After two days of hikes, ferries and driving up mountains here in Washington, it was time for some refreshments. This afternoon, my friend Jane and I stopped at Island Hoppin, a six-month-old microbrewery on the island of Orcas (an appropriate name as Orca whales swarm its waters).

The owner, an excitable man named Nate, pulled us the Taster Flight – any four of his beers for a ridiculous $6. We picked the Belgian pale ale, the Old Madrona, the White Cap American Wit and the Bomb Blonde while Nate listed the ingredients he had used to create each taste.


Four half pints seemed far too generous for a tasting session, but we tried our best, particularly enjoying the light pale ale and the fruity White Cap, which contained orange and coriander. The others were super hoppy, and the Madrona (8%!) was so rich that there were hints of chocolate.

(While at the bar, we had the added treat of meeting Scotty, a bearded 60-something who revealed the size of the island by looking at us and saying: ‘I don’t know you.’ Scotty, I learned, came to Orcas from Scotland via Los Angeles and was soon over-sharing about his troubled childhood and romantic history. This featured a brief tryst with Michael Flatley’s sister in Los Angeles, which ended swiftly when one of her girlfriends warned him ‘she would never be the type of woman you want’.)

No doubt the delicious beers loosened the conversation a bit – and they were deserved after two days of looking around the beautiful islands of San Juan and Orcas: