By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In pursuit of their dream of opening a brewery, Joe St. Martin and Sean Oeding took the road less traveled: they opened a beer cart. And then another one.
When St. Martin moved from San Francisco -- where he sold his beer at small events — to Portland, he bought a food cart and refurbished it to serve beer. In the summer of 2014, the first Scout Beer Garden opened at the Good Food Here pod at Southeast 43rd Avenue and Belmont Street, and shortly thereafter the second one became the anchor for the Tidbit Food Farm and Garden pod at Southeast 28th Place and Division Street. Each cart serves up to 12 brews, including St. Martin's own craft beer and a cider.
Adventures in Brewing
“It was a bit of an adventure,” St. Martin says. While he has acted as the brewer and day-to-day manager, Oeding has provided financial backing. The duo's dream of brewing came true last February, when St. Martin poured his first two creations: a peanut butter porter and a marionberry red ale. He says, “You could serve them separately or as a black and tan to make a liquid PBJ.”
The following month Scout Beer Garden introduced the Pretty in Pink IPA, with grapefruit and pink peppercorns. And on April 13 they launched their fourth brew, the Kentucky Coffee Stout, with bourbon and hazelnut.
Pod Bar Blazes the Way
As unique as Scout Beer Garden may be, it isn't the first beer cart to open in Portland. Captured by Porches Brewing Company’s Mobile Public Haus beer bus launched the phenomenon in 2010. While successful, it was an extension of the brewery, operating with a brewery license. Strictly speaking, it was not a food cart, says Brett Burmeister, editor of the Food Carts Portland blog.
The first dedicated beer cart with a full liquor license was Pod Bar, at the Carts on Foster pod at Southeast 52nd Avenue and Foster Road. The pod and bar owner Steve Woolard today laughs about the now-notorious episode, when the City of Portland fought the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's award of the license, but eventually backed down in 2012. “They're out of office, we're still in business,” he quips.
To get the license Woolard had to add a covered, enclosed seating area to the 1956 Aloha trailer made in Beaverton. On a March Saturday, during a lull between lunch and happy hour, a family with small children enjoyed a late lunch and brews, and a steady stream of craft brew aficionados kept the barkeep, Larry Walters, busy with filling growlers.
The beer cart was a natural extension of food carts, says Woolard, who used to brew at Yamhill Brewing Company and now runs the Spring Beer and Wine Fest. “If the food is so good, why not serve beer too?” he thought. Pod Bar scratched his beer itch, Woolard says, and the constantly changing beer list makes it so “you never know what you're gonna get.”
Beer Carts as Community Hubs
Though he knew the neighborhood needed a place with good food and good beer at a reasonable price point, Woolard says, “I didn't expect it to become such a family destination and a neighborhood hub.”
According to Burmeister, beer carts contribute to creating community spaces. The Tidbit pod buzzes with activity, with families, groups of friends, couples, and tourists alike crowding picnic tables, noshing on various world cuisines and quaffing pints to live music. St. Martin says, “I love being able to be a part of the local community.”
The Future of Beer Carts
Burmeister forecasts that, rather than each pod featuring a dedicated beer cart, regular cart vendors will offer drinks that are unique to their cuisine -- e.g., a Vietnamese food cart serving Vietnamese beer — and that beer carts will expand their offerings by including cider and wine.
For St. Martin, the future lies in brewing. For now, he makes beer at Portland U-Brew. He is seeking contract breweries to increase production of the IPA and the red to keep them on tap permanently and make them available elsewhere.
“I am lucky,” he says. “I get to make a living with a unique little business and share it with people.”
By Valerie Smith
For the Oregon Beer Growler
You know from instinct how certain music and sounds make you feel — relaxed, happy and energetic. It might even evoke vivid memories. Music is diverse and exists in every culture around the world. Humans like music. Plants even respond positively to exposure to music. Studies have shown that high-frequency sounds produce more antioxidative enzymes in plants. Would it surprise you that not only do you and your plants “like” music, but beer yeast cells do too? Sounds far-fetched, but it isn’t.
Metabolomics is the study of small molecules in the cells of an organism. In 2011, metabolomics researchers from the University of Auckland (U of A) in New Zealand did a study involving music and yeast cell growth. They used the single-celled organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae), the species of yeast used since ancient times by brewers, winemakers and bakers. These forward-thinking lab geeks tested how S. cerevisiae reacts to sound pressure waves by putting the yeast in shake flasks along with a food source -- a glucose broth with vitamins — and let it sit overnight. They then piped in high- and low-frequency sonic vibration to the rooms where the flasks were being kept. The control for the study was a silent room. The study showed that the brewer’s friend, S. cerevisiae, grew 12 percent faster with music playing. High frequency produced slightly better results than low frequency, so it seems that any music therapy for yeast will prove successful!
Michael Kora, brewmaster and owner of the soon-to-open Montavilla Brew Works, appreciates the U of A’s findings. Kora received a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. He played and taught drums and guitar years before delving into Portland’s brewing community. Because of his background, Kora believes music’s effect on yeast makes sense. “I think since yeast are living things, they may have some sentience, maybe on some form of preliminary consciousness. At any rate, I think that music on a very fundamental level is full of vibrations, wavelength and frequency patterns. All these measurements seem to correlate on some level with the rhythm of nature and definitely the fermentation of beer and yeast-powered products.”
Kora begins with the yeast selection when building recipes for Montavilla Brew Works. According to Kora, “Yeast is the unsung hero -- they do so much work! You treat (them) like a living thing and they’ll react like that. It’s almost like they’re human in a way. If you’re good to them, keep them healthy and happy, they’ll give back to you.” He nurtures beer development with seasonal music tracks: reggae, funk and the Grateful Dead in the summer, classical and blues in the winter and everything in between at other times. Jimi Hendrix and rock play during the cleanup.
The expansive and beneficial relationship between music and yeast may have come about because of brewer intuition, superstition or other cultural influences during the millennia. Today, the U of A’s metabolomics study proves serenading developing yeast has more benefits than anyone previously recognized. So play whatever rocks your brewhouse and the yeast will love you back.
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 Branden Andersen
For Oregon Beer Growler
Wendi Day is perched at the bar wiping down laminated flight cards that carry her brewpub’s award-winning beers to curious customers when I find her for our interview. A wall behind her — and not a small one — is packed with awards from the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and North American Brewers Association among others.
She leads me out of the bar area with all the awards and to the River Room, where we sit in a wooden booth with years of obvious use: nicks taken out of the corners, random indentation and discoloration. But it’s not unsightly — it’s home.
“The ride has been amazing,” she said as she sat down. “It’s always been about quality, not quantity. We’ve stayed true to that for 20 years now.”
Bend Brewing Company, the beer-centric city’s second-oldest brewery, has hit that point where they are looking back and trying to figure out where the time went. The business marked its 20th anniversary with a party in February. But a huge amount of medals, including five in the past year and more than 50 since the opening in 1995, have been the only other indication that time has been passing.
“If anything, the medals are evident that we haven’t sacrificed who we are,” Day said, adding that she purchased the company from her father in 2000. “We are still keeping it small and family owned with the best brewers.”
From 1995 to 2002, Bend Brewing Co. had great brewpub beer that didn’t make it out of the brewpub walls. It wasn’t until the company hired a young brewer from Indiana named Tonya Cornett in March 2002 that Bend Brewing Co. started entering competitions. Coincidently, they started making a name for themselves, starting with a gold in the highly-contested American-style India Pale Ale at the Great American Beer Festival in 2006 and followed that by winning the Champion Brewery and Brewer awards in the “Small Brewpub” category at the World Beer Cup in 2008. From there, it was off to the races.
Cornett left her brewing role at Bend Brewing Co. in 2011 when she handed the reigns to Ian Larkin after amassing a couple handfuls of awards and creating a nationwide name for Bend Brewing Co. in the brewing community with recipes like Ching Ching American Sour, Hop Head Imperial IPA and Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter.
“She’s still a part of BBC to me,” Day said.
Larkin took over the brewing role without missing a beat. More awards started flowing in for recipes old and new, including their most award-winning beer to date: Outback X. All of this happened while they maintained their brewpub feel.
“Just because you’ve got medals on the wall doesn’t mean you can coast,” said Josh Harned, assistant brewer and sales representative for Bend Brewing Co. “It’s a feeling here that you can’t fake.”
Working off of the same 7-barrel system that the brewery opened with, nearly 1,000 barrels come through the tanks each year. Being that their fermenters are packed into the upstairs brewery, with little to no space left to grow, Harned said they are about maxed out with no plans for expansion.
“It’s quality over quantity,” Harned said. “Even if we wanted to, we don’t have the space, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The only change coming down the pike is a new barrel-aging program, said Harned. Bend Brewing Co. has used an off-site bottling and storage facility for a while, but they are putting plans in motion to get some local barrels.
Beer aside, Day said it comes down to the values she inherited from her family, and hopes to pass them along. Day is now watching as her daughter joins the Bend Brewing Co. team.
“She was 6 months old when I decided to buy it from my dad,” Day said. “It’s the best decision I made — I’m very thankful for my family through the years.”
And, without saying it, Day makes it clear that her definition of family goes far beyond blood — it’s also about the 35 other employees that have made BBC one of the longest-running and most-respected breweries in town.
Bend Brewing Co.
[a] 1019 NW Brooks St., Bend
Steve Jones, Portland’s best-known cheesemonger, stands near one of his cheeseboards, available at The Commons Brewery at Southeast 7th Avenue and Belmont Street. Jones recently opened his third cheese tasting eatery here, Cheese Annex. One of the cheese boards available at Cheese Annex is shown here paired with The Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale and Walnut, a Belgian dark ale. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Beer and cheese were made for each other. Steve Jones, Portland’s best-known cheesemonger, always felt that beer was the winning beverage to pair with cheese. He put this idea to the test five years ago when he opened Cheese Bar in Southeast Portland. It was an immediate success.
“Beer has so many winning components that wine doesn’t have,” he said.
“It’s effervescent, grain-based and the terroir in beer and cheese shares grain as the common denominator. With its bubbles, beer keeps the mouth refreshed and there are so many different styles.”
Steve Jones and Janet Fletcher, the author of “Cheese and Beer” and “The Cheese Course” along with a host of other food books and articles, presented “Suds and Curds: Using Cheese to Sell More Beer” in April for the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland.
Fletcher discussed several different beer and cheese eateries, including a brewpub, a specialty grocery/hybrid pub, a bottle shop with cheese boards and another specialty grocery, presenting detailed information about cheese offerings, costs, total revenue of the establishment and pairing components.
Jones discussed his three establishments. The Cheese Bar was the first and largest with more than 200 varieties of cheese, a full kitchen, six taps with five beers and one cider, 50 to 75 different bottled beers, five or six bottled ciders and 25 or 30 wines.
In March, he opened two new eateries. Downtown at Southwest 11th Avenue and Alder Street is Chizu, an intimate 18-seat, Japanese-inspired bar with a sushi-type format for cheese tasting. Jones carefully chose a variety of 30 cheeses, bottled beers that lean heavier towards Belgians and a few ciders and wines.
He also collaborated with his friend Mike Wright at The Commons Brewery’s new location at Southeast 7th Avenue and Belmont Street, to open the Cheese Annex, a walk-up window cheese bar within the brewery. “We’re a lessee,” said Jones. “I pay a base rent and 5 percent gross. This Commons beer is so cheese friendly.”
Jones combined his artistic talent -- his undergraduate degree is in studio arts and painting -- with his experience as a professional chef when he flipped into retail food about 20 years ago in St. Louis, Mo. He started at a small beer store, opening a deli there that he built from the ground up. “With my art background, my cheese board displays were pretty enticing,” he said.
After that he was hooked on cheese, opening up three shops with a partner that featured American artisan farmstead cheese, before moving back to Portland and managing the cheese department for Provvista Specialty Foods, where he bought on a multimillion-dollar scale. Before the Cheese Bar, there was Steve’s — his first shop in Northwest Portland — in the corner of a wine shop.
Jones said, “We work hard to have a number of avenues to move our cheese. We turn over 200 cheeses at the Cheese Bar in two weeks. We may buy an 80-pound wheel and sell one-fourth of it right away. We wholesale the 20 pounds, selling it in 2-pound blocks to restaurants. The chefs are very excited — even though ours cost more, its fresh and high quality.”
Regarding specific cheese recommendations, a question from the audience was: What cheeses are recommended when starting out?
Fletcher suggested manchego cheese. “Spanish cheese is very affordable,” she said. She also mentioned comte, a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in eastern France and pecorino from Italy. “Most of the European cheeses are affordable because they are subsidized,” she said. Locally, she likes a Beehive Cheese from northern Utah that’s a Cheddar style coated with coffee bean.
Another question asked: If you could only manage one option, what would it be?
Jones said, “Raclette. If you’re very constrained, you might have a cheesemonger come in a couple times.”
Fletcher said, “I like the idea of having only one option each night. That way you could get known for something special.”
Jones likes to work with small cheese producers, ones that might be a little under the radar. “We like naturally organic and work hard to find the special ones. The ones with a story.” On the receiving end, his team inspects the cheese thoroughly. “My team is well trained for that,” he said.
Proper storage is very important and there were questions about how to wrap the cheese. Jones said they use patty paper and microporous paper to keep the cheese from touching plastic containers. “We do everything cut to order in 1-ounce portions. It makes such a difference. “
Questions abounded about pairings. Jones talked about a recent pairing with a donated cheese. He met with The Commons brewer and they paired the cheese with a brown ale. “The chocolaty, malt-forward taste blended well with the cheddar sweetness.” Usually in pairings he prefers tastes that contrast rather than harmonize.
In regard to a question about recommended books, the natural answer was to look at Fletcher’s. For information, visit: www.planetcheese.org
For information about the fourth annual Beer and Cheese Fest on June 21 at The Commons, visit: www.facebook.com/PortlandBeerAndCheeseFest
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