Craft beer is not just having a moment. It’s here to stay. Gone are the days of walking into the grocery store to find five beer options, all brewed by the same company. Your local beer aisle might have hundreds of choices now. You could set off on a road trip to tour America’s small craft breweries and be gone for years sampling some of the best brews you’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. And on the way home, there would be a whole new bunch of craft breweries to visit. Craft beer isn’t going anywhere.
But something funky is happening with craft beer. It’s going sour. But unlike milk or a bad marriage, going sour is one of the best things to happen within the craft beer movement.
Where to go sour
John Spada is working magic with craft beer, especially sours, in Snohomish, Washington, about 45 minutes from Seattle. He’s been brewing in a quintessential red barn on his sister’s farm since 2016 which used to be his great grandfather’s farm, founded in 1912.
John was inspired to try his hand at brewing beer on his trips to France and Belgium. Back at home, he realized his best beers were sours, and so the specialty was born. But if sour beers aren’t for you, you won’t go thirsty at Spada. There’s an IPA, a Belgian wheat, countless saisons, and a fresh hop pale ale. Those hops are straight from the Spada farm, as are the strawberries in the Petite Fraise, a barrel aged sour with strawberries.
It’s all about family
John’s wife, Emily, grew and picked those strawberries. If you walk into the taproom in downtown Snohomish, there’s a high likelihood you’ll run into Emily or John, or Melissa (John’s mom) or Sarah (John’s youngest sister). It’s all in the family at Spada Farmhouse Brewery.
John knows he’s lucky to have his family as a support system and he’s thanked them by creating a series of beers for them called the “Family Oak.” Each family member picks their favorite fruit, their base beer (sour, saison, pale), and what type of barrels they’d like the beer to ferment in and their namesake beer is born. The Emily is a sour cherry beer aged in red wine barrels from a local vineyard. The Melissa is barrel-aged sour with raspberries, and the Sarah is a blueberry sour.
Want a bit more menu enticement? Here are some highlights:
- First Light - a barrel-aged sour with apricots
- Gladys - Belgian wheat beer fermented in white wine barrels (an ode to John’s grandmother)
- The Botanist - a barrel-aged sour with blackberry, raspberry, cherry
- Pollination - Saison with local honey, sweet orange peel and rose hips
- Eleanor - Saison with passionfruit and guava (an ode to John and Emily’s new baby)
If that doesn't sell you on Spada Farmhouse beer, in 2018 Beer Advocate magazine, one of the most well-trusted beer reviews, named Spada as one of the 50 best new breweries in the country. That tastes pretty good.
What to do during quarantine
John hasn’t watched a single episode of Tiger King during quarantine. The Spada Farmhouse Brewery taproom is closed, yes, but John is busy working on opening a new, larger space for his beer. His old taproom in downtown Snohomish was tucked down a sidestreet, and while the space was charming, he’s going bigger - large enough to move some of the brewing facilities on-site, seat more beer aficionados, and add in a kitchen to serve a full menu that will compliment the beer.
John is also working on fulfilling to-go orders to keep you hydrated and sane during the pandemic. You can support the Spada Farmhouse Brewery by heading to their website and placing an order for pickup. If you’re not in town, grab a gift card online to use later. Giving yourself the gift of beer in the future is the truest form of self-care during these stressful times.
Once this is over and we're cheersing together in the new taproom, that is going to be one sweet sour.