By Shelley Sharp
For some, small town charm is more endearing after a few rounds. Thank goodness Friday Harbor and our San Juan Island community have a great selection of establishments to throw back a tall one. In this neck-of-the-woods, you don’t have to drive (or boat) far to find a tall bar stool and bearded bartender that will profess their intimate knowledge of our area’s finest frothy hop-inspired beverages. As an insider of the San Juan Island Inn Collection, we’ve put together a list to get you started. Here’s five of our favorites to keep even the most enthusiastic beer aficionado charmed.
San Juan Island Brewing Company
410 A Street, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Hours: 11am-8:30pm Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sunday; 11-9 Fri & Saturday; Closed Tuesday
As the closest establishment to tip back a cold one during your stay at the Tucker House Inn or Harrison House Suites, the San Juan Island Brewing Company is the largest local independent craft brewery in the San Juan Islands. The brewery is best known for their traditional ales and lagers but also produce stout, porter, IPAs, and seasonal selections. In the summer, they open their large garage-style doors for outdoor seating where kids run on the lawn and well-behaved dogs can sit tableside. The brewery often has music on summer weekends and trivia nights in the slower season where you will find local residents and travelers gathering for good-spirited competition.
San Juan Island Brewing has a kitchen that pumps out a brew pub menu of wood fire pizzas, salads, sandwiches, soups, and salads. They also offer kegs (please call first) for your dock party, wedding, or event.
Try: Bull Kelp ESP, 5.5% abv 35 ipu & King Tide Barley Wine, 9.5% abv 45 ibu
Cease and Desist: A Friday Harbor Beer House
10 Front Street, #105, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Find Them on Instagram
Open Daily; 2pm-Midnight
If you’re looking for a chill vibe and a place to hang with locals, then make your way to Cease and Desist for small batch beers from around the Pacific Northwest and beyond. This establishment isn’t a place you look for food, just the most eclectic variety of brews on the island. Their tap selection is carefully curated by co-owners Phil and Justin who have taken their first hand knowledge of the Portland, Oregon beer scene and opened up shop under Downriggers Restaurant in 2018. The tap house features a water view, close proximity to the Washington State Ferry landing, and is open until midnight, daily. See our blog post here.
On a recent visit their chalkboard menu featured 13 beers on tap and a pear cider. For vino drinkers, they will grudgingly pour you a glass of white, red, or rose. Cease and Desist is the only brew house on San Juan Island to own their own ‘crowler” (not growler). What’s a crowler, you ask? It’s a sealing system to immediately can beer to take home for later. Unlike growlers, which allow some air to get into the bottle, crowlers are sealed until you pop the top. They run about $10-$12 depending on your choice of beer, and hold around three pours.
Recent Taps: Choir of Cleverness Pineapple, Keylime, Coconut, Vanilla Sour Double IPA from Ruse & Modern Times Brewing, 8.1% abv & Petite Belle Farmhouse from Engine House Brewing, 4.1% abv
Westcott Bay Cider
12 Anderson Lane, Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
Tasting Room Open Saturdays; 1-4pm
Just a 20-minute drive from Friday Harbor, Westcott Bay Cider is the second-oldest cider works in Washington State. Their north side operation processes many varieties of cider apples from a hearty one-and-a half-acre orchard. In the fall the pressed fruit becomes prize-winning traditional English-style hard ciders. And, as the climate conditions on San Juan Island are nearly identical to those in Normandy, France where farmers have been making Calvados (apple brandy), for centuries, Westcott Bay Cider has created its own version. In recent years, the fruit-forward brandy took home top prize in two national craft distilling competitions as “The Best Craft-Distilled Apple Brandy” in the United States. This lovely sipping cider is golden and smooth. But we think you should try it for yourself!
Insider Tip: The location also has a distillery where you will find locally-crafted gin, fruit liqueurs, and bitters. See this month’s blog post about Roche Harbor here.
Orcas Island Hoppin’ Brewery
33 Hope Lane, Eastsound, Orcas Island
Open Daily; 11am to 9pm
“Beer inspired by the sea, sky and earth of Orcas Island.” This is the brand of Orcas Island Hoppin’ Brewery, located on the outskirts of the village of Eastsound, a 15-minute drive from the ferry landing.
According to their website, the brewery features seven of their rotating brews on tap, available either in pints or taster flights. The space offers two patios along with our indoor sitting areas that are family friendly. Island Hoppin’s cozy tasting room has board games and bartenders who cue up an eclectic music mix for your listening pleasure. Tours are not offered, but the servers and bar staff love talking about the brewing process. They have light snacks and bar food. You are even welcome to bring your own picnic to eat outside!
A recent TripAdvisor reviewer says, “We were highly satisfied with our visit here…It’s great beer that can contend with the likes of breweries in Portland. We enjoyed a tasting flight and not one of the beers was unenjoyable. Our bartender was friendly and fun…(Orcas Island Hoppin’ Brewery) is definitely a ‘must visit!”
Try: Old Madrona Imperial Red, 8.3% abv 80 ibu & K-Pod Kolsch, 5.2% abv 18 ibu
120 Nichols Street, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Summer Hours: Daily 5-9pm
While not a taproom, the San Juan Island Inn Collection’s Coho Restaurant offers diners a hand-selected choice of beers. Coho Restaurant’s culinary team Timothy Payne and Ryan Page collaborated on this season’s beer selection. Try a Washington Amber Ale from Scuttlebutt Brewing or a Helles Style Lager from Odin Brewing or an international selection from Ayinger, Samuel Smith, or Orval. While Coho Restaurant already has a celebrated wine list, now connoisseurs of fermented hops can sip a quality beer while dining on food that features the freshest local and organic ingredients.
Beers to You!
So there you have it. Even in the far reaches of our islands’ hideaway, you can still find a wide variety of hand-crafted and hand-picked brews on your holiday. Create your own beer/cider trail while staying at the Tucker House Inn and Harrison House Suites and share it with us. We’ll be happy to pass along your first hand knowledge with other guests and hope you’ll be back for another round. Cheers!