Moscow Alehouse celebrates sixth anniversary

Owner says working is not just about cooking, serving or tending bar



Moscow Alehouse features one brewery every second Wednesday. For the anniversary, they brought in Lagunitas Brewing Co., Icicle Brewing Co. and Iron Horse Brewery.

LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

Servers rushed around a crowded alehouse greeting local patrons and brewers as empty seats began to fill up. The smell of beer and fried food filled the air as plates and glasses left the busy kitchen to find their way to tables full of chatter.

The Moscow Alehouse celebrated its sixth anniversary this month with a special featured brewery event from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday. The celebration included giveaways, open-mic music and a wide selection of beer on tap from featured breweries Lagunitas Brewing Co., Icicle Brewing Co. and Iron Horse Brewery.

“People always ask me why I celebrate [the anniversary] every year,” Wendy Smiley Johnson, owner of and bartender at Moscow Alehouse, said. “Business — why wouldn’t you celebrate doing this job every year?”

Smiley Johnson said she hoped people had fun, connected with their friends and had a chance to win prizes. There were $50 gift cards to the alehouse, beer tasting platters, three grand prizes from each featured brewery and lots of hugs all night.

Every second Wednesday, the alehouse features one brewery, but for the anniversary, they brought in three, said Chase Alexander, an assistant manager at Moscow Alehouse.

“This is about showcasing the breweries,” Smiley Johnson said. “That’s why we don’t call it a ‘tap takeover.’ It is about them.”

Alexander said customers who bought a pint of beer from one of the three featured brewers entered a raffle ticket for a chance to win prizes like the tasting platter and brewery merchandise.

The three grand prizes included a free tour of the respective brewery and baskets with glasses, T-shirts, hats and other merchandise, Alexander said.

Many people get overwhelmed by beer selection in stores and do not know what to buy, so they often buy big brands they recognize, he said. He hopes patrons had a chance to learn about beer, and find out what they like by trying a variety of local brews.

When Smiley Johnson bought the alehouse in 2013, she had been working as a bartender, waitress and manager at the alehouse for seven years but had no ownership experience.

She said she had to build almost everything from the ground up, but it was not about change. It was about making it Moscow.

To do this, Smiley Johnson added a 24-tap rotating beer selection and the “Vandal Burger,” made with meat from University of Idaho’s Vandal Meats. She donates some of the profits from this burger to local charities.

Smiley Johnson said working at the alehouse is not just about cooking, serving or tending bar. They are all about honesty, integrity and teamwork and do not do “thieves, liars or drama.”

“We are a community raising a bunch of people,” she said.

The community is the reason why Smiley Johnson has been here for six years, she said. In her time as owner, she is most proud of the people who have worked at the alehouse and the community of Moscow.

“When I get off work,” Alexander said, “the first place I want to go get a beer is my work.”