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Hazy beer, clear cause

Waddell’s Brewpub taps a special beer on Thursday to support the fight against ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the loss of muscle control and eventual paralysis.

It’s often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after the baseball great whose life it took. Spokane native Steve Gleason, a former WSU and NFL football star, is another victim, as was scientist Stephen Hawking, who died last month.

It has also taken a toll on the family of Yakima’s Cheryl Smith, whose husband, Mike, owns the Loftus Ranches hop farm (their children operate Bale Breaker Brewing). Five years ago, they launched Ales for ALS, which provides participating breweries with a special hop blend to brew beers that benefit ALS research.

Waddell’s (named after another baseball legend, Rube Waddell) is one of six Washington brewers involved this year, and the only one in Spokane. It’s personal for them, too; sales manager Kevin Green’s grandfather died from the disease.

The hazy IPA it will release on Thursday has a similar base to the brewery’s regular New England Haze, but uses an English yeast strain instead of an American one to enhance the haziness. Wheat and oats also contribute to the cloudiness, while a bit of honey malt adds a sweet touch.

But the real star, of course, is the hops. This year’s blend includes 40 percent Ekuanot and 10 percent each Simcoe and Loral, with the rest consisting of four experimental varieties that so far go by numbers, not names.

Waddell’s brewer Bryan Utigard says he can’t really compare it to any hop combination he’s previously used.

“There’s a very rounded, juicy hoppiness that I haven’t tasted before,” he says. “It is a juice bomb. It tastes pretty amazing.”

The beer will only be served at Waddell’s (no outside distribution), with $1 from each pint sold going to the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

Thursday’s release party from 6 to 9 p.m. also will include a Mario Kart 64 video game tournament on the patio. That’s open to the first 16 people who sign up the day of the event; the $15 entry fee includes your first beer, a souvenir pint glass and a brewery tour, with the winner receiving a $50 gift card.

“I’m a video game nerd, so it makes me pretty excited,” says Utigard, who‘s been discussing the idea with Green. “It could be the first of many different video game tournaments we might pull off.”