By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
At first glance, Eric Steen didn’t look like a teacher, an artist or a beer maker. It was a rainy early autumn day and Eric was shuffling past noisy customers in Hopworks Urban Brewery dressed, head-to-toe, in white, furry costume. At better than 6 feet tall, he makes a good mascot for the business’s Abominable Winter Ale.
After taking off the comic book-looking yeti head, he offered an explanation on the melding of his roles as teacher, artist and beer maker: “I very much think of beer as a form of art. I’m very interested in the idea that, from start to finish, beer is a social act.”
Several dozen blocks and a couple of traffic jams to the west of the HUB taproom, in the quiet of the Portland Art Museum, associate director of education and public programs Stephanie Parrish admires Steen. “Eric and I went through the collection of a thousand pieces of art and tried to understand where we had works. How much do we have of Eastern Oregon? How much of the Oregon Coast?”
Getting these two folks working together is how to stage a unique art show and beer tasting.
The full name of the Nov. 4 event is “Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon.” It’s the centerpiece of a larger, two-year exhibit called “Picturing Oregon.” (Who says museum-types don’t have a punny bone?)
Stephanie says the “Picturing” exhibition celebrates the museum’s 125th anniversary and includes about 60 of the more than 1,000 Oregon-themed works in its permanent collection. “It was a matter of sorting through all the paintings and photos and then finding those that we thought were kind of representative of the collection. We wanted to have earlier works, 19th century, to more contemporary works. Wanted to have women included. As many different options as we could uncover.”
When it came to the “Pitchering” centerpiece, Stephanie called in Eric. As an art teacher at the University of Colorado and creator of the Beers Made By Walking project, Eric sees community involvement as a key to good art and good beer. He took immediately to the idea of foraging through the museum’s collection. “The thing that excited me was that they have all this Oregon-based paintings and photography.”
And Stephanie wanted to portray the entire state in Pitchering Oregon. “Organized by the region: Coast, Southern Oregon, the Willamette Valley, Portland, Mount Hood and the Gorge. We’re sort of following Travel Oregon’s seven regions.”
Stephanie and Eric whittled down the Pitchering exhibit to 18 photos, paintings and etchings. They next offered those works to 16 breweries and 2 cideries for inspiration to create a beverage.
To help HUB create its beer, Eric chose a platinum print by Lily E. White. It’s a photograph of the Columbia Slough taken more than 100 years ago. Eric grabbed brewer Trever Bass and “We checked out parts of the slough, looking at invasive plants, what grows there naturally. It’s a very strange area. The brewer just chose a random selection of plants he found there. Then he decided to layer everything on top of each other, prettily, into the mash tun and then passed wort over the top of it as it went into the boil.”
The works in the exhibit come at you like photos from a magazine, an old newspaper or a family album. They are more than images. They represent our collective backstory. Lisa Allen, brewer at Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, chose a wood engraving of the 19th century block house at Fort Yamhill. A sixth-generation Oregonian and trained anthropologist, Lisa began by thinking about the people in the artwork: What kind of beer did they drink, did they make? Her brew is characterized by the use of oak-smoked wheat malt and rye malts. She kept the alcohol level at 5 percent and came away with a beer she says is heavy but refreshing with both smoky flavor and spiciness.
Larry Chase is head brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company in Ashland. His Pitchering Oregon piece is a 1911 oil painting by Frank DuMond. The “Sketch of Table Rock near Medford” is a landscape done on a bright, but cloudy, day. Larry made a table beer, a Berliner weisse, much like beers made in Belgium to be enjoyed by all members of a farm family. The beer will be golden in color to reflect the sunniness of the painting. Larry will serve the beer at the exhibit three ways: straight up and with two fruit or herbal syrups to cloud the beer, mimicking the clouds in the painting.
Pitchering includes a variety of scenes depicting the people and places of Oregon; some are very realistic, some romantic. But the starkest is an oil painting entitled “Harvest.” The huge work shows a sinister-looking raven flying over a clear-cut forest. The beer to go with this piece was made by Trevor and Linsey Rogers at De Garde Brewing in Tillamook. “Ferme et Foret” (Farm and Forest) features dried and fresh hops with spruce tips added to the blend. Are the painting and the beer things to be enjoyed simply … or is there a deeper meaning?
That’s the kind of question folks might get together and hash out over a couple of beers.
Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum 1219 SW Park Ave.
General Admission 1–6 p.m.; $25 general/$20 museum members
By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Some partnerships are meant to happen. That’s certainly the case with Hopworks Urban Brewery and Patagonia Provisions, the result of which is Long Root Ale.
Released in October 2016, Long Root Ale is a Northwest-style pale ale that incorporates organic hops and barley alongside the perennial Kernza grain. The beer is named for the deep-rooted Kernza plant, which produced the grain. It was developed by Patagonia Provisions and the Kansas-based Land Institute as part of efforts to push sustainable, regenerative farming.
Hopworks became involved in the project more than a year ago, beginning with a phone call to founder and brewmaster, Christian Ettinger. Well aware of Patagonia Provisions’ efforts in transforming agricultural systems and practices, Ettinger was flattered and humbled.
“It was a surreal moment for me,” says Ettinger. “It was hard to believe a company I look up to as a business owner had dialed my number and inquired about making a beer with us. Within days, we met with them and my team learned about Kernza for the first time. Soon enough, we were thinking about brewing the beer.”
Long Root Ale is light amber in color and features a touch of nutty maltiness up front. It finishes with a burst of tropical hops and a hint of spice similar to what you find in a rye beer. At a little more than 5% ABV, it’s a nicely drinkable beer.
“Long Root is doing well for us,” Ettinger says. “I can’t provide numbers on pints sold, but we’re brewing it regularly and it serves as the primary pale ale in our pubs. It’s been well-received by our pub patrons and is selling well in packaged form. I also understand it’s doing quite well in Japan.”
Long Root Ale is made with organic two-row barley, organic yeast and a blend of organic Northwest hops. The addition of 15 percent Kernza brings a mild spiciness to the dry, crisp finish. Long Root Ale represents the first commercial use of Kernza grain. Integrating it into the beer was not without challenges.
“We soon discovered that the size and shape of the grain is problematic,” says Ettinger. “It’s long, thin and small, making it difficult to malt because it defies standard screens, bags and sieves. As a result, we’ve not been able to successfully liberate fermentable sugars from the grains.”
Which means, at least for now, the Kernza is behaving like unmalted wheat or barley. It contributes color, body and flavor, but no measurable sugar. Ettinger is searching for a solution and hopes to increase the percentage of Kernza used in the beer at some point.
“We’re working on finding or designing a malting bin that will accommodate the Kernza,” Ettinger says. “If we can do that, it will be a full player in this beer and we’ll be able to increase how much of it is used. In fact, a bin like that might hold other unconventional grains, which would be a nice development.”
The environmental advantages of the Kernza plant are many. As a perennial, it doesn’t need to be replanted each year, reducing fuel use and topsoil loss. Because it grows 6-8 feet deep, compared to annuals like wheat and barley that grow only 6-10 inches deep, the Kernza requires significantly less water, fertilizer and pesticide. The roots of the plant extract nutrients from deep in the soil, improving soil biodiversity and trapping carbon, good news for the planet.
“For a lot of reasons, we are extremely proud to be part of this project,” says Ettinger. “It’s one of the most spiritually satisfying things that we’ve been involved in.”
For its part, Patagonia Provisions saw a unique opportunity in teaming up with Hopworks to showcase efforts the company has made in developing environmentally sound farming practices.
“Beer holds a critical role in society and history. It’s the center of many tables, uniting us with its common language,” said Patagonia Provisions’ Birgit Cameron in a press release.
“We saw an opportunity to use a widely influential product to help tell the story of organic regenerative agriculture, via Kernza, to a wide swath of people. All it takes is a small tweak in the way we make our beer to effect big change — we’re hoping this message reaches the big brewers of the world.”
Long Root Ale is available in packaged form at Whole Foods stores in Oregon, Washington and California, as well as at Hopworks locations in Portland and Vancouver, Wash. But don’t look for the iconic HUB logo. Artwork on the 16-ounce cans features Patagonia Provisions branding.
“The Patagonia brand is super clean, minimalistic,” Ettinger says. “Any artist will tell you restraint can be a good thing. Sometimes less is more. We hope to get some Hopworks logos on Patagonia apparel in the near future. We are still in the early stages of this partnership.”
The complementary values of Patagonia Provisions and Hopworks run deep. Both are B-Corporations, a type of for-profit corporate entity committed to making a positive impact on society, workers, communities and the environment. B-Corporations are currently authorized in more than half of the U.S. states.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in sustainable practices,” Ettinger says. “Our partnership with Patagonia Provisions has actually helped us refine and sharpen our vision. Part of that is sharing what we know, because awareness leads to experimentation, which leads to action.
“Baby steps are fine. That’s how change often happens.”
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