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“People who visit the space, they understand and get that there’s this intimate quality to the beer,” says Aaron Kleidon, cofounder of Scratch Brewing in Ava, Illinois. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a desire to add weird things to a beer just for the sake of adding weird things.”
In the context of American beer today, Scratch is decidedly weird. From their focus on various ingredients foraged from the property to their intensely manual brewing process, it’s clear that Scratch is an exercise in exploring a different idea about beer—one rooted in place and time.
You don’t find many breweries whose yeast choice is determined by the ambient temperature of their water or the ambient temperature of the fermentation cellar, but that’s how Scratch works. That often means pitching their house sourdough culture—the same culture they use for their bread and pizza crust—in the warmer months, while turning instead to brewing lagers in the colder months. You also don’t find many brewers that change up their brewing schedule because a storm took down a tree, and suddenly they have access to a different bark. Indeed, it’s a different way of thinking about brewing ingredients altogether.
In this episode, cofounders Marika Josephson and Kleidon explore the many facets of their brewing program, including:
- building their own “spice kit” of foraged ingredients from the brewery property
- the learning process behind pushing ingredients further up in the boil, rather than thinking about all ingredients like they would hops
- methods of evaluating new or unfamiliar ingredients
- brewing with tree bark and understanding the tannin contribution of foraged ingredients
- channeling sense memory in drinkers by using ingredients that trigger memory
- brewing with the ingredients in season, and yeasts that work in different seasonal temperature ranges
- the challenge of brewing in a wood-fired kettle with open puncheon mash tuns
- finding “tropical” fruit flavors in local Midwestern ingredients
- prizing drinkability despite disparate ingredient lists
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