CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 15 Classics - Page 163

This is part four of a series by Amber Watts and Ron Extract on the process of starting up Garden Path Fermentation in Washington State At a very young age, I came to love beer—not just the way that many young people love beer, but also in much the same way that I love it today. I’d first encountered it in Munich, in the spring of 1985, on a trip that my high school German teacher had organized. I was fourteen. One of our first official stops was the city’s famous Hofbräuhaus, where, so as to help familiarize us with the local culture, our teacher attempted to buy us each a half liter. Unfortunately, they did not sell half-liters, so we had to drink full ones. There, and at other beer locales we visited during the course of the trip, I felt a connection to the world beyond the village where I’d grown up that I hadn’t before. In retrospect, this was my first taste not only of beer, but also of gemütlichkeit—a word the locals use to describe the special kind of congeniality one feels in these types of com- munal gathering places. After that trip, my access to beer was limited for the next few years, but when I did have the opportunity to have some, even low-quality domestic beer served as a symbolic reminder of that initial experience. College brought much easier access, which I admittedly overcapitalized on at times. It also offered opportunities, though, to expand and challenge my palate along with my intellect. I discovered flavors that I never knew existed in beer, and began reading about the history and production methods associated with differ- ent types from different corners of the world. I learned about the great personal contribu- tions that some individual brewers had made and about the corporate giants that were con- tinuing to consume once-proud independents, in pursuit of higher efficiencies and better economies of scale. The summer between my junior and senior year, I spent tending bar in a traditional pub in London, followed by a brief trip through many of Europe’s other great beer cities. Afterwards, my roommates and I started home-brewing in our dorm, even though doing so meant having to drive to the next state for supplies. I tried, much too eagerly at times, to share my passion with anyone and everyone around me, which is why, when Amber and I re- turned to my alma mater for my 25th reunion earlier this year, I didn’t expect any of my for- mer classmates to be particularly surprised by the path my life has taken. As it turns out, some were, as not everyone, it seems, had chosen to spend the entirety of their adult life relentlessly pursuing youthful dreams. It having been 25 years since college gradua- tion is something that I still cannot fully accept. The memories from that time, both experiential and emotional, are far too vivid to have taken place so long ago. In the weeks leading up to the reunion, as much as I was looking forward to returning to campus and seeing old friends, the definitive marking of this impossible measure of time had become a growing source of anxiety. Further adding to it was the fact that, where- as I’d previously thought Garden Path Fermen- tation would be well into its build-out, if not up and running, by the time the reunion rolled around, Amber and I were instead back at what felt essentially like our starting point, without a definitive location or, for that matter, anything particularly substantive to show for the last 10 months. This bothered me, not for fear of what others might think, but because it left me ques- tioning whether we were truly on the right path and, in the context of the reunion, starting to second guess other choices I’d made in life. When we first visited Washington’s Skagit Val- ley in the summer of 2016, it was with thoughts of starting an estate brewery on a picturesque farm. That vision quickly evolved, moving away from the estate concept and instead seeking to incorporate the abundant and highly di- verse agricultural resources that already existed throughout the valley and the surrounding re- gion. Narrowing our focus also allowed us to broaden it, giving us greater opportunities to © Hundred-to-One LLC 2017. All rights reserved.