It’s been an exciting week at Garden Path Fermentation, for a number of reasons. We’ve been brewing every week since April and packaging beer and mead every week since the end of June, but our process—primary open fermentation with native yeast followed by extended secondary fermentation in oak, and 100% natural conditioning in both bottles and kegs—takes time. We released our first draught beer, The Garden Paths Led to Flowered in mid-July. Draught releases of The Dry Hopped Streams Well and The Dry Table Mead followed a few weeks later.
But in the past week, we’ve been so pleased to introduce not only our very first bottles, but also three new draught beers, and a new draught mead. We’ve said that our products will tell us when they’re ready, and lately, they’ve quickly started telling us quite a lot!
As of last Friday, we finally have our first bottles in stock. The Garden Paths Led to Flowered is a 7.0% abv hoppy golden ale open-fermented in a foudre, blended with barrel-aged beer, and naturally conditioned with blackberry honey from The Valley’s Buzz. You may have had it on tap already, whether at Garden Path or at a handful of other accounts, but now you can actually take it home with you. We packaged about 700 bottles, which are now available in our tasting room for $14, currently with no bottle limits.
The label art for “Flowered”, as we like to call it, is by our own Scout Caldwell, whose art also decorates our tasting room walls, and who is doing well in Portland, but whom we miss dearly. The graphic design was also done in-house by our Operations Lead Jacob Grisham, who seems to have literally all the skills. The federal label approval was done by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, affectionately known as the TTB.
The Curious Mix Methods
Our first new draught beer, The Curious Mix Methods, is a 6.9% abv blend of barrel-aged beer and stainless-fermented beer that was made using the same base that went into our first coolship batch in May and then inoculated with a portion of the coolship wort during primary fermentation, prior to blending and naturally conditioned with blackberry honey from The Valley’s Buzz.
Filling the coolship (May 1, 2018)
Our coolship is one of our favorite tools at Garden Path. It’s a repurposed shallow dairy tank from Wisconsin that we use for wort inoculation. On nights where the temperature is agreeable (generally a range from about 30 – 45 degrees), we fill the coolship with boiling wort and let it cool overnight. As the beer cools, natural organisms in the air, including native saccharomyces, will inoculate the wort and begin a long, slow fermentation, which—given enough time—can result in a complex, tart, funky beer. The great thing about Northwest Washington is that we have coolship weather at least 7 months a year, and as we move into fall, we plan to use it as much as we possibly can.
The Curious Mix Methods isn’t a spontaneous beer by any means, however—the portion of coolship wort in the beer was added to wort that had already been inoculated with our house native yeast culture, and later blended with several other beers also using the house culture. The result is an interesting balance of a complex, woody nose and a dry, easy to drink beer. It’s a great expression of our mission at Garden Path, to explore the softer side of mixed culture fermentation. There’s a lot going on in the beer, but it’s not hard to drink a pint (or four).
The beer was packaged on July 8, and we filled a dozen each of 20- and 30-liter kegs, and 915 750ml bottles. Bottles will be available as soon as we have labels!
The Subtle Blend Raspberry Barrels
Our second new beer, The Subtle Blend Raspberry Barrels (7.0%), is a blend of foudre-fermented beer refermented in upright puncheons with fresh organic raspberries from Viva Farms and a selection of barrel-aged beer from our first several batches, which we then naturally conditioned with blackberry honey from The Valley’s Buzz.
The blend for the raspberry base was a complex one, combining portions (some larger and some smaller) of six of the first eight batches brewed at Garden Path. If you’re curious, details of its composition can be found here. The raspberries were refermented in upright puncheons for approximately two weeks before the beer was taken off the fruit, blended, primed with The Valley’s Buzz blackberry honey, and packaged.
The raspberry character in this beer is meant to be relatively subtle, but inherently drinkable. It’s effervescent with a light tartness from the fruit, while also exhibiting the same dry complexity our native yeast lends all our products.
The Subtle Blend Raspberry Barrels was packaged on August 1, and we filled 41 total kegs and 1860 750ml bottles—which, again, will be ready soon.
The Fruitful Barrel Boysenberries
Our third beer, The Fruitful Barrel Boysenberries, is a 7.0% abv blend of mature barrel-aged beer refermented with fresh, whole Skagit Valley boysenberries in an oak puncheon, and naturally conditioned with blackberry honey from The Valley’s Buzz.
This one was fun. The Fruitful Barrel Boysenberries is a single-barrel fruit refermentation, with a base blend of beers from two separate batches. We added 146 pounds of local organic boysenberries into a 132 gallon puncheon, which is a pretty good amount of berries. Even though the base beers were relatively mature, we started to see a pretty active fermentation within 48 hours. And, trust us, active fruit barrel fermentations are awesome to clean up.
Boysenberry barrel–minor crisis
Once the initial fermentation had calmed down, we bunged the barrel and let it go. However, about a week later, heroes Matthew and Jacob noticed that the barrel head was…expanding. Un-bunging led to the image above. Thankfully, this happened on a Friday afternoon before the production team went home for the weekend. We’re pretty happy about not coming in to an exploded boysenberry barrel that Monday.
After two weeks on the berries, the beer was taken off the fruit, transferred to stainless steel, primed with Skagit blackberry honey, and packaged. We opted not to blend this barrel, because our team simply liked the way it tasted best on its own. Because of this, the packaging run is pretty small. Only five kegs and 876 375ml bottles were filled. However, knowing how much we like working with boysenberries, we’re planning to increase our batch size significantly next summer when the fruit is in season.
The Fruitful Barrel Boysenberries is quite fruit-forward, in appearance, nose, and palate, but it’s fermented completely dry, with an illusion of sweetness from the fruit and a clear fermentation character. You may not have many opportunities to try this one—but if you like boysenberries, you’ll probably be pretty fond of this beer.
The Dry Table Strawberry Mead
Finally, our newest (and most limited) draught offering is The Dry Table Strawberry Mead (6.5% abv). It’s a dry, light, modest strength mead fermented in oak with our native yeast and Skagit fireweed honey from The Valley’s Buzz and refermented with fresh early season Seascape strawberries from Viva Farms. Although the fruit character is pronounced, it’s still an extremely dry, drinkable mead with a final gravity of .998 (that’s less dense than water).
This was our first fruited mead test batch, and we literally made two kegs of it, packaged on July 20. One of those kegs went to a festival earlier this summer at B Nektar Meadery, and the other one is now on draught in our tasting room. It’s not going to last long, so if you’re curious, you have a very small window to try it. The good news, though, is that we packaged a second, slightly larger batch of strawberry mead yesterday, so if you don’t make it in time, you might not have to wait that long for the next incarnation. Though, of course, like everything we make, each batch will have its own distinct character and nuance.
We’re looking forward to releasing more exciting things in the very near future. Maybe not all at once, though. We’d rather that you come try them and not spend all your time reading excessively lengthy blog posts!