If you’re a fan of beer, you are about to have another choice when one of the Inland Northwest’s newest breweries opens in Liberty Lake this fall. The building for Snow Eater Brewing Company is currently under construction at 2325 N. McKenzie Lane in the industrial area. Erin Whitney, who owns Snow Eater with her husband Richard Whitney, says an official opening date hasn’t been set yet but is coming soon.
“If we don’t hit any more roadblocks it will be the end of September,” she said. “But more likely in October.”
Under federal law, the Whitneys can’t make beer in a different location so the race is on to get the roof on the building and brewing started. As a result, they plan to open with only three or four beers and introduce others later until they are up to speed with a full menu of ten beers. Whitney describes Snow Eater’s offerings as “big and full bodied” with most having over 6% alcohol.
Richard Whitney has been making beer for several years, despite having a full time job in the Tri Cities. Erin Whitney also works full time there so the two have been commuting to Liberty Lake to manage construction on the business.
“My husband has been a home brewer for nine years,” said Whitney. “He’s a pilot and he’s been flying for twenty years but we just decided the opportunity was there to make this into a business.”
It was Richard’s occupation that led to the name of the business.
“We were trying to find something that was very northwest. Wind came up because my husband is a pilot,” said Whitney. “We thought about Chinook but that’s already been taken. The nickname for the Chinook wind is snow eater.”
The company’s logo, which features a bear in the center, grew from that.
“We expanded upon the Snow Eater name with Native American culture, to go with the northwest theme again. There’s a pretty significant story about the bear and the wind, so that’s how we appropriated the bear for our logo.”
According to internet research, the story goes that one winter thousands of years ago drug on and on as the people waited for the annual warm Chinook winds to melt the snow and ice. Winter lasted so long that wood and food grew scarce and people were starving. A young boy took several animal friends to look for the winds. They found a bear in a den who had stolen the winds to keep him warm all winter. The boy waited for the bear to go to sleep then set the wind free. By the time the boy returned to his village, the snow and ice were already melting. And that is why bears hibernate through the winter and don’t come out until the weather is warm.
As for why the Whitneys are building in Liberty Lake and not the Tri Cities where they work, Erin Whitney said it came down to where they want to be full time. She is from the Seattle area and the couple have been living in the Tri Cities about eight years but decided they didn’t want to make that their permanent home.
“We’re trees and mountain people,” Whitney said.
So they started looking around the northwest and discovered Liberty Lake.
“We learned about the town and visited and kind of fell in love with the town. And we found out it didn’t have a brewery, which is unheard of.”
The Whitneys plan to employ a brew master and at least three other people. Their original plan didn’t include having a food menu but instead utilizing food trucks. That plan is up in the air at this point.
“Liberty Lake currently has a ban on food trucks so, along with the winery (Liberty Lake Wine Cellars) we’re hoping to work with the city to change that,” Whitney said. “If we can’t, we’ll do what we have to do.”
Once those kind of details are worked out, the Whitneys are planning a big opening celebration and hoping to coordinate with other new businesses like Liberty Lake Wine Cellars and the Trailbreaker Cider Tasting Room that is also currently under construction.
“In this industry, it’s kind of the more, the merrier. If we can create a destination, people will come. I think all three of us are super excited.”
While nothing has been decided yet, the three businesses have tossed around the idea of a Liberty Lake crawl or something similar. Whitney says the entire Liberty Lake community has been extremely supportive so far.
“Everyone has been so incredibly nice.”