Thomas Croskrey is taking his Old World brewing approach into a new venture.
Bellwether’s founding brewer is leaving after almost four years to launch his own brewery, which will continue to produce a mixture of modern and historical styles on a smaller scale.
Both he and Bellwether co-founder Dave Musser stress that the parting is amicable.
“Even from the very beginning, I was thinking about a five-year plan for branching out and doing my own thing,” Croskrey said.
“There’s nervousness on both sides, but we’re excited for each other, too,” said Musser. “I want to see Thomas keep experimenting and doing creative things.”
With Bellwether, history buff Croskrey created the likes of Albion, a strong heather ale that traces its roots to early Scotland, and Sea Wolf, a Celtic- and Viking-inspired braggot (honey beer).
Historically themed beers also will be a big part of his new brewery. But instead of attempting to mimic ancient recipes, Croskrey said, “They will be more in the historical spirit, using local ingredients – kind of exploring the beer terroir through a historical lens.”
That will include more tree beers like the gruit (herbed beer) Croskrey recently brewed using the bark and branches from a white fir that had been Bellwether’s Christmas tree. “I love tree ingredients,” he said. “They’re complex, and they’re readily available.”
He’ll also make more modern but still traditional European styles, as well as newer, experimental American styles such as hazy IPAs and pastry stouts. Each line will be branded under a different name, so customers will know what to expect.
Historically oriented beers and meads, which Croskrey also plans to produce, will be marketed as Kith Fermentations – from an old English word, as in “kith and kin,” that invokes intimacy not just with other people but with the land, plants and animals.
“It’s one of my favorite words,” Croskrey said. “It encapsulates so much.”
While Bellwether recently upgraded to a 10-barrel brewing system, Croskrey plans a five-barrel brewhouse with smaller fermenters for flexibility – such as adding honey to part of a batch for a braggot. “There will be a lot of creativity with that,” he said.
Croskrey is exploring locations, looking for the right type of building that has both a neighborhood feel and easy access from the outside.
His final brew with Bellwether last week was a hazy, hoppy wheat beer collaboration with the Grain Shed and Black Label. “It will celebrate where Bellwether is going without me, and where I’m going without Bellwether,” Croskrey said.
For its part, Bellwether will continue to brew both historical and modern styles under new head brewer Randy Baker, who was Croskrey’s assistant, though there won’t be as many small-batch specialties given the bigger system.
With that increased capacity, Bellwether will contract brewing space to other breweries such as the Grain Shed, which will produce beer there for canning. Some Bellwether beers also could be canned in conjunction with that.
“That’s how the brewing industry is,” Musser said. “People help each other out.”
Friday’s the deadline to cast your ballot in the winter Lester Cup competition. Contestants include an imperial stout at Bellwether, barrel-aged plum barleywine at Black Label, English-style strong ale at the Grain Shed, doppelbock at Mountain Lakes (which won round one last summer) and S’mores milk stout at Whistle Punk.
You need to visit each brewery, drink the beer and get your ballot stamped in order to vote. Everyone voting will be invited to an awards ceremony March 24 at Bellwether, 2019 N. Monroe St.
Beer to door
Paradise Creek has launched a delivery service bringing bottles, cans, kegs and merchandise to customers inside Pullman city limits ($25 minimum order). The service operates Thursday through Saturday; for details see paradisecreekbrewery.com/delivery.html.
Perry Street is pouring two beers released for last weekend’s fifth anniversary party: the annual Kumquat IPA (7 percent alcohol by volume), which is particularly tart this year, and a fruity HBC 692 double IPA (8) brewed with that experimental hop. Try them at 1025 S. Perry St., Suite 2.
Iron Goat, 1302 W. Second Ave., has a bone-dry Brut Lee IPA (7) in addition to the milkshake-style Crème de Hop (5.8).
The latest Ween-inspired offering at Post Falls Brewing is a small-batch Demon Sweat imperial stout (10.1) brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, cacao, vanilla bean and pasilla peppers. The brewery is at 112 N. Spokane St. in Post Falls.
Fernweh (6.9), a Baltic porter that won a gold medal at the 2017 Washington Beer Awards, is back on tap at Bellwether for the first time since then.
Humble Abode is serving a hazy Smiling Eyes IPA (7.3) in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The brewery is at 1620 E. Houston Ave., Suite 800.
English Setter on Friday releases a Pitter Patter Irish-style red. The brewery is at 15310 E. Marietta Ave., Suite 4, in Spokane Valley.
Save the date
The Filling Station on 5th offers a blind tasting of three triple IPAs on Thursday from 5 to 8. The Coeur d’Alene pub is at 501 Sherman Ave.
Green versions of house beers will pour for St. Patrick’s celebrations at Badass Backyard (1415 N. Argonne Road, Spokane Valley) and Masters Brewhouse (831 S. Main St., Suite M, Deer Park) on Saturday, and Waddell’s Pub (6501 N. Cedar Road) on Sunday.
Special, green-free offerings from Bale Breaker are on tap for Community Pint’s party Saturday, along with Irish-inspired food from Frankie’s Catering. Community Pint is at 120 E. Sprague Ave.
The Inland Northwest chapter of Beer Choir meets Monday from 6:30 to 8 at Black Label, 19 W. Main Ave.
Trickster’s hosts a pairing of four beers with SpoKandy chocolates next Tuesday at 6; tickets are $30 in advance at the taproom, 3850 N. Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene.
English Setter’s Pints for Puppies on March 23 benefits SpokAnimal.
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