My husband and I have been visiting North Sound Brewing off and on since they opened two years ago (and drunk plenty of their beer at local pubs), but we recently stopped in to reacquaint ourselves.
Lots of people know about Skagit River Brewery, doing brisk business near I-5 in Mount Vernon, but you might not know about North Sound, located off of Memorial Highway in the west end of town. Founded by homebrew enthusiast Kurt Ahrens, the brewery is now a successful business, and North Sound beers are starting to turn up on taps all over the Puget Sound region.
The taproom is small and intimate, with an attractive bar and a few tables, plus a TV in the corner. It fills up fast, especially in the winter. There is additional seating outside, though, which expands the capacity considerably. It’s been really nice in the recent hot weather, since there aren’t many places in this area to sit outside and linger over a beer. Also, the large picnic and patio tables can seat a larger party, or provide a place for a well-behaved dog to hang out with its owners. Traffic on Memorial Highway is not particularly obtrusive, and the bright umbrellas and flower plantings provide a sense of enclosure.
There’s no kitchen, but the bar offers a few snack possibilities, mostly potato chips and nuts. They used to have a selection of weird British potato chip flavors (I never tried the prawn cocktail, but the roast chicken flavor was quite surprising) but now it’s just Kettle chips. If you want more solid food, you’re welcome to bring it in yourself or order takeout; in fact, if you order from Sahara pizza and have it delivered to the brewery, you get a discount off your order.
On Sundays (for the rest of the summer, at least) the brewery puts out red-and-white checkered tablecloths and encourages people to bring food and make it a community picnic. We tried this out on a recent Sunday, bringing in takeout from a local Indian restaurant, but we were the only people there eating—possibly it picks up later in the afternoon. Sometimes the brewery will order pizza to sell by the slice, or bring in a food truck or barbecue.
The taproom closes early—7:30pm during the week, 8:30pm on Friday and Saturday—which is a sad reflection of Mount Vernon nightlife, but it works perfectly for those who want to get together for a beer after work. It’s also handy for swinging by to fill a growler before a party.
But how is the beer, you ask? I’m partial to their regular IPA, Hop Chops, which is strong and bitter with a floral nose, but they also make a fantastic and eminently drinkable ESB called Bitter Rain. Their regular wheat beer is flavored with cherry, which I’m not crazy about, but the current tap is a “mystery wheat” which I like very much and is glorious on a hot day. I’m not much of a dark beer drinker, but the Slainte Stout and Goosetown Brown are very good as well.
In addition to the permanent lineup, there’s always a selection of what they call “X-Batch” beers, experiments or versions that just came out a little differently. Many of these beers are sweeter or higher alcohol than I usually like, but there’s always something here that’s fun to try, like the To Hell in a Hop Basket Imperial IPA, or an Imperial-style hoppy Pilsner. On Thursdays they have a rotating cask ale—on a recent visit this was a rye beer with orange peel.
In a town with many, many excellent beer options, North Sound is a great addition, providing both good brews and a popular neighborhood hangout, plus a great excuse to patronize local takeout restaurants.
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