Hopped Up Eugene

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Zwickelmania is named after the Zwickel.
What's a Zwickel?  It is a valve on the side of a tank used to taste-test during fermentation.
What’s a Zwickel? It is a valve on the side of a tank used to taste-test during fermentation

Zwickelmania.  The word may seem better suited to a sci-fi convention than a beer event, but every February, Oregon Breweries celebrate the day with undisputed appreciation.  The unusual event name is in reference to the “zwickel” – or spigot on a the side of the fermentation tank where brewers taste the beer during the brewing process.  This allows the brewers to monitor the beer for quality control.  The beer sampled out of the zwickel is unfiltered and will display different flavors and aromas than the finished product.  Zwickelmania is a chance for the public to act like a brew master and get a taste in before the beer goes to market.  Across Oregon events are held with special tastes, beer releases and plenty of craft beer to satisfy even the thirstiest fan.

Here in Eugene events were held at each of the breweries from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, February 16th.  I was only able to visit Oakshire Brewing, Hop Valley and Ninaksi- but don’t worry.  I tasted enough beers to feel 100% okay with saying the word “zwickle” aloud.

Hop Valley's new facilities in the Whiteaker gives the Brewery plenty of room to expand.
Hop Valley’s new facilities in the Whiteaker gives the Brewery plenty of room to expand.

Hop Valley Brewing opened their doors to the public for the launch of their new location on 990 W 1st (formally Scharpf’s Building Specialties).  The spacious warehouse offers plenty of room to grow. Even the cooler is bigger than my entire house I rent with roommates.  Their classic Springfield location on 980 Kruse Way will still remain open, and the brewery is hoping to brew more smaller batch beers there.  The new place will focus on brewing and canning their classic best-selling beers like the Double D Blonde.  After touring Hop Valley it’s just a short block to the front door of Ninkasi.  I didn’t participate in any of Ninaksi’s Zwickelmania events and instead chose to simply appreciate my pints.  I’ve really enjoyed the offerings that Ninaksi has brought to the table this winter.  Every single-batch beer seems to be right on spot, with the perfect balance of flavor and hops.

Oakshire Brewing was the hit among beer fans and newcomers alike.  At opening a line of devoted enthusiasts anxiously waited the release of Hellshire 3. This Hellshire, third in special releases from Oakshire, is a barrel-aged stout with vanilla, cocoa nibs, and a strong bourbon flavor.

Mat Blair, brewer at Big Sky Brewing MT and former co-worker at Oakshire, made his way to Oregon to celebrate the Hellshire 3 Release.
Mat Blair, brewer at Big Sky Brewing MT and former co-worker at Oakshire, made his way to Oregon to celebrate the Hellshire 3 Release.

Other beers on tap and to buy in bottles included Hellshire 1, a Framboise, and the Sixth Anniversary Barley Wine.  While the later may be hard to find in stores, I highly recommend adding a bottle of Hellshire 3 to your personal cellar.  After aging for a few months to a year or two, this beer will mature nicely.  Overall, the Zwickelmania events across Oregon hopefully drew a few more craft beer lovers into the fold.  If you missed out, you can always visit the breweries on your own time.  Often brewers at the smaller places are happy to give you a taste off the zwickel if you buy them a round or two. 

After the Zwickelmania events, I traveled north to Seattle the following weekend for even more beer “research”.  This time I was on other side of the bar, helping serve beer at the event Hops and Props.  This annual event at the Boeing Museum of Flight draws a crowd of over 2,500.  Located in a hanger with vintage airplanes, live music and unlimited beer samplings, this night was one I will not forget.  It was honestly one of the coolest beer events I have ever been to.  In Oregon, events are often limited by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).  And while I don’t want to nag about the OLCC, let’s just say Washington State is the cool uncle that passes you shots under the table at the family reunion. At this event, the beer flowed and the 40 breweries serving within the museum had a great time.

Kevin, from Oakshire, serves up Watershed IPA at Hops and Props in Seattle.
Kevin, from Oakshire, serves up Watershed IPA at Hops and Props in Seattle.

While I missed Plank Town’s opening on Sunday as I recovered from Hops and Props in Seattle, I can’t wait to visit this week. The newest brewery to hit Springfield is already making waves in the local beer scene and helping to transform Springfield’s downtown.  Plus, I wouldn’t expect anything but awesome from the owner who also is apart of Sam Bond’s Garage and Axe and Fiddle; two local spots that are legendary for great beer drinking.  I hear Plank Town was already packed over the weekend and serving up delicious beer and fries. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the place becomes an awesome spot for emerging bands.  The floor manager, Dan Schmid, was the bassist from the local rock band The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. I’m excited to see what beer styles they will have on tap out of what looks to be a really cool tap set-up and bar. Have any questions about this new brewery that you would like me to ask the brewers or staff when I visit this week? 

Cheers,
Lana

EDN's Beer Writer, Lana O'Brien, loves talking about beer as much as she loves drinking it. From bartending to home-brewing and now writing for EDN, she's on a mission to discover the best local craft beers. Follow along in her weekly column, Hopped Up, every Wednesday. Connect @lanaobrien.

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