Nearly two years ago a hidden gem at the base of Mt. Hood, the Elliot Glacier Public House & brewery, closed its doors. Known for its warm, homey atmosphere and stunning views of the mountain, it had become a respected brewery and a welcome stop for those partaking in wintertime activities on Mt. Hood.
There was much talk of what would become of the place, especially after it was posted for sale on Craigslist. After a few missed attempts to restart the place, The New School is excited to report that Jason Kahler, the Head Brewer at Big Horse Brewing in Hood River, OR, has purchased the Elliot Glacier property along with a business partner, John Hitt of Portland. The two are renovating the space for a brand new brewery, Solera Brewing.
|View from back patio (Photo from Oregon Bed & Breakfast Guild)|
Elliot Glacier Public House/Solera Brewing is located on the north flank of Mt. Hood in Parkdale, OR. It is just 17 miles from Hood River and minutes from the Mt. Hook Ski Resort. For 14 years it was a popular stop for skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts and vacationers. It was never really known for its beer so much as for being a cozy quiet spot with an outstanding location and view from its back patio. I regret having never been their myself, but reports indicate it was a pleasant albeit slightly rundown tavern content to make average, under the radar beers. When it closed and the business was put up for sale on Craigslist, many were interested in purchasing it--even The New School editor ElGordo considered it. I am happy to see that the new owners have bigger plans than simply restoring and reopening the brewery, but instead opening an ambitious and highly creative new brewing project.
|Co-Owner Head Brewer Jason Hussein Kahler at recent Hood River Hops Fest|
Jason Kahler is the latest in a line of respected brewers at Hood River's most underrecognized brewery, Big Horse. Churning out a lot of by-the-numbers beers there, he has still managed to put out some eccentric offerings and classics, such as Kentucky Common and Vernon The Rabbit Slayer, the perennial favorite of the Hood River Fresh Hop Fest.
Stepping out on his own with Solera Brewing, I have a feeling we will see Jason's true nature emerge. He plans to use the little-known fermentation and aging practice from which the brewery gets its name.
Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or other containers used in the process. Products which are often solera aged include Sherry, Madeira, Port wine, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, and Muscadelle wines; Balsamic, Commandaria, and Sherry vinegars; Spanish brandy; and rums.Confusing? A little bit, but not completely unlike the blending process many Belgian brewers go through in the making of Gueze. I do not know who is employing this method for brewing in the United States, though I have certainly come across Solera wines. The beers made with the Solera process will mainly be of the sour and wild variety, with plans to bottle them in traditional 750ml caged and corked bottles.
Solera processIn the solera process, a succession of containers are filled with the product over a series of equal aging intervals (usually a year). One container is filled for each interval. At the end of the interval after the last container is filled, the oldest container in the solera is tapped for part of its content, which is bottled. Then that container is refilled from the next oldest container, and that one in succession from the second-oldest, down to the youngest container, which is refilled with new product. This procedure is repeated at the end of each aging interval. The transferred product mixes with the older product in the next barrel.
|the pub under renovation|
The brewpub itself is on the Oregon registry of historic places and once housed an old movie theater. It is full of wood and has the makings of a fine old-fashioned saloon. The new owners felt the way it was previously set up was a bit confined, though, and have decided to gut the pub and build a new bar and kitchen. All the renovation won't ruin the rustic charm of the space, though; they plan to refinish the beautiful wood floors and line the walls with locally salvaged barn boards. The new layout will open up even better views of Mt. Hood from the brewery, views so good Jason says:
"I know I'll sound biased, but this brewery truly does have the most breath taking view of any brewery in OR."
|renovating the pub|
Jason is already planning to begin brewing this week on a nice 7bbl AAA Metal Fabrication brewhouse that is well-designed has all the bells and whistles. For now he will be focusing on supplying accounts in the Gorge with kegs of an American Red and West Coast IPA while they finish the remodel. Once the pub gets up and running they plan a more diverse lineup of beers, with half being seasonals and specialty Solera offerings.
"Expect plenty of wild and sour beer. I also plan to take full advantage of being in the heart of the Hood River Valley with all of its wonderful fruits."Like other well-known Gorge brewers, Solera plans to use what is native and local to make its beers stand out. Jason is hoping to become known for the way they use their terroir of the valley with both local fruit and native yeast. They have no plans to grow or build out from this small brewpub, either. Jason is content to run a modest yet ambitious operation:
"I truly love the unique, artisan nature of small batch brewing."
He hopes to have the brewpub open to the public by February or March.