Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvest and Franconia partner to support The Seed Project

Image Credits: Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, Franconia Brewing Co.

Earlier this year, Harvest Seasonal Kitchen announced its intention to begin brewing beer in house at its location in McKinney. Since then, the restaurant has introduced a few limited offerings, but an upcoming event will give patrons a chance to experience how Harvest's craft beer vision is coming into focus.

Working together with Dennis Wehrmann and his nearby Franconia Brewing Co., Harvest will host its first ever beer dinner on Thursday, September 21. The evening will begin with appetizers and opening remarks at Franconia's facility, with festivities shifting to Harvest after that for the presentation of a six-course menu.

"Dennis and I sat down when we obtained our brewpub license and talked about ways the two of us could work together," says Toby Thomason, general manager of Harvest. "I wanted to do a nice, charity event, but also something that was educational. What we decided to do was to take inspiration from what Dennis does well, and then shake things up to show people how differences are introduced."

In addition to a number of brews created exclusively by Harvest, the list of beers expected to be served at the dinner includes Franconia's popular Triple Dunkel, and its seasonal Oktoberfest. The featured fermentation, however, will be a beer created by way of a collaboration between the two companies.

"We brewed a spelt beer at Franconia with Dennis that uses local honey and base grain from TexMalt in Fort Worth," explains Thomason. "It's a beer that uses locally-sourced ingredients with some German heirloom wheat, so that kind of ties in our two concepts really well. The beer pays tribute to the brewing heritage Dennis brings, and also to our passion for local farmers and the local farming community - which is the whole reason we decided to get into brewing to begin with."

Franconia dabbled with spelt in a beer early in its history, but Wehrmann went with a different approach this time around.

"It's similar to the spelt beer we made before, except we changed the yeast and used grain from TexMalt," says Wehrmann. "And there's honey in it, which is something that wasn't in the original. That first spelt beer was brewed with a 100% German approach, but this one is done more in the American way."

Left: Honey Spelt is made with Ireks spelt malt and honey from N&P Farm & Dairy in Farmersville.
Right: Grain from TexMalt will be featured in all beers offered at the dinner, with locally-grown
Cascade hops providing the punch in a pale ale designed for the event (click to enlarge).

The result, Wehrmann believes, is a beer with a flavor profile that should fit right in with the coming shift in seasons.

"I think it tastes like fall," states Wehrmann. "The beer is a little sweet upfront with a hint of honey, but it finishes dry. It's really earthy, with a lot of really, ripe apples in the beginning. To me, the aroma is like that of a bunch of apples sitting in a wooden box at grandma's house."

Of course, the use of honey goes against Franconia's tradition of brewing to the Reinheitsgebot, which allows only for the use of water, hops, malt and yeast in the production of beer. But, that's one of the ways the differences Thomason wants to showcase come into play. Another way can be seen in a series of altbiers he's working on for the event.

"We did a base altbier where we tried to emulate some of the processes Dennis would use," says Thomason. "Then we brewed two more batches and did things to change them up. We added local blackberries to one, and aged another in a Balcones Baby Blue barrel. Neither gets too crazy, but the changes are just enough to show you what differences there can be in the beer."

Something else Harvest will highlight during the dinner is the progress its made towards a goal of producing a beer using all Texas ingredients.

"We've developed a couple of different yeast strains on our farm," says Thomason. "One was propagated from the blackberries used in the altbier, so we fermented that beer with a mix of the culture from the fruit and our brewer's yeast. The other strain comes from our wildflowers. We're using that one in a pale ale we're doing, which will also incorporate the first crop of Cascade hops yielded from the farm. So, really, the pale ale will be our first truly Texas beer."

As for the event itself, tickets are on sale now at a cost of $125 per person and quantities are extremely limited (click here to see the menu and purchase tickets). It should be noted, though, that all proceeds will be donated to charity.

"The entire ticket price is going to The Seed Project Foundation," says Thomason. "It's a company that we started to assist groups that promote sustainability and community. This year we're supporting Community Garden Kitchen, an organization that serves meals to food insecure families in Collin County."

In addition, the collaboration beer - simply called Honey Spelt, will remain available after the close of the dinner for a limited time at both Harvest and Rick's Chophouse (the two entities share the same ownership). Revenues from the sale of the beer will also benefit The Seed Project.

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