By the time Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery reached present day Idaho in September of 1805, their cache of food was running on empty. Worse yet, the expedition finished the last of their whiskey on July 4th. Desperate and near starvation, they resorted to eating dog. And while I'm sure they were grateful for the salmon and camas root provided by friendly Nez Percé several days later, I bet a brewery at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers would have been a welcome sight for a band of exhausted explorers.
The Riverport Brewing Company in Clarkston, Washington is just across the Snake from Lewiston, Idaho. It's only been open for three years, but head brewer Pete Broyles already plans to expand; after a somewhat slow start, draft sales are growing. At last, craft beer has been discovered along the Lewis and Clark Trail. "We get people in here from a lot of different places," Pete told me during a recent visit to his spacious taproom on Ninth Street. Scanning the room, the patrons looked to be mostly local, but even an hour before closing on a Monday, business was steady. Halfway through the six glass sample board ($5) I knew it was more than free popcorn keeping people coming back for more beer.
Starting with the seasonal specialty, a wet-hopped IPA called 9th Street Whip, I next tried the biscuity, gently bitter Cedar Rock Pale Ale, an American style red ale called B-Run, the dry, piney Seven Devils IPA, Old Man River Oatmeal Stout, and my favorite, Bedrock Bock. Malty, slightly creamy and reminiscent of fruitcake, this garnet-colored brew stood out from the pack, tempting me to spend a buck for another four ounce sample. Then again, it could have been the sign behind the bar egging me on: Last call is for sissies. Considering the trout fishing I would be doing later that week, I probably should have picked up a growler ($18.75 or $8 for refills). Because you never know when you'll run out of provisions.