Saturday, June 16, 2012

White Bluffs Brewing: Hanford's edge

   I saw the front of this little brewery last year; the bus the federal government uses for tours of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are based in an adjacent building.  Came back recently when they were open.  The name, White Bluffs, refers to a series of cliffs along the Columbia River, and also to a place that had been a small town until the government took it and Hanford over, completely, in 1943 to create plutonium for the atomic bomb.  The view from the front of the brewery is a healthy stand of sagebrush, about the only thing that grows around here without irrigation.
     Inside, brewer/owner Mike Sutherland operates a two-barrel system to create a nice assortment of ales with emphasis on the farmhouse or saison style.
His flagship ale is called Biere de Garde or MissChievous (depending on one's grasp of French pronunciation, perhaps).  The French version would hail from a farm somewhere in Wallonia, a region in Belgium.  The menu here offers this explanation of the term:  "Farmhouse Ale" depicts romantic images of simple country beers brewed on old a matter of necessity.  It was a simple brew made with no thought to dazzle."
    The Biere de Garde checks out at 6.7% abv and a not very tart 27 IBUs.  The first taste is richly malty; a bit of fruitiness comes later.  I checked out definitions of farmhouse and saison on wikipedia, BeerAdvocate, and the Great American Ale Trail, and they were all over the map.  On one point they do agree: the farmer aimed for an alcohol range of 5% to 8%.  The idea was to refresh and hydrate the farm workers during the harvest without getting them hammered.  Methinks this would call for a session-type strenght of less than five percent.  But maybe Belgian farmhands back in the day could knock back a couple pints of 8% and go right back to haying.
     Mike makes three more farmhous styles listed on his website, Biere de Ambre, Biere de Mars, and Biere de Noel, as well as a dozen or so more conventional brews.
(Visited 6/2/12)

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