Although at times when writing about the brewery I say "I" it is without a doubt that Floodland would not exist without the help of a large group of amazing people. Drew, Mike, Derek, Adam, Brady, Carl, and the crew at Seapine let me come into their brewery on the weekends and blast equal parts old Ministry records and black metal until the taproom opens. Seapine is a constant source of pilsner and laughs and some of the best beer and best people in this city. Steve, Zach, and Noah at Cloudburst let me drive my gnarly box truck into their space and mill my grain, and they are always happy to shoot the shit about new hop varietals. Cloudburst is a brewery that really reflects the vibe and character of the people running it, and that kind of authenticity is pretty inspiring. Thanks to Matt, Matt, Nick, and everyone else at Fremont, who are the best neighbors I could ask for, and whose thoughtfulness about how to be a positive part of a community is constantly keeping me on my toes. Running a brewery is a lot less romantic than one might think, but the sense of camaraderie and the selflessness of the brewing community is for real.
There's a lot of other friends, family, and industry folks who have been indispensable in getting Floodland to this point, and I'll talk more about them later.
Two weeks ago the first Floodland beer was put into bottles... and in the next few weeks we will package several more, including the beers shown above. I have held off on getting into specifics of the beers being made at Floodland, in part because they don't really exist in concrete/finished forms yet, and in part because many of the beers are still evolving and becoming what they need to become. As the beers start to take shape I'd like to delve into what will be an ongoing and evolving series which is a fundamental piece of what we are doing. This beer, or beers, is called Field Blend.
In winemaking the term field blend is used to refer to a very old and simple technique, blending varietals based on what is grown within a lot or field. Rather than drawing from disparate varietals grown in different places to build a wine based on an idea, a field blend is both a technique which embraces practicality - simply using what you have, and at times a philosophical nod towards the notion that location trumps varietal. At its heart, the field blend is a technique whose roots are in the days when winemaking was practiced as a method of preservation, to make wine for sustenance with what you had. This mindset of course recalls the saisons and farm brewers of Wallonia, who would blend in local grain with the malted barley they purchased, and make use of what was at hand, brewing out of necessity and for sustenance. And while I have no desire to be anachronistic or to recreate either of those things, it is easy to see that there are elements to those ideas and methods that seem to hold a soulfulness and elegant simplicity which has been lost as brewing and winemaking have become more industrialized and commodified.
At Floodland, Field Blend serves as a meditation on happenstance. We pair mature barrels, young beer, or fresh wort... whatever is at hand in abundance, with a blend of fruits as they present themselves. It is simply taking what is in front of us and putting it to use. So far in the 2017 season there are several variations on this theme in progress. Our cherry Field Blend began when I reached out to an organic farmer and asked about Montmorency cherries that they grow. The farmer was initially optimistic that they could provide enough cherries to make a beer, but after harvest they weren't able to sell much fruit to me, needing instead to use the entirety of their light harvest at market. They did save me many of the cherries which were culled for presentation reasons, and I sorted through these and took the good fruit, but not having enough to make a beer with, I froze it. Then, when I was out in East Wenatchee picking apricots, the farmer there put me in touch with a friend who has a few Montmorency trees, and again I acquired a really nice, but small, lot of cherries. A week later, I was offered a small amount of Balaton cherries from another farmer. None of these were enough to make a beer, but together they began to form the basis of something.
After the Balatons arrived I got an email from a new friend, Travis, a winemaker at Kobayashi wines here in Seattle, who reached out to me because he had found a spot to forage Cornelian cherries. Cornelians are only known as cherries in a colloquial sense, they grow on a dogwood tree, fall when ripe, and appear like a cross between a pie cherry and a cranberry. Jonathan, a brewer friend who helps at Floodland a few days a week, found some time to go forage some of them. We found the just dropped cherries to be much like the cranberries they resembled, and the more ripe cherries seemed to darken, soften, and their flavor profile was much more like a more floral strawberry. As soon as these cornelians were in hand the idea of a cherry Field Blend presented itself as a cohesive and undeniable entity. At that point it was simply a matter of selecting from the barrels to find something that would work well with the fruit.
This year's cherry Field Blend is still in the tank on fruit, but at this point it presents with a bright acidity, an intense cinnamon aroma from the cherry skins which leads into a cherry blossom florality and a creamy juxtaposition of the vanillin cherry pits and raw spelt that the beer was brewed with. Even in its current state (ie: warm and uncarbonated) it is lively and aromatic. It is a fun beer which should be ready sometime this winter if all goes well. It is certainly an exercise in opportunity and a case study in how pieces of a whole can unexpectedly fall into place if you are open to those possibilities.
There are already several other independent variations of Field Blend in the process of aging and refermentation which may or may not see the light of day. They are all mostly destined to be singularities never to be repeated.
The beers shown above are, on the left, 2017 Field Blend (cherry) utilizing a blend of Montmorency, Balaton, and Cornelian cherries refermented with unblended acid beer from a single puncheon, and on the right, Drive Out the Spirits, a blend of spelt beer fermented with a wild culture in a puncheon with young saison fermented in our open top oak tank and then briefly matured in a white wine barrel. This blend of older acid beer and young saison was then refermented on Washington whole blueberries.
For those that have missed previous emails, if you want to be on the Oakworks bottle club reserve list, please sign up at the link below. We are planning to have bottles available to the public in early 2018, and this list will be notified first.
Last month's news.