Brews Gone Wild: Take a Hike and Make Beer
Discard the images of barefoot, spiritual wanderings or campy group excursions that the idea of a nature hike might summon. In fact, you don’t have to be of the tree hugging, one-with-nature variety or a devotee of Seattle’s craft beers (though if you are, even better) to appreciate the simple ingenuity of the Beers Made By Walking (BMBW) concept (beersmadebywalking.com).
In the style of what Outside magazine has called the “foraged-beer trend,” BMBW takes people on hikes and urban walks with local breweries to discover edible ingredients, explore water use and ultimately create a beer whose flavor profile exhibits the area’s natural bounty. Not all beers of BMBW are technically foraged; founder Eric Steen says brewers need only find inspiration from the hike for their new place-based beverage.
Steen, who teaches art at Portland State University and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, does some freelance marketing, and has been organizing craft beer events since 2008. He started BMBW in Colorado Springs in 2011 with eight homebrewers. The program expanded to include commercial breweries and different cities in the Pacific Northwest with its growing popularity. A roster of Colorado and Oregon cities and now finally, Seattle have all had successful hikes.
Seattle has a three-part hike series, two of which have already taken place. Most recently, fifteen Seattle hikers joined James McDermet, Fremont's Lead Brewer and Donald Averill, Bryan Miller and Head Brewer Don Webb from Naked City Brewery for an hour and a half jaunt along the Wolf Tree Nature Trail in Discovery Park on July 22.
“Sometimes there are no known historical precedents for the plants that we see being used in a beer,” Steen told us in an email interview. “So, the beers can range from careful and subtle, to wildly experimental and everywhere in between.”
Fremont Brewing’s McDermet said potential ingredients found in Discovery Park include Nootka Rose, Trailing Blackberry, Red Huckleberry, Salmonberry and Spruce/Fir Tips. McDermet intends to craft a mildly hopped pale ale using the house strain of yeast and malt from the northwest that will showcase the local ingredients, giving the final product a subtle fruity and/or herbal flavor.
Steen explained how these ingredients are incorporated into the brewing process, detailing how some plants like wild sage or yarrow will be boiled like hops to add bitterness or flavor while berries offer fermentable sugars that can be added after the initial fermentation or at the end of the boil to preserve the aromatics of the fruit. “It's a lot of fun to see how they're used, and even if two brewers use the same ingredient, they might choose to use them in very different ways.”
The beers produced by Seattle’s participating breweries and some from the Oregon BMBW escapades will be available for one day only at a tapping event on the evening (time TBD) of October 23 at Naked City Brewery. It will be pay per pint with proceeds benefiting Friends of the Cedar River Watershed.
Get involved with the last Seattle hike on September 10 at Cougar Mountain with Big Al Brewing (voted Best Brewery at last year’s Seattle mag event Brew Seattle), Schilling Cider and Hi-Fi Brewing. Hikes are free but require tickets, which are available here. You can also follow the Facebook event here.
Check out a recap of the first two Seattle hikes at this link.