Alameda Brewing on NE Freemont in Portland, OR has been turning out solid to great beers for about 9 years now without a whole lot of buzz even though they have won medals such as my favorite Black Bear XX Stout that has won the Gold Medal at the 2003 GABF. Silver Medal in 2006 and 2008 in the foreign-style stout category.
Recently though relatively new Head Brewer Carston Haney has been freshening things up with Imperial Stouts and IPA’s as well as barrel aging various brews and their are more changes for the brewery on the way.
I often run into Carston around town at the usual watering holes and share a beer so it seemed like a good idea to go hang out with him at the brewery and do a little more chatting on the record about all the stuff I have known about for awhile.
SA: How long have you been at Alameda?
Carston Haney: Since September 2008
SA: Where were you brewing before?
CH: At a small (8.5 BBL), start-up brew pub in Pennsylvania called Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks where I was lucky enough to work with Brewmaster Tim Yarrington through the entire process of building the brewhouse to eventually brewing on it.
SA: Alameda is known primarily as a brewpub but recently has been bottling more beers like the El Torero IPA and the barrel-aged Papa Noel Olde Ale. Are things changing at Alameda? Are we going to see more bottlings?
Things have definitely been changing at Alameda. In the past three years, our distribution network has been steadily expanding. First with draft sales and in the past year with our 22 oz bottles. We finally released our El Torero IPA last month which now complements the Klickitat Pale and the Black Bear XX Stout. We’ve been trying to grow slowly and sustainably without compromising our ale’s quality. Look for the Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA in 22’s this summer.
SA: What kinds of beers are you interested in brewing and why?
Personally, I’m primarily interested in brewing big, hoppy, drinkable, kick-ass IPA’s. As a professional brewer I’m interested in brewing a wide range of stand-up quality beers to satisfy most everyone’s taste. Generally I tend to brew English ales with a Northwest twist. Again as a professional brewer I have an obligation to my employer to produce marketable, consistent products that consumers will return to time and time again. I feel very lucky that even with the production pressure on Alameda’s tiny 5 bbl brewhouse I am still able to experiment and play with new recipes and styles of beer.
SA: You recently brewed an Imperial Stout. Some might say on the lower end of the alcoholic side. What was your approach in brewing it?
I wanted to produce a stout that was slightly stronger and of a much different character than the Black Bear XX. I used all English Malts, Great Northern Brewer hops, and my house ale yeast and ended up with a 7.8% ABV Imperial Stout. Personally, I enjoy beers that are flavorful (possibly intensely so) and consumable (i.e. I’m able to drink more than two 12 oz servings without falling off the barstool).
SA: Their is a new “Cascadian Farmhouse” beer on at the pub, what is that beer about?
The Cascadian Farmhouse IPA is all about experimentation and a whim. The Cascadian Farmhouse IPA is probably the most unusual and strongest beer I have produced at Alameda to date, definitely not fitting into any conventional beer style categories. Essentially, it could be called a Belgian IPA, although I have not tasted any exactly similar to it. A French Saison yeast strain that I borrowed from Upright Brewing makes this beer the lovely creature it is, providing an extremely dry ale with hints of pepper and citrus. I used European hops at nearly the large quantity of a typical Northwest IPA and dry-hopped the hell out of it with an American hop (Palisades) that complements the mandarin orange character of the yeast. The Farmhouse is a very strong, easily consumable brew, ringing in at 9.2% ABV and only 50 IBU’s. As to those who ask what style it is, my responding question is “Do you like it? You do. Good. Then what style it is shouldn’t matter.”
SA: Their was a rumor going around that Alameda was going to open a downtown location. But that is false right?
That is false, one brewpub is enough for us. Somebody at the Portland Business Journal still thinks we are going to open one downtown. It’s free advertising at least.
SA: But the brewer is looking to expand no?
Yes, we are currently looking for space for a 20 BBL brewhouse to handle our production needs. We are getting close to leasing a building in NE Portland and will hopefully (fingers crossed) have the new brewery up and running by the end of the summer. This will take all the pressure off of Alameda Brewhouse’s overworked 5 BBL brewhouse and will make brewing in a restaurant much more fun.
SA: Right now you guys do so much brewing that you have to even do some at Roots. How will your job change with an expansion?
Well, I’m still going to be working my ass off managing and controlling two breweries. I won’t be lifting and stacking forty plus 160 lb.1/2 bbls a week in a cramped walk-in or unloading 10,000 # of grain a month off the back of a pickup truck and through a window like this past year.
SA: Can we expect more and different beers? What kinds of things?
Once we have the 20 BBL brewery up an running look for lots and lots of fun things at Alameda. Our current 5 bbl brewery will still be in the Brewhouse, but it will only need to supply the pub with beer. That opens up a lot of fermentation space for different seasonals. I’m very interested in playing with different varieties of yeast and blurring style guidelines. Right now I don’t have the time or space to play with some of the slower yeast strains.
Thanks to “SNOB” Ritch for the photos and Carston for the interview and beers!