Mike Detar’s dreams are so vivid you can almost taste them.
He talks of beers made from hops and grain grown on his family’s 44-acre Liberty Lake spread. He envisions brewing his organic wild ales in hollowed-out tree trunks and creating a cave to condition the bottles.
But first, Detar needs to make some money to get his new brewery, the Hidden Mother (after the yeasts that give birth to beer), off the ground. So his initial, more mainstream releases – a smoked porter and an imperial rye stout – are about ready to roll out in kegs to area accounts.
“This is my baby, and I need to get things moving,” said Detar, who previously brewed at Paradise Creek in Pullman. “It’s been a pretty crazy run so far, for sure.”
Detar, 33, grew up here but moved to the Bay Area at age 18 on a bicycling team sponsorship. He worked for 11 years at a bakery in Berkeley, which “opened up that whole world of yeast cultivation.”
It also taught him the importance of a creative, passionate approach. “It’s not just a recipe. It’s what you’re putting into it,” he said.
He began homebrewing eight years ago and decided to go professional, selling his house to fund the project. It was going to cost too much in California, so he moved back here in the fall of 2013.
Detar’s five-barrel brewhouse was built by a metal-fabricating friend in Oakland. He bought fermenters from Selkirk Abbey and Waddell’s.
On Feb. 1, he was finally ready for his first official brew day – one which started at 8:30 a.m. and ended 18 hours later, as he worked to get the system dialed in. The second brew last week was a bit better, at 13 hours.
He’s still figuring things out. The stout, typically 10.5 percent alcohol by volume, came in at 8.5 percent while the porter was 5.5 compared to the usual 7.5, though samples show the flavor didn’t suffer.
Now it’s time to start selling the beer, something Detar hopes will be helped by his industry connections from Paradise Creek and from working at Crafted Tap House in Coeur d’Alene. Along with distribution, he plans to open a taproom soon, preferably in a location that also can serve as a barrel-aging facility.
Barrel-aging and blending are key to the spontaneously fermented, typically sour beers he wants to produce. “I’m trying to get every beer I make into wood,” he said – not just barrels, but fermenting in trees, or running the beers through trees, like pine, that have too much pitch to ferment properly.
“I’ve used four trees so far, and they’ve all had drastically different properties,” Detar said.
He’s also acquiring two open metal fermenters, called coolships. One will be placed in a tack barn with a retractable ceiling that can bring wild yeast and bacteria closer to or farther from the fermenting beer, depending on the effect he’s seeking. Another will go in a horse trailer to move around the property, “just to see what kind of different bugs I can get.”
Mushroom beers will be another specialty. Detar has done the likes of a smoked red with morels, and a Belgian golden ale with chanterelles.
He already has 1,000 hop shoots in the ground, and plans to pick up another 2,000 before long. He’s aiming for an eventual 10 acres of hops, along with more limited amounts of barley and rye.
“I’m looking in the next eight years to do full-estate beers,” he said, “with all the ingredients coming from the grounds.”