Marley Rall: The Brewer’s Baker

MARLEY RALL OPENED THE BREWMASTER’S BAKERY AND TAPROOM TO SERVE BEER FROM SEATTLE-AREA BREWERIES ALONGSIDE BAKED GOODS SHE MAKES WITH THEIR SPENT GRAIN.

[This article was originally published in Beer Advocate Magazine. Read the full article at BeerAdvocate.com]

Marley Rall was saved by beer. When she first met her husband-to-be, a hobbyist homebrewer, she was stuck, overworked, and plagued by inauthentic professional relationships in the nonprofit fundraising world. Rall knew her future happiness hinged on being her own boss and making a difference. And as it turned out, beer rescued Rall—in an unexpected way.

While observing her husband’s homebrewing process, Rall noticed that each batch of beer generated a huge amount of waste product. She took a closer look, and after some detailed research into large-scale brewery operations, found much of the same at the other end of the spectrum. Rall also discovered that up to 85 percent of this waste is spent grain that is discarded after its early role in wort production in the beer-making cycle.

Rall knew the life of these kernels of rye, wheat, millet, and barley was far from over. Tapping into her skills as an amateur home baker, she concocted an idea to recapture these brewery leftovers and bring the brewing process full circle. Now Rall is the face of The Brewmaster’s Bakery, an innovative purveyor of sweet and savory snacks, granola, baked goods, and dog treats made with the spent grain from six Seattle-area breweries and counting. This summer, less than two years after launching her home-based business, Rall opened The Brewmaster’s Taproom—a welcoming brick-and-mortar beer bar that showcases the craft breweries that supported Rall from the beginning.

[Read the full article at BeerAdvocate.com]

Washington Grown Beer

Washington Hops SimplyBeeresistibleI grew up in Washington state, way out in the country. As a kid, I would often climb our backyard fence to grab a few fresh ears of corn for dinner from our neighbor’s farm. My mom recalls a one-year-old me in her baby carrier, devouring fresh-picked strawberries almost as quickly as she could gather them. Fields of grazing black and white dairy cows were as common a sight as the surrounding mountains. No one will contest that agriculture is a huge industry in Washington, but it still came as a surprise when I learned that 75 percent of the total United States hop acreage is in my home state! With access not only to locally-grown hops, but also unique new strains of barley and wheat, it’s no wonder so many microbreweries are proud to call the Pacific Northwest home.

Fremont Brewing is just one example of a native Washington brewery with a stake in local hops production. They’ve set up a partnership with a forward-thinking, fifth-generation hop-growing family in eastern Washington (the Carpenters) to provide support “for testing new varieties and methodologies of growing and harvesting organic hops in Washington.” Each September, Fremont Brewing releases an exclusive, small-batch, Cowiche Canyon Organic Fresh Hop Ale, made with hops that were developed and grown as part of this farmer-brewer partnership.

Washington hops aren’t the only local staple for breweries in the area. How cool is this?!?! In the little ole Skagit Valley, where I grew up, there is an establishment called The Bread Lab (part of the WSU-Mount Vernon Plant Breeding Program) which studies “the diversity of locally grown grains to determine those that perform well for farmers, and that are most suitable for craft baking, malting, brewing, distilling, and other culinary creations.” Started in 2013, The Bread Lab is currently expanding to include a dedicated brewing and distilling micro-lab—overseen by Emerson Lamb, founder, and Matt Hofmann, master distiller, of Westland Distillery, and Will Kemper, co-owner of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen.

A brand-new, aptly named brewery, Farmstrong Brewing Company, is scheduled to open this month in Mount Vernon, WA, with a beer selection brewed from Skagit Valley wheat and barley. One of their first beers, Here we Goze, will feature 100 percent Skagit Valley malt, developed by another innovative local operation: Skagit Valley Malting.

Let those Wisconsinites brag about their cheese, New Mexicans of their green chilies, and Vermonters their maple syrup. I’ll be sipping locally-produced brews and helping to spread the word to support Washington agriculture. Join me!

Sea Farmer IPA

Citrus_fruitsThe serrated grapefruit spoon was a genius invention. Gone were the times when delicious, tangy pulp was wasted at the handle of the run-of-the-mill cereal spoon. Likewise, the libatious visionary who brewed the first grapefruit IPA had a brilliant idea that has been expertly adjusted and improved upon by many brewmasters. Just released this month by Fieldwork Brewing Company, a new craft brewery out of Berkeley, California, comes a tasty beer called Sea Farmer IPA, brewed with grapefruit and sea salt—sure to keep local beer lovers coming back for more.

Named after the Jack London short story of the same name, this beer is reminiscent of the protagonist’s dueling identities; all his life he struggled between his dream of becoming a farmer of the soil (hence the grapefruit) and his family legacy of becoming a farmer of the sea (thus the salt). For the Sea Farmer IPA, Fieldwork brewers mixed Celtic sea salt with plenty of wheat, along with Cascade hops to play off of their grapefruit-like qualities. They even wrangled their brewery staff into zesting a big batch of fresh grapefruits to add to their dry hop. The result? Sea Farmer IPA starts out with a sweet, citrus aroma, and a hazy amber pour. With the first sip comes a slightly salty, hoppy flavor and a hint of crisp, juicy grapefruit to finish.

Much like scraping the inside of your luscious grapefruit wedge, beer enthusiasts are sure to tip their pint glasses to extreme angles to savor every last drop of Fieldwork’s Sea Farmer IPA. You’ll have to come to Berkeley to taste this new brew though; Fieldwork serves most of their beer straight out of the brewery, with the rest traveling around town to select local taprooms.

A Beer Bedtime Story

Picture books aren’t just for kids anymore, as evidenced by works like All My Friends Are Dead, anything by Edward Gorey, and of course, Go the F**k to Sleep, which went viral in 2011 when readings by celebrities including Samuel L. Jackson and Werner Herzog started popping up online. I got a good chuckle recently as I flipped through Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd (a silly parody of the children’s classic Goodnight Moon, as the title suggests), so I was undoubtedly excited to hear about the release of a “pitcher book for grown-ups” called Goodnight Brew, celebrating our shared love for beer.

Goodnight Brew book cover

Goodnight Brew: A Parody for Beer People (Bailiwick Press) – Written by Ann E. Briated, Illustrated by Allie Ogg

My favorite characters in Goodnight Brew, the hops wildebeest in his charming I ❤ IPA shirt and the walrus, a “baritone brewer with a foamy mustache,” invoke visions of brew masters I’ve encountered over the years, and I know that I’ll never look at home brewers quite the same way again. What I appreciate about the book, apart from it’s silly verse, are the colorfully illustrated views of the brewing process.

Goodnight Brew

Brew Basics_Goodnight Brew

Some of us are visual learners, and perhaps some of us learn best through laughter, but I think we could all benefit from becoming friendly with a few more “black bears named Charlie with their sweet malted barley,” and in all seriousness, we can all learn a thing or two from the growing communities of beer lovers everywhere.

Question for readers: If you had to come up with a clever title for the next parody book for beer enthusiasts, what would it be? (Think The Very Thirsty Caterpillar or Diary of a Wimpy Home Brewer, or…)

Are All the Good Beer Names Taken?

Hello-my-name-isAs I sit, contemplating whether I should bite the bullet today and file my taxes, what comes to mind first is not “Where did I stash that W-2?” but rather, “I would really love a nice cold pint of Death and Taxes (by Moonlight Brewing) right about now.” I can hardly believe how clearly this beer name invokes the tedium of—and distraction from—my current to-do list. Which brings me to the reason for this post. With more than 3,000 operating breweries in the U.S., the question many people are asking is, How do brewmasters find new, clever beer names that haven’t been claimed already by the brewers who came before?

I spoke with a trusted source in the brewery industry recently, and she confirmed that it’s becoming increasingly tricky to think up unique names that fit the character of each new brew but that aren’t already on the market. In fact, NPR just produced a piece on this very subject in which Alastair Bland noted,

“Virtually every large city, notable landscape feature, creature and weather pattern of North America — as well as myriad other words, concepts and images — has been snapped up and trademarked as the name of either a brewery or a beer.”

Of course, there’s no simple or foolproof formula for avoiding naming overlap. Most breweries schedule inspired brainstorming sessions and then simply plug their favorite contenders into a Google search, all the while keeping their fingers crossed.

Some breweries have even solicited the help of their loyal fans in naming new beers by hosting contests. Once all the name submissions are gathered, the best nominees are selected, and the brewery often invites its customers into the taproom to taste the new beer and vote for their favorite name. (This angle seems to be a cleverly designed marketing gimmick, as well!)

There are also online random beer name generators out there (like this one by StrangeBrew) that humors and entertains by spitting out funny names like Sloshed Forbidden Donut Pale Ale and Red Cunning Tornado Stout.

No matter how the naming strategy plays out, most breweries ultimately do find a unique name that fits the taste and personality of their new beer. And sometimes the name is utterly fantastic, like Hop Making Sense (by Cellarmaker Brewing Company)—which has the capacity to drown out whatever’s on the stereo system and invoke the Talking Heads, in their unforgettably eccentric glory days.