By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Belmont Station, Portland’s original bottle shop and beer bar, is hitting the ripe old age of 20. They’re celebrating with a 20/20 theme — 20 days of events for 20 years.
The party gets underway on Saturday, April 1 at the Horse Brass, where Belmont Station got its start in 1997. The Brass will have a collection of special beers on tap when it opens at 11 a.m. Some of those beers will have been made with help from Belmont Station staff.
At 1 p.m., guests will march up Southeast 45th Avenue to the current home of Belmont Station, where they will feature several bottle releases and more special beers on tap. The parade will include noisemakers, bubbles, signage and typical parade fare — though no floats.
“Twenty years is a nice milestone,” said Lisa Morrison, majority owner of Belmont Station. “Besides being a celebration for patrons, we’re honoring the contributions of people who made and continue to make Belmont Station what it is today. People like Joy Campbell, Don Younger and Carl Singmaster, not to mention our awesome staff, past and present.”
Another featured event, mini-Puckerfest, is set for April 7-9. They’ll be pouring at least eight sour beers at all times during the weekend. A number of special beers from well-known breweries will be released, including one from de Garde Brewing called, “The Station.”
“As part of Mini-Puckerfest, we’ll be doing another Battle of the Blends competition,” Morrison said. “Two teams made up of Belmont staff produced blends with Cascade Brewing. Patrons will vote on their favorite for the insufferable bragging rights.”
The weekend of April 14-16 will feature Bigger, Badder, Blacker drafts, featuring a Deschutes night with an Abyss variant, Black Butte 25-28 and a vintage bottle sale, plus other offerings through the weekend from Ninkasi, Fort George and more.
On Monday, April 17, the Besties celebration will bring together the folks behind the recent Oregon Beer Awards Small, Medium and Large Breweries of the Year: Baerlic Brewing Company, The Commons and Breakside Brewery.
Next up is the annual Samuel Smith's Salute on Tuesday, April 18. Tom Bowers of Merchant du Vin will showcase the iconic brewery and its place in modern craft beer culture. There will be bottles pouring at the bar and Bowers will lead the annual salute during the course of the evening.
The party finishes up on April 20, with Lagunitas tapping The Waldos’ Special Ale at 4:19 p.m. (so it can be in your glass at 4:20 p.m.). Sixpoint will contribute their Puff to the party (including Puff rolling papers) and Laurelwood will have a special 4/20-themed IPA.
Old-timers will recall that Belmont Station was the only place of its kind when it opened next to the Horse Brass. Campbell and Younger launched the small store because Horse Brass patrons were asking to purchase imported beers and other specialty items.
“We were just slightly more than an afterthought next to the Horse Brass,” said Chris Ormand, who spent a decade at Belmont before joining General Distributors last year. “We sold novelties, specialty food and offbeat videos, most of it imported from the U.K. And beer.”
The place stocked some 400 bottles in those days. It’s hard to fathom given present circumstances, but each bottle was displayed with a price tag. The actual beer was stored in walk-in coolers. Customers would make a list of what they wanted and give it to the clerk, who would round up the beers.
The beer selection has exploded, obviously. Modern Belmont Station carries some 1,500 beers, ciders and meads in bottles and cans, and also features 23 rotating taps pouring some of the best beer in the city. It’s a Cheers bar for many locals, as well as a destination for tourists.
“There truly was nothing like Belmont Station when Joy and Don launched it 20 years ago,” Morrison said. “It was a big deal when my business partner, Carl Singmaster, joined as co-owner, moved it to the current location and added the beer bar.”
Belmont Station is generally regarded as Portland’s premier bottleshop and beer bar. They were again recognized at the Oregon Beer Awards for just that: Best Beer Bar and Bottle Shop. But Morrison refuses to brag.
“I guess we are looked at as setting the standard for what a bottle shop and beer bar should be,” she said. “That’s something we strive for. I like to think we’re respected for our knowledgeable service, our friendly and cozy atmosphere and the fact that we've been consistent through the years.”
Stay tuned for information on next year’s big bash, when Belmont Station reaches drinking age.
Note: Many of the events happening during the 20/20 festival were still being finalized as this story went to press. Check the Belmont Station website for updated details.
4500 SE Stark St., Portland
By Dan Haag
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Walking into Public Coast Brewing in Cannon Beach immediately gives you the sense that you are sharing another persons' labor of love: gleaming new brew tanks, handwritten tap lists, warm, inviting seating areas, and large windows that invite onlookers to watch the brewing process. Above it all, taking up most of one wall reads: “Beaches Forever, Beer For Everyone.”
It's a statement, a motto, a rule for the beer revolution unfolding on the Oregon Coast. Located at 234 E. Third Street – the site of former Cannon Beach eatery and watering hole The Lumberyard – Public Coast was the longtime dream of owner Ryan Snyder. Snyder, president of Martin Hospitality, purchased The Lumberyard in 2004 with the goal of one day turning it into a thriving, convivial brewery.
“It was my dream all along,” he says. Though that dream had to be put on hold several times over the ensuing decade, Snyder's patience has paid off: Public Coast welcomed its first customers the first week of June, turning an idea into the physical hustle and bustle inside one of the Oregon Coast's newest breweries. That's not to say the transition from daydream to reality wasn't without its complications. Delays in the federal approval process pushed the proposed February opening to June.
“Never in a million years would I have planned on opening a new restaurant in June,” Snyder says. “But at the end of the day, we're ready to make a product that stands out in the crowd.”
Snyder is no neophyte to the ins and outs of the brewing industry; his experience dates back to the early ‘90s with Big Dogs Brewing Company in Las Vegas. Snyder says his vision for Public Coast is the pairing of the freshest possible ingredients for both food and beer, a destination where both things combine to create a story.
“It's not just a 'beer place' or a 'burger place,'” he says. “We want both to be the story. Not one or the other, but how did it all work together."
To capture the best of both those worlds, Snyder brought his longtime head chef Will Leroux on board as head brewer. While it may seem like a giant, uncharted leap to make from the dining room to the brewing room, Snyder says Leroux was the first and only name that came to his mind as Public Coast began to take shape. Utilizing his contacts at Big Dogs, Snyder sent Leroux to Las Vegas for a month-long tutorial on brewing. Leroux returned and hit the ground running, using his experience as a chef to get the balance in Public Coast's beers just right.
“Brewing is not unlike baking; both involve a certain amount of science,” Leroux says. Snyder adds that Leroux's culinary touch is the perfect fit for what he's hoping to achieve. “What's really cool is that Will has created this great balance, which you would expect from a guy who is so methodical in his processes. He's the ultimate craftsman”
Public Coast boasts five tanks and all of their beers are brewed onsite. Additionally, every Friday the brewery taps a limited-edition keg. Recent offerings have included Jalapeno Bitter Pale Ale, Bumble Berry Blonde and Dried Cherry Stout. Playing with flavors has allowed Snyder and Leroux to find some happy mediums for patrons.
“The Bitter Pale, for example, has a pale ale finish that has a bittering on the palate like an IPA,” Snyder says. The response from people who normally don't care for IPAs has been overwhelmingly positive. For younger palates, there are non-alcohol beverages, including house-made root beer. Snyder also took care to provide 10 guest taps, in order to show some love to all of the breweries that supported his undertaking.
The food menu has been simplified in order to place focus on quality and offers three core items: burgers, fish tacos, and halibut and salmon fish and chips. There are also gluten-free options – all locally sourced. Additionally, Public Coast stands ready for the dark coastal days of Oregon Coast power outages with a complete power generation system. “In the event of a power outage, this place is set to be a refuge, a place where people can gather. Food and beer will always be ready,” Snyder says, adding that making the community feel welcome was an extremely important element of the new undertaking.
Keeping that sense of coastal community at the forefront is reflected in the brewery's name. Public Coast is a nod to the landmark 1967 Beach Bill, signed into law by Gov. Tom McCall, which forever kept Oregon beaches free and public. Being just a few blocks from the beach only helps enforce that notion. Looking ahead, Snyder has plans for a tasting room, a barrel-aging room and regular live music. In the here and now, however, Snyder couldn't be happier with how Public Coast is unfolding. “We want to serve the absolute highest quality,” he says. “We're following up on a dream.”
Public Coast Brewing
[a] 264 E. Third St., Cannon Beach
In April 2015, conservation group Oregon Wild announced the formation of The Oregon Brewshed® Alliance. The coalition of breweries and more advocates for the protection of forests and watersheds. Featured here, left to right, are Christian Ettinger of Hopworks, Colin Rath, co-founder of Migration and member of Oregon Wild’s Board of Directors, Julia Person, sustainability manager at Widmer, and Marielle Cowdin, outreach and marketing coordinator from Oregon Wild. Photo by Emma Browne
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Brewers know that great beer begins with clean water. Oregon craft beer is especially connected to the Northwest’s land and waterways, and that’s why in April 2015, conservation group Oregon Wild announced the formation of The Oregon Brewshed® Alliance. The coalition of breweries, other craft beer organizations and conservationists advocates for the protection of forests and watersheds.
Launching with eight partners from the craft beer industry, in less than a year there are now 21 partners, including 7 Devils Brewing Co. in Coos Bay, C-BIG (Craft Beverage Industry Group), Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Fort George Brewery in Astoria, GoodLife Brewing in Bend, the brewpub chain McMenamins, Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland and multiple other breweries in Eugene and Portland.
“Conservationists and breweries joining forces for clean water might be a bit unconventional, but the partnership is really a natural fit,” says Marielle Cowdin, outreach and marketing coordinator for Oregon Wild. “Keeping our drinking watersheds clean and protected is essential for living. And it’s just as essential for keeping our craft brewing industry, something that has so defined our state’s culture, alive and thriving.”
Brewshed® partners and Oregon Wild also realized they had an opportunity to help the public understand the importance of clean water for brewing. “Many craft beer drinkers don't realize how significant water is for the process,” says Cowdin. “Two-thirds of Oregonians get their tap water from our state's lakes, streams and rivers. Since water is a product of the land that it flows through, our cleanest and best-tasting water flows through unspoiled public forest lands, with healthy forests acting as a natural filtration systems.”
Oregon Wild (formerly the Oregon Natural Resources Council or ONRC) began in 1974. Their conservation efforts have protected 1.7 million acres of wilderness, 95,000 acres of forests, and 1,800 miles of water protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The foundation of the Brewshed® was laid in 2009 when Oregon Wild partnered with Widmer Brothers Brewing to protect Portland's Bull Run Watershed. “The partnership sparked plans for a larger initiative, given the intimate connection between Oregon's thriving craft brewing scene and our public wildlands.”
Partners collaborate on various outreach events, such as pint nights, happy hours, special brews, Brewshed® hikes and fundraisers that support Oregon Wild's forest and watershed conservation work. Eugene’s Claim 52 Brewing considers conservation efforts a priority and works with various nonprofits on environmental stewardship. “From inception, Claim 52 has been proud to credit the McKenzie River for the flavor profile of our signature beer, the kolsch,” says co-founder/owner Mercy McDonald. “The river that runs in our backyard is vital and needs our care and protection to keep it pure. All of us have a role and stake in that outcome.”
Claim 52 hosts events for Oregon Wild throughout the year and contributes to raffles to help with fundraising. Last year, Claim 52 also bottled a specialty beer, Scrivener’s Sour, and donated a portion of the proceeds to Oregon Wild. McMenamins provides similar support. This year, while celebrating the 30th anniversary of Hammerhead, McMenamins donated $1 for every pint of the pale ale sold in Oregon Jan. 30-31. The brewpub chain is also donating event space for the Brewshed® Brewfest, which is set to take place Wednesday, May 18 at the Kennedy School in Portland. The inaugural event will feature beers from Brewshed® partners and guests can vote for their favorite beers.
“The amazing beers our Brewshed® partners will be pouring will showcase Oregon water, but we'll be incorporating information about Oregon watersheds and water conservation into our program for the evening, with speakers from Oregon Wild and other Alliance members,” explains Cowdin. “Fest attendees will get to know about watersheds beyond Portland and get to taste beer from across the state. Overall, this first annual Oregon Brewshed® Brewfest will be a celebration of Oregon beer and the Oregon water that helps it stand apart.”
In 2015, partners held 12 events to raise awareness and support, including an Earth Day fundraiser, a Community Tap Month, a hike along the Salmon River and an environmental speaker series. Events in 2016 have included a fundraising campaign called Weekend for Water in partnership with the Oregon Environmental Council, Base Camp Brewing Company’s Collabofest presented by #PDXNOW, and February’s KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene, where the Alliance sponsored the water stations.
“Moving forward, we hope to continue growth with new partner breweries and others in the brewing community that care about clean water across the state,” says Cowdin. “As the Oregon Brewshed® Alliance builds new partnerships, our voice for Oregon watersheds becomes stronger, and eventually, the Alliance could be seen as a model for craft brewing and water conservation nationwide.”
For brewers such as Mercy McDonald, the need for partnership is simple. “Clean water is often taken for granted, and that’s where quality beer starts.”
Oregon Brewshed® Alliance
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Ron Gansberg (right), brewmaster for Cascade Brewing Barrel House, says the biggest challenge when creating spiced beer is having enough time to spend with the spice in raw form to obtain the most complete understanding of how to use each one. Kevin Martin, lead blender, agrees that time is a huge ingredient. Photo by Emma Browne
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The holidays wouldn't be the same without spices — they infuse the air with warm, welcoming aromas and contribute distinct flavors to food and drink — bringing to mind memories of gatherings filled with family, friends and cheer.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House, led by Ron Gansberg, is a brewery that fully embraces the use of spices in their beers. While they offer spice beers year-round, many people tend to associate fall with the flavorful variety as we begin to turn to seasonal food that works well with spices, like pumpkins and apples, which are also in abundance. One of many spiced beers Cascade turns out is called Pumpkin Smash, which is made with local, organic Cinderella pumpkins from Sauvie Island that are then roasted in-house. The Northwest-style sour ale is barrel aged for 11 months and still highly drinkable at 11.4 percent ABV due to a combination of spices that bring to mind pumpkin pie.
The use of spices is not new, having been a mainstay in beer making since the beginning, but in recent history their presence has been overshadowed by other ingredients — primarily hops. Ron’s work continues to buck that trend and it’s an ongoing project to master Cascade’s spiced beer game. When asked what the biggest challenge is when creating spiced beer, his answer was having enough time to spend with the spice in raw form to obtain the most complete understanding of how and when to use each one. Some spices are more stable than others, retaining consistency throughout the life of the beer; others might be more prominent early on only to eventually fade, quickly or slowly, as the beer matures. That factor is particularly important at Cascade since so many of their beers spend time aging in barrels. Kevin Martin, lead blender at Cascade, explains that when making spiced beer, it must be understood that "time is a huge ingredient."
Just as hops can be added during the boil, during aging or even right before serving by using a Randall, spices may also be introduced at different points throughout the beer-making process. Cascade's spice regimen includes kettle spicing, barrel spicing and spicing at blending, all of which have been developed over time with the help of detailed notes that track how the spices are expressed in the beer. The careful note taking allows Cascade to refine its processes.
Kettle spicing happens during brewing and builds a good base layer of flavor. When added at this point, the flavors have the opportunity to not only be more integrated, but they may also be transformed at the molecular level during fermentation. Barrel spicing doesn't provide the level of integration that kettle spicing does, but just as an application of salt and pepper enhances a dish before it’s served, adding the element as the beer ages is an important step in creating the final product. Both methods are important, each providing their own flavor contribution to the beer. Then comes the "eleventh hour correction," or spicing at blending. This is the blender's last hurrah with the beer in an effort to make it the perfect concoction.
Vlad the Imp Aler, a sour ale that is a blend of blonde quads, tripels and blondes that have been aged more than 18 months in bourbon and wine barrels, was the first spiced beer that Ron made at Cascade. When asked why he first decided to make a spiced beer, Ron said it was because he felt that the spicing complemented where the beer was going and also helped define and frame the brew. As for the how — his process and way of doing things — that’s something he’s intentionally developed through trial and error without turning to other breweries’ methods as a model. While one might think it would be useful to learn from what others are doing, his view is that if he learned other breweries' processes, essentially he'd just be making their beers instead of making his own. That's a pretty enlightened view, even if it has meant that he's had to work harder to figure it out on his own rather than learning from others.
Ron’s independence isn’t the only element that makes Cascade’s beers so unique. The brewery’s extensive blending program also sets it apart. Vlad the Imp Aler is a prime example, drawing from multiple styles and likely multiple vintages each time it's created. And blending is not for the faint of heart. While with brewing you can experiment with test batches, blending cannot feasibly be done small-scale. As Ron explained it, blending is something he’s just had to go forward with despite any fear of the outcome. Were he to have proceeded with caution, giving into uncertainty and concern, Cascade would be light-years behind where they are today. Thankfully, Ron forged ahead.
One of his newest creations is Mulled Apple Sour. Just as Pumpkin Smash was made with spices you’d associate with pumpkin pie, this beer is reminiscent of freshly baked apple pie due to the spices, vanilla and honey. Presented for the first time this year, as the chill was just starting to creep into the air, it's a strong opening act to Glueh Kriek. Cradling the glass of warm liquid is as comforting as being handed a plate of fresh-from-the-oven pie that was almost cut too soon, allowing the warm goodness to ooze out.
Glueh Kriek, a mulled beer some may have enjoyed last year, is both sweeter and more acidic than the Mulled Apple Sour, with an intense cherry flavor and undeniable presence of cinnamon and clove. Deep red in color, served with a clove-spiked orange slice, breathing in its aroma is like breathing in the best of the holidays. It’s a beer that fully embodies the depth and breadth of Cascade’s spicing and blending program.
So what's next for Cascade? There's no clear answer, but Ron is continually bringing in new spices and experimenting with them to determine which express themselves well and which do not. Those in the former group will get further attention to figure out how and when to apply each spice to bring them to their fullest potential. Then there are some that fall in between, such as cardamom, which are much more challenging to apply. Not one to shy away from the challenge, it's more a matter of when, not if, Ron will unlock the key to using it. Whatever the result, it's sure to be a unique creation — the result of the dedication to the craft of brewing, spicing and blending that Cascade is known for.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House
[a] 939 SE Belmont St., Portland
Capitol Farms may be a modest-sized hop farm compared to other local growers, but the multigenerational family operation has deep roots and devoted workers. Some of the hop harvesters pictured here, Jorge Hernandez (foreground), Sergio Bravo (left) and Fidel Sosa, put in long hours when the cones are ready to come off the bines. Photo by Emma Browne
By Erica Tiffany-Brown
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
When you ask hop grower Mike Kerr about his favorite variety of hop, he’ll tell you it’s the Nugget.
“It’s just an absolutely outstanding hop to grow. It’s vigorous; it’s adaptive, if you will. It can adapt to hot growing seasons, cold growing seasons. It’s just a wonderful hop.”
Just like how the Nugget hop can adapt to whatever Mother Nature throws its way, Mike and his brother Andy have also had to learn how to become resilient.
At 160 acres, their Salem-area hop farm is quite humble compared to most local growers, but that hasn’t stopped Capitol Farms from having a full-scale amount of setbacks.
It was late summer 2013 when an aggressive thunderstorm made its invasion onto the farm, threatening the hard work the brothers and their crew had put so much time and effort into.
“We could watch it coming in on the radar and it was just horrible to watch. And it came and it knocked down 95 acres of Nugget hops. They were within just days of being harvested,” Mike said.
“At that point, you’re really faced with some challenges. You have your harvest window based on a 24-hour picking cycle and you immediately lose 12 hours because you can’t harvest at night because you have to bring in this complex machinery to help raise the trellis so that you can pick the hops. Then, you’re also faced with about a seven-day window before the hops start turning bad that are lying on the ground. So at that point, we didn’t think we’d be able to get through 50 percent of what was left. In fact, we knew we wouldn’t be able to.
“So, you’re out there walking through these fields that are just devastated … crop poles are looking like matchsticks … I mean it’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in your life. And you’re looking at it going, ‘There’s just no way in hell.’”
And that’s when the Davidsons showed up.
A multigenerational family of hop growers about 20 miles north of Capitol Farms, the Davidsons had just finished harvesting their hops the day before and had sent their team home, but when they heard what had happened to the Kerrs, they called within hours to say, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll be there.”
All of a sudden, truckloads of equipment started coming in.
“Not only did they spend a week harvesting our hops side by side with us, but it wasn’t just a matter of sending their crew out to pick hops … I mean those guys were out in the field treating it like it was their own.”
Where does that desire to lend a hand come from? According to Mike, it comes from a family with a great sense of responsibility.
Jim Davidson, who passed away many years ago, held a monthly breakfast as a means to get other hop growers together and just chat, which helped foster a sense of camaraderie in the business that still lives on.
“The Davidson family was just remarkable; they literally saved our crop,” Mike said. “And I think you would find that anywhere in the industry today. People will really pitch in and help each other.”
Whether by blood relation or not, hop growing definitely seems to be rooted in a family environment.
Capitol Farms was started by Mike and Andy’s grandfather in 1951. He had grown hops in the St. Paul area and was the local buyer for S. S. Steiner, which is still a very prominent hop dealer today — located just down the road from the farm. His son, Mike and Andy’s father, came back after a stint in the Air Force and he farmed for a while before opening a computer store in 1980. Shortly thereafter, Mike ended up leaving Oregon State University to come back and help out with the farm, which ultimately led to the brothers purchasing the farm from their parents.
Mike and Andy made the decision a long time ago to diversify the farm, so they added a perennial nursery. “It’s a nice balance, it creates more work for our labor force year-round, which we feel is important,” but, Mike emphasizes, “Hops are our history, they’re our blood. Can’t imagine doing anything else.”
The brothers grow four varieties of hops on their farm: Nugget, Willamette, Centennial and Cascade. When asked about his favorite part of the growing process, Mike said it’s the springtime. “It’s the season of renewal. You start turning the earth and it just smells wonderful. It’s almost miraculous to watch the growth rate in the spring. Everything’s fresh, everything’s new.”
Mike, of course, enjoys the other times of the year, like the harvest season, but says, “It’s so go-go-go that you really rarely get a moment to pause to appreciate and enjoy it. You have to remind yourself to stop and enjoy those moments during that time because it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the rush.”
Although the Kerrs have weathered their share of storms, it sounds like they’ve found their balance. And just like those resilient Nugget hops, they’ll continue to adapt and grow with some helping hands and a good foundation.
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