Meet Garden Path Fermentation’s Lead Agriculturalist, Saul Phillips

Our mission at Garden Path Fermentation is to make delicious fermented beverages (and maybe foods, someday) using the abundant agricultural resources available to us here in the Skagit Valley, including some ingredients that we plan to grow ourselves.  To do this most effectively, we will need someone who knows the land, what grows here, and how it grows, and who can work with farmers throughout the valley to help us find the best possible ingredients with which to work.  That person will be our Lead Agriculturalist, Saul Phillips.

Photo of Garden Path Fermentation Lead Agriculturalist Saul Phillips

Garden Path Fermentation Lead Agriculturalist Saul Phillips

We first met Saul in October while visiting the WSU Extension Campus in Mount Vernon, where he currently works, helping tend to their research orchard, which includes more than 70 varietals of cider apples, 15 varieties of perry pears, and numerous other fruit trees.  When Saul, an accomplished amateur cidermaker and homebrewer, began telling us about his ideas for commercial production of spontaneously fermented cider and perry, we immediately knew that we had much more to discuss.  As part of our team, Saul will also continue to spend a portion of his time assisting with the WSU orchard and will serve as liaison between Garden Path Fermentation and the WSU Extension. By fostering this relationship, we will develop our goal of being involved in community education and outreach here in the Skagit Valley. 

 

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Saul working with native Skagit Valley yeast

Saul’s interest in cider and perry led him to attend this year’s Cider Con in Chicago, where he had an opportunity to network, taste cider, and exchange ideas with cidermakers and other industry professionals from all over the world.  He offered the following thoughts: 

 

At Cider Con 2017, held this year in Chicago, IL, I got a chance to taste a broad range of ciders. While mixed culture and wild fermentation were a predictably small share of the industry, they were some of the most inspiring examples of cider craft. Considering America’s muddled relationship with cider where many examples on the market are essentially alcoholic soda, we can learn a great deal from our European brethren whose spontaneously fermented cider tradition continues unbroken by any past dalliance with alcohol prohibition.

An especially interesting area of research from Dr. Bradshaw’s lab at the University of Vermont is looking at the commercial viability of minimal pruning, a low-input strategy that jives well with our plans for minimal input, sustainable poly-culture on the land at Garden Path. I look forward to more definitive results over the next few years of the study.

Cider Con gave me a useful view of the cider market and producer strategies. Our plans for Garden Path, wild fermentation and sustainable poly-culture agriculture, fly in the face of the status quo, and I welcome the challenge! Since helping to press juice from my grandmother’s apple orchard as a child, I’ve been an apple aficionado and very much look forward to highlighting in fermentation the unique qualities of fruit grown here in the bountiful Skagit Valley.

Jason Hansen Joining Garden Path Fermentation

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We are thrilled to announce that Jason Hansen, formerly of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, California, will be joining Garden Path Fermentation as our Lead Fermentationist. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to bring him on board. Jason has spent the last three years as Head Brewer at SARA, where he oversaw an extensive mixed fermentation and barrel program, and, frankly, made some of our favorite beers in the world. Jason’s vast experience creating and brewing both complex-yet-approachable clean beers as well as delicate, nuanced barrel-aged mixed fermentations makes him the ideal person to head up Garden Path’s fermentation program. He’ll be in charge of our beer, wine, cider, and mead production, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do with the amazing fermentables in Skagit Valley.

Welcome to Garden Path Fermentation

GPF LogoBrewing industry veterans Ron Extract and Amber Watts will be opening Garden Path Fermentation, a destination farmhouse brewery, cidery, meadery, and winery, in Skagit County, Washington in 2017.

The goal of Garden Path Fermentation is to produce hand-crafted beer, cider, wine, mead, and other fermented products that showcase the natural resources of the beautiful Skagit Valley, nestled between the North Cascades and the Pacific Ocean, and home to some of the most fertile soil on earth. Barley, apples, pears, grapes, hops, and berries all thrive in Skagit’s climate, and the abundant assets in the area—including craft maltster Skagit Valley Malting and a bounty of generations-old small family farms—make it possible for Garden Path Fermentation to source the vast majority of its ingredients solely from the Valley. All products will be fermented with a mixed culture of naturally occurring microbes cultivated from the brewery site and will take advantage of the temperate year-round climate of northwest Washington to minimize the need for temperature control during fermentation while showcasing the region’s distinct seasons.

Garden Path Fermentation’s co-creators, Ron Extract and Amber Watts, have a long history in the brewing industry. Most recently, they were at Jester King Brewery in Austin, TX, where Ron was an owner and managing partner, and Amber helped manage the tasting room and front office. While it was inspiring to be part of the team that helped Jester King grow into a world-class farmhouse brewery, Ron and Amber were ready to start their own project from the ground up.

The name Garden Path Fermentation stems from the idea that a garden path is an indirect way to get from Point A to Point B. It’s the scenic route that, more likely than not, leads you somewhere unexpected. Mixed-culture products take time to ferment, and tend toward complex, interesting flavor profiles that may be surprising to the palate; they’re fermentation’s way of taking you “down the garden path” to a place you may not have thought you’d end up. The name was also partially inspired by Ron and Amber’s appreciation of “garden path sentences”—sentences that initially appear incomplete or nonsensical, but that, when interpreted correctly, are actually completely coherent and grammatically correct.

Garden Path’s logo was created in collaboration with and illustrated by Skagit Valley artist and designer R. Ben Turpin, whose other work can be seen on his website at www.rbenturpin.com.

There will be exciting news about location, staffing, and timing in the very near future. Follow Garden Path Fermentation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or subscribe to the mailing list for further updates on the project. Please direct all press inquiries to info@gardenpathfermentation.com.