Yesterday, Pike Brewing Company launched its new Skagit Valley Alba, the first Washington State varietal beer and one made with 100% in-state ingredients. Hard-core locavores, of which Seattle has plenty, usually lean that way for superior flavors among other reasons, and this is no small moment for local craft beer. Seattle Met writes:
"Imagine if every single bottle of red wine was sourced from the same vine—a world without natural differences between, say, an earthy Oregon pinot noir and a tannic cab franc from the Loire Valley. Say goodbye to the nuances of varietals, region, terroir, the very pillars of wine geekdom.
"Believe it or not, this is the world in which brewers have been working for a long time. Barley, the grain that, once malted, makes up the key ingredient in most beers, is largely produced as a commodity (think big production plants churning out a uniform product). Brewers may add ingredients such as hops for a more distinct flavor, but the barley is often the same, particularly in American beers."
Until now. For its new Skagit Valley Alba, the first in a new Pike Locale series of like beers, Pike Brewing sources its malts from Skagit Valley and Whitman County Farms, its three hops sourced from the Yakima Valley, and its honey from Snohomish County. The beer is brewed with water from the Cedar River Watershed and uses Pike #1 yeast. The result? A summery ale that's "light and citrusy with a clean, earthy and nutty malt finish," Pike Brewing says.
Charles Finkel, Pike Brewing Founder and President, says the Pike Locale series is a revival of the "pre-Prohibition tradition of sourcing quality ingredients as close to the brewery as possible." Since Prohibition, the barley grain supply for brewers has been controlled by macrobreweries, who Finkel says prefer high protein, low flavor grains. Among the over 11,000 varieties of barley, only a handful are currently used for malt. Pike is sourcing its supply for the Locale series from new small craft maltster Skagit Valley Malting.
Pike Brewing Company says it will develop further recipes featuring other heritage and varietal malts as they become available. The Pike Locale Skagit Valley Alba is now available both bottled and on draft around town.