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.”
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With the explosion of craft beer, so too has come an explosion in beer writers who are celebrating the industry through the publishing of books, articles and blogs. One of those beer writers is Fred Eckhardt, who started tackling the subject when the founders of the craft beer industry were still homebrewing. His "A Treatise on Lager Beers" was published in the early 1970s, followed by books on beer styles and sake. His extensive career also includes writing for The Seattle Times and The Oregonian as well as magazines like All About Beer.
Before he began his writing career, he was in the Marines and one of the impacts the Bay of Pigs invasion had on him was to make him ponder life after a nuclear holocaust. According to an interview with John Foyston, Fred said, "I realized that if you could brew alcohol you would be welcome in whatever shreds of civilization might remain after a nuclear war, so I took a good homebrew recipe and made my first batch of beer." Whether he was being entirely serious or not, his early forays in homebrewing were the beginnings of a career that would impact the craft beer world for decades.
Since those early days, beer writing has gathered steam with technical books like Fred's to ones telling the stories of the folks living their brewing dreams. The stories behind how each person came to be a beer writer are as varied the number of beer styles. Brian Yaeger, who wrote "Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey," didn't know he was going to write a book until he announced it to a classroom during the pursuit of his master’s in professional writing. Once it was out of his mouth, he couldn't take it back. And before he knew it he'd secured a media pass to the Great American Beer Festival. From there he embarked on a six week road trip across the country. He describes the book as being "about the people, less so the beer."
Brian knew he'd write a second book but it wasn't until his publisher proposed "Oregon Breweries" that he knew what it would be. As luck would have it, he had already created the outline for it during the road trip that brought him and his wife from California to their new home in Portland. After retrieving the handwritten journal, he began two years of work during which the number of breweries in Oregon was growing exponentially. In the end, he had gathered the details on 190 breweries and brewpubs and was even more qualified to show visitors around, one of the things he loves most about being a beer writer.
Pete Dunlop, author of the 2013 book "Portland Beer: Crafting the Road to Beervana" started writing for the daily paper at Washington State University during graduate school. He went on to teach high school journalism and then had a career in marketing communications before going freelance. As opposed to Brian's books that are more contemporary, Pete's book is primarily historical in nature, no doubt influenced by his master’s in history.
When asked about his favorite part of being a beer writer, he replied that, "Beer people are easy to talk to," noting as well that he enjoys being able to write about the good in the industry (and sometimes bashing AB InBev). On the flip side, he noted that making money as a beer writer can be challenging. For him, publishing articles and authoring a beer blog were steps that led up to the realization that getting a book published was an important next move to make progress in this career. He's found magazine work easier to come by after publishing his book and is looking forward to writing a second historically based book.
Newer to the craft beer world is Steven Shomler, author of the just-released "Portland Beer Stories." Before 2007 he was not a beer drinker, having tasted the "crap beer" his dad drank and hating it. It wasn't until he was filming a hop harvest that he experienced what he described as "a life-changing experience." Smelling the hops in the field, during processing and in the drying room, opened his eyes and "stupid palate" to a world he didn't know existed. Later that day, he tried his first triple IPA and a whole new world opened to him, a world that he was able to write with a newcomer's perspective. However, he was new only to craft beer, as this would be his second book, following one about Portland's food cart scene. The realization that he was not going to be able to do a comprehensive piece was his biggest challenge so instead he focused on a mix of the old (McMenamins and Widmer) and the new (PINTS and Culmination). Finding stories to write about was easy as the brewers made themselves accessible, a sharp contrast to his experience with the wine industry.
The forthcoming "The Beer Bible" by Jeff Alworth is a product of his travels during two years visiting an array of amazing breweries overseas. It wasn't something that he had planned on writing; instead it was at the request of Workman Publishing, who had turned down his pitch for another book. They were looking for a follow up to "The Wine Bible" and sent him a copy, requesting he submit a table of contents as his "pitch." It was perhaps an unconventional way of finding the right author, but Jeff "didn't have anything to lose." After all, they were approaching him instead of the other way around and so he didn't stress about it.
Workman was happy with the table of contents Jeff submitted and after more than a year in contract negotiations, Jeff began the task of researching and writing his book that is broadly divided by beer styles. Since beginning work on the book in 2011 he has accumulated countless hours of stories about brewers all over the world, facilitated largely by making contacts with importers. Some countries he could have navigated on his own, the ones where English is commonly spoken, but it was destinations like Italy where he would have struggled without help arranging visits and translating.
Unlike Steven, Jeff had been a huge beer fan for years, having downed plenty of Henry Weinhard’s back when it was big, attending graduate school in Wisconsin when New Glarus Brewing opened and producing his own beers. That background, and having written ever since he was a kid, was the perfect combination that helped him begin his writing career, which started when he took over the beer column at Willamette Week following William Abernathy's departure. He went from there to write countless pieces for other publications.
Whether you prefer shorter pieces or books, historical or contemporary topics, there's something for everyone when it comes to beer writing. The best part is that they celebrate the day in and day out work that brewers do to fill our glasses. Cheers to the pioneering writers who first took it up and those who have followed in their steps!
Beervana Buzz http://www.beervanabuzz.com/
Portland Beer Stories https://www.facebook.com/PortlandBeerStories/
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
2015 marks the year the Spring Beer & Wine Fest turns 21, a fond age for many of us. Since its inception, it's been more thoughtful than most of us were in our early years. Started by Steve Woolard and his parents -- who were getting ready to retire but he convinced to pitch in with the books, paperwork and marketing — it was held for the first four years at the now-closed dog track in Wood Village. The next four years they utilized space at the Portland Expo Center, being the first tenant in each of two new buildings that were opened, before moving to their current home at the Oregon Convention Center.
Besides being held indoors, something contrary to most festivals in the area, one of the things that sets the Spring Beer & Wine Fest apart from other festivals is the mission behind the event. Steve started it to provide a marketing outlet to vendors, while encouraging owners, brewers or representatives to run their own booths.
Many festivals rely exclusively on volunteers to do this, however, it's not uncommon for those volunteers to be unfamiliar with the product they're pouring or sampling. While some vendors may be OK with that setup, it has been those that are interested in that personal touch model that Steve seeks out. That isn't to say that the festival doesn't rely on volunteers (it takes 500 to make the two-day festival run); rather, it means that those volunteers are key supporting members that are allowed to pick the vendor they would like to pour for. Proving the attractiveness of the model is the fact that some of the volunteers have been with the festival from the beginning. That's right, they've been volunteering for it for 21 years. That's commitment.
The festival is a mix of breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries and food vendors (cheese and chocolate makers, for example) making it an event that offers something for everyone, even things (wine) that some (beer drinking) people might not know they want. For example, John at TeSóAria Vineyard & Winery, loves the mixed bag of people at the event. The ability to be in front of beer drinkers, people that perhaps haven't had much experience with wine, offers him the chance to show them something they might not have considered before. There's nothing like a personal touch and a positive experience to put a producer in a prime position to attract new customers.
Starting out as a beer-only festival, it still skews in favor of breweries with the majority of them hailing from Oregon. Looking over the list of breweries for this year’s fest, there are a couple big brewers as well as several smaller producers that may be less familiar to some, such as Krauski's Brewskis, Vagabond Brewing, Natian Brewery and the newly-opened Coin Toss Brewing Co. This festival is a prime opportunity for them to tell their story directly to consumers and, in doing so, create a connection that may well lead to future purchases.
Continuing the theme of allowing producers to tell their story is the culinary stage. It started off with scotch tastings and chef stations, evolved into seminars and last year the culinary stage took a big step forward by having all of the segments recorded and available on YouTube. Local food and beer man about town, Steven Shomler, has been instrumental in developing this. He is the co-founder of the Portland Food Cart Festival and met Steve during a visit to the Pod Bar at Carts on Foster in 2013. He offered up his help and since then has been heavily involved, drawing on his festival experience and connections with the local beer and food scene.
What lies ahead for the festival? One thing Steve would like to bring into the mix is marijuana vendors. He's already been exploring the possibility with the Oregon Convention Center, which currently considers it a tobacco product that is not allowed. However, administrators haven't definitively said "no" yet. Steve feels marijuana should be in the same category as beer, wine and spirits as it will be overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Only time will tell if that that pans out for the festival. In the meantime, check it out for yourself and explore all the festival has to offer.
21st Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest
April 3-4, 2015
Oregon Convention Center
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.