By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
“There’s nothing wrong with being familiar.”
That assessment by Three Creeks head brewer Zach Beckwith is spot on in describing much of our daily existence. The familiar propels routines and gets the job done. It’s where we find comfort and relief. But in an industry where trends drive business and customers are willing to abandon what they know for the opportunity to try what they don’t, “familiar” might sound downright pejorative.
“There’s so much now,” Beckwith said of beer selection and variety, “it’s almost seen as negative if you’re ‘the same.’ ”
That’s not to say Three Creeks Brewing Company doesn’t experiment or release one-offs. But for Beckwith and his team of six, it’s all about fine-tuning rather than jumping on bandwagons. In other words, don’t expect any Orange Julius-style IPAs that have surged in popularity lately coming out of this Sisters brewery. You might just reframe its beer as “classic” instead of “familiar” if the latter sounds a tad dull. But when you’ve spent three hours in a cramped car on your way to Bend for a weekend vacation, it’s nice to have a reliable pit stop before the final 30 minutes of the journey. And Three Creeks is always there for the weary traveler who is looking for something familiar.
With the Central Oregon summer tourist season having come to an end and the apres-ski crowd awaiting adequate snowpack, early fall might be an opportune time to visit Three Creeks. On Thursday, Nov. 2, the business will host its biannual Brewer’s Dinner, the highlight of which will be a pairing of complementary flavors found in Frontier Justice Coffee Stout — Beckwith’s favorite and a collaboration with Sisters Coffee Roasters — alongside braised short rib with a coffee rub.
Even if you can’t make it to that event, there’s the filling and the familiar that spills across the rest of the menu, which must fill both hungry families in the rustic dining room as they pause while passing through town and locals at the coppertop bar after they clock out for the day. A dense burger would be ordered happily by either party, so it’s no wonder there is an array of five to choose from. But in Sisters, where every building looks like it’s been lifted from its foundation in Walt Disney’s Frontierland (if Frontierland had an old-timey Ray’s Food Place and McDonald’s), there’s one obvious sandwich to get: the Outlaw Barbecue Burger.
It arrives with the top bun barely clinging to the back of the patty — resembling Pac-Man trying to gobble down a monster-sized pellet. This gives you a better view of what rests atop the ground chuck patty: melted Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese, two strips of soft and chewy bacon arranged in an “X” marking the spot for a tumble of grilled onions — their caramelization melding with the sweet smokiness of a Hoodoo Voodoo IPA barbecue sauce. Beckwith’s Firestorm Red is a beer that embraces the smoldering notes of the Outlaw. Its copper hue may trick you into thinking it is sweet and heavy, but this is an ale that would have a typical Oregon IPA fan asking for another. It took Beckwith a few years to find just the right balance between the malt and hop character, but last year’s recipe made him happy and he’s stuck with it. The bitterness of the red is enhanced by the burger, though it never loses its backbone of Munich malts. Together, they resemble the essence of an autumn campfire in your mouth.
For a departure from pub fare that’s still a warm hug for your stomach when the temperatures drop, look to the Thai Chicken Rice Bowl. Its flavors come at you like a South Pacific typhoon. The heat of red curry begins to tingle before a cooling coconut milk hits at just the right time. Both ingredients are combined in a creamy sauce that creates a bath for tender slabs of chicken breast, earthy mushrooms, green bell peppers and zucchini. A mountain of rice rises from the center of the dish; sprigs of cilantro and shredded carrot rest on its plateau.
Don’t hesitate to dive into the pretty plating — topple the mound and mix everything together until well-coated in the sauce. There’s even fun to be had with the textural counterpoints of crunchy and soft, meaty and snappy. Crowdpleaser IPA is the best fit for the variety of ingredients in the Rice Bowl. Three Creeks gave the people what they wanted with this modernized take on the style: “sexy hops, higher alcohol,” said Beckwith. He added that Sorachi Ace hops bring out hints of lemon rind and dill in the beer, which play well with the citrus from Mosaics. The curry gets a kick after each sip of IPA while a bite with bright cilantro pushes back with a slight sweetness.
So if this is what familiarity breeds — pub food with character and beers that are tinkered with until they reach as close to perfection as possible — there’s nothing to dismiss here.
“To me, the mark of a great beer is if you have a pint and you want a second pint,” Beckwith said.
Brewing fads will come and go, but Beckwith is working on the long game: making sure you want another round.
Outlaw Barbecue Burger
By Chef Mark Perry
Paired with Three Creeks Firestorm Red Ale
One 8-ounce burger patty
1 slice pepper jack cheese
2 ounces barbecue sauce
2 slices thick-sliced cooked bacon
1/4 cup caramelized onion
--Precook bacon strips.
--Caramelize sliced onions.
--Cook burger on grill, then top with barbecue sauce, cheese, bacon and onions.
--Continue cooking until cheese melts.
Thai Chicken Rice Bowl
By Chef Mark Perry
Paired with Three Creeks Crowdpleaser IPA
1 ounce sesame oil
3 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 ounces zucchini
2 ounces bell pepper mix
8 ounces coconut curry sauce (see separate directions below)
6 ounces chicken breast
4 ounces rice
2 sprigs cilantro
1 ounces shredded carrot
--Heat olive oil in saute pan and add vegetables.
--Saute for 2 minutes and add coconut curry sauce.
--Meanwhile, heat chicken on flat top.
--Slice cooked chicken breast and toss with veg mix.
--Pour chicken and veg mix into large soup bowl.
--Place rice in center of bowl.
--Garnish with cilantro and carrot.
For the Coconut Curry Sauce:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
--Heat sesame oil in heavy pot.
--Add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes over medium heat.
--Stir in chicken stock with base.
--Add ginger, coconut milk, curry paste and brown sugar.
--Simmer for 10 minutes.
--Add cilantro and simmer while stirring another 10 minutes.
Three Creeks Brewing Company
721 S. Desperado Court, Sisters
By Mark Lindner
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Approximately 66 people gathered for Three Creeks Brewing’s third Brewers Dinner, held as part of Central Oregon Beer Week. Our hosts for the evening were head chef Mark Perry and brewer Chris Hudson. Many in the crowd were regulars at these functions, while my wife and I have attended an excellent beer and dessert pairing in the past at the Sisters-based brewpub.
The evening consisted of four courses of beer and food pairings, each introduced by both chef Mark and brewer Chris. The appetizer paired Stonefly Rye session ale with sauteed garlic prawns and mushroom ravioli in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette topped with fresh grated Asiago cheese. The translucent, orange-tinted beer had a light aroma of stone fruit with a hint of lemon, while the color paired visually with the carrots in the dish. The well-balanced session ale (4.6 percent ABV, 28 IBUs) shows lemon mid-palate with a light rye spiciness in the finish. It would be a great beer to relax outside with a six-pack or one to grab on your way to more active endeavors, such as a hike. The prawns and mushroom ravioli were well-executed on their own with the sweetness from the roasted garlic, tomatoes and vinaigrette balanced by the acidity of the same ingredients and the saltiness of the Asiago. Paired with Stonefly, the prawns brought out an almost Belgian candi sugar taste; the mushroom ravioli took away the rye in the finish, but increased the mouthfeel and awoke the honey malt. Both effects went well with the tang of the shrimp and the earthiness of the ravioli, respectively.
The salad course mated CreekSide Alt Bier with grilled squash and smoked tomato spinach salad topped with toasted pine nuts and balsamic reduction. CreekSide Alt Bier was a collaboration with Burnside Brewing Company for the Craft Brewers Conference (6.0 percent ABV, 18 IBUs). Its grain bill consists of German malts with the addition of cherry wood-smoked malt. It pours a clear, coppery-amber with a nose of light cherry and the clean, crisp scent of German ale yeast. Clean and well-balanced, the light smoke — more of a feeling than a taste — comes through with just a hint of cherry. The smokiness was matched nicely, and indeed topped, by the smoked tomatoes. The almost imperceptible sweetness of the grilled squash brought out the sweetness in the beer, while the caramel flavors from the roasted vegetables melded wonderfully with the caramel notes in the beer.
Stampede Ale, the spring release in the Desperado Series, was paired with beer-brined rack of lamb with mint pesto, cranberry and gorgonzola mac and cheese, and almond broccolini for the entree. Stampede is a Northwest-style strong ale (9.1 percent ABV, 70 IBUs) with the malty biscuity aroma of Maris Otter. It pours a translucent dark amber and seems a sort of dark barley wine in aroma, looks and taste. The three-hour boil creates a solid body tasting of dark brown sugar, dark stone fruits and hints of dark chocolate. The lamb, which was marinated in Stonefly Rye for a couple of days, toned down the bitterness in the beer some, which I appreciated, while the beer was strong enough to stand up to the fat of the lamb. The mint in the pesto pulled out some of the caramel notes in the lamb and the beer helping to make it a great pairing. The mac and cheese highlighted the chocolate and also toned down the beer’s bitterness. Again, the beer was strong enough to scrub the cheese’s fat right from the mouth. This whole plate and beer were my favorite pairing of the evening.
Our last course of the evening brought us Top Hat Belgian Trippel and fresh raspberry tiramisu. Brewer Chris was understandably proudest of this beer as the recipe was his creation. At 9.3 percent ABV and 8 IBUs, the aroma was very fruity. Clear dark yellow, tinged orange, it was a solid tripel with a semi-sweet finish. Paired with the dessert, they both shone with the sweetness of each mirrored in the other. The raspberry flavor was prolonged and possibly even slightly amplified by the beer. This was a nice cap for the evening and was so close to being my favorite pairing.
Three Creeks Brewing will be having another brewers dinner in October. I know we will be watching for ticket availability, as it will sell out quickly.
Beer-Brined Rack of Lamb With Mint Pesto
Paired With Three Creeks Brewing Stampede Ale
By Chef Mark Perry
For lamb beer marinade:
2 cups Stonefly Rye Session Ale
1 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/4 cup mint
*Place 5 whole lamb racks in large shallow pan. Pour marinade over lamb.
*Cover and refrigerate for 1 day.
*Turn racks over and marinate for 1 more day.
*Drain marinade and pat racks dry.
*Place on barbecue. Cook approximately 20 minutes to internal temperature of 120 F (medium rare).
*Or pan sear racks and bake in oven at 350 F for 25 minutes to an internal temperature of 120 F.
Fresh Raspberry Tiramisu
Paired With Three Creeks Brewing Top Hat Belgian Trippel
By Chef Mark Perry
For the jam:
1/4 cup raspberry jam
5 tablespoons Knotty Blonde Ale
For the tiramisu:
1 pound mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons Knotty Blonde Ale
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 baskets fresh raspberries
*Mix raspberry jam and Knotty Blonde Ale. Reserve.
*Whip cream and sugar until stiff.
*Fold cream into mascarpone and add Knotty Blonde Ale.
*Place half of the ladyfingers in 13-by-9 inch pan.
*Coat with jam mixture.
*Cover lady fingers with half of mascarpone mixture.
*Place half of the raspberries over mascarpone. Repeat another layer.
Three Creeks Brewing
[a] 721 S. Desperado Court, Sisters
Monthly recipes and pairings from your favorite brewpubs around Oregon.