It’s easy to forget about Whidbey Island. Sitting silently on the other side of Possession Sound, it hulks on the horizon like a giant green sea creature emerging from the water.
It can be difficult to get there from the mainland, especially in the summer. There’s a ferry, which can have nightmarish lines that leave even the most teetotaling among us longing for a cold pilsner. Or you could drive all the way around to the bridge over Deception Pass, which, while scenic, can be a slog.
So Pacific Northwest craft beer fans can be forgiven if they have no idea what’s brewing on Whidbey Island. We sip on IPAs on this side of the Sound and turn our backs on some amazing beers brewing on the island.
That’s a mistake. There aren’t very many breweries on Whidbey Island, but those that call it home make quality beer and have some of the most die-hard fans around. A number of local watering holes also proudly serve Whidbey Island beer.
That said, if you’re going to take this trip, be mindful. I’m going to point out five great places to stop, which, if all visited, could leave anyone a little too tipsy to drive. So designate a driver, take a few breaks and remember to eat.
My advice? Grab a sandwich and pie to go at Greenbank’s Whidbey Pies & Cafe and go for a hike at South Whidbey State Park or Fort Ebey State Park. Or stop in Coupeville, shop downtown and dive into some oysters at The Oystercatcher. There’s plenty to do on Whidbey Island besides drink great beer.
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As you head north off the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry, take a quick detour on Campbell Road, and then head south on Cultus Bay Road, until nearly running out of island. From there, keep an eye out for the burgundy home with a two-car garage.
Grab a parking spot and step into one of the smallest tasting rooms in the state. Ogres co-owners and head brewers Adam Jackson and Royce Baker recently opened the island’s smallest brewery — if you bring friends, it’ll be standing room only — and they’re not shy about their love for beer. The two use local artesian well water and ingredients to make their beer, which range from dark ales to blondes.
The one downside is Ogres Brewing is only open 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. If you visit early in the day or on a day they’re not open, head 100 feet down the road and pay a visit to Bailey’s Corner Store. The iconic South Whidbey tourist spot carries a number of Ogres beers and other quality craft beer offerings.
Getting there: 7693 Cultus Bay Road, Clinton; 425-418-9005; 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; www.facebook.com/ogresbrewing
Double Bluff Brewing
For the next stop, head north toward Langley, a cozy little tourist town on the east side of Whidbey Island. Among all of the antique and gift shops is Daniel Thomis’ brewery, Double Bluff Brewing. It’s a small brewery with big ambition.
Fed up with the corporate life, the Swissborn Thomis moved to Whidbey Island from Boston in 2014 and soon realized the tiny town needed a brewery. He and his wife, Marissa, opened the brewery tucked away down an alley off Anthes Avenue less than two years later.
Thomis is no stranger to the brew game, having been a home brewer for nearly two decades. The small operation pumps out an absurd amount of beer for the five-gallon system behind the bar. On a recent visit, Thomis was offering seven beers on tap, including a Belgian-style ale brewed with bergamot, a sticke altbier and white IPA. He was especially proud of his next creation: a version of the Belgian ale with orange zest.
The brewery is an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, with plenty of room to kick back with a large group and enjoy a few pints in the sun (or shade). The brewery is kid- and dog-friendly, so the crew is welcome. The fire pits are a crowd favorite after the sun goes down.
Getting there: 112 Anthes Ave., Langley; 360-333-9113; 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday; www.dblfbrewing.com
Taproom @ Bayview Corner
Leaving Langley and heading up Bayview Road back to Highway 525, don’t skip this fun spot. It’ll be hard to miss. Taproom @ Bayview Corner is at the apex of the corner created by Bayview, Marshview Avenue and 525, and the front door greets drivers as they make their way up Bayview from Langley.
The homey taproom is the creation of husband and wife duo Damien and Tiffany Cortez. The two Whidbey Island natives opened the taproom three years ago with a focus on local craft beers, ciders and wine. The aim of the aesthetic was comfort, and the taproom takes full advantage of the building that once housed the Bayview Cash Store. There’s plenty of exposed wood, including a giant wood bar and iconic tap handles atop an inside wall.
Like any taproom worth its salt, Taproom @ Bayview Corner has a solid selection of Northwest beers on draft and in the bottle. Grab a pint and head outside to the small deck near the entrance. You’ll be able to wave to all the unfortunate folks who don’t have time to sit and sip a cold one.
Getting there: 5603 Bayview Road, Langley; 360-222-2643; 2 to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday; www.facebook.com/TaproomAtBayviewCorner
Penn Cove Brewing Co.
After a short pit stop, hop back on Highway 525 and head north. Skip all the wine hot spots in Freeland and Greenbank and make your way to Coupeville, where brothers Marc and Mitch Aparicio have opened a spot to have a local beer. It’s not quite a brewery yet, but it does have aspiration to become one.
With the goal of opening a fully functioning brewery in a few years, the Aparicio brothers have staked out their spot just off Highway 20 in Coupeville by opening a taproom that serves what Mitch refers to as “super local” beers. On a recent visit, all of the beers on tap were from breweries on Whidbey Island, in Bellingham or Skagit Valley.
One of the must-try beers is Penn Cove’s first official beer: Madrona Way IPA. The Aparicio brothers gypsy-brewed the collaboration beer at the Bastion Brewing facility in Anacortes with Bastion Brewing’s head brewer, Evan Barnett. Penn Cove’s taproom is a bit small, but if the weather is nice, order up a Madrona Way IPA, grab a seat outside and enjoy the saltwater air as it wafts in off Penn Cove.
Getting there: 103 S. Main St., Coupeville; 360-682-5747; 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; www.penncovebrewing.com
Flyers Restaurant and Brewery
This next drive is the longest of the day. Once you wind past Penn Cove and over the hills of north Whidbey Island, you’ll happen upon the largest city on the island: Oak Harbor. Flyers is just off the main drag in a nondescript building that could be a Denny’s. It’s not.
The elder statesman of Whidbey Island brewing, Flyers Restaurant and Brewery has been making award-winning beers since it opened in 2005. Tony Savoy, head brewer at Flyers, is an instructor at Skagit Valley College’s Craft Brewing Academy and oversaw the opening of Flyers’ sister taproom in Burlington last year.
The original Flyers location has more of a restaurant feel than taproom. Grab a seat at the bar and order up a tasting flight. There are too many good choices to settle on just one. Two can’t-miss beers are the multi-award winning Pacemaker Porter and Barnstormer Brown, which won a silver at the 2008 World Beer Cup.
Getting there: 32295 U.S. 20, Oak Harbor; 360-675-5858; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; www.eatatflyers.com
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Sit back and toast the day. You’ve made it nearly the length of Whidbey Island and you’ve tasted the best brews the island has to offer. Now, how to get home?