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Craft Brewers Take Inspiration from WA Wilderness

PHOTO: Amy Kaeser with Friends of Cedar River Watershed talks with brewers from Fremont Brewing, Schiling's Cider and Naked City Brewing about native plants in Seattle's Discovery Park. Credit: Dani Kendall.
PHOTO: Amy Kaeser with Friends of Cedar River Watershed talks with brewers from Fremont Brewing, Schiling's Cider and Naked City Brewing about native plants in Seattle's Discovery Park. Credit: Dani Kendall.
October 23, 2014

SEATTLE – Some craft brewers are finding inspiration – and in some cases, ingredients – in their local surroundings to brew small batch, experimental beers.

The results from 10 breweries are being tapped tonight in Seattle. They join a group of about 70 breweries in three states participating in Beers Made By Walking.

The group's founder, Eric Steen, says brewers who go on these outings are always surprised at the variety of possibilities for new recipes.

"We'll go on a hike and we'll identify 20 to 30 different plants that are edible," he explains. "Some of them may not be of interest, that perhaps don't have a lot of flavor or the flavor doesn't sound too great with beer, but it's always interesting to see how many there are."

Steen notes the groups take great care to identify the safety of potential ingredients, which makes for a slower hike than normal.

The proceeds from the tapping event at Naked City Brewery go to Friends of the Cedar River Watershed. Similar events make donations to other local environmental groups and organizations.

The hikes also serve to introduce more people to areas that conservation groups are working to protect. Dani Kendall, programs and outreach coordinator for the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, says a prime example is getting craft brewers to think in new ways about local resources.

"We were able to educate brewers not only about native plants in our area, but our local watershed that provides the exceptional water the majority of these brewers are fortunate enough to use," she says.

Steen recommends that brewers purchase their ingredients commercially whenever possible, instead of foraging for them. He adds the goal isn't to find the next big sales hit for a brewery, just to have fun and try something new.

"These are experimental beers, you know, and sometimes the ingredients are untested," he says. "But I think people will be surprised at how well some of them work as beers."

Among the beers inspired by the Friends of Cedar River Watershed hikes are brews that include wild huckleberries, locally-foraged rose hips, spruce tips, and elderberries.

Tonight's event begins at 6 p.m. with 10 samples for $15.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA