By Aaron Brussat
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the high elevations of the Peruvian Andes, civilizations of men and women transformed the harsh mountain landscape into livable, arable terrain. By brute force and, perhaps, extraterrestrial engineering skills, the Inca constructed architectural wonders, including Machu Picchu. Lookout towers, temples and an intricate aqueduct system built into the nearly vertical mountainside reflect the importance of quality workmanship; one loose stone and the whole thing falls apart.
In the Sacred Valley, on the way to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco, Peruvian native Juan Mayorga, along with Oregonian Joe Giammatteo and his wife Louisa de Heer, built a brewery from the ground up. Its construction was arduous, and introducing Peruvians to craft beer — especially craft beer on draft — proved to be a challenge that might rival the construction of the Inca citadel.
Founded on years of day-dreamy conversation brought to life by Mayorga’s initiative, Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley Brewery) began as an empty swath of land in Pachar along the Urubamba River, which draws water from southeastern Peru and winds through the valley northward to a junction that connects with the Amazon River and, eventually, the Atlantic Ocean. The nearby city of Ollantaytambo is a charming, stone-walled historic site — the only city to successfully fend off Spanish conquistadors — and is the last train stop before Machu Picchu. Incan ruins abound.
De Heer and Giammatteo developed a water treatment plan to keep runoff from the brewery out of the river. Using buried cisterns, pH management and a biodigester, the brewery’s wastewater is rendered neutral.
“We checked out plans from New Belgium and worked with an environmental engineer from Cusco,” said Giammatteo, who worked at Eugene’s Oakshire Brewing before moving south. “I looked at a couple Craft Brewers Conference talks related to wastewater treatment, and spoke with Ben [Tilley] at Agrarian Ales about their system. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. But we don’t have a lot of infrastructure.”
Adobe bricks, concrete, corrugated metal, plaster, stainless steel and a bit of wood comprise the brewery building. From a “combi,” which is kind of like a van-sized taxi for long-distance destinations, one sees the brewery as a pale beige structure with the logo (which has a distinct Oregon quality) and hops painted on the side. Once inside, you feel at home.
The taproom is modestly sized, colorful and (most importantly) has beer. Customers are greeted warmly and given a little dish of “choclo,” the national bar snack of giant corn kernels, fried and salted to a starchy crisp. The beer selection is not far from home — our home. While the regional fermented beverage is “chicha,” a partially malted corn brew, there is none of that here. It can be found through mysterious doorways along the narrow cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo, signified by a stick with a red handkerchief tied on the end that means “Chicha is ready.” IPA, red, witbier, saison and other familiar delights are a sight for certain sore eyes and a delight to all tongues, and with pint in hand, a wander around the property reveals a small garden with familiar vegetables, courtesy of de Heer’s green thumb. A sizable grass lawn and picnic table may host mountain bikers, local families with lively children, folks grabbing a beer after work or tourists, and affords a view down the valley to the northwest as well as of the cliffs that rise a thousand feet directly across the road.
Life in Peru is, obviously, different from our comfortable ways. The atmosphere is raw; the sun burns pale gringo skin in minutes. The infrastructure of the larger cities is not set up to support the current population. Floods trigger water outages; political maneuvers trigger road-blocking protests. These things are part of life; craft beer is a new thing. Craft beer is becoming increasingly visible in Peru, which has nearly 20 breweries to its landmass (larger than Texas). Most of them are in coastal Lima, though a few have cropped up in Cusco and Arequipa.
Exposing an unaware populace to an artisan food product is as challenging as it sounds. The concepts of beer freshness and refrigeration, let alone serving it on draft, are nearly nonexistent. In order to open new accounts, Giammatteo had to install kegerators, draft lines and faucets before putting anything on tap. They reached out to pubs and recently opened bars.
“We said, ‘We’re going to offer a new product. It’s draft beer. It’s high quality. The beer you’re bringing in from England is oxidized and not particularly interesting.’ Most of the owners weren’t beer drinkers, so they were like ‘Eh, OK.’ Some people were hesitant about the draft but got over it. We gave our first accounts a significant amount of infrastructure; they knew it would be a good investment.”
A little more than two years in operation, Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado has earned numerous medals in national and international competitions, and has won favor with locals and tourists alike.
“Peru is unique in that food is so crucial to how the culture works,” said Giammatteo. “As a result, if a food writer gets excited about a beer, all of a sudden you have followers.” He added that they were fortunate to get attention early on. “We had a beer event in Lima. A lot of food writers were there and wrote us up, and we won best in show. From the press we got from that it was easy to get momentum going.”
Giammatteo has collaborated with other Peruvian breweries, and took quickly to using local vegetation, such as “ayrampo” (the pink, peppery seeds of a local cactus), wild cherries and locally grown peaches.
Giammatteo and de Heer returned to their home in Eugene this April, bringing along their 3-month-old son and an adopted dog named Rabbit. After three years, it was time. Giammatteo handed over the brewhouse to Ben Kent, who came from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery to a production brewery called Sierra Andina in the central part of the country. Soon, he’ll be joined at Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado by another brewer with experience at Uinta Brewing Co. Giammatteo plans to visit occasionally to keep tabs on things and help with his envisioned “brewer exchange” program.
Getting to the brewery takes some time, some haggling with taxi drivers and several pisco sours. At 9,000 feet elevation, the buzz sets in quick and can exacerbate altitude sickness, so staying a few days to get acclimated is recommended.
By Aaron Brussat
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you think of Portland’s beer scene as the sun, Portland’s beer festivals would be its solar flares, sunspots and cosmic wind. It’s always burning — exothermic blasts of molten malt, hops, yeast and beards swirling and bubbling with every new beer release party. A tower of foamy fire appears on the horizon; we shield our eyes and say, “Oh look, a beer festival!”
Every beer festival fills a niche, and many open beer drinkers’ eyes to what lies just beyond their experience, that errant bottle in the back of the fridge. Portland Farmhouse Weekend provides a city-wide opportunity for beer lovers to go deep into a largely misunderstood sect of beers. The “Weekend,” set for Friday March, 31 through Sunday, April 2, is an extension of the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival, now in its fifth year, held at Saraveza Bottle Shop.
To say that founder Ezra Johnson-Greenough has a few beer festivals under his belt is an understatement. He’s been conceiving and organizing events in Portland for years. Johnson-Greenough started the Portland Fruit Beer Fest, and his fingerprints are all over Portland Beer Week and many other tap-related happenings. Some are annual; others spring up and are gone, not unlike styles of beer on a taplist suited for today’s fickle consumer.
Johnson-Greenough’s goal for the Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival is to “make it the best fest of its kind. We’re increasing the size of tents, hours and beer. The last couple years have been more stagnant. There was no marketing budget for the fest.”
This says a lot about the popularity of the event; Saturday’s general session last year was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people vying for tastes of rare beers from big names like The Ale Apothecary and Jester King Brewery.
In expanding the festival, Johnson-Greenough has also expanded the concept. On top of Upright Brewing’s eighth anniversary party, beer releases and educational seminars around town, Wander Brewing, from Bellingham, Wash., will bring its 25-barrel coolship to town for a collaboration brew with Breakside Brewery. The project will generate beer for the event in coming years.
The festival includes a beer release specifically for attendees. Last year, The Commons Brewery produced The Croze, a pale beer fermented in open-topped barrels (croze is a cooperage term referring to the groove at either end of the barrel that holds the head in place). This year’s very limited release is a lambic-style beer from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. Brewer Shilpi Halemane, who’s been at the Hood River brewery a year-and-a-half, started a program of beers brewed in the “Methode van Lembeek” with veteran wild ale brewer Curtis Bain. For the festival, “We thought it might be nice to showcase and sneak preview a single barrel that tasted really good.”
The beer, Saraveza Sour, is brewed with Pilsner malt, raw wheat and aged hops. The brewing process uses a multi-step mash (raising the temperature several times to activate different enzymes) and a two-hour boil. The beer is transferred from the kettle to a coolship — a wide, shallow metal vat open to the country air. There it picks up a bevy of microscopic hitchhikers that will eat their way through the complex sugars in the wort. The inoculated wort is transferred to conical fermentors for two weeks before it is racked into used American oak barrels.
The final product is “in the 5.5% alcohol range. It is tart and Brett-forward with a funky aroma, very clear and bright. It has a classic lambic profile; that’s kind of the goal.”
More and more breweries in the country are experimenting with spontaneous fermentation. They pay homage to the classic Belgian appellation while showcasing the “terroir” of local yeast and bacteria. The wort can be produced in the same way anywhere, but it is the surrounding air that ultimately gives the beer its personality.
What Is Farmhouse Beer?
In our modern era of opaque, flesh-colored IPAs that taste like the Tropicana test kitchen, it’s easy to lose sight of the creative work being done with Oregon’s state microbe Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) and its cousins Brettanomyces (a “wild” yeast), Lactobacillus (a common fermenting bacteria), and others — the fermenting family tree is more like a forest.
Most brewers will credit Saison Dupont as the godfather of farmhouse-style beers. It was first imported to the United States in the 1980s, and helped to usher in the idea of beer as a flavorful beverage. It defies accurate reproduction by way of its yeast, which some speculate to be a blend of strains. With a simple malt and hop regimen, the beer gets its particular spicy-fruity profile from unusually high fermentation temperatures.
The new, Americanized genre of “farmhouse” beers encompass a range of styles, flavors and colors, as their origins are multifarious and knotted in untold agrarian histories.
“I like how broad a term it is for the range of things you can use,” says Halemane. “I dislike it for the same reason. If I read a description and it says ‘farmhouse ale with cherries,’ that could mean anything.” At Logsdon, “By virtue of brewing it in a barn, we could make anything and call it a farmhouse ale.” Very tricky. Overall, the farmhouse flavor relies on the characteristics of fermentation and is augmented with the brewer’s choice of malt, hops, wood, fruit and/or spices.
The Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival has one rule: only U.S. farmhouse-style beers.
“There’s no reason to discriminate if it was made on a farm or not,” says Johnson-Greenough. “It matters how good it is. I’m looking for yeast-forward, Belgian-inspired beers from breweries known for their farmhouse beer — mostly. It’s a very exciting year because there’s more and more options.” Some of the breweries making their debut this year include Alesong Brewing & Blending, Astoria’s new Reach Break Brewing, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery and Yachats Brewing.
Learn more about Portland Farmhouse Weekend at portlandfarmhousefest.com.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Bier Stein
It’s all about the fireplace. Get away from the crowd congregated at the front of one of Eugene’s most popular taprooms and instead head toward the back. Whether starting your evening with a beverage, dining there or nightcapping, warm up by the big fireplace and let that flickering light set the mood. This is also the time to take advantage of one of the largest tap and bottle selections on the West Coast. Get a bottle of something special from the cooler or look to the display board for the perfect small glass of wintry warming ale goodness. A round of pool or a board game can keep you occupied or simply let the time fireside lend itself to conversation and intimacy. Between the beer and the fireplace, this spot was made to help you strike a spark.
1591 Willamette St., Eugene
Elk Horn Brewery
Valentine’s isn’t a quick flash. It’s a slow burn. And that’s how your night should be too. Located just off the University of Oregon campus, Elk Horn’s rustic classiness can both impress and relax your beloved. Founded by the owners of the popular Delacata Food Cart, Elk Horn has become renowned for its ciders and beers, as well as its Southern- and Northwest-inspired menu. Special for Valentine’s Day: Elk Horn is hosting a reservations-only dinner that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert, each paired with different Elk Horn beers and ciders. For details and reservations, email Hannah: email@example.com.
686 E. Broadway St., Eugene
McMenamins North Bank
With large picture windows that let you look out on the rolling Willamette River, there is no other view like it in town. The lights are just right. The booths offer some privacy and intimacy. Burgers and salads are on the menu, but so are more elaborate and delectable entrees such as Equinox Pappardelle and Black Rabbit Red Sirloin Steak. The beers are from one of Oregon’s oldest breweries, and McMenamins wines and spirits are also available from the full bar. Maybe the weather will even be on your side: take your beloved out to the riverside patio for a moment and snuggle close together for warmth. Then you’ll know that this is the perfect place to tell them what you’ve been dying to tell them: you'll love them longer than the river flows.
22 Club Road, Eugene
Plank Town Brewing Company
Love is not always about what’s new. Love is about renewal, rejuvenation and appreciating the past while building the future. Located in the heart of downtown Springfield’s ongoing revitalization, Plank Town is the embodiment of that sort of love — and the perfect spot for your Valentine’s Day dinner and craft beer. Rich, deep woodwork gives a sense of intimacy and formality. A stage may offer some live music. Enjoy your pint and a small plate, entree or sandwich by the large street-side windows — or if you want more privacy, ask for a table in the back off to the side of the central bar.
346 Main St., Springfield
The Tap & Growler
Even when you love someone, it can be hard to agree. Beer? Wine? Mead? Thankfully, you might be Marzen and they might be Viognier, yet The Tap & Growler can bring you together. Located near both The David Minor Theatre and Fifth Street Public Market, this taproom offers excellent sandwiches, salads and shareable plates, in addition to 81 rotating taps of beer, wine, cider, mead, kombucha, and even cold-pressed espresso and craft soda. As you can guess from the name, should getting together have you ready to put aside more than your differences, you can always take a growler back to their place.
207 E. Fifth Ave., #115, Eugene
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
A decade of hindsight later, it must have been a sign.
After months of planning, construction and delays, on July 5, 2005, Chip Hardy was finally ready to open the doors of Eugene’s The Bier Stein to the public. Soon, people would be able to purchase bottled beers and specialty craft beverages from all over the world.
There was just one problem.
“Cases of beer were everywhere,” says Hardy. “We had received a very huge order from Columbia Distributing.” So Hardy did the only thing he could: got the taps open instead. “We sold a lot of draft beer that day.”
A Sign of Things to Come
Co-owners and founders Hardy and his wife Kristina Measells had different plans, though. “The Bier Stein was originally supposed to be a craft beer store that you could eat and drink in,” explains Hardy. “Now we are a craft beer bar and restaurant that sells beer to go. What we have become wasn't our original intention, but we went with what our customers wanted, and it has been very successful.”
Listening to what customers wanted became an overall theme for how Hardy and Measells steered their course. Originally opening in a 2,100-square-foot space at 11th Avenue and Mill Street near the University of Oregon campus, it wasn’t easy to cram in 10 beer coolers, a kitchen, the 10-tap bar (later expanded to 12 taps) and seating. The Bier Stein quickly filled up with bottles, customers — and complaints: there just wasn’t enough room. “We had customers that stopped coming because it was too hard to find a seat,” says Hardy.
On April 15, 2013, The Bier Stein moved to a new location at 1591 Willamette St. The fully remodeled 12,000-square-foot bottle shop and restaurant features a large central bar, 18 LED-lit bottle coolers, 30 taps (and social media updates on tap changes), one cask engine, a private function area (with a separate 6-tap bar), a larger kitchen, and, above all, seating for 150.
The expansion made for other big changes too. Originally opening with a staff of three, The Bier Stein now employs 55, which “makes for a lot of HR work,” Hardy says.
More Breweries, More Selection, More Customers
Today, The Bier Stein is one of the largest beer bars on the West Coast, with a selection of more than a thousand beers, ciders, meads and other craft beverages. Its large selection and ongoing evolution is a response to a local and national craft beer scene that changes at a rapid pace.
“In the past 10 years, there are more breweries, more beer styles and better selection,” says Hardy. “We are able to give those breweries a showplace.”
However, trying to carry everything has to be balanced with tapping only what you can empty. “My sense on taps was only to have enough that we could sell and keep fresh,” explains Hardy. “We constantly rotate. Staying relevant means having an always-changing tap and bottle list, and the beer community has become more educated on what beer is.”
Public regard for The Bier Stein has also translated into accolades. In local newspaper Eugene Weekly’s annual “Best of Eugene” people’s choice awards, The Bier Stein regularly takes top slots for categories such as “Best Beers on Tap.” Readers of CraftBeer.com, the Brewers Association (BA) website for beer lovers, have also twice awarded “Great American Beer Bar” status to The Bier Stein for the Pacific region, as well as “Overall Great American Beer Bar” status in 2014.
“Winning this has given our place a sense of legitimacy,” says Hardy. “We are doing the right thing in the craft beer community: teaching, educating and tasting.”
Staying the Course
As The Bier Stein heads into its next decade, it’s time to celebrate — but also to stay true to their mission and customers. “We like having one location and doing it to the best of our ability,” says Hardy. “We’ll continue to provide our area with some of the best craft beers we can get a hold of and continue being one of the best beer bars in the country.”
July 6 marked the anniversary. A special selection of beers was available, including collaboration beers brewed with Agrarian Ales and Hop Valley. Anniversary plans also include “a large outdoor event” to be held later this summer.
For Hardy, marking The Bier Stein’s first decade is a big step on a long path that winds along with the larger community. “We are very happy the local craft beer community has supported us over the past 10 years, and we are also happy that our employees are so awesome,” he says. “The Bier Stein wouldn't be what it is today without them.”
By Gail Oberst
Enquiring minds (and tongues!) want to know what gadgets are in place to keep Oregon beers fresh and up-to-date. Aaron Brussat of The Bier Stein answered a few questions about LED (light- emitting diode) lights used in their business. This simple technology helped this Eugene bar/growler-fill station/restaurant/bottle shop to be the West’s favorite bar in a recent reader poll conducted by the Brewers Association.
OBG: How do you use LED lights in storage, or are they throughout your business?
Brussat: We have LED lighting throughout the building, but most importantly, LEDs light our beer cooler where we have individual bottles for sale.
OBG: What is the benefit of those lights?
Brussat: LED lights do not emit UV light. UV light reacts with hop compounds (isohumulones) in beer and creates mercaptan (methanethiol), which smells like skunk, and is in fact the same chemical that skunks use to deliver their stinky punch. While brown glass does effectively block around 88% of UV light and most of our bottles are brown glass, we took the most preventative step to ensure no beer would be skunked.
Additionally, LED lights use about 50% less energy than fluorescent or CFL bulbs, which made it an economical and environmental move for The Bier Stein’s large new space.
OBG: What standards are you using for cold storage and date codes?
Brussat: As soon as beer enters our building, it is brought into a 17-by-30-foot walk-in cooler (lit with LEDs). Every case and keg is checked for a date. We even have a list of date codes to decipher some of the more cryptic codes (why breweries choose to do this is beyond me; beer is a food product and should be labeled with a clear date of packaging, if not a best-by date that accurately reflects its flavor shelf life). Beer without date codes (again, why a brewery would do itself and its customers this disservice is beyond me) is generally given 90 days. Exceptions are made for stronger, darker, and mixed fermentation (sour/wild) beers. All beer (with the exception of a few gift packs and large bottles) is kept cold until it is purchased.
Our inventory system lets us put an expiration date on items, so we calculate how many days a beer has left, input that, and do regular checks. If a beer is still around a week or so before it goes out of code, we put it on sale.
OBG: What would your customers notice as a result?
Brussat: We are especially attentive to hoppy beers; hop aroma and flavor degrade at a rapid rate, so that even three months after a beer is bottled, the hop aroma will be significantly reduced. We do not accept IPA that is over 90 days old — that is our standard — because we want our customers to have the satisfaction of drinking a beer the way the brewer intended.
Regarding other beer styles, cold storage helps prevent oxidation, which dulls beer flavor and makes it taste like cardboard. And for some odd reason, people like their beverages cold!
OBG: When you moved into your place last year, what new technology did you install and why?
Brussat: A couple of upgrades were necessary. Our DigitalPour draft list replaced hand-written boards; with the larger space, twice as many beers, and, to be frank, variable penmanship skills, we needed a more dynamic system that would be easier to read from over 10 feet away. The DigitalPour system allows us and our customers to see how much is left in a keg; those who don’t want to miss out on that barrel-aged imperial stout don’t have to guess when it will kick, and we keep an accurate inventory of stock.
Another technological upgrade lies in our draft system hardware. We use a long-draw system; beer travels between 40 and 70 feet to reach the tap. The lines are chilled with glycol until they reach the draught towers. We also installed individual pressure regulators for each keg, as well as foam-on-beer (FOB) detectors. A FOB is a small chamber with a plunger that drops and stops gas from entering the main beer line when a keg is empty. Empty space in beer line means that the beer following it will foam as CO2 escapes solution, which creates a lot of waste in a system as long as ours. FOBs prevent a lot of beer from going down the drain.
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