What does the Skagit Valley in Washington and Eastern Oregon have to do with San Pedro, California?
They were two stops on the malt trail for Brouwerij West Founder Brian Mercer as he searched high and low and North and West for just the right grains to go into his traditional, but still West Coast Belgian ales.
Malt doesn’t get the play that hops do in craft beer fandom. Hops are the fun aunt that is wild and crazy while malt is the staid uncle. Not to mention that malt has to be scooped out and cleaned before introducing the next batch. Because Mercer has a fancy mash filter that looks like it came from a nuclear submarine instead of using the normal lauter tun in the brewing process, he can go further afield with grain choices because grains that stick a mash or cause brewing headaches are now an open possibility.
Brouwerij West is using that freedom to source their malts from providers not of the large corporate variety. Mercer traveled to an estate micro-maltster out in Madras, Oregon, to check Mecca Grande’s mal terroir and then north to Washington State to Skagit Valley Malting where they found a variety of grains that fit the malt bill.
Skagit Valley Malting doesn’t just ship bags of malt. They are a custom malt house and make malt to order in consultation with the brewer (or baker or distiller). That means a precise flavor profile can be achieved, which in conjunction with the malt choice freedom from the hyper-efficient mash filter, can widen the brewer’s palette. That’s great for Brouwerij West’s Saisons and Tripels, even IPAs and their most popular beer Popfuji. Their take on the pilsner (which will be getting the canned treatment in the near future) is really reliant on what the malt brings to the process.
You can check out the BW beers at their Popfuji-Summer Music Festival this Saturday. $5 gets your ears access to five bands in their taproom courtyard.
The Beer of the Week will premiere in under a week! On Wednesday, August 3, Eagle Rock Brewery will unveil their sour, Zaigermeister. It will mark the first beer of ERB’s Woodwork Projects, “a series dedicated to making one of a kind barrel-aged beers. The beer is named after and inspired by Floyd Zaiger, the inventor of the pluot fruit (plum-apricot hybrid). The sour blonde will also have mangoes aplenty, making for a fruit forward summer sipper.
Every year, I exhort Los Angeles craft beer fans to attend the L.A. Craft Beer Crawl that is presented by the ale savvy Beer Chicks and the 213 Group of bars in downtown L.A. Instead of being herded into a roped off area, you have all of DTLA’s historic core at your feet as you walk from bar to bar like Casey’s Irish Pub to the Golden Gopher to Cole’s in search of beer. Over 100 beers will be available over 7 locations on Saturday, August 13.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.