Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, WA
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The Ultimate Craft Beer Experience

Nic Cawley-Murphree
Nic Cawley-Murphree June 28th 2016

“What beer would you most like to try and why?”  When this question was posed to me for the assignment of writing this blog I thought it would be a relatively straightforward and easy question to answer.  As I thought about the question more however, the task proved more challenging than I originally presumed.  Without restraints of any type how do you pick just one beer to try?  Do you choose based on the beer itself? The place it comes from? Or the company you might consume it with?  After some debate, I have settled on an answer that incorporates all three of these options.  

Situated in the famous farm lands of West Flanders Belgium, an hour drive southwest of Bruges and forty minutes southeast of Dunkirk France is the Trappist Abbey of Saint-Sixtus of Westvleteren.  This St. Benedictine monastery founded in 1831 is home to what is considered one of the best, if not the best beer in the world; Westvleteren XII.  

Westvleteren XII is made from the same five ingredients as the abbey’s other two famous beers Westvleteren VIII and Blond Trappist. Coming in at a stiff 10.2% ABV the XII is a Belgian Quad considered one of the most drinkable dark beers made today.  Said to have raisin, nutmeg, fig and other rich flavors this beer tops my wishlist of beverages to have hopefully along with a traditional Belgian dinner such as their famous Carbonade Flamande beef stew. The Westvleteren XII is unique also in that it is made at one of just eleven Trappist breweries in the world. Trappist order originated from Cistercian order of Catholicism, branching off to form its own order first in the 17th century and then again in 1892. Trappists sought to establish a simpler more self sustained lifestyle. Staying true to this ideology, the monks only produce enough beer each year to sustain themselves and their community despite overwhelming demand for their beers. The annual production is limited to just over 5,100 barrels.  Purchases can only be made at or from the monastery in 24 pack wooden crates or 6 packs.  

Now, for me all this is interesting and makes the Westvleteren XII a unique beer to try.  However, what puts it to the top of my list of beers to try is the adventure that must be undertaken just to get to it. As a lover of travel and history the experience of going to the abbey, meeting the monks and having the chance to share one of the best beers in the world with some of the most unique people in the world is what separates the Westvleteren XII from the rest of the world’s beers.  

westvleteren1I have had the pleasure of visiting Belgium twice and easily consider it one of my favorite countries.  Belgium has wonderful scenery and a rich and fascinating history dating back to the Dark Ages. Guests are limited to the Renaissance area for visiting.  The abbey and brewery themselves are closed to guests.  However, guests are welcome to stay and live among the monks for up to a week at the Guest House.  This is truly a special travel opportunity.  Whether you need a full week of silence and simple living as a break from your everyday grind or just a few hours of solitude with one of the world’s greatest beers. The Saint-Sixtus Abbey along with Westvleteren XII offer one of the most truly unique beer drinking experiences that should definitely be at the top of any dedicated craft beer drinker’s bucket list.   

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Greg Parker
Greg Parker June 19th 2016

My Father.

Also known as Gar(prounced gare)-Bear

I kind of work with him. He foolishly put a substantial chunk of his life’s earnings on the line by investing in Iron Horse at my suggestion so naturally, he gets a say. I can only imagine two reasons why he would do that and they both boil down to the fact that he is my Father. Even if he thought it was a good idea, he would have only known that because of his 27 years of familiarity with me which informed his understanding that I had the skills and work ethic to make the brewery succeed. The other option is he was blinded by love, since he is my Father. That is the more likely option and yes I am a jerk for exploiting that, but let’s not forget that his investment has appreciated so does that absolve me of my previous naughty opportunism? I guess that’s up to him.

What’s it like? It’s pretty cool. As previously stated, The Bear has a decent sized chunk of cash tied up in what began as more or less my spirit quest. Any rational person would surmise that provides him outsized sway and authority where the brewery is concerned. I concur with that position. Gary probably does too. However, I can’t think of a single time he has ever insisted or demanded that any meaningful business decision was to be determined by him. Usually, he just makes the brewery buy him stuff like a kegerator and defers to my positions on the future of the business. Actually, now that I am finally writing this down and thinking about the real world implications of that stance, I am asking myself, is he crazy? What kind of a person does this?

Advice given, not taken, regretted. Gary is a pretty wise man in many regards and essentially a man-child in others but this is a father’s day blog so we’ll stick to the positive. Having been a business owner/operator for nearly 30 years, my dad has seen most of the pitfalls. What does he do when he sees one at Iron Horse? It usually starts like this. “Greg, I’ve been thinking about the brewery’s XYZ. My guess is in umpteen months XYZ is going to run out/be inadequate/will need expansion/financing will be required/employee should be promoted and trained etc. What do you think?” What I think is ‘for god’s sake Dad, you’ve been giving me bullshit advice for 30+/- years now and I’m tired of hearing it’ I will pause now for you to stop and consider what kind of a childish spoiled brat would even mentally treat the guy who funded his vision quest that way then I will gently remind you it’s more of a reaction than an intellectual thought because of the fact that, just like the rest of you, I am a child when in the presence of a parent or sibling. What I usually say and do is something to placate him. Then umpteen-minus-3 months I want to stab myself in the face for not taking his advice when he gave it to me because as per usual he ended up being right and now I am behind the eight ball. Sorry Dad. I’m trying to overcome my childish impulses and admitting I have a problem should be part of it. Also, thanks for the good advice.

Overshadowed by his great hair is his personality. If you’ve met Gary, I need not explain this. His hair is like a menage a trois between a cloud, a wave and kitten fur. Even from a very young age, I recognized his follicular greatness. (I have no idea if follicular is a word or if it’s appropriate but I’m leaving it in because I just now created my own favorite phrase). In fact, I do believe I coined his coif a ‘hair helmet’ before passing out of grade school. It’s that good. To this day. Underneath the dome that could possibly be the secret to world peace is a man who knows all the good jokes, tells them with a magical glimmer in his eye, thinks the best of literally everyone until given a reason not to and has loaned, given and worked on behalf of people who he feels could benefit from a leg up. I’m not saying he’s a philanthropist. I’m saying if you know Gary and you are a good person he will do just about anything for you. It’s pretty cool, except when those people let him down then it really pisses me off because he was dumb to think they were gonna do shit because people can’t change. See, that’s me vs. him. No wonder people have a hard time believing I’m actually Gary’s son. And how does he maintain such optimism, I thought people were supposed to get grouchy and cynical as they get older?

For all the petty and mostly sarcastic complaints I have about my dad, he has given me more than anyone could reasonably ask for and if he never gave me another penny, bit of advice, time of day, life lesson or any other valuable resource I would still have nothing but gratitude, respect and appreciation for him. Thanks dad. And, can I have some more money, this beer business is really expensive?


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Alcohol and Government

Dane Williams
Dane Williams June 15th 2016

With the presidential election right around the corner, I was curious to see what kind of a role the Alcohol Industry plays in an election year.

In an article written by Monica Vendituoli, she talks about how the industry is made up of wine, beer and liquor producers, distributors, and wholesalers as well as liquor stores, tend to lobby Congress on alcohol taxes and regulations — and little else. But in recent years, the industry also has lobbied on issues including alcohol and drug abuse and trade.

The industry’s top two campaign contributors — National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America — contributed more than $3.95 million and $1.79 million, respectively, during the 2012 election cycle. Other top contributors included Anheuser-Busch InBev, Brown-Forman Corp., and Silver Eagle Distributors.

The industry reached an all time contribution high of close to $17.8 million, surpassing its 2008 record by more than $3 million. While the majority of the industry’s money went to Democrats in 2008, 60 percent of its contributions during the 2012 election cycle went to Republicans, the more usual pattern for this grouping.

The industry spent more than $21.5 million on lobbying in 2013, an uptick from the year before. Its strongest lobbying arm in Washington, D.C., the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, spent $5.2 million that year to prevent recession-spurred liquor tax increases, and to continue its fight against local “blue laws” that prohibit liquor sales on Sundays.

Top Contributors, 2015-2016

Contributor Amount
Anheuser-Busch $1,818,771
National Beer Wholesalers Assn $1,796,125
Silver Eagle Distributors $1,154,223
Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America $944,240
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates $499,730
Southern Wine & Spirits $371,027
Total Wine $298,100
Charmer Sunbelt Group $269,829
Molson Coors Brewing $243,150
Total Wine & More $236,565
Brown-Forman Corp $217,401
Puma Springs Vineyards $215,760
Constellation Brands $171,180
SABMiller $152,211
Wine Institute $140,089

In an industry that is as regulated as alcohol, clearly having a paid voice that represents your interests is important. Based off the top contributors of 2015-16, it’s easy to see how and why Macro companies are able to impact the business in the manner in which they do. Correlations between contribution amounts and market activity seem to align. ABI for example has acquired the most brands in the last year (SAB) and challenged the Three Tier system (Brewery Owned Wholesalers) while contributing the most dollars by any entity. Brings a whole new meaning to “pay to play”.

Fun Fact: Hillary Clinton is the top recipient of contributions in 2015-16 with $229,828.


Shut Up and Drink

Connie Morgan
Connie Morgan June 13th 2016

We like making beer. We experiment with ingredients, styles and wacky names. Some of our stuff has been well received, some of it hasn’t. When a beer seems to be popular we keep making it, when it’s not as popular we stop. That’s generally the way a business works in a free market.

Untappd and Beer Advocate are great tools for us to hear your constructive feedback. Sometimes a bad review is related to an expired shelf life or packaging mishap. Sometimes it’s just some shitty beer. Although we don’t ever produce a beer we think is shitty, we recognize that some stuff we’ve made has tasted better than others. The key word is constructive. “Too bitter,” “not balanced enough,” “doesn’t fit the description.” Those are constructive terms. “Super bad,” “hate this beer,” or “terrible” doesn’t help us get better. When we see those types of reviews we like to ask questions. Why was it terrible? Did you eat something funky before you drank it? These questions help us get better. Most people are nice but some aren’t. Below are some of the funnier interactions we’ve had with people on Untappd.

Actually wait, side-rant. Let’s talk about .25 star (bottle cap) reviews. Why is any beer ever getting that low of a review? 5 stars means someone else has to force you to stop drinking the stuff then .25 stars should mean you have to force yourself to drink the stuff. As in there is literally shit in the beer and it’s too disgusting for you to force down. I’ve tried quite a few brews and I’ve had plenty of beer I didn’t like or let someone else finish. But I’ve never given a .25 star review on Untappd because I’ve never experienced a beer that I physically couldn’t drink.

Anywho, back to some of our favorite bad reviews. Not much is needed to explain other than screenshots of the conversations we’ve had via Untappd.


apparently he was being extremely sarcastic in his written review because he gave us 5 stars.

JK he hated it.

JK he hated it.


sometimes we ask for more details and get ignored.

dr hater

neither turning 50 nor double rainbow sucks. we strongly disagree with your statement.





we were TRYING to have a conversation with Matt Y but then Rob S came in from out of nowhere.

hk 3

we worked it out with Rob S.


don’t blame us if you can’t handle the funk.


on some days we just aren’t in the mood to deal with the critique.

what's great is when people give us a bad review because they don't like the style or think it's the wrong time of the year to drink ______ beer.

what’s great is when people give us a bad review because they don’t like the style or think it’s the wrong time of the year to drink ______ beer.



you'd be surprised at how often peopel say "i hate this style." ummmm then don't drink it?

you’d be surprised at how often peopel say “i hate this style.” ummmm then don’t drink it?


When it’s all said and done, we love your feedback, positive or negative. It’s vital to our success. And rest assured, almost all comments are read and taken into consideration.

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Beer People, Dear Reader

Rikki Welz
Rikki Welz June 9th 2016

Easter 2016 in the Welz household was a momentous occasion. My brother Dave and I had been able to convince our mom, Kelly, that her fried chicken should be the main dish, instead of the traditional ham (though she can make a mean ham gravy). We both had been dreaming about her chicken for a very long time, Dave not having it since he first went to basic training, and myself for at least 10 years. I know everyone says their mom can cook the best this or that, but I have yet to see someone beat her meatloaf, potato salad, or, most importantly, her fried chicken. The restaurant Ma’ono in west Seattle is a close second for the chicken though, I will admit. This Easter was also the first time my husband was able to have the legendary chicken (though we had been together for almost 10 years), and the first time my niece was around to enjoy those deep fried delights.

Because I take such things seriously, and because she was doing the real heavy lifting, mom asked if I could bring the drinks. To satisfy all palates, I chose Mint Juleps (fried chicken and this drink go together like humidity and the georgia peach), champagne (delicate flavors and a cleansing carbonation to keep you going back for more), and the Sierra Nevada Otra Ves (same reasoning as with champagne, however the tartness of the beer with the prickly pear cactus then contrasts and enhances the sweetness of the chicken and the melanoidins from the skin).

While we were all well versed in sparkling wines, we took a mid-morning break to sample the juleps and the beer, getting our collective selves ready for the races. Two sips into the Otra Ves, and my dad began to chuckle. “This beer is just what I imagine Ernest Hemingway to have been drinking during writing his book, Island in the Stream.” He went on to describe the flavors that struck him just like it must have to Hemingway, the feel of the sun beating down as your jetting along in your boat, the cool breeze coming off the ocean. It’s amazing how just like that, a flavor can make you think of shared experiences, characters that stick with you like family, and provide an insight to just how someone may have been thinking.

This made me think, where else can I find strong links in characters and their authors with beers/drinks?  Well, here’s a few to get you started. Please comment on characters and authors and beers that you think are a good match, I love having insight!     

Hermione Granger– Being a kickass woman, who logical, smart, and willing to punch a Malfoy in the face, I would say Hermione Granger would really enjoy the Biere de Garde style of beer, particularly the amber family of Biere de Gardes. No, not butterbeer, she has a refined palate open to muggle choices, she even knew what bouillabaisse was, remember? This beer is a traditional ale from the Northern France farming area, where the name roughly translates to “beer which has been kept or lagered.” Biere de Garde is known for its crisp dry finish, and a malt complexity that doesn’t overpower the senses, yet doesn’t have to rely on excessive hopping to impress the drinker. It is reliability in a glass, with the spark of panache we all desire without becoming flamboyant about its skill.

William S Burroughs– If he drank beer, my guess it would be in the form of a Boilermaker; a shot of alcohol (probably grain) with a beer back (most likely a domestic), enough to numb what ails you quickly.  

Wylis, the stableboy. AKA. Hodor– I’ll avoid any more direct spoilers for those of you who aren’t caught up on Game of Thrones (Shame on you for being behind though). But. let’s just say he keeps things out. Or in. By holding things… sorry, I had to. This big lug of a man kept the cold and/or bad guys out, requiring a beer like a Belgian Quadruple (also referred to as Belgian Dark Strong Ale) to keep him strong and warm. These beers are dark, malty rich, high in alcohol (BJCP allows for 8-12% ABV), and gentle enough in its alcohol and esters to not overpower you with one sniff or snip. Much like our beloved gentle giant, carrying Bran around like a true heir to a throne. All jokes aside however, I am team Arya for Life!

Holden Caulfield– Something served out of a Highball glass, I’d wager.

Puddleglum– This brave Marshwiggle reminds me of Old Ales and Barleywines. Honestly I am unsure why exactly, but something about his mannerisms and calm heroics makes me think of a beer that is an unlikely gold. The whole concept of an old beer or aging beers can send people running, but when paired with the right ingredients and the right hands, it can knock you out of the park, in a very unusual way.

Kurt Vonnegut– This would be a hard one to pin down, but for Breakfast, I’d say a martini.

And finally, Jon Ronson– This guy, he’s the man. I wouldn’t dismiss him with an ordinary pint of bitters (though that may be his drink of choice being as how he is British and I am stereotyping here), but I could guarantee he would learn everything he could about his beer and the story and people behind it to fill a book in his witty manner. Hopefully his next book will be about beer, or Ken Grossman, or Paul Gatza’s hair.


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60 Seconds With…Episode II

Connie Morgan
Connie Morgan June 7th 2016

You weren’t wondering what IHB fans are like but we’re going to show you anyway. Rene Hough really likes Irish Death. She really like spaghetti too.

Washington State Brewery, Iron Horse Brewery is the best local craft brewery located in Ellensburg, WA with Iron Horse Brewery beer being served in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Tacoma, Redmond, Spokane, Yakima, Richland, Moses Lake, Ephrata, and more Washington State cities.

As a local craft brewery, iron horse brewery believes that good tasting beer, such as, Quilters Irish Death, Mocha Death, 509 Style, Light Rale Ale, Cozy Sweater, High Five Hefe and IPA should be served throughout the pacific northwest. It can supplement meals too.