It’s the harvest season, time to enjoy the final fruits of the summer’s labors.
On one Green Bluff farm, that means the arrival of the area’s latest brewery: Big Barn.
Craig Deitz has been busy creating a tasting room in a storage building at his Bodacious Berries & Fruit, finally opening it to the public over the weekend. A larger barn will eventually house a seven-barrel brewhouse that’s being assembled from old dairy equipment.
“Everything is going to be farm-themed. As much as we can use off the farms here, we’ll grab onto it,” Deitz said.
Two beers available for sampling during a recent visit, a honey ale and a raspberry wheat, showed off their origins – the honey more pronounced, the raspberry more subtle – without the cloying sweetness that can sometimes sour those styles.
The honey came from the bluff, while syrups made from Deitz’s berries are used in the wheat and in a blackberry porter by his brewing partner, Brad Paulson.
“There’s a difference between flavored beers and beers made with real fruit,” Paulson said.
Also on tap are a Bluff Top Belgian blonde that once earned Deitz grand champion honors at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, his Strong Oat Stout and Paulson’s Applewood Amber (named after the farm’s address on Applewood Lane). A pumpkin beer made with roasted sugar pumpkins from the farm is on the way.
The tasting room will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. through the rest of October.
Paulson, a construction company manager who’s been brewing at home for 20 years, and Deitz, with a dozen under his belt, met through their church. When Deitz decided a couple of years ago to give commercial brewing a shot, Paulson wanted in, along with a third partner, Ed Brandstoettner.
A 30-year educator who teaches science at Mt. Spokane High School, Deitz sees the brewery as a “twilight career.”
“Most of us are going to have to work through retirement anyway, so you might as well have a job that you’re excited about, passionate about,” he said.
As the brewery grows, Deitz hopes to distribute beer to accounts around town. Paulson talks of hosting classes and other events, such as a Green Bluff beer festival.
They’ve planted hop vines that should start producing next season, and are looking at malting some of their own barley. Another farmer on the bluff is interested in a larger-scale malting operation, Deitz said.
So will Big Barn eventually produce a beer using entirely homegrown ingredients?
“That’s the goal,” saidsays Deitz said. “When we get to that point, I’ll feel like we’ve really made it.”
Battle of the Budge
Another fledgling Spokane brewery, Budge Brothers, is trying to take a big step forward.
Since opening in May 2011, Brad and Bruce Budge have struggled with what they’ve acknowledged was an inadequate brewing system. Sometimes there wasn’t enough beer to open the taproom for its scheduled Friday-Saturday hours, much less outside distribution.
The installation of a natural gas water heater boosted production enough to allow the addition of Wednesdays and Thursdays last month. And now the brothers are attempting to raise $15,000 for a new, larger fermenter and other equipment through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo (similar to Kickstarter).
Premiums range from a logo sticker for a $10 contribution, to a stainless steel growler and more at the $1,000 level. Check it out at www.indiegogo.com/BudgeBros (and be sure to watch their clever black-and-white video, set to some sweet Jelly Roll Morton piano).
Peter, Peter, pumpkin drinker
Fall, of course, also means pumpkins – which have increasingly been appearing in beers, particularly those from Seattle’s Elysian Brewing.
Starting today and continuing through the weekend, the Post Street Ale House in downtown Spokane is showcasing a dozen-plus pumpkin beers, along with a cider. The lineup includes seven versions from Elysian alone, as well as the annual offering from Spokane’s Steam Plant.
Festivities kick off tonight at 6 with the tapping of a giant pumpkin filled with Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon pumpkin stout.
Later this month, pumpkin lovers also can look forward to squash-infused suds from C.I. Shenanigan’s – some of which will have a second fermentation, cask-style, inside a huge gourd – and Iron Goat.
In the meantime, the Goat has tapped a beer made with freshly harvested hops from customer contributions and its own grounds, adding another local interpretation to the two “wet hop” ales available at Twelve String in Spokane Valley.
Testing their medals
Sandpoint’s Laughing Dog Brewing won second-place honors over the weekend out of 27 breweries at the annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima, the heart of hop country. It was the sixth time Laughing Dog has made the podium, the most of any brewery in festival history.
And Spokane’s No-Li Brewhouse took two medals – a gold for its Crystal Bitter, and a silver for Born & Raised IPA – at last month’s International Beer Competition in Yokohama, Japan, which featured 85 breweries from around the globe.
Hazy shades of winter
More and more, fall also brings dark, rich winter-themed beers from the region’s larger brewers. They keep showing up earlier every year, although last week’s cold snap made them seem oddly welcome.
Leading the way this season are three heavyweight “winter warmers”: Deschutes’ Jubelale (6.7 percent alcohol by volume, 60 International Bitterness Units), Pyramid’s Snow Cap (7.0, 47) and Full Sail’s Wassail (7.2, 56).
Jubelale’s complex flavor profile includes caramel, berry and spicy hop notes, while Snow Cap leans more toward dark fruits, roasty malts and earthy hops. Wassail is similar to Snow Cap, but a bit brighter.
Redhook’s Winterhook (6.0, 38) comes across as their slightly nutty little brother, lighter in color, body and taste.
Ninkasi’s Sleigh’r and Widmer’s Brrr share identical stats (7.2 ABV, 50 IBU), but the similarity stops there. Sleigh’r, in the German alt style – brewed with ale yeast at cooler lager temperatures, for a cleaner, crisper character – showcases chocolaty, fruity flavors balanced by a bitter hop finish.
The Brrr is more hop-forward, with citrusy, piney Cascades and Simcoes supported by a candylike malt sweetness. It’s making us antsy for our favorite winter brew, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration – which has the courtesy to arrive closer to Thanksgiving.