By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Most of us have been there. You wake up only wishing you hadn’t because you’re slogging through a booze-induced haze. Blame it on the beer festival, the ABVs that snuck up on you, or the special birthday party. Nobody enjoys a hangover. Moreover, decades of research have shown that heavy drinking, particularly over a long period of time, increases mortality risk. Too much alcohol could lead to liver disease and several types of cancer. But studies on the effects of moderate drinking have been more complicated. Part of that is due to the problem of how truthfully subjects self-report. Some research also ends up conflicting. And since we’re in a state that thrives off of a strong beer culture, it’s worth exploring the connection between alcohol, some of beer’s basic ingredients, and your health.
Moderate Drinking & the J-Shaped Curve
Whether it’s beer, wine or spirits, any alcohol in moderation may prove to have health benefits, according to Dr. Thomas Shellhammer, professor of fermentation science and food science at Oregon State University. For healthy adults, moderation means one serving a day for women and up to two servings a day for men under the age of 65. The Mayo Clinic has classified 12 fluid ounces of beer as one drink. Of course, factors such as age, body mass index, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and even education should also be taken into account when discussing health and alcohol intake. However, moderate consumption can result “in a decrease in mortality due to cardiovascular disease. And cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of folks in the U.S.,” explained Dr. Shellhammer.
The Mayo Clinic reported that restrained consumption can possibly reduce the risk of an ischemic stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted due to narrowed or blocked arteries. There may also be a diminished likelihood of developing diabetes associated with controlled alcohol use. A 2004 meta-analysis of previous studies published on the American Diabetes Association website determined that moderate drinkers were 30 percent less likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Since the late 1970s, research amassed on the benefits of moderate intake led to the development of what epidemiologists and medical professionals call the “J-shaped curve” regarding mortality. Dr. Shellhammer described that the curve on a graph would dip below the x-axis before rising again, creating a shape that resembles the letter “J.” The x-axis represents the number of alcohol servings a person or population would consume. The y-axis is then the risk of mortality. “A teetotaler has some fixed amount or average risk of mortality. As alcohol consumption increases, that risk of mortality decreases. It actually starts falling down below that x-axis and at some point out there it starts coming back up,” said Dr. Shellhammer.
A study published in 2013 by the Research Society on Alcoholism seems to reaffirm the data on moderate health benefits. Researchers analyzed the results of the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2001. That information was then paired with the latest release of the NHIS Linked Mortality Files, which provided follow-up data through the end of 2006. Results showed that more than a third of the drinkers recorded heavy use. Mortality risk grew as drinking increased, where ultimately daily excessive users had “an almost two-fold risk of death compared with abstainers,” researchers reported. Moderate drinking was connected to decreased mortality, but the health benefits “peaked around two non-heavy occasions per week,” the authors concluded.
Of course the health benefits may not be felt by everyone who drinks alcohol, even moderately. But research does indicate there can be positive implications. Apart from considering the body and beer, though, breaking down some of the health research on hops and barley can lead to a greater appreciation for the components of your brew.
Hops and Health
Many beer lovers, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, love the flavor and aroma hops add to beer. But those little cones have a lot more to offer in terms of medicinal qualities. Dr. Fred Stevens, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at OSU and principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, had a role in much of this groundbreaking research. OSU’s laboratory was the first to report that the main flavonoid, or compound synthesized by a plant, found in hops has anti-inflammatory and cancer chemopreventive properties. That flavonoid is called xanthohumol and never really turned brewers’ heads because it has no taste, according to OSU’s website. During his post-doctorate period at the university in 1995, Dr. Stevens started looking into the chemistry of hops. With the assistance of other professors, he was able to isolate and research xanthohumol. The team found that in cancer cells, it gives rise to one type of enzyme that detoxifies cancer-causing agents. It also stops another enzyme from activating carcinogens.
There’s evidence showing xanthohumol has the potential to prevent one particular type of disease: prostate cancer. Dr. Stevens published a paper with another researcher that showed how the flavonoid gets in the way of a particular protein’s signaling. That protein just happens to regulate 400 genes connected to inflammation, which is an important factor in the development of prostate cancer, Dr. Stevens shared on OSU’s website.
Similarly, a medicine company called Metagenics announced in 2012 that an acid compound in hops could stop the hardening of arteries during the early stages of the condition. That same compound also demonstrated an ability to prevent weight gain and improve intestinal health with mice on high-fat diets in studies out of a university in Belgium. Additionally, hops might help with menopause. Dr. Shellhammer explained they contain a compound that’s phytoestrogenic — essentially it’s a chemical created by plants that acts similar to estrogen. He recalled a company selling a hop product as a more natural estrogen supplement.
Barley and Beta-glucans
Hops have been more of the lead singer in recent years while barley plays backup, but this beer ingredient boasts its own health rewards. Dr. Shellhammer pointed out that barley has a fair amount of beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber, which can reduce blood serum cholesterol levels. Some food barleys have higher levels of beta-glucans than malting barleys. Most brewers actually want barley with lower levels of beta-glucans because they can lead to difficulties when making beer. The malting process degrades beta-glucans, so you won’t find levels beneficial to your health in the final product or even the wort.
There’s likely much more research to come on the health effects of alcohol and the ingredients in beer, especially as technology continues to improve. OSU is sure to be an important contributor to the growing pool of knowledge, putting the state of Oregon at the lead of an important discussion.
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Now that the new year is upon us, we should make some beer resolutions to continue to enhance our brewing skills. No recipe is complete without the perfect yeast, but what happens if the yeast that we love doesn’t get produced again? Not only can we as homebrewers harvest yeast from bottles and the world around us; we can also save a few dollars by keeping our favorite strain going for several yeast generations.
After your tasty homebrew’s primary fermentation period, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the fermenter and form a cake. Usually we would just discard this cake, but it‘s still a viable yeast pitch. As long as you were careful not to introduce anything foreign into it, you can use the cake as a new pitch for your next brew. The fastest and easiest way to reuse the cake is to brew the same day you empty your fermenter, then just put the new wort into the bucket with the yeast. You can only use this method a few times before you may notice some off-flavors beginning to develop. This is because there is protein and even some beer left from the previous brew. If you are planning to use this strain for much longer than a few brews, you can wash the yeast.
In order to wash the yeast, put about 3 gallons of cold water into your fermenter. Transfer as much of the sludge into a glass carboy or other clear vessel. Make sure there is plenty of liquid and that most of the sludge is stirred into the solution. You need to then put the carboy into a chilled area around 50 F. This will force the proteins and dead yeast cells to fall back into the cake and should only take a few minutes. Once most of the cake has re-formed, the live yeast cells will be floating in the water, so rack the water with the living cells into a separate sanitized container. After this is complete, you have a fresh yeast pitch with minimal impurities. You can continue to wash the same strain of yeast for several generations with very low levels of flavor change. Eventually the yeast will mutate and it may take on a completely new flavor. As long as it still tastes good, there’s no reason to stop using it when it can save you money.
Capturing New Strains
Purchasing yeast at your local homebrew shop is the safest guaranteed way to get the flavors that you are looking for in your homebrew. But sometimes you can harvest yeast out of an empty beer bottle and have your very own Duvel strain. If you are going to attempt this, you need to be sure that the beer has not been filtered or pasteurized. When you have found the beer with the yeast that you want, decant as much of the beer out of the bottle as possible. Add some cold water and transfer the remaining contents of the bottle into a flask or growler to begin making a starter.
To make a starter, cook up a small amount of wort by using dry malt extract and boil it with some water. Once the wort is chilled, add it to your flask or growler and allow it to begin fermentation. Be sure to incorporate air into the solution as well because it will help the yeast grow. You can do this by swirling the container every few hours or every time you walk past it. Another option would be to use a stir plate with a stir bar like the kind you might remember from high school chemistry class. Either way, in a few days your yeast should have enough cell growth for you to pitch it into your next tasty experiment.
Though it is cost-effective to save yeast and begin your own yeast bank, it can be a daunting task. Starting small and getting a few of the different techniques mastered can help to start the new year off right and ensure a successful brew year.
Killer Winter White [Extract]
Killer Winter White [AG]
Corvallis Club Combines Craft and Community
By Anthony St. Clair
Autumn is a busy time for the 33 members of the Corvallis-based Heart of the Valley Homebrewers (HotV). “We just got finished putting on our very successful Septembeerfest,” says Carrie Reeves, who became club president in January 2014. “This was our seventh year, and proceeds go to the Linn Benton Food Share. We estimate that we had around 3,000 attendees this year.”
Members also spent September participating in Corvallis Beer Week, which ran Sept. 5–13. But the club is hardly sitting down to catch its breath over a refreshing pint of homebrew. Now members are planning the club’s Annual Oregon Homebrew Festival, a Beer Judge Certification Program and American Homebrewers Association sanctioned event held every May. For the last 16 years, the competition has also been a qualifier for the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing.
A club member since 2013, Reeves took to the community of homebrewers and their mutual love of all things beer—a common thread in the area. Today Oregon has 32 homebrew clubs registered with the American Homebrew Association, but the Corvallis club was one of the first. HotV was founded in 1982 as Corvallis Homebrewers, and also held its first annual homebrew competition, now the the longest-running event of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Once homebrewers from surrounding areas participated, the name was changed to Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. Today, the club has members in Corvallis, Salem, Albany, Sweet Home, and even Eugene, home of the Cascade Brewers Society, a fellow homebrew club.
HotV members meet on the third Wednesday of the month, alternating between member homes in Albany and Corvallis. “We sample one another’s beers, as well as those of local brewpubs and unusual commercial brews,” Reeves says. “Occasionally we arrange comparative tastings of commercial examples of beer styles, with members voting according to their preferences. It’s a great way to experience brews that one hasn't tried before, and to find new favorites.”
In between meetings, members gather for club business and also for the good ole joy of homebrewing. Brewing sours is popular right now, Reeves says, a reflection of the ongoing changes in the industry and populace. “Just as Pacific Northwest trends have adjusted, our club has reflected that,” she explains. “For instance, members might increase the hop content of beers, and find ways to get creative with ingredients that are local to us here in the Willamette Valley. But a passion for making beer remains the same.”
Members plan a wide range of regular club and community events too. In addition to the 63 craft beverages on offer at Septembeerfest, HotV organizes club brewing days, holiday parties, pub crawls, and picnics. Since 1995, members have picked up litter on Highway 20 between Albany and Corvallis, as part of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program. Today, four times a year members meet to clean up the highway. Over the last 19 years, their efforts have removed 900 bags of trash.
As Reeves looks ahead to the Nov. 29 Civil War between UO and OSU, she’s setting her game day plans. “I will be watching the Beavers hopefully win against the Ducks at my friend's house,” she says. “I will be drinking Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat, or whatever is on tap at their house, and I will be eating bad food like nachos and chili!” She might bring a bag of Chester's Puffcorn, her favorite snack.
Reeves also has her eye on 2015, her second year as club president. “It will be a really great year,” she says. “We have a lot of educational and fun activities planned.”
Changes Ahead for Eugene’s Cascade Brewers Society
By Anthony St. Clair
On the last Monday of every month, the brewers gather in the basement of downtown Eugene’s Rogue Ales Public House. Bottles hiss. People laugh. Eventually things settle down. News is shared, followed by discussion of a topic of beery import.
All the while the homebrew flows. Later, members of the Eugene-based Cascade Brewers Society (CBS) talk about life, homebrewing, beer, and more brewing. The meeting ends, but the camaraderie of homebrewing continues. Over the following month, club members will brew together, visit area pubs and breweries, plan events, and enter the monthly club-only competition.
Founded by a dozen people in 1988, the club’s membership stayed small for its first dozen years. In 2000, homebrewing gained in popularity. Today, people from Portland to Northern California are among the club’s 93 members.
“Meetings used to be in people’s homes. It’d be hard to have a regular space that could accommodate more people,” says Brandt Weaver, president since 2009. “Once we got our regular space in the bottom floor of Rogue, people felt more comfortable about stopping by. From there membership really started growing.”
Weaver joined CBS after moving to Eugene in 2002. “Most of the people there at the start are still really good friends. They wanted to share that homebrewing journey together,” Weaver explains. “When more people started getting together, they realized they had the energy to do more things. Bus trips, beer pairing dinners, things like that. The increase in membership led to more planned events. It also led to more of a focus on technical programs. Education, discussion of more particular aspects of brewing. It went from having homebrew and talking about it, to people presenting on different aspects of homebrewing.”
Today CBS members organize a range of events, from a summer group campout and monthly style-based judged competitions, to a fall chili cook-off and monthly happy hour. In collaboration with the Oakshire Public House, CBS members also participate in National Learn to Homebrew Day, an annual American Homebrewers Association event that introduces the public to homebrewing.
As the club rolls into an Oregon autumn, the fermenters are bubbling and beers are conditioning. Ciders, pumpkin beers, winter warmers, and Belgian styles are underway. Sour beers and barrel-aged beers are popular right now. “We’ve had club projects where we brew the same beer, fill a barrel, age it, and then divide the final beer,” Weaver says, noting the club’s love of experimentation.
“People use adjuncts that you wouldn’t see in commercial beers, things that wouldn’t be marketable,” he explains. “Non-traditional bittering, like teff or yarrow root. People are growing things in their yard to brew beer with.”
Looking ahead to the UO/OSU Civil War game, Weaver plans to attend any parties the club is invited to. He’ll pour a pint of what’s on tap—maybe an Oktoberfest or IPA—tuck in to chips and guacamole, and see how the game plays out. He also professes respect for Corvallis’s “impressive” Heart of the Valley Homebrewers. “We’re talking about having some events that could get the two clubs together, but we don’t have a lot of official contact.”
Future relations are a job for the club’s new president though.
After five years, Weaver will step down at the end of 2014. “We’re getting new blood and energy to do different things,” he explains. “We’ll hold the course with what we’ve been doing, but I’m excited about how new folks will be stepping up and bringing in their ideas. There will be good changes and growth for 2015.”
By Andi Prewitt
If the founders of Salem’s Vagabond Brewing ever offer to buy you a one-way plane ticket to any place in the world, better take them up on it. You’d be the first to do so. The four marines-turned-brewery-operators used to issue this challenge to people who expressed awe about their ability to drop everything and travel. But their experience wasn’t out-of-reach. It just required abandoning any sort of comfort zone. In order to get others to step outside their secure lifestyle, the Vagabond owners would ask individuals whether they’d like the airfare. The catch: the flight would have to leave the following week. Perhaps not surprisingly, no one ever accepted the proposal.
Risk-taking isn’t for everybody, but it’s pretty much defined the lives of James Cardwell, Ryan Fineran, Dean Howes, and Alvin Klausen. Not only have they served 12 combined tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq; each also traveled extensively after getting out of the military. Now that the group has a brewery, they’re honoring fellow adventurers this month by holding celebrations for Veterans Day.
The brewery will be running specials for veterans on Friday, November 7th through Veterans Day on Tuesday, November 11th. There are also plans for Vagabond tap takeovers at two locations in north and south Salem. And that’s not the only occasion the brewery will mark this month. Most people are familiar with Veterans Day, but not all have heard of the Marine Corps Birthday, which takes place Monday, November 10th. Units are known to celebrate the event no matter where they may be stationed. Vagabond is featuring a catered dinner for local Marines to honor the Corps’ 239th birthday and including many of the long-established practices associated with the event. For example, the oldest Marine and youngest Marine present participate in a cake cutting ceremony. There will also be a reading of a message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. And to add a bit of Vagabond flavor to the observance, the brewery is making a special Semper Fi IPA to pour that day. The brewery’s business manager Dean Howes says the birthday helps service members maintain a bond:
“It’s very rooted in tradition. A lot of Marines get out and you kind of lose that camaraderie and your connection to that sort of thing, so having an event on the birthday is important to a lot of the guys.”
Losing that daily interaction with other Marines can be a jarring, if not downright-traumatic, experience. Upon leaving the service, which is a life filled with built-in structure, purpose, and community, some individuals find themselves adrift. Howes and Vagabond’s marketing and distribution manager Alvin Klausen dealt with that shift after three back-to-back deployments.
“You basically go from a very regimented, regulated life and then it’s like, ‘All right, bye! Have a nice life!’ And literally the next morning no one’s telling you where to be. You don’t have any responsibility to anything,” explains Howes. “But you just have the weight of the world on your shoulders and you were in charge of people and their lives and making decisions that affect people forever. And you’re doing this thing that hopefully you felt was important and worthwhile and then suddenly now what do you do?”
Of course they did the most obvious, logical thing possible at the time: buy a van off of Craigslist and start driving south. Howes admits it may sound drastic or dire. However, the journey ended up being anything but that. Their travels took them through Central and South America, which provided some much-needed perspective after they spent their adult lives in the service. The friends saw there was much more out there to experience. And it was an opportunity to simply unwind. During this trip the two also developed the idea of starting a brewery.
Given the founders’ experiences, it’s easy to see how they came up with Vagabond’s motto: “Beer. Love. Adventure.” But starting the brewery proved to be quite a challenge. The group decided to use the crowdfunding resource Kickstarter to raise money even though their research showed them that the site’s failure rate for breweries was quite high. They set a target--$25,000 in about 30 days, kicking off one of the busiest months they’ve ever experienced. To the surprise of some users, you don’t just sit around and wait for free money to pour in. It takes a lot of public campaigning and stifling your shame. The group recalls they struggled with the uncertainty of it all.
“Keep pushing—like not knowing if it’s going to pay off. Because if it fails you fail real publicly. It’s like all or nothing the way Kickstarter is. So you either make it or you get nothing. And you basically fail in front of everybody,” says Howes. “And in order to try and make it work you literally present it to everybody that matters in your life and everyone that you care about.”
Vagabond ended up surpassing its goal by more than $3,000, which then helped secure traditional lenders. But more importantly it provided a much-needed boost of confidence by showing that others had faith in their project. The brewery eventually opened in February 2014 and much of what the friends learned in the service—discipline and always having the other Marine’s back—helped get things up and running.
“For a while there we were working 100 hour weeks for months straight, seven days a week—just going,” recalls Howes. “And I think a lot of that too was probably cathartic. And you put everything into something because that’s what you used to do. And you do it for each other, which is why most guys will tell you they serve or why they fight.”
It might be human nature, but the wandering periods of life seem to come and go. The kinds of risks that are taken tend to change and most strive for some sense of permanence in. The four vagabonds who started the brewery have built a home for themselves, their growing families, veterans, and beer lovers. Ultimately, they still embrace the ethos of the wanderer—so don’t be surprised if one of them offers to buy you that one-way plane ticket.
[a] 2195 Hyacinth St NE #172, Salem
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
Seeking out breweries while traveling was already a lifelong hobby for Bobby Marcum. But while being a consumer is an important role, Marcum felt that he had more to contribute to the local beer industry. An avid bicyclist, Marcum originally wanted to own a pub cycle but he quickly realized that many of the brewery locations in the Willamette Valley are too spread out for that to be feasible. After seeing a Brewvana bus in Portland and developing a rapport with owner Ashley Rose Salvitti, Marcum was convinced that mode of transport was the perfect solution. “I essentially took the bus tour concept and tried to mold it around the demographic of the valley,” Marcum says. He gave his first tours during this year’s Zwickelmania in February.
Now just over eight months old, Ale Ways offers a variety of tours to suit all tastes. Operating on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with pick-ups available at various locations in Salem and Albany, the all-inclusive tours offer transportation, beverage tastings, pub food, brewer talks and brewery tours, and a commemorative mug. One fun opportunity to explore several types of beverages is the “Pub Crawlvallis Tour,” which visits 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Mazama Brewing, and Nectar Creek, a meadery. Alternatively, the “Eugene Brews Cruze” is all about beer, with stops at Ninkasi, Hop Valley, and Agrarian Ales.
Marcum doesn’t assume tour participants are homebrewers or that they know how beer is made. Therefore, he structures his tours so that the first stop provides the background on making beer. At the next two stops, the brewers talk less about how beer is made in general and more about their personal background and why they make their beer a particular way. As Marcum observes, “When the group sits down in the pub to sample some beers afterward, they feel like part of a private club because they’ve had the unique experience of having met the person who made the beer they’re drinking as well as touring the facility where it was made.”
Tours are offered year-round with the aid of Gus and Frank, a 14-seat short bus and a Hummer, respectively. The bus has been configured to offer maximum comfort for tour participants. It has the look and feel of a mobile pub with the added bonus of customers being able to drink while riding, so the fun never stops. As Marcum says, “You can drink flights of beer all day and you’re going to feel pretty good. But my tours also give you the insider scoop.”
Marcum continues to establish good relationships with local brewers and business owners and is doing his part to attract more tourism to the Willamette Valley, especially Salem. “Part of my whole business model was to make it a destination,” he says. He also enjoys delivering a great experience to his guests. “It’s all about connecting with people and sharing the love of beer!”
Ale Ways Brewery Tours
Owner/Operator: Bobby Marcum
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