Made in the Northwest: Square Wheel Brewing
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Arbor Crest Wine Cellars’ historic Cliff House Estate hosts dozens and dozens of events each year.
“We have weddings and we have concerts and special events that happen all the time, pretty much year round,” explained Square Wheel Brewing owner John Mielke.
But the winery realized not everyone drinks wine. So Mielke, who had never made beer and whose previous career was in the software industry, was tapped by the family to start brewing.
“I said, ‘Sure. Why not?'” recalled Mielke. “And so yeah, I’m a self-taught brewer and I pretty much just started making beer.”
And when it came time to finding a name for his new brewery, Mielke found his inspiration in the Square Wheel Tractor, invented by the estate’s previous owner, Royal Riblet.
“I’m looking at this thing and I said, ‘Hmmm. What should we call it?’ And the name kind of just emerged and I said, ‘Square Wheel Brewing.'”
Mielke started pouring his beer at events at the Cliff House Estate in August 2015.
“It totally filled a niche. Yeah. So now, when people come up, they’re like, ‘Oh, great. We’ve got an alternative to wine.’ And it’s been really well-received, so people really like it.”
At its production facility in Spokane Valley, Square Wheel now makes more than 300 barrels of beer a year in several different varieties.
“That’s what I like about making beer is the creativity side of it, you know? There’s so many different things you can do to make a beer,” said Mielke.
And it’s proud of the farm to table approach in its partnership with Coulee Hite Enterprises in Reardan.
“We buy the grains from them, and we brew the beer locally,” said Mielke. “And then, the same grains that he grew go back to his fields and to his animals.”
Square Wheel can currently be found in bars and restaurants around Spokane, but Mielke is about to start his own distributorship, called Mielke Distributing.
“That’ll allow us to go into areas like Idaho and Montana and wherever we feel we want to go at that point.”
And continue to grow its brand.
“I don’t think we want to get to the point where we’re a huge, giant conglomerate, but we do want to grow and expand a little bit more and kind of get our product out there,” said Mielke.
So that one day, the Cliff House Estate will be known as much for its beer as it is for its wine.
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