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Iron Horse Brewery
1000 Prospect Street
Ellensburg, Washington
(509) 933-3134
Visited on September 12, 2008 (and many subsequent)

*It appears that they’ve opened another location in downtown Ellensburg since the last time I was there. Congrats and kudos!

Before I went to Iron Horse, I was loathe to write a review for a brewery that didn’t serve food. Not that I didn’t like going to such breweries, it’s just that it messed with my entire scoring system. How was I to adequately compare to full-service restaurants? When I visited Iron Horse, though, I had an awakening. It was just too good not to write-up and include on my website. Thus, I would keep non-food breweries in a separate category, but still rank them on the other four aspects.

I made many trips to Iron Horse; pretty much every time I went to Seattle I would drop in for a drink and a growler fill. It’s kind of a tough place to find, way off the beaten path back in an industrial complex in a small town in the middle of Washington’s no-fun-zone. (In case you didn’t know, central and eastern Washington is a desert and flat and ugly.) But the location has a great hometown vibe to it. The people are nice, the bartenders are nicer, it’s simple, a bit dirty but definitely not trying to be anything that it isn’t.

And the beer is outstanding. Every sample was a winner. I was so pleased that they began bottling their beer and exporting kegs to my small town before I left Idaho. Their Mocha Death – a mocha-infused version of their strong and delicious Irish Death – is one of my favorite beers of all-time.

So if you ever find yourself in central Washington, perhaps on your way to the Gorge Amphitheater from Seattle, I highly recommend dropping by this joint.

Original Review

I stopped at this establishment that is purely a brewery with a taproom (aka no food) out of desperation to stop at a brewery during my long voyage through the wasteland that is central Washington. It just may have changed my mind about going to only brewpubs…

Located at the end of a cul-de-sac on an industrial/business street, the last thing you’d expect to find is a brewery of superb quality. And yet, that’s exactly what’s there. A short bar (about 8 stools) stands in front of about six taps of the beer you can see brewing 30 feet away through the open door into the garage. In fact, if you need to use the bathroom, they just send you back there with all the brewing equipment and tell you it’s down the hallway on the left. Three tables also line the wall. Everyone is friendly, and everyone is local, coming to enjoy the beer even though there’s no food. The waitress was very helpful, and even remembered me when I stopped back in two days later on my way back to Idaho from Seattle.

The beer is absolutely outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed absolutely every beer I tried here and was forced to buy a growler to take to my friend’s house in Seattle (which we consumed mere hours later.) The light cream ale meant for Bud drinkers was astoundingly unique and delicious. The red IPA was not unique, but you don’t see it often, and you see it well-done even less often. The Irish Death was strong and sweet, I could easily have gotten in trouble with it. But my two selections were the High Five Hefe and the Iron Horse IPA, even though I was EXTREMELY divided over which of the six to get a pint and growler of. The IPA just tasted the best at the time. Full malt character with high levels of hops, and not just bitterness, but aroma and flavoring too. The Hefe was very unique by the presence of ginger in the mix. It made for quite a crisp, refreshing and unique brew. I will stop back here every single time I drive through Ellensburg.

Awesome service with great conversation and information on the brews. Remembering who I was two days later when I stopped in for a growler of Hefe scores bonus points.

Food: N/A
Beer: 20
Service: 20
Overall: 20
Total: 79 (out of 80)