Cidermaker's Dinner at ClarkLewis

I have been enjoying the rise of craft ciders that are slowly taking the world by storm. I was never a hard cider fan until a little over a year ago, when Jeff Smith opened Bushwhacker Cidery and introduced me to many kinds of unique and different ciders that until then had been hard to find in the area. The craft cider world is primed to blow up, much like the craft beer scene was 10 years ago.

If you are a fan of cider or just want to find out what it is all about, this looks like a pretty great event. The Northwest Cider Association Cidermaker's Dinner at Clarklewis is probably going to be an excellent dinner and should prime you for the upcoming Cider Summit this summer.

New Old Lompoc Returns in New Location

New Old Lompoc gets new lease on life,
announces return to NW 23rd Avenue in 2013
Photo from My Life on Craft

PORTLAND, Ore. - March 28, 2012 - With the impending demolition of the venerable New Old Lompoc brewery & pub on NW 23rd Ave. next month, many Portlanders have questioned where they'll go for a new watering hole. Lompoc owner Jerry Fechter has good news: Lompoc Brewing has signed a lease in the new building and is looking to reopen in summer 2013.

Larry Sidor Interview Part 2, with Deschutes new Brewmaster Cam O' Connor

Larry Sidor - photo from MSNBC
Below is Part 2 of my interview with Ex-Deschutes Brewmaster Larry Sidor on his new Crux Fermentation Project. Part 1 primarily focused on the new brewery, and in Part 2 we discuss his history at Deschutes, hatred of filtration, his favorite beers and breweries, and what he is most proud of from his time at Deschutes.

We start the interview being joined by Cam O' Connor one of the two new Brewmasters replacing Mr. Sidor in Bend and original Brewmaster at the Portland Deschutes pub.

Omission Beer - Gluten-Free Beers with Barley

The Craft Brew Alliance, which includes the Widmer, Red Hook, and Kona brands, is launching a new line of gluten-free beers called Omission Beer. The press release is calling it "the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great-tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten-free."

Created by Widmer Brothers Brewmaster Joe Casey, whose wife has Celiac disease, Omission is a standalone series of beers not branded by Widmer. The products will be launched exclusively in the Oregon market next week.

Unlike many other gluten-free beers currently available, Omission beers are not brewed with sorghum, rice, tapioca, buckwheat, or quinoa; they are brewed using traditional beer ingredients: malted barley, hops, water ,and yeast.  
I have had a few decent gluten-free beers from Deschutes, Red Bridge, and Green's, but I've yet to have one I actively enjoyed. Perhaps the Widmer Brothers are destined to change that by brewing with hops and barley using a proprietary process that reduces  the gluten levels to well below the widely accepted international gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million (ppm) for food and beverages. This is not entirely without precedent, as the Spanish brewery Estrella has been marketing a beer called Damm Daura that is also made with barley but filters out the gluten to a sufficient amount to be called gluten-free.

Larry Sidor's Crux Fermentation Project - Exclusive Interview, Part 1

Deschutes Brewery's longtime Brewmaster, Larry Sidor, surprised the craft beer industry last year when he announced he was leaving Deschutes to open his own brewery after 8 years with the company. His new brewing project has been a secretive affair with little known about the company, just the codename 856 Brewing. Last weekend more details finally emerged with the announcement of Crux Fermentation Project the official name of the brewery.

I interviewed Mr. Sidor about his new brewery and gleaned a lot of so far unreleased information, from the specific styles he will be brewing to larger business plans and some of the experimental stuff he is planning that will be pushing the outer edges of craft beer. It is some exciting stuff! Our conversation lasted nearly 2 hours and extended to what was going on with Deschutes and his departure, to great stories from his days brewing at Olympia and Pabst. It is a very long read, and thus I will be splitting it into two parts.

Ninkasi's Limited Special Releases of Commonwealth and Helles Belles

It's nice to see our friends at Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene releasing some new special limited edition brews in bottles. Helles Belles will have two different free release parties--Friday, April 13th, at the McDonald Theater in Eugene and Saturday, April 14th, at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland. Both parties are 21+ and begin at 7pm

Helles Belles is a traditional German lager brewed for the Oregon Brewers Festival. Straw yellow, bright and crisp with a hint of premium pilsner malt balanced by imported German Noble hops. Made with time (6 weeks of cold conditioning) and love (3200 lbs. of grain step mashed by hand) Helles Belles will rock any day! Technical Specs: Small batch in 12oz. bo!les & dra" • Original Gravity:
1051 • Bi!erness (IBUs): 22 • Alcohol (%): 5.1

To commemorate the City of Eugene’s 150th anniversary of commitment to community, superior quality of life and the arts, ALL NINKASI PROFITS from this beer go to support FOOD FOR LANE
COUNTY and the CITY OF EUGENE’S CULTURAL SERVICES. Commonwealth Ale is a flavorful session ale brewed in honor of the historic orientation toward beer as food. We added Amaranth, Millet and Teff-grains that nourished the earliest civilizations-and Tamalpais Barley grown and malted in the Willamette Valley. Technical Specs: Special Release in 22oz. bo!les & draft • Original Gravity: 1050 • Bi!erness (IBUs): 32 • Alcohol (ABV%): 5.1

Photo of the Week

Bill from it's Pub Night
The other night I was graciously invited to a Blazers game at the Rose Garden courtesy of the Widmer Brothers to check out a new beer brewed exclusively for the press box - Off The Record Pale Ale. It's a nice Pale and a unique thing to do by the Widmer Bros but perhaps the highlight of the evening was Bill from the It's Pub Night blog who is apparently a big lover of fruit in his beer. In the photo above he was more than happy to demonstrate how to lemon your Hefeweizen.

Andy Crouch Is a Big Fat Idiot

Beer writer Andy Crouch is becoming notorious for his curmudgeonly and conservative voice in the increasingly progressive craft beer culture. Mr. Crouch has previously knocked beer bloggers, and yesterday he went off against the craft beer world's newfound interest in collaboration beers and beer cocktails. His latest post, "Death to Beer Cocktails and Collaboration Beers: the Latest Rant…" is an attention-grabbing, backward-thinking post that seems written by a threatened print writer. While I am sure there are more than a few people ready to damn beer cocktails out of pure naivete for a new medium they do not understand, I think Mr. Crouch will find considerably fewer takers for his rant against collaboration beers. I imagined Mr. Crouch to be like a cantankerous old grandfather sitting out on his front porch, taking shots at passersby as they duck in cover until one bullet grazes the wrong person and they pull to the side of the road to confront him. Imagine my surprise to find a photo of a clean-cut, thirtysomething white dude.

To be fair, Andy states his preference for simpler, more straightforward and focused beers, fewer ingredients, and fewer cooks in the kitchen. I think that is completely cool, and can appreciate that sensibility. Nevertheless, I think his views condemning collaboration, whether on a beer or a beer cocktail (could there be anything more collaborative than a beer cocktail?), remind me of the beer world equivalent of a Rick Santorum. Kudos for being socially irrelevant, but with this is the sort of backwards thinking I half expect Mr. Crouch to call for the federal government to impose the American equivalent of the Reinheitsgebot.

While he is a veteran and respected craft beer writer, Mr. Crouch seems to forget every advancement we have had was at one time seen as foolish before being recognized as progressive. I guarantee you the first IPAs were seen as over the top and, at best, a hip new trend at the time. Perhaps the most respected writer and (as I will call him) beer historian, Randy Mosher, the author and Siebel Brewing institute instructor, even passes along the wisdom of experimentation and the history of the beer cocktail in his article on

The reality actually is that beer cocktails have been around for a long time (since the middle ages, at least), though they just may have not been in-style in recent history. I would contend that we have learned much of brewing--and all creative culinary endeavours, from cooking to mixology--from trying different ingredients never before thought to be combined together. Let's not forget, for a long time hops were not an ingredient in beer, an unthinkable travesty in most beers today.

His own criticism of a beer cocktail reads like a man who had just tried the first beer ever spiced and bittered with a strange new ingredient like hops: "The end result is a muddled mess of flavors, often competing, splashing against one another for dominance instead of rowing together in a controlled and directed fashion." The statement could be applied to any food or drink meant to be tasted but thrown off balance in its recipe. So, a beer cocktail could be unbalanced just like anything else meant to be consumed for taste, but that does not mean the whole category is bad. His argument is absurd, since, like any unbalanced flavors, you can simply bring them back into harmony by adjustment. Let's not even get into personal taste here. If I eat a burrito that is too spicy, I don't throw out all burritos and call them an abomination. The connoisseurs of a fine cocktail are among the most concerned with balance in flavor of any fan group I know of.

From time to time I hear people say things that echo Mr. Crouch's sentiments. 'What is with these beer cocktails, what is wrong with a good ol' lager!' and 'When I was young, sour beer was bad beer!' Statements of that sort seem meant to lament the days of simpler times and tastes. I remember watching movies when I was growing up where the lead man would walk into a tavern and simply say 'give me a beer' and the bartender would slide a bottle down the bar. I always wondered how that worked, and was relieved to grow up and find a multitude of choices at my local pub. So you don't like beer cocktails or brewers teaming up to hash out a new wild experimental collaboration beer. OK, but would you rather go back to a world where your only question was ale or lager? Who knows where we will find the next India Pale Ale if brewers stop experimenting and collaborating.

P.S. I don't really think Andy Crouch is a big fat idiot, and am not a fan of name calling. The title of this post is a play off of Al Franken's similarly-titled book, and no less incendiary than the title of Mr. Crouch's post that inspired this rebuttal.

Portland Beer News & Events

It has been a while since we did a roundup of craft beer news, but with so many little events and small news stories coming through, it is high time for another. Among the news is the first beer from a new Portland brewery, Cascade's latest sour beer out in bottles, Powered By Yeast's Anniversary extravaganza, a new beer & music fest, and a tantalizing Brewers Dinner.

Pints Brewing debuts First Beer
Thursday March 21st
Today the brand-new Pints Brewing in NW Portland (which The New School broke news about last month) releases its first beer - Tavern Ale.

Head Brewer Zack Beckwith sends along news that the rest of the brewery's year round beers (Red Brick Rye, Steel Bridge Stout, and IPA) will be showing up at the taproom over the next few weeks before culminating in a grand opening party in mid-April. Zach says:
"My goal for the first few batches is to dial in our core beers by experimenting with different base malts and 2 different yeast strains. This initial batch of Pints Tavern Ale features floor malted UK Optic malt along with British Crystal and US aromatic malt. Northwest Willamette hops provide an earthy hop nose that complements the overlying nutty malt character creating a distinctly Northwest ESB style session ale."
Also in the next few weeks, look for a Pints/Lompoc collaboration beer, Legalize Wit, that Zach brewed with Dave Fleming at New Old Lompoc for Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers. 
Pints Brewing
412 NW 5th Ave • Portland, Oregon 97209
Phone: (503) 564-BREW


How To Grow Hops in Your Apartment

Photo by Scout Seventeen
If you’re a novice homebrewer like I am – I figure I’m a couple batches away from being confident enough to pull off an all-grain recipe – then growing your own hops might feel like the wildest thing you could do to your beer, short of a trip to the “exotic spices” aisle of the supermarket. If you’re also one of the estimated 40 million renters living in the USA, then you probably think growing hops in your apartment is nothing short of crazy. Here, I’ve made a handy Venn diagram for you:

But you’re wrong, dear reader. The good news is that you can grow hops in your apartment. You’ll need space on a bright balcony to do it, but rest assured that it is very possible – and truly worth it. After a couple seasons of growing, you’ll have some heavily-laden hop vines that can star in your very own bespoke beer. 

The bad news is that you’re not going to be entirely sure what you get. Hops are important for adding two things to your brew: alpha acids – the agents responsible for bittering your beer – and essential oils – the chemicals that make your beer smell “hoppy.” Normally, you’d buy hops based on the percentage of alpha acids they contain, but when you grow your own, there are a few factors that can dramatically affect that number. Did your hop plant get too little or too much sunshine? Was it too cold or too hot? All of these variables will affect your end product, and you can bet that growing anything on an apartment balcony will be more of a challenge than normal.

Luckily this article will get to the bottom of your hop-artment troubles. I’ll walk you through choosing, growing, harvesting, processing, and then wintering your hops and hop plants so that you can cultivate the most authentic homebrewing experience possible.

Big Time Brewing Comes to Portland

Probably the first time ever? Seattle's Big Time Brewing Company is visiting Portland for two events this weekend, and i sure don't recall ever seeing any of their products available here before. The first event will be at Saraveza this Friday night, March 23rd, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The second event is at Apex on Saturday, March 24th, from 2:00pm until 5:00pm. Meet head brewer Drew Cluley and assistant brewer Bradley Zimmerman and taste some of their ales.

A Big Week for The Commons

Commons owner Mike Wright
It's a big week for The Commons Brewery, Portland's second rustic farmhouse, Belgian-inspired brewery. Opened by Mike Wright last year as a full scale, 7-barrel brewhouse, it's a big step up from his start brewing on a 1 barrel nano system in his garage as Beetje Brewing. This week he releases his first ever bottled beer, a dark, barrel-aged fruit beer called Brotherly Love. He'll also do a tap takeover/meet-the-brewer event tonight at Bailey's Taproom.

SF Beer Week part 3: A Sour Symposium

New Belgium crew: Lauren Salazar, Eric Salazar, Jamie Mastin & ?
For the third and final post on the 2012 SF Beer Week we have a lot to cover. If you missed the earlier parts one and two there they are.

By day 5 of my time in San Francisco I think I was beginning to feel a little burnt out. The flat we were staying in upper Haight was beginning to feel like our new home, hell I still miss that place, it was beautiful. Luckily a few killer events in the last few days for me of beer week were among the best. Between New Belgium's Sour Beer Symposium, Russian River's Tion night at Toronado and a Ballast Point tap takeover at the Public House.

Widmer Brothers experimental X hop series

Widmer Brothers continues to experiment with some fine beers at the Gasthaus and just the other day tapped 4 new experimental IPA's

Using the same base recipe as last year’s popular X-114 Rotator IPA, the brewing team recently brewed four experimental IPAs to showcase the unique qualities of four different experimental hop varieties.  Yesterday, all four of these X-IPAs went on draught at the Gasthaus.  They are available as a flight of four or as single pints, and they are asking guests to vote for their favorites.  Here’s the lineup: 

X-430 IPA
A more approachable and mellow IPA, hop 430 has floral, tea like aromas. Flavors of tropical fruit compliment the soft citrus and floral aromas, and are balanced by subtle malt sweetness.  Enjoy the mellow side of IPA. 6.1% ABV, 40 IBU

X-431 IPA
Hop 431 has a pungent piney, resinous aroma. Notes of grapefruit and lemon-like citrus are apparent, and dominate the flavor and aroma of this beer – but the subtle malt sweetness helps balance the hop profile of X-431. 5.9% ABV, 35 IBU

X-443 IPA
X-443 IPA is a classic example of the IPA style. Hop 443 has a nice floral and citrus aroma. Notes of sweet citrus-like mandarin orange and tangerines work wonderfully with a perfect malt balance to deliver a smooth and flavorful finish. 6.1% ABV, 43 IBU

X-467 IPA
X-467 adds spicy lemon and tart citrus qualities to this IPA. Once added to beer it sweetens up and produces tropical, pineapple-like flavors and aromas that combine with just enough malt to balance out an assertive finish. 6.1% ABV, 47IBU

Occidental to Release Barrel-Aged Lucubrator Doppelbock

It's last minute notice, but the St. Johns neighborhood brewery, Occidental Brewing Co., is celebrating St. Patrick's Day with the release of a barrel-aged doppelbock called 'Lucubrator' this Saturday.

Occidental will even be smoking a whole pig that was raised on their spent grains. Sounds like a good time if you're in P-town! 15 bucks gets you a glass of the limited edition Doppelbock and a pork sandwich. 1-6 pm on Saturday, March 17.

6635 N. Baltimore Ave.,
Portland, OR 97203.

Double Mountain Brewery: Expansion and Bottled Beers Coming Soon

Co-Owners Charlie Devereux and Brewmaster Matt Swihart
Exciting news comes today that our friends at Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom in Hood River have big plans to finally expand the brewery and taproom and begin bottling their excellent beers. The news could not be more timely, as it comes just days away from the brewery's 5th anniversary party this Saturday. Co-Owner Charlie Devereux reveals all below.

Iron Man Strong Ale Festival Coming to the Gorge

You may have heard about "Iron Man" Jim Caldwell, a beloved regular and iron welding artist at Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson, WA, who lost his life on the Columbia River. Walking Man released an annual Iron Man Imperial IPA in tribute to him, and this year he is getting his own strong ale festival on April 7th. More info from the recently launched website:

Tabor Tavern: A New Gastropub to Open in Inner East PDX

An interesting press release has passed along to my cluttered desktop. Perhaps it's more interesting to me because I live in the neighborhood, but a new pub called Tabor Tavern is set to open at 53rd and E Burnside, stumbling distance from Belmont Station. What makes this new place so intriguing is its tangential connection to Lompoc Brewing, as well as to craft beer and gastropub culture in general.

Belmont Station's Upcoming Expansion Plans and 15th Anniversary

Photos courtesy of Travels with Beer
Belmont Station, Oregon's premier bottleshop, is set for an expansion sometime in the near future. Trusted sources indicate Owner Carl Singmaster has purchased the house sharing the back wall of the bottleshop and bier cafe and located in the same building. The new addition could provide for expanded bier cafe seating and an outdoor patio area, plus expanded bottle selection to the 1,200 varieties the Station already carries. This is great news on the eve of their 15th Anniversary celebration on Thursday, March 15th.

New School/Brewvana VIP Tour of the Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge area is becoming more and more of a beer destination. As Portlanders, we know that Hood River is producing some amazing beer from Full Sail and Double Mountain. More recently we have had the openings of Everybody's Brewing just across the river in White Salmon, WA, and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in the rural countryside of Hood River. To top things off, we have two brand new breweries in the works, Solera Brewery in Parkdale, OR, that has just released its first beers, and the coming soon Pfriem Brewery, also in Hood River.

The New School, teaming up with Brewvana Brewery Tours has again put together a VIP package bus tour of the Gorge focusing on some of the newer up and coming "New School" of brewers. Tour participants will get a behind-the-scenes tour of each brewery, meet the brewers and owners, and enjoy great food and drink, all for 25% off with The New School discount code.

Stickmen Brewery & Skewery Coming to Lake Oswego

A new craft brewery on the west side of Portland? Stickmen Brewery & Skewery have announced their plans to open a brewpub in the upper class suburb of Lake Oswego, Oregon, in May 2012.

Not content to simply be the only real brewpub in the area, they plan to bring together an interesting combo of the Japanese tradition of kushiyaki grilled food and craft beer. If that's not enough to make it a destination, it is located right on Lake Oswego, with seating for 200+ for lakeside dining and boozing. I don't know how many of my readers have boats, but if you do you can even get lakeside boat up to-go service via an outdoor kitchen.

VIDEO: The Art & Science of Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer

It seems everyone is getting in on the video production angle for marketing beers, and that is a great thing. Full Sail Brewing's new video explores the making of one of the finest barrel-aged beers around, Top Sail Imperial Porter, and the video is as well-made as the beer. It does, however, remind me of a saying that I learned in the motion pictures department of art school, wherein a student would comment a film "needs more Gene Hackman!" even if Mr. Hackman did not appear in said film because of the great actor's show stealing, scene chewing performances. With this video I want to comment "Needs more John Harris!" In other words, I would like to see more of scene stealing, storytelling, quotable, and beloved Brewmaster John Harris.

Upright Brewing's 3rd Anniversary beer 'Blend Love'

Upright Brewing turns 3 years old this month and, as usual, is releasing a special barrel-aged sour ale for the occasion. This year's version is different than previous years, though. Four Play, the highly anticipated sour cherry beer, has been replaced by Blend Love, a new barrel-aged beer in its second iteration that features the mug of beloved local brewmaster Ben Love of the upcoming Gigantic Brewing.

Elysian Brewing 6-Packs and Fallout Green Cardamom Pale Ale Release

Elysian Brewing beers will be hitting shelves in Portland in 6-packs on Wednesday for the first time ever.
Elysian Legend, The Immortal IPA, and the deceptively delicious spring seasonal, Bete Blanche Tripel, will be the first Elysian brews to arrive in the 12oz package. They will soon be followed up by the third release in the 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series, Fallout Green Cardamom Pale. More details below.

Solera Brewery Debuts in Portland

I am excited to get to try the first beers from the latest new brewing operation in the Gorge, Solera Brewery. The New School first broke the news on this new brewery from Jason Kahler, ex-Brewmaster at Hood River's Big Horse Brewing, and his partner, John Hitt. Opening soon in the old Elliot Glacier Public House space, they will have their first beers available on tap Wednesday at Cheese Bar for Brewer DJ night and Thursday at Saraveza before the pub is actually ready to open. Also, you will get a chance to visit the brewery in person on the next Brewvana/New School VIP Tour of the Gorge on March 31st (details TBA).

Wednesday March 7th 7-10pm
Brewer DJ at Cheese Bar

Thursday March 8th 6-9pm

SF Beer Week: A Tale of 2 Gastropubs and a 3 Ring Circus

Read Part 1 of SF Beer Week 2012 coverage

The biggest and most anticipated (or at least most highly publicized) event of SF Beer Week may have been the 3 Ring Circus beer dinner, which was a collaboration between Ninkasi Brewing, Schmaltz/Coney Island Brewing, and Speakeasy Brewing with the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton. This dinner featured 9 courses and 13 beers and circus performance acts between courses. Read about the circus and its triumphs and falls, along with stops at some of SF's best establishments, in Part 2 of 3 of my SF Beer Week coverage.

APEX Urges You to Lighten Up This Saturday

Jesse McCann over at APEX has put together another nice little event in the vein of his Embrace The Darkness event. This one is called Lighten Up and is based around the days growing longer and (hopefully) warmer. They will have a selection of light bodied beers, including many Belgian styles like Saisons, Farmhouse Ales, Singles, and Wheat beers, all starting at 11:30am on Saturday, March 10th.

Breakside Brewery News from Ben Edmunds

Breakside's Scott Lawrence and Ben Edmunds
Here is the latest update on Breakside Brewery straight from the horse's mouth, aka Head Brewer/New School contributor Ben Edmunds. As usual, there is lots going on like a very affordable brewers dinner at The Bent Brick to the latest in their chef collaboration beer series.

Lucky Lab's Annual Barleywine & Big Beer Fest Taplist Revealed

UPDATED: Friday 3/2 at 11:30am with full beer list

This Friday and Saturday is Lucky Lab’s Annual Barleywine and Big Beer Fest. Contributor "ElGordo" already gave us a rundown of top picks to try this year from an advanced preview, and now we have a more complete (but still not comprehensive) list of all the beers.