Hopworks Nears Vancouver Launch With Innovative Fortside Brewing Collab


The premise here is to break Fortside’s lauter tun.
At least that’s how Hopworks Urban Brewery owner Christian Ettinger laid out the goal for this collaboration, dubbed Bale Out IPA. Once you understand the hop bill, you’ll realize that goal was almost a reality. I had the chance to sit in on a portion of the brew day and take down a little bit of what I saw, smelled, tasted, and heard.

Our mash is pretty much a solid,” quipped Fortside co-owner Mark Doleski.

On December 15th, twelve days before Hopworks opens its new restaurant and brewery in Vancouver, Washington, the Hopworks crew hooked up with a brewery whose mission statement reads: “To strengthen craft beer culture in SW Washington.” That’s what Fortside Brewing has been doing on the fort-side of the Columbia River since it opened just over a year ago.

Before unveiling the ridiculous hop bill on this collaboration beer, it should be noted that this beer is unique in another sense. The grain bill includes a new malt recently made available by Vancouver’s Great Western Malting Company called Sacchra. As Great Western puts it: Sacchra utilizes a unique twist on traditional crystal and high dry production; by merging the two processes–and incorporating a wet saccharification step–GWM has created an innovative new malt. The anticipated result is a luscious creamy mouthfeel, red mahogany hue, and a rich earthy malt complexity gentle enough to allow the hops to shine through.

The hops in this beer will have no problem shining.

Bale Out IPA used 200 pounds of whole cone Amarillo, Cascade and Centennial hops.

Yes, a whole bale. Hence, the name.

Fortside's Mike Difabio "bales out" the new Bale Out IPA.

Fortside’s Mike Difabio “bales out” the new Bale Out IPA.

HUB head brewer Trever Bass watched Fortside co-owner Mike Difabio pull out spent grains and hops in awe: “This answers the all-important question: How much is too much?”

So, how’s this new collaboration beer going to taste? Matthew “Speck” Speckenbach, the lead brewer at the new Hopworks Vancouver facility, could only exclaim, “WOW!” after a swig of the wort. “I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like that,” added Ettinger. “So resinous. Fruity… with a woody quality.

Difabio chimed in several minutes after the wort-tasting on the lingering onslaught 200 pounds of whole cone hops had on his palate, “It’s still there. That’s awesome.

Bale Out IPA is predicted to ferment at around 7.5% ABV, 1,000,000,000,000 IBUs and be available at both Fortside Brewing and Hopworks on December 27th – the day Hopworks has scheduled to open in Vancouver.

A beer this bold and this innovative bears a foreshadowing of what’s to come. The new Vancouver Hopworks brew system was brought in from Rock Bottom Brewery in Washington D.C. It’s an 8bbl system with three 16bbl fermenters and six 16 bbl bright tanks. The cooler at HUB’s new spot will be home to 22 taps, featuring many well-known Hopworks favorites and a lot of surprises.

“What did I call it?” asked Ettinger to anyone who would listen. He recalled the moniker he’d given the new space before an answer came back: “Oh yeah! Our Brewers’ Playground!”

Ettinger says the new facility will be all about innovation where Speck and crew can experiment, expound, explore and ultimately enjoy the creative space. But the brewers aren’t necessarily steering the ship here.

Ultimately, the customers define you,” said Ettinger. He expects beer-lovers from the north bank of the Columbia to really guide and shape what is poured at their east Vancouver venue over time.

As for Bale Out IPA and his goal to break Fortside’s lauter tun, Ettinger surmised, “I don’t know what we just did here, but it’s never been done in our brewhouse or any other brewery that I’m aware of.”


Michael Perozzo
Michael Perozzo

Michael Perozzo is a life-long resident of Southwest Washington and father of 4. At his day job, he leads a digital marketing and graphic design team supporting food/beverage clients at ZZEPPELIN. Michael helped start Brewcouver – the passport to Vancouver’s breweries – and co-founded NorthBank Beer Week. He also manages beer buying for the Vancouver Brewfests and helped create Brewing Bridges Collaboration Fest. Portland Trail Blazers fans may remember him as DarthBlazer circa 2008-2012.