A couple of months ago, when Bridge Brew Works decided to resurrect an old German beer style, it needed a special ingredient it had never before used in one of its beers.
A short while later, Nancy Bruns of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in Malden, WV, got an unexpected call from Bridge Brew Works co-owner Ken Linch.
“He called and asked me about using our salt in brewing a beer,” she recounted. “And I learned about the Gose-style beer, which I was not familiar with.
“I was excited to partner with another West Virginia company. So I sent him some salt.”
Local ingredients often differentiate local beer
Using local ingredients in a local beer is a very strong trend among America’s craft beer breweries today. Smaller breweries often differentiate their beer from those of larger breweries by including locally-sourced products from small farms—or, in this case, a small salt maker.
“Our salt is very flavorful compared to a lot of other salts,” said Bruns. “It has a real mineralogy, which gives it a lot more flavor and allows the distinct characteristics to come through.”
In a Gose-style beer, as in other food preparations, salt brightens the other flavors in the mix. In the Bridge Brew Works Iapetus Gose, salt highlights the beer’s malt and tart, lemony characteristics without tasting salty.
Bridge Brew Works brewer and co-owner Nathan Herrold thinks they got the flavor profile just right.
“We’re really happy with how it turned out” he said. “Everything definitely complements each other.
“It’s a very refreshing, easy-drinking summertime beer at 3.7 percent ABV.
“I think it’s got the right balance of malt, yeast, hops, and sour with the J.Q. Dickinson salt,” Herrold explained further. “We didn’t add any spices other or any kind of fruits, because we used the lemony Sorachi Ace hops. We’re seriously thinking about entering it in the Great American Beer Festival.”
Salt from a 400 million year-old sea
The Iapetus name comes from the name of a 400 million year-old ancient ocean, from which large, pristine salt deposits eventually got trapped deep beneath the Appalachian Mountains. In the Kanawha Valley area, it was redissolved in a fresh-water aquifer to become a brine.
Just east of Charleston, WV. the brine sits in a bowl-shaped deposit from 300 to 1,700 feet deep. That is where the J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is located.
As a local product from the Appalachian region, J.Q. Dickinson salt is very unique.
“We are the only ones making salt from an underground brine source in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Bruns.
“We feel our source is really protected. It’s free of any surface contaminants. It’s very consistent quality, so we feel very strongly that we have the purest source available.”
Another interesting fact is that they dry the brine using solar evaporation.
“We’re separating and crystalizing with the help of the sun and gentle mountain breezes here in the Appalachians,” said Bruns.
Iapetus Gose introduced at Bluegrass Kitchen
An introductory event for Iapetus Gose took place recently at Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston. Keeley Steele, proprietor of Bluegrass Kitchen, says the more local businesses supporting each other, the better.
“We’re definitely committed to helping our local beer industry,” said Steele, who keeps several West Virginia-made beers on tap in her restaurant.
In addition to local breweries, Bluegrass Kitchen offers distilled spirits from WV-based Smooth Ambler Spirits in Lewisburg and liqueurs from Bloomery Plantation in Charles Town. Especially from April through October, you will find many local-farm-sourced food ingredients at the restaurant.
Bridge Brew Works expanding variety
Based in Fayetteville, WV, Bridge Brew Works has been in business since 2010. Its bread and butter has been producing a variety of traditional beers styles, such as pales ales, lagers, stouts, and porters, spiked with a few, strong Belgian-style specialties, like dubbels and triples. Recently, the brewers announced that they are expanding their beer variety to include beers like the Iapetus Gose and a soon forthcoming Saison.
Last year, the brewery opened a tasting room at the brewery and began filling growlers and selling packaged beer-to-go. They have been adding to their brewing equipment and their production capacity is increasing. In 2015, BrilliantStream.com named their Moxxee Coffee Stout as runner-up for WV beer of the year.
Salt maker with a 200 year history
J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is a family-owned company with a 200 year heritage. Nancy Bruns and her bother Lewis Payne are seventh-generation salt makers. Their Dickinson ancestors first drilled for brine in 1817, and, by the 1850s, they were producing 3 million bushels of salt per year.
Today, while producing on a much smaller scale, the family focuses its product on the highest-quality end of the salt market.
“We have quite a few chefs who are using our salt,” said Bruns.
“Spike Garrity in the Baltimore area uses about 100 pounds of our salt a month. Sean Brock, out of Charleston, SC, is really determined to keep his sourcing east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason Dixon Line, so we fit right in that area.”
Outside the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, one of their customers is the famed French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley.
“We also have great support from West Virginia chefs and restaurants,” she added.
Around Charleston, WV, their salt is used at Bluegrass Kitchen, South Hills Market & Cafe, and Bridge Road Bistro, among others.
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