By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In advance of its Virginia production brewery opening, Bend-based Deschutes Brewery is kicking off its East Coast presence with a new tasting room in downtown Roanoke, Va., which is scheduled to open by the end of August.
“Roanoke is home to us now and we wanted to put down some roots,” said Nate Brocious, tours and tasting room manager of Deschutes Brewery. “Since we will not be breaking ground on our new brewing facility until 2019, we’re excited to take one of our first steps in becoming part of this awesome community by opening the new tasting room.”
Deschutes beers are now available in 29 states and Washington D.C., and throughout most of Virginia’s urban areas, such as Roanoke, Charlottesville and the Beach Cities. Deschutes has also partnered with southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Beverage Company to bring its most popular beers to area bars, pubs and grocery stores. The decision to house East Coast operations and production in Virginia bumps Deschutes to the same rank as Stone Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing Co., which is based in nearby Botetourt County about 30 minutes north of Roanoke.
Following its 2016 announcement to open an East Coast production brewery in Roanoke, in April 2017 Deschutes announced the new tasting room. Deschutes had planned to look for a suitable location to augment its local presence, provide beer-related public education and host events. The search for the right spot began in fall 2016. Roanoke’s historic, walkable downtown also includes a farmers market, a variety of eateries and nightlife, museums, galleries, a new hotel and additional craft beer presence from local breweries such as Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers. The Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room will be located in a 4,700-square-foot space in a renovated building that was previously occupied by a restaurant that closed in 2016. As part of the construction, the ground floors of three conjoined structures will be combined into one spacious gathering area.
“Being in the heart of downtown allows us to share our culture and brands with locals and visitors alike,” explains Brocious, who plans to hire around 10 employees. “Back in 1988, we opened our first location in the heart of downtown in Bend, so it only seems fitting that we would open our first location in the heart of downtown Roanoke.”
Fifteen taps will fill Deschutes pints, growlers and crowlers. The tasting room will exclusively pour Deschutes beers for its opening, but Brocious says they “are open to exploring many options as we move forward,” and may eventually host guest taps for other local and regional breweries. Bottled Deschutes beers and other brewery merchandise will also be available for purchase. Indoor and outdoor seating is planned. Instead of building an in-house kitchen, Deschutes is removing the current prep space and working with local restaurants to offer ready-to-eat foods.
Deschutes is developing classes for the public and other events will be offered regularly. While initially the space won’t be available for private events, Brocious says they’ll be looking at ways to use some areas for that in the future.
In addition to the tasting room, the location will house a 20-gallon pilot and small-batch brewing system. “It will allow us the opportunity to create many new and exciting brews,” says Brocious, including “unique beers for the community” that may be available only in the Roanoke area or exclusively at the tasting room.
The tasting room’s brewing system is also an opportunity for Deschutes, in partnership with the fermentation sciences program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, to continue its work ensuring that beers brewed in Roanoke match those made in Bend.
Deschutes considers the tasting room as more than just a way to anchor its Roanoke presence, however. It’s also a chance to see how customers take to Deschutes-branded tasting rooms and taphouses in another part of the country that could lead to additional facilities in other markets. Roanoke-area business and tourism leaders view the business as an opportunity to further rejuvenate downtown. But perhaps most importantly, the space will allow the public to become familiar with Deschutes beers while they await the 55-acre, 350,000-barrel, $90 million production brewery’s opening in 2021.
For now, though, Brocious and the Deschutes team are focused on finishing the tasting room and getting it ready for its public debut. “We hope to see many of our friends and neighbors and will be offering some fun activities for those in attendance.”
Headed to Roanoke? Here are Additional Craft Beer Resources and Destinations:
315 Market St. SE, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Beer Trail: Virginia's Blue Ridge Beerway
Ballast Point Brewing Company
555 International Parkway, Daleville, Va. 24083
Blue 5 Restaurant & Beer Bar
312 Second St. SW, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Big Lick Brewing Company
135 Salem Ave. SW #100, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Devils Backbone Brewing
50 N. Wind Lane, Lexington, Va. 24450
Flying Mouse Brewery
221 Precast Way, Troutville, Va. 24175
Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
70 Main St., Boones Mill, Va. 24065
739 Kessler Mill Road, Salem, Va. 24153
Rising Silo Brewery
2351 Glade Road, Blacksburg, Va. 24060
Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
523 Shenandoah Ave. NW, Roanoke, Va. 24016
Twin Creeks Brewing Company
111 S. Pollard St., Vinton, Va. 24179
Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboardist for The String Cheese Incident, played a show at Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House in April as part of the Craft Brewers Conference events. He regularly tours the country and serves as a guest beer maker at several breweries when not producing suds on his system at home. Photo by Emma Browne
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Fans of “This is Spinal Tap” will be familiar with the phrase, “These go to 11.” The lead guitarist says the line while explaining to the rockumentary’s director that all of his amplifiers’ knobs go one level above the zero to 10 setting on standard equipment. Turning it up to 11 expresses maximal effort — going above and beyond to create an extraordinary experience. It’s not surprising, then, that this saying is often uttered by the keyboardist with The String Cheese Incident, Kyle Hollingsworth. He uses it to describe both the passion he puts into his music and enthusiasm he has for craft beer. Hollingsworth, who lives in Boulder, Colo., was in Oregon in April for a performance at Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House as part of the Craft Beer Conference. His unique ability to travel the country while on tour has allowed him to become immersed in geographically distinct craft beer scenes, gain access to a number of breweries as a guest beer maker and learn how his skill set gained through collaborations as an artist cross-applies to the brewhouse.
There are people who enjoy drinking beer and, perhaps, even exploring by sampling styles outside of their comfort zone. But then there are individuals who exhibit a deeper interest in the beverage — they seek out knowledge on the history of the craft. They want to know the ins and outs of the process and remain on top of developments in the field. Hollingsworth exhibits that deeper commitment to brewing. But his initial interest didn’t necessarily stem from such principled reasoning. He recalls getting into homebrewing around the age of 18, a time in life where motivations can be dubious.
“My brother had been homebrewing a couple of years before me, so, of course, I was like, ‘Cool, I’ll do what he’s doing! He’s listening to Grateful Dead, I’ll listen to that! He smokes pot, I’ll do that!’” Hollingsworth laughed.
He also admitted it was handy to be able to make something that ferments in the basement and then get a little buzz from consuming your experiment all before turning the legal drinking age. But brewing still took significant effort. Hollingsworth, who grew up in Baltimore, Md., didn’t have access to a wide array of brewing equipment. Decades ago, there certainly wasn’t the same sort of homebrewing boom that has been seen in recent years. Hollingsworth said there was pretty much just one homebrewing shop in the area that was run by an old guy with a big beard. While it sounds like some things haven’t changed in the realm of homebrewing, there clearly are advances he’s now grateful for. Hollingsworth would rely on this sole outpost to buy his homebrew “kit.” And in those days that simply meant cans of malt. Therefore, his attachment to the hobby was more about its inventive nature.
“I think the first thing that attracted me to it was the process for sure — the creativity that can go into the process, the ability to create something new out of three or four different elements that can become something else after it’s fermented,” he described.
Years of experience have allowed Hollingsworth to graduate to a 10-gallon Ruby Street homebrewing system that he uses in his backyard. He cites the advances in technology as allowing him to fine-tune things. And similar to the way that The String Cheese Incident’s sound is kind of funky and unique, Hollingsworth brings that style to his recipes. One of his favorite concoctions included sassafras gathered on his property. He cut up the roots and essentially used a “tea of sassafras” as his wort.
Hollingsworth readily admits he’s a better musician than he is a homebrewer. But the two roles have plenty of overlap. Musicians know that once they master the fundamental elements, it allows them the liberty to move beyond the basics and break the conventions. This describes much of what Hollingsworth’s sound has evolved into — when not playing with The String Cheese Incident, he’s holding jam sessions with other artists, often from other genres. There’s an element of risk involved as there is with any impromptu performance. A note could fall flat. Things could get out of sync. But not knowing whether something could go wrong makes it all the more thrilling, and a successful execution results in a more rewarding experience. Hollingsworth said the same idea applies to brewing. Once you get the technique to make standard styles, the freedom to “riff” becomes possible.
“And you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen,” Hollingsworth said. “You throw in sassafras root or you’ll try an orange peel or something or really weird adjuncts that you never thought would really work. And sometimes it turns out to be the best brew you’ve ever made or the best jam you’ve ever played. And out of that comes joy, in my mind at least. The joy is part of the grand experiment — it’s what’s going to happen when all of these things, all of these elements come together.”
He also pointed out that music and beer need proper balance. In a band, for example, it’s important to make sure the guitarist and lead vocalist aren’t 10 times louder in the mix than everyone else. Similarly, Hollingsworth said that if you’re drinking a beer and notice the malt bill is over the top or the hops are overpowering, the combination of ingredients needs adjustment. He added that sometimes the industry as a whole needs to check its balance. In the way that music fans flock to iTunes and download the hits, creating demand for similar-sounding music, breweries also encounter a certain beer or style that will have a surge in popularity, such as an IPA. Over time, that could compromise quality and lead to homogeneity. Hollingsworth said his hope was that a willingness to experiment would counteract that trend.
Hollingsworth is certainly driven to explore with his beer making. That’s led him to become a gypsy brewer, of sorts, and perhaps the envy of every craft beer aficionado out there. He’s made special collaboration brews with the likes of Stone Brewing Co., Boulder Beer Company, Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery and Ska Brewing Co., just to name a few. Of course, his involvement in the music industry opens a lot of doors that the average beer lover wouldn’t be able to access. But Hollingsworth’s fanatical approach to the projects probably helps as well. What really gets him weak in the knees isn’t encountering big-name rock stars — it’s meeting the elite of the beer world.
“I play with a lot of famous musicians, from Paul Simon to Zac Brown. And when I hang out with them I’m like, ‘Oh hey, how’s it going?’ And I’m not really that star struck,” he explained. “But when I see, like, famous brewers, I’m full on like, ‘Oh my God! That’s Mitch! That’s Mitch from Stone! I don’t know what to say. Should I say hello? Should I go up?’ I get all stammered, you know?”
One of his wildest brew dreams came true when he got to make a beer at Stone with fellow musician Keri Kelli, hard rock guitarist who used to play with Alice Cooper. Head brewer Mitch Steele wanted to produce a musician-inspired beer and he certainly ended up with two artists whose sounds are wildly different. Their approaches to the project were as well. Hollingsworth said he wasn’t really sure what type of beer he wanted to make, so was open to suggestions and experimentation. Kelli, however, came in and nixed that right off the bat. He was determined to do a double IPA. Hollingsworth, who loves the style, was immediately on board and the Stone Collective Distortion IPA was the result. To add some of The String Cheese Incident, hippy vibe to the beer, Hollingsworth had the head brewer play around with different herbs and spices, such as chamomile, lavender and sage. But elderberry and coriander won out in the end.
Now a brewing day with two musicians and no music just wouldn’t have been right. The experience ended up wrapping with a giant jam session that included the Stone production line. Hollingsworth estimated there were some 19 guitar players and 11 drummers. Working with new people, both in music and brewing, forces Hollingsworth out of his comfort zone and provides fresh perspective, since it’s easy to get used to the styles of those you’ve spent years with.
“For me, collaborations always bring out — not always — tend to bring out the best in everyone,” Hollingsworth said. “I feel like everyone kind of shows up to a collaboration bringing their A-game, so in a lot of ways the sum is always greater than the parts.”
Hollingsworth took pause when asked what he gets from brewing that he doesn’t from music (besides the obvious drinkable end product). Ultimately, he landed upon the satisfaction of consistency in what seems to be a life filled with constant change and improvisation.
“Even if I have a composed piece I’m playing the same every time, it’s always a little bit of wiggle room. It doesn’t always sound the way I want it,” he described. “But in some degrees with brewing, once I get good at it, as I talk to people who have more experience, I can make a good beer twice in a row versus I can’t make a great jam twice in a row. And once you get the elements together, you’ve kind of followed through on it. I feel like you get the consistency out of beer that I don’t always get out of music.”
In the near future, Hollingsworth will keep playing music and making beer. His touring is sure to bring him back to Portland as well. He sees this region as sort of the grandfather of the craft beer movement that will eventually help ground emerging markets like Asheville, N.C. He’s entertained the idea of starting his own brewery, but admitted it sounds like a lot of work. His thoughts then drifted to creating what sounds like the ideal hangout for any beer lover.
“I just kind of have this vision of a wooden bar with 15 of my favorite tap handles,” he shared.
There would be one saved for his own creation along with space for The String Cheese Incident and other acts to play in the back. Lucky for the people in Boulder, Colo. if Hollingsworth makes it happen. In the meantime, though, you can be sure that whatever he does, it won’t stop at 10. He will be turning things up to 11.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The craft beer universe continues to expand with an ever-larger array of new beers in assorted colors, flavors, strengths and potency. So many brews. But which one to choose?
A certified Cicerone can help with that decision. Cicerone certification is a trademarked program, introduced in 2008, that identifies people with significant knowledge and skills in beer sales and service.
Ray Daniels, a longtime beer expert from Chicago who worked for the Brewers Association as a magazine editor, book publisher, and promoter of craft beer, created the certification program. “It’s not a unique concept for people familiar with the hospitality and restaurant industry,” he said.
Although a Cicerone is to beer like a sommelier is to wine, Daniels avoided examining the sommelier training program when developing his. “Beer people didn’t want certification to be a stepson to the wine program. They didn’t want it to be parallel in structure,” he explained.
He reviewed most of the content in the beer world and determined which portions were relevant to which jobs, such as front-line servers and consultants, then developed the tests.
There are three levels of expertise, beginning with Certified Beer Server, then Certified Cicerone and finally the Master Cicerone, the most difficult level achieved by fewer than ten people nationwide.
The online program is readily accessible. “It does not require you to take a class,” said Daniels. He compared the written exam for Certified Beer Server to taking the SAT exam for college. “It allows you to demonstrate knowledge you already possess. You can learn what you need in a variety of ways.” The web site cicerone.org lists numerous study resources, a syllabus and an optional study class.
The Certified Beer Server exam costs $69 and it’s completed online. The Certified and Master Cicerone exams are more expensive and extensive, involve written and tasting components and are scheduled at specific sites around the country.
Daniels said that the certification program didn’t really take off nationally until 2009. Stone Brewing in Southern California was one of the first to embrace it and was active about talking it up, especially with beer distributors. Oregon was slow to adopt it.
But that’s changing. Today, there are more than 800 Certified Beer Servers with Oregon addresses and 34 Certified Cicerones.
Deschutes, Widmer and Columbia Distributing are some of the larger companies that support and encourage their employees to complete at least the first level of certification. Since the certification is relatively affordable and accessible, many interested individuals, brewers and sales personnel are pursuing certification.
Pat Gerhart is the human resources director at Deschutes in charge of training and educational opportunities. She said that when Deschutes went to a stock-option program a few years ago and changed to partial employee ownership “we started planning for offering the Cicerone Certification.”
“We developed our own curriculum and organized study groups that could work together and go out for tastings. We used many of the references and resources from the Cicerone web site. We felt like people would be more successful with the group learning and we’re a pretty social company.”
About 60 percent of all employees are Certified Beer Servers, a distinction that covers proper beer storage, beer styles, beer tasting and flavors, brewing ingredients and processes and pairing beer with food. Two Deschutes employees are Certified Cicerones — 10 are working toward it — and two people are working towards the Master level.
Gerhart said, “The impetus for funding the certification came from our employees. As people were getting certified, more and more were interested. Now it’s an open invitation for all.”
Both experienced and novice beer drinkers appreciate the expertise and knowledge they can gain from Cicerones. “It’s important as people make the transition into craft beers and our beer in particular, that they get what they want,” said Gerhart. “We want to provide that for our friends and customers.”
For some, the certification and training represent a competitive advantage. For others, it’s background material necessary for a good beer ambassador. But most consider it a piece of their personal beer journey.
Would You Pass the Test to Become a Certified Beer Server?
Sample Quiz, Courtesy of the Cicerone Certification Program
(Answers After Question 10)
1. English hops are often associated with which flavor attributes?
A. Oaky, vanilla
B. Herbal, earthy
C. Citrus, resiny
D. Flowery, perfumey
2. Which of the following is most likely to help preserve the freshness and flavor of bottled beer?
A. Fluorescent light
B. Room temperature storage
C. Carrying it around in the trunk of your car
D. Refrigerated storage
3. What role does “choker line” play in a draft system?
A. Prevent too much beer from flowing to the tap when it is first opened
B. Make the tap system look more attractive
C. Provides resistance to bring the system into balance
D. Reduces bitterness of beers by “choking back” the bitter components
4. Compared to a Bohemian (Czech) pilsner, a German pilsner will usually be:
A. Lighter bodied
B. Much darker in colo
C. One percent ABV higher in alcohol
D. None of the above
5. Which beer style is likely to have the highest alcohol content?
A. Scottish Ale
B. Scotch Ale
C. Dry Stout
D. English Bitter
6. A normal-strength beer that has been stored at room temperature for nine months would most likely exhibit what off-flavor?
7. How much beer is contained in a standard half-barrel U.S. keg?
A. 10 gallons
B. 13.25 gallons
C. 15.5 gallons
D. 31 gallons
8. In which of the following beers would haze be a sign of a likely problem with the beer?
A. Bavarian hefeweizen
B. German pilsner
C. Belgian wit
D. American wheat
9. The clove or nutmeg flavors associated with four-vinyl guaiacol (a phenol) are typically found in what style of beer?
D. American wheat
10. Which of the following is an off-flavor commonly associated with over-sparging?
1. Herbal, earthy
2. Refrigerated storage
3. Provides resistance to bring the system into balance
4. Lighter bodied
5. Scotch Ale
7. 15.5 gallons
8. German Pilsner
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.