Some of my best summer weekends have followed the same formula: drive up Mount Baker Highway, soak in and sweat out the wilderness for a couple days, and on the way back to town, ahem, replenish all those burned calories by stopping off at North Fork Brewery for some artisan pizza and delicious beer.
Lately the brewery, like many breweries, has turned its attention to sours, bretts and fruit beers — styles people either adore or avoid.
As for me, in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t seek out sours like I do the more standard ales and lagers. But I’m learning to love these styles, and I’m willing to give anything a shot. North Fork’s beer feels handmade, rough-hewn, with heart and blood and sweat put into the craft, and it carries over into their approach to sours.
Here’s my take on some new sours and some old standards.
North Fork Son of Freud. Break out the candles and Coltrane records, because you’ll need to make an event out of this limited release — assuming you’re willing to shell out $17 for 750 ml. This bottle-conditioned monstrosity could’ve easily been called Son of Frankenstein: It’s British ale wort stitched together with Brettanomyces yeast and aged in French oak barrels. After popping the cork, a crazed healthy yeasty aroma hits you first. Ten months of aging has mellowed, but not dulled, the flavorful funk of the wild yeast. An ever-present tinge of sourness lingers on the back of the palate, but never clouds the complexities of this wild, golden-orange 6.3-percent alcohol ale. Yes, it’s worth seeking out, if only just once. You won’t find it anywhere but the brewery. A-
North Fork Dry-Hopped Sour: Is She Weird? How do you feel about hefty dry-hop aroma? How do you feel about highly acidic sour apple cider? How do you feel about those things together? If you’re into that, more power to you. To me this one is too close to drinking hopped-up vinegar, and I found it impossible to stomach more than a sip or two per minute. D
North Fork Red-Eye Amber. An amber like this one is predicated on being a happy medium, a beer for everyone. Not too heavy, not too light; not too bitter, not too sweet. So while it’s not too interesting, it’s not, um, uninteresting. Looks a lot redder in the low light of the brewpub, but held up to the sun it’s clear, and clearly amber, with a gentle off-white head. Medium hop bitterness mixes with mild sweetness. It’s smooth, safe and straightforward. B
North Fork Wit. This murky orange wheat ale, topped off with a swirl of white lacing, isn’t the most beautiful Wit in the world, but on a warm day it is post-hike ambrosia. Mild Belgian yeast funk melds with a sweet fruity body and more than a touch of lemon-orange. As is the style, spices come through — cinnamon? cardamom? — if you look for them, and as is the style, it’s a bigger risk-taker than most wheat ales. Yet this Wit is dangerously easy to drink. Comfortably North Forkian in approach. Try it with a wedge of lemon or orange. Or don’t, since there’s plenty of depth here. Stays fresh to-go for longer than most growler options here. B+
In other brews …
— Speaking of trails and ales, Trails and Ales in Bellingham will be hosted by the Washington Trails Association at 6 p.m. July 31 at K-2, Kulshan Brewing’s new brew-house at 1538 Kentucky St. Meet WTA staff, talk with other hikers, and learn about how you can help maintain our region’s trail systems. And have a beer while you’re at it.
— After cleaning up at the North American Beer Awards, our local breweries took home another 11 medals last month at the Washington Beer Awards. Aslan Brewing Co. raked in the Gold for its Blueprint Session IPA and Witbier, and Silver for the FIFA, a Belgian-style IPA. Boundary Bay Brewing Co. won the Silver for its Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout — a mouthful in more ways than one — while Chuckanut Brewery’s Kölsch won a Gold medal, its Dunkel took Silver, and its Marzen and Helles won Bronze. Kulshan Brewing Co. won Gold for its Bastard Kat IPA and Hop Howdy Belgian strong ale, and Bronze for the Irish Red Cap.
Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.