Anniversary: the date on which a country or other institution was founded in a previous year.
pFriem Brouwer’s 14th Anniversary is a collaboration between two old friends that began with one idea; huckleberries. With notes of candied melon, acai, and pomegranate, the end result is a uniquely Northwest ale - a true Cascadian partnership.
Despite the preponderance of taprooms, bars, high-end cocktail bars, and food trucks; Brouwer's Cafe has remained a destination in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. Could that have something to do with their menu of Belgian-inspired sandwiches, entrees, and appetizers? Or maybe it's the 65 draft beers, served daily from 11 am to close. Maybe it's the concrete walls, the miles of bartop, the library of spirits and bottled beers, or maybe it's the painting (the bitter draught) affixed prominently on the wall above the second bar. Or maybe it simply because the staff and owner of Brouwer's Cafe have maintained a commitment to providing the neighborhood and the brewing community a place to co-op between brewer and imbiber.
Whatever the nourishment that Brouwer's Cafe consumes of, the bar and restaurant is an institution not just because of its age but because they reshaped the definition of what an alehouse should be.
pFriem Family Brewers, like Brouwer's Cafe, has slowly redefined what a brewery can be in an era when drinkers obsessions are more towards Hazy, Juicy, or Brut IPAs. Where many breweries are busy trendsetting or chasing the latest fad, pFriem had built up a cookbook of traditional-style ales and lagers. From the always-available India Pale Ale or Pilsner to the Belgian-inspired Oud Bruin, to the bourbon barrel-aged Stout or Porter; pFriem continues to redefine what a brewery should be brewing. Mind you, this writer is passing no judgment towards others. But when looks at the medals amassed by this quiet brewery from the Columbia Gorge, one cannot dispute that co-owner Josh Pfriem (along with his partners, Ken Whiteman and Rudy Kellner) are on to something.
Which is probably why Brouwer's Cafe's General Manager, Nat Pellman, felt a sort of fellowship with pFriem Family Brewers. Then again it didn't hurt that Josh and Nat shared a passion for mountain biking among other outdoor recreations. It wasn't until 2017 when the folks at Brouwer's Cafe visited pFriem Family Brewers that the idea of an anniversary beer was born. However, instead of us telling the story we will let them tell you in their own words.
In sitting down with Josh and Gavin, ideas began to be thrown out in the open. pFriem already had a list of wonderful lambic-inspired selections that would’ve been perfect for a custom blending project. That whole time talking through it, everyone knew there was something out there that begged the question that there was a fruit that needed to be worked with. Nat, from Brouwer’s, was the first to ask what that fruit was. Gavin mentioned that he’d always wanted to work with huckleberries, but that it wouldn’t be an option since there would be no way to source that many foraged berries during the upcoming harvest and having it in time for March. Neither side willing to back down from a new challenge, the decision was quickly made to schedule it for Brouwer’s 14th anniversary and see how many huckleberries we could get our hands on in the meantime. It soon became time to take the hastily scribbled line, “Light sour base w/ huckleberries aged in neutral or white wine bbls,” and turn it into something tangible and delicious.
Like many of the fruited pFriem brews, this one starts out as a lambic-inspired base beer that was brewed in January of 2018 and spent 8 months in former white wine barrels to give the beer a nice, soft, lightly tart profile. The barrels were then blended together and racked back into those barrels on top of a ton of huckleberries; there is one pound of huckleberries for every gallon of beer in the barrel. This brew will also serve as a milestone for pFriem, as it is the first time they’ve aged beer on the fruit in the barrels the base beer was aged in, following a long tradition of making fruited sours in the old country.
While we eagerly wait for the experiment to bear fruit, the jammy nose of the huckleberries juxtaposed with their sharp tartness has given everyone involved the impression that we are in for something truly special: a uniquely northwest ale made by a wonderful Oregon brewery for a Washington craft beer stalwart using ingredients from both – a true Cascadian partnership.
Described by the brewery, the following impressions have been recorded from early samples of Brouwer's Cafe's 14th-anniversary ale.
A beautiful hue of reddish violet crowned with slight pink foam; deceiving notes of jammy berry pie and citrus lead into crisp acidity, light funk, a bit of berry, and minor notes of oak. Finishes off-dry, tart, and clean.
7.1% ABV and 10 IBU
Malt: Gambrinus Canadian Pilsner, Weyerman Wheat, Rahr Raw White Wheat.
Hops: Aged Czech Saaz.
Yeast: Brettanomyces, Lactic, Bacterial Culture.
Wood: French Oak Barrels
Fruit: Huckleberries foraged in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Look for bottles of pFriem's Brouwer's Cafe 14th Anniversary Ale to go on sale, at Bottleworks, from 11 am. Afterward, Brouwer's Cafe will feature the beer on draft, from 12 pm during Orval Day. No doubt some of the staff (and maybe ownership) from pFriem Family Brewers will be in attendance to raise a glass to one of the region's truly unique examples of cooperation.
Bottleworks is located at 1710 North 45th Street #3 in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood while Brouwer's Cafe is situated in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle at 400 North 35th Street. Or if you find yourself in Hood River, visit pFriem Family Brewers at 707 Portway Ave Suite 101.