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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.”

The yeast was so lively that they brewed two batches on Twelve String’s seven-barrel system – around 420 gallons – with some 360 gallons of that going into six wine barrels.

Some of the rest went into a couple of casks to condition and carbonate naturally. One of those will be served in the traditional manner through Twelve String’s hand-pumped beer engine on Friday starting at 3 p.m., with brewers from both breweries on hand.

Then they’ll move to the nearby Badass taproom at 5, where the second cask will be poured on a nitrogen tap. Those are typically used to give regular beers a creamier mouthfeel, along the lines of cask-conditioned ales, so it could add an extra layer of smoothness to an actual cask beer.

“It should be really entertaining to see what we get out of that,” Hackler says. “I have no idea what to expect.”

After Friday, different variations on the basic beer will be tapped from time to time, both barrel-aged and standard, some with fruit and other adjuncts added. It all could culminate in an outdoor party this summer with several versions pouring at the same time.     

“It’s definitely the most creative, long-term collaboration that we’ve ever been involved in,” Honcik says. “It’s been a real learning experience.

“The beer is amazing and we had a ton of fun doing it, so it’s win-win.”