Brewing beer is a science, and an integral part of science is experimentation.
But more often than not, there’s one ingredient that brewers want to stay consistent: yeast. Traditional-style beers are brewed with specific yeast strains in a controlled environment to create different styles and flavors.
Garden Path Fermentation, a brewery/winery/cidery/meadery in Skagit Valley, WA, is taking a different approach. They use 100 percent native yeast cultivated within the valley, which allows their beers to take on unique flavors.
“Our philosophy is the community [of yeast] really contributes things that can’t be fully understood simply by isolating components of it,” says Ron Extract, who, along with his wife Amber Watts, owns Garden Path Fermentation.
But this sense of community extends beyond their methods of yeast cultivation and into the decisions they make while sourcing their ingredients. They get their malt from Skagit Valley Malting, and their grains, fruit and even honey, which they use in place of sugar, are all sourced from nearby.
“So we have this native yeast working with ingredients it’s familiar with in a climate it’s familiar with, which is something not a lot of people are doing,” Watts says.
For some time now, brewers have been focusing on perfecting recipes and creating beers that yield predictable flavor profiles. However, the rise of native yeast fermentation is honoring the wild side of beer. No two batches will ever be the same—and that’s the fun part about it. While experts like Ron and Amber might have an idea as to what the first sip will taste like, there’s always an element of surprise.
“Brewing typically tends to be about exercising control, or making something that’s fundamentally consistent and reproducible,” Extract says. “We tend to look at what we do not as creating digital recordings, but as creating new live performances, where every one is a new exploration.”
Stop by Garden Path Fermentation’s tasting room and bottle shop, located at 11653 Higgins Airport Way in Burlington, WA, to taste unique brews and learn more about various delicious methods of fermentation.