By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Portland Beer Week returns for 2017, its seventh year, with a calendar packed full of events, as well as some new twists. It runs Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 18.
This year’s official beer is Hop Berry IPA, brewed with marionberries by Culmination Brewing. It will be available on draft and in limited-edition bottles at Whole Foods Markets and other beer-centric retailers in the Portland area.
Although beer is the main focus, Portland Beer Week extends that theme. It features a variety of activities that happen alongside opportunities to enjoy great beer. The event is effectively a celebration of Portland’s beer, food and arts culture rolled into one.
“Our goal is to showcase the world of beer in the greatest beer city on earth,” said Ezra Johnson-Greenough, Portland Beer Week founder. "We do that through brewer’s dinners, tastings, educational seminars, festivals, games and more.”
One of the big additions this year is an indoor Marketplace at the Kickoff Party, Thursday, June 8. Beer-related merchandise will be available for purchase along with free food and drink samples. The party will be split across two separate levels: the Exchange Ballroom and the Cascade Rooftop, which features spectacular views of the city.
“I’m really excited that folks like the Oregon Cheese Guild are joining us and our collaborative beer and food project vendors like Salt & Straw ice cream and Blue Star Donuts,”
Johnson-Greenough said. “Kickoff attendees can sample spirits, chocolate, jerky, hop candy. We’ll have beer schwag, too.”
Another addition this year is the Dinner Series, which features a handful of collaborations between top local breweries and chefs. Organizers have built the schedule to avoid piling up dinners on the same date.
“I’m looking forward to Firestone Walker at Hair of the Dog, Culmination Brewing at The Woodsman, Block 15 and Ruse at an Imperial Session pop-up dinner and Modern Times at Pizza Jerk,” Johnson-Greenough said.
Returning this year is the Seminar Series, presented by Oregon State University and the HR Group. Several forums will explore subjects like beer industry branding, starting and building a brewery from nano to production, sustainability in brewing, barrel-aging beers and the making of sour and wild ales.
The beer event schedule jumps into action shortly after the Kickoff Party with the Fruit Beer Festival at Burnside Brewing, Friday, June 9 through Sunday, June 11. Billed as the premier showcase for brews spiked with fruit, the all-age event also features local vendors, food, DJs and non-alcoholic drinks.
“We’ve moved back to Burnside after last year’s experiment in the Park Blocks,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re spreading the beer stations out and the venue will have more shade and seating than in previous years at Burnside. We’ll also have more help at check in to speed entry.”
Next up is Masters of IPA, an invitational event highlighting 14 of America's best brewers of the hopped-up style. It moves to a larger venue, Ecliptic Brewing, and includes collectable glassware and meet-the-brewers sessions on Friday, June 16.
The Rye Beer Fest, in its sixth year, returns with a new date and venue: the Happy Valley Station indoor/outdoor food cart pod and taproom on Saturday, June 17. The all-age event will feature more than 20 beers and 18 food carts.
Portland Beer Week’s official finale, Snackdown, is back for a second year on Sunday, June 18. Presented by Gigantic Brewing and taking place in The Evergreen event space above Loyal Legion, it offers more brewer and chef pairings.
“It’s going to be another great year for Portland Beer Week,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re reaching out to tourists and casual beer fans in our marketing efforts and it seems like we’re getting more of those folks. Attendance has been increasing every year and I’m confident it will again.”
Follow Portland Beer Week’s social media channels for updated news and information. Advance tickets for most events are available online.
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Not every homebrewer has a mass spectrometer to play around with. Or a gas chromatograph, which together can detect and identify chemicals in beer. Of course, not every homebrewer has access to the pros, advising them about quality control and assurance. That makes Adam Fleck the envy of every stove-top and back-deck-burner beer maker in Oregon because he has all three.
While a sensory panel for many a homebrewer consists of a “panel” of buddies heaping on praise while looking to score free beer, Fleck has the equipment and training to conduct sophisticated analysis of his own creations. He’s taken that methodical approach on the road to assist small and midsize breweries with the science aspect of the business. And while there are plenty of companies that provide data on everything from IBUs to DMS, what sets Willamette Valley Mobile Testing apart is Fleck’s ability to bring the lab to a brewer’s doorstep. There may be a growing number of portable canning and bottling services in the craft industry, but the notion of the traveling chemist is still new. A natural reaction to Fleck’s innovative approach might be, “That’s cool!” To which Fleck would respond: “Well, it’s either that or it’s really stupid because no one else wanted to do it because they weren’t crazy enough.”
While it certainly took some bravery to launch a business for which there was no model, the risk appears to be paying off. Fleck has a growing number of breweries from Eugene to Seattle he’s contracted with, including Ancestry Brewing, Black Raven Brewing Company, Culmination/Ruse Brewing and Diamond Knot Craft Brewery, to name a few. He offers multiple services, such as sterility and cleanliness checks, yeast viability assessment and cell count along with tests for everything from water chemistry to pH and hop aromas to off flavors. Shaun Kalis, founder of Ruse and brewer at Culmination, which share the same space, said Fleck conducted dissolved oxygen analysis for that facility to help ensure there wouldn’t be any oxygen pickup in the lines. Following that experience, he believes Fleck’s expertise can benefit brewers who don’t have a Breakside or Widmer budget to invest in expensive equipment.
“Having people like Adam who can do testing and can provide the benchmarks to your company’s standard operating procedures, I think, is a great thing for the brewing community — to make us better and consistent,” Kalis said.
Fleck’s arsenal of instruments is tucked away in what resembles a shiny, black toy hauler. Industrial straps and bungee cords secure his tools as he drives from site to site. One of the most important pieces of equipment looks like a cross between a giant copy machine from the ‘80s and a microwave. That is the gas chromatograph — what Fleck calls his “ace in the hole.” He got experience with it after taking a job in the oil fields of eastern Utah analyzing natural gas and petrochemicals.
“A gas chromatograph to a chemist is like a power drill for a carpenter. It’s kind of a multi-tool, depending on your columns, your injectors, software. [Those] are the bits on that power drill. You can do a lot of things with them. You can do buffing, grinding, sanding, cutting, drilling, screwing, whatever,” Fleck explained. “You’ve just got to change out the end. It’s kind of like a gas chromatograph.”
The technology has been around since the 1950s and is used to separate compounds. Oregon State University’s Environmental Health Sciences Center provides a vivid analogy: Imagine a race at a track meet where the runners begin at the same point — the starting line. However, they’ll finish at different times due to speed. In a gas chromatograph, chemicals are separated by volatility, with more volatile (often smaller) chemicals moving faster than those that are less volatile. The mass spectrometer will then identify the chemicals based on structure.
So, how did Fleck go from using a gas chromatograph in the oil fields to applying the instrument to beer? It all comes back to homebrewing. Turns out, his former boss made beer with a friend and they’d run it through a gas chromatograph to test the alcohol. Fleck decided to explore other uses and discovered the list is huge.
“There’s 2,800 different compounds in beer; 478 affect flavor. And I can get about half of them using my mass spec, so that’s pretty cool.”
When the price of oil plummeted in 2014, Fleck turned his layoff into an opportunity. He relied on the State of Oregon’s Unemployment-Self Employment Assistance, commending the program for providing him with a way to build Willamette Valley Mobile Testing without having to also search for jobs that likely wouldn’t match the wages he made in the oil industry. Another advantage was the unemployment payments that allowed him to pump all initial money made back into the business.
As of June 2016, Oregon had 206 brewing companies and 246 brewing facilities, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild. Those numbers will grow given the amount of applications the Oregon Liquor Control Commission receives for new producers. Plenty of them could use Fleck’s help. Breweries lack quality programs for multiple reasons. Some can’t afford the lab. Others simply don’t have space. And plenty say they don’t need it. But Fleck pointed out that just because brewers believe they’re replicating their processes, doesn’t mean batches will be consistent.
“Their equipment doesn’t always act the same way every time. Their inputs aren’t the same every time,” he explained. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Fleck contends that “quality and quality control are the next battlefields for craft beer.” They’re factors that increasingly finalize distribution deals, since a quality program provides a better-guaranteed product. The average beer drinker is also more aware of consistency. Fleck said customers are drawn to craft because of the overall experience — part ambience, part novelty and part flavor. Not everyone can identify diacetyl or acetaldehyde, but they won’t hold back if beer quality was “hit or miss” after multiple visits.
“The customer will know when their experience changes. And you’ll hear about it,” Fleck said.
If distributors care and beer drinkers care, the next hurdle is getting more brewers to commit to investing in quality control/quality assurance. Testing services aren’t a tangible purchase like a gleaming new tank or colorful packaging for distribution. But it is one of the most important parts of the brewing process. Fleck is so dedicated to quality, he refuses to test beer submitted to him “because I don’t know how the sample was collected, when it was collected and what has happened to it on transport.” He goes to the source and then tailors a program to fit each brewer’s needs.
Fleck hopes that his one rig will grow into a fleet in the future. There are also plans to expand into distillates, wine and cannabis, the latter of which desperately needs better testing for potency and pesticides, post-legalization. The Portland State University graduate wants to reach out to students at his alma mater by bringing on interns who are majoring in chemistry. However, would-be lab-techs-in-training with spotless GPAs need not apply.
“I was not an A+ student. I don’t want A+ students. I despised A+ students,” he laughed. “I want a student that’s good, but lazy enough to find a better way to do it.”
In the meantime, Fleck will continue to build his client base by meeting new brewers and starting a discussion about quality control.
“The idea of the craft industry is kind of centered around quality. So, yeah. It’s a good product. Why wouldn’t you do it with consistency? You can’t just make great beer once.” Fleck said. “You have to make great beer every time.”
Willamette Valley Mobile Testing
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Harvest is a time for reaping what has been sowed. And while hop farmers are bringing in the fruits of their labor, the collaboration between Culmination Brewing and Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider is producing fruits of their combined labors.
Collaborations are fairly common in today’s beer world, with more breweries crossing the beer borders to team up with other adult beverage producers. These hybrids can be somewhat difficult to classify and won’t tempt all consumers from their respective markets. However, those open to new taste experiences may find something they enjoy that requires no classification beyond that fact that it’s the product of talented craftsmen.
Culmination and Reverend Nat’s collaboration, called Our Glass, goes beyond a single brew and encompasses a series of hybrids. The first release was Watermelon Cherry Sour — a blend of two sour beers produced by Culmination (a barrel-aged Flanders red with cherries and a blueberry blonde sour) that was co-fermented with Reverend Nat’s Granny Smith cider and fresh Hermiston watermelon juice.
The inspiration for this first in the series came from local food-beer-everything-tasty aficionado Steven Shomler’s love for and relentless pursuit of Reverend Nat’s Holy Water(melon) cider. Steven also has an ownership stake in and hands-on involvement with Culmination, which made the project launch even easier. The brewing teams could also often be found hanging out at each other’s locations, so there was a foundation of familiarity. Tomas Sluiter, principal owner and certified master brewer at Culmination, explained that the “caliber and quality of Reverend Nat’s made them attractive” to form a strategic collaboration and long-term relationship with.
When it came to the actual brewing, there was no doling out of “we’ll do this, you do that” instructions. The final product was the result of a true partnership, and one that seemingly worked well. The small batch consisted of six 1/6-barrel kegs and 450 22-ounce bottles, nearly all of which sold out quickly. Only a few bottles remain in the possession of each brewer and a couple of kegs will be brought out at a yet-to-be-determined time. Commenting on how the sour has evolved, Jim Bonomo of Reverend Nat’s said, “It’s getting more sour, but the watermelon flavor is still there.”
The name Our Glass was the brainchild of Devin Benware, part of Culmination brewing team. Tomas contributed the idea for the logo — two tulip glasses positioned base-to-base, forming the interior of a shadowy hourglass. The image is set like the hands of a clock would be at approximately 4:58 for the first of the series. As new collaborations are released, the “clock” will continue to move on each label.
Plans for future beer-cider hybrids include a barrel-aged, Tepache-based barleywine. Composed from Costa Rican pineapples, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) and spices, Reverend Nat’s Tepache is a “lightly alcoholic elixir.” However, the original brewing schedule has been thrown a bit off course due to the fickle nature of crops. The delay has nothing to do with ripeness (the pineapple plant produces throughout the year). Instead, a recent price spike in the Costa Rican supply due to volcanic activity has put things on hold. As a backup plan, to ensure the brewing schedule doesn’t go too far astray, Nat’s has bottles from the last batch of Tepache that can be added directly to the barrels with Culmination’s barleywine.
Another collaboration will involve Reverend Nat’s Winter Abbey Spice, a cider that is inspired by Northeast-styles that use raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Winter Abbey Spice is actually a blend of two ciders - Revival, their flagship cider, and Providence, which is made with raisins. What was initially called “Apple Pie” when the taproom started blending them has since taken on a life of its own to the extent that 75 percent of each batch of Providence is allocated to making Winter Abbey Spice. Due to the success of the first collaboration, expect larger batches of subsequent hybrids.
Both Reverend Nat’s and Culmination see a strong future in collaborations like theirs, in part because the cider business is growing, especially in mature markets like Portland where plenty of drinkers are looking to expand their palates. Tomas also believes that Portland consumers demand more due to the fact that so many people who now call the city home are non-native. He hails from Grand Rapids, Mich. and says in general terms, “everyone in Grand Rapids is from Grand Rapids.” In fact, he specifically asked one well-known and well-respected Grand Rapids brewery to collaborate with him and they replied that they simply don’t do collaborations.
That brewery’s loss is the gain of others who are likeminded. The Culmination-Reverend Nat’s collaboration is a fluid affair among friends, where getting together to spitball ideas is key along with firmly believing in the quality of what the other is creating. Listening to the two producers talk — the ideas generated by their creativity and openness to experimentation — gives the impression that there is no end to what they’re able to come up with. And just like friends do, when a bump in the road comes along — like the price of pineapples — they find a way around it. Beer drinkers and cider drinkers alike can raise their glasses to that.
Todd Edwards (right), owner of three Ole Latte carts, has partnered with Culmination Brewing to make a coffee beer for the Baker’s Dozen festival this March. Edwards highlights the importance of building relationships with other businesses and customers. Also pictured: Dave Fry, hotel manager at Sentinel (left) and Alex Thompson, barista. Photos by Andi Prewitt
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
When you meet Todd Edwards, founder of Ole Latte, there are a number of roles he could highlight when introducing himself: entrepreneur, small-business owner, originator of a Portland coffee shop on wheels. But when you meet Todd Edwards, he’ll likely open with this: “world changer, humanitarian and life advisor.”
That might sound mighty ambitious for a guy who runs food carts, even one who continues to expand his brand. But if you spend just 20 minutes outside of his original location on Southwest Alder Street and watch him work, you begin to understand why he’s not just another Portlander serving one of the city’s staple beverages. As he glad-hands regulars and greets everyone with a broad smile, it’s easy to see him as more of a mayor-like figure — at least for that patch of bustling asphalt in the heart of downtown. Edwards’ support for other small businesses along with a deep concern for customers — including those with the means to pay and those without — set him apart from others in his line of work. And in his continued effort to advance connections with new industries, Edwards has found himself collaborating with makers of the region’s other beloved beverage: beer.
Ole Latte has teamed up with Culmination Brewing to produce a new brew for the second annual Baker’s Dozen festival, which takes place Saturday, March 12 at the brewery on Northeast Oregon Street. The event brings together the stuff of a slack-jawed, drooling Homer Simpson’s dreams: coffee, beer and doughnuts. Edwards became involved thanks to Steven Shomler, a man who facilitates many networking opportunities in the fields of food and beverage. Shomler, who authored books on the Portland food cart scene and the city’s breweries, connected Culmination and Edwards, who was then asked to provide the coffee component for a festival beer. And while this would be his first foray into the world of beer making, Edwards already had some clear ideas about his contribution.
“I said I really want to do something different. I mean, I’m not a brewer, but I’m a coffee roaster. And I’ve seen a lot of coffee in coffee beers out there — a lot of stouts and a lot of porters,” he described. “So we’re going to go a lot on the lighter side and so that way it’ll make it a little more pronounced on the forwardness of the coffee.”
Tomas Sluiter, owner of and master brewer at Culmination, confirmed that the Baker’s Dozen beer will be an English mild ale blended with cold press called Ole Molee. Edwards wants attendees to pick up the fruit-forward flavors of his Corazon Del Toro, a heavy-bodied espresso blend with a juicy mouthfeel. And if you’re noticing that the description of the coffee sure sounds a heck of a lot like beer or wine, you’re right. The three have plenty in common and Edwards, who previously had no background in coffee roasting, actually aspired to open a wine shop. The Corazon is a nod to his years of experience with wine, which included working in restaurants and leading seminars on proper tasting techniques and pairings. Eventually, he knew he wanted to set out on his own and had a little bit of capital to get started. A wine shop that showcased Northwest varietals — particularly those from low-volume producers — seemed like the perfect fit. He even entertained the idea of opening in the mornings to serve coffee. But a brick-and-mortar store proved to be too risky. That’s when the trusty food cart rolled into his life. The vehicle that’s launched many a culinary career in Portland was much more feasible for a startup. However, he had to abandon the wine concept and continue with coffee alone.
“But when I started researching more and more into it, I found out the translation between wine and coffee was completely harmonious. It worked exactly the same,” explained Edwards. “It had a little bit different dialogue, but when you talk about the notes of coffee, it’s like the same thing you talk about with the notes of the wine or the body or the acidity. And these are all like — the verbiage just came completely across. It was seamless, so it just made sense for me.”
Edwards initially brought on Ristretto Roasters, and as he learned the process Ole Latte took over. Now the business roasts in a warehouse off Southeast Clinton Street, providing enough product for three carts — the original on Southwest Alder Street, the second near Portland State University and the third, most recent addition in Happy Valley, which may sound like an unusual location, but the suburban pod of Portland-style food carts has attracted plenty of business without city-level foot traffic.
Beyond moving the traditional coffee shop to a cart, Edwards’s experimentation also extends to his products. He turned to Mother Nature when looking for ingredients to use in a new syrup, which will also be on display at the Baker’s Dozen. Of course, anyone who’s walked into a cafe has undoubtedly noticed rows of Torani bottles lining a wall. Syrups come in dozens of flavors, but Edwards wanted to bring a taste of Oregon’s terrain to his concoction. So he went foraging — in his neighbors’ yards. Fortunately, Edwards has a good relationship with the people on his block and there were no calls to 911 when they spotted a man running around their property with clippers and a bucket.
“But it was still entertaining to see me,” Edwards recalled, laughing. “People are like, ‘What are you doing?!’ It’s like, ‘It’s all research! It’s all science. It’s all for science!’”
The inspiration for this project in trial and error came from a survivalist-style TV show. Edwards “watched some guys in the middle of nowhere making a pine tea. And I thought, ‘That is the most weird thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.’” The men stripped a tree, threw part of it in hot water and boiled it down, producing a tea that was the essence of the woods where they were camping. Edwards went through multiple plants for his syrup — juniper, hemlock, spruce — unsatisfied with the results. With his very last sample, he finally found one he was happy with. It was the Douglas fir from his own backyard.
“It just came out really well in the coffee and it makes like you’re drinking a Christmas tree in a coffee cup,” Edwards described. “So we’re going to find out what people think of how it’s going to be in beer, too.”
Most of the tree parts are used in the process — from pine needles to the pitch. Steeping takes 18 hours and the liquid is then filtered. Looking back on the creation of his Douglas fir syrup, Edwards realized he had the makings of a “Portlandia” skit: a guy rooting around yards for the perfect plant that’s showcased via a specialty food truck.
“And, you know, Douglas fir tree in their coffee or their beer — everybody is kind of just, that’s unique,” he said. “And I guess that tags it as weird for Portland, so that’s the cool thing is like, ‘Oh, there it is. There’s Portland being weird again.’”
Working with local businesses like Culmination is nothing new for Edwards. The Ole Latte website features a list of collaborators. For instance, Solabee Flowers & Botanicals provides a weekly delivery to help adorn the Southwest Alder Street cart. Boys Fort sells bags of Ole Latte coffee. But partnering with the brewery to make a product introduced some challenges since a coffee roaster and a brewer bring separate concerns to the table.
“We both have extreme focus with what we do and we have a different intention with each thing,” Edwards said of the experience. “So now we have to figure out, you know, well — what is your process and how am I going to complement that so we can work together and pair it well — so we’re not trying to override each other on flavor profiles and highlights so we can have a nice marriage.”
Although Edwards is new to beer brewing, he shares many of the traits that are prominent in that industry, including collaborating, supporting and staying rooted in community. Some of those characteristics are demonstrated by the way he and his baristas interact with customers. Rather than conceiving of the exchange as a transaction, he likens it to “coffee dates” between two people.
“I’m not an assembly line, so it’s interesting, you’ll always see all of my shops — you won’t go from one end to pay for your drink and go to the other end to get your drink,” he explained. “You’re going to get your drink out of the same exact window or the person that you just gave your money to. It’s a one-to-one thing.”
But that wasn’t enough for Edwards. He also wanted to give back, which led to Ole Latte’s Suspended Coffees program. There’s no precise record of how or exactly when the practice began, but it’s believed to have origins in Naples, Italy at least as far back as 100 years ago. It can be summed up as a pay-it-forward system that helps the less fortunate. Patrons buy an extra beverage that’s “suspended” or “pending” until claimed by a stranger who needs it. One of Edwards’s baristas told him about the tradition. About five minutes later, the business owner had erected an old chalkboard on the facade of his cart describing Suspended Coffees. Contributors get a 10 percent discount on their order. The only rule is one item per person, per day. The menu goes beyond coffee to include everything from cocoa to cookies. Edwards said the program has helped him cultivate relationships with the homeless who are, at best, ignored and often even scorned.
“They don’t need to tell me any story about why they’re getting something off the board. But they felt inclined that they wanted to,” said Edwards. “And it was kind of great to be on the recipient end of being able to hear that somebody just needed to talk about what was kind of going on in their day and made them feel better.”
And that’s what Edwards means when he introduces himself as world changer, humanitarian and life advisor. Sure, you could just call him a guy who sells coffee. But as with beer, sometimes the strongest bonds begin at a bar over a beverage. You can be sure that Edwards will be at the Baker’s Dozen festival this month strengthening his connections with the community.
“That’s the way that we’re going to look to change the world. We’ve got to start locally,” Edwards said. “And if I can model my business with kindness, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Shaun Kalis, founder of Ruse Brewing, has a temporary home at Culmination Brewing. He met Culmination owner Tomas Sluiter at Old Market Pub & Brewery. A trust developed and Kalis found himself in a unique situation: he’s part of the Culmination team and uses that system for Ruse between production times. Photo by Kris McDowell
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
By definition a "ruse" is a trick or an act that is used to fool someone, according to Merriam-Webster. In some cases, there is malicious intent behind it. In other cases, like with M.C. Escher's impossible constructions, it is a way to play with the mind. In the case of Ruse Brewing, one of the newest to debut on the Portland brewing scene, it speaks to the mystery of the word and is a drinkable expression.
Shaun Kalis is the founder of Ruse, a transplant from Michigan whose resume includes six years at Old Market Pub & Brewery as well as stints at Cascade Brewing Barrel House and Two Kilts Brewing Co. which bookended an education at the American Brewers Guild. Like many, he remembers the beer that opened his eyes to what beer could be beyond the yellow, fizzy swill he had previously known -- a stout from Michigan-based Bell's Brewery, Inc. Known for the vast number of stouts they produce, it's no wonder that the beer had such an impact on the young Shaun and was part of what drove him to begin down the brewing path. What started as homebrewing, and self-described as "minimalist" at that, evolved into something much greater after his relocation to Portland.
The location of that move was somewhat of a random decision based on his desire to get into brewing. And while multiple cities would have sufficed, he could not have landed in a better location than Portland. Not only does the area have an incredible brewing culture, but it has the added bonus of a vibrant live music scene. Although he’s played since he was a kid, Shaun got more serious about music as an adult — taking the time for lessons and then using his skills as a guitar player in a Portland bluegrass band.
When developing the concept for Ruse Brewing, Shaun knew he would incorporate music as he feels it parallels brewing in that a song is written to speak to a particular feeling and experience in the same way that brewing a beer, for him, is speaking to something. Ultimately, Shaun would like to have a brewery/music venue where he can work with artists and musicians to create beers. In the meantime, he has found a fortunate situation and temporary home at Culmination Brewing. Shaun met and worked under Culmination founder Tomas Sluiter at Old Market and their relationship has deepened as Shaun's brewing has evolved. Rooted in their time together at Old Market is a trust that has allowed Shaun to step into a very unique situation: he is both part of the Culmination brewing team as well as an independent brewer utilizing the Culmination system between production times. As collegial as the relationship is, there are designated spaces within the Culmination facility for ingredient, empty keg and cooler storage of beers as well as a 10-barrel fermenter Shaun owns. For anyone that has experienced living with a roommate, allowing someone to have intimate access into one's personal space requires trust and communication. That is taken to a higher level when that sharing of space is in the place that houses one's livelihood and is something that speaks to Shaun's integrity as a person and competency as a brewer.
So what about the beer that Shaun is making? To begin, his year-round offerings will be Translator IPA, a citrus-forward beer with a soft mouthfeel from an English yeast, and Architect Saison, an approachable, session beer (4.8% ABV) that is dry and light in body. He wants to focus on fewer styles out of the gate so that he can be more creative with them. In addition, Shaun is adamant about quality control and committed to dumping out anything that doesn't meet his standards. As part of his role with Culmination, he is also taking over the brewery’s quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC).
Year-round beers may be a solid foundation for any brewery, but it's often the one-off and seasonal beers where brewers really get to have fun. For Shaun that fun is creating barrel-aged beers, saying "something about the oak is so romantic." At first blush, delving into barrel-aging so early on might sound limiting, but as Shaun explains it, "it gives me a buffer — time to focus on the IPA and the saison."
He anticipates the barrel-aged beers will sit for at least nine months, only being released when they're ready and if they meet his standards. The barrels he's sourced, to date, are pinot noir and Burgundy barrels from Walter Scott Wines in the Willamette Valley and spirit barrels from McMenamins and Bull Run Distilling Company. Shaun's first two barrel-aged beers will be MultiBeast and Red Saison. MultiBeast uses Ruse's own Brettanomyces strain (banked at Imperial Organic Yeast) and is dry hopped with Mosaic. Nearly ready, Shaun may debut it at Saraveza's Farmhouse and Wild Beer Festival in March, in addition to bottling it. The Red Saison won't be ready for months as it just went into barrels in December 2015, but a young sample of it shows great promise, displaying a pleasing licorice aroma with hints of leather and oak in the smooth, saison flavor.
Those looking to try out Ruse Brewing for themselves need not look far, starting with the taproom at Culmination where at least one of his beers will be part of the lineup on an ongoing basis. Beyond his home base, the new management at Great Notion (formerly Mash Tun) in Northeast Portland took a shine to Ruse, buying the first available keg in December 2015. And as a 10-year veteran of McMenamins (in a non-brewing capacity), his connections there ensured that beer can be found at some of their locations, including the Market Street Pub near Portland State University. Going beyond beer-centric spots, he's started the process to get both his IPA and Saison into Bamboo Sushi locations. He plans to be in 10-12 businesses around Portland and will be bottling the IPA and saison in 22-ounce bottles in the near future. His barrel-aged beers will be available in a 500-milliliter format.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.