By Michael H. Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Might as well hit the ground drinking.
After weeks in the tropics enslaved to Bud Light, I am desperate for some fresh Oregon IPA. Luckily, I know Scott Saulsbury.
I grab my bag and eagerly hail a taxi for the 3-mile ride from Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport to RAM, Southern Oregon’s newest brewpub. There I find the smiling Saulsbury, 49, lording over RAM’s shiny 10-barrel JV Northwest system.
Immediately he hands me a pint of tasty Table Rock NWIPA, his first seasonal recipe for the new 7,245-square-foot building that hosts a busy restaurant, a large multi-televisioned bar and Saulsbury’s brewhouse. Open since December 2016, the Medford site is Oregon’s fourth RAM, the chain that launched near Seattle in 1971. There are 30 other RAMs across Washington, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Naturally, RAM’s newest brewmaster is thrilled with his gig.
“Many of the regular Southern Oregon Brewing drinkers are coming to RAM,” he says. “They sort of followed me here. It’s really surprising and great. Been nice seeing the familiar faces. And they want some of the SOB beers to resurface here as specialties, so I’d like to do some knock-offs of what I was making over there.”
Over there is the once-popular Medford taproom fed by SOB’s 20-barrel brewhouse where, until a year ago, Saulsbury made popular flagships. With the property’s owner Tom Hammond, a Medford anesthesiologist, Saulsbury had helped start SOB in 2007, after working in real estate for a few years. SOB’s sales were steady through 2012, then dropped 10 percent annually until 2015, when Hammond chose to sell.
“We don’t have the resources to compete in today’s beer market,” Hammond told Medford’s Mail Tribune last September. “The idea of scaling back to be just a local brewery was not a possibility. Being in a smaller market made us very dependent on distribution to other parts of the state and region … we were never able to establish and maintain a big enough part of our local market to be stable in the long-term.”
“Tom hung on as long as he could,” Saulsbury tells me. “He loved it and wanted to keep it going and it got to a point where there wasn’t a way forward without a lot of capital. The business model working today is more of this heavy-on-the-retail/growler fills, because shelf space is so jam-packed. A good model for SOB would’ve been — if there was money — to own two or three retail outlets where they just serve SOB beer. More SOB beer sold over SOB taps, less through distributors, because you’re just not making money after they take their sales percentage.”
SOB poured its last pint the night of Sept. 30, 2016. The business remains for sale, turnkey and intact.
“I show it to prospective buyers all the time,” Saulsbury says. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s a beautiful brewery.”
Last summer, after brewing his last SOB batch, Saulsbury worked for O.A.R.S., a major outdoor outfitter and tour guide offering multi-day whitewater trips through the pine-forested canyons of the lower Rogue, from Galice to Foster Bar, the river’s official Wild and Scenic section.
“It was epic. I had a great six-month period exercising and being outdoors. If I could afford to, I would retire today and be a dirtbag river guide,” he says with a laugh.
The job stemmed from the company’s craft-beer rafting trips. “I’d gone on some of those,” he says, “being the beer guy with the jockey box.”
Makes sense. Growing up in Grants Pass, Saulsbury was raised on the Rogue, running right through town. Tailing a short college stint in Santa Barbara, Calif., he studied philosophy at the University of Oregon. “Then I needed to get a job,” he says. “I’d been homebrewing a little, and I thought brewing would be a fun career. I was lucky to be in on that early-1990s microbrewery wave.”
By 1993 he was an assistant at Eugene’s Steelhead Brewing Company, then moved to Bend and became brewmaster at Bend Brewing Company. But Saulsbury owned property off Highway 66, east of Ashland, and wanted to build a cabin there, so in 1997 he zoomed south to launch Caldera Brewing with Jim Mills. “I knew Jim just from the local Ashland scene,” Saulsbury said. “Caldera was his baby, and he needed someone to make beer. Good timing.”
But initially the business dragged, so in 1998 Saulsbury found another job back in Bend, this time at Deschutes Brewing. “My time there was probably my most creative. We had a group of brewers interacting constantly, talking about the possibilities. We were able to put quality ahead of cost. Carrying that along through the years has allowed me to keep that alive in all the brewing opportunities I’ve had.”
Amid river guiding, Saulsbury got wind of the RAM slated for Medford. “An ex-Deschutes friend of mine was the brewmaster at the Salem RAM, so I contacted him, then RAM directly through a recruiter before they’d even posted the job. The building hadn’t been built, and RAM likes to hire locally, so they were sort of waiting for people to come out of the woodwork.”
“One of my questions for them during my interviews was: how much creativity will I be able to bring to the table? With the flagships, RAM wants people who have had RAM beers elsewhere to have the same experience here. But with the seasonal specialties here, RAM is definitely encouraging me to make crazy stuff and have fun. It’s going to be great.”
RAM Restaurant & Brewery
165 Rossanley Drive, Medford
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Stay on the nice list of the beer lover in your life by giving the gift of a special bottle that is worth a spot in the cellar. The picks here were curated by Mike Coplin, owner of 16 Tons in Eugene, and Ryan Fosbinder, purchasing manager at Belmont Station in Portland. One tip: “gift” an extra bottle to yourself.
The Ale Apothecary, Bend
House lactobacillus gives sour balance to malt and wheat structure. Added complexity from up to a year of aging in oak barrels, followed by a month-long dry-hopping — also in oak barrels. The result surprises with tropical and citrus aroma, with tart, earthy and herbal notes on the palate. 9% ABV
Captain of the Coast
Pelican Brewing Company, Pacific City
MacPelican’s Wee Heavy aged in Washington Wheat Whiskey barrels from Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Wash. Silky texture and complex flavor evokes creme brulee, dried apricots and sherry. 9.5% ABV
The Commons Brewery, Portland
Pucker up! Last released in 2012, this floral, earthy ale brings mild tartness and cherry notes from ale yeast, brett and 10 months of aging in a 60-barrel foudre. 6.3% ABV
Ninth Anniversary Peach Farmhouse Ale
Oakshire Brewing, Eugene
Released in 2015. A brett ale and wild ale each mingled with peach puree for two years before they were blended and spent another month on more peach. Fruit flavors hold strong. 6.2% ABV
Belmont Station 19th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Barley Wine
Ecliptic Brewing, Portland
Brewed for Portland’s oldest beer shop. Aged nine months in 12-year-old bourbon casks, this barley wine picks up rich barrel character: oak, caramel and heat. 12% ABV
Oakshire Brewing, Eugene
Oakshire snagged a recommendation each from Ryan and Mike. Oakshire’s sixth anniversary continued their Hellshire series with an imperial stout aged 12 months in Heaven Hill Rittenhouse Rye and Elijah Craig bourbon barrels. 12% ABV
Breakside Brewery, Portland
Gin meets hops meets brett in a blend of barrel-aged sour beers 16 months to 26 months old. Delicious now, but expect cellaring to further improve and refine its character. 7.7% ABV
16 Tons Sech 'n Brett
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Hood River
Session-style Szechuan Brett Seizoen brewed to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Eugene’s 16 Tons. Various yeasts influence spice and fruit notes, plus a crisp, dry finish. Pepper character enhances food pairings. Expect this bottle-conditioned beer to keep evolving. 6.5% ABV
Caldera Brewing Company, Ashland
Chocolate and bourbon step right up to the palate. Imperial porter conditioned on Maker's Mark-soaked oak spirals, then aged in Kentucky Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. 8.5% ABV
Conflux Series No. 2: Collage
Deschutes, Bend and Hair of the Dog, Portland
Both Mike and Ryan recommended this “artistic collage of cask-aging alchemy.” A blend of Deschutes The Abyss and The Stoic (each aged in pinot barrels) and Hair of the Dog Fred (aged in American oak and rye whiskey barrels) and Doggie Claws (aged in cognac barrels). Roasted accents and complex malt character underpin molasses, caramel and vanilla. Don’t be surprised if this beer improves after a couple more years. 14.3% ABV
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 Michael Kew
For the Oregon Beer Growler
They won't make the kind of green beer swilled in sports bars on St. Patrick’s Day.
They will make a much different green beer — several, actually — inside their state-of-the-art, 30-barrel brewhouse in southeast Ashland, 15 miles north of California. Now producing 12,000 barrels per year, Caldera Brewing Company has been "dedicated to being green before being green was cool," owner Jim Mills once wrote.
Green beer tends to come from green towns — in 2009, the National Geographic Society voted Ashland into its Top 10 Places for Geotourism. Caldera, Spanish for "boiling pot," had been making beer there for 12 years.
"Breweries these days are at the forefront of green practices," Caldera's head brewer Adam Benson told me one cool, cloudy February day. Snow brightened the mountain peaks above the valley. We stood just outside the brewery's back door, admiring the three white silos used to transfer and recycle Caldera’s spent grains.
Benson has been with Caldera since 2010 following a stint at Standing Stone, another ecofriendly brewery three miles across town.
"As brewers,” he said while we walked back inside, “we're constantly sharing information — from a recipe to how we do things, so if there's way to make something greener, generally it's shared in the industry."
In 2005, starting with its pale ale, Caldera became the West Coast's first craft brewery to can its own beer. Each minute, the new line fills 500 cans made of aluminum, Earth’s most abundant metallic element.
"Canning itself is a green process," Benson said to me later, watching freshly capped yellow cylinders of IPA whiz past us.
"From shipment of the original empty cans to us, to shipping them out full, it's all much lighter (than glass) and, therefore, uses less energy," he said. "The aluminum is 100-percent recyclable and is used to make more cans, whereas glass is often not. Essentially, recycled glass is just put into pavement and stuff like that — it's not used to make more glass. With a can, even its pop tab is recycled."
You don't even have to drink the beer in Caldera's cans (Lawnmower Lager, Pale Ale, Ashland Amber, IPA, Hopportunity Knocks IPA, Pilot Rock Porter, and — soon — Mosaic IPA) to grok its greater good.
"I'm happy to say that all of our byproducts are used for cattle feed and organic farming," Benson said. His spent grains, hops, yeasts and filter sheets are composted to concoct fresh, nutrient-rich soil, which is then packaged in and dispersed from the used specialty-grain bags.
“Business-wise,” Benson continued, “it makes sense to be as green as possible, especially when you're brewing in an out-of-the-way place like this. You have to utilize every resource to its fullest extent.”
To quell water waste, Benson uses a recirculating wort-chilling system. "The energy used to cool one wort is reused to heat the next wort. Otherwise, all that water would be going down the drain."
In summer, Caldera's sophisticated HVAC setup ingests cool nighttime air, then expels it throughout the brewery during warm workdays, eliminating a need for expensive, energy-sapping air conditioning.
Instead of natural gas-fueled direct fire, Caldera uses steam to power all three of its kettles (a 30-barrel system, plus a 10-barrel soda system and a 10-barrel pilot system, which was the original system in the original brewhouse just up the road).
Instead of chemicals, the new racking machine also uses steam to clean and sanitize. And Caldera just hired a full-time maintenance man from Darigold, the massive dairy agricultural co-op based in Seattle. “He's extremely informative,” Benson said, “so he's able to further reduce energy use throughout all of our systems. He knows everything about everything.”
The brewery and its restaurant are surrounded with xeriscape flora (shadowed by the Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland receives just 20 inches of yearly rain). Of the Ashland sunshine, Caldera takes full advantage with its many brewhouse windows, reducing the need for electric light.
Solar panels are slated for the brewery roof. Indoor infrastructure for the panels is already installed; the panels will go up top once proper funds are secured, likely within two years, Benson said.
If you're seated at one of Caldera's two Ashland bars, the beer you're drinking was poured when your barkeep pulled a tap handle made of hardwood scrap. The wood (ash, of course) came from Sawyer Paddles & Oars, located up the road in Gold Hill, along the banks of the fabled Rogue River, a wellspring for southern Oregon fun. The Ashland Watershed itself is a burgeoning outdoor playground — a sibling of Bend, if you will.
Benson: "As you can see around the top of our cans, it reads “Go Boarding, Go Rafting, Go Biking, Go Fishing, Go Skiing.” This ties in with being able to take a six-pack with you when you go someplace where glass isn't allowed.”
Caldera is donating funds to help fight the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline project, a proposal that would allow Canada's Veresen Inc. to lay 232 miles of 36-inch pipe to move up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day from Malin, located in Klamath County, to a terminal in Coos Bay, where the natural gas would be liquefied and shipped to Asia. While the pipe wouldn't actually pass through Ashland, it would come close enough, and most of the town’s 21,000 oppose the project.
"Ashland is a green, liberal place, so we fit in well,” Benson said, smiling. "We support its community as much as we can. It's a good marriage — we're right for each other."
Caldera Brewing Company
[a] 590 Clover Lane (Restaurant & Brewery); 31 Water Street, No. 2 (Tap House), Ashland
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Two boys from North Carolina eased their truck up alongside John’s Market in Multnomah Village on a rainy day last October for one of three Portland stops on what has to be the greatest beer run in history. And they’re doing it for you.
While a ponytailed Stephen Pond was rattling and scanning bottles on the store shelves and downloading the information onto a laptop, George Taylor explained they were creating an app that will “evaluate beer based on scientific data rather than subjective adjectives.”
Beer Census 2014 was the collection phase of the latest project from Next Glass, which came about when Taylor’s father and brother got some bad advice from a sommelier. They figured there had to be a better way to pick wine than knowing if it was oaky, earthy or citrusy.
Taylor said they decided to run first wine, now beer, through a scientific investigation evaluation. Similar to what happens on the television show, “CSI,” a small sample of “evidence” is put into a mass spectrometer. The machine “spins the sample so fast it separates everything — proteins, sugars, carbs, alcohol content, calories, everything,” Taylor said.
That was the easy part. What was harder was getting the bottles for testing. Unlike most wines, many craft beers are not distributed nationally, and having them shipped cross country can be expensive or legally prohibited.
So the boys hit the road, lead-footing it from the Northeast, through Middle America to the West Coast.
In Oregon and Washington they bought nearly 2,000 bottles, pushing closer to their goal of 40,000 beers. And they purchased “one of everything ever made — seasonals, those crazy one-offs.” Taylor explained, “What’s cool, if they don’t ever make it again, I can put you onto something almost identical that is being made.”
Last October’s rains were dried up by a long, hot summer and now September is again easing toward the kind of weather an Oregonian can live with. Meanwhile, those boys from Carolina have been computer crunching the info gathered on their epic beer run. So, what do you get for all those miles, all that beer and all that digitalizing?
To find out, I downloaded the Next Glass app to my iPad, entered account information and worked my way through the tabs.
The Taste Profile tab rates beers on a 100 point scale, but also tells you the alcohol and calorie content of your favorite beer. The Breakside Country Blonde, for instance, comes at 7.5 percent ABV and 225 calories. Next Glass said it is 90 points on a “My Favorites” scale.
The Recommendations tab works like a Cicerone, suggesting beers you might like. Clicking on the Filter tab narrows your search to just beer. You can also refine your hunt to a particular beer style; though the app does not define styles.
The Search feature can help adventurous beer lovers find many, but not all beers. I easily found the offerings from Portland-based breweries, as I did larger craft brewers. But smaller breweries didn’t make the app. For instance, in Central Oregon, Deschutes made the app but Three Creeks and RiverBend didn’t. In Southern Oregon, I checked for six breweries, including Standing Stone and Caldera, and didn’t find them. In the Gorge, Logsdon made the list as did Full Sail, but pFriem didn’t.
The Snap feature is the most fun. To test it I hauled my iPad to a nearby New Seasons and input images of labels and bar codes. The app rates those beers based on my taste profile and should recommend alternatives. The results were mixed. Next Glass recognized the Rogue Dead Guy I liked and gave me a rating. But when I snapped a Pelican label it merely brought up a listing of other Pelican beers without ratings. In neither case did the app offer alternatives to those beers. And that is a problem. The most interesting challenge and potential for Next Glass is to allow a user to go to a place like Portland’s Belmont Station, take a picture of a strange beer label and then find out if the app compares it to something you like and tells you where to buy it.
To find out if Next Glass has plans to upgrade, I emailed Emma Johnson, Next Glass user happiness specialist, and asked about adding a match feature along with the GPS locator Pond and Taylor described to me last year. Johnson replied: “Next Glass does have a Glass Match feature available, but we've removed it for the time being for some revamping! It'll be back and better than ever soon. We're also working on another new feature — filtering by geographic proximity. As we perfect these features you'll be able to see bottles that you like that are available in your area!”
Apps are like beer, there’s probably going to be more than one you’ll like. Next Glass has potential but has some catching up to do. Untappd and Pintley are better at social networking for beer drinkers. BeerCloud offers a beer and food pairing service. Find Craft Beer has a mapping service that directs you to a shop carrying the beer you are hunting for.
Like beer, you probably have a favorite app. Just make sure you don’t ignore the newcomers. Each has the potential to enrich your experience.
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