By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At first glance, Eric Steen didn’t look like a teacher, an artist or a beer maker. It was a rainy early autumn day and Eric was shuffling past noisy customers in Hopworks Urban Brewery dressed, head-to-toe, in white, furry costume. At better than 6 feet tall, he makes a good mascot for the business’s Abominable Winter Ale.
After taking off the comic book-looking yeti head, he offered an explanation on the melding of his roles as teacher, artist and beer maker: “I very much think of beer as a form of art. I’m very interested in the idea that, from start to finish, beer is a social act.”
Several dozen blocks and a couple of traffic jams to the west of the HUB taproom, in the quiet of the Portland Art Museum, associate director of education and public programs Stephanie Parrish admires Steen. “Eric and I went through the collection of a thousand pieces of art and tried to understand where we had works. How much do we have of Eastern Oregon? How much of the Oregon Coast?”
Getting these two folks working together is how to stage a unique art show and beer tasting.
The full name of the Nov. 4 event is “Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon.” It’s the centerpiece of a larger, two-year exhibit called “Picturing Oregon.” (Who says museum-types don’t have a punny bone?)
Stephanie says the “Picturing” exhibition celebrates the museum’s 125th anniversary and includes about 60 of the more than 1,000 Oregon-themed works in its permanent collection. “It was a matter of sorting through all the paintings and photos and then finding those that we thought were kind of representative of the collection. We wanted to have earlier works, 19th century, to more contemporary works. Wanted to have women included. As many different options as we could uncover.”
When it came to the “Pitchering” centerpiece, Stephanie called in Eric. As an art teacher at the University of Colorado and creator of the Beers Made By Walking project, Eric sees community involvement as a key to good art and good beer. He took immediately to the idea of foraging through the museum’s collection. “The thing that excited me was that they have all this Oregon-based paintings and photography.”
And Stephanie wanted to portray the entire state in Pitchering Oregon. “Organized by the region: Coast, Southern Oregon, the Willamette Valley, Portland, Mount Hood and the Gorge. We’re sort of following Travel Oregon’s seven regions.”
Stephanie and Eric whittled down the Pitchering exhibit to 18 photos, paintings and etchings. They next offered those works to 16 breweries and 2 cideries for inspiration to create a beverage.
To help HUB create its beer, Eric chose a platinum print by Lily E. White. It’s a photograph of the Columbia Slough taken more than 100 years ago. Eric grabbed brewer Trever Bass and “We checked out parts of the slough, looking at invasive plants, what grows there naturally. It’s a very strange area. The brewer just chose a random selection of plants he found there. Then he decided to layer everything on top of each other, prettily, into the mash tun and then passed wort over the top of it as it went into the boil.”
The works in the exhibit come at you like photos from a magazine, an old newspaper or a family album. They are more than images. They represent our collective backstory. Lisa Allen, brewer at Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, chose a wood engraving of the 19th century block house at Fort Yamhill. A sixth-generation Oregonian and trained anthropologist, Lisa began by thinking about the people in the artwork: What kind of beer did they drink, did they make? Her brew is characterized by the use of oak-smoked wheat malt and rye malts. She kept the alcohol level at 5 percent and came away with a beer she says is heavy but refreshing with both smoky flavor and spiciness.
Larry Chase is head brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland. His Pitchering Oregon piece is a 1911 oil painting by Frank DuMond. The “Sketch of Table Rock near Medford” is a landscape done on a bright, but cloudy, day. Larry made a table beer, a Berliner weisse, much like beers made in Belgium to be enjoyed by all members of a farm family. The beer will be golden in color to reflect the sunniness of the painting. Larry will serve the beer at the exhibit three ways: straight up and with two fruit or herbal syrups to cloud the beer, mimicking the clouds in the painting.
Pitchering includes a variety of scenes depicting the people and places of Oregon; some are very realistic, some romantic. But the starkest is an oil painting entitled “Harvest.” The huge work shows a sinister-looking raven flying over a clear-cut forest. The beer to go with this piece was made by Trevor and Linsey Rogers at De Garde Brewing in Tillamook. “Ferme et Foret” (Farm and Forest) features dried and fresh hops with spruce tips added to the blend. Are the painting and the beer things to be enjoyed simply … or is there a deeper meaning?
That’s the kind of question folks might get together and hash out over a couple of beers.
Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum 1219 SW Park Ave.
General Admission 1–6 p.m.; $25 general/$20 museum members
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
An unusual pub crawl in Southeast Portland on Oct. 10 proved that the ninth time can be a charm, too. After a series of eight walks that invited “brewers to go on nature hikes and make new beer inspired by edible and medicinal plants on the trail,” eager consumers burned a little more shoe leather as they made the trek from pub to pub during the Beers Made By Walking tapping. Oregon Beer Growler covered the original hikes in the August 2015 issue with the article “A Beer Walk in the Woods” and wanted to follow up on the process.
The Portland tapping featured 15 beers and one cider made by 11 commercial breweries, a homebrew club, and a cidery. All four participating pubs were within walking distance of each other. BMBW founder Eric Steen says that the beers “create a drinkable landscape portrait of Forest Park.” The bar hop, which transformed beers made by walking into beers consumed by walking, allowed people to literally drink in what Portland’s landscape has to offer.
While many people joined the informal walking tour, which started at Belmont Station at noon, members of the High Street Homebrew Club gathered at the last stop, Bazi Bierbrasserie, where their brew, Spruce Lee IPA packed a bright punch. Club member Bizzy Gross said the brew took some extra effort. “Spruce tips are out of season and distilleries buy them up to use in whiskey. But we finally found a supplier in Canada that sold us a pound for $50.” The inaugural tasting of the collaboration, made at Portland U-Brew, created a festive atmosphere. Club member Jax Zajdel spoke for many by saying, “It tastes like Christmas.”
The rest of the lineup at Bazi featured Belgian-style beers: Base Camp’s barrel-aged saison made with wild yeast harvested from an old-growth ancient forest preserve; The Commons’ saison featuring redwood and cedar bows and pine-smoked tea; Hopworks’ Belgian pale with licorice fern, wild ginger and maple syrup; and 10 Barrel’s sweet cherry beer with Belgian yeast.
The owners of Likewise, artists Adam Moser and Nancy Prior, also hosted one of the tappings thanks to a personal connection to Steen, who was Moser’s classmate at Portland State University. They also share a philosophy regarding support for fellow artists and a love of beer. “Art formalizes conversations in many different ways,” Moser said. “And beer is all about conversation.”
The lineup at Likewise included an IPA with cedar by Ecliptic, a strong ale with tips from four different trees by Hopworks and a German pilsner with wild red huckleberries by Widmer Brothers. Michael and Meredith Westafer, visiting Portland from Chapel Hill, N.C., said the event encapsulates what they think of the city. “The event brings two Portland institutions — beer and Forest Park — into public life,” said Meredith over a pint of Hopworks’ ale with vanilla leaf.
The Horse Brass Pub offered a grape root gruit by Burnside and Coalition, a saison with Hawthorn berries and lemon balm tea by Humble. While finishing an ESB by Hopworks, Carl Singmaster said he not only appreciated the fresh take on brewing that BMBW offers, but also the fact the event outgrew Belmont Station, which he co-owns and where the tapping exclusively took place from 2012 to 2014. “Local beer doesn’t get any better than this,” he said. Belmont Station’s offering included a red ale with cedar tips by Hopworks, a strawberry gose by Laurelwood, and a Reverend Nat’s cider with Hawthorn berries, dandelion and burdock root as well as a bagged garnish of Western red cedar wood chips.
Proceeds from the event benefited Forest Park Conservancy. Cody Chambers, who serves as the organization’s trails and restoration coordinator, led several of the walks. The program has not only brought people into the park; Chambers said, “it’s intriguing to see the brewers’ creativity bring the beers from inception to consumption.”
Because foraging in Forest Park is not permitted, brewers had to find ingredients they identified on their walks elsewhere. Brewers at Hopworks, where Steen works a day job as a communications coordinator, foraged for ingredients on trails along the Sandy River. The challenge for him this year, as the organizer of the tapping event, was identifying the right tapping locations. “Walking from bar to bar was a satisfying fulfilment of all those negotiations.”
This year, BMBW events were held in eight cities across five states. The Eugene tapping takes place Nov. 5 at The Bier Stein, with eight beers and ciders inspired by three walks in the area. Learn more at www.beersmadebywalking.com.
Hopworks Urban Brewery in Southeast Portland recently signed onto the Brewers for Clean Water Pledge. In addition to many energy-saving and sustainable practices, the brewery has pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch rainwater in a retention pond. Photo by Tim LaBarge
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
“The single most important ingredient in craft beer is water,” Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy told brewers at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Portland in April. Not exactly a news flash. But, her comments about why they should support clean water were.
A little background: The 1972 Clean Water Act was diluted by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that seemed to exclude certain bodies of water. Therefore, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers drafted the Clean Water Rule to define the included water bodies. They released the rule in March 2014 for public comment, hoping for final adoption this summer.
“Before the new rule, up to 60 percent of American streams and millions of acres of wetlands were potentially overlooked by the Clean Water Act,” EPA officials said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council or NRDC, a nonprofit environmental organization, invited brewers to support the Clean Water Rule by taking the Clean Water Pledge.
Karen Hobbs, from the NRDC, said about 70 brewers have taken the pledge so far. By doing so, they sign on to comment letters to senators and the president and they are listed on the NRDC website as a partner to defend the Clean Water Act.
“What they do next is up to them,” said Hobbs. Many have improved efficiency at their facilities, engaged in watershed cleanups and improved water use. “Still,” Hobbs said, “we’re looking for ways to work better with the craft brewers because they are so embedded in their communities and so directly affected by local water. Many of them have amazing outreach in their communities.”
Like Bear Republic Brewing Company in Sonoma County, Calif. Peter Kruger, master brewer, said the brewery, established in 1996 in Healdsburg, Calif. broke ground on a new facility in Cloverdale, Calif. in 2006 with the idea there was plenty of water for the expansion. “We soon realized there wasn’t enough for the city, let alone our brewery.”
The city wanted to drill two new wells, but faced a five-year wait to secure loans from the United States Department of Agriculture. Bear Republic then fronted the city $475,000 in impact fees. Now they have two new wells with a million gallons of excess capacity. Peak demand is 1.8 million but the wells can pump 2.8 million.
Kruger said, “These were fees we planned on paying anyway. The amount we paid is what we estimated we needed to grow our brewery — basically we prepaid about eight years of fees,” he said.
With the money from Bear Republic, the city of about 8,000 people was able to fast track the wells. The brewery has introduced processes to conserve water in its drought-stressed region. “We run an incredibly low water ratio to beer, 3.5 gallons-to-1 gallon of beer. If you take out the water for office and irrigation use, it’s 3.1-to-1,” said Kruger.
The brewery has invested in technology to monitor water use and increase efficiency. They have spent several million dollars on an anaerobic digester that will treat wastewater.
In the first step, water runs through the digester and organic matter decomposes to methane, which will be burned for electricity. The exhaust gas preheats the processed water and will meet about half of their plant’s hot water needs. Then the water will run to the aerobic digester that will clean it up through a reverse-osmosis process for reuse in cleaning and wash downs. Kruger expects this to be up and running by January.
“Brewers are in a unique position to influence the world with the Clean Water Pledge,” he said.
Many leaders in the Brewers for Clean Water come from the water-challenged West.
Jenn Vervier, from New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, wrote a persuasive editorial in support of the Clean Water Rule in 2012 called “Clean Water is Good for Business and Beer.”
Closer to home, HUB recently signed the Clean Water Pledge and is working with the NRDC to develop some educational opportunities around the pledge.
Water conservation is a top priority at HUB. A recently installed custom cleaning-in-place skid allows reuse of the cleaning solution up to five times while maintaining water temperature and chemical effectiveness. A new centrifuge yields more beer per tank and uses less water for cleaning.
Outside, there are pervious pavers in the upper parking lot and the lower lot is sloped to catch water in a retention pond, allowing rainwater to become groundwater.
“Our heat exchange unit allows us to capture city water and use it to cool down our boiled wort, we then store it in our hot liquor tank for further use,” said HUB communications specialist Eric Steen. Both the brewery and kitchen focus on organic, sustainable practices.
For now, at least, the water news is good. The Clean Water Rule was officially adopted and formalized by President Barack Obama in May.
That won’t mean the end to challenges and legislative maneuvers, so supporting and/or taking the Clean Water Pledge will be more important than ever. You can find more information on the NRDC website: http://www.nrdc.org/water/brewers-for-clean-water/
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On June 13, more than a dozen people, including brewers from Hopworks Urban Brewery, Lompoc Brewing, Ecliptic Brewing, and the High Street Homebrew Club, joined a guided walk through Forest Park to identify plants to use as beer ingredients. The brewers will each make a beer inspired by the walk, and the four creations will be revealed at a tapping event at Belmont Station on October 10.
The Springville Hill hike on a sun-drenched Saturday was part of a series of monthly hikes open to the public and coordinated by Beers Made By Walking in partnership with The Forest Park Conservancy.
The Conservancy's trails and restoration coordinator Cody Chambers led the relaxed 4-mile stroll on a historic trail — formerly used by market vendors from Portland's outlying areas to access the Willamette River — and the Wildwood Trail. Along the way Chambers stopped to point out many edible plants, from madrone berries to stinky Bob to oxalis.
“Forest Park Conservancy participates in the program to encourage people to explore nature through the lens of beer making,” Chambers said. “By educating folks in a fun way, we hope to inspire them to be stewards of Forest Park.”
Eric Steen, founder of Beers Made By Walking, provided additional information about historic uses of various plants in beer making.
Steen founded Beers Made By Walking in 2011 in Colorado Springs, Colo. where he taught place-based art at the University of Colorado. Initial inspiration struck him on the Yukon River, where the leader of a weeklong canoe trip described how various plants had been used as ingredients in cooking.
“Beers Made By Walking teaches appreciation for the landscape we live in,” Steen said. “Learning about the natural world around us also suggests the environment matters, which then translates into the beer itself.”
Steen has been connecting his passions for art, beer and nature in projects for many years. The highlights include underground pop-up pubs in New York, Michigan and Scotland and the Beer Inspired By Art event at the Portland Art Museum, where five breweries created beers inspired by 18th-century painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze's piece, “The Drunken Cobbler.”
In the four years of running the Beers Made By Walking program, Steen has worked with more than 45 breweries to create more than 55 unique beers that “give drinkers a sense of place.” This year walks take place in eight cities in five states, all along the West Coast, Colorado and North Carolina. “I've been approached by breweries from all over the country,” said Steen. He has now hired his first employee, a project manager in Denver, Colo. “The program can easily be replicated.”
Since March, Steen has worked as communications coordinator at Hopworks, whose brewers, following a hike last year, made the first beer in the world with salal berries, which lent their Berliner Weisse a pinkish hue.
Ecliptic Brewing's Jameson Morr had met Steen at “The Drunken Cobbler” event and jumped on board the hike without hesitation. Morr said he enjoyed getting outside the brewery and doing something new. “It was a great way to meet other brewers and kick around ideas for beer,” Morr said. “I usually don't pay attention to the landscape this much. I learned a ton.”
Like the other brewers, Morr is still in the planning stage for the beer he will make for the October 10 tapping event. “It will be awesome to see what others will come up with.”
Facing fewer logistical limitations than breweries, the members of the High Street Homebrew Club have already picked their ingredients. While Bizzy Gross was inspired to use goji berries in a Belgian ale, Heather Egizio, the club's unofficial coordinator, said members are now collaborating to brew three different ales using spruce tips, Northwest cedar tips and juniper. In late August, they will make the best recipe at a local brewery and contribute the result to the tapping event at Belmont Station, which will also raise funds for the Conservancy.
Will Hike for Beer
At the conclusion of the hike, the brewers gave away bottles and cans of seasonal beers from their respective breweries, helping to cap the outing in the most appropriate way: a cold one.
The next hike takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 22 and will host brewers from 10 Barrel, Hopworks and Widmer Brothers. Learn more and sign up at www.BeersMadeByWalking.com.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.