It’s rare today to see a brewery with a specific focus, unless you count making endless variations on IPA a focus. Breweries like New Belgium and Allagash opened with the expressed purpose on making Belgian style beers for an American audience. When pFriem first opened in Hood RIver they had a similar mission. When we first visited the taproom in 2013, six of the eight taps were pouring beer made with Belgian yeast. Now, the brewery brews everything from Vienna Lager to a sour IPA. pFriem has a extensive library of Lambic inspired fruit beers, but few drinkers would identify them as a Belgian-esque brewery.
Ferment Brewing just opened in Hood River, just down the street from pFriem’s taproom and brewery. When I saw the first bottles on the shelf, I was intrigued by the selection – a porter, an ESB, and a Czech Pilsner alongside the usual IPA. What sort of brewery is this? The IPA tastes very contemporary, a hazy appearance and a fruity, juicy aroma. The ESB is very old school, a whiff of imported grains, a deep red color, a stiff bitterness. The Pilsner fits the current trend for very crisp very satisfying lager. Yeah. It’s a normal brewery making normal beer.
It wasn’t until I googled the brewery that I learned “FERMENT IS A MODERN BREWERY THAT FUSES TRADITIONAL FARMHOUSE TECHNIQUES WITH A FORWARD-THINKING SCIENTIFIC APPROACH.” What? Really?
Looking at their lineup, only two of the eight beers they currently offer are fermented with farmhouse yeast. (Said yeast was found up on Mt. Hood, which is fascinating, but not relevant to the current discussion.) Can you call yourself a Belgian farmhouse inspired brewery if you only make two farmhouse brews? Is that allowed?
I understand that the market demands IPA. I understand that drinkers who don’t see a beer they think they’ll like on the menu, they are liable to walk down the block to a brewery that does. I understand that wild beers are less reliable and more expensive to produce. I understand the reasons why a brewery branches out searching for a foothold in a rough market. But it still feels like a cop out.