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Be the first to taste new beers tonight in Olympia

Want to be one of the first to try a dozen brand-new beers?

Eleven regional breweries and one distillery will tap fresh varietals at the Best of Cascadia Tasting on Saturday at the South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

The event caps a two-day symposium focused on “rebuilding a regional grain economy” in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia along the Columbia River and Cascade mountain range. Attendees of the Cascadia Grains Conference spent Friday traveling to and learning from bakers, brewers, distillers and farmers.

For $20, you can sample an array of new releases from area brewers, including Yakima’s Bale Breaker and Single Hill and Seattle’s Fremont and Two Beers.

The list of beers provided by the conference organizers — the food systems department at Washington State and the Washington Beer Commission — reaches beyond pale ales. As a rule, the beers spotlight ingredients grown here, which, as it turns out, is only practical: the Yakima Valley accounts for 75% of U.S. hop production, according to the trade group.

Lantern Brewing in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood will show off a lager made with barley grown in the state. Single Hill will have a dry-hopped pilsner and Stoup Brewing an American wheat ale both featuring malt from LINC Malt in Spokane.

Also from eastern Washington, Whistle Punk Brewing will offer a Czech-style lager brewed with Oregon-grown barley. Its neighbor Varietal Beer Co. will drop a hazy IPA made with three kinds of local malt.

Bale Breaker, Fremont and Old Stove Brewing also will tap new pale ales. Though I’ve seen this beer in cans already in the Tacoma area, Two Beers will have its Wonderland Trail IPA, sales of which benefit the state’s National Park Fund.

Take a break from beer to try two limited releases of single malt whiskey from Copperworks Distilling. Both are made with Washington barley. One is a straightforward 100-proof whiskey; the other starts as “an un-hopped craft beer” that, after aging in new American oak barrels, is blended with a five-malt recipe and an older whiskey aged in Cognac and sherry casks.

The Washington beer industry supports more than 6,000 direct jobs and $1.4 billion in total economic impact, per data collected by the state beer commission.

Only California has more breweries than Washington’s nearly 400 active licenses in 130 cities.

Best of Cascadia Tasting

South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia

Details: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., tickets $20 online

Kristine Sherred joined The News Tribune in December 2019. She spent the past decade immersed in the culinary scene of Chicago and, for a time, covered the global chocolate and snacks industries. An avid home cook and beer/cocktail pro, she now explores all things edible and sippable throughout Pierce County. Reach her also at @kriscarasher on Twitter.
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