By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
An ancient beer style has found a perfect home in the Pacific Northwest thanks to the cherries that grow in Hood River County. The combination will be celebrated Saturday, July 9 in Parkdale with Kriekfest, the first known beer festival to honor the sour cherry tradition.
The event is a collaboration between Portland-based beer writer Brian Yaeger and Solera Brewery of Parkdale, owned by Jason Kahler and John Hitt. At least 30 diverse and well-aged krieks will be poured in a park setting with a spectacular view of a towering Mount Hood. The lineup is dominated by Oregon producers, but attendees have the chance to taste ales from around the U.S. and as far away as Belgium — including an entire keg by the renowned Cantillon Brewery. The all-ages event also features savory food, pastries and fresh fruit in a farmers market.
A kriek is, by definition, a lambic aged on cherries for one or more years — usually three. Kahler said, “Lambic is a pretty obscure style on its own, and we’re taking it down to another style, kriek.
“They’re expensive, time-consuming beers to make,” Kahler continued. “You’re dealing with fresh, perishable fruit and a lot of these were made with sour or pie cherries that are more acidic and not sweet, and those are getting harder and harder to find.”
Like krieks themselves, the festival is an idea that has been fermenting a while. Yaeger, visiting the upper Hood River Valley several years ago, suggested it to Kahler and Hitt, and broached the subject again in early 2015.
“I said, with your blessing and cooperation, we can make this happen,” Yaeger described. He put the word out on July 9, 2015, to give brewers with krieks aging in barrels plenty of notice. Yaeger added that while he could have planned Kriekfest in Portland and sold more tickets, it was critical to him to hold it in the heart of the Fruit Loop, with its abundant cherry, apple and pear crops.
“It’s really exciting to have all these beers in one location, especially the location that it is — in the middle of this fruit valley where there is a fair amount of cherries being produced,” said Kahler, who will present tastes of up to four of his own blended krieks made from Ballantine cherries grown in the Gorge.
“We are not aware of a festival like this happening anywhere, specifically krieks. Perhaps in Europe,” Kahler said.
Yaeger said kriek gatherings in Belgium feature ales from specific locales, and a Belgian brewery/restaurant in Maine holds an annual brewer’s dinner featuring krieks, but this is the first event he is aware of that’s amassing a large number of krieks, and only krieks, from around the U.S. and Belgium.
“Cantillon is considered among many to be one of the best breweries in the world, and I subscribe to that theory,” Kahler said. “They produce a very small amount of beer. It’s pretty expensive and hard to get your hands on. We have a keg, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a keg. To see any Cantillon beers on draft is kind of a treat, but having a kriek is really special.”
Yaeger said, “One of the very first calls I made was to the distributor (Massachusetts’ Shelton Brothers) and explained that this will not be your average request for this beer, that it would be a special festival. And they said, ‘We’ll make it happen.’ That call was another reason to plan this a year ahead, because it paid off.” He said he has not seen Cantillon in kegs anywhere in the U.S. in the past 10 years — ever since the style rose in popularity here.
Yaeger said he sees the festival not only as a chance for people to experience many kinds of krieks in a pastoral setting, but also as a way to profile what he regards as an emerging “Hood River-style kriek.” The Gorge will be well-represented: in addition to Solera, look for krieks from Double Mountain Brewery, Full Sail Brewing Company, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, pFriem Family Brewers and Thunder Island Brewing Co., all from Hood River County. 54°40′ Brewing Company and Everybody’s Brewing will represent the Washington side of the Gorge.
The sourness spectrum ranges widely, and while Kriekfest isn’t providing specifics on where a beer falls in that spectrum this year, the brewers are open to questions.
“There will be a lot of interesting beers,” Kahler said, all imbued with one shade or another of cherry-delivered crimson.
Indeed, color, along with flavor and aroma, combine to make krieks interesting. And Yaeger announced an exciting addition to the lineup on June 15: Jester King Brewery of Texas has collaborated on a kriek with Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.
Then there is the featured Cantillon: here’s a tip — get there early. We’re talking one keg of the rare stuff, equating to about 170 four-ounce pours.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
the process of fermentation involved in the making of beer, in which sugars are converted to ethyl alcohol
Dan Peterson is the microbiology-trained brains and brawn behind Ferment, one of Oregon’s newest breweries. Based in Hood River but brewed in Portland, Peterson plans a Hood River brewery and a Portland pub.
“Food will be made to suit the beer,” Peterson said. The pub should open by late summer and the brewery would follow in late 2016 or early 2017.
“It’s nice to have this kind of clean slate opportunity and say, ‘This is what I want to do,’” described Peterson. Last year, he left pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, where he was one of Josh Pfriem’s first hires, to start his own brewery.
“It was a tough decision, but it was a great opportunity at the right time to have creative control over the beers,” Peterson said. He is doing the entire brewing process himself, and distribution is limited at this point. Peterson focuses on “balanced, English-style” beers.
“The cool thing is they go really well with food. And with Ferment, the focus is more experience-focused rather than beer as a liquid or beverage or commodity or bottles being distributed as far possible. It’s the synergy of food, beer, experience and environment.”
Ferment brewery and pub will both be known simply as “Ferment.” The pub will be in Portland, at a location soon to be announced. The brewery, however, will be in Hood River. Peterson is looking at a variety of locations, including a planned building on the Hood River waterfront, two blocks from pFriem.
Peterson, a University of Vermont microbiology graduate, got his fermenting start at Brooklyn Brewery in New York. He had worked in a cancer research lab before his love of homebrewing took him to a combination lab/entry-level brewing job at Brooklyn in 2003. He then came west to work at Full Sail in 2009.
“I was brewing with friends and I slipped down the slope of thinking a lot about brewing and thinking of it as a profession,” Dan said.
Peterson started Ferment in Portland in 2015, brewing at Pints in Old Town and at the new Zoiglhaus cooperative. His yeast concoctions start wild on the slopes of Mt. Hood, where he leaves cultures out overnight.
At this point, Peterson experiments with small batches. “This is a chance to do recipe development — see how things are received on a really small scale. I can get a couple of kegs out there to places and check in with people,” he said. “I’ve been doing test batches, making tweaks. And instead of just tasting them myself and deciding whether I like it, this is a way to see, in general, how consumers like it,” Peterson said.
He uses special malts out of England for most of the brews in order to find a balance with the hops and yeast. “My background is mostly English-style brewing practices,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of English-style brewing in the Northwest. I like seeing what people think of it — to say, ‘This is a pale ale that’s not all that hoppy,’ compared to our standards now.”
In general, the yeasts will tend to exhibit a “pretty fruit ester character,” Peterson said, adding that they flocculate easily and leave a clear beer.
“Traditionally, (the English) brew a lot in casks and count on the yeast to settle in the bottom and expect the beer to be really clear. That’s kind of my goal also.” Peterson is not currently cask conditioning, but said, “I want to in the future as I get more established and have some good cask offerings.”
In Portland, you can find Ferment on tap at Clyde Common and The Richmond Bar. In Hood River, Ferment beers are available at Camp 1805 Distillery, Pine Street Kitchen and Volcanic Bottle Shoppe.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Community is the fifth element in brewing to go with water, yeast, barley and hops, according to Oregon brewing pioneer Dave Logsdon.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ founder recently gave an insider’s detailed, and often funny, history of brewing in the Columbia River Gorge and the rest of Oregon. He recounted the roots that were established by Full Sail Brewing Company along with the past decade’s rapidly growing brewing culture in Hood River and nearby scenic towns about an hour east of Portland.
“It is really a story of people working together,” Logsdon said to a room of about 120 people in February. His speech was part of a Sense of Place Lecture held at Hood River’s Columbia Center for the Arts. With him was his wife Judith Bams-Logsdon, a native of Belgium and his muse for beer styles and Belgian menu at their downtown Hood River tasting room.
Logsdon has the authority to re-tell the area’s brewing saga because he was there from the start — first as a leader in the homebrewing revolution in the 1970s and later as co-founder of three anchors in Oregon fermentology: Full Sail, Wyeast Laboratories and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.
“Full Sail was the gathering point for homebrewers and other like-minded folks, and people saw it was successful,” he said. “When I think of the sense of place, to me it’s mostly about the people. Yes, we have a beautiful valley and river and environment to live in, but it’s the people who have lived here and shared their community to make things possible and make the community what it is. And that’s what I have to say about the brewing community,” Logsdon described. He added, “Even before craft brewing and Brewers in the Gorge (BIG), the large professional brewers had a tradition of working together about science and innovation in order to brew the best beers possible.”
Logsdon’s experiences during the last 40 years span from garage brewing to being a leader in the 500-employee, $50 million Gorge beer economy.
“I left the Midwest in the early 1970s and there were still regional beers with flavor, but as soon as I reached the West Coast, I noticed a distinct difference in beer quality,” he said. “They were all pretty much light lager beers. Working my way through school, I didn’t have the resources to enjoy the beers I wanted to drink, so I started brewing beer.” In 1985, he opened Wyeast Laboratories, which was then a small operation.
“Wyeast was a big part of my life here in the Gorge and part of what I did to bring the fourth element of brewing to the neighborhood. We have abundant hops on both sides of us, acres of barley and the best brewing water in the world, and it was nice to work with my family to bring this fourth aspect of it to the Hood River Gorge.”
He later jumped at the chance to help get Full Sail off the ground with Irene Firmat and Jerome Chicvara. Logsdon remained at the brewery until the mid-1990s.
“We pooled all the resources we could from family and friends and worked for a year to get it financed,” Logsdon said. He said it would not have happened without longtime Parkdale residents Jack and Kate Mills. “They believed in us, invested in us and also helped us raise another large chunk of money through the Oregon Lottery,” he said. What emerged was first called Hood River Brewing Company.
A building that protruded halfway into Columbia Street and a chain-link fence were both in the way of constructing the Full Sail facility. “We knocked it out to get the brewery going,” he said. “Things have changed a lot, and it started with a huge amount of energy. And many of the brewing community members were very encouraging of Full Sail, which became two blocks of Hood River.”
Craft beer, he said, “is here to stay and it has had a huge impact on everything we consume and our approach to life and the values we have in what we create.”
He was part of the “’86 Club,” as he puts it — the brewers who were there when it became legal to brew beer and sell it in the same location. Logsdon pointed to fellow pioneers including Brian and Mike McMenamin, Kurt and Rob Widmer, Karl Ockert, Fred Eckhardt, Art Larrance, Fred Bauman and Jack Joyce.
Logsdon presented a “family tree” of Gorge brewers, with Full Sail brewers moving on to either work for, or found, all but one brewery in the Gorge (Backwoods Brewing Company in Carson, Wash.) Standouts include Double Mountain founder Matt Swihart, pFriem founder Josh Pfriem and Solera brewer and co-owner Jason Kahler.
“The brewing community itself has very deep roots and strengths going back to big breweries working together in sharing knowledge,” Logsdon said. ”Overall, besides of all these good things we have, it’s as much to the credit of the open-mindedness and the progressive thinking you find in Oregonians. It’s the people and the energy putting those things tighter — the willingness to create and take a chance and do what you think is right and work together.”
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sedition Brewing’s glasses will make the grand announcement: “100 years in the making.” In 1916, Columbia Brewery, which had been operating in The Dalles since 1867, stopped producing beer when Prohibition took effect in Oregon. After a very long wait, craft brewing has returned to the historic city with two new breweries set to open this year: Sedition Brewing Company and Freebridge Brewing.
Before getting into the beer business, Sedition owners Aaron and Kelley Lee ran Maison de Glace Winery for several years in the same century-old building on Laughlin Street in the heart of the city’s historic downtown neighborhood. Brewmaster Kyle Rossman will be working with a 7-barrel system and the Lees anticipate a 1,000-barrel-a-year capacity to start. Together, they plan to start serving the public in early March.
“It’s close — so close we can taste it,” Aaron said.
Sedition's soft opening will feature a limited food menu and three beers: an IPA, a porter and a third to be announced.
"I'm surprised how many people in this town love dark beers," Rossman said. "It's surprising how many requests we have to 'Make sure you have some dark beer.' It's good to see people moving away from IPA as the sole beer world, and we will do something different — a little left field besides a pale or wheat. We're still trying to settle on what that will be. Probably a saison." He admitted he doesn’t limit himself when it comes to styles and appreciates how all of them are good if brewed well.
One of the earlier experiments will be a classic American-style pilsner, brewed as a tribute to Columbia Brewery, the last to occupy The Dalles. He’ll also do “a new take on an adjunct lager.” Instead of using barley, Rossman will incorporate corn or rice. Meanwhile, plans for the food menu include five appetizers and six to eight paninis and salads, with pizza to join the mix later. “We want to do it a little different than you typically see. I want to tie the beer in: beer sauces, beer bread — bring it all back to the beer as much as possible,” Aaron said.
When asked about the near-simultaneous opening of two breweries in The Dalles after 100 years, Aaron echoed the founders of Freebridge Brewing, located just blocks away, who were featured in January’s Oregon Beer Growler:
"I think it’s a positive. Having been in the wine game, and seeing wineries go up and down, I don't think the Portland market is necessarily going to come down here for one (brewery). They want one, two, three or four. To have two gives us that foot in the door outside of the area."
Before opening the brewery, The Lees have been transforming the old Stadelman Ice House — a big, brick structure with walls that are 3-feet thick. And it turns out, those are perfect for making beer, according to Rossman. "We get really consistent temperatures in the brewing and keg storage areas. When it's 110 degrees outside, it's mid-60s in here."
The historic structure does present some challenges, though: remodeling isn’t always an option. For example, after planning to expand one pub room, the Lees discovered that the walls are weight-bearing, so they opted to keep the space as a separate meeting room. “It will take three to four years to completely finish all the areas the building needs, from masonry repairs to creating an office area.”
Eventually, customers will be able to tour the space, which is nearly 10,000 square feet with high ceilings, the original boiler and some of the ammonia pipes used for cooling. The building is not only full of history; it even comes with personal significance to the Lees. In the early 20th century, Kelley’s grandfather, Jesse Mason, made deliveries for the ice house. "We discovered the family connection when we leased the building," Aaron said.
The Lees ran their winery out of the same building before deciding to switch to beer. "It just never really took off," Aaron said of Maison de Glace. "We kind of broke even, broke even, broke even.” Maison de Glace is still around in bottles and there are plans to serve it as the house wine at Sedition.
Those who keep tabs on the Oregon beer scene and watch for openings may have noticed that Sedition was set to open as Defiance Brewing Company. That plan came to a halt in late 2015.
"Right at Thanksgiving we discovered a potential trademark issue. There was actually a Defiance Brewery, LLC out of Hays, Kan. and a Defiant Brewery on the East Coast,” explained Aaron. Even though they had the name as far back as 2012, they decided it would be best to avoid a court battle. “So we spent a weekend thinking of names, and the name Sedition came up. And I liked it. I actually like it better as far as the direction and labels.” He also added that it’s pretty difficult these days getting a name that hasn’t been trademarked.
One thing that won’t change: the raised fist logo that is displayed prominently on the old Ice House building.
By Kirby Neumann-Rea
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Ed Wilder is fighting, and a little mad.
“I had a stroke,” Ed says, splaying the fingers on his left hand across his face and flashing a look of frustration.
Ed is the owner and founder of DaBrewshop/Hood River Brewers Supply, which quickly became a small slice of ale haven where folks in the Gorge could find Northwest one-offs and obscure Belgians. But DaBrewshop, where Ed held court at the bar with locals, has gone dark — for now. In November 2015, Ed suffered a stroke. He was actually found 30 hours later on the basement floor of his business. Fortunately, he survived. And despite the long road to recovery that lies ahead of him, he has the support of a slew of people. Brewers, restauranteurs and friends immediately began fundraising to help with Ed’s medical bills. A “Cheers to Ed” silent auction and dance took place in December 2015. The following month, a larger party called “EdStravaganza” was held on Ed’s birthday. Plenty of money has been raised, but Ed’s supporters declined to cite a figure.
“It’s remarkable — truly inspiring how generous this community has been,” said Matt Johnston of Boda’s Kitchen in Hood River, one of the people organizing Cheers to Ed benefits. “Ed’s needs are great and going to be great for some time to come.”
“It’s phenomenal how everyone has come together,” said Ed’s brother, Mike, of Grand Rapids, Mich. “Every time I thought things couldn’t become more pleasant, more things happened to show how generous the community is.” At the first Cheers to Ed event, Mike told the crowd of 500: “You are his family.”
Ed founded Hood River Brewers Supply in 1997 in Hood River’s Heights Business District. He then moved the business downtown to the corner of Cascade Avenue and Second Street in 2001. He’s sold tobacco and smoking supplies, motor scooters and other products for years, but focused on the taproom starting in 2013. Ed made the bar by hand and expanded the taps from eight to 16. The taproom is the sort of place where time spent talking about the hockey and car racing on TV is split between discussions on grain bills and kettle capacities. He runs the brewing supply shop from the building’s basement, where he also homebrews.
Ed’s regained enough of his motor skills to make limited outings to favorite Hood River pubs, but he spends most of his time doing the hard work of getting better. Much of January was spent in physical therapy at the Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles. Ed is proud of the progress he has made. When asked how his therapy has gone, he says “A-OK,” while giving the corresponding gesture with his left hand as the right is experiencing mobility issues.
Ed’s goal is to return to his own home and reopen the shop. The details are still being worked out according to his brother Mike.
“There are plenty of options; we just have to find the best one,” Mike said. “There are a lot of pieces that need to come together. For him to stay at his existing home, it will take some time — possibly it would be some intermediate facility until this is complete or another residence is secured,” he said. “Wherever it is, it will be the best possible one for making him comfortable and to meet his rehabilitative needs.”
As for DaBrewshop, Mike said, “My goal has been to get that place open and serving beer as quickly as possible.” He is in contact with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission licensing specialist, but said “it’s a lot harder than we originally hoped,” to maintain the license since Ed is legally accountable.
Even though Ed isn’t physically at DaBrewshop, he’s not far from the business he loves. An administrator named Lisa at The Dalles medical center reintroduced herself to Ed in his recovery room. It turns out they’d met before.
“I came to your shop. You taught me to make currant wine and beer, and I’m working on my meadery,” she tells him.
Ed remembered helping her, and thanked her.
He indicated he had enjoyed his recent pub outings to Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River and Solera Brewery in Parkdale.
He’s asked: “Were you able to try some beer? Is that part of your diet?”
He gives a thumbs up and puts two fingers close together.
Donations for Ed Wilder can be sent to attorney Teunis G. Wyers, 216 Columbia St., Hood River. Funds beyond Ed’s needs will be used for another local cause, at Mike’s request.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.