Craft brews can cure cabin fever

Palouse Cabin Fever Brew Fest drew hundreds, featured several local craft breweries



The Palouse Cabin Fever Brew Fest draws hundreds of community members to the town of Palouse every February. Brew Fest co-founder Janet Barstow said they sold over 650 tickets this year.

NICK GIBSON, Evergreen roots editor

Over 600 people gathered in Palouse last Saturday to shake off their cabin fever the best way they know how — cold beer and good company.

The Palouse Cabin Fever Brew Fest is an annual celebration of craft beer hosted by the town of Palouse. This year’s Brew Fest featured 30 craft beers from 10 breweries located around the region, including Moscow Brewing Company, Paradise Creek Brewery and Mountain Lakes Brewing Company in Spokane. 

Since it started in 2013, all proceeds from the festival go towards the Palouse Community Center. 2022 marks the ninth annual Palouse Cabin Fever Brew Fest, after last year’s event was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.

Janet Barstow, one of the founding members of the “Brew Crew” who put on the event, said it all started like most great ideas do: Over a few drinks with friends. 

“It started with a group of us who had been introduced to good craft beer, and we used to get together and drink really good beer,” Barstow said. “That was pretty darn nice, and then it eventually evolved, like many conversations do, around kitchen tables. It was just totally grassroots; none of us had ever done any kind of event like this.”

The name Cabin Fever comes from the winter ailment that afflicts many during the colder months. As Barstow said, by February, people have cabin fever and are ready to get out of the house.

Barstow said the festival has sold out every single year, including the first one. The proceeds over the years have helped pay for the mortgage on the Palouse Community Center, as well as other operational expenses. On average, the Brew Fest raises around $12,000 each year.

That money had helped tremendously during the pandemic, as they have not been able to put on other fundraising events they usually host throughout the year. Barstow said she is also on the board of the Palouse Community Center.

“Palouse is just a real volunteer town,” Barstow said. “People just come out and help. It’s fun doing something with our friends, and we’re doing something good for the community.”

Barstow said safety is always a priority at the festival, especially in the age of COVID-19. The Brew Crew took several safety precautions this year, including providing hand sanitizer at each tasting tent, distributing souvenir face masks and expanding the outdoor space where the event was held. 

This was Mountain Lakes Brewing Company’s second appearance at the brew fest. The brewery was voted “Best Brewery” in 2020 and defended that title on Saturday for the second festival in a row. They also won “Best Cure For Cabin Fever” for their “Pecan’t Stop Won’t Stop” imperial porter.

Owners Tim Hilton and Dave Basaraba started Mountain Lakes Brewing Company about four years ago, after spending years brewing at home as a hobby.

The duo now own a tasting room and brewhouse located at the corner of West Riverside Avenue and North Browne Street in downtown Spokane.

Basaraba said all three of the beers they offered on Saturday were brewed specifically for the Palouse Cabin Fever Brew Fest. He said they loved participating in 2020 so much that they decided to bring their entire staff this year so they could all experience the fun together.

“When you go to a beer festival in Palouse, you’re drinking with great people; there’s a real sense of community here,” Basaraba said. “When you go to a festival in a big city, it can be overrun with a bunch of beer schnobs.” 

Palouse local Alex Irwin said he has attended every Brew Fest since the very first one. He likes trying the new breweries the festival features each year, as well as revisiting some of his past favorites. 

Irwin moved away from the area a few years back for a job in Seattle but loves coming back to catch up with old friends around one of the many campfires sprinkled throughout the festival area.

“I enjoy it quite a bit,” Irwin said. “It’s a great reason to come back and see people I haven’t in a while, and it just seems to get bigger and better each year.”

Barstow said she was grateful for another successful Brew Fest, as well as the sunshine that stuck around last Saturday afternoon. She is excited to see how the festival will continue to grow, much like Palouse’s other signature events like Palouse Days in the summer and Haunted Palouse in October. 

“I love the people that I work with; we’re all really good friends,” Barstow said. “ It’s really fun to put on an event that brings people together. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t seem like work at the time because you’re making people happy by doing something good for the community. So we’ll keep doing it for sure.”