Averie Swanson is the Flavor Brewer

By Brad Japhe | Will Blunt


Brad Japhe
Will Blunt
Brewer Averie Swanson holding "The Art of Space" table saison
Brewer Averie Swanson holding "The Art of Space" table saison

Although Brewer Averie Swanson’s speciality is mixed-culture fermentation—a subset of beer dependent upon multiple species of yeasts and bacteria, some of which are wild and often unpredictable—her formula for success is fairly straightforward. Essentially, she thinks like a chef. Her technique feels like it borrows pages from the chef playbook The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

“My approach to recipe development is greatly informed by the gastronomic experiences that I have had in my life,” Swanson says. “Everything from childhood snacks to 20-course meals at the best restaurants in the world inspire the beers that I make.” 

The brews at Keeping Together are fermented with a combination of yeasts and bacterias that Swanson has cultivated and maintained since she launched the company. She carefully tends to an in-house culture much like a baker stewards her own sourdough starter. Flavors are incorporated through both raw materials and fermentation byproducts from the microflora of the culture. 

“The culture changes and evolves, the same way all living things do,” says Swanson, who spent the majority of her brewing career at Jester King in Texas. “I might start out with an idea of how I want a final beer to present, but more often than not, the culture will guide the beer in a direction that is slightly different than what my original vision was. I feel that by deferring to the expression of the culture for a given beer, I am able to create something greater than the sum of its parts—the final product ends up being something highly unique and special.”

Although the range of flavors are as nuanced as they are varied, they all fall under the catchall umbrella of saison (or farmhouse ales). The Art of Holding Space is a dry and slightly acidic table beer meant to accentuate any meal with which it’s paired. Human Attention is Sacred marries hibiscus, cinnamon, and ginger salt into an orangish elixir that drinks like a Loire Valley rosé. Charting a more contemporary course, From the Outer Edge of Inner Space offers the assertive bitterness of galaxy hops—a modern craft darling. 

But it’s one particular output, Preoccupied With Memory and Expectation, that perhaps best embodies the Swanson ethos. Brewed with Japanese red shiso leaf and burnt honey, it finishes with a pleasantly creamy, coconut profile. Swanson counts it as among the most interesting beers in her portfolio. 

“Several ingredients that are seemingly entirely unrelated and disparate come together to create an incredibly integrated and wholly unique flavor experience,” she says. “If you can pick out individual elements, I think I haven’t done my job.” No one who has ever experienced Swanson’s beers could credibly accuse her of that.

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