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 Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Another brewery in Bend? Sounds foolhardy. A risky business decision at best. But don’t jump to conclusions. What it you offered something no one else did? That’s the case for Immersion Brewing — the ONLY place in town where you can brew your own beer.
Sean Lampe, co-owner with his partner Amanda Plattner and her sister Rachael Plattner, said, “We felt like Bend was perfect. We’re focused on the highest-quality beer and experience. If you don’t have people around challenging you, you won’t make great beer,” he said.
According to the Bend Visitor Center, the city has plenty of challengers. It has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon; as of last June, the Oregon Brewers Guild listed 26 in Bend.
Immersion opened last summer after many construction delays. “We signed the lease in December of 2014 and have been working on it for a couple years,” said Lampe.
The idea for the BIY (brew-it-yourself) business originated 18 years ago in Lampe’s college dorm room at the University of Colorado where he was homebrewing. New Belgium was a small local brewery then and Lampe quickly latched onto craft beer’s flavor, which was so distinct from domestics. While still a student, he worked as an assistant brewer at Walnut Brewery in Boulder, Colo. for two years. After graduation, he continued homebrewing in Tokyo where he worked as an IT recruiter for large financial companies. “There wasn’t much of a beer culture in Tokyo,” he said.
When the market crashed in 2008, so did his job and he returned to the states for work. Once again, he started homebrewing. “It was difficult in such a small space and hard to get the ingredients. I was always disappointed with the results,” he said.
Frustrated and dissatisfied with his beers, he realized there was a business opportunity in the failures. He wrote a plan for a brew-it-yourself shop where customers would have professional equipment, plenty of space to work and the best ingredients. Fellow UC alum Amanda Plattner suggested launching the idea in Bend, where she had family.
“We wanted to be more than a homebrew store,” Lampe said. “We wanted a place where you could come and have a great beer and food experience, where you could relax and enjoy yourself, and make some beer, if you were interested.”
Immersion is conveniently located between the Old Mill District and Downtown in one of Bend’s best known landmarks, the 100-year-old Box Factory — a long, red building that’s home to about 30 businesses. When you walk in, the first things you see are the shiny brite tanks, positioned in a semi-circle behind the bar. The five vessels are part of a 10-barrel JVNW system. Lampe wanted exposed tanks and said Immersion is one of the first to get the manufacturer’s rose-gold stainless steel version.
Josh Cosci was hired as the head brewer. Previously with Three Creeks Brewing Company and Worthy Brewing, he was originally in the wine industry in the Willamette Valley. While the lineup of regular beers is still evolving, Cosci likes to barrel age those that become mainstays in order to accentuate different characteristics.
For beer lovers who want to make their own concoction, there is a separate system made up of eight 5-gallon tanks. Ingredients are labeled on open shelving and there are recipe booklets with more than 30 options. IPAs are the most popular, with about half of all customers choosing to brew that style. “But, we get a good mix,” said Lampe. “They are all recipes that I have brewed and like.”
Reservations can be made online for sessions that are generally available Thursday through Saturday. Group size is limited to four people per kettle and an assistant brewer helps customers with the process, which typically lasts about two-and-a-half hours. Of course, it’s not all work and no play. Amateur brewers can order food and drinks to enjoy while they make their beer. Three weeks later, customers return for bottling and labeling, taking home approximately five gallons of beer or a case of 22-ounce bottles. The entire experience costs $180 to $220, depending on the recipe.
The beer lover in your life might enjoy a BIY session as a holiday gift. Or you could schedule your own brew day and give a carefully crafted beer with customized label to your friends and family this year. Whatever the reason or season, gift cards are available.
550 SW Industrial Way #185, Bend
By Peter Korchnak
For the Oregon Beer Growler
On June 13, more than a dozen people, including brewers from Hopworks Urban Brewery, Lompoc Brewing, Ecliptic Brewing, and the High Street Homebrew Club, joined a guided walk through Forest Park to identify plants to use as beer ingredients. The brewers will each make a beer inspired by the walk, and the four creations will be revealed at a tapping event at Belmont Station on October 10.
The Springville Hill hike on a sun-drenched Saturday was part of a series of monthly hikes open to the public and coordinated by Beers Made By Walking in partnership with The Forest Park Conservancy.
The Conservancy's trails and restoration coordinator Cody Chambers led the relaxed 4-mile stroll on a historic trail — formerly used by market vendors from Portland's outlying areas to access the Willamette River — and the Wildwood Trail. Along the way Chambers stopped to point out many edible plants, from madrone berries to stinky Bob to oxalis.
“Forest Park Conservancy participates in the program to encourage people to explore nature through the lens of beer making,” Chambers said. “By educating folks in a fun way, we hope to inspire them to be stewards of Forest Park.”
Eric Steen, founder of Beers Made By Walking, provided additional information about historic uses of various plants in beer making.
Steen founded Beers Made By Walking in 2011 in Colorado Springs, Colo. where he taught place-based art at the University of Colorado. Initial inspiration struck him on the Yukon River, where the leader of a weeklong canoe trip described how various plants had been used as ingredients in cooking.
“Beers Made By Walking teaches appreciation for the landscape we live in,” Steen said. “Learning about the natural world around us also suggests the environment matters, which then translates into the beer itself.”
Steen has been connecting his passions for art, beer and nature in projects for many years. The highlights include underground pop-up pubs in New York, Michigan and Scotland and the Beer Inspired By Art event at the Portland Art Museum, where five breweries created beers inspired by 18th-century painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze's piece, “The Drunken Cobbler.”
In the four years of running the Beers Made By Walking program, Steen has worked with more than 45 breweries to create more than 55 unique beers that “give drinkers a sense of place.” This year walks take place in eight cities in five states, all along the West Coast, Colorado and North Carolina. “I've been approached by breweries from all over the country,” said Steen. He has now hired his first employee, a project manager in Denver, Colo. “The program can easily be replicated.”
Since March, Steen has worked as communications coordinator at Hopworks, whose brewers, following a hike last year, made the first beer in the world with salal berries, which lent their Berliner Weisse a pinkish hue.
Ecliptic Brewing's Jameson Morr had met Steen at “The Drunken Cobbler” event and jumped on board the hike without hesitation. Morr said he enjoyed getting outside the brewery and doing something new. “It was a great way to meet other brewers and kick around ideas for beer,” Morr said. “I usually don't pay attention to the landscape this much. I learned a ton.”
Like the other brewers, Morr is still in the planning stage for the beer he will make for the October 10 tapping event. “It will be awesome to see what others will come up with.”
Facing fewer logistical limitations than breweries, the members of the High Street Homebrew Club have already picked their ingredients. While Bizzy Gross was inspired to use goji berries in a Belgian ale, Heather Egizio, the club's unofficial coordinator, said members are now collaborating to brew three different ales using spruce tips, Northwest cedar tips and juniper. In late August, they will make the best recipe at a local brewery and contribute the result to the tapping event at Belmont Station, which will also raise funds for the Conservancy.
Will Hike for Beer
At the conclusion of the hike, the brewers gave away bottles and cans of seasonal beers from their respective breweries, helping to cap the outing in the most appropriate way: a cold one.
The next hike takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 22 and will host brewers from 10 Barrel, Hopworks and Widmer Brothers. Learn more and sign up at www.BeersMadeByWalking.com.
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