By Emily Engdahl
It’s a wet and rainy (typical) winter morning in Portland. Entering the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe on NW 23rd Avenue, I’m welcomed by rows and rows of chocolate truffles, confectionary creativity, and the warm smile of Chris Crabb, Oregon’s Craft Beer Sweetheart.
Crabb is an integral part of several beery endeavors, breweries, and fests across the state - and one of the kindest and hardest working women in the industry. I had an opportunity to chat with her about her roles in celebrating Oregon beer, being a go-getter, and parenting a teenager. Despite myriad challenges and the hard work involved in balancing a successful career, family life, and hobbies (Crabb has exquisite taste in antiques and collectables, creating vintage looking family photo postcards along with her husband and son each holiday season), she is ever cheerful, always professional, and a pure delight.
You are one of the most important figures in current Oregon Beer culture - how did you begin working in the industry?
First, I don’t consider myself all that important, but I truly appreciate the compliment! I stumbled into this industry by luck. I was working for a PR firm in the early 1990s, and it leased office space to Gill Campbell, an event promoter who owned Campbell Productions. Gill was looking for someone to do PR for her client, the Oregon Brewers Festival, and hired the firm; I was assigned as the account manager. 1995 was my first official OBF. That same year, Gill and Art Larrance started the Winter Ale Festival (today the Holiday Ale Festival) and I worked on that one as well. Gill went looking for her own office space in 1996 and took me with her. I continued to work for both festivals and started picking up other beer accounts along the way (including working eight years for BridgePort). She (Gill) closed shop in 2003 to run the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., and the beer clients stayed with me. That was when I started Crabbsoup Public Relations.
You work on several fests around Oregon - can you tell us which ones they are?
I work on four big festivals, and promote several smaller ones that are brewery specific. The big ones are The Oregon Garden Brewfest (April 25-27, 2014) in Silverton; the North American Organic Brewers Festival (June 26-29, 2014) at Overlook Park in North Portland; the Oregon Brewers Festival (July 23-27, 2014) at Waterfront Park in Portland; and the Holiday Ale Festival (December 3-7, 2014) in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland.
We all know you as the one who knows EVERYTHING about Oregon beer fests - what kinds of things do you do for the fests, and what is your favorite task or activity surrounding fests?
I have different roles for different festivals. This summer will mark my 20th year with the Oregon Brewers Festival, and my role has increased as time has gone on; currently, my job description for that festival runs four pages long! In a nutshell, I handle pre and on-site communication with the brewers, the vendors, the food vendors and the public; I do all the advertising, social media, public relations, posters, work with the mobile app developers and update the website. I manage all aspects of the brunch and the parade; I gather all pieces for and edit the program; and I am onsite every hour of every day, from 5 a.m. on the opening day doing morning TV until 8 p.m. on the last day, tearing down. While onsite, I handle media opportunities and check in with vendors, but mostly I operate the Information Booth. I decided we needed one a few years back, and figured I knew enough about the festival to answer just about any question thrown at me. (Number one question at the OBF? Where’s the ATM.)
My role with the North American Organic Brewers Festival is very similar to the above, plus obtaining all the permits for the event. My role with the Oregon Garden Brewfest is strictly public relations, which keeps it simple; and my role with the Holiday Ale Festival is somewhere in-between, mostly PR and social media but also communicating with brewers and producing the program.
My favorite? I love working with the brewers – who wouldn’t, they are talented, witty, irreverent, amazing! – but I also love working with the public. With the festivals, I often act as a concierge, recommending hotels and restaurants and pubs and beers. I am a Portland native and incredibly proud of this town. I want everyone who comes here to not only enjoy the beer, but the entire city and all that it offers.
Which festival is your personal favorite to attend?
That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! (By the way, I only have one child, so that is an easy answer.) Each of the festivals I promote offers something different to love. The Oregon Garden Brewfest is held in such a beautiful setting, and they let you walk around the gardens with your beer! It has a really sweet, small town community feel to it. I love the NAOBF for its park setting and its mellow vibe. Very family friendly, it’s as if everyone there is having a picnic on the grass with a beer in hand. The OBF is great people watching, but my absolute favorite part of that festival has to be the kick off parade - it’s become an amazing tradition. And the Holiday Ale Festival is so festive, held in the heart of the city in the winter with the clear tents that allow you to see the Christmas lights above.
Do you like beer? What kinds? Are you learning to like new styles?
I love beer! Although I am very picky about styles. I have a certain palate and know what I like. I’m not a fan of malty beers, I find them too sweet. Also not a fan of lagers. I used to be a self proclaimed hophead, but the older I get, the bitterer the beers seem to taste. These days, I lean toward a lovely non-Imperial IPA, a tart sour, or a chocolate stout. Stout is truly my new favorite, which is great as it pairs so well with the dark winter months. I’m also becoming a bit addicted to ciders.
What do you love about Oregon beer culture?
I love the camaraderie of it. It truly is an industry where rivals are friendly and supportive of one another. They help each other out, and you can’t say that about most other businesses. I also love the fact that new breweries open all the time in Oregon, yet rarely do they close. The beer lovers in Oregon go out of their way to help these places not only survive, but flourish. Soon, it won’t be a Starbucks on every corner, it will be a craft brewery. I also love the reporting of our craft beer scene - we have a ton of beer and event bloggers in this town, and I’ve grown to develop really great relationships with so many of them. As a PR person, that’s my job, but I would count many of these media among my friends.
What do you do for fun?
I’m self-employed, I work 24/7! Fun for me is spending time with my husband and son. And planning our next trip to Maui, which is where we love to be.
Do you have any funny stories about working on the beer fests for us? Ever had a keg not show up until the last possible second? Any other YIKES! moments?
We’ve had many kegs not show until the last possible second; which may not sound like a big deal, but when they arrive on a tractor trailer rig in the middle of Naito Parkway and you have thousands of people on the festival grounds - it is! Unfortunately for the readers, most of the stories I have either can’t be shared or shouldn’t be! Oddly enough, they usually involve porta potties..
You run PR/Marketing for several breweries around town. Which breweries are you associated with?
I am lucky enough to work with Lompoc Brewing, Cascade Brewing, Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub, Kells Irish Pub, and the newly opened Growlers Hawthorne. I also do project work for Sierra Nevada Brewing. And believe it or not, I have non-beer related PR clients as well, including the amazing people at Tea Chai Te, the Oregon Garden/Oregon Garden Resort and Portland International Raceway.
It’s 6 p.m. on a “typical” Tuesday night - where do we find you?
Typing one last email before making dinner and helping my son with homework. Because as much as I think I have the greatest job in the world, I am a mom, first and always.
By Emily Engdahl
Looking for delicious combinations to tempt your tastebuds? Combine a celebration of Stout Month with the plethora of chocolates available from local artisans for February and Valentine’s Day. We perused the cases at Moonstruck Chocolate’s NW 23rd Avenue location with Oregon’s Craft Beer Sweetheart, Chris Crabb. Truffles and bars - from milk to bittersweet - there’s a chocolate to suit every taste, and one to match beautifully with this month’s star; stouts! Look for these and other seasonal stout releases at your local brewer and raise a pint to Stout Month!
Kells Brewpub | Kells Irish Stout | 4.7% ABV
Notes of coffee and chocolate with a mild toffee sweetness, finishes dry with just a hint of tartness. Look for it on nitro.
* Pair with Moonstruck Peanut Butter Sea Salt Caramel Eclipse Truffle
Lompoc Brewing | Stout Out Loud | 4.9% ABV
This pitch black ale has strong flavors of roasted coffee, chocolate and raisins balanced by acidic dark malts. Ends with a creamy, smooth finish.
* Pair with Moonstruck House Spirits Distillery Liqueur Truffle
Cascade Brewing | Diesel Barrel Aged Stout | 12% ABV
Aromas of dark sweet chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and molasses. Dark coffee and milk chocolate intermingle with roasted malts and dark molasses to finish with slight Bourbon heat and a lingering sweet dark chocolate flavor.
* Pair with Moonstruck Molasses Plantation Caramel Chew
Pints Brewing | Steel Bridge Stout | 5.2% ABV
Rich and chewy, this robust stout is girdered together with Midnight Wheat, Black Prinz, Roasted Barley, Special B and Chocolate malts. Jet black with a thick brown head, loaded with espresso, coffee and rich malt flavors.
* Pair with Moonstruck Mayan Milk Chocolate Bar
Laurelwood | Organic Portland Roasting Espresso Stout | 6.3% ABV
In collaboration with Portland Roasting, a base stout is complemented by cold steeped Organic Guatemalan and Ethiopian blend, accentuating the roast, chocolate and coffee flavors. A smooth dark ale with layers of dark, rich roast flavor.
* Pair with Moonstruck Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almond Bar
pFriem | Belgian Stout | 11% ABV
Dark as midnight with aromatics of coffee and cardamom, the complexity of bold flavors of cocoa and cinnamon are only upstaged by its sheer ease of drinkability—a rarity with more common stouts.
* Pair with Moonstruck Sea Salt Cajeta Caramel
Boneyard | Backbone | 6% ABV
Rich, creamy stout combining three of our favorite things; espresso, beer & chocolate. Boneyard and Backporch Coffee Roasters collide, creating a flavorful & aromatic ale using cold extraction espresso. Breakfast or dinner...It’s up to you!!
* Pair with Moonstruck Italia Espresso Truffle
Boneyard | Suge Knite | 13% ABV
This imperial stout pours black with a dark creamy head. Rich and bold with flavors of oak, whiskey, molasses and dark fruits, it is surprisingly smooth and drinkable for such a big gnarly beer.
* Pair with Moonstruck Wild Huckleberry Truffle
BricktownE | Rock Steady Stout | 6.9% ABV
it’s a foreign extra wheat stout served on Nitro. Roasty, creamy and slightly chocolatey, make up the tasting notes.
* Pair with Moonstruck Extra Bittersweet Black Cat Truffle
Caldera | Old Growth Imperial Stout | 8.8% ABV
Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Growth Imperial Stout, aged for three months in two different types of Bourbon Barrels.
* Pair with Moonstruck Dark Chocolate Tumbled Beer Berries
McMenamin’s Concordia Brewery | Black Sea Imperial | 9.5% ABV
Russian Imperial made in honor of this year’s winter Olympics! This stout has huge roasty, chocolate and burnt malt flavors, well balanced with choice hop addition.
* Pair with Moonstruck Grenada Truffle
Migration | Bootstrap Imperial Stout | 10.1% ABV
This dark, full bodied stout has been aged with bourbon, oak and maple syrup. Forward rich dark
chocolate and roasted notes paired with subtle hints of vanilla and smoke linger on the nose and palate. The supple maple sweetness and woody tannins lend to the depth of this well balanced imperial.
* Pair with Moonstruck House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle
By Michael Cairns
Readers of this semi-regular column will know that I am impressed by the numerous business and operating procedures used by Oregon brewers to save water and energy. Sustainability is one of my favorite words, and that encompasses environmental, economic, and social sustainability. I believe that consumers of Oregon craft beer have a certain level of sophistication that attracts them to beers produced in ways that allow us to tread lightly on Mother Earth.
A recent press release from Widmer Brothers Brewing caught my attention and made me gravitate to a new beer based on some old ingredients and using water conservation to benefit one of Oregon’s treasured watersheds. Now available is Widmer’s Columbia Common Spring Ale (ABV: 4.7%, IBU: 32), a spring seasonal that showcases the historic Columbia hop, a once-popular variety that was near extinction before Widmer began developing this recipe in 2012.
“We’re always experimenting with unique hop varietals, and we were intrigued by the Columbia hop’s story and its character,” said Joe Casey, brewmaster. “Columbia hops, a sister varietal to Willamette hops, lost popularity decades ago as Willamette hops became the hop of choice for some larger breweries in the United States. They nearly disappeared until a local hop grower, Annen Brothers in Mt. Angel, Oregon, worked with Oregon State University to revive them. We really enjoy the beers we’ve brewed with Columbia hops and have purchased nearly all of the Columbia hops they’ve grown.” The Columbia hop has a clean, mild, pleasantly floral and slightly spicy profile, characters that are also reflected in the easy-drinking Columbia Common Spring Ale. Widmer Brothers is the only brewery that currently uses the Columbia hop commercially.
As to its contribution to water use sustainability, Widmer partners with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) to offset 100 percent of the water used by the brewery to brew Columbia Common. Last year, Widmer Brothers restored 500,000 gallons of water to the Middle Deschutes River, and the brewery will be restoring another 500,000 gallons of water in 2014. The water restoration is made possible through the purchase of BEF water offset credits to offset the brewery’s water consumption. In this manner, this spring seasonal will be entirely “water neutral” and further contribute to the Deschutes River restoration efforts.
“We are constantly looking for ways to lessen our environmental impact,” said Julia Person, sustainability coordinator. “We have reduced our water usage to about 4.2 gallons of water per gallon of beer, which is significantly lower than the industry standard. The water offsets through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation provided us with another great way to make a positive contribution to Oregon’s natural resources.”
All BEF Water Restoration Certificates® projects are certified by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s strict set of criteria to ensure flow is restored to the environment in locations and at a time that will have optimum environmental benefit.
The Middle Deschutes River is a 35-mile section of the iconic river that flows between the city of Bend and Lake Billy Chinook. In this section of the river, deep canyons and public lands comprise one of the most scenic desert canyons in the state of Oregon. However, historically most of the flow to the Middle Deschutes River was diverted near the City of Bend, to serve agricultural needs throughout central Oregon. Thanks to partnerships with businesses, the Deschutes River Conservancy, and local irrigation districts, 488 million gallons of water have already been restored to this section of the Deschutes River.
According to a Widmer press release, this is a crisp, easy drinking common-style beer. With a rich amber hue, Columbia Common has mild grassy and spicy hop notes that are complemented by a subtle fruity character and clean finish brought on by the use of Hefeweizen and lager yeasts. Columbia Common Spring Ale is available on draught, in 6- and 12-packs, and in the Brothers’ Best variety packs until May.
Now let’s all get out there and save some water.
By Gail Oberst
Look up “wild” in the dictionary, and you’ll get two definitions. One refers to “wild” plants and animals native to a place. The other refers to things untamed and feral, maybe even primitive. I’m not sure which applies best to Tillamook’s de Garde Brewing (it means “to keep”). Maybe both.
So when de Garde’s brewer, Trevor Rogers, the tall son of a third-generation Petersburg Alaska fishing family, greets me dressed in overalls, swirling beer in a tulip glass amid 80 wood casks, my first impression is that this is a brewer who may know how to tame wild beers.
Rogers and owner Linsey Hamacher, who doubles as his fiancé, have just expanded operations to a new brewery in the Port of Tillamook industrial development shared by the Air Museum. The two met in southern Oregon, just after Rogers earned his bachelor of fine arts degree. Hamacher had just returned home from a stint with the Peace Corps in North Africa. The two became ardent home-brewers – especially after Rogers took a non-brewing job at Pelican. They tried brewing at Pacific City, but for some reason, the wild yeasts there were just not right, Rogers said.
De Garde Brewing’s new 3,000 square-foot brewery does not replace its small tasting room in downtown Tillamook, but it provides ample room for the current 7-barrel brewhouse and blending tanks, more wood barrels, and a new “coolship” – a giant container the shape of a giant square cake pan. It is in the coolship where the “wild” thing happens. In wild beers (sometimes called Belgian-style), the cooling wort in the coolship’s shallow pan is exposed to the open air, inviting native yeasts and bacteria, and prompting spontaneous fermentation.
Tillamook’s steady ocean breezes produce an atmosphere that, like coastal Beligum, carries on it yeasts that create great beers. Unlike Belgium, Tillamook’s temperate stays cool and wet year-round. Rogers can brew every month of the year – in Belgium, hot summer temperatures halt most Belgian wild brewing.
“This beer is a representative of this place, this time,” said Rogers. “It’s in the style of Belgian lambic producers, but it is distinctly here.” The same combination of native yeast and bacteria occur nowhere else in the world.
Rogers is among a growing number of Oregon brewers who have chosen to specialize in native beers. He was inspired by Alex Ganum at Upright Brewery in Portland and Nick Arzner of Block 15 in Corvallis, who Rogers said helped introduce wild beers to consumers in Oregon. In addition to those at least a dozen other breweries have flirted with wild brewing, although de Garde and Block 15 may be the only truly wild beer producers. The others purposely introduce yeasts that have wild origins, Rogers said.
So far, de Garde’s reception has been wildly successful during Rogers’ and Hamacher’s Portland-area tastings. On-line and print reviewers have done their share of raving when de Garde was in the house. At just a year old, the brewery already sells out each of its releases, which are bottled and sold from the tasting room. Catering to de Garde’s early out-of-town supporters, Rogers has created a “Keepers” club where he creates special beers including (next month) a lambic-inspired beer that includes southern Oregon Tempranillo grapes, and a double Berliner Weisse aged with Merlot grapes.
Memberships to the Keepers Club will reopen in the fall.
Now that de Garde has a coolship, its tanks are freed for Rogers to brew more often. The brewery could expand in the current building by simply removing the wall next door. But before that happens, Rogers is filling up his current space vertically with plans to triple his barrels to as many as 300 by this summer. Unlike non-wild breweries, all of de Garde’s beer, once it begins fermenting, spends most of its days – up to four years – in wooden barrels or casks that once held gin, rum, whiskey or wine. Inside the barrel, a thin skin called a “pellicle” forms a cap on the beer, protecting from oxygen.
“This is going to be fantastic,” Rogers said, tapping the end of the keg old-school by pounding a nail about a third of the way up and letting flow into his glass an aged strong sour, officially weighing in at about 14% ABV, the strongest allowed before you have to call it “wine.” It took about two tons of grain to push it that high, he said.
This particular ale won’t see the light of day for a few more years. Until then, visitors can content themselves with beers as they are released (see below).
Plans for the future include beer release events in the brewery, thanks to a new OLCC license that expands the use of the new space. The first of these events will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 1, but if you miss that, stay tuned. There will be another in March.
Public releases Feb. 1 and brewer’s notes are:
Loak: 375ml bottles, $8/bottle, no limit. Strong, dark and sour, bourbon barrel fermented and aged brew. Chocolate and coffee notes, with tart red fruit character and rich barrel complexity with a balancing rustic funk.
Vin Lee: 750ml bottles, $14/bottle, 12-bottle limit. Sour red ale base, a blend in freshly-emptied Pinot Noir barrel aged brew. A secondary fermentation with approximately four pounds per gallon of Pinot Noir grapes from a Dundee Hills vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Juicy character and an elevated balancing acidity complemented by earthy notes are a subtle complement.
Note for word geeks: de Garde is spelled with a lowercase “de” at the beginning. The editor, however, doesn’t start sentences or headlines with lowercase letters.
By Gail Oberst
Sky High times in Corvallis. The restaurant with a 360-degree view that includes the city, the Coast Range, the Willamette River and the countryside in all directions is now open. Sky High Brewing’s 4th floor rooftop dining won’t open until this spring, but its third-floor restaurant and pub opened in late October 2013.
The third-floor restaurant seats 100 in booths and tables, with an extra 50 seats available in the pub.
Those who want the outdoor dining experience now can sit on the third-floor heated and covered patio, just outside the bar.
The new restaurant and bar is added to the ground level brewery and the mezzanine taproom that overlooks the brewery. Stairs and a glass elevator connect the floors. Giant sequoia wood bar tops, local art by Angela McFarland, a made-from-scratch lunch and dinner menu and the views create an authentic Oregon atmosphere. The menu entrees range from burgers and pizzas to rib-eye steak and wild mushroom lasagna, all created by the chef, Jonathan Scott, and his crew.
Sky High’s beers – usually more than a dozen Sky High varieties are on tap at any one time – now include hand-pumped cask ales and beers on nitro. Sky High’s beer comes directly from its 10-barrel brewery on the bottom floor, with one exception. With no small amount of pride, Brewer Laurence Livingston showed us the authentic English Ale casked beer storage and service set up in the third-story pub. A new firkin is tapped every Friday at 4 p.m.
Bottled beer, wine and cider are also available at the restaurant. For those who want to take home Sky High’s beer, growlers can be filled – on Growler Tuesdays, Sky High sells growler fills at a discount.
Sky High Brewing
( a ) 160 NW Jackson Ave, Corvallis
( p ) 541-207-3277
(h) Open 7 days a week
Owner: Scott McFarland, Brian Bovee, and Mark O’Brien.
Brewer: Laurence Livingston
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