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Commemorative PLU brew celebrates 500 years of the Reformation

Posted by: Date: June 14, 2017
By Kari Plog '11 | Video by Rustin Dwyer with additional footage from John Froschauer
PLU Marketing & Communications

If the raised fist on the bottle is any indication, Reformaiden beer makes a statement.

The German, alt-style beer — boasting a cloudy caramel color and a subtle malt flavor — immortalizes Katharina von Bora, the woman who stood beside and, in many ways, propped up the Great Reformer Martin Luther.

“Dear Kate,” as Luther called his beloved wife, bore six children; she ran the household and organized the finances; she ministered to the sick and opened her home to orphans; she grew much of the family’s food, raised livestock and cooked.  

And among all her exploits in the home and otherwise, Dear Kate still managed to find time to brew beer. Reformaiden is a tribute to her memory and the memory of the Lutheran Reformation, 500 years after it began. Wingman Brewers, with head brewer Ken Thoburn ’09 at the helm, created the commemorative brew to help Pacific Lutheran University mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It’s one piece of a yearlong series of events meant to capture the spirit of Lutheran values deeply rooted in the institution.    

“This is the first time we get to do something this cool,” Thoburn said on brewing day. “This is most similar to the style that Katharina would have made.”

To prepare the beer, Thoburn researched lager from the Düsseldorf region of Germany. He networked with other brewers and conducted online research to guarantee the recipe was right and, more importantly, authentic.

They even altered the water to create a similar mineral content to that of the beer von Bora would have brewed. The result of the combination of the perfect water, malt and yeast? A craft beer that offers a nod to its German roots while offering a modern flavor that’s hard to resist.

“Crisp and malty is what we’re aiming for,” Thoburn said roughly a month before the tasty brew was bottled.

And they nailed it. The roughly 220 gallons of beer brewed was packaged in 22-ounce bottles, amounting to 60 cases to be sold for a limited time. The university and the brewery in downtown Tacoma will sell bottles and cases until they run out, so beer enthusiasts better get to it before it’s gone.

It’s available at 208 Garfield, and will be served at various events related to the 500th anniversary celebration.

The beer will officially debut at the Southwest Washington Synod Assembly, hosted at PLU June 16-17. After that, Lutes are invited to enjoy a tall, cold glass of brew in the name of Dear Kate. Prost!

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