by Rick August & Shelley Whitehead
After tasting their fine imperial IPA at the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland, Oregon, we stopped briefly on the way home to explore the Laughing Dog Brewing in Ponderay, Idaho, just north of Sandpoint.
Laughing Dog is owned and operated by Fred Colby and Michelle Douglass. The brewery premises, happily for us, are fronted by a tap room that was reasonable busy on the Saturday afternoon of our visit. We chatted with employee Bruce Worthington about the brewery and its products. Bruce indicated that the brewery often uses donated local homegrown hops as bittering hops in its brews, finishing with commercial varietals.
On tap at the time we visited were eight brews including an ESB, an American pale ale, an IPA, and the Alphadog Imperial IPA we had tasted in Portland. Not surprisingly, all Laughing Dog’s beer have pooch-related names. In the taproom we sampled the ESB, which was more than enjoyable to drink, and raided the cooler for samples of Alpha Dog for the club to share.
The owners are particularly proud of gold medal wins in both 2007 and 2008 at the Fresh Hops Ale Festival held each fall in Yakima, Washington, in the heart of hop-growing country. The perennial champion in recent years had been the much larger Sierra Nevada Brewing Company from Chico, California.
The Idaho Panhandle is a beautiful place, particularly in summer. Laughing Dog adds an extra attraction for travelling beer hunters.