The easygoing drink. The curious mix methods. The little horse around. These random words are garden path sentences. And, they are beers brewed by Garden Path Fermentation.
Created and operated by Amber Watts and Ron Extract, Garden Path Fermentation (GPF) is located in Burlington near the Skagit Regional Airport. The turquoise building is inviting, with plenty of outdoor seating and string lights. Inside, colorful bottles line the walls.
On the other side of the bar, magic happens. Barrels are stacked to the ceiling; the air smells like yeast. Beer, wine, mead, and cider are being made.
Watts, a beer drinker, and Extract, a former brewer, met in Chicago at a beer bar in 2004. Eventually, Extract switched to wholesale distribution and importing, working for Shelton Brothers for eight years. After moving to Texas and meeting the folks who started Jester King Brewery, Extract became a partner. At the time, Watts was working in academia, but after the couple moved to Austin, she began working for Jester King as well.
“I had spent the previous 15 years or more helping other people to refine and achieve their visions, and I really liked what I was doing. I loved what I did… but, when I left, it was time to move on,” Extract says. “Amber also wasn’t a partner [at Jester King] and we really wanted to build something together. That was our vision.”
The pair envisioned starting their own business in a place where local ingredients were readily available and the climate would allow them to embrace natural temperature fluctuations. In 2016, they landed in Skagit Valley. Initially, they wanted to grow their own ingredients, but farming was a lot to tackle on top of everything else.
They now source ingredients as locally as possible. Their fruit and honey are from Skagit Valley while their hops are from the Pacific Northwest. Their grain is grown in Skagit and malted at Skagit Valley Malting, and they ferment their products in oak using 100% native yeast.
“Except for some of our hops, all of our ingredients basically come from within 20 miles of the brewery,” Watts says. “I don’t know how many other breweries in the world can say that.”
In April of 2018, they opened GPF with a different goal in mind than many other breweries in Skagit and Whatcom. While other breweries value consistency, Watts and Extract aim to create new, surprising experiences for their customers with different beverage editions. Similar to a farm-to-table restaurant experience, where the meal is dependent on the availability of ingredients, each GPF batch is dependent upon variables such as grain, temperature, and time.
Each beverage is available for purchase at the brewery and online:
The Little Horse Around.
This is no dog and pony show; it’s just simple, well-balanced beer. The Little Horse Around series is oak-fermented, dry-hopped table beer, bottle-conditioned with honey.
Black is Beautiful.
Brewed in collaboration with Otherlands Beer as part of the Black is Beautiful Collaboration Project, this beer was the brainchild of Weathered Souls brewery out of San Antonio Texas, where the recipe was created. This idea was to brew a beer for which all proceeds support Black communities and fight for justice against police brutality. Many breweries around the country participated, making their own version of this beer and donating proceeds.
The Local Harvest Madeleine Angevine 2018.
This wine is made with Skagit-grown Madeleine Angevine grapes and fermented by native yeast with minimal intervention. Bringing a floral aroma with hints of citrus and herbs, this beautiful bottle finishes crisp, bright, and dry.
11653 Higgins Airport Way, Burlington, 360.503.8956, gardenpathwa.com