Woodinville Revisited and Willows Lodge

Last year in the middle of winter I talked a little bit about Woodinville. You may remember the scrappy little hood that had a surprising number of breweries? Well, it’s less than a year later and there has been a world of change. With the sun taking it easy and the smoke cleared from the sky, this time of year is the perfect chance to get out there and take a look. Willows Lodge invited me out to do just that in a test ride of their new Bike and Beer package.

A few major upheavals in the area: there are no fewer than 4 new breweries since I last checked in. Crucible Forge is fully operational, Metier Brewing has moved into the old B-Side Brewery space, Fish Brewing, the classic Olympia brewery, has opened a location right across from Chateau St. Michelle, and Bosk Brew Works has just opened. Red Hook Brewery has fully moved out to be replaced with a circus of some kind. Three cheers for the little guys! The old classics of Sumerian, Tripplehorn, Dirty Bucket and 20 Corners are still kicking around and some of them are making moves.

The Route

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The breweries of Woodinville are abundant enough to be split into two separate hoods. The northern breweries of Dirty Bucket, Tripplehorn, Bosk, 20 Corners, and Metier form a tight formation that is dense enough to be walkable and spread enough that a bike is better. Perhaps they could be called the “Northern Woodinville Breweries” The other breweries of Crucible, Sumerian, and Fish further to the south each has just enough distance between them to make a pleasant bike ride. Nestled among the southern breweries is Willows Lodge. I started my route off at Willows Lodge where I had spent the night as part of their Bike and Brew package. If you are in from out of town or planning a stay-cation, I recommend it. Apart from the stay in the beautiful lodge which includes all the “lodgy” things like hot tubs and a spa, the package includes a $20 credit at Sumerian Brewery (the first stop on the list and a personal favorite) free access to the lodges bikes, and a discount on spa use and breakfast. Having ridden on hotel bikes from time to time, it’s good to say that these are the best I’ve had the chance to use. Well tuned disc brakes, continuously variable transmission, and light weight mark these bikes as surprisingly fancy for hotel bikes. They probably each cost more than my own! Anyway, Willows Lodge is a great place to start, but if you are checking out the breweries from elsewhere, they are easily accessible via my favorite trails, the Burke Gilman and the Sammamish River.

For this route, we start south and work our way north. Getting to Sumerian from the lodge is an easy ride along the trail and a quick foray into the narrow shoulder of Redmond - Woodinville Road. Hug the parking lot of Columbia Winery to stay on the trail and buy yourself a few hundred more yards of trail riding, safe from traffic, before popping onto the road right before following the signs to Sumerian. After spending your $20 credit there (if you did the Bike and Brew package), double back to make it over to Fish. Retracing ground usually hurts my soul when I am trying to minimize mileage, but in this case getting back to the Sammamish River Trail and taking that to Crucible from Fish seriously cuts down on the heartache of the road riding that Google Maps would suggest you try to do. Crucible has a sign that is visible from the Sammamish River Trail as you head north but don’t blink or you might miss it. It’s past the first road overpass but before the second. From Crucible it is a simple matter of working your way north to the Northern Woodinville Breweries. From here on out, Woodinville gets hilly. However, I have a couple tips to keep you from following your GPS right up a mountain and making the same mistakes I did. If you skipped Crucible Brewery, Google Maps will lead you astray here, as it often does. The trick is to avoid taking NE Woodinville Duvall Road which may a slightly more bike friendly road with its wide shoulders and it may even be slightly more direct, but it also happens to lead you up and back down a massive hill that is much more easy to go around via 177th Place. Once you are here, you are at the North Woodinville Breweries and can’t go wrong unless you head north on NE North Woodinville Way instead of 142nd while trying to follow your GPS to 20 Corners. There are 5 breweries here in North Woodinville, 6 if you count Locust Cidery, so I won't try to tell you to visit them all. Just makes sure you stop before you can't ride safely anymore!

The Breweries

If you would like to see my reviews of many of these breweries, check an earlier post where I visit 20 Corners, Dirty Bucket, Tripplehorn, B-Side (sadly no longer with us), and Sumerian. The new breweries on the list, Metier (who took over B-side's space), Fish, and Bosk deserve a full review as well as some warm-up time to get their houses in order, so will all be reviewed in an upcoming post.

Crucible: Woodinville Forge is a new expansion from the Everett based Crucible Brewery, now called Crucible: Everett Furnace. Thanks to the way permitting works here, they had to wait a while since opening to start brewing actual beer out of here but have now been brewing and selling beer in 2018. This year they joined me at the Gigantic Bicycle Fest beer garden. Head brewer Dick recently joined the brewers in Everett on the Everett Bike with the Brewers event for Everett Beer Week. You can get the real inside scoop on Dick and Shawn’s duo of breweries on their episode of Washington Beer Talk. They have a business-minded focus on brewing IPAs but in addition to those, brew a staggering number of beers and have a big variety. Their Woodinville location is more of a warehouse style brewery than their old strip mall location. Not that there is anything wrong with strip malls, but the warehouse is way cooler! High ceilings and the massive brewhouse in the back make this feel like more like a brewery, so it gets full points for Smell. It can be a little hard to find and car parking is a bitch, so make sure you bike here… but that's my recommendation for every brewery

Sumerian constantly gets high praise from me so often I bet they are sick of it. Recently I got the behind the scenes tour of some of their new projects. This ambitious brewery has big plans for becoming the Stone Brewery of Washington. That's a lofty goal but Holly and Mark Ihrig have some serious plans for expansion starting with their new canning line. It’s extremely exciting to see a brewery break into the big leagues and you can come along with me on my sneak peak in the Sumerian Washington Beer Talk episode coming out in a few weeks. I grilled them hard on what it takes to make a brewery big and I didn’t settle for easy answers like “brew good beer” because we all know it takes more than that. Mark and Holly are enthusiastic about their business and the brewery family. It is sure to be a good episode.

Willows Lodge was an incredible place to stay during this journey. They greeted me by name as I walked in which took me so by surprise that I am still quite tickled just thinking about it. Luxury amenities including the spa, hot tub, and in room jacuzzi and fire place all sealed the deal. Don’t even get me started on the bacon glazed popcorn they had waiting for me when I checked into my room!

Keep your eyes open for my reviews of the new Woodinville breweries and the Sumerian Podcast episode. Check out the Crucible episode as well . Thanks to Willows Lodge for inviting me out to try out the Bike and Brew package . I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area. Come join the Cycling Cicerone at Vashon Island for Oktoberfest which I am co-hosting! September 22nd Noon to 10 pm for live music, Vashon Brewery’s Oktoberfest beers, and food! Kid-friendly event. Check out the Facebook Page for more info.