Firestone Walker and Parabola

In Pasa Robles, CA, sits what is without a doubt one of the best breweries in the country, if not the world. I had not heard of Firestone Walker until just a few years ago, and now I can't imagine how they escaped my - and the world's - radar for so long. Perhaps it's because their beer only became available in Oregon about a year ago.
Firestone Walker uses a version of the classic brewing method Burton Union, a complex system of fermenting beer in oak barrels and blending them. For example, each year's anniversary beer is a blend of various other beers they have aging in barrels.

If you're a fan of low-alcohol and easy-drinking (yet complex) beers, seek out their DBA, an English-style pale ale, or Pale 31, an American pale ale. But if you ask me, the Union Jack IPA, with its huge hop quotient of some of my favorite varietals, including Simcoe, Cascade and Amarillo, among others, balanced by a chewy malt profile, is the way to go. Or, if you like dark beers, Firestone Walker's partially barrel-aged oatmeal stout, the Velvet Merkin, is hard to beat. It's beefy and complex yet low alcohol.

With Firestone Walker's known mastery of barrel-aging and blending, it is with much anticipation that they finally have bottled Parabola. This is a beer some (including myself) may have tried at special events on draft in Portland, but I've never had a chance to really have some time with the beer...

Making Of A Beer Label

Not sure how many readers will be interested in a post about the making of a beer label, an Upright Brewing label to be exact. Perhaps this post is of only interest to myself, but let's find out.
As some know I design artwork for breweries, including Upright. I have learned about a number of topics while designing the
14 or so labels that have gone to print, including layout, design and, unfortunately, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).
I am currently working on the label for Late Harvest, an amber-brown Farmhouse Ale spiced with Peppercorns, Grains Of Paradise and Pomegranate Seeds before it was aged in Pinot Barrels, where it picked up some wild yeasts and became to be a pretty sour beer. The underlying drawing of the 'Late Harvest' label is pictured above.
The big question was how to translate this beer into a label. The name 'Late Harvest' actually came after the label design idea, so we had almost nothing to go on. Eventually we came up with the idea of integrating the harvest and working farmers, which lead me to center the artwork around a hand - specifically, a dirty hand stained by the earth, spices and fruits. I think it best communicates farming and harvest.

In the image I have penciled out the very basic design of the hand with grains and seeds both falling and being tossed up like a hand pulling a handful from a bag.
I scanned the image into Photoshop and am in the process of layering various colors on top of the black and white drawing to add much more depth and detail to the hands. Hard to say exactly where things will go, I haven't even figured out the background yet. I like to leave the first drawings somewhat open so that I can add in any ideas that come to me along the way and change things that do not work.

Below are just a few of the layers of the Upright Oyster Stout label that highlight how they came together. This is just a simplified version of the different elements:

The Weekly Taps: 5/28-5/30

The Weekly Taps compiles brand new and interesting/rare beers on draft in the Portland, OR area. There are many resources for bottled beers and major releases but few that keep up with special drafts that are released with little fanfare that are sometimes gone within a few days.

This week there is a small but interesting collection of new beers and recently released seasonals.
Want your new taps listed on The Weekly Taps? If your a brewer, bar/restaurant owner or manager email me at SamuraiArtist1 at

See You On The Other Side

This will be my last post from the west coast, at least for the foreseeable future. My path continues to the east coast (either in Boston, MA or Nashville, TN) where I will begin graduate school in the late summer after spending a couple of months with my family in New Jersey. Since this column focuses on cheese and beer available in the Pacific Northwest, it seems that this move puts me at a crossroads as far as relevance is concerned.

Laurelwood Pizza Co. to close, New Brewery to Open

I recently learned from a New School tipster that Laurelwood Pizza Co., the well-loved family restaurant and brewpub, will be closing at the end of the year. Many know that the current Pizza Co. location was the original location and primary brewery for the Laurelwood empire before they opened the larger brewery and pub on NE 51st and Sandy.
Beyond the surprising news of the closure, the space will be taken over by a new and unrelated new brewery!

More details below...

New Brew Odyssey: What the Non Beer Geek from Out of Town Said

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the folks from Travel Portland, and they asked me to lead a brief, one hour tasting for some visiting travel writers. They were bringing these writers to town in the hope that they would write a story on Portland’s “liquid assets.” They were going to Stumptown, Cacao, Clear Creek, House Spirits, and Beaker and Flask as well. My one hour with them was a minor part in their Portland adventure, so I figured I would do my best to impress them with some of the city’s best beers.
I was asked to do a flight of beers from Portland breweries, so I chose six, well-respected beers that highlight the full range of the city’s offerings: Upright Brewing's Gose, Hopworks IPA, Laurelwood’s Portland Roast Espresso Stout, Cascade Apricot Ale, Hair of the Dog Adam, and Full Sail Top Sail. This lineup was a surefire victory for Portland, right? The range of flavors, complexity, and characterfulness in this set of beers would win over even the biggest of beer skeptics. Even if these folks didn’t love beer themselves, they would have to walk away impressed with the beers our brewers are producing...

5 New Beers Reviewed

It has been awhile since we put up a beer review, so today we have 5 of them - Buckbean's Orange Blossom Ale, Widmer's Sunburn, Great Northern's Black Star Lager, Stone's El Camino Un-Real (a collaboration beer with Firestone Walker and 21st Ammendment brewing) and Bridgeport's 2010 version of Stumptown Tart.

Last week I got together a group of friends and contributors to The New School to taste a few seasonals and new releases of styles from all over the board. I asked each reviewer to write some quick notes and score each beer on a 0-5 scale overall. This way you get more of an overall sense of each beer from different perspectives, and not just one reviewer's biased opinion.

Liquid Fruit

Fruit is one of the most common accompaniments to cheese. Many restaurants serve a hors d’oeuvre or dessert plate with a mixture of cheese and fruit. Without overstating the point, I believe this recurrent theme is well founded upon the human palate; it is a natural combination, as various fruit notes are ubiquitous in the flavor profile of many fine cheeses.

In fact, it is the fruit flavors lent to beer in the form of yeast-derived esters as well as flavor and aroma hop additions that I believe suit beer as a champion match for many cheeses. Added to this, of course, are the fresh bread notes that many beers bring to cheese pairings.

The Weekly Taps 5/20-5/24

This week is a good one. There are almost too many new beers to report with American Craft Beer Week in full effect and other random seasonals and goodness being tapped all over town.

If you don't know, The Weekly Taps is a compilation of new and/or interesting beers on tap in the Portland, OR area. I compile this list - with descriptions, if possible - over the course of each week. Every week new beers are released that are interesting and worthy of attention, but fly under the radar, and this column is a good way of highlighting them.

Highlights of this week are
Rock Bottom and Lompoc's daily new or special beer tappings for ACB Week and a couple other specific beers I am intrigued by, like Alameda's Grizzly Bear Imperial Brown and New Belgium's newest Lips Of Faith beer, the Fall Wild Ale. Saraveza also has a keg of Mikkeller's Single-Hopped IPA with Cascades. If you're not familiar with Mikkeller and their single-hop series, it is freaking excellent. I am also very curious to try a new Pilsner on tap at the Widmer Gasthaus, and the new Upright Pils is certifiably excellent...

Quality Not Quantity In The New School

When it rains, it pours, and here in Portland, this time of year, it's often raining, or it's sunny and hailing at the same time. As always, there are seemingly infinite barrels of beers to seek out and consume, but finding the time can sometimes be a daunting task. It seems most of my time these days is filled by filling pint glasses instead of draining them. That's alright, as I love being on both sides of the bar, but it can also be tough watching everyone else have all the fun.

This Week In Press Releases

While wondering where my late weekly columns are from King C. and Jimmy today and trying to figure out what to blog in their stead, I received a pretty bizarre press release/invite from Brewing News. That reminded me of all the other bizarre and humorous press releases that I now receive and almost never write about. So, today I thought I would share some with you. Who knows, you might be interested, or if you aren't they are at least good for a few laughs.

Press release/invite #1 is for the 3rd annual

Future Of The Hop

NW Indie Hops is a Willamette Valley-based Hops merchant company dedicated to providing the best and freshest hops to craft brewers and advancing research in hop breeding. Specifically, the company deals in aromatic hops. John Foyston at The Oregonian has already written a great article about NW Indie Hops (that I don't intend to rehash - go read it) that is a great read. What I do want to talk about is the beginning of a change in hops grown specifically for the craft brewing market.

By donating $1 million to
Oregon State University's Hop Science department to advance research into hop breeding, NW Indie Hops has demonstrated its commitment to the future and to craft brewers by being the only hops merchant to sell 100% to craft brewers and not relying on high-volume sales to macros.

A clearer picture into OSU and NW Indie Hops vision and work is beginning to take shape...

New Brew Odyssey: Beer Patriotism

It is American Craft Beer Week. This news has received scant attention here in Portland. Perhaps we are so accustomed to beer events that a week dedicated to appreciating craft beer generates little excitement. Every day, here, celebrates craft beer.

Beer News

Today, readers, I have collected various news bites and photos from the last week. Most or all of the info below I do not think has been published before or anywhere else.
Look for breaking news on Alchemy Brewing, Hopworks, Breakside Brewing, Alameda and Double Mountain. Without further ado, continue on...

Walking Man Head Brewer Jacob Leonard - Part 2

A few months ago we traveled to Stevenson, WA for an exclusive tour and tasting at Walking Man Brewing with Head Brewer Jacob Leonard.

Last week I posted Part 1 of our interview in our Behind The Pint video series and today we have part 2 where we get into some of the really big and barrel-aged beers that Walking Man is famous for. It was a treat to have all these beers and with Jacob himself there to talk about them. I think a very informative interview. Click through for the video.

Cheese/Beer/Life: Rye's Loving Touch

In the course of homebrewing, one of the most singular and challenging ingredients I have come across has been rye. My history with rye dawned a quite a bit earlier than my craft beer passion. Growing up in New Jersey with my fairly large Jewish family, rye bread was a staple (and for those who are wondering, we did not make PB & J sandwiches with rye bread!). At family gatherings, my mother would cut up miniature rye bread squares to eat with chopped liver, horseradish or Swiss cheese, and whenever we had deli foods for lunch or dinner, there was almost always a loaf of rye bread present (my father didn’t like the caraway seeds, so usually the bread crust was plain).

Bebop And Brew For Nineteen-Ninety-Two

May 17, 1992, was the day of my first beer fest--the Fourth Annual Bebop and Brew. It was a day that forever changed my perspective on what beer meant to me, and the turning point in my life where beer went from predominantly being a delivery of an altered state, to a much more nuanced beverage, ubiquitously being sampled and savored. Standing in Redwood Park on that spring day, the momentum of the microbrew revolution was really picking up steam.

Et tu, Double Mountain?

Double Mountain, thou hast wounded me.

God knows I love the Hood River-based brewery with a Belgian yeast strain capable of making west coast hop bombs and sessionable Belgian and German beers with equal skill, but when "SNOB" Ritch and I showed up at Fire On The Mountain on East Burnside yesterday for Double Mountain's Molten Lava Imperial IPA release and I received the bill for 2 pints, I had a double-take at the $14 tab!

NE Portland's Breakside Brewery to open Friday

Just got word that the much anticipated Breakside Brewery brewpub will be opening this Friday May 14th at 3pm. Though they do not have their own beers ready quite yet they have a great assortment of guest taps as well as outdoor seating.
Haven't heard about Breakside Brewing? Read our interview and check out the photo gallery.
Continue on for the list of beers pouring on opening day:

The Weekly Taps: 5/13-5/16

(Updated: Just added new beers from Walking Man, Pyramid and Terminal Gravity to the listings right at the top)

This week's
The Weekly Taps features quite a few new draft beers around Portland.
The most notable new offerings are McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse's 5,000th collaboration brew, Upright's new German-style Pils-Engelberg, and Double Mountain's Molten Lava Imperial IPA, but there are a number of other interesting brews that will fly under the radar. Possible hidden gems could be Full Sail's Spotless IPA and New Old Lompoc's new Peregrine Imperial IPA. Click through to find info on each beer, where and when its available, and thanks to
Taplister for sponsoring our The Weekly Taps column.

If you would like to submit a beer for inclusion in The Weekly Taps email SamuraiArtist1 at

New Brew Odyssey: The Price is Right, Sometimes

In the Northwest, it’s easy to get blinded to the world of beer beyond our region. With so many great and new choices from our local breweries, one could drink exclusively beer from California, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon and have a new beer each day of the year for many years. On my occasional forays into beers from outside the region, I’m often reminded of how much I have to learn about the national brewing traditions of so many countries that now have well-established craft breweries Every time I get inspired to try some of rarer imports, I’m taken aback by how expensive they can be. Cost, at times, curbs my enthusiasm for exploration.
Lately, by a mix of luck and intention, I’ve had the chance to taste some of these high end beers. To be clear, I’m speaking of imports that clock in at over $20 for a 750 ml bottle. Whereas plenty of beer lovers are willing to shell out $10-15 on a regular basis for new, rare beers, there are significantly fewer beers that cross the $20 threshold--at least for now. So, in my mind the twenty-dollar mark is something of a boundary, and of the beers that cross it, it’s worth exploring whether or not they’re worth the extra cash.

Point Blank Road Trip

The other day part of the APEX crew squeezed into a small cab circus clown-style and made our way to the Point Blank Distributing warehouse for their open house. Point Blank is a local beer distributor that represents quite the lineup of the NW's best up-and-coming breweries, like Double Mountain, Hopworks and Upright Brewing. Their presence has been growing and they have been picking up more and more breweries, wineries and cideries from out state. This event was a bit of a trade show for primarily bar and restaurant owners to come check out and try the products carried by Point Blank.

Mother's Day Is For Drinking

As it turns out plenty of pubs are getting in on the Mother's Day action. I posted about Teri Fahrendorf's grass-roots bid for breweries to hold open houses for Mother's Day and the promotion of women beer drinkers on monday of this week. At that time there were no confirmed PDX Mother's Day events. Now there are several and even Craft an arm of the Brewers Association has taken up the cause.
They also make light of an interesting historical fact that I had not heard before, that in the 1300's nearly all English Ales were brewed by women.
Read the rest of the post for a list of mother's day specials in pdx:

Cheese/Beer/Life: Salt In and Out of the Sea

If I had to identify a moment that transitioned me from a person who liked cheese to a cheese fanatic, I think I would highlight the moment I first walked into Wasik’s Cheese Shop in Wellesley, MA. I was nineteen and I took an excursion from Waltham, where I lived at the time, in order to check out the wares of these fabled cheese mongers.

I remember how out of place I felt; I drove along Central Street in my boxy ’98 Ford Explorer, turning down the Bad Religion playing on my stereo as I passed through Wellesley’s picturesque downtown village that shined with domesticity, parking near a library and a scrapbook shop, if I remember correctly.

BA New Style Guidelines: Redux

Not sure why but I have seen a couple posts in the last few days about the new Brewers Association style guidelines. Maybe they just sent out a press release or something?
Odd because I wrote about all the new styles with a full in depth analyzation about a month ago on April 8th. If you didnt read that one I think its worth a look at my Analyzation: 2010 Brewers Association Guidelines.

Otherwise carry on...

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Behind The Pint: Walking Man Brewing and Jacob Leonard

A couple of months ago "SNOB" Ritch, the "Behind The Pint" producer, and I went out to Stevenson, WA, for a private interview, tasting and tour of Walking Man Brewing.

Head Brewer Jacob Leonard could not have been any more accommodating, and what was going to be a short tasting and tour turned into an epic day of sampling and talking beer, and thus will be extended to a 3 part video series (and even that is way edited down). I can say right now that Jacob was a wealth of info and it was one of the best times I have had at a brewery ever, and my favorite interview thus far.

Part 1 of the video and info on the upcoming Sasquatch Legacy event at Saraveza after the page break...

Details emerge on APEX's Grand Opening Friday

The hotly anticipated APEX beer bar has been open for two weeks now and is just getting around to i's Grand Opening party, which will run all day this Friday. So far the gods are looking well upon the opening, as it is actually predicted to be "Mostly Sunny" in Portland tomorrow. It should be a great time to drink on the huge patio.

Working at APEX part-time myself has made for an interesting couple of weeks, and it has been fun to see so many brewers and beer geeks stopping by while we sorted out the little things.
If you have not had the chance to check out APEX yet, or want to see how it's progressing, this is definitely the day to come by. There will be special extremely rare beers pouring from the 30 taps, and a lot of guests from the national beer community will be flying in to party with owner Jesse McCann and the crew.

Baby Bar Redux

After last week's article, I've done some checking up on the family friendly breweries in town. While I am still against having minors in drinking establishments, a separate area seems to be the best meeting in the middle. I am opposed to regulations being imposed on small business, so the state of Oregon to ban minors in bars, through the OLCC, would not be a proper change. It should indeed be up to the bar or brewery whether or not they allow minors. I certainly hope to see new places opening up that do not allow minors.

New Brew Odyssey: A Feast of Yeast

Last weekend was the annual Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers (PCTBB) Festival, arguably the city’s most interesting beer festival in that it challenges the state’s brewers to produce beers driven by Belgian yeast (and spice) character as opposed to our favorite Northwest ingredient, the hop. The festival has gotten lots of attention on the blog circuit, both here at the New School, as well as from Brewpublic, Beervana, It’s Pub Night, The Daily Pull, Beer Around Town, and Dr. Wort. At the risk of treading on others toes or simply repeating what has already been written, I’m throwing my hat into the ring with some thoughts on the festival.

Goose Island Brewmaster Greg Hall Part 2

We previously posted an exclusive interview with Goose Island Brewmaster Greg Hall from when he was in town last week.
Today we have Greg's speech he made to the crowd and it is quite a good one.
He addresses why Goose Island has returned to the Portland market after being away for so long, why they are not bringing IPA to town, and gets schooled on why Chicago is really the east coast.

Behind the Pint-Goose Island Head Brewmaster Greg Hall from Ritch Marvin on Vimeo.

Also dont forget to subscribe to our brand new video series "Behind The Pint" on vimeo


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Should Children Be Allowed in the Pub? Vote now

Columnist King C.'s recent post "There Will Be No Milk Served To Your Baby in the New School" about children being allowed in pubs has caused quite a stir on both the comments and twitter. No doubt its a controversial subject, and one that really splits people down the middle. I think this might be the time to test out the first ever New School poll on whether kids should be allowed in the bar or not. Make sure to read King C's post on Staggering Toward Berhalla first before voting.

Should children be allowed in pubs?
Yes, at all times.
No, never.
Yes but only during daylight hours.
Only when in a separate kids area. free polls

Real Women Drink Beer

Everyone knows the beer community is mostly a boys club. There are a few people, though, who are trying to change this, and there may have never been as much of a movement for women in beer as right now. This Mother's Day kicks off a big push to get women drinking beer and breweries supporting the idea.

I am pretty lucky to be able to say that some of the chief pioneers and progressives in this area are friends of mine, and all are working hard on cool new projects to advance women in the industry, as well as simply expanding the palates and appreciation of craft beer to women everywhere.

Ash and Ash

I was browsing through some cheeses the other day in the market and my eye fell upon a half wheel of Morbier. Anyone who has seen this cheese can recognize it by its calling card: a line of ash that cuts through the center of the cheese width-wise, or horizontally. I was drawn to it like a bug to a bright light.