bay Cabin Fever on tap, which is proof positive Empire Ale House is not content with offering your usual microbrews. Their daily 3-6 happy hour features 5-dollar appetizers and drink specials.
Address: 314 W. Gates Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Trumpeter Public House -
The Trumpeter's website describes their public house as being 'an amazing old world atmosphere within our community of downtown Mount Vernon'. I couldn't have said it better myself, the Trumpeter boasts dark woods, cozy booths, warm lighting, and the soft glow of a fireplace all which invite you to relax and enjoy yourself with friends and family. With 18 beers on tap you're sure to find something you like. For the scotch and whiskey fans out there, the Trumpeter will not disappoint and is a must on your Tulip Festival excursion.
Address: 416 Myrtle Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273
If you're looking for a friendly neighborhood pub atmosphere that serves up pints of beer and delicious comfort food look no further than the Porterhouse. The friendly laidback atmosphere of the pub is the perfect way to relax and get away from the crowds of the tulip fields. Order up a pint of Boundary Bay IPA, some steamed clams or perhaps the Porterhouse Cheeseburger and enjoy.
Address: 416 Gates Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273
It should be noted that all of these locations, except for the La Conner and North Sound Breweries are located within a short walking distance of each other in downtown Mount Vernon, and would make for a great pub-crawl. Regardless if you're planning to make a day of it, looking for a bit to eat, or just need to fill a growler before traveling to destinations beyond, you'll be in good hands in the Skagit Valley.
(Post and Photos by Jeff Soderquist)
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