By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Portland Beer Week returns for 2017, its seventh year, with a calendar packed full of events, as well as some new twists. It runs Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 18.
This year’s official beer is Hop Berry IPA, brewed with marionberries by Culmination Brewing. It will be available on draft and in limited-edition bottles at Whole Foods Markets and other beer-centric retailers in the Portland area.
Although beer is the main focus, Portland Beer Week extends that theme. It features a variety of activities that happen alongside opportunities to enjoy great beer. The event is effectively a celebration of Portland’s beer, food and arts culture rolled into one.
“Our goal is to showcase the world of beer in the greatest beer city on earth,” said Ezra Johnson-Greenough, Portland Beer Week founder. "We do that through brewer’s dinners, tastings, educational seminars, festivals, games and more.”
One of the big additions this year is an indoor Marketplace at the Kickoff Party, Thursday, June 8. Beer-related merchandise will be available for purchase along with free food and drink samples. The party will be split across two separate levels: the Exchange Ballroom and the Cascade Rooftop, which features spectacular views of the city.
“I’m really excited that folks like the Oregon Cheese Guild are joining us and our collaborative beer and food project vendors like Salt & Straw ice cream and Blue Star Donuts,”
Johnson-Greenough said. “Kickoff attendees can sample spirits, chocolate, jerky, hop candy. We’ll have beer schwag, too.”
Another addition this year is the Dinner Series, which features a handful of collaborations between top local breweries and chefs. Organizers have built the schedule to avoid piling up dinners on the same date.
“I’m looking forward to Firestone Walker at Hair of the Dog, Culmination Brewing at The Woodsman, Block 15 and Ruse at an Imperial Session pop-up dinner and Modern Times at Pizza Jerk,” Johnson-Greenough said.
Returning this year is the Seminar Series, presented by Oregon State University and the HR Group. Several forums will explore subjects like beer industry branding, starting and building a brewery from nano to production, sustainability in brewing, barrel-aging beers and the making of sour and wild ales.
The beer event schedule jumps into action shortly after the Kickoff Party with the Fruit Beer Festival at Burnside Brewing, Friday, June 9 through Sunday, June 11. Billed as the premier showcase for brews spiked with fruit, the all-age event also features local vendors, food, DJs and non-alcoholic drinks.
“We’ve moved back to Burnside after last year’s experiment in the Park Blocks,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re spreading the beer stations out and the venue will have more shade and seating than in previous years at Burnside. We’ll also have more help at check in to speed entry.”
Next up is Masters of IPA, an invitational event highlighting 14 of America's best brewers of the hopped-up style. It moves to a larger venue, Ecliptic Brewing, and includes collectable glassware and meet-the-brewers sessions on Friday, June 16.
The Rye Beer Fest, in its sixth year, returns with a new date and venue: the Happy Valley Station indoor/outdoor food cart pod and taproom on Saturday, June 17. The all-age event will feature more than 20 beers and 18 food carts.
Portland Beer Week’s official finale, Snackdown, is back for a second year on Sunday, June 18. Presented by Gigantic Brewing and taking place in The Evergreen event space above Loyal Legion, it offers more brewer and chef pairings.
“It’s going to be another great year for Portland Beer Week,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re reaching out to tourists and casual beer fans in our marketing efforts and it seems like we’re getting more of those folks. Attendance has been increasing every year and I’m confident it will again.”
Follow Portland Beer Week’s social media channels for updated news and information. Advance tickets for most events are available online.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Sometimes the world of brewing herbs seems a small one. You know, hops. But the world of brewing herbs goes far beyond Humulus lupulus.
As long as humans have been brewing and plants have been growing, we have brewed with a variety of herbs not only for brewing qualities, but for health benefits as well. Centuries ago in some European countries, only unhopped beers could be called ales. Gruits, or beers brewed with combinations of herbs and spices, were the most common brews.
From ginger to yarrow, many common garden plants and weeds have hidden brewing powers and associations with health benefits. If you are looking to put some zing in your 2016 beers — and maybe raise a pint to your “I’m going to be healthier” New Year’s resolutions — here’s some advice from Old Growth Ales, a Springfield-based startup brewery.
“There is a long history of brewing with herbs, all across the earth, each specific to their geography — physical and cultural,” says Amanda Helser, herbalist and Old Growth Ales co-founder. “The northern British Isles brewed with heather. Norwegians brewed a sahti using juniper boughs for lautering. St. John’s wort was used across Europe, and sarsaparilla has been used for centuries worldwide as a tonic. We want go back to this type of brewing. Hops and barley are great. I love them. And there is so much more.”
Helser and Steve Braun (fellow co-founder and head brewer) focus on brewing ales and wines with a range of beneficial botanicals. In March 2015, Old Growth Ales successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to fund an expansion of their operation. Helser is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a trained Western herbalist who has practiced for more than five years, including experience with with Cascadia Folk Medicine and Seed & Thistle Apothecary. Her background includes Portland’s School of Forest Medicine and the School of Traditional Western Herbalism, and a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College with a focus on fermentation and human culture. Braun has a doctorate in environmental science and 15 years brewing experience, including more than 10 years of brewing with herbs, alternative bittering agents to hops and alternative sugar sources to barley.
Before we move on, some caveats. No one is giving medical advice; that’s what your preferred practitioner is for. And while many botanical health properties have not necessarily been scientifically tested, the beneficial properties of plants represent cultural bodies of knowledge that go back thousands of years and span cultures around the world. Brewing books such as Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher’s “The Homebrewer’s Garden” and Stephen Harrod Buhner’s “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation” are also useful resources.
“Brewing is traditional herbalism,” says Helser. “Many botanicals were originally fermented with sugars to take as medicine. The fermentation process adds its own energetics.”
Different herbs also require different methods to bring out their benefits. Like teas and tinctures, ales and wines can become other ways for people to consume herbs: salves, essences, poultices along with eating them in powdered and raw forms. The beneficial properties of a plant can also change depending on how it is used, explains Helser. Dandelion root, nettles and elderberries need to be boiled. Some herbs need to be steeped for a very long time, similar to dry hopping. Some herbs are alcohol-soluble and have different effects when introduced during secondary fermentation as opposed to prior to fermentation.
Here are various herbs common to brewing (common and botanical names), along with some of their health properties, according to Helser and Braun. When seeking out brewing herbs, common names can vary, so always reference the botanical name.
— Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): digestion, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, congestion. “It’s the thousand-leaf plant of Achilles. It is a heal-all. Next time you are cut, chew it up and put it on the cut, you'll see. It is a plant ally of sorts.”
— Elder (Sambucus caerulea): flu and fever, overall health tonic. “A prized plant: the berries and flowers. Be careful though. There are many varieties of elder. Sambucus caerulea (blue elder) is our safe, locally occurring common variety.”
— Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): vitamin C, antioxidants. “A little astringent, tart and gives beautiful color. Good for hypertension and cancer prevention. A diuretic.”
— Nettle (Urtica dioica): liver tonic, minerals, blood purifying. “One of the first greens to appear in the spring. Helps detox after the winter. Bright and full of umami flavor. When I am feeling run down or stretched thin, I crave any and everything with nettles.”
— Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale): liver support, detoxification. “When roasted, dandelion root gives a great earthy flavor.”
— Ginger (Zingiber officinale): stimulates circulation and digestion. “It quickens the blood. Good for cold and flu, sexual function, viral infections, coughs, kidneys, the list goes on. Ginger is amazing.”
Other common and popular brewing herbs, along with some beneficial properties, include:
— Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus): adrenal support
— Chicory root (Cichorium intybus): liver support
— St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): emotional health, digestion
— Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium): antimicrobial
— Hawthorn (Crataegus): circulation, heart health
— Rose hips (Rosa rugosa): vitamin C, antioxidants
And by the way, enjoying an herbal brew isn’t something you’ll need to hold
your nose and close your eyes for either. “We’ve crafted an ebulon, which is an ale with elderberries, black cherries and rose hips,” says Braun, as well as a hibiscus wine that comes in two strengths: a 6% sessionable version, and a 12% imperial.
“Craft beverages are gateways into further experiences with herbs,” says Braun. “Suppose we had a bag of dried elderflowers, mugwort, St. John’s wort, yarrow, and goldenrod. Someone may look at us and ask, ‘What do I do with those?’ and move on, buying their packaged tea or typical craft beer. However, if we ferment these herbs into a crisp gruit and pour them a pint, they will at least try it, and in our experience, enjoy it and strike up a conversation. The path to wellness is facilitated by incidental educational experiences like these conversations.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.