Category Archives: Eugene Beer

Eugene Fresh Hop & Oktoberfest Roundup

Now begins the season of seasonal beer! In the Northwest, that means fresh hop beers, brewed with raw, wet, sticky, grassy hops that impart the true effects of the summer growing season. I look forward to seeing who makes the best use of this inconvenient ingredient (they soak up a LOT of wort, and require heavy scheduling to get them from farm to kettle within hours). The Wheel’s fresh hop beer is already gone because they brewed a super small batch, but it was a crazy mouthful of peachy Centennials.

Also, obviously, we have Oktoberfest, which begins today (9/22)! The lovely gold-to-amber lagers have heft in two ways: alcohol strength and how you treat the stein. Here’s a rundown of Eugene-area breweries and beer bars joining in the celebration of the end of fire season. I’ll update as more information comes in:

Events by Date:

Weihenstephaner Festbier Cask Tapping at The Bier Stein
Saturday, September 22, 2pm – Get into the spirit of Oktoberfest served in the old-fashioned tradition, straight from the cask! (Today, most of the Oktoberfest beers are served from giant storage tanks below ground in the fest halls. Augustiner, the only fully independent old brewery in Munich, still serves its festbier from wooden barrels.) The Bier Stein will have plenty of festbiers and Marzens on draught, too. More info: thebierstein.com/events

Falling Sky Oktoberfest Brewers’s Dinner
Sunday, 9/30, 6:30pm at the Deli, purchase tickets in advance. Beer dinners at Falling Sky are never short of good beer and lots of food. The menu looks lovely, with all the from-scratch goodness Falling Sky is known for. The beers will include the annual release of  Cloud Gazer Oktoberfest Bier. More info: https://fallingskybrewing.com/falling-sky-brewers-dinner-ticket.html

Weihenstephaner Beer Dinner at The Bier Stein
Wednesday, October 3, 6pm, purchase tickets in advance – This may be the classiest way to experience German beer during Oktoberfest. With 6 courses plus a welcome beer (Original Premium, of course!), the menu features a nice mix of tradition and inspiration, and is the only place you’ll get to try Braupakt (a hop forward hefeweizen, collaboration with Sierra Nevada) paired with a Thai-style papaya salad. It really works! $65 includes all food, beer, gratuity, and a good time. More info: thebierstein.com/events

Beer Releases by Brewery:

ColdFire: Marzen – 6.1% abv, 18 IBU. Brewed using a beta>alpha step mash with Pilsner and Munich malts, Hallertau Mittelfruh and Saaz hops.

Falling Sky: Nuggets of Wisdom Fresh Hop English Pale Ale – 6.1% abv, ~40IBU. Fresh Nugget Hops from Goschie Farms. Release Date: Friday 9/28

Small Tents Session Style Oktoberfest Lager – 3.6% abv, ~19 IBU. On tap now.

Ryein’ on the Hill – Rye Oktoberfest-style Lager. 5% abv, 20 IBU. Release Date: 9/23 for our Worlds Shortest Bike Race at the Pub location.

Cloud Gazer Oktoberfest Bier – 5.7% abv, 25 IBU. Release Date: 9/30 during the Fall/Oktoberfest inspired Brewers Dinner at the Deli.

Falling Sky & Coldfire: Fresh as You Like It Imperial Fresh Hop Brut IPA – 9.5% abv, ~68IBU. From Scott Sieber, head brewer at Falling Sky: “Fresh Amarillo and Chinook from Crosby Hop Farm and wet/dry hop addition of freshly shattered Mosaic hops.” They used the liquid nitrogen freeze & shatter method developed by Breakside a few years ago. Release in early October.

Manifest: Fresh hop Pumpkin Sour – 5.6% abv. Here is the description from founder/brewer Brandon Woodruff: “We made a fresh hop Pumpkin Sour using only fresh hop sterling hops. The [sic] was open fermented using spent Cabernet barrel staves to inoculate the wort. Doing the first 80% or so of fermentation the beer had 20 lbs of fresh hop Sterling (2.8lbs per bbl). Once transferred to unitank 2lbs of espresso was added. The beer is packed full of pumpkin and spices. The spices used were Chinese five spice, all spice, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beer itself leans more toward a Flanders red than American Sour. Some malt sweetness.” Release date not included.

Oakshire: Fresh Hop Ale 2018 – 6.6% abv India Pale Ale brewed with 100% Crosby Hop Farm Amarillo. Release Date: 9/25. (Note: This is the first year release of Amarillo grown on Crosby soil.)

Plank Town: Oktoberfestbier (5.6% abv, 22 IBU) & Seavey Lupin Fresh Hop Pale Ale (5.1% abv, 35 IBU)
Plank Town released its Oktoberfestbier in August. Brewer John Crane describes it as a very quaffable malty lager with honey and spice aroma and flavor.

Seavey Lupin, also on tap now, was brewed with 21 pounds per barrel of fresh Willamette and Cascade hops from Norton’s Hop Farm on Seavey Loop Road. Crane says it has a “fresh, grassy and herbal aroma. Nice malt character followed by a clean dry finish.” This will be showcased at Tap & Growler at the beginning of October.

Sam Bond’s Brewery: Comet Fresh Hop IPA, 6.0% abv, available on draught and in package around 9/27. (Note: I love Comet hops for the fresh, bright orange aroma, and am stoked to try a fresh hop version!)

Growl to Garden Beer Fest & Road Mile

If you’re hankering for something to do this weekend, and to burn ‘n earn the calories for your next round, check out Tap & Growler / Beergarden’s Second Annual Growl to Garden Beer Fest and Road Mile on Saturday, August 18th from 12-8 PM. The concept is simple: combine Eugene’s enthusiastic running community with beer. Sounds like a real arm twister. 

The one-mile race starts at 4pm at Tap & Growler, goes down 5th Ave., and ends at Gray’s Garden Center right next to Beergarden. Race registration is $25, and includes entry to the beer festival, a commemorative glass and 4 beverage tickets. Entry to the Fest, which runs noon-8pm, is $10. There will be food provided by some of the carts that serve at Beergarden, and live music from local acts Corwin Bolt & the Wingnuts and Etouffee. The race awards ceremony will take place at 5:30 at Gray’s.

Beer, cider, and wine will be served from over 20 producers – the list is posted below. Check growltogarden.com or the Facebook page for volunteer opportunities, and more fest and race details.

Beat feet and then hang out among the flowers, shrubs and trees… doesn’t sound too bad for a Saturday afternoon.

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This could be you! Photo by Trask Bedortha, courtesy of Tap & Growler/Beergarden.
Brewery Beer
Agrarian Dryad- Spruce Tip Sour
Agrarian Pineappleweed
Ballast Point Aloha Sculpin
Ballast Point Tart Peach Kolsch
Coldfire Kite String IPA
Coldfire Tangle of Tigers IPA
Deschutes New Fresh Haze IPA
Deschutes New Grapefruit Rose Sour
Goodlife Give’m Helles
Goodlife Descender IPA
Hop Valley CryoClassico
Hop Valley Bubble Stash
Lagunitas SuperCluster IPA
Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy
McKenzie Hopasaurus Rex Imperial IPA
McKenzie G2G Lager
Ninkasi Yours Truly Easy Drinking Ale
Ninkasi Raspberry Lime Gose
Oakshire Hazy IPA
Oakshire Sun Made Cucumber
Pelican Peached on Deck
Pelican Hazy Rock
Vagabond Victory Pils
Vagabond Attack Owl
Wild Ride Let’s Go Hazy IPA
Wild Ride Tarty to the Party Watermelon Lime Sour Ale
Yachats Ten Mile Saison
Yachats Blackberry Sour
Cider House Cider
2 Towns Pacific Pineapple
2 Towns Easy Peasy
Avid Cider Dragonfruit
Avid Cider Apricot
Portland Cider Sangria
Portland Cider Apple Pie
Wildcraft Strawberry Spruce
Wildcraft Elderflower Quince
Wine
Eugene Wine Cellar
Pinot Gris, Rose, and a Red
Kombucha
Elevate Summer Fling
Elevate Lavender Lemonade

Drink Local Invasives: History in a Glass

In the late 1800s, Alexander Seavey and his sons planted hops on what is now Buford Park and Mount Pisgah between the Middle and Coast forks of the Willamette River. Hops were the primary crop grown then, as the Willamette Valley became the biggest hop growing region in the country, and exported hops all over the world. The original variety cultivated was Cluster (thought to be a hybrid of imported and native cultivars), though more varieties, such as English-bred Northern Brewer, trickled in as the industry matured.

The Seavey family operated hop farms up and down the Willamette Valley until just after World War II, even through Prohibition; European agriculture was heavily damaged during World War I, but brewers still needed hops. During that time, they also planted orchards of plum, cherries, hawthorn, and apple. The family’s legacy is now in name: Seavey Loop Road connects Eugene and Springfield to Buford Park; it is still mostly farmland.

In 2012, some Cluster hops were found growing wild in Buford Park. Because they are technically an invasive, the native garden nursery there was not allowed to propagate the plants. Rhizomes were given to Agrarian Ales, where they now grow on an artfully conceived “hop dome” near the brewery.  Similarly, the apple and hawthorn trees that have survived are not considered native. However, they have been put to use by WildCraft Cider Works, which has produced two vintages of Pisgah Heritage Cider using only fruit from that orchard.

A glass of Pisgah Heritage Cider
WildCraft’s Pisgah Heritage Cider uses apples from the original homestead orchard.

On June 23, 2018 during Oregon Cider Week, the park held its first Pisgah Heritage Festival. Visitors could peruse the native plant garden, meet with local nonprofits involved in preserving the environment around the park, and enjoy beer and cider from Agrarian Ales and WildCraft. A feature of the festival was a talk about the hops and orchard, led by Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah’s Stewardship Director Jason Blazar, with WildCraft founder Sean Kelly and Ben Tilley, co-founder of Agrarian Ales.

Blazar started the talk with some history about the crops, and noted that not all invasives are pests. “We can fight plants, or recognize that some plants have intrinsic value,” he said, offering up that some invasive species can be used and managed for value-added efficiency. The Cluster “hop refugees” growing at Agrarian Ales are an example of this.

Tilley described the Cluster hop cones as having an “incredible amount of lupulin,” like a bee’s pollen packet that virtually explodes from the flower as it matures. That the hops survived in the wild for so long has made them quite resilient, and resistant to the mildews and other diseases that plague hops in the Willamette Valley. Tilley also mentioned that an old farmer from Detering Orchards, near Agrarian Ales, told him that hops were grown decades ago on the very spot where Agrarian’s grow now. Back then, women and children worked the harvest, and the kids didn’t go to school until all the hops were picked.

Agrarian brewer Nathan Tilley worked with Blazar to develop the recipe for the beer served at the event, Fog on the Mountain. It is a refreshing, cloudy pale ale that was dry-hopped with the Cluster during fermentation. Both 2016 and 2017 harvests were used in the brew. Notes of peppery farmhouse yeast add a zingy zest to the hops, which display a bit of the Cluster’s notorious cattiness along with subtle guava.

Though the hops are grown at Agrarian, the bines are transported to Buford Park for a ceremonial hop picking party. Last year’s fires caused concern that the hops would impart a smoky flavor to the beer, but that seems not to be the case; at least not yet, according to Kelly.

WildCraft served the 2016 and 2017 vintages of Pisgah Heritage Cider. Both are classically English in presentation: very dry, with a strong tannic presence. The 2016 had dropped clear, evincing a bright, candy-like acidity. The 2017, which I sipped during the talk, was only packaged two days before, and displayed a brusque, burlap, rustic tannin; a different sort of apple presence that begged to be paired with cheese and charcuterie. With time, it too will clear up and mellow, displaying its true terroir. “Every profile-landscape takes time to evolve. Things need to settle and relax.” Kelly told me after the talk that cider, like wine, needs six to nine months before its sense of place comes to the fore; it could be that those 2017 hops, in the right conditions, could eventually show some smoke.

Kelly is an eloquent speaker, even off the cuff. He exists in a biologically dynamic mindset that is pragmatically naturalistic, humanitarian in the earthiest sense. That means he moves at a different pace, and seems to simultaneously cultivate and harvest from his surroundings, be they an orchard or a hip-hop show.

He gave an overview of apple fermentation. “Apples encapsulate the yeast of the spring,” quite literally, he said. The fruit grows around the flower, rather than from the stem. Notice that the core of an apple has hollow space compared to a pear. Kelly says this is where the yeast is preserved. The skin of an apple also carries yeast, but it can be removed, even bleached away, and the fruit will still naturally ferment.

The history of homestead orchards could be (and should be, and maybe is) a book. Kelly spoke about the purpose of the thousands of acres of apples planted over 100 years ago. They certainly weren’t for apple pie; they were for fermenting into cider to be drunk, served still from a cask, or for distilling into fuel for farm machinery. The latter practice was outlawed, and Kelly waxed a bit political: “Whether or not I agree with how America has gone its course is a different thing.” The prohibition of home distillation requires farmers to rely on commercial fuel, which supersedes a closed-system ecology. Again– could/should/might be a book.

Here, Blazar interjected with some history of the land. Elijah Bristow, the Virginian who became the first white person to settle in Lane County, put his stake in Pleasant Hill, and described Mount Pisgah as “the promised land,” according to Blazar. At that point, the history of the landscape changed forever. Bristow and future settlers brought not only disease that killed the original settlers, the Calapooya tribe, but also the endemic penchant to manage the land a certain way. Native plants weren’t given a second thought as agriculture came to the oak-spotted prairie.

Now, Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah work with what they’ve got, and have indeed improved the abundance of native species. Even still, blackberries, hawthorn, Scotch broom, and other invasives are difficult or impossible to eradicate. Again, Blazar, who has been with the nonprofit for a long time, cited a progressive model of remediation. “As we look forward, we have to learn from these experiences. Not wage war on weeds, but look at the benefits they provide for us as a community.” The benefits can be intangible, as this educational talk proved, or tangible to the point of consumable, as the cider and beer act as anthropological artifacts that connect the people that drink them with the origin and history of the ingredients.

buford_buds
Sean Kelly, Jason Blazar, and Ben Tilley at the first Pisgah Heritage Festival.

~~~~~~~
Resources:
“‘Hop Fever’ in the Willamette Valley,” by Peter A. Kopp
“High hopes for hops,” by Tim Christie
“Early Day Story of Lane County and its Settlement is Recounted,” by Frank Fay Eddy

A Column on Columns

The Wheel Apizza Pub just released a new lager. Columns is a black lager – not a schwarzbier, tmave, or anything else official – brewed with Bohemian floor malted dark malt and other toasty dark malts, and local Sterling hops; the yeast of choice remains  concealed. It is lager’s answer to easy-drinkin’ porter, and was, boldly, released on the summer solstice. It is also the third lager The Wheel’s put out in the 2 months its been open, a trend I hope continues.

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I’m a self-professed Vanoraholic; the premiere lager, Vanora Amber Lager, at the new brewery got my wheels turning, especially after getting back from Europe and realizing that it’s actually the closest thing to Světlý Ležák in town. I’ve had more of that beer than any other lately (should I say, “and that’s saying a lot!”? Or would that be embarrassing?). I was prepared, despite confident assurances and my own time-tested faith in Toby’s ability to pull off most fermentations, for the first beers “out of the gate” to beg for a tweak. I can’t speak for the hoppy ales, nor is that what this column is about.

Each of the lagers has its own structure and place; rounded and mossy-soft (Vanora), staccato and sunny (Quest Pils), earthy and shaded (Columns).

The pizza at The Wheel is satisfying and just filling enough thanks to a sourdough crust; today’s lunch special was a Detroit-style pie served in big tile-sized slices, with a dollop of bright red sauce on top of the cheese/meat/mushroom toppings, and went as well with Columns as tomato’d pizza can go with beer. Both were devoured in short order.

If you’re local and haven’t been here, go. If you’re not local and you haven’t been here… go.