A city girl lost in the hop fields

Today we offer another installment from our friend and contributor North Seattle Sarah: an adventurous lass trekking her way towards beer geekdom. When she told us that she’d met a home brewer who collaborates with Chris Miller of Snipes Mountain Brewing, we thought it might be an interesting story. But brewing with Kool-Aid? Yep, this guy must know Yoda.

If you want something done right…

by North Seattle Sarah

I’m always on a quest to find good beer; but, as my name suggests, the journey tends to keep me within the boundaries of north Seattle’s excellent brew selections. Sheltered in my local bubble, I usually wait for the beer to come to me. But I have recently learned that there’s a whole new world out there to discover—a world where hops grow wild and free and beer flows in basements, garages and backyards.

Head east over the mountains and keep driving until the smell of cows infiltrates the air flow in your car. That’s when you know you’re in the vicinity of Sunnyside and Prosser, WA. And what did I find there? Hops and home brew. And a lot of both.

I was privileged to spend a few days with Pete Don, a local farmer out in Prosser who, along with his brothers and nephews, has spent the last few years learning how to brew beer at home and perfecting every last drop. Pete has been brewing his own beer for nine years now, ever since trying out a home brewing “starter kit” as a hobby and discovering what he could do with a little yeast and experimentation.

Today, that home brewing kit has turned into a full-fledged “brew house” on his property, complete with three taps and all the fixings to create a quality beer. While there I was able to try out his darker Cascadia Ale and it was absolutely magnificent. His pride and joy, however, is his 7.5% ABV Imperial IPA which has been tweaked and twisted every time he has brewed it, always turning it into something new. In fact, Pete says, he has never brewed the same recipe twice.

When asked where he gets inspiration for his recipes, Pete admits to doing his research and getting advice from friends and local professional brewers, like Chris Miller of Snipes Mountain Brewing. But in the end, Pete says, “The taste buds are our teachers.” He’s experimented with ingredients like honey, vanilla, ginger, and even brewed a batch using Kool-Aid. When I asked him if he’d ever made a bad-tasting beer, he said, “There is no bad beer—just some that you like better than others.”

Home Brewing is becoming increasingly popular in the Seattle area. At stores like Bob’s Homebrew Supply in the U-District and The Cellar Homebrew up in Greenwood, average beer lovers can get started making a fine brew in the comfort of their own home for less than $200.

Out in Prosser, it does help that Pete Don is surrounded by hops as far as the eye can see—he’s lucky enough to get several varieties of hops without having to go much further than his neighbor’s house.

Thinking about trying out home brewing? “Cleanliness really IS next to Godliness,” Pete says. “You can tell the difference when something wasn’t cleaned right.”

Home brewing isn’t for everyone. I currently occupy a rather small apartment and spend more time working than I probably should, so home brewing isn’t for me at the moment. That’s okay; maybe someday. In the meantime, I get to sample the crafty delights of our local Washington breweries in my own neighborhood and learn the flavors and tastes through them. Perhaps, one day down the road, that will make me a better home brewer. For now, my quest carries on and leaves me a little wiser, a little more intrigued, and with a LOT more respect for anyone that brews a good beer.

One comment

  1. > “Home brewing isn’t for everyone. I currently occupy a rather small apartment and spend more time working than I probably should, so home brewing isn’t for me at the moment.”

    Just a comment on the above part. A small apt is not a problem for homebrewing. It’s a common misconception that brewing requires a lot of space. It does if you want to brew on a large scale, but to do beginner homebrewing all you need is a stove and about a 2 foot by 2 foot square of floor space in your kitchen (or anywhere else). I’ve brewed 50+ batches in a 450 sqft apt.

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