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Menage a deux

Twelve String and Badass Backyard are bringing a taste of France to the Spokane Valley.

The Millwood-area breweries have collaborated on a French-style saison that makes its debut Friday in events at both taprooms.

“We used all French malt, French hops, French yeast, and we’re aging most of it in French oak chardonnay barrels,” says Twelve String’s Terry Hackler.

It started toward the end of last year as an idea for this year’s Spokane Craft Beer Week in May, which typically features collaborations by pairs of area breweries.

Since they had plenty of lead time, they decided to do something barrel-aged, a Twelve String specialty. Hackler had access to chardonnay barrels, so they settled on a saison with its more delicate flavors.

The hops in the recipe, Strisselspalt and Aramis, carry descriptors ranging from earthy and herbal to floral and grassy to citrusy and spicy.

“They smelled amazing,” Badass Backyard’s Charlene Honcik says of the more aromatic Strisselspalt. “They were similar to Citra, but different enough that you thought, what is this?”

The resulting beer registers at about 5 percent alcohol by volume. “It’s delicious so far,” says Hackler. “It’s light and crisp and unbelievably flavorful. We totally nailed it.”

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Your weekly planner

A look at the upcoming week in local craft beer:

THURSDAY

– A Fremont tap takeover at Pints Alehouse will feature eight barrel-aged beers (including the elusive Coconut B-Bomb) plus The Coroner and Spring Elixir imperial IPAs, Known Unknown nitro stout and Stone Squirrel coffee porter; it continues through the weekend, as supplies last.

– Bellwether's biweekly Year of the Sainted Brewers series continues with special releases honoring St. Amand (a French saison with rosemary, grains of paradise and lemon verbena) and St. Dorothea of Caesarea (ale with apples and rose petals).

– McClain's Pizzeria has a Georgetown pint night from 6 to 8 with prize raffles.

– Iron Goat brewer Adam Boyd, president of the Inland Brewers Unite homebrew club, will give a presentation on the "Science and History of Craft Beer" at the North Spokane Library starting at 7.

– No-Li is pouring a pub-only RAB's Pale Ale.

– V Twin has tapp ed a new Pinstripe Pilsner.

–The Let It ESB has returned at Iron Goat.

FRIDAY

– Badass Backyard and Twelve String release a collaboration French saison that will be poured on cask at Twelve String starting at 3 and on nitro at Badass beginning at 5.

– An Orlison tasting from 4 to 7 at the South Hill Growler Guys will include Clem's Gold lager, Single Hop Citra Pale, Ankle Breaker IPA, Boulder Garden Brown and more. 

SATURDAY

– Hayden's Bombastic, not usually open to the public, is pouring pints and filling growlers of four beers from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Common Wisdom imperial IPA; two imperial stouts, the cocktail-inspired Old Fashioned Murder and Szechuan peppercorn-spiked Murder on the Orient Express; and Small Business wild ale. 

– The annual Washington Beer Open House features special releases and events from noon to 5 at breweries across the state including Badass Backyard, Bellwether, Big Barn, Black Label, Hopped Up, Top Frog, V Twin and Young Buck.

– Downdraft celebrates its grand reopening under new ownership from 2 to 9 with a "Twin Peaks"-themed party. Look for beer specials, hourly giveways, food from Junior's BBQ and Bean & Pie, a costume contest at 6 and trivia at 7.

Steady Flow Growler House has an Avery tap takeover (including a rare keg of the discontinued Mephistopheles imperial stout) all day and a Legos building contest from 6 to 9, with raffles and prizes. 

– Community Pint hosts a Mardi Bras benefit from 7 to 9, with $1 from every beer sold going to the organization that helps homeless women with their personal needs.  

And as always, keep checking back for more news about everything happening throughout the week.

House parties

Breweries across the state again are rolling out the welcome mats for Saturday’s eighth annual Washington Beer Open House.

Among the activities that participating area breweries have planned between noon and 5 p.m.:

Badass Backyard: Tours on the hour of the home-based brewery, leaving via carpool from the taproom at 1415 N. Argonne. Cost is $10, which includes two tasters; limit of 10 people per tour, sign up in advance at the taproom.  

Bellwether: Opens at 1 p.m. with brewery tours at 2 and 4. Throughout the afternoon, get a flight, two pints and a pretzel plate for $20.

Big Barn: Tours at noon, 2 and 4; music from 2 to 4:30; 15 beers on tap including seasonals; food available.

Black Label: Get $1 off pints from 1 to 5; raffle ticket with each pint purchase for brewery merchandise.

Hopped Up: Releasing five infused small-batch variations on its cream ale: Passion Fruit, Pickled Jalapeno, Wild Strawberry, Blood Orange and Pomegranate.

V Twin: Quick, casual brewery tours throughout the afternoon.

Young Buck: Brewery tours and samples of beers aging in barrels.

Your weekly roundup

Catching up with more news from the week in craft beer:

• Badass Backyard has announced that its long-planned Coeur d'Alene taproom will open March 3 in the Coeur d'Alene Fresh retail complex. While the beer will be shipped from the Spokane Valley brewery for now, a small satellite brewing operation also is in the works.

Meanwhile, the Valley taproom now is open seven days a week – with Monday hours being added from 2 to 9 p.m. – and is opening at noon on Friday and Saturday, two hours earlier than before.

River City will release this year's Riverkeeper IPA at its next First Friday "garage party" in the downtown brewery March 2, with live music and food from the 3 Ninjas truck. The recipe varies each year for the beer, which benefits the Spokane Riverkeeper environmental protection program.

• Tickets are available for a pair of upcoming beer dinners:

– Coeur d'Alene's Filling Station on 5th has a Breakfast Beer Dinner on Feb. 26 starting at 9 p.m. with seven breakfast-inspired courses accompanied by beers from Firestone Walker; cost is $35.

– A four-course Matchless dinner is scheduled Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at Nectar Catering and Events in downtown Spokane; tickets are $39.99.

• Finally, a few fun facts from the Hop Growers of America's newly released 2017 Statistical Report:

– Idaho now is the No. 2 hop-producing state with 13.2 percent of the national crop, passing Oregon (11.4). Washington remains on top with 75.4 percent.

– Last year's hop harvest was up 20 percent from 2016, topping 100 million pounds for the first time. Yields per acre increased 14 percent thanks to maturing hop plants and better weather conditions.

– U.S. hop production and acreage both have increased close to 80 percent since 2012 in conjunction with the craft beer boom.

– Over that same period, the more aromatic hops favored by craft brewers have gone from 20 percent of overall production to 50 percent, compared to traditional bittering hops. Citra and Simcoe have climbed from the eighth and ninth most-grown varieties to third and fourth (behind Cascade and Centennial) while Mosaic is sixth.

Your weekend planner

A look at the weekend in local craft beer:

FRIDAY

– A benefit for leukemia and lymphoma research by Kootenai County and Northern Lakes firefighters at Mad Bomber from noon to 8 will feature a full-gear stair climbing challenge with the winner getting a free daily pint for six months, plus live music and food from The Wurst Man in Town.   

– Pints Alehouse has a Triple IPA Blind Tasting starting at 3 today and Saturday featuring flights of Bale Breaker Mount Saint Humulus, Boneyard Notorious, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, Georgetown Harkin Banks and pFriem Triple IPA; guess them all correctly to win a pint glass and a chance at a $25 gift card. 

– A Ninkasi tasting from 5 to 8 at the Coeur d'Alene Growler Guys includes Yours Truly Easy-Drinking Ale plus the Prismatic and FIrst Rule IPAs.   

– Fremont's Dark Heron IPA, official beer of Seattle's Emerald City Comic Con, will be tapped for a cosplay costume party starting at 9 at The Viking, with all Fremont pints going for $4.   

Post Falls Brewing is pouring a hazy Stallion imperial New England-style IPA.

– Selkirk Abbey releases a Russian imperial stout under its Northern Cross brand. 

– Laughing Dog celebrates the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Dog – with beer specials and prize giveaways.

SATURDAY

The Viking is pouring 10 Barrel's Lemon Crush sour and Goggle Tan IRA starting at 5.

Hidden Mother’s baby steps

Mike Detar’s dreams are so vivid you can almost taste them.

He talks of beers made from hops and grain grown on his family’s 44-acre Liberty Lake spread. He envisions brewing his organic wild ales in hollowed-out tree trunks, and creating a cave to condition the bottles.

But first, Detar needs to make some money to get his new brewery, The Hidden Mother (after the yeasts that give birth to beer), off the ground. So his initial, more mainstream releases – a smoked porter and an imperial rye stout – are about ready to roll out in kegs to area accounts.

“This is my baby, and I need to get things moving,” said Detar, who previously brewed at Paradise Creek in Pullman. “It’s been a pretty crazy run so far, for sure.”

Detar, 33, grew up here but moved to the Bay Area at age 18 on a bicycling team sponsorship. He worked for 11 years at a bakery in Berkeley, which “opened up that whole world of yeast cultivation.”

It also taught him the importance of a creative, passionate approach. “It’s not just a recipe, it’s what you’re putting into it,” he said.

He began homebrewing eight years ago and decided to go professional, selling his house to fund the project. It was going to cost too much in California, so he moved back here in the fall of 2013.

Detar’s five-barrel brewhouse was built by a metal-fabricating friend in Oakland. He bought fermenters from Selkirk Abbey and Waddell’s.

On Feb. 1, he was finally ready for his first official brew day – one which started at 8:30 a.m. and ended 18 hours later, as he worked to get the system dialed in. The second brew last week was a bit better, at 13 hours.

He’s still figuring things out. The stout, typically 10.5 percent alcohol by volume, came in at 8.5 percent while the porter was 5.5 compared to the usual 7.5, though samples show the flavor didn’t suffer.

Now it’s time to start selling the beer, something Detar hopes will be helped by his industry connections from Paradise Creek and from working at Crafted Tap House in Coeur d’Alene. Along with distribution, he plans to open a taproom soon, preferably in a location that also can serve as a barrel-aging facility.

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Beer my Valentine

Among your local craft beer options for Valentine's Day:

Perry Street is offering two pints, an appetizer, two entrees and chocolate mousse for dessert for $45.

Iron Goat's special includes two beers, a pizza and a dessert to share for $30.

Paradise Creek has happy-hour beer pricing and $3 off menu items all day starting at 1:30.

Pilgrim's has a free tasting of Lindemans' Framboise (raspberry) and strawberry lambics plus Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.

– Valentine's Day at Downdraft from 6 to 8 will include speed dating (sign up in advance), drink specials and food from My Big Fat Greek Deli. 

– Fort George's 1,000 Years of Silence, a Mexican chocolate imperial stout, will be tapped for Community Pint's Bloody Valentine Show from 7 to 9 along with live music.

– Buy one pint for $3 at Steady Flow Growler House and get a second for half off.

Hopped Up is tapping a small-batch Rocky Road Valentine Porter infused with chocolate, marshmallow and almond.

Badass Backyard has its Daring Diva raspberry wheat on nitro.

Dog years

On Saturday, English Setter celebrates being in business for four years – or a little over a month, depending how you look at it.

New owners Reece and Jackie Carlson, who took over the Spokane Valley brewery at the beginning of the year, are throwing an anniversary party starting at 1 p.m.

Raffle tickets will be handed out with each beer purchase beginning at 3 for prizes including T-shirts and hats, a six-piece glassware set and a mug club membership.  

Two new beers will be tapped for the occasion: an imperial oatmeal stout, The Grimm, and an IPA dubbed Guard Dog.

At 8 percent alcohol by volume, The Grimm is the biggest beer English Setter has ever done, Reece Carlson says. (Befitting its brawn, it’s served in a 10-ounce snifter.)

“I just feel like we’re missing part of the market,” he says. “I like beers that are big sometimes, I think everybody does.”

Brewed with a biscuity British malt, Maris Otter, its coffee character is accented by an astringent bite at the beginning.

“It almost fools your tongue into thinking that it’s sourness,” says Carlson. “Especially with a dark beer this time of year, I like to have a little pop.”

Guard Dog (7.8 percent ABV, 76 International Bitterness Units) is balanced but has more of a Northwest-style hoppiness than the brewery’s previous IPAs. A bit of roasted barley adds color and a subtle flavor note alongside a citrusy, spicy old-school blend of Summit, Cascade and Centennial.

“There’s still that sweet component that people here always like, but I wanted to pump up that bitter snap,” Carlson says.

Also look for what little is left of his initial new release, The Yard Scotch ale, which sold quickly following its introduction in early January. Another batch should be ready later next week.

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Let the drinking games begin

No-Li is introducing a new year-round porter to its canned lineup, and releasing four bottled barrel-aged beers in honor of the Olympics.

Falls Porter, a recipe that’s been three years in the making, goes on tap at the pub today and will soon show up in stores in six-packs of 12-ounce cans.

At 6.1 percent alcohol by volume and 39 International Bitterness Units, it’s easy-drinking but flavorful with a body boosted by Munich malt and flaked oats. There are chocolate notes up front along with a slight sweetness and some silkiness from the oats, balanced by a roasty coffee character that builds into a dry finish.

“We felt that our lineup was missing something, a full-bodied ale that doesn’t knock you on your ass,” says lead brewer Ryan Brookhart. “No-Li Falls Porter is that something.”

On the other hand, the Barrel-Aged Winter Games series is full of heavy hitters – four big beers that go on sale Saturday in limited 22-ounce bottles at the pub only (at $14.99 each). They include:

Jamaican Bobsled: A winter warmer (7.5 percent ABV) aged for more than two years in a Dry Fly wheat whiskey barrel for an oaky body and caramel finish.

Yard Sale: Named after the slang phrase for a skiing wipeout that leaves gear scattered around, this imperial red ale (8.2) was aged for three years in three separate wheat whiskey barrels, then blended for peak flavor.

Big Stone: The tribute to curling consists of Wrecking Ball imperial stout (9.5) that spent two and a half years in a bourbon barrel, developing its chocolate character.

Torchlight: A burly barleywine (10.5) that’s been aging in wheat whiskey barrels since the last Winter Olympics four years ago.

There are only about 120 bottles of each beer, so it likely won’t be long before their closing ceremonies. Llimited amounts also will rotate on tap at the pub through the month.     

Your weekend planner

A look at the weekend in local craft beer:

FRIDAY

– The Newport Highway Growler Guys has a New Belgium tasting from 5 to 7 featuring the Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA, Reserve Honey Belgian and Transatlantique Kriek.  

– Big Barn hosts an '80s Night from 6 to 8 with period music; dress as yourself or your favorite artist from the decade.\

– Daft Badger has tapped a new IPA called Inner Peace.

SATURDAY

– Bombastic has a bottle pickup day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for three new limited releases (must order in advance): Common Wisdom Double IPA, Coconut Sleuth Porter and Coffee Sleuth Porter.  

– English Setter's fourth anniversary party from 1 to 9 will include two new beers: Guard Dog Northwest-style IPA and The Grimm imperial oatmeal stout.

SUNDAY

Bellwether releases six red ales from the same batch, but with different sugar additions; get a flight for $12.

And as always, keep checking back for more news about everything happening throughout the week.

Elevation 57 takes beer to new heights

Brewer Brandon Amond (left) and Justin Jones at Elevation 57 Brewing at Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia. (John Nelson photo)

By John Nelson

Canada’s highest-elevation brewery has a secret ingredient.

“It all starts with the water here,” said Brandon Amond, head brewer at Elevation 57 Brewing Co. at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, British Columbia.

The water comes from Rhonda Lake at 6,600 feet at Big White, and Amond says it’s perfect for brewing crisp, clean session-style beers.

“Being up so high in the mountains above any pollution, it’s just so pure,” he said. He likens it to the soft water from the Czech city of Pizen, where pilsner style beer was born.

The Elevation 57 Brewing operation is just getting started, but already has a full product line through Sessions Taphouse at Big White. The name refers to 5,757 feet, the elevation of the brewery.

Braised oxtail ragu and handmade gnocchi are served with Elevation 57 pale ale. (John Nelson photo)

Besides the pilsner (6 percent alcohol by volume, 30 International Bitterness Units), Elevation 57 offers blonde ale (5.3, 25), pale ale (5.6, 35), hefeweizen (6, 20), saison (5.5, 20), IPA (6.3, 65), milk stout (5.4, 10) and smoked porter (5.9, 30).

As of now, it is available only at Sessions Taphouse, but plans are afoot to ramp up production and expand retail sales.

“Eventually we need to get a much bigger space,” said Justin Jones, general manager at Sessions.

John Nelson, a longtime journalist at newspapers around the country including The Spokesman-Review, is a regular contributor to the S-R as well as The Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and SeniorsSkiing.com. See more of his work at his SkiZer blog.

Your Super Bowl planner

A look at your local craft beer options for Super Bowl Sunday:

Steady Flow Growler House will have $10 fills and $3 pints of eight select beers from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Perry Street is offering a $10 growler fill and pint combo on most beers from 11:30 to 3. 

– Post Falls Brewing's Super Bowl party starting at noon includes $3 pints of Cheap Prick kolsch, growler fills for the price of two pints, games, prizes and Pi-Daho Artisan Pizza. 

– Community Pint has a potluck Super Bowl party from 2:30 to 8 with drink specials; get $10 growler fills on local beers and $2 off all other fills through the weekend.

– Badass Backyard's Super Bowl party from 3 to 7 will include a potluck and $4 pints; reservations are requested.

– Millwood Brewing has a Super Bowl Tailgate Party, with parking lot spots available for the first 15 vehicles (no outside beer allowed); look for the new JSLICK Blonde and nitro 3/4 Ton Scotch on tap. 

Mad Bomber is hosting a potluck beginning at 3.

Iron Goat is taking $2 off growler fills. 

– Buy two fills at the South Hill Growler Guys and get a third for half-price.

– The Filling Station on 5th has $4 off growler fills before the game.

BellwetherTrickster's, Manito Tap House, The Flying Goat and Republic Pi will be closed for game day. 

Growing up garage-style

River City celebrates its fifth year of operation on Friday with its first “garage party.”

When it closed its taproom at the end of December, the downtown brewery promised monthly First Friday parties during the new year inside the brewing facility itself. That kicks off Friday from 4 to 9:30 p.m., featuring a new beer for the occasion: Colonel Crusher barleywine.

It will be joined by previous anniversary offerings including last year’s Mad Latvian Baltic porter and both the 2016 and 2015 vintages of Congratulator doppelbock, along with 2014’s Midnight Marmot imperial stout. Get 12-ounce pours of each of those for $4.

There also will be $3 pints of standard beers including the Red, Girlfriend Golden and a pair of newer offerings: the first in a rotating series of Experience Pale ales, hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo, and a revised Oako-Coco stout.

The original Oako-Coco was a variation on Midnight Marmot conditioned on oak chips and cocoa nibs. The new, year-round version uses a less potent base beer similar to the brewery’s VB vanilla bourbon stout, but with more chocolate malt and less roast. Like the VB, it registers at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, 55 International Bitterness Units.

Friday’s all-ages event also includes food from David’s Pizza (while it lasts) and live music by Funky Unkle.  

Herbal essence

Bellwether again turns back the beer clock on Thursday with the help of some friends for its second annual GruitFest.

It’s one of some 50 events around the globe for International Gruit Day, honoring the herbed beers that reigned back in the day before hops were commonplace in brewing.

Iron Goat, Republic Brewing, Whistle Punk and Young Buck return for a second round, joined by newcomers Perry Street, Quartzite and Hierophant Meadery.

The centerpiece again is a collaboration called We, 2, are Gruit (following last year’s We Are Gruit). Bellwether brewed the base beer (around 6 percent alcohol by volume) with rye malt and a bittering combination of yarrow, mugwort, wormwood, dandelion leaf and birch leaf in place of hops.

Participating partners contributed the flavor and aroma additions: caraway from Bellwether, star anise from Whistle Punk, birch bark from Quartzite, rose hips from Young Buck and pinyon sap from Hierophant.     

“What everybody brought was just awesome,” Bellwether’s Thomas Croskrey says. Along with the spicy rye, he says, “There’s a tannic acid presence in the beer from the herbs, but it’s supposed to be there and it balances the beer nicely.”

Guest brewers also are bringing their own separate creations, including:

Hierophant: A Masala chai metheglyn (botanical mead) with reishi mushroom, Oregon grape root, fennel and elderberries.  

Iron Goat: Camp-pear Wheat Ale with pears, lemon zest and cinnamon.

Perry Street: Its IPA wort finished with mugwort, lemon verbena, rose hips and yerba mate.

Quartzite: A rye ale with ginger, orange peel and caraway seed.

Republic: Dark Forest porter with spruce, juniper, cardamom and ginger.

Whistle Punk: A dark saison with yarrow, caraway and juniper.

Young Buck: Its Gose (tart wheat beer) with coriander, grains of paradise, juniper berries, elderberries and Spanish orange peel.

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Badass, Orlison among the Best

Two Spokane-area breweries have won medals in the fifth annual Oregon-based Best of Craft Beer Awards.

Tiny Badass Backyard topped 26 other entries in the robust porter category to bring home gold for its Warpath. Orlison took bronze among 13 smoked beers in the competition for My Mom’s Smokin’ Scotch.

Other Eastern Washington winners included Icicle (Leavenworth), gold, Dark Persuasion chocolate beer; Ten Pin (Moses Lake), bronze, Gutterball Hazy Pale; and Old Schoolhouse (Winthrop), bronze, Hooligan Stout. North Idaho’s Wallace Brewing won silver for Redlight Irish red.

Portland’s Breakside was named brewery of the year for its haul of 11 medals. Oregon breweries won 70 medals, followed by Washington with 29 and California with 20.

There were more than 2,000 entries from 44 states and beyond in what’s billed as the third largest professional competition in the country. Judging took place over the weekend in Bend, with 245 medals awarded to 152 brewery locations in 86 categories.

Freshly tapped