Iron Horse Brewery

A couple of Saturdays ago, I fired up the buggy and pointed her eastward, taking I-90 for a two-hour rainy-day run to the ranching and college town of Ellensburg, Wash. Destination: the Iron Horse Brewery, Washington's newest production brewery, located in a nondescript concrete building dubbed "Ellensburg Business Incubator." Crammed as efficiently as possible, Unit 4 is an immaculate little 15-barrel brewhouse acquired from a defunct Indiana firm. Owner Jim Quilter, as affable as his beers are quaffable, runs the operation with some administrative help from his wife, Cheryll. His brewing résumé is solid, with stints at Sierra Nevada, Butte Creek, and Mad River breweries in California preceding his stint at Winthrop Brewing in the North Cascades. Quilter's reputation and agreeable nature has helped get distributors to carry his beers. Quilter chose Ellensburg as the spot to hang his brewing shingle in part because the town's location convenient to I-90 makes it a good point for distributors to pick up beer, and in part because he found the town and its people accommodating and friendly. His ales are damn good. Rodeo Extra Pale is a balanced, light-copper-colored session bitter; Iron Horse Brown is accessible and malty-sweet without being cloying; Locomotive Red also has plenty of malt, but the hops come out to play, too, with late-addition and dry-hop aromas provided by Cascades and Centennials. Quilter doesn't ignore hop fiends; his IPA is laden with citrusy Cascade and Columbus hop notes and is a well-attenuated beer that finishes quite dry. Iron Horse tap handles are already appearing in metro Seattle alehouses, including Fred's Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, the Dog & Pony in Renton, and my local, the Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle, which featured Iron Horse IPA in its "IPApril" lineup. Iron Horse ales are also sold in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles, so check with your favorite supermarket or bottle shop. Iron Horse Brewery, 1000 Prospect Street, Ste. 4, 509-933-3134. ELLENSBURG

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