(Photo: Hopworks owner/brewmaster Christian Ettinger's aim remains true)
Hopworks Urban Brewery, Oregon's only all-organic brewery, has a few more tricks up its sleeve--new seasonals, a bottled Radler, and branching out into new business lines for gluten-free beer, hard cider, and even whiskey.
When Hopworks debuted on the scene in 2007 it was a hot commodity known for organic, hoppy beer, a bicycle theme, and a big, colorful, family-friendly brewpub. Like all great breweries, bands, artists, etc., Hopworks has diversified by trying out different styles, flavors, and influences, rather than simply sticking to an old proven formula.
Barrel-Aging & Sour Beer Programs
After purchasing the adjacent ABC Roofing and Insulation business, Hopworks has steadily built an impressive barrel room full of wine barrels from Maryhill Winery, Tennessee whiskey barrels from Jack Daniels, and bourbon barrels from Heaven Hills. This will keep those of us who loved Army of Darkness and barrel-aged Mother Russia Imperial Stouts, Kentucky Christmas, and many other fine HUB BA beers can soon expect them as annual releases.
As I reported nearly a year ago, Hopworks has a small but growing sour beer program coming to maturity. Likely still nearly a year out, we may get to sample some single barrel wild ales from Hopworks program of single barrel inoculations. From Flanders Reds to Belgian Pale Ales with Brett, there is a lot to be excited about, but brewers Tom Bleigh and Matt Speckenbach know they will likely need another year to reach their potential.
New Seasonals: Totally Radler, Saison, & British Invasion
One of the more popular styles in the last few years, especially as a summer style of beer, has been the rise of the German-style Radler. From imports like Stiegl's Grapefruit Radler to local hits like last year's 10 Barrel Brewing Swill, this beer/soda hybrid takes a light lager and blends it with a citrus soda (historically lemon soda) to create a refreshing low alcohol beverage. Hopworks has been dipping its toes into the Radler waters for the last few years with very limited draft-only experimentation. If you know HUB owner Christian Ettinger and Brewmaster Tom Bleigh, you know they are very serious about recreating the classic German Radlers they have had in their travels. With any luck, we will get a taste of that experimentation by late summer with a Hopworks Radler on draft, with bottles or cans hopefully soon to follow.
Next up are some brand new packaged seasonals from Hopworks. The British Invasion is a new draft-only summer seasonal. Available soon, the British Invasion is a an English-style IPA brewed with 100% organic Fuggle and Golding hops, as per the traditional recipe, with perhaps a smidge more hops than our friends across the pond might find necessary.
There is also a new addition to Hopworks' Abbey series of Belgian-style ales and it's a wonder it has taken so long to release a saison. So far I have been impressed with this Belgian-influenced line of beers, especially the Belgian pale ale, and with the growing popularity of farmhouse-style ales, this seems like a can't miss. Thankfully, this is a straight up interpretation of a saison fermented with Wyeast 3724 yeast and no unnecessary spicing.
Gluten-Free Beer & Hard Cider
In other interesting news, Hopworks is set to become the next Oregon brewery to branch out into Gluten-free beer. Technically, by TTB federal standards it is gluten reduced or removed beer and so far won't be allowed to be marketed as fully "Gluten-Free". Using a similar method to the CBA's Omission Series of GF beers, Hopworks has developed a quick, effective, and affordable way to remove gluten from its beers. Rather than launch a whole separate line of beers, the brewery plans to offer alternate versions of its existing lineup. That means celiacs and other GF lifestyle folks will soon be able to enjoy Hopworks IPA and Lager (the first two beers to go GF). The process of removing the gluten is so simple and the chance to test this growing market out seems irresistible, I can't help but wonder if the dedicated gluten-free brewery may become a thing of the past? Meanwhile there is some resistance to calling such gluten removed beer actually gluten-free because the original product used gluten and the testing method may miss some chunks of gluten yet by the TTB's own guidelines for "Gluten-Free" beer tests indicate there is less than 20 parts per million (ppm), the standard. Time will tell if the tests are proved accurate and weather the feds adopt guidelines but I would hedge to bet these types of gluten removed beers become accepted. More on the debate here: http://www.celiaccommunity.org/confusion-over-omission/
As I like to say, the best gluten-free beer is a cider. Until Hopworks proves me wrong I will remain more excited in the fact that it hopes to sometime soon become a cidery as well as a brewery. Somewhat more complex than removing gluten from beer is getting a winery (cidery) license for a brewery, with the main hold-up being a separation between each operation. As Hopworks works with the feds to smooth out issues of holding both a winery and brewery license we can all look forward to new, all-organic ciders.
Whiskey and Spirits
Possibly the most exciting longer term project for Hopworks is the brewery's own whiskey. I suppose this was a natural addition, since whiskey is distilled from wort and HUB recently expanded its bar and added a liquor license. No, Hopworks does not yet serve the hard stuff, but the company is considering adding a small but local and well-chosen selection of spirits any day now. The Beer Whiskey, as you can see above, is still in barrels and the label and packaging are just a mock-up. The final product, when finished in another year or two, won't be called Beer Whiskey. I had the privilege of trying a young version of the whiskey, distilled at Portland's New Deal Distillery using Hopworks Lager wort; it was the smoothest "white" whiskey I have ever tried. That's truly saying something for a spirit in the pre-barrel-aging stage. No, HUB wont be releasing an un-aged whiskey, but is allowing the booze to age for years until it tastes right.
Fruit Cocktail Beer
Last, I am particularly looking forward to a new draft-only fruit cocktail beer for this year's Portland Fruit Beer Festival. Over one year in the making, inspired by the chopped blend of fruits often found in cans and cafeterias, it was originally set to be HUB's beer for the Oregon Brewers Festival last summer, but trouble sourcing all-organic fruit lead to its delay. Now Brewmaster Tom Bleigh says he has solved the problem and a fresh fruit version is coming for this year's PFBF in June.
Believe it or not, but in America the USDA actually enforces what fruits and how much should be used to make up a canned "fruit cocktail." It must contain pears, grapes, cherries, peaches, and pineapples, otherwise it cannot be called fruit cocktail. It should contain fruits in not less nor more than the following percentages:
- 30% to 50% diced peaches, any yellow variety
- 25% to 45% diced pears, any variety
- 6% to 16% diced pineapple, any variety
- 6% to 20% whole grapes, any seedless variety
- little to no cherry halves, any light sweet or artificial red variety