By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The idea seems as obvious as Mount Hood on a clear, spring day: Beer, bicycles and tours celebrating both.
But the obvious sometimes takes time to get rolling. In this case, it took a trip to Belgium seven years ago by an IT guy looking to reboot his work life.
It’s a sunny Memorial Day in Hood River. As a light breeze comes off the Columbia River, Claire Cohan is setting up bottles of beer and the makings for sandwiches on picnic tables in Port Marina Park. Soon, a group of riders with tour company Beercycling will arrive and devour the spread.
Claire says this tour began in Portland, where the group met and test rode bikes rented from The Bike Concierge in Oregon City. “We stayed at the Jupiter Hotel, and from there we rode across the Tilikum and Steel bridges to get warmed up. That was the first day. Then we got a tour at Hair of the Dog, which, of course, is amazing.”
During the five-day tour, riders pedal 20-32 miles per day. The route from Portland east to Hood River is mostly flat with the 900-foot climb to Vista House overlooking the Columbia River Gorge being the most breathtaking — both in terms of the view and the oxygen-sucking effort.
On day two, the group rides to Troutdale where they’ll spend the night at McMenamins Edgefield. Day three has the big climb and a stop at Thunder Island Brewing Co. in Cascade Locks. On day four, the group pedals the finished part of the Historic Columbia River Highway, then loads into a van to hop the gap along the unfinished section. A picnic lunch in Hood River is followed by visits to Full Sail Brewing Company and pFriem Family Brewers.
As Claire is running down the itinerary, 12 riders and Evan Cohan coast into the park; the riders are quickly off their bikes and moving toward the beer and food.
Evan comes over for the interview. But he first asks, “Can I have a beer while I answer questions? I’ll answer better that way.”
So, why did Beercycling start in Europe? Taking a sip from a special, non-breakable tasting glass Evan explains, “I’d been there once with friends. Flanders has a dedicated bike infrastructure that goes that entire part of the country and into Holland. You can get between points pretty much traffic free. The whole country is the size of Maryland, and when you focus on a couple of provinces you can really get anywhere really quickly.”
Evan likes beer, likes cycling, but what he wasn’t so happy with back then was his job. “I was having my, kind of, ‘I’m-done-with-my-day-job crisis’ in my mid-20s. Earlier than most. I thought, ‘What would the dream job be?’”
He found the answer on the road through Flanders. “It was a magical trip when you get into Belgian beer and you hear the stories about the Trappist monasteries. We just went for fun on a spontaneous trip, but I learned a lot.”
And he wanted to share what he learned — not as some sort of elaborate pub crawl, but as a lesson about the cultures surrounding beer. “You go along these canals and through farms, and it was amazing. And we got a couple of tours there. The Flemish people are really generous. And I thought this would be the ideal place for a bike tour. It has all the ingredients for logistics to make it happen safely. It would be like doing bike tours in Belgium visiting breweries.”
Stan Bashaw came from North Carolina for the debut Oregon tour. With a beer in one hand and a sizable sandwich in the other, he says he’s participated in a Beercycling event before. “I happened to see a Facebook post Evan put up about Beercycling and from day one I said, ‘Someday I’m doing that.’”
Stan then convinced friends to go with him. “We had the best time. Cycling in Belgium, the Belgians are used to bikes being everywhere. At least back in North Carolina, folks are used to bikes being annoyances. It’s been really great here [Oregon].”
The Beercycling European tours include mini-seminars on brewing, rides through hop fields and visits to ancient breweries. But Stan has one particularly fond memory: “The part of the tour that is really appealing in Belgium is all the food. Oh my gosh, we had such great food. The picnics we had alongside a bike path, Belgian bread — fresh made that day. Oh my God, it is just amazing.”
The food was especially welcome when “we biked out to the North Sea on a really cold day. I think that was really one of our favorite days. We were cold. We were wet. We found a coffee shop because we were so cold. We got warmed up, then rode past World War II artillery fortifications that go on for miles. We had a 20-knot wind behind us, and we barely had to pedal.”
Bashaw and his friends liked Oregon’s attitude toward cyclists but are anxious to do another European tour next year.
It took Evan and Claire about two years to work out the Oregon tour logistics, but they’ll hold three this year and perhaps more next year.
In Europe, Beercycling has grown to six tours: three in Flanders in northern Belgium, one in the Ardennes in southeastern Belgium, another around Milan in northwest Italy and a loop around Amsterdam in Holland.
The tours run from five to ten days with prices ranging from $1,475 in Oregon to $2,850 for one of the Flanders tours. Visit beercycling.com for dates, itineraries and bios of the guides.
By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Portland Beer Week returns for 2017, its seventh year, with a calendar packed full of events, as well as some new twists. It runs Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 18.
This year’s official beer is Hop Berry IPA, brewed with marionberries by Culmination Brewing. It will be available on draft and in limited-edition bottles at Whole Foods Markets and other beer-centric retailers in the Portland area.
Although beer is the main focus, Portland Beer Week extends that theme. It features a variety of activities that happen alongside opportunities to enjoy great beer. The event is effectively a celebration of Portland’s beer, food and arts culture rolled into one.
“Our goal is to showcase the world of beer in the greatest beer city on earth,” said Ezra Johnson-Greenough, Portland Beer Week founder. "We do that through brewer’s dinners, tastings, educational seminars, festivals, games and more.”
One of the big additions this year is an indoor Marketplace at the Kickoff Party, Thursday, June 8. Beer-related merchandise will be available for purchase along with free food and drink samples. The party will be split across two separate levels: the Exchange Ballroom and the Cascade Rooftop, which features spectacular views of the city.
“I’m really excited that folks like the Oregon Cheese Guild are joining us and our collaborative beer and food project vendors like Salt & Straw ice cream and Blue Star Donuts,”
Johnson-Greenough said. “Kickoff attendees can sample spirits, chocolate, jerky, hop candy. We’ll have beer schwag, too.”
Another addition this year is the Dinner Series, which features a handful of collaborations between top local breweries and chefs. Organizers have built the schedule to avoid piling up dinners on the same date.
“I’m looking forward to Firestone Walker at Hair of the Dog, Culmination Brewing at The Woodsman, Block 15 and Ruse at an Imperial Session pop-up dinner and Modern Times at Pizza Jerk,” Johnson-Greenough said.
Returning this year is the Seminar Series, presented by Oregon State University and the HR Group. Several forums will explore subjects like beer industry branding, starting and building a brewery from nano to production, sustainability in brewing, barrel-aging beers and the making of sour and wild ales.
The beer event schedule jumps into action shortly after the Kickoff Party with the Fruit Beer Festival at Burnside Brewing, Friday, June 9 through Sunday, June 11. Billed as the premier showcase for brews spiked with fruit, the all-age event also features local vendors, food, DJs and non-alcoholic drinks.
“We’ve moved back to Burnside after last year’s experiment in the Park Blocks,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re spreading the beer stations out and the venue will have more shade and seating than in previous years at Burnside. We’ll also have more help at check in to speed entry.”
Next up is Masters of IPA, an invitational event highlighting 14 of America's best brewers of the hopped-up style. It moves to a larger venue, Ecliptic Brewing, and includes collectable glassware and meet-the-brewers sessions on Friday, June 16.
The Rye Beer Fest, in its sixth year, returns with a new date and venue: the Happy Valley Station indoor/outdoor food cart pod and taproom on Saturday, June 17. The all-age event will feature more than 20 beers and 18 food carts.
Portland Beer Week’s official finale, Snackdown, is back for a second year on Sunday, June 18. Presented by Gigantic Brewing and taking place in The Evergreen event space above Loyal Legion, it offers more brewer and chef pairings.
“It’s going to be another great year for Portland Beer Week,” Johnson-Greenough said. “We’re reaching out to tourists and casual beer fans in our marketing efforts and it seems like we’re getting more of those folks. Attendance has been increasing every year and I’m confident it will again.”
Follow Portland Beer Week’s social media channels for updated news and information. Advance tickets for most events are available online.
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
I am secure enough in myself to admit I used to watch this show on Bravo called “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” In said show, the matchmaker, Patti Stanger, tells the couples they need to follow a two-drink maximum rule on their dates. While that’s probably a good idea in theory, I believe rules were made to be broken. I also believe there are far too many delicious Oregon beers out there to limit yourself to only sharing two with your significant other.
But before we get into what beer you’ll be drinking on your date, there is one important question to answer: Do you go out or do you stay in? Fortunately for you, I’ve provided options for both!
— If you’re feeling extra indulgent, pamper yourselves with a romantic trip to Bend’s Anjou Spa. For over a year now, Anjou has collaborated with GoodLife Brewing for a special “Spa Hoppiness” menu of services. It turns out the ingredients in beer are actually really beneficial for your skin. Your taste buds will take pleasure in the experience as well with some complimentary draft beer. Treat yourselves to the Ale-ing Foot Remedy, Brew & Renew Body Polish or the Stout Scalp Treatment. Or spoil yourselves to all three treatments and you’ll receive a beer-infused natural LeCol soap to keep the fun going back at home. Good luck keeping your hands off one another!
— For a fun night out, OMSI After Dark’s 21-and-over monthly event lets adults channel their nerdy side. This month, the museum will feature two events — OMSI After Dark: Gaming on Feb. 24 and OMSI After Dark: Sex & Love on Feb. 13. Formal wear is encouraged at the latter event, so it’s a good excuse to get dressed up. According to OMSI, be prepared to “get down and dirty as we explore the science of attraction.” Rumor has it Rogue will be on hand selling their beers.
Pro Tip: Stop at nearby Hair of the Dog Brewing before the event to get a little warmed up for all the dirty talk.
A night in can be very underrated when it comes to dating. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to be boring — get creative! But if you’re not the imaginative type, don’t worry; I’ve done the hard work for you. First, let’s focus on what beer you should have on hand. This is one third wheel you’ll actually want tagging along with you!
Depending on your current relationship status, there’s an Oregon beer for that.
My recommendations are as follows:
— Crux Tough Love [Banished] 2015 (11.5% ABV, 70 IBUs): a barrel-aged imperial stout that has been “banished” for nine months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. According to Crux, “Tough Love is big, but smooth with tender strokes of vanilla.”
— Alameda Love Squirts (6% ABV): a chocolate strawberry stout. Too lazy to make your own chocolate-covered strawberries from scratch? Never fear, beer is here! And a hilariously named one at that. They say laughter is carbonated love, right?
— Ex Novo Friends With Benefits (10% ABV, 23 IBUs): a peated scotch ale aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. If you consider yourselves a little more than just FWB, try the brewery’s Dynamic Duo IIPA (8% ABV, 70 IBUs) instead. Or, if you’re happy to be flying solo this year, you’ll get a kick out of their Psycho Ex Triple IPA (10.5% ABV, 92 IBUs).
Runners-Up: Upright Brewing Oyster Stout (6.25% ABV) a British-style stout brewed with both oyster liquor and whole oysters (an aphrodisiac!), Mazama White Wedding IPA (5.2% ABV, 55 IBUs) a marriage of Belgian wit and Northwest IPA — proof that opposites can attract — and Southern Oregon Brewing Black Heart (8.5% ABV) an imperial stout with chocolaty malt aromas, “Black Heart is full of body and not for the faint of heart.”
Now that we have the most important part of the evening figured out, let’s move on to the actual date ideas to go along with the drinks!
— When two people love each other very much, they get together and make … a beer! Even if you two have never brewed a batch before, Rogue makes it a little bit easier by allowing you to produce clones of their popular beers with homebrew kits you can buy online — just add yeast. I recommend the Shakespeare Stout, and not just because of the writer’s inspiring romantic poetry — his plays are also full of allusions to his love of ale.
— Cook with beer. You can even put it in the food! Collaborate together and make a unique beer-themed meal. Check out our Brew Bites column online for inspiration, like a beer-brined rack of lamb with mint pesto for dinner and some Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis Stout ding dongs for dessert. Or, considering you were too lazy to even make the aforementioned chocolate-covered strawberries, you could get extra cheesy and order a heart-shaped pie from Pizza Hut (see what I did there?).
— If you prefer to compete rather than collaborate, this idea is for you. After ordering a pizza, crack open your bottles and battle one another in a board game made for beer lovers. Beer Smarts Game 2.0 is an “intoxicating question and answer game for beer lovers everywhere.” The game includes a scorepad so you can make sure the loser does whatever the winner desires. Another fun game is Brew-opoly, which is very similar to Monopoly, although you purchase brews and taphouses instead of houses and hotels. There are fun twists, where you might have to put on beer goggles and kiss your neighbor or stand and sing “99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall.” The game even features some beloved Oregon breweries like Full Sail and Deschutes.
Whether you go out or stay in this Valentine’s Day, there’s no excuse to not invite Oregon beer along for your date. But beware of imbibing too far beyond the two-beer maximum, as it was in Macbeth that Shakespeare wrote, “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
For most of us, collecting beer simply means there’s a can or bottle in the back of our fridge we forgot about. Not the case, though, for the few dozen folks who lined up on a sunny September day outside the Portland Art Museum for a panel discussion on cult and collectible beers. Yep, a beer lecture, at an art museum — holy Manet!*
Held in a canopied space between two museum buildings, the “I’m in a Cult” drink and learn event was part of Feast Portland. A five-person panel did the educating and included three writers from the magazines Imbibe and Bon Appetit; Portland-based co-author of “Hop in The Saddle” Lucy Burningham; and Sarah Pederson, owner of Portland’s Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern.
Before the quintet pulled up their chairs and microphones, a squad of servers poured specially selected beers into wine glasses at each audience member’s seat. For our tasting pleasure:
To Øl Sur Citra, dry-hopped American wild ale (Denmark)
Crooked Stave Surette, wood-aged farmhouse ale (Colorado)
St. Bernardus Abt 12, quadrupel (Belgium)
Deschutes The Abyss, imperial stout aged in oak pinot noir barrels (Oregon)
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels (Illinois)
The richness of these beers had us licking our lips wanting more and asking the obvious question — why does anyone pass up drinking a beer so they can store it in a dark, cool place?
To answer that question, I head to North Portland’s Humboldt neighborhood, which is a cultural world away from the Portland Art Museum. There, art tends more toward graffiti, neon signs and music club flyers. I’m sitting at a table in Saraveza on North Killingsworth Street. Owner Sarah Pederson said, “the beer has to be good enough.” She continued to explain why people collect first and drink later: “People who really decide if it is going to be cultish or highly collectible are those people who are buying it. Those people — their value, the value of the beer is how they talk about it.” She said they are the ones who create the cult-building buzz.
Tyler Auton, a chef at Pasty Tavern, has a 200 bottle beer collection. “I tend to find the beer I like ages well and a lot of stuff I like is in such small quantities you really have to collect it to get it.” Auton began collecting when, at 21, he met the bartender of a Bellingham, Wash. tavern. “He was giving me tastes of these really limited beers and then invited me to a beer tasting where everyone brings two bottles and everyone shares things you can’t normally find.”
Beer is a social drink and, Pederson said, being social is how to start collecting. “Go get in line. Find a place that’s doing something special. They have a dock sale and go get in line. Talk to everybody who’s doing it. The other thing I would do is join a reserve society. Certain breweries have these reserve societies.”
The Bruery in California, as an example, releases limited-edition beers through their reserve club. De Garde in Tillamook is having a fourth-quarter release Nov. 21. Or you can get on the mailing list for a brewery like Block 15 in Corvallis. You can also build contacts online. For example, Auton managed to get his hands on a Founders Brewing Canadian Breakfast Stout by reaching out to others. “They used bourbon barrels that once held maple syrup. The first year they only made a thousand bottles. I traded a few things and got a first-year batch of it. It wasn’t that good but it was fun to connect with people.”
Once you collect, you have to store what you cherish. “I store them underneath my house,” Auton continued. “I have a system that is normally around 55 to 65 degrees. It is ideal. I think some beers, some sours, are less temperamental with aging because they have all that wild yeast in them. But something like imperial stout I’ll be careful with and, like, the higher the alcohol the more comfortable I am in letting it sit for a while.”
As Pederson peels a chart defining “vintage bottles” from the glass front of the Saraveza retro coolers, she explained what you should collect: “The collectible ones, historically, are the big malty ones. The big beers, the hop profile should be mainly used for preservative. The ones that have been collectible in the past are real malt-heavy barleywines, imperial stouts. That’s what everyone was looking for when they began barrel aging them. Over the past couple of years in America, this was always going on in Belgium, the sour beers have gotten bigger. Those are the other beers you can age and hold onto for a long time. The alcohol has to be high enough in it. The alcohol helps preserve it.”
You should also collect at least three bottles of these beers: one to drink now, one to drink in about a year and one to hold for, however long you want. The flavors will change. “They develop, they mature. They get more stone fruit, more caramel or the acid can mellow out. Some of the sour parts can mellow out,” Pederson assured me.
Recently as I considered buying bottles for long storage, I remembered asking Pederson about her favorite collectible. “That was Hair of the Dog Fred. The first batch. I saved it for 13 days.”
She has beers she’s kept longer, but will do the same with those that she did with the Fred; share with friends when she opens them.
*Edouard Manet completed the painting “A Good Glass of Beer” in 1873.
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