Review: A Trip to Corvallis with Brewvana and The New School

Volunteer brewers at Flat Tail want on the bus too

Last Saturday Iembarked on the latest New School VIP touralong with a busload of beer geeks and our partner,Brewvana Brewery Tours. This time the tour went to Corvallis, OR, with a stop in Albany. Our final destination was Block 15 Brewing for the release of the new bottles of Pappy’s Dark and Super Nebula, but before that we had three other stops to make.

Manypassengers on our full bus brought their own bottles and growlers of beers to share on the ride to our first stop – Calapooia Brewing in Albany. There Co-Owner/Brewer Mark Martin was waiting for us and ushered us into the back of the brewery after we had a chance to check out the pub and allowing us all to get free pints of whatever beer we chose.

Calapooia Brewing owners

I must admit this was my first trip ever to Calapooia Brewing, a brewery that I have enjoyed when their beers occasionally pop up in Portland. I have always thought they made solid beers, but nothing I was going to write home about. On this trip I was proven wrong, as Calapooia in many ways stole the show on the tour. To begin with, these guys were bigger than I anticipated. A small pub space in an out of the way corner of a city where not a lot is going on probably keeps the out of the spotlight, and even Mr. Martin explained that local residents don’t even know they are there.

Once you walk through the back hallways behind the pub and through the office, you come out into a surprisingly large warehouse space with a 15 barrel brewhouse and a lot of tanks. I was informed that these guys produced 1,500 barrels of beer last year, which is nothing to scoff at. Another interesting tidbit, they are also co-owners of Corvallis’ Flat Tail Brewing. While Dave Marliave over at Flat Tail brews a lot of idiosyncratic and wild beers, Calapooia focuses on the more classic styles, but boy, do they do them well. We were there just in time for their new NW Passage IPA, which was a phenomenal beer. I am not one of those guys who loves every IPA–in fact, there are very few truly great Oregon IPAs in my opinion–but this would be one of them. It epitomized a west coast IPA in every way, and I think a San Diegan would love it.

Other exciting news is that Calapooia is expanding their bottling. They started off with their Chili Beer and have expanded to the IPA and more bottles coming soon that will be available from Point Blank Distributing in Portland.

Flat Tail Brewing’s Dave Mariave wants YOU to hop on the bus

Next stop was Flat Tail Brewing in Corvallis, where volunteer Head Brewer Dave Marliave and his assistant brewer greeted us as soon as we stepped off the bus. Dave, always a gracious host, ushered us in through the back of the brewery for a tour and tasting straight from the barrels in their back room.

As usual,Flat Tail had some unique beers, including the second runnings small beer of a Russian Imperial Smoked Stout that was still full of flavor, with softer rounded coffee notes and noticeable smoke character, while still being light and drinkable. We tasted beers off the bright tanks, fermenters, and barrels before the crew thanked us with free T-shirts and Flat Tail pint glasses.

Next up it was dinner time, so we made it over to Nick Arzner’s Les Caves Bier & Kitchen, a new Euro style bistro and beer bar just down the street and right next door to Block 15 Brewing. The food here is a great accompaniment to the beers, and I was excited to try the ever evolving Caves Saison that Block 15 brews just for the restaurant.

At the table we were greeted with free appetizer boards to whet our appetities (as if we needed that). Some of the more generous people on the bus even opted for purchasing and sharing some of the rare bottles on Les Caves list, like the last bottle of Upright’s Fantasia and even a Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek.

At the main attraction,Block 15 Brewing, they were releasing two of their most highly anticipated bottles–Pappy’s Dark and Super Nebula. We didn’t get there till after 6pm, but owner/brewer Nick Arzner had luckily saved us all plenty of stock of each.

Owner/Brewer Nick Arzner

We started our tour in the back event room of the brewery that they reserved for our 15 person strong group. Here we got to check out the small workhorse of a brewhouse right next door, and Nick talked a little about the brewery before leading us downstairs into the basement where all the magic happens.

All Block 15’s fermentation happens downstairs in a low ceiling below a historic block in Corvallis. It is tight quarters down here as the brewery maxes out their production on such a small system with limited space.

The real magic that makes Block 15 such a hot brewery, though, is behind a door cut through the wall in their keg storage room that is outfitted with the front of the barrel and inscripted “Time does not respect those that do without it” as you can see above. This is a good axiom for the barrel aging rooms that lie beyond it with many beers aging for a year or more.

From the barrel I tasted two beers I had tried last time that have not yet been released, Framboise White and a Flanders Red aging in Brandy barrels. They had both improved markedly since the last time I tried them a few months ago, and I predict Framboise White (brewed with rare and expensive white raspberries) to be a hot beer release in the future.

Finally, back up top Nick brought out pitchers of vintage Pappy’s Dark Ale and Super Nebula, as well as versions of the latest releases, and Hypnosis, a bourbon barrel-aged Barleywine. All I can say is wow, there were generous pours and copious amounts of barrel-aged beers going around the room and I am sad to say we couldn’t even finish it all. Finally we stumbled back upon the Brewvana bus for our not-so-sober trip home. The incredible part of the whole trip may have been the only $78 ticket price that included all beer, food, and the ride to and from, and let’s not forget all the behind the scenes tasting.

Until the next New School/Brewvana tour, perhaps of new breweries in the Gorge.

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: