Meet Paul Arney, the mad genius behind The Ale Apothecary, a wild-ferment brewery housed in a cabin in the woods of Bend, Oregon. Paul is a master brewer who honed his craft-beer chops for more than 15 years at Bend’s legendary Deschutes Brewery. Now, on his own land and with the magic of the microbial creatures and natural materials that inhabit it (think: black currants, tree parts and an ancient snow-melt aquifer), he has developed The Ale Apothecary into an idealistic, if not utopian endeavor: a hyper-local and sustainable brewery based on the past 10,000 years of our brewing history as humans.
For the overwhelming majority of that history, the beer we drank was wild (sometimes called sour)—a much different animal than the crisp (or hoppy or malty) libation so many of us think of when we hear the word “beer” today.* As I learned in this eye-opening conversation with Paul, even many of today’s “craft” breweries are still part of an industrial system of beer-making that arose only a couple hundred years ago. Here, we delve not only into the fascinating history of beer and its industrialization, but Paul’s ultimate vision to reclaim community, autonomy and our place-based experience of taste by rewilding one of humanity’s first beloved beverages.
*I owe my “discovery” of wild beer to my first taste of Ale Apothecary up in Bend, six years ago, and I’m never going back. I hope this conversation sparks your love for wild beer, too!
Here's the run-down of our conversation:
- The Ale Apothecary versus factory-style brewing
- Paul’s brewing background and Deschutes Brewery
- Beer as historical tie to our human history
- Paul’s brew cabin in the woods: local malt, local hops, black currants and tree parts and the 11,000-year-old snow melt aquifer
- The wild fermentation process that’s missing from modern-day brewing
- The chemicals and waste impact of industrial brewing
- What is wild beer?
- Hops throughout history and Prohibition
- “I tried to take this as far as I could”
- The historical research that fueled his brewing
- Paul’s vision for the future: small, localized breweries
- The unpredictability of wild beer
- The Ale Apothecary aging process, pine needles and Scandinavian farmhouse beers
- How to find wild beer in your area
- What’s next for Paul
If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!