By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Travelin Taphouse is a unique, fully customized beer trailer that can carry 30 kegs and has 12 taps. Even more, the mobile bar is an ingenious concept that provides almost any service you might want for any occasion — including weddings. And as nuptial-planning season kicks into high gear, a taphouse that brings the party to you might be the perfect fit for the reception of a craft beer-loving couple.
“We’re your one-stop shopping for any event, large or small,” said coordinator Patricia McPherson. The Travelin Taphouse not only brings the beer — and any other drinks requested — but also ambiance, including music, lighting, seating and a fire pit.
Tyke Murdock, who lives in Dallas, designed and owns the taps-on-wheels setup. Murdock, a confirmed extrovert who could easily be the poster child for the person who never met a stranger, came up with the idea while watching his good friend open a taphouse.
“I like to interact with people,” said the one-time police officer. “I’m not a big drinker, but I got interested in beer and started studying [Jeff Alworth’s book] ‘The Beer Bible.’”
Combining the convivial atmosphere with the popularity and mobility of a food truck all came together when Murdock’s wife suggested a beer cart. Murdock wanted to ensure choice for his customers, which is why there’s a dozen taps instead of two or three. Their first event was at Detroit Lake during Fourth of July celebrations. Murdock also brought his Travelin Dogs food cart.
When selling beer to the public, he submits paperwork for approval and draws up a plan that shows how the space will be arranged and staffed. For private setups like tailgate parties, he usually contains the area with attractive fencing and contacts the site involved. For couples planning a wedding, McPherson has a helpful and detailed checklist. “Most people don’t realize how many things there are to consider,” she said.
The list of services that Travelin Taphouse provides is daunting: from catering a full sit-down dinner to serving a more affordable, but no less impressive, buffet meal on China or plastic. The bar options are seemingly endless, including beer taps, wine service and even mixed drinks.
“We have all the required licenses and certificates,” said Murdock, whose experience supervising group homes probably helped him navigate all the regulatory hurdles. “Alcohol management is an important part of any package we sell,” he said. Murdock always has the appropriate number of alcohol monitors overseeing his events. “We take the stress off the wedding and assume all responsibility for alcohol consumption,” he said.
Although the Travelin Taphouse goes all over the state, many of the wedding venues they have worked at are scattered throughout Willamette Valley. Organizers can cater to any style of reception: from rustic to shabby chic to black tie with tuxedoed waiters. As an added bonus, Murdock can perform the ceremony since he is a minister. Now that’s what you call full service.
One of their favorite public events last summer was the Pendleton Round-Up. Their family-friendly space included a stage for hula hooping and food from the executive chef at The Joel Palmer House in Dayton. “The Round-Up time can get pretty wild,” Murdock said, “but we had no incidents.”
He has learned that beer tastes vary widely according to region and works to bring the styles and brands people prefer in any given area. Murdock also researches sales and always carries two ciders.
For custom events like weddings, the clients choose what they want. Murdock said the couple might decide to have a host/no-host bar, where the first three kegs are on them and after that, guests have to pay. Murdock emphasized he does not mark up his beer and charges clients exactly what he pays. There are smaller barrel options if a customer wants to have a wider assortment at a more reasonable price.
“If you want a variety, let’s look at six barrels and that way you can have more choices,” he said. “We want to work with the budget in mind.”
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With the explosion of craft beer, so too has come an explosion in beer writers who are celebrating the industry through the publishing of books, articles and blogs. One of those beer writers is Fred Eckhardt, who started tackling the subject when the founders of the craft beer industry were still homebrewing. His "A Treatise on Lager Beers" was published in the early 1970s, followed by books on beer styles and sake. His extensive career also includes writing for The Seattle Times and The Oregonian as well as magazines like All About Beer.
Before he began his writing career, he was in the Marines and one of the impacts the Bay of Pigs invasion had on him was to make him ponder life after a nuclear holocaust. According to an interview with John Foyston, Fred said, "I realized that if you could brew alcohol you would be welcome in whatever shreds of civilization might remain after a nuclear war, so I took a good homebrew recipe and made my first batch of beer." Whether he was being entirely serious or not, his early forays in homebrewing were the beginnings of a career that would impact the craft beer world for decades.
Since those early days, beer writing has gathered steam with technical books like Fred's to ones telling the stories of the folks living their brewing dreams. The stories behind how each person came to be a beer writer are as varied the number of beer styles. Brian Yaeger, who wrote "Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey," didn't know he was going to write a book until he announced it to a classroom during the pursuit of his master’s in professional writing. Once it was out of his mouth, he couldn't take it back. And before he knew it he'd secured a media pass to the Great American Beer Festival. From there he embarked on a six week road trip across the country. He describes the book as being "about the people, less so the beer."
Brian knew he'd write a second book but it wasn't until his publisher proposed "Oregon Breweries" that he knew what it would be. As luck would have it, he had already created the outline for it during the road trip that brought him and his wife from California to their new home in Portland. After retrieving the handwritten journal, he began two years of work during which the number of breweries in Oregon was growing exponentially. In the end, he had gathered the details on 190 breweries and brewpubs and was even more qualified to show visitors around, one of the things he loves most about being a beer writer.
Pete Dunlop, author of the 2013 book "Portland Beer: Crafting the Road to Beervana" started writing for the daily paper at Washington State University during graduate school. He went on to teach high school journalism and then had a career in marketing communications before going freelance. As opposed to Brian's books that are more contemporary, Pete's book is primarily historical in nature, no doubt influenced by his master’s in history.
When asked about his favorite part of being a beer writer, he replied that, "Beer people are easy to talk to," noting as well that he enjoys being able to write about the good in the industry (and sometimes bashing AB InBev). On the flip side, he noted that making money as a beer writer can be challenging. For him, publishing articles and authoring a beer blog were steps that led up to the realization that getting a book published was an important next move to make progress in this career. He's found magazine work easier to come by after publishing his book and is looking forward to writing a second historically based book.
Newer to the craft beer world is Steven Shomler, author of the just-released "Portland Beer Stories." Before 2007 he was not a beer drinker, having tasted the "crap beer" his dad drank and hating it. It wasn't until he was filming a hop harvest that he experienced what he described as "a life-changing experience." Smelling the hops in the field, during processing and in the drying room, opened his eyes and "stupid palate" to a world he didn't know existed. Later that day, he tried his first triple IPA and a whole new world opened to him, a world that he was able to write with a newcomer's perspective. However, he was new only to craft beer, as this would be his second book, following one about Portland's food cart scene. The realization that he was not going to be able to do a comprehensive piece was his biggest challenge so instead he focused on a mix of the old (McMenamins and Widmer) and the new (PINTS and Culmination). Finding stories to write about was easy as the brewers made themselves accessible, a sharp contrast to his experience with the wine industry.
The forthcoming "The Beer Bible" by Jeff Alworth is a product of his travels during two years visiting an array of amazing breweries overseas. It wasn't something that he had planned on writing; instead it was at the request of Workman Publishing, who had turned down his pitch for another book. They were looking for a follow up to "The Wine Bible" and sent him a copy, requesting he submit a table of contents as his "pitch." It was perhaps an unconventional way of finding the right author, but Jeff "didn't have anything to lose." After all, they were approaching him instead of the other way around and so he didn't stress about it.
Workman was happy with the table of contents Jeff submitted and after more than a year in contract negotiations, Jeff began the task of researching and writing his book that is broadly divided by beer styles. Since beginning work on the book in 2011 he has accumulated countless hours of stories about brewers all over the world, facilitated largely by making contacts with importers. Some countries he could have navigated on his own, the ones where English is commonly spoken, but it was destinations like Italy where he would have struggled without help arranging visits and translating.
Unlike Steven, Jeff had been a huge beer fan for years, having downed plenty of Henry Weinhard’s back when it was big, attending graduate school in Wisconsin when New Glarus Brewing opened and producing his own beers. That background, and having written ever since he was a kid, was the perfect combination that helped him begin his writing career, which started when he took over the beer column at Willamette Week following William Abernathy's departure. He went from there to write countless pieces for other publications.
Whether you prefer shorter pieces or books, historical or contemporary topics, there's something for everyone when it comes to beer writing. The best part is that they celebrate the day in and day out work that brewers do to fill our glasses. Cheers to the pioneering writers who first took it up and those who have followed in their steps!
Beervana Buzz http://www.beervanabuzz.com/
Portland Beer Stories https://www.facebook.com/PortlandBeerStories/
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