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Co-op brew corner

Co-op Brew Corner: Loving Brew (Is Easy)

Love can take time. Romance can begin or end with a sip or a short-lived moment of connection. With many styles to love, the appeal of beer and cider is multi-faceted. One may be drawn to the sizzle on the tongue; the roasty, grain toastiness; or a host of other attributes, from the crisp, refreshingly smooth flavor of lagers and pilsners to the bright, bracing bitterness of India Pale ales. For some of us, it just clicks.

The life of cider and beer may be brief, but it can be satisfying. Some breweries stamp their beer with a production date. For brews of modest alcohol content – between 4 and 6% – enjoy them soon, ideally within four months of production. Higher octane beer – including those in double IPA and imperial stout categories – can last much longer, while refining its flavor. Have the patience to age your new beer? Choose a spicy Belgian Tripel ale like Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde, or a deep, dark Bourbon barrel aged specialty such as Fremont’s B-Bomb (formerly the Abominable).

Bubbly brews can remind us that nothing lasts forever. We can, however, enjoy ourselves now and get while the getting’s good.

Profile #1: Strawberry Lambic

Brouwerij Lindemans, Vlezenbeek, Belgium; 4.1% alcohol by volume, 12 IBU

For the first time in over a decade, Lindemans released a fresh flavor of wild fermented fruit ale. They chose to feature strawberry, a complex fruit that matches with the sourness of Lambic. The result is a unique balanced marriage of sweet and sour. Rosy hued with an aroma of ripened strawberries, this delicate beer has a sweetness balanced by traditional Lambic tartness.

The romantic, mysterious, wild-fermented ales of the Belgian area of Flanders are among the world’s rarest beers. Lambics are made in the Senne River valley, where small farms help create a unique climate.  For more than 500 years, the region’s microflora has been captured and used to seed breweries.

Crafted in a unique brewing process that often takes several years, Lambics are a complex family of ales that include dry aperitifs, full-bodied dinner beers and fruity dessert beers. Making Lambic involves special steps.  Most brewers use fresh hops, but Lambic brewers use aged, low bitter hops as an herbal preservative.  No yeast is added to this beer after the boil. Instead, the Lambic wort is transferred into a coolship (a large, shallow vessel) that exposes it to cool fresh air, infused with floating wild yeast cells. The beer is then top-fermented by multiple wild yeast strains, including Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces lambicus in a process known as spontaneous fermentation, whereas most ales use the cultivated yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

After fermentation, the beer is transferred into oak vessels for two summers of aging. A secondary, slower fermentation takes place, and finally the Lambic is combined with fruit before bottling. Lindemans Strawberry Lambic 750 ml is on sale now for $10.99 per bottle.

Pair it with: brie cheese, like Delice de Bourgogne or fresh goat chevre, tiramisu, or cheesecake.

Profile #2: Serious Scrump Imperial Hard Cider

2Towns Ciderhouse, Corvallis, Oregon; 11% alcohol by volume

Rich and substantial, Serious Scrump is a dry imperial cider made using an ice juice process. An eclectic blend of apples are pressed, frozen, and slowly thawed, resulting in thick aromatic juice, which is then fermented with traditional English cider yeast.

Only released once a year, Serious Scrump is a treat of mid-late winter.  Inspired by the rustic “scrumpy” cider from England’s West Country, this northwest hard cider kicks it up a notch.  With almost double the alcohol content of typical ciders, Serious Scrump is cloudy and unfiltered. 2Towns has a firm commitment to using only fresh pressed apple juice, with no added sugar, concentrates or artificial flavors.  Serious Scrump is available now, for a limited time, at $6.99 per 500 ml bottle.

Pair it with: smoked salmon, cayenne spiced almonds, ham and Swiss grilled cheese sandwiches.

Profile #3:  Leota Mae India Pale Ale

Bale Breaker Brewing, Yakima, WA; 6.2% alcohol by volume; 50 IBU

Beer is a labor of love.  Leota Mae Loftus holds a personal place in one family’s brewing legacy.  It was Leota Mae, matriarch and agricultural pioneer, who made the decision to plant and tend hop fields on her family’s land in 1932, instead of apple orchards.  Her pivotal choice helped benefit the cultivation of a massive Pacific Northwest industry in hop farming.  This beer pays tribute to the Loftus legacy and the woman who started it all.

In addition to brewing up tasty suds, Bale Breaker is also a world-class hop farm.  Their flagship fields draw visitors from around the world.  And they pour in.  Each season you’ll find head brewers and CEOs of some of America’s most prestigious breweries wandering the fields at Bale Breaker, searching for the perfect hop.

Leota Mae IPA showcases the local flavor of Yakima-bred Ekuanot™ and Mosaic® hops. Heavily, but not too bitterly hopped, this brew is laden with grapefruit citrus and bright piney flavors. With a light-medium malt body, try this light Pacific Northwest IPA with your favorite pub grub. Leota Mae is now on sale for $10.49 per 6pk per 12oz cans.

Pair it with: bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers, sweet and sour meatballs, cumin-lime roasted cauliflower.

Claire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it.  She has been on staff at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op since 2010.  She writes the regular columns Co-op Brew Corner and The Cheese Whisperer for the Co-op’s blog and the Natural Enquirer newsletter.  Contact: claire@skagitfoodcoop.com

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.