Craft breweries are popping up everywhere. But what doesn't happen often, is when the place where the wheat is actually ground and the beer actually brewed and sampled, all taking place within a few blocks of each other.
All of these ingredients will come together on Saturday, Sept. 24, as part of the Pella Historical Society and Museum's Fall Festival, or Tarwe Fest (Wheat Fest). Five Pella-area home brewers will use wheat specially ground by the Vermeer Windmill to create their beers--and give samples to thirsty visitors.
Loren Blom, who heads up the Cenosilicaphobia Club (that's "Fear of Empty Glasses"), says the wheat must be crushed, but not ground, necessitating a different milling process for the millers. Since ground flour plus water would create a paste, the wheat is simply cracked, allowing the brewers to extract the water from the grain.
Then, Blom says, several of the home brewers use a special process called "cereal mashing" prior to the normal mashing process. This involves soaking and boiling the grain until it's a gelatin-like consistency.
Having a beer made from wheat gives it a unique flavor, Blom says. "Depending on the yeast, hops and other grains used, the beer will have a bready or grainy flavor plus other flavors such as citrus, coriander, banana, or some earthy/woodsy sensations," he says. "The color could be a very pale straw to brown. Wheat beers are often cloudy with a large white or off white head."
You can come taste the recipes that the brewers have used--and in some cases, created--at the Wheat Fest. The day is part of a Friday/Saturday festival that includes artisans who will be blacksmithing, weaving rugs, cooking in Dutch ovens, and more; in addition, you'll be able to tour the Vermeer Windmill--the largest working windmill in the United States--as well as the Historical Village, which includes the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp.
Fest hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24. Admission is $15 per family, $8 for individuals, with Society members free. The beer tastings on Saturday afternoon are part of the admission price. Visit the Pella Historical Society online for more information.