By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On June 13, more than a dozen people, including brewers from Hopworks Urban Brewery, Lompoc Brewing, Ecliptic Brewing, and the High Street Homebrew Club, joined a guided walk through Forest Park to identify plants to use as beer ingredients. The brewers will each make a beer inspired by the walk, and the four creations will be revealed at a tapping event at Belmont Station on October 10.
The Springville Hill hike on a sun-drenched Saturday was part of a series of monthly hikes open to the public and coordinated by Beers Made By Walking in partnership with The Forest Park Conservancy.
The Conservancy's trails and restoration coordinator Cody Chambers led the relaxed 4-mile stroll on a historic trail — formerly used by market vendors from Portland's outlying areas to access the Willamette River — and the Wildwood Trail. Along the way Chambers stopped to point out many edible plants, from madrone berries to stinky Bob to oxalis.
“Forest Park Conservancy participates in the program to encourage people to explore nature through the lens of beer making,” Chambers said. “By educating folks in a fun way, we hope to inspire them to be stewards of Forest Park.”
Eric Steen, founder of Beers Made By Walking, provided additional information about historic uses of various plants in beer making.
Steen founded Beers Made By Walking in 2011 in Colorado Springs, Colo. where he taught place-based art at the University of Colorado. Initial inspiration struck him on the Yukon River, where the leader of a weeklong canoe trip described how various plants had been used as ingredients in cooking.
“Beers Made By Walking teaches appreciation for the landscape we live in,” Steen said. “Learning about the natural world around us also suggests the environment matters, which then translates into the beer itself.”
Steen has been connecting his passions for art, beer and nature in projects for many years. The highlights include underground pop-up pubs in New York, Michigan and Scotland and the Beer Inspired By Art event at the Portland Art Museum, where five breweries created beers inspired by 18th-century painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze's piece, “The Drunken Cobbler.”
In the four years of running the Beers Made By Walking program, Steen has worked with more than 45 breweries to create more than 55 unique beers that “give drinkers a sense of place.” This year walks take place in eight cities in five states, all along the West Coast, Colorado and North Carolina. “I've been approached by breweries from all over the country,” said Steen. He has now hired his first employee, a project manager in Denver, Colo. “The program can easily be replicated.”
Since March, Steen has worked as communications coordinator at Hopworks, whose brewers, following a hike last year, made the first beer in the world with salal berries, which lent their Berliner Weisse a pinkish hue.
Ecliptic Brewing's Jameson Morr had met Steen at “The Drunken Cobbler” event and jumped on board the hike without hesitation. Morr said he enjoyed getting outside the brewery and doing something new. “It was a great way to meet other brewers and kick around ideas for beer,” Morr said. “I usually don't pay attention to the landscape this much. I learned a ton.”
Like the other brewers, Morr is still in the planning stage for the beer he will make for the October 10 tapping event. “It will be awesome to see what others will come up with.”
Facing fewer logistical limitations than breweries, the members of the High Street Homebrew Club have already picked their ingredients. While Bizzy Gross was inspired to use goji berries in a Belgian ale, Heather Egizio, the club's unofficial coordinator, said members are now collaborating to brew three different ales using spruce tips, Northwest cedar tips and juniper. In late August, they will make the best recipe at a local brewery and contribute the result to the tapping event at Belmont Station, which will also raise funds for the Conservancy.
Will Hike for Beer
At the conclusion of the hike, the brewers gave away bottles and cans of seasonal beers from their respective breweries, helping to cap the outing in the most appropriate way: a cold one.
The next hike takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 22 and will host brewers from 10 Barrel, Hopworks and Widmer Brothers. Learn more and sign up at www.BeersMadeByWalking.com.
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