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The Hunt for Pink October

The Hunt for Pink October

This October, while the rest of the country is smashing pumpkins and lagering märzen for their traditional autumn fests, three brewers in the Philly area are going pink … for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Pause, for a moment, to think about how many people in our lives have been affected by this dreaded diagnosis—how many have struggled for survival, are still struggling, or have lost the battle. The American Cancer Society estimates that 40,000 women and 390 men die of breast cancer each year. The impact on family life is staggering.

In the world of primary colors, pink represents physical tranquility and survival of the species. In the world of craft beer, it displays diversity so expansive that every one of our local “pinks” displays a profile unique unto itself.

Free Will Saison de Rose & Four Dynamic Women

Philly Beer Week Board Member Erin Wallace has enthusiasm as infectious as her smile. During a PBW event this past June, Wallace stoked the imagination of David Wood, assistant brewer for Free Will Brewing Company, with an idea for a collaborative beer targeting Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

She felt sure of enlisting three more dynamic women in the beer community for the feminine side of the project. David’s immediate response brought Free Will co-founders, John Stemler and Dominic Capece, on-board.

As owner of the Old Eagle Tavern of Manayunk, Devil’s Den of South Philly, and Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery in Lafayette Hill, Erin Wallace took the helm as the driving force behind the philanthropic brew. Matthew Stumpf of Lionize Productions.com agreed to document the entire process on video and in digital hi-res photos, while Punch Media joined-in as publicity agents.

Erin called upon world-class Philly author and sommelier, Marnie Old; Epikur Writer of the Year, Tara Nurin; and Philly Beer Scene Woman on the Scene, Carolyn Smagalski (yours truly), to initiate the project.

A few pilot batches later, Saison de Rose was born, brewed for the benefit of Penn Medicine’s Rena Rowan Breast Center, with its strong track record for supporting local women at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

What they created was nothing short of stellar. Stemler calls Saison de Rose “a little beer doing big things.” Loosely translated, Saison de Rose means “Season of Pink.” What could be more appropriate for October?

Saison is traditional seasonal ale from the farmlands of Wallonia, a French-influenced region in southern Belgium. In his book, The Brewmaster’s Table, Garrett Oliver writes, “If I were forced to choose one style to drink with every meal for the rest of my life, saison would have to be it.”

Saison is often accented with herbs and spices for increased complexity. In this collaborative effort, Brewmaster John Stemler altered this traditional saison ale by adding crimson pink grapefruit, freshly minced Asian ginger, and pink and black peppercorns to the kettle. It was finished with the exotic Hibiscus rosa-sinensis for accent and color.

Hibiscus has been praised worldwide for its health-promoting virtues. It is tough, durable, and beguiling, just like the women it represents.

The official launch event for Saison de Rose is set for Friday, October 4th through Sunday, October 6th at Devil’s Den in South Philadelphia, with Saison de Rose available on draft and in 750 ml champagne-style bottles with cork and wire-cage. It promises to be featured at the Midtown Fall Fest and at other events throughout the fall season.

Saison de Rose has crisp, bready flavors, slathered with spiced-grapefruit juiciness. Tart acidity feathers the tongue, as quenching to the thirst as it is stimulating to the appetite. Highly carbonated, it dances briskly on the palate. Brettanomyces claussenii has been added to the bottled version, making it a Brewmaster’s Reserve, with lean, Belgian-esque character.

One dollar from every pour/bottle will be contributed to the Rena Rowan Breast Center, with a target goal of generating $10,000 for the center. The Free Will commemorative pink tap-marker with Saison de Rose decals makes this saison highly visible for pub patrons. Additional donations are encouraged through penncancer.org/patients/centers-programs-services/rena-rowan-breast-center. If sending a check, write “saison de rose” in the memo field on the check; online, type “saison de rose” in the “In Honor Of” box.

Weyerbacher Althea –
Dubbel Up with Natalie DeChico

When Dan Weirback saw the impact of his Last Chance IPA campaign, which generated over $25,000 for local animal rescue operations, his vision of evoking greater good expanded. Why not enlist the creativity of one of his own sales reps to raise funds for the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Breast Cancer Fund? As soon as he pitched her the idea, Natalie DeChico, award-winning homebrewer and 2011 Philly Beer Geek champion, caught the ball like a big leaguer.

Based on a Christmas homebrew designed for the DeChico’s 2012 holiday season, Natalie’s Belgian Dubbel, enhanced with black plums and stone-fruit character, fit perfectly with Weyerbacher’s aesthetic. Brewmaster Chris Wilson converted DeChico’s small batch to an 80 barrel recipe, ordering 1,260 pounds of Italian plums for the project.

They called it Althea, from the Greek word for “healing.” Althea shines brilliant cerise, with a tan head of foamy mousse. Estery aromas merge with sweet caramel notes, while dark stone-fruits roll like silk on the tongue. Althea is a touch dry and not overly sweet. At 7.75%, her warm finish adds a welcomed touch for this October release.

“There is a lot of heart, hope, and hard work that went into this beer to help out as many women, men, and families affected with breast cancer as possible,” said Natalie DeChico. Weyerbacher released 1,200 cases into ten markets, and pledges to donate $1 per bottle to the LVHN fund.

Tom Kehoe Goes Pynk

Tom Kehoe wasn’t thinking of breast cancer awareness when he initially introduced Pynk to Philadelphia’s beer market nine years ago; but this light, tart seasonal has evolved into a beer of beauty. Released on the first of September this year, Pynk Tart Berry Ale came into the spotlight as a fruit beer, accented with raspberries, Prunus Avium (sweet cherries), and P. cerasus (sour cherries) pre-fermentation, allowing the natural-fruit sugars to fully attenuate. A lightly acidic, citrusy profile was the end result, scrubbing the palate in a clean finish.

Pynk’s deep-garnet color may be reminiscent of Belgian fruit lambics, known as framboise or kriek, but the beer is actually designed to be an American tart ale that merges well with lighter fare, such as salads, chicken, fresh mozzarella and Swiss, or lightly grilled tilapia.

Yards will host The Pynk Affair, a kick-off event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
on October 4th in the Yards Tasting Room on Delaware Avenue, and will benefit the Tyanna Foundation. In addition, $1 from each case of Pynk sold will go to the Foundation in support of breast cancer centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Seize the ultimate challenge for Breast Cancer Awareness during this “season of pink” as you embark upon your own hunt for Pink October. Taste them all and enjoy the hunt. α

About Jon Clark

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