If you’re curious what craft malting is all about, tomorrow is a great opportunity to find out.
Five beers made with locally produced Palouse Pint malt will pour for a Brews & Bites tasting Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. in Masselow’s restaurant at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.
Cost is $30 plus gratuity, which includes four 6-ounce beer samples; additional 6- and 12-ounce pours will be available for purchase. It also includes hors d’ouevres made with fresh ingredients from farmer members of the LINC Foods co-op, Palouse Pint’s parent company.
The beer lineup features something for just about every taste from an assortment of Spokane breweries:
– Little Spokane’s new Pampalouse wit (4.5 percent alcohol by volume, 16 International Bitterness Units), brewed with Palouse Pint’s pilsner and triticale malts and finished with grapefruit.
– The lightly tart Simon and Gruitfunkel collaboration between Bellwether and Four-Eyed Guys (4.5, 3), with white wheat and pilsner malts plus parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
– The Steam Plant's Boiler 5 red IPA (4.9, 50), brewed with English pale and hopped with fruity Citra and Mosaic.
– The new Palouse ESB from Black Label (6.4, 36), featuring the wheat, English pale, light Munich and crystal 40 malts.
– Bellwether’s Fernweh Baltic Porter (6.5, 50), a dark lager that includes the pilsner, Munich and crystal 40.
Palouse Pint, which just finished its first year of operation at the Spokane Business & Industrial Park in Spokane Valley, is part of a budding movement across the country to make more flavorful malt with locally grown grains. The malts produced by major suppliers have been geared to the big macrobreweries and don’t always suit the needs of craft brewers.
Business started out slower than expected, says Palouse Pint’s Joel Williamson. “It’s a big cultural kind of shift,” he says. “There have been the same malts and the same companies for a long time.
“We focus on heritage grains, and it can be harder to figure out what to do with them. But people who work with them regularly are starting to get familiar with them and becoming more adventurous with the beers they make.”
That’s spreading beyond Spokane. Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise, Oregon is using the triticale malt in a summer pale ale, Williamson says, while Priest Lake Brewing, which plans to open this summer, is building some of its recipes around Palouse Pint products.
And it’s spreading beyond beer. Two Seattle distilleries, Copperworks and Westland, are including Palouse Pint in their single-malt whiskeys. “It wasn’t something I anticipated, but it’s definitely helping to keep us busy,” Williamson says.
Some farmers also are starting to have Palouse Pint malt their grains so they can sell directly to brewers, another unexpected but welcome development.
Put it all together, Williamson says, and come harvest time this fall, “I think we’re going to be the busiest we’ve been yet – maybe even at full capacity, which would be exciting.”
The grain varieties Palouse Pint works with also are expanding. It started out with Baronesse barley and Cashup white wheat, both from LINC member Joseph’s Grainery in Colfax. Those were followed by a pair of ancient grains from Ritzville growers – spelt from Homestead Family Grain and triticale from MJW Grain – and more recently rye from MJW.
Rosalia’s Palouse Pastured Poultry, which produces organic grains for feed (and distilling), is growing a new barley variety called Lyon that was developed by Washington State University specifically for craft brewers. Palouse Pint will get its organic certification to malt that.
“It was where we wanted to go anyway, but didn’t have any farms doing that yet,” Williamson says.
And Endicott’s Palouse Heritage, whose historic Purple Egyptian barley was featured in a series of beers at Bellwether earlier this year, is looking at doing the same thing with another variety, Scots Bere, that originated in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
While that’s previously been used in the United States, Williamson says, “We’re probably the first ones to malt it and brew with it here in 200 years. The flavor just blew me away.”