Bellwether is again breathing new life into old grains.
In February, the North Spokane brewery released a series of small-batch beers brewed with Purple Egyptian barley grown locally by Palouse Heritage and malted by Palouse Pint. It followed up in August with another series using another ancient variety, Scots Bere.
Now comes Saturday’s Landrace Grainfest, featuring eight beers brewed with those barleys by Bellwether and six other mostly local breweries.
“Landrace” refers to grains that were cultivated locally in regions across the globe, before the advent of more mass-produced, hybridized varieties. They provide distinctive flavors when used for baking and brewing.
“They’re so tall, they have much deeper root structures,” says Don Scheuerman of Palouse Heritage, which grows several strains on its farm between Endicott and St. John. “They can pick up micronutrients that aren’t available in the top two or three feet of soil.”
For Saturday, several brewers have made big beers with the Scots Bere, which contributes a deep, rich color and flavor. Those include a Belgian-style dubbel by Genus Brewing (at the Nu Home Brew supply store), a strong ale by Snohomish’s Lost Canoe (co-owned by a cousin of Bellwether’s Thomas Croskrey) and a barleywine by Young Buck.
On the lighter side, Black Label brewed an easy-drinking Kentucky Common with the fruitier, nuttier Purple Egyptian along with corn from the LINC Foods farmers’ co-op, the parent company of Palouse Pint.
Both Scots Bere and Purple Egyptian were used in an amber autumn lager by Whistle Punk (which was conditioned over hazelnuts), an Amarillo dry-hopped pale by Bellwether and a strong bitter by Palouse Pint that included some lightly roasted Purple Egyptian.
An English-style strong ale collaboration by all the brewers features both roasted and smoked Purple Egyptian and Scots Bere along with a little landrace Red Russian wheat from Palouse Heritage.
The festival runs from 3 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 (available in advance at Bellwether and at the door), which includes a 12-ounce pour of the collaboration and 5-ounce tasters of the other beers; the first 120 people through the door get a souvenir glass.
There also will be bread and snacks for sale by Culture Breads using the Red Russian and other landrace grains.
And there’s more to come. A cooperative project called the Grain Shed, in a former grocery store on the north edge of the South Perry District (at Newark and Laura), will feature beers brewed with Palouse Heritage grains plus breads and small plates by Culture Breads. It’s in the permitting process and plans to open by spring.
“You’ll be able to come in and taste the full gamut, in food form, bread form and beer form,” says co-owner Joel Williamson, who's also the Palouse Pint maltster.