For a small boy growing up in Victoria over 60 years ago, Port Angeles wasa town of wonder. When we watched the Ediz Point Lighthouse blinking, it seemed to be a beacon leading to a place where you could buy Cheerios (sponsor of the Lone Ranger radio program), Pepsi (two full glasses that’s a lot), bags of Hershey Miniatures, and comic books with 52 pages. None of these amazing products was available in Canada.

In later years, Port Angeles lost its lustre. It was just a small town to travel through on the way to Seattle and American points east and south. But late last fall, it again became a destination. I took the morning ferry from Victoria to visit the small Washington State’s town’s two brewpubs. They were both only a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal.

When I entered the first of the two, Peaks Brew Pub, on 130 South Lincoln Street, I thought I’d just stumbled into another ordinary bar — stools next to the bar and a few tables scattered about. But then I noticed the 2 barrel brewing system at the back and the nearly 20 taps at the bar. The taps featured the six regular Peaks brews and one seasonal, along with guest taps for some really fine Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado brews.

Peaks is owned by Ed and Wanda Smith. By his own admission, Ed, whose family has been in the bar business for generations, used to be a lover of the “pale fizzy stuff” (he didn’t actually use the word “stuff”). But then he met the legendary Bert Grant, who introduced him to microbrewed beers. When he opened Peaks in 1999, Ed decided to specialize in the wonderful array of microbrewed products available. “It took some educating,” he laughs. “There are 16,000 people in this town, and I’ll bet I’ve educated half of them about really good beers .”

When he decided to set up his own brewery in 2005, Ed began with paler beers and “gradually worked toward the darker.” His first brew, “Wandafuca Gold Pale Ale,” pays tribute to both his wife and the strait that runs between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. “I wanted to get people off their Buds,” he explained. “Wandafuca was a west coast style, but more lightly hopped and with a fuller body.”

Ed’s five other regular beers are Train Wrecked I.P.A., which uses some local hops, and comes in at over 7 per cent ABV; Mount Pleasant Porter, an English style drink that Ed has brewed to be a little dryer than the style usually is; Lincoln Street Bitter, a hearty 5.8 per cent ABV; Dungeness Spit, a variation of the Wanda Fuca gold that is dry hopped; and Ed’s Big Ass Red, which he compares to Thomas Hardy Ale, and comes in at a whopping 10 percent.

When I was there, the seasonal special was a spruce beer, which combined the Train Wrecked IPA with spruce tips from Alaska. “We put the tips in something like a very big tea bag,” says Jeff Abbott, who now handles the brewing duties. “Then we put the bag in the tank.” The process may look like brewing tea — but the result is different. There’s a tang that isn’t overwhelming, but imparts its own flavour to the IPA.

While you’re at Peaks, enjoy the pub grub, which includes wings, super nachos, burgers, and the house specialty, “Ed’s Killer Chili.”

Business is booming at the Brew Pub, which opens just before noon every day. But Ed is doing more than producing delicious brews in the tiny system at the back of the establishment. He’s now developing a stand-alone brewery which will supply the town and much of the Olympic Peninsula with kegs and 22 ounce bottles of his beers. Opening is planned for the early spring.

Barhop Tap Room is located two blocks west at 110 Laurel Street. It’s open at 4 pm Monday through Thursday and 11am Friday to Sunday. Unfortunately, the owners and brewers did not shop up for our scheduled meeting, so I was only able to look through the window at the place and then take notes from some placards on the door.

Owner Tom Curry, one of them read, grew up loving Sierra Nevada beers and decided to produce  “aggressive California-style ales, with a Northwest twist, using fresh Northwest ingredients.” The beers listed were an IPA, a pale ale, an ESB, a porter, a rye beer, a lager, and a gluten free beer.

I’m sure you can still get Cheerios, Pepsi, and bags of Hershey miniatures in Port Angeles, and maybe even comic books with 52 pages. But, now, even better, you can try some wonderful beers. And you won’t have to drive home from the pub. Just walk the two blocks back to the ferry and enjoy the boatride back to Victoria.

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