First Impressions of Pfriem Family Brewers

The new Pfriem Family Brewers launched its beers in Portland last week with a bash and media sampling at Bazi Bierbrasserie with owner Josh Pfriem. The beers may be the most faithful re-creations of Belgian styles being brewed in the state. They bear the distinct touch of a brewmaster who has spent time both in Belgium studying brewing traditions and at Chuckanut Brewing learning refinement.

Last week I tried the first 5 beers from Pfriem--Wit, Belgian Strong Blonde, Belgian Strong Dark, Blonde IPA, and a regular IPA. As owner/brewer Josh Pfriem explained, these were all the very first batches from the new brewery, yet they all tasted pretty accomplished. The one thing they had in common? Clarity of vision, flavor, and color...

These beers have one thing in common that I found a little unusual--they were all filtered to great clarity (except for the Wit). This gave a great crisp malt flavor and dryness that accentuated the attenuation achieved from Pfriem's house yeast strain (a secret). The malt choices on each beer were also very simple, though the Blonde IPA was based on a Pilsner-only malt base to really let the hops shine. Even the more standard IPA had a very simple, clean malt profile, just as all of these beers do. They remind me a lot of more refined lagers in their malt character, not unlike the filtered and highly refined beers from Chuckanut Brewery, one of Josh's former employers. In beers like the Wit and the Strong Blonde, the fermentation and simple ingredients leave room for the subtle nuances to be coaxed out of the house yeast, leaving apple, pear, banana, and citrus flavors that are soft and inviting but not overwhelming. The beers are all pleasant and quite quaffable, but I was a bit perplexed by the filtration. While it's tasty, now I feel that maybe the beers would be better without all that filtration. I was very curious of the reason behind this, and the answer is yeast autolysis. Many homebrewers are familiar with this term, and Josh explains it more here:

"Yeast is a living organism and once it dies, goes through harsh conditions, or experiences autolysis it can give off harsh flavors.  If you remove the yeast before bottling and then add fresh yeast back to the beer, you now have a environment where you are driving your yeast flavor from fresh yeast rather than relying on yeast that may have past its prime."

While autolysis is a problem, a lot of brewers find that removing the fermented beer from the settled yeast at the bottom of the tanks enough. Josh still believes in going that extra step. The question is whether the filtration removes other desired complexities and flavors in the beer. Filtration is the subject of some debate with many siding against filtering and others all for it, but that is for a whole nother post.

"I have found that you have a longer shelf life if you filter beer before bottle conditioning it.  In my travels through Belgium I found that a good deal of the  brewers I spoke with did similar techniques with there beer."

Further than just the freshness, the flavor of beers is affected, but each one differs in its approach, "In our Wit, I leave the yeast because I believe it enhances the flavor of a beer, it brings forth a spiciness from the yeast while tasting young and fresh.  Our Belgian Strong Blonde on the other hand ages longer at colder temperatures and I find the old yeast covers up the subtle flavors". Both the Blonde IPA and regular IPA, while clean and crisp with nice flavors, were not the kind that will get the hop heads talking. again here you fine very clean and clear flavors with distinct bittering hop and flavoring hop. Hoppy beers can be especially hard to filter "our IPA style beers they are hop backed and dry hopped, they go through a light filtration to bring the hop flavor forward.  In this situation I feel it creates a 'less is more'." The main reason many brewers filter their beer though is for appearance, a clean, clear crystal or amber color can be very pleasing to the eye, and Josh does not deny that is certainly a factor. Pfriem's glassware--and I mean plural--is beautiful and varies in sizes with great golden printed lettering.

As Bill noted on It's Pub Night, Josh stops short of calling these beers Abbey or Belgian. I followed up on this question and was not surprised it was because they are not truly from Belgium.
"We are inspired by the greatness and vastness of the Belgian brewing traditions, but are not trying to be a "Belgian" brewery.  I have a friend who is a brewmaster in Belgium who made reference to being insulted by a US brewery that claims an association to Belgium in their name and didn't feel the beers were a good reflection of his country."

Outside of the 5 beer lineup currently being produced, there are plans for future 750ml caged and corked bottles that will be bottle-conditioned with fresh yeast after filtration. Down the line further, a barrel-aging program for wild yeast and sour beers, some of which will be filtered and then have wild yeast added at bottling, and others not filtered when called for. Sooner in the pipeline, we can look forward to a Belgian-style IPA and Belgian-style stouts, lagers, and saisons also have a bright future here.

Saturday, August 4th, Pfriem Family Brewery's tasting room officially opens to the public and you can find the brewery's beers on draft in Portland right now through Point Blank Distributing.

The Yard House Tap Room Chain Coming to Downtown Portland

I guess I missed this news when it broke a while back, but I just came upon word that The Yard House is opening a location in downtown Portland's Pioneer Place shopping center in early 2013. The Yard House has 39 restaurants in 13 states and is known for offering more than 100 craft beers on tap. Though a shopping center may not be the ideal place to go for a craft beer, at least those who live on the westside have another option. The rest of us will have a place to stop in for a good beer while doing our Christmas shopping, so for that I am overjoyed.

Base Camp Brewing Debuts First Beer in Portland

Base Camp Brewing, the brewery on which I first reported back in May of 2011, is finally nearing its opening. The first sign of Base Camp's arrival is its first beer debuting at Belmont Station during Fringe Fest this Saturday, July 28th.

Fesival of Bens Returns

Not so much a festival as a party amongst beer friends, Ben Fest was put on last year at the Grain & Gristle with 5 different Portland area brewers that all share a common name. While you can't really call such a small event a fest, I respectively submit that it instead should be re-named "Ben Day" and be declared a citywide holiday by Mayor Sam Adams.

New Gastropub Tabor Tavern Now Open

There is a new gastropub style place in town--the Tabor Tavern is now open for business. First reported by The New School back in March, this bar and restaurant on East Burnside and 53rd is conveniently located near Belmont Station and, of course, Mt. Tabor. The place has impressed in its first weekend of business by combining hearty, housemade American and English food with a local craft brewery connection.

A guide to Beer Drinking in Portland this Weekend

This Saturday July 21st is probably the busiest beer day of the year in Oregon. There are so many events to choose from the Portland International Beerfest, Migration's ClusterFuggle Fest, Saraveza's Double IPA Fest, Flat Tail Brewing's 2nd Anniversary, Burnside Brewing's International Incident bottle release and movies in the parking lot and the hidden gem - Kenny & Zuke's Pickle Fest.

Pickle Fest - Saturday July 21st

A hidden gem in the Oregon Craft Beer Month calendar, Kenny & Zuke's 2nd annual Pickle Fest returns this Saturday. From humble beginnings as a sidewalk party outside of their SandwichWorks location, Pickle Fest expands to a full on fest at Wallace Park in NW Portland.

The Making of Burnside Brewing Co.'s International Incident

On Saturday Burnside Brewing will finally release the first bottles of 'Kali-Ma' International Incident. This imperial wheat ale or wheat wine was inspired by the Hindu goddess 'Kali' and her tongue-in-cheek tribute in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The beer itself is indicative of both, bold and fiery with the addition of Indian dandicut peppers.

Ninkasi Oatis Oatmeal Stout in 6-packs

One of my favorite beers from Ninkasi Brewing, especially in the winter months, is Oatis--one of the best oatmeal stouts around. Now I can happily report it is finally coming to year round 6-packs.

The venerable stout-–dark, delicious, Oatis Oatmeal Stout already enjoys hearty Northwest appreciation and, starting Sept 1st, Oatis will be available in twelve ounce 6-packs.

Oatis will be available in draft, twenty-two ounce bomber, and twelve ounce 6-packs year-round where Ninkasi is found in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, California, and Montana.
As an added treat this fall, Northwest travelers can quaff complimentary Oatis Oatmeal Stout on regional Alaska/Horizon flights during October –yum.


Hair of the Dog Brewers Dinner at Wildwood Restaurant

The top beer pairing restaurant in town - Wildwood Restaurant & Bar has put together what is sure to be another beer geek must attend Brewmasters dinner with Alan Sprints of Hair of the Dog Brewing. Reservations are available right now for next Saturday July 28th's dinner and are sure to sell-out. Reserve your seat now and look below for the menu, pricing and reservation info.

Yelp's On Tap 2.0

Yelp, one of the top online social rating and reviewing communities in Portland, has again put together some killer specials for this year's Oregon Craft Beer Month. Yelp's On Top 2.0 starts this Wednesday, July 18.

What is Yelp's On Tap, you ask? It's a week-long Oregon beer happy hour. A bunch of local Portland bars are offering up a selection of discounted beers all day, every day during the week from 7/18 to 7/24.

Deschutes Street Fare Returns for 3rd Year This August

Deschutes Brewery's Street Fare in Portland's Pearl District returns on Thursday, August 16th for its 3rd year. The event combines brews from Deschutes with food from some of the best food carts in town, along with great live music.

Pfriem Family Brewers Launch Party

This Thursday, July 19th, the latest Gorge-area brewery, Priem Family Brewers from Hood River, will debut its Belgian and NW inspired hoppy beers at Bazi Bierbrasserie. You may recall I reported on Pfriem and featured an interview with co-owner and Head Brewer Josh Pfriem some time ago.

An experienced brewer who has spent time at both Chuckanut Brewery and Full Sail, Josh will focus on both on Belgian-style brews without ignoring the hops that us Pacific Northwesterners crave. The initial lineup of 5 beers are listed below.

Le Tour de Belgian Biers

Point Blank Distributing in collaboration with Bazi Bierbrasserie and Brewvana Brewery Tours presents Le Tour de Belgian Biers this coming Saturday July 21st which is officially Belgium’s Independence Day. The Brewvana tour bus will be shuttling passengers all day between Apex, Bazi Bierbrasserie, Beer Mongers, Belmont Station, Bridgetown Beerhouse, The Hop & Vine and include VIP line access to the Portland International Beerfest.

Mt Hood Brewing Ice Axe IPA now in bottles

Mt. Hood Brewing Company has for the first time bottled its flagship beer, the Ice Axe India Pale Ale. It seems like I have rarely ever seen this beer around Portland in recent years though it used to be many a pubs staple. I still look forward to the occasional pint of their Hogsback Oatmeal Stout that is always on cask at the Horse Brass.

Bottling their beer for the first time in 22's could signify a shift with the brewery to get their beer more out there. Bottles of Ice Axe IPA will initially only be available exclusively at select Portland-area retailers Zupan’s Markets and Made in Oregon. Not sure what the exclusivity nets them, perhaps higher profit margins, better shelf space or simply a slow rollout of their bottlesto meet demand.
“We’re excited to be one of two retailers selling the exclusive Ice Axe India Pale Ale, a beer with a strong following and unique flavor profile,” said President Mike Zupan. “This beer is local, just like we are, and we know our customers will appreciate finding this exceptional ale at all four of our Zupan’s Markets locations.”

Ice Axe India Pale Ale is Mt. Hood Brewing Company’s flagship beer and is available in 22 oz. bottles for $5.99. It is an aggressively hopped beer with a rich and satisfying flavor profile.
Tasting Notes:
Well balanced to allow the caramel of the malts to be up front with the subtle finish of hops added during the 120 minute boil.

Malts:  Crystal, Munich, 2-Row Pale, Malted Wheat
Hops:   Centennial, Mt. Hood, Magnum, Golding, Willamette
IBU:    60
ABV:   5.7 percent

“Because all of the ingredients in our beers are from the Pacific Northwest, it’s important for us to share them with people who appreciate our roots,” said Tom Rydzewski, Head Brewer at Mt. Hood Brewing Company. “Zupan’s Markets prioritize quality, fresh, local products and we’re happy to partner with them on this exciting venture."

About Mt. Hood Brewing Company
Utilizing the freshest, locally-produced ingredients and Mt. Hood's pure glacial water, Mt. Hood Brewing Company head brewers Tom Rydzewski and Jeff McAllester produce an exciting line up of ales for every palate. Located on the 1st floor of the Ice Axe Grill, the brewery is in the center of High Cascade Mountain action. Founded in 1991, the brewer produces eight distinctive ales through the marriage of pure glacial water and Pacific Northwest grown barley and hops. Oregonians can also find these ales on draft in restaurants and pubs throughout the state. For more information, visit:
About Zupan’s Markets
Founded by John Zupan in 1975, Zupan’s Markets is a local and family-owned gourmet market that has served Portland’s food-loving community for 37 years. Zupan’s Markets, now with four locations, focuses on quality, selling everything from the best meats and wines to the freshest produce, baked goods, gourmet deli products, specialty foods, flowers and more, always emphasizing locally sourced, artisan products when possible. For more information, visit or stay in touch at

Recent Writing

I thought I would share a couple of stories I have written recently for sites other than The New School. Sometimes I need a little break from writing on The New School, and the excuse to cover other subjects in depth is a refreshing challenge. You will also find these stories to be longer and even maybe more carefully written then some of the stuff normally read on this site.

Fruits of Their Labor: The Challenges and Rewards of Brewing with Fruit 
Inspired by fine fruit beer makers Alex Ganum at Upright Brewing and Jason Mcadam at Burnside Brewing Co., I wanted to write an article for those skeptical of the styles. The article turned into not just a piece about their fruit beers, but the real challenges and rewards of brewing with fruit, along with quite a few tips on how to brew them well. At about 800 words it's relatively long, but I actually had to trim my original down a couple hundred words.

Gig Harbor’s First Beer Festival: Beer at its Local Best
Real Food Traveler 
I was asked to cover the first ever Gig Harbor, WA, beer festival one weekend and I mistakenly thought it was near Bellingham, WA, which I had been wanting to revisit. I was wrong, it is actually near Tacoma. Regardless, "SNOB" Ritch and I did get to check out the cool 7 Seas Brewery and witness a new beer festival and possible new craft beer city's birth. This is a pretty long, in-depth article about Gig Harbor's craft beer culture, 7 Seas Brewery, and the new beer festival. I am a little upset though that Real Food Traveler changed the last 2 sentences of the second paragraph:

"Just when I planned a little late night drinking, though, we discovered the tasting room closed at the astoundingly early hour of 9 p.m. In the area surrounding us were strip malls filled with chain restaurants and a local sports bar with a locals problem. None of these places made a likely hideout for a traveling beer writer with a yen for some good beer drinking problem."

While I am plugging stories that I wrote, I might as well throw a shout out to this one by local beer writer for hire Brian Yaeger on Craft P'roast to Collaborative Coffee Beers!

Widmer Brothers & Draft Magazine Team Up for Explore Your Craft

For connoisseurs of art, especially beer, Widmer Brothers Brewing has teamed up with DRAFT magazine for a series of events called Explore Your Craft. The first of 7 collaborative efforts is this Friday, July 13th, kicking off in Portland before moving on to other cities across the country. Explore Your Craft combines food, beer, charcuterie, visual artists, and musicians.

New Belgium's Clips of Faith Film Show Coming to Portland

New Belgium Brewing is bringing its short film series that benefits beer and non-profits, the Clips of Faith show (, back to Portland on Friday, August 3. The third annual Clips of Faith tour has hand-selected a variety of amateur films and will be serving its palate-elevating beers under a blanket of stars at Waterfront Park. Read the press release below:

VIDEO: Jean Powell of Taphandles Inc.

Friend of The New School, Jean Powell of Seattle based Taphandles Inc., explains what the company is all about in this new video from the BrewExpo convention floor at the Craft Brewers Conference. More than simply being the #1 producer of unique taphandles, they specialize in designing brands and paraphernalia, from logos to signage and LEDs. Starting a new brewery or beer brand? You should probably consult with Taphandles Inc.

Pegas Craft Tap Filler

One of the cooler discoveries at the BrewExpo America portion of the Craft Brewers Conference was the Pegas Craft Tap growler filler from the guys behind The Growler Station. This sweet device fills your growler with pressure to keep it carbonated and fresh without foaming while even being able to purge the line between fills. Also, as an accessory they offer the Novo Tap, a product that fills plastic bottles, which are cheap, light, and easy to transport. These are currently being marketed to bars and breweries across the country, though I have yet to see one on the west coast.

New Lardo Brick and Mortar location opens in Portland Today

I have been a fan of the Lardo food cart ever since they opened in the food cart pod next to Movie Madness on Belmont. They were coincidentally located next to The Sugar Cube cart fronted by Kir Jensen who makes some of the finest pastries in town. Upon my first visit to Lardo owner Rick Gencarelli immediately commented on my The Hop & Vine track jacket and Upright Brewing Oyster Stout t-shirt. I knew immediately he was a beer geek. I had a feeling great things would happen between Rick's Lardo food truck and Kir's dessert truck and I am happy to say about a year later they have teamed up for the first brick and mortar location of Lardo on 12th and SE Hawthorne BLVd across the street from one of the original cart pods Cartopia. Not surprisingly Lardo will add an impressive draft beer selection to their new diner space while Kir's The Sugar Cube cart will rest in their parking lot between many picnic tables on the patio.

Lardo is known for an American take on Italian style and very meat centric foods. They have become very well known for their double burger and Porchetta which is ranked among the best in town.  The new space will have 16 taps with 2 of those going to wine on tap and one to a root beer. The walk-in cooler attached to the side of the building will have split lines to add an outdoor bar coming off of the cooler too. Right now they have a handful of patio tables and plan to add even more. Also of note they have a full liquor license but a limited selection of booze they will have their own house cocktails, including beer cocktails. Later down the road expect Lardo to host brewers nights and tap takeover events. For now they have a varied taplist that will include regular offerings from The Commons and Gigantic Brewing with one consistent for Peroni which fits with the Italian inspired beginning.

Lardo has a soft opening today starting at 11am to Midnight which will be the regular hours. The Sugar Cube will join them soon but is not yet setup on-site. The new Lardo is at 1212 SE Hawthorne blvd. Portland, OR. Check below for the opening draft list and food menu.

EastBurn's 1st annual Brewers' Pig Roast

Now this looks promising. With the glut of in-store tastings and McMenamin's specials that take up most of Oregon Craft Beer Month here is an event I can get behind.

On Saturday July 28th join the folks at EastBurn for a good old fashioned Pig Roast. This event will be a backyard party for all breweries, including those not involved in OBF to get together and hobnob.  

The patio will have 4 taps going from our neighborhood brewers for sale to the public as well as the additional 8 taps we have at the main bar. The party starts at 2pm and we’ll  be slow roasting a 120 lb pig with all the fixins which we hope to have ready to go by 4pm.

Please pass the word and please help us make sure we have enough for all by RSVP to 

6th annual Puckerfest Event's and Beer List Revealed

Breaking news on this 4th of July. Belmont Station has revealed the schedule and details of the 6th Annual Puckerfest taking place Friday July 13 – Thursday July 20 noon – 11PM Daily. From humble beginnings Puckerfest has become the preeminent sour beer fest in Oregon with up to 16 sour and wild yeast beers on tap daily. I remember working at the bier cafe during the first annual Puckerfest and seeing less people than on what a regular day of business there would be like today. At that point sour beers were practically unheard of and Belmont Station had only 4 taps to rotate through them. Anyway without further ado here is the event and beer list...

Ninkasi Brewing's Sasquatch Legacy Wheat Wine

Each year the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation awards 3 brewing scholarships to the Siebel Institute. Those winners have always been invited to brew an annual Sasquatch Legacy Project collaboration beer at Walking Man Brewing. With recent shakeups there the brewing of this annual beer has moved to Eugene OR's Ninkasi Brewing. This year the Legacy beer is a Wheatwine.

VIDEO: Presents the Braumesister

At long last we are catching up with videos filmed at the Craft Brewers Conference in mid May. The Beer Expo as part of the CBC showcased some of the latest innovative technology to the industry. Here a rep from More presents one of the finest homebrewing systems I have seen and what looks to be a killer startup for a nano brewery.