Atwood Ales Farm Brewery in Blaine, WA attended the prestigious, 8th Annual Good Food Awards, in San Francisco, where the brewery was selected as a 2018 Good Food Awards Winner for their rhubarb sour ale, Rhuty. Atwood was the only Whatcom County nominee, and one of just 15 breweries from around the United States, including well-respected craft beer names like Almanac Beer Co., Prairie Artisan Ales and Allagash Brewing Company, recognized for not only the high quality of their beer but also for their efforts towards supporting sustainability and social good through their production and business practices.
“With over 2,000 entries submitted, it’s a great honor for us to be selected among the 199 winners,” said Monica Smith, director of sales and marketing for Atwood Ales Farm Brewery. With awards given in 15 different categories, for diverse products ranging from beer to cheese to coffee, the Good Food Awards celebrate the movement towards a tasty, authentic and responsible food system and represent over $200 billion of America’s annual gross domestic product. Each winner was selected in a blind tasting of industry experts and also passed a rigorous vetting to confirm they meet Good Food Awards standards regarding supply chain transparency, environmentally sound agricultural practices, and deep community engagement.
“This is our most prestigious award yet, and we are thankful to share the spotlight with other small businesses around the country who, like us, are actively working towards a more sustainable food system by creating innovative, well-crafted products that are as responsible as they are delicious, ” Smith said. When asked what some of the keys to making a responsible beer were, Smith noted, “emphasizing the use of responsibly-grown local ingredients and building strong, lasting relationships with employees, suppliers, customers and collaborators are very important to Atwood Ales, and we heard those same things echoed over and over from winners in every category.”
Atwood Ales Farm Brewery only releases Rhuty, their Good Food Awards winning beer, once a year, typically in late summer, and it sells out almost immediately. “We really enjoy using seasonal, estate-grown ingredients, and Rhuty is one of our favorite examples of why,” said head brewer, John Smith.
Like many of their other seasonal and rotating farmhouse-style ales, Rhuty features estate-grown ingredients, in this case, rhubarb and hops, combined with their house saison yeast and 100% Skagit Valley malt. Rhuty, a rhubarb sour ale, is straw-colored, effervescent and mildly tart and fruity – strangely reminiscent of rhubarb pie, but dry and refreshing. Smith adds, “the flavor of the ingredients and the season come through so well in Rhuty. To our family, the flavors are unique ‘Pacific Northwest summer’ and remind us how special and valuable it is to be able to both live here and to make a living here.”
Atwood Ales Farm Brewery is one of a growing number of small, farm-based breweries around the country that put great emphasis on not just using local ingredients, but also growing many of the ingredients themselves. “We use as much as we can from our farm,” said Monica Smith, “and we’re able to supply ourselves with about 60% of our hops needs each year.” The small, artisanal brewery churns out unique French and Belgian inspired farmhouse-style ales, saisons and sours that are much less hop-heavy than the IPAs and pale ales typically associated with the Pacific Northwest. In addition to growing hops on their farm, the Smith family also grows a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that they use in their farmhouse ales. Bringing things full circle, all of the brewery’s wastewater is treated and used to irrigate those aforementioned crops, as designated by their farm plan and allowed by the Whatcom County Health Department. They also forage for other ingredients, such as nettles, flowers and berries.
What they can’t grow on their property, they try to source locally when possible, including using Skagit Valley Malt as the base for all of their beers.
While Rhuty routinely sells out almost immediately upon release, you might be lucky to find some bottles still available at your local bottle shop if you live in northwest Washington state. The beer is bottle-conditioned in 750ml bottles designed for sharing. According to Atwood’s head brewer, Josh Smith, “Rhuty ages well, so don’t be afraid to purchase a 2017 dated bottle.” If you cannot find a bottle of Rhuty now, expect the 2018 release to be available mid to late summer. In the meantime, seek out Atwood’s other farmhouse and sour ales that, like Rhuty, emphasize tasty, local, authentic and sustainable ingredients.