By Aaron Brussat
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you think of Portland’s beer scene as the sun, Portland’s beer festivals would be its solar flares, sunspots and cosmic wind. It’s always burning — exothermic blasts of molten malt, hops, yeast and beards swirling and bubbling with every new beer release party. A tower of foamy fire appears on the horizon; we shield our eyes and say, “Oh look, a beer festival!”
Every beer festival fills a niche, and many open beer drinkers’ eyes to what lies just beyond their experience, that errant bottle in the back of the fridge. Portland Farmhouse Weekend provides a city-wide opportunity for beer lovers to go deep into a largely misunderstood sect of beers. The “Weekend,” set for Friday March, 31 through Sunday, April 2, is an extension of the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival, now in its fifth year, held at Saraveza Bottle Shop.
To say that founder Ezra Johnson-Greenough has a few beer festivals under his belt is an understatement. He’s been conceiving and organizing events in Portland for years. Johnson-Greenough started the Portland Fruit Beer Fest, and his fingerprints are all over Portland Beer Week and many other tap-related happenings. Some are annual; others spring up and are gone, not unlike styles of beer on a taplist suited for today’s fickle consumer.
Johnson-Greenough’s goal for the Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival is to “make it the best fest of its kind. We’re increasing the size of tents, hours and beer. The last couple years have been more stagnant. There was no marketing budget for the fest.”
This says a lot about the popularity of the event; Saturday’s general session last year was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people vying for tastes of rare beers from big names like The Ale Apothecary and Jester King Brewery.
In expanding the festival, Johnson-Greenough has also expanded the concept. On top of Upright Brewing’s eighth anniversary party, beer releases and educational seminars around town, Wander Brewing, from Bellingham, Wash., will bring its 25-barrel coolship to town for a collaboration brew with Breakside Brewery. The project will generate beer for the event in coming years.
The festival includes a beer release specifically for attendees. Last year, The Commons Brewery produced The Croze, a pale beer fermented in open-topped barrels (croze is a cooperage term referring to the groove at either end of the barrel that holds the head in place). This year’s very limited release is a lambic-style beer from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. Brewer Shilpi Halemane, who’s been at the Hood River brewery a year-and-a-half, started a program of beers brewed in the “Methode van Lembeek” with veteran wild ale brewer Curtis Bain. For the festival, “We thought it might be nice to showcase and sneak preview a single barrel that tasted really good.”
The beer, Saraveza Sour, is brewed with Pilsner malt, raw wheat and aged hops. The brewing process uses a multi-step mash (raising the temperature several times to activate different enzymes) and a two-hour boil. The beer is transferred from the kettle to a coolship — a wide, shallow metal vat open to the country air. There it picks up a bevy of microscopic hitchhikers that will eat their way through the complex sugars in the wort. The inoculated wort is transferred to conical fermentors for two weeks before it is racked into used American oak barrels.
The final product is “in the 5.5% alcohol range. It is tart and Brett-forward with a funky aroma, very clear and bright. It has a classic lambic profile; that’s kind of the goal.”
More and more breweries in the country are experimenting with spontaneous fermentation. They pay homage to the classic Belgian appellation while showcasing the “terroir” of local yeast and bacteria. The wort can be produced in the same way anywhere, but it is the surrounding air that ultimately gives the beer its personality.
What Is Farmhouse Beer?
In our modern era of opaque, flesh-colored IPAs that taste like the Tropicana test kitchen, it’s easy to lose sight of the creative work being done with Oregon’s state microbe Saccharomyces cerevisiae (ale yeast) and its cousins Brettanomyces (a “wild” yeast), Lactobacillus (a common fermenting bacteria), and others — the fermenting family tree is more like a forest.
Most brewers will credit Saison Dupont as the godfather of farmhouse-style beers. It was first imported to the United States in the 1980s, and helped to usher in the idea of beer as a flavorful beverage. It defies accurate reproduction by way of its yeast, which some speculate to be a blend of strains. With a simple malt and hop regimen, the beer gets its particular spicy-fruity profile from unusually high fermentation temperatures.
The new, Americanized genre of “farmhouse” beers encompass a range of styles, flavors and colors, as their origins are multifarious and knotted in untold agrarian histories.
“I like how broad a term it is for the range of things you can use,” says Halemane. “I dislike it for the same reason. If I read a description and it says ‘farmhouse ale with cherries,’ that could mean anything.” At Logsdon, “By virtue of brewing it in a barn, we could make anything and call it a farmhouse ale.” Very tricky. Overall, the farmhouse flavor relies on the characteristics of fermentation and is augmented with the brewer’s choice of malt, hops, wood, fruit and/or spices.
The Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival has one rule: only U.S. farmhouse-style beers.
“There’s no reason to discriminate if it was made on a farm or not,” says Johnson-Greenough. “It matters how good it is. I’m looking for yeast-forward, Belgian-inspired beers from breweries known for their farmhouse beer — mostly. It’s a very exciting year because there’s more and more options.” Some of the breweries making their debut this year include Alesong Brewing & Blending, Astoria’s new Reach Break Brewing, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery and Yachats Brewing.
Learn more about Portland Farmhouse Weekend at portlandfarmhousefest.com.
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Dave Logsdon has been a key player in the craft beer world for more than 30 years. And for all that time, Hood River has been his home base.
His involvement with Full Sail Brewing Company is well known. He co-founded the brewery in 1987 and was the main brewer for a few years. But even before that in 1985 he founded Wyeast Laboratories, selling yeast cultures and other fermentation ingredients.
His newest brewing experiment is Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, founded in 2009. The 15-barrel brewery is in the barn on his rural property south of downtown Hood River off Highway 35. “The beer is influenced immensely by the terroir,” said Erika Huston, general manager of Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom. For example, The Conversion Northwest sour ale is brewed the traditional way by allowing the liquid to cool in an open, shallow vessel, resulting in spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast.
Huston said, “Our main challenge is to educate people to the palate about this style of beer. One of the first questions we hear is, ‘What is your IPA?’ We don’t have one.”
Logsdon characterizes these beers as Belgian saisons. Traditionally, they are malt forward with some fruit tastes and a dry, tart carbonated finish. Historically, they were brewed in the winter and served in the summer to farmworkers. Saisons have a very clean finish, but are complex to brew.
Last fall, The Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom opened in downtown Hood River. The idea for a taproom evolved as the reputation of the farmhouse ales grew. The brewery on his rural property was considered agricultural land and not eligible to host a taproom, according to Hood River zoning laws.
The Barrel House & Taproom was designed to resemble a Belgian-style brasserie café. Dave’s wife Judith Bams-Logsdon, a native of Flanders in Belgium, is in charge of the menu. Huston said, “She is very passionate about food. The menu was designed to be like what you would find in a Belgian cafe, and the beer and food share complementary flavors.”
The menu includes items like broodjes, Belgian sandwiches, and croque-monsieur, toasted ham and cheese on white bread. There are also seasonal entrees, such as a classic Flanders beef stew, Belgian waffles and crepes for dessert.
“We are definitely interested in spreading the word about the Belgian food emphasis here. It’s unique. There’s nothing else like it in Hood River,” said Huston.
The taproom has 12 rotating taps; one is a guest tap. “Logsdon beers are very unique. You won’t find them regularly in Portland. People are excited about our taster trays. They like sampling what they won’t normally see.”
The four core beers, available year round on draft and in 375-milliliter and 750-milliliter bottles, are Kili Wit, Seizoen, Seizoen Bretta and Straffe Drieling Tripel. “We’ll be adding the newest one, The Conversion Wit, like the regular but with wild yeast.”
Logsdon’s ales have won several awards, including a gold for the Seizon Bretta at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, and are now available in local restaurants. Initially self-distributed, the ales are now distributed by Maletis.
“Many people have the idea that all Belgian beers are the same. The challenge is getting people to expand their horizons,” said Huston.
She has been a fan of Logsdon’s beer for several years. She previously worked at Saraveza in North Portland as a beer buyer and coordinator of the Portland Farmhouse & Wild Festival, usually held the last weekend in March. She met Dave and Judith in 2013 and loved their beer. When the opportunity came up to manage the taproom, she took it and moved to Hood River last October.
Last summer there was talk of a sale and move to Portland that never materialized. Logsdon and company are more firmly part of Hood River than ever before. Future plans are to “become a stronghold in the community,” said Huston. Logsdon is involved with Breweries in the Gorge, which is a nonprofit that promotes the beer makers in that region. The program is similar to the Bend Ale Trail, where customers can get stamps at each brewery they visit. And even though the founder hopes to step away from day-to-day operations, he will continue to oversee quality, develop new beers and participate fully in the Hood River community.
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