The New Year’s celebration is just beginning for Bellwether.
On Thursday, it kicks off its Year of the Sainted Brewers – a series of special beer releases the second and fourth Thursdays of each month recognizing saints associated with beer.
First up is a blended plum tripel honoring St. Veronus, a patron saint of Belgian brewers.
Bellwether’s Thomas Croskrey, an avowed history buff, says he’s had the idea since his homebrewing days. He and co-owner Dave Musser decided to save it until the city proceeded with its North Monroe street project, to keep customers coming during the disruption; work is scheduled to start this spring.
“We thought it would be a really fun thing to do, and now it will help compensate for the construction,” Croskrey says.
Not all of the honorees will be officially canonized, he says, but all are considered saints in the brewing world – such as Gambrinus, the mythical German king credited with inventing beer in European folklore.
“We’ll try to reflect in the beer, and the whole event, those saints who are being recognized,” Croskrey says.
He brewed the Belgian-style tripel for Veronus using surplus fruit donated by the nonprofit Spokane Edible Tree Project.
“It was a good beer, but in retrospect, I should have removed the plum skins,” Croskrey says. “It had a sour, bitter character that was a little too strong.”
So he decided to try blending it with another beer he had in the works, an imperial rye ale that had been aging for six months in wine barrels with Brettanomyces yeast. That balanced the bitter fruit and added some subtle Brett barnyard funk and barrel character.
“You still get a little bit of sour and bitter from the peels but it blends in now as part of the team, rather than being a face-puncher,” he says.
At around 10 percent alcohol by volume, it’s being served in 10-ounce pours. There’s a little more than three barrels’ worth (close to 100 gallons), so it will be around for a while; a dollar from every glass sold in the taproom will go back to the Edible Tree Project.
Some other beers in the series will be smaller 5- or 10-gallon batches, like February’s selections.
Ireland’s St. Brigid (who reputedly could turn water into beer) will be feted Feb. 8 with a strong red ale using gentian root and meadowsweet, which were common Celtic brewing herbs. If that one turns out well, Croskrey might add it to his regular lineup.
And on Feb. 22, look for an altbier honoring Germany’s St. Columbanus.
Bellwether will keep track of attendance at the events and award prizes for frequent customers. Hit half of them, and you’ll be thanked by name on social media. Make it to 80 percent and you’ll also receive a bottle of a specially aged beer. And for a perfect record, you get the bottle plus a personalized pottery mug, and have your name entered in a drawing to help Croskrey brew a batch of beer.
The saints aren’t all that will be keeping Bellwether extra busy this year. Next month, it starts remodeling the space next door into a new production facility with a 10-barrel brewhouse, up from the current 1.5 barrels. The existing brewery in the back will be used for an expanded taproom and possibly a small kitchen.