Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be anything left to turn pink this month, four local brewers are raising money for cancer research by creating—yep—pink beer. Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn, Va., is collaborating with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Va., and D.C.’s forthcoming Bluejacket brewery to release a special beer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Pretty in Pink: Awareness Ferments Hope, a 6 percent alcohol saison brewed with pomegranate and hibiscus, will be brightening up bars and restaurants throughout D.C. and northern Virginia starting this week. The project is the brainchild of Lost Rhino Executive Chef Becky Jordan, who reached out to brewers Megan Parisi of Bluejacket, Rachael Cardwell of Hardywood Park, and Kristi Mathews Griner of Vintage 50 to create a beer celebrating her grandmother and other men and women involved in the fight against breast cancer.
“We didn’t want a classic pink like the pink ribbon. We wanted to make the color reasonable while maintaining the flavor profile, which is more important. If it’s not a delicious and drinkable beer, it’s a gimmick,” explains Bluejacket’s Parisi.
After experimenting on Hardywood’s small system to see which doses of pomegranate, hibiscus, guava, or prickly pear would best complement Cardwell’s saison recipe, the four women ended up with using 65 gallons of pomegranate puree and 5 pounds of hibiscus per 50-barrel batch. After a 12-hour brew day at Lost Rhino in late September, the result, according to Jordan, is “a typical saison, light and refreshing” with a tart flavor that is “not too much like grapefruit but has a nice sour finish.”
“It has a nice, lively taste to it, and a color that is not so pink that a guy would be embarrassed to sit at the bar and drink it,” adds Mathews Griner. “It’s pink but not ‘oh my gosh’ pink.”
All four are members of the Pink Boots Society, an educational organization for women in the beer industry. The beer’s label is a nod to that group. However, Parisi clarifies that the project is not solely about or for women.
Parisi, whose father had breast cancer, explains, “The goal was a great beer, not a pink beer or a girly beer. The whole idea of the pink is to emphasize the particular project. But even if women are primarily the ones diagnosed with breast cancer, everyone is affected: husbands, brothers, sons. We happen to be women brewing this beer but the project is not all about women.”
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
So where can you expect to find Pretty in Pink? This week you can catch two events, both with the people behind the beer in attendance. ChurchKey is hosting a debut party on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. which will also feature two other new Bluejacket collaborations: Mad Jacket, a helles weizenbock brewed at Mad Fox in Falls Church, and Freestyle #10, a rye saison brewed at Oxbow Beer in Newcastle, Me. On Friday, The Black Squirrel is throwing a Pretty in Pink party complete with red velvet cupcakes starting at 5 p.m.
The first batch will be on draft at each brewery’s tasting room and the more than 150 bars and restaurants throughout D.C. and northern Virginia that you’d usually find Lost Rhino brews. A second batch will be packaged in bottles and should be in stores soon.
But if you miss out, don’t worry. According to Cardwell, the plan is to continue the project annually. “We all worked really well together and plan on doing it every year. We want to make it bigger by inviting more female brewers to participate and brew batches of it at each of the breweries,” she explains.
Image courtesy of Lost Rhino Brewing Company