By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Celebrations are always a great occasion to crack open a tasty homebrew, be it a birthday, holiday, Thursday or even a wedding — your skills as a homebrewer can be on display at any given event.
Weddings can be the most romantic and extravagant displays of affection, so once you’ve found that perfect someone to share your life with why not begin your adventure together with a homebrewed commemorative beer? Naturally, your soul mate likely shares at least a certain degree of passion for your homemade concoctions (how else could you have possibly wooed them to begin with?) Or perhaps you know the soon-to-wed couple and can create the perfect social lubricant as a gift for their reception. Either way, the process to select what beer to make and serve at a wedding can be a difficult task. Once you jump through any legal hoops, paying a tapping fee can be annoying at best. But the satisfaction of knowing the guests will be enjoying a quality homebrew as they toast your union of love will make it all worth it.
You Can’t Please Them All
In the process of selecting which of your award-winning brews to make for your own wedding or the happy couple’s, there are several things you should consider. Of course, the most important factor is the two people who are getting married. In a perfect world, they would want the same beer. However, you may have to make two different styles to accommodate differing tastes. You should also consider the guests and try to get a sense of what kinds of beer they’ll find palatable.
Make sure to give yourself enough time to brew and ferment so that you’re not rushing or sending green beer to the party. Additionally, remember to make enough beer for the size of the reception. A 5-gallon batch produces approximately 41 pints. Naturally, you can probably drink a third of that yourself, so factor in the estimated number of other people who will be there and increase the volume, as needed. And even if you only manage to make the couple happy, you’re doing a perfect job because this is their special day.
Are You a Bootlegger?
Once you know which brews you want to showcase, you need to figure out how to serve them. There are a few legal matters to become familiar with, but first and foremost keep in mind that there is absolutely nothing illegal about serving homebrew (no matter what the event space or organizers might tell you). However, the decision to do so lies with the party that possesses the liquor license. A tapping fee may be required, particularly if the venue is providing bartenders and servers. If they will not accommodate your request, you can always look for a different location — so ask about serving homebrew early in the planning process.
Another option would be to use bottles of homebrew as favors to the guests. You could go as far as packaging the beer with specially designed labels reflecting the theme of the wedding. There are a handful of websites to help with that process. In the end, remember that the beer you’re making — whether it’s for your own wedding or someone else’s — is a way to show support for two people who are celebrating their love and devotion to each other for the rest of time.
Bone Dry Black [AG]
Bone Dry Black [Extract]
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
I am secure enough in myself to admit I used to watch this show on Bravo called “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” In said show, the matchmaker, Patti Stanger, tells the couples they need to follow a two-drink maximum rule on their dates. While that’s probably a good idea in theory, I believe rules were made to be broken. I also believe there are far too many delicious Oregon beers out there to limit yourself to only sharing two with your significant other.
But before we get into what beer you’ll be drinking on your date, there is one important question to answer: Do you go out or do you stay in? Fortunately for you, I’ve provided options for both!
— If you’re feeling extra indulgent, pamper yourselves with a romantic trip to Bend’s Anjou Spa. For over a year now, Anjou has collaborated with GoodLife Brewing for a special “Spa Hoppiness” menu of services. It turns out the ingredients in beer are actually really beneficial for your skin. Your taste buds will take pleasure in the experience as well with some complimentary draft beer. Treat yourselves to the Ale-ing Foot Remedy, Brew & Renew Body Polish or the Stout Scalp Treatment. Or spoil yourselves to all three treatments and you’ll receive a beer-infused natural LeCol soap to keep the fun going back at home. Good luck keeping your hands off one another!
— For a fun night out, OMSI After Dark’s 21-and-over monthly event lets adults channel their nerdy side. This month, the museum will feature two events — OMSI After Dark: Gaming on Feb. 24 and OMSI After Dark: Sex & Love on Feb. 13. Formal wear is encouraged at the latter event, so it’s a good excuse to get dressed up. According to OMSI, be prepared to “get down and dirty as we explore the science of attraction.” Rumor has it Rogue will be on hand selling their beers.
Pro Tip: Stop at nearby Hair of the Dog Brewing before the event to get a little warmed up for all the dirty talk.
A night in can be very underrated when it comes to dating. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to be boring — get creative! But if you’re not the imaginative type, don’t worry; I’ve done the hard work for you. First, let’s focus on what beer you should have on hand. This is one third wheel you’ll actually want tagging along with you!
Depending on your current relationship status, there’s an Oregon beer for that.
My recommendations are as follows:
— Crux Tough Love [Banished] 2015 (11.5% ABV, 70 IBUs): a barrel-aged imperial stout that has been “banished” for nine months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. According to Crux, “Tough Love is big, but smooth with tender strokes of vanilla.”
— Alameda Love Squirts (6% ABV): a chocolate strawberry stout. Too lazy to make your own chocolate-covered strawberries from scratch? Never fear, beer is here! And a hilariously named one at that. They say laughter is carbonated love, right?
— Ex Novo Friends With Benefits (10% ABV, 23 IBUs): a peated scotch ale aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. If you consider yourselves a little more than just FWB, try the brewery’s Dynamic Duo IIPA (8% ABV, 70 IBUs) instead. Or, if you’re happy to be flying solo this year, you’ll get a kick out of their Psycho Ex Triple IPA (10.5% ABV, 92 IBUs).
Runners-Up: Upright Brewing Oyster Stout (6.25% ABV) a British-style stout brewed with both oyster liquor and whole oysters (an aphrodisiac!), Mazama White Wedding IPA (5.2% ABV, 55 IBUs) a marriage of Belgian wit and Northwest IPA — proof that opposites can attract — and Southern Oregon Brewing Black Heart (8.5% ABV) an imperial stout with chocolaty malt aromas, “Black Heart is full of body and not for the faint of heart.”
Now that we have the most important part of the evening figured out, let’s move on to the actual date ideas to go along with the drinks!
— When two people love each other very much, they get together and make … a beer! Even if you two have never brewed a batch before, Rogue makes it a little bit easier by allowing you to produce clones of their popular beers with homebrew kits you can buy online — just add yeast. I recommend the Shakespeare Stout, and not just because of the writer’s inspiring romantic poetry — his plays are also full of allusions to his love of ale.
— Cook with beer. You can even put it in the food! Collaborate together and make a unique beer-themed meal. Check out our Brew Bites column online for inspiration, like a beer-brined rack of lamb with mint pesto for dinner and some Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis Stout ding dongs for dessert. Or, considering you were too lazy to even make the aforementioned chocolate-covered strawberries, you could get extra cheesy and order a heart-shaped pie from Pizza Hut (see what I did there?).
— If you prefer to compete rather than collaborate, this idea is for you. After ordering a pizza, crack open your bottles and battle one another in a board game made for beer lovers. Beer Smarts Game 2.0 is an “intoxicating question and answer game for beer lovers everywhere.” The game includes a scorepad so you can make sure the loser does whatever the winner desires. Another fun game is Brew-opoly, which is very similar to Monopoly, although you purchase brews and taphouses instead of houses and hotels. There are fun twists, where you might have to put on beer goggles and kiss your neighbor or stand and sing “99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall.” The game even features some beloved Oregon breweries like Full Sail and Deschutes.
Whether you go out or stay in this Valentine’s Day, there’s no excuse to not invite Oregon beer along for your date. But beware of imbibing too far beyond the two-beer maximum, as it was in Macbeth that Shakespeare wrote, “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes newlyweds return from their honeymoon and immediately prepare a room for a baby. But for Kiley and Michael Gwynn of Eugene, they returned from their 2008 honeymoon/first anniversary trip to Hawaii with a passion for a new hobby: homebrewing.
“We fell in love with Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut PorTeR, and that started us because it wasn’t available in Oregon,” says Michael. What began as a way to keep a beloved beer in the pantry, though, became an extension of something else. “It’s one more way for us to be connected,” he explains. “There are very few things we do separately. This is one more way to collaborate with each other. Like with any couple, you have so much going on, you don’t always see each other during the day, so this builds that connection even more.”
The couple focuses their time on work, craft beer, homebrew, “beercations,” and their dog, a red heeler named Penny. Today that Maui porter is a regular homebrew for the Gwynns, but their hobby has grown far beyond one clone. They started basic, but a “good tax refund” coincided with information that someone in Salem was getting out of brewing. The Gwynns bought his 10-gallon, single-tier, all-grain setup (though they now use a 26-gallon brew pot to accommodate larger batches). Their garage houses four 60-gallon wine barrels and a full-sized bourbon barrel. They maintain one bottling line for standard yeasts and a second for beers made with wild microbes. Members since 2009 of Eugene-area homebrew club the Cascade Brewers Society, in 2015 Michael, a learning specialist at University of Oregon’s University Teaching and Learning Center, became club president. (The Gwynns also keep the club’s Flanders barrel, and various other member barrels, in the garage.) A social media strategist at Oregon Community Credit Union, Kiley has promoted Eugene Beer Week and runs the Eugene chapter of women’s craft beer group Barley’s Angels.
“We brew things that aren’t as easy to get locally,” says Kiley. “The last year we’ve done a lot of Belgians, saisons, more beers for their sour character. This year we’re doing lots of British beers — ESBs, milds, real ales on a homebrew scale. It’s not something we’ve done before.”
Every year Michael and Kiley brew a different beer for holiday gifts. For 2015 they brewed a Belgian breakfast stout, modeled after Founders Breakfast Stout from Michigan. The Gwynns developed a variant they called Vanilla Latte, brewed with coffee beans and vanilla beans. Kiley designed labels and Michael worked with a mobile canner out of Salem for canning.
The couple met in 2001 while attending UO. “We met at a party, slowly got to know each other over the course of a year,” says Kiley. “It wasn’t an instant thing, but grew over time.” Six years after meeting, Kiley and Michael married in 2007.
A love of craft beer has been a constant. “Growing up in Oregon, you’re more steeped in craft beer than other places,” explains Kiley. “The cheapest thing I ever drank was Henry Weinhard’s.” When Kiley turned 21, her “first legal beer” was a growler of Bombay Bomber IPA from Steelhead. The next day Kiley went to High Street and brought home a Mason jar of Ruby. “My father was a Coors Light drinker,” Kiley recollects with a laugh, “and he just talked about how bitter it was.”
Michael came to craft beer in part through his love of cooking. “I’ve never been an exceptional cook, but I enjoy tinkering with food and flavors and have the do-it-yourself mentality,” he says. Already wading the shallow waters of the growing ocean of craft beer, a barrel-aged stout “blew me away with the flavors,” says Michael. “We had it with a meal where everything just worked together perfectly. I was heading for homebrewing, and that got me there.”
As with the rest of their relationship, both Gwynns cite collaboration as key to their homebrewing. Brews begin not over the kettle, but over discussion, says Kiley: “What do we feel like? What’s in season? What do we have? What could be different from what we have? We talk about recipe formulation together — hops and yeast.”
From there, the couple goes into a mode of division of labor. One gets a yeast starter going, one goes to the homebrew store. Brew day is on the weekend, after a full work week. “He does most of the work on brew day,” says Kiley. “He does the manual labor while I get other stuff done around the house or run errands. Some days we have a brew day together, but we are involved in so many other things related to beer, that we find those brewing hours work best with him brewing and me cleaning the house.”
For other homebrewing couples, both Kiley and Michael suggest collaboration as a top priority.
“Make sure you’re doing something that works for both people,” says Kiley. “If you only brew one batch at a time and you don’t have multiple years of beers to rely on, make sure you brew something you both can enjoy.”
Honest feedback is also key, says Michael, who considers his “nose and palate” to be less refined than his wife’s. “I’ve gone to Kiley multiple times with beer ideas,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times she’s shot me down. And I don’t take it as a slap to the face. With our relationship, we are each other’s best friends and we can be blunt with each other.”
They also make time to talk back and forth, bouncing more ideas off each other until they have a concept and recipe. Then, once the beer is in a glass, they compare notes and discuss the final product: Did it work the way they both intended? What worked well? What can be improved next time?
“Everyone has something to bring and be part of the conversation,” says Michael. “Things will work out.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.