The Pacific Northwest is traditionally celebrated for its diversity of regionally crafted beers. This past Saturday McMenamins High Street Brewery in Eugene hosted their 14th annual Mid-Valley Brewfest.
High Street’s brewer, Charlton Fulton, told EDN that this year’s brewfest would showcase beers from six of the McMenamins regional microbrewery locations, as well as highlighting brews from four other guest brewers located in the lower Willamette Valley and I-5 corridor, including Oakshire, Steelhead, Block 15, and Eugene City Brewery. Past guest brewers have included Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing Company, and “Eugene’s smallest brewery”; Willamette Brewery.
Fulton stated that McMenamins hosts several competitive brewfests throughout the year, but what makes the Mid-Valley brewfest unique is its non-competitive nature. This occasion is marked by a desire to bring the community together for a great time with beer, food, music, and more.
“Being able to showcase special beers” from the area is his Fulton’s motivation. He also mentioned their ambition to celebrate brewing in Eugene by “making people aware of one of the oldest breweries in Eugene”.
EDN contributing photographer, Brandon Preo, and I had the opportunity to stop by the brewfest this weekend and sample the craft beers being featured. Here’s a brief review of the ten brews:
McMenamins on Monroe Brewery, Corvallis, OR – “Third Eye Red”
Brewed by Gary Nance, this beer is hopped with Centennial and Crystal Hops. Meant to be a refreshing beer for making the transition from summer to winter, it has a light hop aroma, with a red-orange cloudy appearance. The taste is rich and sharp with a malty aftertaste.
Steelhead Brewing Company, Eugene, OR – “Reivers’ E.S.B.”
An English style ESB, brewed by Ted Fagan, using Northern Brewer and East Kent hops in conjunction with Black Barley malt, this thick dark reddish-brown beer has a woody aroma, reminiscent of the scent of the forest. The taste is malty as well as slightly salty.
McMenamins West Linn Brewery, West Linn, OR – “Twister Pale”
The Twister Pale, brewed by Jeremy Wulf, carries a very mild fruity aroma. It is hopped with Chinook and Cascade hops and highlights of Canadian Superior Pilsen Malt as well as others. This pale ale was light and cloudy, appearing almost citrus-y. This beer left our palates dissatisfied with an unfulfilling, empty, and watered down taste.
Oakshire Brewing Company, Eugene, OR – “Harvest Ale”
Brewed by Matt Van Wyk, this rusty orange brown ale is constructed with Galena and German Hallertau hops and Vienna and Weyerman Melanoidin malts. It has a delightful aroma of autumn leaves, with a very organic, earthy feel. It’s taste is slightly yeasty and bitter with a distinct metallic aftertaste.
McMenamins High Street Brewery, Eugene, OR – “Nikkertot Dunkelweizen”
Characterized by Sterling and Tettanger hops, mixed with Pale Ale, White Wheat, and Roasted Wheat Malts, Charlton Fulton’s brew has an aroma that voices a hearty malt scent as well as a thick roasted oat smell. It has a deep plum-brown color and the taste is rich and toasty with a heavy flavor. This is a beer not lacking substance.
McMenamins Roseburg Station Brewery, Roseburg – OR – “The Marble Rye”
Tom Johnson’s Rye beer is brewed with Citra hops, Rye, Crystal Rye, and Roast Rye malts for a cloudy tan color and a distinct malt and light hop aroma. The beer has a strong bitter aftertaste that is sour and tangy.
McMenamins John Barleycorns Brewery, Tigard, OR – “Derailed IPA”
Brewed with GWM Pale, Briess Bonlander Munich, and Briess Torrified Wheat malts, as well as Centennial, Chinook, Citra, and Brewer’s Gold hops, Tim Proctor’s IPA boasts a building aroma of trace hops. It is yellow-orange citrus in appearance and carries a lasting moderate IPA flavor.
McMenamins Thompson House Brewery, Salem, OR – “Northwest Lassie”
With a sweet and vinegar-esque aroma, this brew by Jen Kent, is made from Munich, Vienna, Flaked Barley, Carastan 30/37, and Caramel Munich 60 malts, as well as Sorachi Ace, Citra, and dry hopped with Cascade hops. It has a caramel color similar to that of whiskey. This beer has a light bitter toffee aftertaste.
Eugene City Brewery, Eugene, OR – “200 Meter IPA”
Nate Sampson’s IPA is brewed using Northwest Pale, Munich, and Cara Red malts and Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops, making it a “true Northwest IPA”. This beer has a crisp, clear red-orange coloring with an apple cider, fall flavored aroma. The taste is piney and syrupy with a mild sweet tang.
Block 15 Brewing Company, Corvallis, OR – “Summer Daze IPA”
Brewers Steve van Rossem and Matt Williams’ Imperial IPA is composed using Marris Otter Pale, Munich, Carastan, and Caramel malts, and Apollo, Bravo, Calypso, and Citra hops, providing a stable balance of malt and hop flavor. It’s aroma is moderately hoppy, with a slightly cloudy golden orange-red appearance. It has complete hop flavor from start to finish with a strong bitter aftertaste.
If you’re a beer enthusiast, it’s worth getting your hands on some samples of these great seasonal beers that the region has to offer.
Elisha Shumaker, EDN