Friday the 13th is a pretty auspicious day for Garden Path Fermentation.
On Friday, April 13, 2018, we opened our tasting room to the public for the first time.
On Friday, July 13, 2018, we served our first house-made beer.
And today, Friday, December 13, 2019, we’re releasing two new beers. Yesterday, we announced the release of Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo. Today, we’re very pleased to present Our First Take Time.—our very first batch at Garden Path Fermentation, brewed back in the spring of 2018, shortly before we opened our doors.
Starting our brewery, particularly the site search, took…longer than we’d expected. The one good thing about the time it took, though, was that we—mostly our first Lead Fermentationist, Jason Hansen—had time to develop and cultivate the native yeast culture that we continue to use today. The culture started with mason jars of wort, many of which we inoculated with flowers foraged from locations throughout Skagit Valley, and then left to ferment in Ron and Amber’s kitchen. Many, many mason jars and not a huge kitchen. Some of the samples didn’t do much. Others developed flavors and aromas that we knew we definitely didn’t want in our beer! But over time, a few of the samples showed signs of healthy fermentation, and we selected those that we felt smelled and tasted best. Over the course of a year prior to our opening, Jason combined them and then continued to prop up the yeast, supplement it with other local native strains, and keep the culture happy and alive–all through sensory cultivation. To this day, we have never isolated any individual strains within our culture, and we have never purchased yeast from a lab.
While we continued to search for and later build out our site, Jason, besides helping us with that process, was busy brewing small 5-10 gallon pilot batches using our yeast and all the malt varieties that Skagit Valley Malting had to offer at that time. In part, he was trying to gauge which varieties worked best with the character of our yeast; in part, he was working to grow the culture to be able to ferment an entire production-scale batch of beer. This may have been the one blessing of our long site search and buildout process: by the time we were able to brew, our yeast was also ready.
In early spring of 2018, we all gathered at Chuckanut Brewery’s South Nut location (where we continue to make our wort) for our very first brew day. We started with a half batch—10 barrels (310 gallons)—which was still a large leap for our yeast culture. The beer was brewed with SVM Copeland Dark malt, locally grown raw wheat, PNW Goldings hops, and what our brew log references as “Yeast: carboy slurry Gen 1.” For reference, we’re now closing in on generation 70 of what began as that culture.
Our foudres weren’t ready to use yet, so the beer was open-fermented in a 350 gallon stainless steel tote. After primary fermentation, it was transferred to two 600L oak puncheons, the first on its own and the second in combination with an equal quantity of our second batch. Four months later, we packaged a very small run—150 gallons total—from the unblended barrel. We’ve let it age in bottles ever since, and, a year and a half later, we’re ready to release it.
If you’re familiar with our beers and the character of our house yeast, this one will surprise you. Possibly because it’s the very first generation of yeast, possibly because of the different fermentation conditions, or more likely a combination thereof, the beer is even more gentle than one would expect, with no hints of tartness or funkiness. It’s a medium-bodied, clean beer with notes of nutmeg and clove on the nose and palate–dry and smooth with an illusion of pear-like sweetness and a touch of bitterness at the back end. It’s clearly a Garden Path beer, but a very different expression of our yeast.
A year and a half into our project, we’re excited to share our starting point with you. While we’ve released dozens of beers since we’ve opened, this one is our origin story in a 375ml bottle.
The artwork for the label was done in-house by Emma Young, who has so many talents that watercolor art just feels like a bonus.
This weekend’s release of Our First Take Time coincides with the bottle release of Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo, which we announced yesterday, and follow’s last weekend’s releases of Honey Tripled Triple Ferments and Ron’s Not Bitter in 750ml bottles. All four beers are also currently available on draft in our tasting room.