By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There was a golden crack of sunshine in the gray, mist-filled sky that had ridden with me from Portland to visit a budding nanobrewery in Silverton on a cold November afternoon.
The “gold” was in a glass on the bar at the back end of a big, cluttered metal shed, half of which is home to Belgian Underground Brewing. Co-owner Sheldon Lesire, a school teacher, describes the brew as “a golden strong ale, bottle conditioned. It is about 9 percent ABV. Real bright golden color. It is unfiltered, but it sits so long everything settles to the bottom of the bottle.”
This is Underground’s version of what the Belgians call Duvel. The word means “devil” in Flemish, which is odd because it’s so bright and lively — reminiscent of spring in its aromas and flavor.
As Sheldon explains that Belgian beers are lightly hopped and draw most of their flavors from the yeast strains and adjuncts used to make them, his father-in-law is smiling broadly through a full salt-and-pepper beard. Dale Coleman is the brewer whose hobby of 16 years is filling Silverton taprooms with excited taste-testers.
But Dale, who also works at a company that manufacturers off-road products like winches, didn’t start out making Belgian beer. “I’ve always been a stout and porter type of guy,” he explains. Dale only decided to try Belgians a couple of Christmases back when Sheldon asked if he’d show him how to make beer for the holidays. That led Dale and Sheldon on a recipe search through every brewing book Dale had until they settled on Duvel. Several experimental batches gave them the taste and color they wanted, and taste tests in Silverton and at Portland’s Bazi Bierbrasserie, which features Belgian-inspired beers, proved they had what they wanted.
That’s when the Underground story came to a new chapter. The next beer Sheldon, Dale and third partner Eric Druliner, a Lake Oswego police officer, tried was a chocolate porter. Dale says it’s made with Madagascar vanilla beans soaked in Maker’s Mark bourbon for about a month. He also pitches Belgian chocolate into the secondary fermenter.
When Sheldon, who was born in Belgium, first smelled that porter he “had an emotional moment.” The tobacco aromas reminded him of his Opa, or grandfather in Flemish. It was then that Sheldon realized the brewery’s philosophy had to be “we make beer to tell stories and we tell stories to sell beer.”
Underground’s story actually began, then, in 1939 when Sheldon’s then-19-year-old grandfather joined the Belgian Resistance movement to fight the invading Nazis. Over the next few years he passed along information, such as railroad schedules for German troop movements. The young man was arrested three times and each time he lied his way out of jail.
But Sheldon explains that “almost nobody knows anything about the Belgian Resistance.” And, he adds, like that movement, “Belgian beers are unsung.”
Belgian Underground Brewing wants to share those stories and its take on those beers.
Both agree that any new beers will have to wait until they build out their small brewery and get OLCC approval. It could happen this coming spring.
Until then look for other Belgian Underground Brewing tasting events in Silverton, grab a glass and raise it to Sheldon’s Opa and what he inspired.
As the Oregon Beer Growler was going to press, Belgian Underground Brewing was in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 to outfit their current facility in order to meet OLCC standards for a brewery.
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With more than 80 breweries in the Portland metro area and 183 in the state of Oregon*, one might think that all the niches have been filled. BTU Brasserie proves that incorrect and brings a solution to a long-standing problem: finding a place that makes great Chinese food and craft beer.
BTU, which opened Aug. 2014, is located on a triangular corner on the south side of Northeast Sandy Boulevard. If you frequent the area just east of Laurelwood Brewing you may recall this building used to be a Chinese restaurant, and one that was vacated rather abruptly. But it was still a property that business partners Chris Bogart and Nate Yovu saw as promising. Their vision required extensive renovation due in large part to the installation of the brewery as well as a reimaging of the dining space. The focal point is a 13-seat bar with tables lining the perimeter of the room and an adjacent private room designed to accommodate groups.
The brewery contains a 7-barrel system heated by a steam boiler that was created by local fabricator Portland Kettle Works. By Nate's own admission, the installation of the boiler was an additional expense, but one that the duo felt was important to the soul of the operation. Both beer and Chinese cooking require massive amounts of heat, the extent of which can be expressed as Btus, or British thermal units. Most of BTU's beers fall in the range of 5 to 6 percent ABV, a range that includes lagers. Customers should know that the brews are designed so that more than one can be enjoyed during a sitting and they are meant to be paired with the food.
Chris comes from a restaurant background, having worked in classical Chinese restaurants before relocating from the East Coast and taking a position at Burnside Brewing. Nate represents the brewing half of the equation, with a background that includes graduation from the American Brewers Guild and time at Captain Lawrence Brewing in New York. While his focus is on brewing, he commented that "Food is a huge emphasis for us." To that end, they convinced Dusty Berard, who worked for Chris's father's restaurant in Vermont and for Ming Tsai in Boston, to head their kitchen. The menu offers many familiar dishes – dumplings, sesame noodles and spring rolls – from a kitchen focused on turning out food that will leave you wondering which was more carefully crafted, the food or the beer.
As 2015 begins, BTU will call upon their Chinese influence and release a doppelbock to recognize the Year of the Goat on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The bock style was originally brewed in the German town of Einbeck and was later adopted by Munich brewers who, due to their Bavarian accents, pronounced "Einbeck" as "ein Bock," or billy goat. In addition to the doppelbock release, the kitchen is gearing up to celebrate Chinese New Year with a prix fixe menu. The weeklong celebration begins Feb. 19 and comes on the heels of a big celebration here in Oregon: Zwickelmania. Along with many other breweries, BTU will be swinging open their doors and inviting the public in for a closer look at the setup.
Whether you enjoy a comforting bowl of peanut noodles, which pairs nicely with their single-hopped Polaris Wheat, are looking for something more assertive, like the dry-fried green beans whose smokiness intermingles deliciously with the roasty qualities of Dark Helmet Schwarzbier, or are craving a decidedly different place for weekend brunch, BTU has you covered.
*As of October 2014. Provided by the Oregon Brewers Guild.
[a] 5846 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
If you browse around the website for Ashland’s Standing Stone Brewing Company, you’ll find a lot of information about the beer, the food and the atmosphere. But what’s unique is that you’ll also discover how much the business cares about its employees. There’s an entire section describing all of the support Standing Stone provides for its workers and the larger community. Now the brewery has taken another step toward increasing employee health and wellness by joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Work@Health Program.
Standing Stone is one of at least 300 employers across the country that joined the comprehensive workplace health training, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. The program was established with funds from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund and introduced in 2014. It’s meant to help all sorts of businesses, particularly small employers, as long as they have at least 20 full-time employees and were up and running for one year prior to February 2013. Employers are then taught about ways to implement prevention and wellness strategies, primarily to quell chronic health conditions.
The brewpub ended up dedicating nine months of training and development to create an in-house version of the program, which it is calling “Cheers to Health.” And so far, a CDC-modeled program has never sounded so fun! For example, Standing Stone has hosted a movie night for workers, has brought in chair massages and has handed out yoga class vouchers. These activities and events are meant to help employees by decreasing their stress and encouraging them to socialize, volunteer, and use relaxation techniques. Workers have also benefitted from finance classes and emergency preparedness education.
The latest phase of the “Cheers to Health” program ended in November with a volunteer project for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Standing Stone employees spent a day constructing and installing new metal shelving to replace wooden racks in the organization’s walk-in refrigerator. They also stocked donated food.
“There are all sorts of studies that show how being part of our community and helping others decreases stress and lowers blood pressure,” says Standing Stone server Carolyn Stone. “Volunteering increases our health and happiness.”
Standing Stone Brewing
[a] 101 Oak Street, Ashland
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Since summer 2013, Mikki Trowbridge has led free yoga classes in Salem-area craft breweries. When Trowbridge, a certified yoga instructor who has been teaching yoga in Salem for more than five years, visited Rogue Farms in Independence, she thought the place needed a yoga class. The meeting hall's managers agreed, as did more than a hundred people who came to the first class. “I guess people love the combination,” Trowbridge said.
So much so that in early 2014 she expanded the program, called Yoga and Beer, to Vagabond Brewing. According to co-owner Dean Howes, each monthly class fills up (the space accommodates 40) and often they have to turn people away. “It's a fun program,” Howes said.
The example provided by Rogue and Vagabond inspired Laura Beans, events manager at Gilgamesh Brewing, to extend an invitation to Trowbridge. The brewery's south Salem location features a large backyard with a creek, providing an ideal ambiance for a biweekly yoga practice. Though the program at Gilgamesh is currently on hiatus, Beans said, “We’re happy to have Mikki come back next summer to lead this fantastic program.”
Both Howes and Beans know Trowbridge as director of special events for Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties, where she spearheaded the annual Cinco de Micro Brewfest. Al Tandy, a local business owner, believes Yoga and Beer, where he has been a regular for over a year, is positive not only for attendees but also for Salem overall. “It's wonderful she donates time to improving our city,” Tandy said.
In addition, Tandy enjoys the camaraderie that develops within a large group at a brewery yoga practice compared to a studio class. “It's more low key,” he said, “and it's fun to hang out and socialize afterward.”
The social aspect of Yoga and Beer isn't lost on Trowbridge. Not only is “drinking the international way of making friends,” the high-energy classes, which spring naturally from her boisterous personality, are full of laughter. “I have groups of women coming for ladies night out, for example. Plus you can't be super serious doing downward-facing dogs while burly guys pour micros in the next room.”
For Trowbridge, a self-professed imbiber who became a full-time yoga teacher last November, Yoga and Beer combines two things she loves. It also expresses what's best about the local culture. Often she has heard people remark that pairing a yoga practice with drinking craft brews in a barn “feels so Oregon.”
An added benefit: the program promotes both the hosting brewery and yoga. “The stereotype that only skinny people in tight clothes do yoga makes a yoga studio intimidating for newbies,” she said. “A class at a brewery opened yoga to people who would never come to a studio.”
Each 75-minute class is open to all levels and allows attendees to “detox and retox,” a practice that is becoming increasingly popular across the country. But, Trowbridge said, “There’s no judgment if someone wants to do beer and yoga and beer, instead of just yoga and beer.”
Yoga + Beer Schedule
Vagabond Brewing: Second Wednesday of each month
Rogue Farms Hopyard: Last Wednesday of each month
Gilgamesh Brewing: Returns June 17, 2015
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Most of us have been there. You wake up only wishing you hadn’t because you’re slogging through a booze-induced haze. Blame it on the beer festival, the ABVs that snuck up on you, or the special birthday party. Nobody enjoys a hangover. Moreover, decades of research have shown that heavy drinking, particularly over a long period of time, increases mortality risk. Too much alcohol could lead to liver disease and several types of cancer. But studies on the effects of moderate drinking have been more complicated. Part of that is due to the problem of how truthfully subjects self-report. Some research also ends up conflicting. And since we’re in a state that thrives off of a strong beer culture, it’s worth exploring the connection between alcohol, some of beer’s basic ingredients, and your health.
Moderate Drinking & the J-Shaped Curve
Whether it’s beer, wine or spirits, any alcohol in moderation may prove to have health benefits, according to Dr. Thomas Shellhammer, professor of fermentation science and food science at Oregon State University. For healthy adults, moderation means one serving a day for women and up to two servings a day for men under the age of 65. The Mayo Clinic has classified 12 fluid ounces of beer as one drink. Of course, factors such as age, body mass index, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and even education should also be taken into account when discussing health and alcohol intake. However, moderate consumption can result “in a decrease in mortality due to cardiovascular disease. And cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of folks in the U.S.,” explained Dr. Shellhammer.
The Mayo Clinic reported that restrained consumption can possibly reduce the risk of an ischemic stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted due to narrowed or blocked arteries. There may also be a diminished likelihood of developing diabetes associated with controlled alcohol use. A 2004 meta-analysis of previous studies published on the American Diabetes Association website determined that moderate drinkers were 30 percent less likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Since the late 1970s, research amassed on the benefits of moderate intake led to the development of what epidemiologists and medical professionals call the “J-shaped curve” regarding mortality. Dr. Shellhammer described that the curve on a graph would dip below the x-axis before rising again, creating a shape that resembles the letter “J.” The x-axis represents the number of alcohol servings a person or population would consume. The y-axis is then the risk of mortality. “A teetotaler has some fixed amount or average risk of mortality. As alcohol consumption increases, that risk of mortality decreases. It actually starts falling down below that x-axis and at some point out there it starts coming back up,” said Dr. Shellhammer.
A study published in 2013 by the Research Society on Alcoholism seems to reaffirm the data on moderate health benefits. Researchers analyzed the results of the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2001. That information was then paired with the latest release of the NHIS Linked Mortality Files, which provided follow-up data through the end of 2006. Results showed that more than a third of the drinkers recorded heavy use. Mortality risk grew as drinking increased, where ultimately daily excessive users had “an almost two-fold risk of death compared with abstainers,” researchers reported. Moderate drinking was connected to decreased mortality, but the health benefits “peaked around two non-heavy occasions per week,” the authors concluded.
Of course the health benefits may not be felt by everyone who drinks alcohol, even moderately. But research does indicate there can be positive implications. Apart from considering the body and beer, though, breaking down some of the health research on hops and barley can lead to a greater appreciation for the components of your brew.
Hops and Health
Many beer lovers, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, love the flavor and aroma hops add to beer. But those little cones have a lot more to offer in terms of medicinal qualities. Dr. Fred Stevens, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at OSU and principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, had a role in much of this groundbreaking research. OSU’s laboratory was the first to report that the main flavonoid, or compound synthesized by a plant, found in hops has anti-inflammatory and cancer chemopreventive properties. That flavonoid is called xanthohumol and never really turned brewers’ heads because it has no taste, according to OSU’s website. During his post-doctorate period at the university in 1995, Dr. Stevens started looking into the chemistry of hops. With the assistance of other professors, he was able to isolate and research xanthohumol. The team found that in cancer cells, it gives rise to one type of enzyme that detoxifies cancer-causing agents. It also stops another enzyme from activating carcinogens.
There’s evidence showing xanthohumol has the potential to prevent one particular type of disease: prostate cancer. Dr. Stevens published a paper with another researcher that showed how the flavonoid gets in the way of a particular protein’s signaling. That protein just happens to regulate 400 genes connected to inflammation, which is an important factor in the development of prostate cancer, Dr. Stevens shared on OSU’s website.
Similarly, a medicine company called Metagenics announced in 2012 that an acid compound in hops could stop the hardening of arteries during the early stages of the condition. That same compound also demonstrated an ability to prevent weight gain and improve intestinal health with mice on high-fat diets in studies out of a university in Belgium. Additionally, hops might help with menopause. Dr. Shellhammer explained they contain a compound that’s phytoestrogenic — essentially it’s a chemical created by plants that acts similar to estrogen. He recalled a company selling a hop product as a more natural estrogen supplement.
Barley and Beta-glucans
Hops have been more of the lead singer in recent years while barley plays backup, but this beer ingredient boasts its own health rewards. Dr. Shellhammer pointed out that barley has a fair amount of beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber, which can reduce blood serum cholesterol levels. Some food barleys have higher levels of beta-glucans than malting barleys. Most brewers actually want barley with lower levels of beta-glucans because they can lead to difficulties when making beer. The malting process degrades beta-glucans, so you won’t find levels beneficial to your health in the final product or even the wort.
There’s likely much more research to come on the health effects of alcohol and the ingredients in beer, especially as technology continues to improve. OSU is sure to be an important contributor to the growing pool of knowledge, putting the state of Oregon at the lead of an important discussion.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.