Piney River Brewing Company, based in Bucyrus, Missouri, has invented a beer that I especially admire: their Black Walnut Wheat. It’s delicious!
Since there’s nothing not to like about it, let’s go directly to why we love it!
Because we love black walnuts! It’s Missouri’s official state tree nut. Our state is the top producer of black walnuts in the world, and we like them, and we’re proud of them.
I’ve blogged about black walnuts before—shown their progress as they mature; told you about the delicious pickled black walnuts produced by Barnacle Farms in Mary’s Home, Missouri; even shown you pictures of a variety of critters drinking the late-January sap of the walnut tree in our backyard.
I think everyone should have a big black walnut tree in their backyard!
And we can’t have our lebkuchen or our billy goat Christmas cookies without black walnuts!
Since I’m so proud of Missouri’s black walnuts, when I first saw this beer on tap at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, I had to give it a try: Black walnut beer, really?
And there’s something to that local pride, isn’t there. It’s September, and it’s that time of year when the Hammons company, based in Stockton, Missouri, establishes black walnut hulling stations around the state. This is a distinctly Missouri thing, which the Piney River beer celebrates on its label.
The deal is, black walnuts are harvested by hand, by anyone. Whether you’re collecting them for yourself or selling them to Hammons, the company makes it easy for you. It’s a messy, involved process to hull them (that is, remove the sloppy, black-staining green or black outer part), which is the first step in getting to the nutmeats.
So people bring buckets, bags, and pickup trucks full of black walnuts to these processing stations, where Hammons hulls them using really cool-looking machines. (It’s great fun to watch!) At the time of processing, you can either sell your bounty to Hammons, or if you want to take your walnuts home and try to bust them open and pick out the nutmeats yourself, you just pay them for the processing.
If you’re interested in harvesting and cracking your own nuts, read Hammons’s webpage about how to do it. Once you’ve tried it yourself, you’ll understand why black walnuts cost so much at the store.
Anyway—the limited seasonality, the gathering of people it causes, the promise of all those good Christmas cookies, and the idea of genuine riches growing on the trees without any help from you, besides picking it up after it’s fallen, plus the crispness and blue skies of early fall, all makes black walnut harvest seem like a celebration.
And that’s what I get from the fact that this beer exists: Someone else feels this same way. Right on, Piney River Brewing Company!