By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The velvety stout is an ale like most other beers with a long and distinguished history. It has not been the same throughout time, however. The evolution of stouts into what we know and love today is a long and interesting story, which includes, as most of these beer tales do, the infamous tax man.
Long before the stout was being brewed at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Ireland, the stout was an ale that was brewed all over the United Kingdom. Though they were dark beers, they did not have that telltale characteristic of roasted barley, which gives stouts the clean black roasted color and flavor that we all know and expect. Before roasted barley was employed, a stout was a descriptor for a beer that was higher in alcohol content than its porter and common ale siblings. Part of the reason roasted barley began to be used was because beers produced by U.K. breweries were not taxed on their alcohol content. Instead, the beers produced were taxed on the amount of malted grains used to produce the beer. The breweries that initially started using roasted barley were trying to create the same porters that they had been producing for years but with a lower price point. This was achieved by substituting roasted barley in place of some or even all of the chocolate malts that had traditionally been used. This allowed breweries to produce a dark heavy beer that they could offer at a more reasonable price than their competitors because they didn’t have to pay as much in taxes. Of course, in this day and age porters and stouts are similar, but the beer lover’s honed palate can detect the subtle differences. It wasn’t until the 18th century when both the tax man and the beer drinker caught on that the term “stout” was a style instead of a descriptor.
In the modern brewing age we use roasted barley to achieve that silky smooth roasted flavor that we have all tasted in Guinness and other classic stouts from the breweries in the U.K. This profile is achieved by building a grain bill that has very few varieties of grain in it but allows the roasted barley to shine. Stouts should not have many varieties of other grains in them besides the base malts. A small amount of chocolate and caramel malts are acceptable, but we want to get the bulk of our color and flavors from the unmalted roasted barley. There is always room for interpretation, and hoppier American versions have made their place in the brewing world. Brewing a stout can be our way to pay homage to a style of beer that has been around for centuries and will endure, if we have anything to say about it, for centuries to come. With their 9,000-year lease at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, you can be sure Guinness will be doing its part to keep the style alive until 10759 C.E.
McKeenan's Dry Stout [Extract]
McKeenan's Dry Stout [AG]
By Brian Yaeger
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the winter, Oregon gets fewer than nine hours of sunup. That’s a lot of darkness. Beer-wise, darkness is something our brewers do very well. Some of those stouts and porters get a big spotlight while others, pardon the expression, are generally left in the dark. There’s no arguing that Deschutes’ The Abyss is a world-class imperial stout or that Barley Brown’s Turmoil deserves to be the award-winning Cascadian Dark Ale that it is. But there are more than 200 breweries across Oregon. Some simply get less lip service; some stellar beers may be overlooked. So in honor of wintry dark ales, especially as imperial stouts get their major love-fest this Valentine’s Day at Fort George Brewery’s Festival of the Dark Arts, take a moment to try and seek out these other opaque and obscure onyx beauties.
Seaside’s eponymous brewery, Seaside Brewing Company gives the arcade and taffy-laden town what it really needed: a brewpub. Their imperial stout, Black Dynamite, lives up to its name in that it’s pitch black and explosively tasty. The beer with bourbon-soaked vanilla beans and cacao nibs (also getting the bourbon treatment) is a show-stopper from first chilled sip to last warmed drop that has the sweetness to not just pair with dessert but replace it, yet the bitterness and roastiness to enjoy snifter after snifter.
At the southern end of the coast in Brookings is Chetco Brewing Company. Michael Frederick and his wife Alex Carr-Frederick launched Chetco as a nanobrewery using their friend James Smith’s 1.5-barrel homebrewing system as their commercial setup. It’s how they make their super-small batch but mighty Block & Tackle. This stout achieves a unique viscosity after aging for six months, and the resulting notes of Baker’s chocolate achieve the right balance between a sweet and dry stout -- just ask the World Beer Cup judges who awarded it a silver medal.
Speaking of award-winning south coast breweries, the aforementioned James Smith is the brewer at Arch Rock Brewing Company in Gold Beach. Although he medaled at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for his lager, State of Jefferson Porter pours a chocolaty brown hinting at the deep chocolate flavor buried under the mocha aroma. Yes, there is a robust maltiness that suggests molasses and brown sugar, but it’s not syrupy on the tongue. The brew is rich from the roasted malts and holds up from first sip to last, then back to first.
In mid-Willamette Valley, two tiny breweries are making some of the most unique stouts in the state. Santiam Brewing is the passion project of nine buddies, only some of them homebrewers, who collectively formed the brewery and cozy tasting room in Salem. Pirate Stout is a rum-barrel aged “tropical export stout” (7.9% ABV) with a fudgy base of chocolate malt and de-bittered black malt that sails through the Bahamas in a dark rum barrel picking up a crew of toasted coconut flakes. Fans of Malibu Rum and Mounds bars are the obvious targets, but the allure of this rich, sweet, voluptuous stout is very easily enjoyed as the meal, not just dessert.
While farther down I-5 in brewery-happy Eugene, Viking is technically a brewery but I like to call it a braggotery since every brew they make has a large honey content. They make a bourbon-aged stout with Meadowfoam honey, which naturally tastes like toasted marshmallow giving it an overall s’more character. But they also make Winter Squash Porter featuring 150 pounds of delicata squash that is hand-roasted and given a honey backbone courtesy of turnip honey. The result is reminiscent of Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from their neighbors at Oakshire Brewing but bottles are even rarer to find.
One last pick from a brewery truly off the beaten path is the Chocolate Stout from Dragon’s Gate Brewery in Milton-Freewater near the northeastern corner of the state. Le Morte D’Arthur is a milk stout with cocoa nibs that was once described as a “Fudgsicle, but beer” and has developed a local cult following. Therefore, if you’re heading to this farm-based brewery near Washington’s wine country, bring a growler to share this decadent treat with friends.
Finally, even in Portland there are rare jewels to be treasured. Ex Novo Brewing Company is the most altruistic brewery, donating 100% of its profits to local charities -- but their new Moonstriker is still pure hedonism. This stout is a collaboration with Moonstruck Chocolates and debuted at the Holiday Ale Festival. It features nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and, of course, Moonstruck cocoa along with a fiery kiss of habanero. The result is a creamy, dreamy Mexican hot chocolate stout.
Clearly, the force is strong on the dark side of Oregon’s less-heralded brews.
By Mark Lindner
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Where else but in Bend would a retirement community team up with the local homebrew club and a local brewery to brew a professional-amateur (pro-am) beer to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association? Aspen Ridge Retirement Community was looking to expand its recreational and learning opportunities several years ago when activities director Sandie Nowell brought up homebrewing. A young woman, who has since moved to Portland, responded to the ad the retirement community put on Craigslist and brought her kettle, burner and recipes to help them brew a few batches. The group started out using extract, but still managed to snag four awards in their first year.
In 2013, Tim Koester of the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO) reached out to see if there was anything COHO could do to help after seeing an article in the Bend Bulletin on the Aspen Ridge Brew Crew, as they had come to be called. COHO was also in need of meeting space at the time, so the partnership worked out perfectly. COHO has regularly met at the retirement community since fall 2013, while residents are now able to attend the monthly gatherings without even going outside. Koester and Doug Jordan, also of COHO, taught the Brew Crew to use all grain, built them a stand for their 10-gallon Igloo setup and have served as an enormous resource in general. They also participate in the regular Brew Crew brew days.
Joe Reeves, a retired priest, is the lead of the Brew Crew and oversees a core group of about 12 with a few more regulars. The members range in age from 70 to 95 and have brewed 30 to 40 beers to date. Brewing duties take place in two separate rooms: one, which is kept cool via air conditioning, is their primary fermentation room; while a second, complete with sink and running water, is for actual brewing. A large room was converted into a pub complete with an always-stocked mini-fridge. While they do have a kegerator that can be pulled out for events, most of the beer is packaged, as Koester said “as a complete process.” One of the residents, Roy Eskildsen, designs the labels and they are printed in house with the Brew Crew supplying all of the bottling and labeling labor.
Despite the Brew Crew’s lack of long-term experience, they’ve brewed a host of award-winning beers. Besides the four their first year, several more were won the next few years. In 2014 their Baltic porter won first prize at the annual COHO Spring Fling and also took first at the Oregon State Fair. Their saison took second place at the Oregon State Fair, while a beer named Machine Gun Maggie took “Best in Show” at the Deschutes County Fair.
Machine Gun Maggie is an Imperial IPA that the Brew Crew brewed with Worthy Brewing on their 5-barrel pilot system. Since they wanted to sell their beer to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, they needed it done by a licensed brewery. Tim Koester approached Worthy who had already done two beers as fundraisers — Gary’s No Quit Wit and Local 36 Red Lager — and they readily agreed. Brew Crew members and their COHO partners joined Worthy brewers and made two batches that were subsequently kegged for a couple of special-release events. The rest was bottled in 22-ounce bombers that were put up for sale. The Brew Crew does not yet have a total amount raised for the Alzheimer’s Association as they are still selling the bottles, but they are pleased with the results.
Homebrewing is a fun and mentally-challenging hobby that fits well with the Montessori approach the residents take to their activities. There are quite a few highly-successful programs and activities at Aspen Ridge and, as activities director Nowell stated, there would be no way she could run all of them. She doesn’t, in fact, need to run any of them as the residents jump in and take charge. While it may be a core group of 12 in the Brew Crew, their steady output is available to all and the residents seem to love their locally supplied beer.
Nowell has been contacted by several other retirement communities for details on the program and guidance on beginning similar projects.
Keep an eye out for beer from the Aspen Ridge Brew Crew the next time you are at a festival or fair.
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you have ever attended a Portland-area beer festival or an Oregon Brew Crew meeting, you have probably seen Jenn McPoland and Jeremie Landers. The husband-and-wife team are very active in the local beer community, volunteering and helping coordinate and staff events throughout the year.
A third-generation Oregonian and second-generation Portlander, Jenn remembers walking from her Northwest Portland apartment to her job downtown with the smells from the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery -- which brewed its last beer in 1999 -- permeating the air. She drank Henry’s back then, but was introduced by a friend to big, hoppy beers in the early 2000s and now enjoys all styles of beer. Her love of beer became a hobby when she started homebrewing in 2004.
Jeremie, who has lived in Portland for half of his life, recalls that the first craft beer he ever drank was Widmer Hefeweizen at a bar in Sacramento, Calif. when he turned 21. He admits that he wasn’t a big beer drinker until he tried BridgePort IPA. The impression left by the complex hop flavors set him on a course, both for a lifelong love of IPAs and, eventually, a desire to try to recreate his favorite beers which culminated in his first attempts at homebrewing.
The natural next step in learning more about making beer was to join a homebrew club. Jenn started attending Oregon Brew Crew (OBC) meetings at F.H. Steinbart Co. in 2004. OBC is Oregon’s oldest homebrewing club, established in 1979. It was at an OBC meeting at Widmer Brewery in July 2006 that Jeremie first laid eyes on Jenn. She was serving on the board of directors and Jeremie was attending the meeting with the goal of joining the organization as a member.
Their first date was at Horse Brass over pints of Terminal Gravity IPA. In the subsequent months and years, they bonded over their mutual love of beer and became ever-more involved in homebrewing, with both holding various positions on the board of the OBC. It was only a matter of time before a wedding was in the pipeline.
With Rob Widmer’s blessing, they were married where they first met, at Widmer Brothers Brewing, in September 2010. The ceremony was officiated by their friend Lisa Morrison, aka the Beer Goddess, who was ordained as a Dudeist Priest for the event. Incidentally, Lisa was being filmed for the documentary "The Love of Beer," produced by Alison Grayson. As a result, their wedding appears in that film.
The reception, where many friends from the beer community gathered to toast the couple, featured free-flowing beer from 12 kegs. For their honeymoon, they traveled to Europe, specifically to well-known beer destinations: Brussels and Bruges, Belgium; Prague, Czech Republic; Munich, Germany for the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest; and Bamberg, Germany. During the three-week trip, they had many romantic beer experiences including drinking Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet on draft on their first morning in Belgium. They also warmly recall dining at a rooftop restaurant in Prague, drinking good beer and eating great food while enjoying the 360-degree view of the city.
After settling back into married life in Portland, Jenn and Jeremie purchased a home in the Kenton neighborhood in 2013. They have converted the 350-square-foot detached garage into a private brewery and drinking den, named McPoLanders Taproom. They acquired a 6-foot-by-10-foot walk-in cooler from the Old Ivy Taproom in Vancouver, Wash. and also have a 42-cubic-foot bottle fridge stocked with an envy-inducing selection of craft beer from all over the world. On the night I visited, the impressive draft beer list was comprised of four McPoLanders homebrews, two collaboration beers, two locally-made commercial beers, and one homebrew made by their friend Lee Hedgmon.
Jeremie says his favorite style to brew is Cascadian Dark Ale. Jenn doesn’t have a favorite, but along with brewing traditional styles like stouts and IPAs, they also enjoy the challenge of experimenting with things like fruits and spices.
The couple also likes to enter homebrew competitions, where they find it helpful to get feedback from both professional beer judges and regular beer lovers alike. At the 2014 Fall Classic, the OBC's yearly American Homebrewers Association/Beer Judge Certification Program-sanctioned homebrew competition held after hop harvest, Jenn and Jeremie each took home two gold medals apiece, with Jenn taking the “Best of Show” out of hundreds of entries. She now holds the distinction of being the first solo female winner of that title at the Fall Classic. Earlier in the year, Jeremie entered the Clean Water Services Pure Water Brew Competition and took second place with a German pilsner. The beer was sent to New Orleans for the WateReuse Association's “One Water Innovations Gala,” where it received high praise for its quality and drinkability.
Over the years, Jenn and Jeremie have had the pleasure of teaming up with various brewmasters to brew their recipes professionally. In 2012, they brewed "North End Cascadian Dark Ale,” a Timbers Army Homebrew Competition “Best of Show” winner at the New Old Lompoc Fifth Quadrant. In 2013, they won the Widmer Collaborator Homebrew Competition with "Kenton IPA" which they then brewed in 2014 with Dan Munch on the Widmer Innovation Brew System for local release. Also in 2013, Jenn, with the Ladies of Lagers and Ales (LOLA), brewed a CDL at Base Camp. In 2014, they brewed their "StellaNova India Session Ale" with the legendary John Harris at Ecliptic Brewing for the Willamette Week’s Beer Pro / Am. Jenn also brewed another beer for the Pro / Am with LOLA and Tonya Cornett at 10 Barrel in Bend. They have already started off the new year with another collaboration. In January, they brewed a Russian Imperial Stout with Charlie Hutchins at Rock Bottom Brewery in Portland.
Another unique beer-related fact about this couple is that they have a yeast strain named after them. While on their honeymoon in Prague, they visited the famous U Fleků Brewery where they enjoyed a Bohemian Dunkel. They acquired samples of the yeast, which they brought back to Oregon and then gave some to Wyeast Laboratories, which made it into smack packs. OBC members conducted the “McPoLanders Czech Lager Yeast Experiment” by brewing a variety of beers using this yeast.
While Jenn and Jeremie truly enjoy all of their work and involvement in the Oregon beer community, they do not have any plans to open their own brewery. “We just wouldn’t be able to maintain the lifestyle we have now if we brewed commercially.” Both have full time jobs, neither of which is in the craft beer industry. They will continue to homebrew a few times each month as well as participate in club events and educational seminars helping new homebrewers.
As Lisa Morrison enthuses, “Jenn and Jeremie epitomize everything that's great about Oregon beer. It's safe to say that no other couple has devoted so much time and energy to promoting and celebrating our local beer community. From their wedding to their new in-home taproom, their passion for beer -- and more importantly for each other -- is evident every day. Cheers to the McPoLanders!”
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Some of the tiniest workers behind one of nature’s sweeteners that ends up in your beer are getting some much-deserved love this month. The Rogue Farms bees that normally spend their days making honey in Independence are now hundreds of miles away in sunny California. It’s easy to forget about the busy pollinators once the temperatures cool, the blossoms fade, and the final leaves tumble from their branches. Therefore, it might come as a surprise to learn that Rogue actually takes the extra effort to transport more than seven million bees south every year to provide them with a winter respite.
During the warmer months, the bees help pollinate a variety of crops at Rogue Farms as well as produce honey that goes into the business’s kölsch, braggot, mead and soda. One keeper oversees all of the hives. After the bustling hop harvest in late summer and early fall, activity on the farm and among the bees begins to slow down. As wild sources of nectar and pollen go dormant, the colonies adapt by reducing their population. When older bees die, they are no longer replaced. Mating seasons has ended, which means the queen stops laying eggs. Male bees, or drones, are excluded from the hive since their sole purpose is to reproduce. Feeding them when they’re not needed could use up precious resources during the winter.
Before the bees make their journey 600 miles south to California, Rogue cooks sugar syrup and distributes pollen patties as a food source. The keeper will check on the hives from time to time to help ensure other wildlife, such as skunks, foxes and deer, aren’t disturbing the bees. However, handling of the colonies is kept to a minimum. The keeper wants to avoid opening hive boxes because exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees can stress the colonies. And while the bees help enhance the beer with their honey, a beer ingredient can actually add to the lives of the bees. If any of the hives need medicating to protect against mites or fungal diseases, Rogue uses a treatment called HopGuard, which is derived from natural food-based compounds in hops.
After a few months of winter preparations, the bees finally set out for their California vacation in January or February. This year, they departed Jan. 15. Crews hand-stack the hives onto a flatbed truck in the evening and secure them with rope. The bees get further protection by being covered with a net during the drive down. Their journey lasts all night until they reach Tracy, Calif., which is located about 30 minutes west of Modesto, Calif. If the driver were to stop along the way, the bees would likely start to get much more active due to the warmer temperatures.
The months spent out-of-state are a bee’s paradise. Their temporary home is a bountiful almond orchard, which the bees will help pollinate while they begin to increase their population once again. The hives are scheduled to return to Independence in early April so that they can take advantage of the apple and cherry blossoms that should be among some of the first to bloom during the season. The journey across state lines and back again may sound like one big endeavor for a bunch of bees, but their contribution to the flavor of beer and the health of the environment in general is truly greater than their physical size.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.