By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
For the last three years, I’ve dressed up as a hop during the Halloween season because a.) hops are awesome, and b.) I’m both too lazy and not creative enough to conjure up some other costume. Although I love traditions, I’m growing tired of doing the same thing year after year. But one thing I never get tired of is Oregon beer — so, I’ve decided to brew up some new rituals for all of us featuring our favorite treat. Below, you’ll find four different fall activities — beyond just Halloween — and the beers that go with them. October will never be the same again!
Ashland’s Caldera Brewing is already Halloween-friendly thanks to their logo, a bubbling black cauldron. But what will really put you under their spell is the Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter. The brewery uses in-house toasted coconut chips and natural liquid chocolate to create nothing short of Mounds bar goodness. The beer already claims to be dessert in a glass, so why not take your state of sugar-induced bliss one step further by pairing it with the Hershey’s tropical treat? | 6.2% ABV, 24 IBUs
Aside from having a great name, Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter from Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond blends the chocolatey, caramelly, nutty notes loved by porter fans and amplifies them times a thousand with an undeniably creamy peanut butter flavor. It’s a beer that pairs well with E.T.’s favorite food group — Reese’s Pieces. Added bonus: The candies will double as a type of breadcrumb trail when you’ve imbibed too many beers and can’t find your way back home! | 6% ABV, 18 IBUs
Fall Activity Pairing: Trick-or-Treating
Even though you’re too big to get away with going door-to-door asking for candy — unless you secretly steal from your kid’s stash — there are likely plenty of leftovers from that giant variety pack you had every intention of handing out to costumed little monsters. Instead of ravaging it like a zombie, here are some more Oregon beer and candy pairings to help you savor every last bite: Rusty Truck Brewing’s Taft Toffee Porter with Heath bars, Base Camp Brewing’s S’more Stout with Peeps marshmallows, and Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar with Ferrero Rocher.
Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice
Pumpkin beer (or pumpkin anything for that matter) is one of those things people either seem to love or hate. But even the biggest pumpkin skeptic could be made into a believer with Rogue’s annual Pumpkin Patch Ale. “Crafted from patch to batch,” each year Rogue employees pick fresh pumpkins from Rogue Farms in Independence, load them up and drive them 77 miles to the Newport brewery. The pumpkins are then roasted and pitched into the brew kettle, creating a final product that rivals even the best witch’s brew. | 6.1% ABV, 25 IBUs
Complex enough to be in a category all on its own, Cascade Brewing’s Pumpkin Smash is not for the average pumpkin beer fan. The Portland barrel house is highly regarded for its sour beers, and Pumpkin Smash does not disappoint. Each year’s batch offers a different experience — for example, their 2015 version is a blend of blond and quad ales aged in bourbon and brandy barrels for up to 22 months with pumpkin and spices. In September, the brewery released the 2015 blend on draft only, with vintage 2013 and 2014 bottles available for purchase. If the spirits are in your favor, you’ll likely still be able to score a rare bottle at the brewery, or at bottle shops such as Portland’s Belmont Station and The Bier Stein in Eugene. | 10.8%-12.35% ABV
Fall Activity Pairing: Pumpkin Patch
Check out Heiser Farms in Dayton for the ultimate pumpkin overload. On Saturdays and Sundays in October, the farm has cannons that shoot pumpkins more than a quarter of a mile! They will also be serving Heiser Pumpkin Ale from Silverton’s Seven Brides Brewing, a brew made with pumpkins grown right on the farm.
Originally released as a seasonal in 2014, Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red has become almost as much of a cult classic as the movie it’s named after — 1978 horror film “Dawn of the Dead.” The brewery’s label designer and art director, Tony Figoli, is obviously a fan of the film, so what better reason to add this zombie-themed pairing to your to-do list this Halloween season and beyond? According to the Eugene brewery, “it doesn’t take brains to know this IRA is a delicious choice any time of year!” | 7% ABV, 75 IBUs
The infamous Black Widow only summons herself two weeks out of the year, but she always leaves a lasting impression. Originally brewed at the McMenamins Thompson Brewery 25 years ago on October 15, 1991, this deep-black porter infused with licorice root is so enchanting she will be the star of her own “Widow’s Weekend” at various locations. While she’s available October 15 through Halloween at all McMenamins pubs, the Thompson Brewery usually releases the popular seasonal earlier than the rest. But don’t get too lost in her web, as she won’t be here for long! | 7.35% ABV, 30 IBU
Fall Activity Pairing: Scary Movie Marathon
Although there is a 1987 crime thriller which shares the name “Black Widow,” McMenamins has a lot more to offer than that in the scary movie department this month. The company’s Mission Theater and Pub in Portland offers a variety of screenings all year long, but in October, you’ll find that classic spooky movies are their specialty. “The Craft” and “Scream” are both celebrating their 20th anniversaries, “Little Shop of Horrors” is celebrating its 30th, and “Carrie” is celebrating its 40th. There will be multiple showings of each, along with the movie “Se7en.” Don’t forget to order your favorite McMenamins beer as liquid courage as you prepare to be scared!
Putting the Oktober in Oktoberfest
If you’re pumpkin-phobic, have no fear, Deschutes is here! The brewery recently added a new fall seasonal to its lineup: Hopzeit Autumn IPA. While this beer may or may not conform to the Reinheitsgebot (a German purity law only allowing water, barley and hops as ingredients), the beer is at least “100-percent gourd free” according to the brewery, and “blends the malt body and flavor of a Marzen with the hop profile of an IPA.” It even has its own hashtag: #SayNoToPumpkinBeer. | 7% ABV, 60 IBUs
For those of you wanting something you could drink a few steins of without being frightened by flavors, this section’s for you. Block 15 Brewing’s Autumn Farmhouse Ale, dubbed as a “harvest celebration of Pacific Northwest regional farms,” is a part of the brewery’s seasonal bottle-conditioned series. The beer truly lives up to its description, featuring organic North American malts, organic oats from Green Willow Grains, Willamette Valley hops, and honey from Queen Bee Apiaries, also located in Corvallis. | 7.4% ABV
Fall Activity Pairing: Oktoberfest
Although Munich’s famous Oktoberfest may be over, luckily for you there are still some Oregon breweries that are hosting their own versions of the revered German celebration this month, including Block 15’s Bloktoberfest on Oct. 21 (Pro Tip: You get free entry if you wear German-themed clothing). On Oct. 8 in Portland, not only is Zoiglhaus Brewing hosting its own Oktoberfest, but Widmer Brothers Brewing will be putting on an Oktoberfest at Pioneer Courthouse Square featuring rock band X Ambassadors.
No matter how you’re celebrating this month, don’t be too spooked to try a new Oregon beer!
By Sam Wheeler
Caldera Brewing Company is well settled into its colossal new digs in Ashland, Ore. and fresh off its biggest year yet.
The 17-year-old brewery is starting to button up its big britches and though it’s still just a fraction of the size, it isn’t out of place now for the up-and-comer craft to be uttered in the same sentence as some of Oregon’s most renowned craft breweries – Rogue Ales, Full Sail, BridgePort, Ninkasi or Bend’s mammoth Deschutes.
To be among that crowd is a badge of honor said Caldera’s lead brewer and brewery manager Adam Benson, who’s been peeking his head into Caldera’s mash kettles as lead brewer for four years and running.
In 2013, Caldera's 30-barrel production beer system and one-off specialty 10-barrel set-up pumped out about 10,000 barrels worth of beer – that’s over 300,000 gallons – and that’s about a fifth of what the brewery can manage inside its new headquarters.
The sky is the limit, Benson said. Caldera has greater expansion on tap.
For comparison, Deschutes offloads about 350,00 barrels annually, while Ninkasi is brewing about 95,000 barrels annually and plans to push that to 200,000 annually once its current expansion is complete this spring.
The year-old 28,000-square-foot Caldera brewery and restaurant sits a few hundred yards up south Ashland’s Clover Lane from the brewery’s former 6,000-square-foot brewhouse, whose 10-barrel system is nestled in a side room of the new brewery.
Maxed out for years producing about 6,000 barrels annually, the old 10-barrel is strictly being used for experimental brews, seasonal one-offs and other hard-to-get beers that you can’t normally find anywhere but the tap wall, Benson said.
And it still gets worked plenty hard, considering Caldera has about 40 taps to fill on its tap wall and only cans its Pale Ale, Ashland Amber, IPA, Pilot Rock Porter and Lawnmower Lager, and bottles eight other brews in 22-ounce longnecks.
The light-tasting Lawnmower Lager and the Pilot Rock Porter are the newest additions to the Caldera can family, and “both of them have taken off, especially the Lawnmower. I am not even sure how we’re going to deal with it this summer once people start really drinking,” Benson said. “To get a micro brew in a can for under $4 locally is huge, so people are just gobbling it up.”
Caldera is well known for kicking off somewhat of a canned-beer-can-be-good phenomena among craft and micro breweries.
“It’s a better product in a can. You’re not getting light struck and ecologically it’s so much better, it’s lighter – either empty or full – you can take it places,” Benson said. “It’s just getting over that stereotype of only big brewers use cans, garbage beer, so that’s what we have been dealing with the last 10 years or so. Now it’s pretty well accepted.”
In 22-ounce bottles Caldera offers: Hopportunity Knocks IPA, Ginger Beer, which is brewed with fresh organic ginger and Belgian candi sugar, Rose Petal imperial golden ale, brewed with real rose petals and you can smell it, Vas Defrens Ale, a strong Belgian-style that has a straight-out-of-hell label inspired by owner Mills’ very own vasectomy, Rauch Ur Bock, a German-style lager, Old Growth Imperial Stout -- it’s thick, Hop Hash, which is made using chunks of hop resin, and Mogli, a chocolate Imperial Porter, aged in retired oak Jack Daniel’s bourbon barrels.
The hop resin-induced Hopportunity Knocks started as an experimental one-off, Benson said, after a chunk of resin once mistakenly turned up inside a batch of fresh whole hops and Caldera decided to use it.
“We were calling them and asking for more of it!” said Benson, noting that the hop resin was free of charge until the supplier caught on.
During the winter months Caldera’s brewery gets by with Benson and brewer Frederick Martinez, who’s been with the company for three years. From May through September, the thirsty season, a third brewer is added. When the brewery is running full tilt for a triple batch, there are three brewers and five other people overseeing the gargantuan purple canning line, which has pushed out over 70,000 cans on many days, Benson said.
Martinez remembers vividly when Caldera was still slinging six packs using a six-can hand packer.
“Ah it was brutal, but we did it man. We had to,” he said. “And Jim was right there with us ... this place is great, I love it, it’s a family.”
Between Caldera Tap House on Water Street in downtown Ashland and its new restaurant and brewery headquarters, Caldera is run by about 50 employees, said General Manager Charlie Shoemaker, who is also known as the ‘glue,’ among the Caldera family.
Shoemaker, who had a hand in building the new Caldera headquarters as an employee for Medford-based contractor Ausland Group, hit it off with Caldera owner Jim Mills when construction was underway and jumped ship.
After building about a mile of shelves, Shoemaker helped place Mills’ 4,979-beer bottle collection, which wraps around the inside walls of the 96-seat restaurant. Don’t worry, they’re glued down.
There are another 250 bottles stashed in storage boxes that will go up as soon as the restaurant’s upstairs expansion is complete, Shoemaker said.
There are another 80 dining seats on the outside patio of the restaurant, which makes a point of incorporating beer into several of its recipes.
The menu is loaded with pasta dishes, smoked salmon, gourmet burgers, freshly baked jumbo pretzels, hand-tossed pizzas hot out of a stone oven and homemade crackers and bread. Aside from 34 beer choices on tap, there is also Caldera-made root beer and ginger ale, which is going into cans in the near future Benson said.
Not to mention, Mills has a mean hibiscus and rose petal tea concoction.
The restaurant’s crackers are made from the brewery’s spent grain, he said, and whatever spent grain doesn’t become a cracker is sent as feed to a Northern California pig farm, from where the restaurant gets its pork.
It’s quite the operation and in about a year, the brewing company hopes to start distilling its own spirits – scotch, vodka, bourbon and gin.
Even with everything going on, Benson says, there is always plenty of time for experimenting, developing new recipes.
“We always have something new coming on, I am doing a Mother Pucker Raspberry Sour ... it’s a sour beer, but it’s not done the typical way,” he said.
Kihei Snow, a burnt coconut, toasted cane sugar stout, is one of the newest additions to the tap wall, he said.
The last time Benson counted, Caldera beer was available in 12 states and British Columbia, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Holland, Denmark, England and Puerto Rico – and the list is always expanding, he said.
“It’s exciting to know that the beer I brew is going around the world and people are enjoying it everywhere,” he said.
Of course, he would not name a favorite, but he is most proud of Caldera’s Helles Lager and Pilsener Bier.
“They are just extremely well made. A lot of lagers are rushed; ours get the time they need.”
( a ) 590 Clover Lane, Ashland
( p ) 541-482-4677
(h) 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., every day
Owner: Jim Mills
Brewer: Adam Benson
General Manager: Charlie Shoemaker
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