On Sale

Melchemy Craft Mead: Makers in the Forest

By Ryan Gaughn, Alcohol Buyer

As the alcohol buyer at the Co-op, it’s one of my great pleasures to discover new, exciting beverages for our shelves – products which stand out from the crowd and speak to the place we share on this planet.  Mead is one of these specialties that, with a somewhat undeserved bad reputation, is nevertheless perhaps one of the truest expressions of our region’s flora.

Mead is known as the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. It is the end product of fermented honey, water, and additional botanicals. Evidence of human production of mead dates as far back as 7000 BC in China, where found pottery remnants contain chemical clues of the beverage. Mead has played a prominent role in Greek and Scandinavian early civilization, where it was often produced in places or times when making wine from grapes was not available (or not yet known of). Several centuries of innovations in alcohol production – beer and various liquors, primarily – and the international transport of wine resulted in greatly decreased mead production, to the point where it was almost forgotten.

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In recent years, the Pacific Northwest has seen a burgeoning revival of this ancient delight. Spurred by innovation (and an overtapped beer market) but definitely rooted in a quest to continue the legacy of PNW craft beverage exceptionalism – mead producers in Oregon & Washington have dug up the old techniques, and thrown out the overly sweet amateur mead stand-ins. Just as wine and cider consumers have grown accustomed to terroir – the idea that the ingredients in an alcoholic beverage can impart a sense of the place in which they are grown – so, too, does honey production suggest the flavors of plants and crops in our bioregion. Bees, afterall, are critical players in modern human survival, being responsible for a massive portion of the pollination required in industrial farming, both conventional and organic.

I’m very pleased to present Melchemy Craft Mead as a harbinger of the great things to come for this category of alcohol.  Produced by two friends, Tim and Jeffree, from their beautiful communal home and farm property in Carson, WA, Melchemy Mead holds many values – as a brand and a product – that are in alignment with the Ends Statement at People’s:

A passionate community working together for sustainability, progressive land and animal stewardship, human rights, social and economic justice.

My visit to Melchemy began shortly after a trip over Bridge of the Gods, and into the beginning of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southern Washington. The property is nestled into a  tree lined mountain side, and it doesn’t take long to feel as if you’ve left much of the contemporary world behind. It’s difficult to believe that not that long ago colonizing interests coordinated the large scale clear cutting of timber in this region. In fact, the land we were standing on was probably devoid of vegetation in the mid-20th century, like much of this part of the Columbia Gorge, as trees were pulled from the land en masse to fund the accumulation of capital.

“We have a neighbor who logged in this area,” Jeffree tells me.  “He can tell you exactly which acres came down, for miles. It’s a source of pride for him, and many people in this community.”

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Jeffree’s speaking to a reality of life and economic existence in the region which has profound implications. The land we’re standing on as we talk is the ancestral home of the Wishram Tribe, members of what is currently known as the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. For centuries, the Wishram harvested food from the forest and the great river which flowed below it. As this area was colonized, workers from around the world were imported to extract seemingly endless natural resources.

In current Carson, WA – as in much of Skamania County – the remnants of small, colonizer communities linger around a severely diminished timber industry. For much of the latter part of the 20th century, environmentalists and the timber industry in this region engaged in struggles mutually held as critical for human survival and prosperity under the backdrop of the Gifford Pinchot, some of the last remaining, pristine rainforest in the state.

“How do you make money in the forest, other than cutting down trees?” Jeffree asks. It’s a great question, because the geography of land here – mountainous, rugged – prohibits large scale agriculture and urbanity from sprawling along its surface.

Addressing this question, and breathing new economic (and sustainable) life into Skamania County is a key component of Melchemy’s mission. Tim and Jeffree routinely participate in the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, a democratic multi-stakeholder advocacy organization frequently attended by the U.S. Forest Service. It’s part of a next generation of forest preservation, in which environmentalists, logging communities, tribes, and business owners meet to talk face to face about balancing the survival of the forest with the economy of sustainable logging. Melchemy Craft Mead has a place in that, operating as a small business with a big mission: build a producer and service economy in the region with as minimal environmental impact as possible.

Beehives kept on the land represent that work. The homestead employs biodynamic farming practices, in which the plants and animals of the surrounding area, along with the seasonal elements of wind, sun, and rain, are integrated into land use decisions. The bees here collect pollen from the Wind River Valley, imparting terroir into the honey they produce. While some of the honey harvested from their hives ends up in Melchemy products, much more is needed to achieve the 17 gallons required for a 275 bottle batch. Priorities are placed on sourcing the most local honey possible, with 10% coming from an ultra local network of beekeepers, and the remainder being sourced from elsewhere in the Columbia Gorge and the Willamette Valley.

Jeffree and Tim are quick to dispel what appears to be a growing piece of misinformation, perhaps promulgated by new mead producers, that increased production of honey counteracts the diminishment of bee populations. Many consumers have become aware of Colony Collapse Disorder, and other complications in bee survival that have been publicized in recent years.  Much of the threat to bees is directly correlated to their interstate transportation for agricultural purposes – primarily to California, and especially for almond tree pollination – and the bees’ exposure to transport stress, pesticides, and herbicides throughout the duration of their work in the fields. While it would be ideal for Melchemy to source honey exclusively from beekeepers who do not participate in this practice, it is simply not economically feasible for them to do so and keep their prices accessible. “The economy values bees for pollination fees,” Tim tells me. “The honey is a by-product.”

Melchemy believes very strongly in this degree of transparency in what they do – from the ingredients sourced for their mead, to their place as landowners and business people in their community. Each bottle produced is hand numbered; you can view the ingredients used in the bottle and their sourcing by visiting their website and correlating the batch number. Their website, www.melchemy.wine, also contains a great deal of information about the mead making process and the founders’ philosophy of land stewardship and community development. One exciting piece of this for me is their commitment to developing Melchemy as a worker-owned business. Both partners want to participate in a business that directly profits the people who produce its products, rather than a small group of investors.

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I invite you to enjoy Melchemy Craft Mead this upcoming fall and winter. This mead is a perfect compliment to feasting in the colder months, and a lively addition to cheer around the dinner table. We currently carry “Uprooted” – infused with ginger, turmeric, and peppercorn – and blackberry-infused “Triple Bee”. Both are aged in oak barrels, and are not overly sweet or syrupy.

These meads retail at $21.99, but are on sale at $18.99 throughout the month of October. Come give them a try!






Serving the Land with Cider: Finnriver Farm & Cidery

This story was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Grass/Roots. Read the whole issue here!

by Ryan Gaughn, Alcohol Buyer

It was a People’s customer who first clued me in to Finnriver products. Having tried a cocktail featuring raspberry brandy wine, they started to look around the city to buy a bottle, without much luck. I contacted Finnriver, who dispatched a sales rep to our store almost immediately. From the moment I first tasted that raspberry brandy wine, I knew these products were something special, and a cursory view of Finnriver’s business ethics, particularly with land and animal stewardship, fell right in line with our values as a co-op.

In late September 2016 I was invited to participate in a tour of Finnriver’s farms and cidery, located in the beautiful Chimacum Valley in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Along with other alcohol buyers and retailers from Oregon & Washington, I was treated to a first hand, in-depth look at how this cidery accentuates a regional growing and production focus, coupled with a commitment to responsible agricultural practices acting in harmony with the region’s lush natural ecosystem.

Finnriver maintains two farms in the Chimacum area. The central hub of production for the cidery is located just 3 miles away from Finnriver’s main apple & pear orchards. This property hosts vegetable, berry, and hoop-house gardening operations which provide supplemental ingredients in Finnriver products. It was here that I received a tour of the cider making process.  Large bushels of apples are primed and pressed, with juice separating from the pulp in a mechanized pressing. From there, the fresh juice is pumped into massive fermentation tanks, where the addition of yeast and other ingredients encourages the magic that brings cider to life. 

This production facility is seamlessly integrated with the certified organic farm that surrounds it. The entire property is also certified Salmon Safe. Through intentional efforts by Finnriver, spawning salmon have recently begun to return to a creek that runs through the property, after generations of absence due to environmental harm from livestock farming in the area. 

Later in our tour, we travelled to Finnriver’s newest property acquisition, a 50 acre certified organic orchard. Finnriver has been integral in converting this lush soil, which was used as dairy land since the late 1800s, into a magnificent orchard of several thousand apple and pear trees.  Many of these trees are traditional, tannic varieties of apples not commonly found in grocery stores. This location is also where Finnriver has its tasting room and bottle shop, where many extra special products not currently available for sale in Oregon can be tasted and purchased. 

Finnriver operates both properties in partnership with the Jefferson Land Trust. This partnership ensures that the land on which Finnriver operates will remain designated for agricultural purposes in perpetuity — an important protective measure in an area of the state where extra-urban development is increasing (the Chimacum Valley is located South of Port Townsend, across the Puget Sound from Seattle). Much like Our Table Cooperative, a farm operation based out of Sherwood, Oregon which also borders areas experiencing urban development, land trusts help integrate food resources, sustainability, and the needs of urban dwellers by maintaining legally binding regulations which protect agricultural land for future generations.

Oh, and Finnriver cider is really tasty, too! I strongly encourage you to try out some of my favorites!

The Contemporary Series of ciders are the most widely distributed and produced of Finnriver’s selection. The introduction of a small amount of organic cane sugar in the production process helps round out the dryness of the cider, without creating an overly sweet “apple juice” like effect. Two of my favorites are the Sparkling Black Currant, which has an amazing, deep purple wine-like color, and the Habanero, an infused cider that leaves a really exciting spiciness in the endnotes.

If you’re looking for something to bring to a special occasion or dinner, consider the Artisan Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Cider. This painstaking cider-making process requires a secondary fermentation process that takes place in the bottle, which results in a very effervescent sparkling beverage similar to champagne. This bottle is a great substitute for wine, and definitely more on the dry end of the cider spectrum.

For something completely different, pick up a bottle of Raspberry Brandy Wine, a higher alcohol content dessert wine. Raspberries grown on Finnriver farms are coupled with apple brandy wine, producing a dessert beverage to be enjoyed in small pours. Finnriver brandy wines are very versatile, and can be used as toppings on ice cream, in homemade salad dressings, and as a lively kick to sparkling water, to name a few.

Definitely keep an eye out for Finnriver’s Seasonal Botanical ciders. This is a rotating series of bottles that feature unique combinations of herbs and ingredients. In the beginning of 2017, keep an eye out for Cranberry Rosehip and Solstice Saffron.

 

October is Co-op Month!

What is Co-op Month?

Every year, we celebrate Co-op Month in October, as co-ops all around the country do. We offer incentives for folks to invest in their co-op share or to become a Member-Owner, decorate the store, host co-op related events in the Community Room, and take a minute to celebrate our Member-Owners, our store, and the somewhat miraculous thing we’ve built together.

And there are great reasons to invest! Employees at food co-ops make almost a dollar per hour more, on average, than at conventional grocers, and more get health insurance through their workplace. Co-ops work directly with more farmers and producers, and sell way more organic and local food – almost eight times as much as a percentage of sales. They also recycle more, and are more energy efficient. Plus, their owned by the people that use them, rather than individuals. We share in the wealth that we create, and create wealth beyond profits. 

This October in particular, as we nail down our long-term plan, the dollars that you invest in your Co-op go toward growing our store and the positive impact that it has in our community. So thanks for investing, shopping, and supporting – together, we own it! 

INVEST

Become a Member-Owner, or invest in your share! In October, there are a few extra incentives for your investment. 

$15: An Equal Exchange chocolate bar

$30: A limited edition People's mug + an Equal Exchange chocolate bar

$60: A Chinook Book + a People's mug + an Equal Exchange chocolate bar

Plus, every investment made during Co-op Month enters you to win an awesome gift basket from Equal Exchange, a worker-owned co-op!

SHOP

During Co-op Month, we're offering special sales to show appreciation for our Member-Owners and co-op community!

All Hard Cider is 10% off, all of October!

From Finnriver to Cider Riot, all hard cider is 10% off for all of October! Stock up on your favorite brands and flavors, or try all the others we have in stock! 

 

LEARN

Looking to learn more about the Co-op and connect with more with your co-op community? 

Pick up a Co-op Passport!

Portland's food co-ops - People's, Food Front, and Alberta - have teamed up to offer a special coupon to anyone that visits all three during Co-op Month! Pick up a passport at a register at any of the co-ops, and get it marked when you visit each one. When you've filled it out, enjoy $10 off of a purchase of $30 or more at the co-op of your choice! And relish in the feeling that you've shopped at all of these community institutions. 

People's Food Co-op Harvest Ale: In Stock Now!

It's back!  Our amazingly popular Harvest Ale returns to the Co-op, available while supplies last! 

We've teamed up again with Captured By Porches to bring you this pale ale, featuring ingredients entirely grown in Oregon.  Slightly hoppy, with a mild sweetness to round everything out, it's the perfect companion to watch the seasons change and celebrate the bounty of our harvest season.  Pick up a bottle for $4.99 at the Co-op, or stop by the People's Food Co-op Harvest Festival on September 14 to enjoy a freshly poured pint in our beer garden. 

This beer makes a perfect gift for friends and family, and a wonderful compliment for your own pallet!  Cheers!

Anniversary Sale! 9/26 & 9/27

In honor of our 45th Anniversary, join us for an incredible sale in the courtyard!  

This list is by no means complete - come check out the sale on Saturday and Sunday and see all the deals in person!  Everything on sale outside by the case will be for sale individually inside the store.   

     We will be giving away this folding bike during the sale!  All you have to do to enter to win is buy a case of SeaSnax - one lucky case will have a golden ticket inside! 

 

We will be giving away this folding bike during the sale!  All you have to do to enter to win is buy a case of SeaSnax - one lucky case will have a golden ticket inside! 

Sale prices are valid only while supplies last.  We cannot take special orders for Anniversary Sale items.  No discounts apply to Anniversary Sale items (including Member-Owner Quarterly 10% off postcard, Food for All discounts, Hands on Owner discounts, or staff discounts.  

This special sale will take place in the courtyard and the store will be open for business as usual.  

There will be a register outside that can process checks, credit, debit, and EBT cards for outside purchases.  No cash will be taken outside.    

Local, Organic Cantaloupe on sale 50c/LB!

That's right, you read right!

Organic Cantaloupe from Hermiston, Oregon is on sale until Sunday night 8/2!

Every tried grilling these juicy melons?  

The smokey heat of the grill brings out the sweet, carmel flavor and gets juices flowing even before it hits your mouth.  

You've got the grill, we've got the melon.  Come on by!