5 Questions for Ben and Rik of Baerlic Brewing

Rik Hall and Ben Parsons of Baerlic Brewing

Portland’s Baerlic Brewing has two owner/brewers. Ben Parsons and Rik Hall started Baerlic Brewing in late 2014 and just recently claimed the title of Oregon Small Brewery of the Year at the Oregon Beer Awards. Their inner southeast taproom is also an under-the-radar gem that just began allowing minors. Friends since attending a Meridian, Idaho, high school together back in the mid-90s, Ben and Rik began homebrewing together in 2004.

This is chapter 3 in a new semi-regular series in which we check in with brewers on what they are drinking, eating, and enjoying, and what’s currently bubbling away in their fermenters. This edition pulls double duty because Ben and Rik do, too.

Q: What was it like winning Oregon Small Brewery of the Year at the Oregon Beer Awards?

Rik: I was very excited and did not know how to relay that excitement. I felt very happy that our beers did well this year and that we had some recognition of all of the hard work we have been doing and continue to do.

Ben: Holy hell, it’s been an amazing honor. To think that our beers stood out in a double-blind competition with some of the best judges on the planet is absolutely mindblowing. I am a big believer that even in this world of cross country beer trades and rating apps, beer is and should be a regional cultural experience. Local beer is better beer, period. And that is what is so exciting about the OBAs to me—this is Oregon beer put up against Oregon beer. And as a brewer in Portland, I really think there is something more beneficial to that regional aspect of it, as compared to GABF or World Beer Cup.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled by recognition at either of those, but I really think Oregon beer is different than beer from other parts of the country and planet. And to think that this competition is a honing of what those differences might be is just so amazing to me. Craft beer evolves so damn fast these days, that I am beyond excited to see what Oregon beer truly means in the long run. I think as a brewer, I am just starting to figure that out and as an industry that transcends geography, we too often risk homogenizing that regionality with a hyper focus on trends and a lack of the regional and cultural depth that beer provides. That’s the intangible thing in beer that drives me and I really think that the OBAs are working to eek that deeper story out, whether intentionally or not.

Q: What is your favorite beer right now?

Rik: Out of our beer Eastside Oatmeal Pils. Out in the world I prefer to drink Oregon Craft Beer. My favorite right now is Breakside Wanderlust.

Ben: As always, the one in my hand. Which more often than not lately, has been Pfriem’s Vienna Lager or one of the Pilsners from Commons, Occidental or Crux. And I can’t stop thinking about the Tropical Gose from Breakside’s new spot in Slabtown, holy moly that’s a beer I wish that I brewed.

Q: Any favorite restaurants, dishes, beers, wines, ciders, cocktails that you are really enjoying right now?

Rik: I love to cook everything. Trying new recipes and seeing if there is room for adjustments. I like to try new restaurants when I go out, but just recently went to Country Cat and had their Idaho trout, so good. When I go out for beer I try to get something I haven’t had in a while. Cocktail wise I am trying to perfect my Boulevardier, and my gin cocktails.

Ben: I have been obsessing a bit on the process of cured meats lately. I recently took a class from Ben at Old Salt on meat curing and I feel that it’s the next hobby I will be getting really into. So I’ve been trying to study the local brands like Old Salt, OP, and Chop to see where I might want to start. At this rate, I’m pretty sure that I will have a fair amount of meat hanging in my house getting the right kind of funky by the end of summer! 

Q: What is new or fresh on tap right now at Baerlic Brewing?

Rik: Merville, a derogative term for the city Meridian where we went to high school. It is a dry hopped wheat beer using only Meridian hops. We also just tapped into All Gold Everything in collaboration with Bailey’s Taproom. It is a British style golden ale.

Ben: I’m really liking the flavor combinations and how they are balancing with the mouthfeel from the wheat (Merville). It’s super subtle in its complexity, but fairly complex nonetheless. The name is an homage to the town Rik and I met and went to High School in outside of Boise, ID, called Meridian. We smart-assedly refer to is as Merville to this day.

All Gold Everything is …a lighter bodied beer but with a great floral and fruity nose from the Willamette dry-hop. And my favorite part is that we will have a brett barrel aged version of it in May. The intention with this beer was to brew a classic English style with Oregon hops and treat the lifespan of the beer in three ways: We released it first on cask than on draft until May where we will then release a bretted version. The intention there is to play with the idea of traditional/historic English cask programs and their almost inherent brett quality due to the use of wooden casks. I’m really stoked on this one. 

Q: What beers are in the works or in the tanks right now?

Rik: The tanks are all full at this moment. We have a SHop Class Centennial(single hop) that should be on tap this week, our Wildcat Saison should be out soon, and a new Azacca and El Dorado Pale Ale that we are working on.

Ben: [Referring to SHop Class] We really wanted to go classic on this one to playfully compete with some of those out of state brands from the midwest that have seemed to be invading Portland in force with Centennial heavy IPAs lately. Wink, wink.

Wildcat Meyer Lemon Saison: Originally brewed for the Class of 2014 beerfest, we have been fine-tuning it every year. This year we punched up the citrus aspect with more Meyer Lemons and a touch of Citra hops in the whirlpool. We also add a touch of smoked malt to hide as a phenolic bottom note and help fill out the dryness.

Test Flight Pale Ale. This is version 2 of a new year-round beer we’re currently concepting. We contracted this year for some Azacca and El Dorado hops so we’re playing around a bit to see where they shine. This version uses pale, honey and acidulated malts and Columbus, Azacca and El Dorado hops. It is intended to live in the New World Pale Ale realm, but again we are still dialing it in.

Check out our past Q & A’s with Whitney Burnside (10 Barrel) and Brett Thomas (Sunriver).

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: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com