While salt may have been something to garnish a margarita rim in years gone by, that is no longer the case. In the cocktail realm, serious mixologists and bartenders are using salt to enhance the flavor of mixed drinks, decrease bitterness and give the palate a more expansive sipping experience.
Now, it seems, that salt is making a return into the beer sector as well. The origin of salt in beer goes back hundreds of years to Germany’s beer-making roots and has resurfaced through the years. And like almost any trend, what’s old is new again and sometimes with an interesting twist. Case in point — Just A Pinch, a new release from Newport, OR-based Rogue Ales that contains just enough salt to highlight all of the session ale’s flavors.
FORBES recently spoke to Bliss Dake, vice president of marketing at Rogue Ales, about the idea behind the new brew, challenges faced during the process and where he thinks the trend is heading in the future.
Forbes: Where did the idea for Just A Pinch come from?
BD: We’re makers and are always looking for ways to innovate. Our flagship brewery sits on the Pacific Ocean and being the relentlessly curious, innovative type, we wanted to incorporate a bit of our surroundings into our beer. The result was an outstandingly refreshing salty sour ale.
Forbes: How do you harvest the salt? Did you team up with a local harvester/company? Can you speak to the logistics of getting the salt and brewing with it?
BD: The salt is hand harvested. On a sunny day in March, a few Rogues jumped on a commercial crabbing boat that had just finished out the Dungeness crab season and headed out to sea. We boated just out of the mouth of Yaquina Bay, the body of water right behind our brewery, and into the Pacific Ocean.
It took seven minutes to fill the boat with about 1,000 gallons of ocean water — 800 gallons in the hull and an additional 200 gallons that went into a giant tub that was also on board. We were essentially sinking the boat in a controlled way.
Once we were as full of water as we could be, we returned to the brewery and pumped everything on board into the brew system through a filtration system.
After three trips into the Pacific, we collected [more than] 3,000 gallons that we boiled down for hours, reducing it to a concentrated salt solution.
Forbes: Tell me about the brewing process and any challenges you came up against.
BD: The biggest challenge with Just a Pinch was making the salt for the brew. It took three trips to bring in all the salt for the beer and then it took about a day to boil the sea water and then another week to extract the salt from the water. It was a labor-intensive process to get the salt evenly dehydrated, but one we really wanted to take on ourselves using salt from our own backyard. It took a coordinated effort from the entire team to get the final product out the door, but it was well worth the effort.
Forbes: What, do you think, this beer will pair the best with as far as food pairings go?
BD: All of our beers include food pairings on the packaging. The food pairings for Just a Pinch are melon balls, Dungeness crab and key lime pie.
Forbes: Salt is trending in cocktails, too. Can you tell me where you feel this trend will be going in the next year or so?
BD: Salt has always been used to enhance the flavor profile of food, and it can do the same thing for drinks. Because of this, we expect to see more salted cocktails in the future.