Lana O'Brien

Hopped Up Eugene: My Favorite 4 Bend Beers

//

If you think we’re beer-crazy here you Eugene, you haven’t heard about the city of Bend, Oregon.  The little mountain town boasts the largest number of breweries per capita in Oregon, most within a short distance of each other making it the perfect vacation spot for all you Willamette Valley hop-lovers. This weekend Bend is hosting their annual Brewfest.  I realize that if you follow Oregon Craft Beer news, you know this is only one of many brewfests this summer. (I can’t even begin to touch on the enormous Oregon Brewer’s Festival in Portland). But, if you’re like me and are craving a mellow weekend at home, Bend probably isn’t for you. Instead of making the trip, here’s a list of some of my favorite Bend beers that you can find right here in Eugene. Some are classic all-time favorites, others are new loves, but all a worth a sip this weekend.

Deschutes Mirror Pond is an easy drinking beer that you can find everywhere in Eugene.
Deschutes Mirror Pond is an easy drinking beer that you can find everywhere in Eugene.

1. Deschutes, Mirror Pond. No Bend beer mention is complete without tipping our hat to Deschutes. Deschutes, and myself, will celebrate our 25th Birthdays this year, making the brewery old in Oregon craft beer years, not so much in people (or European Beer) years. While different Deschutes styles can be found all over Eugene, the beer you’re most likely to see on tap or in bottles is Mirror Pond.  This is a classic, and often introduction craft beer, since you can find it in even the most bud-loving bars. The beer is a golden, coppery amber, American Pale Ale. It’s malty and extremely drinkable. I personally think it leans more on the Amber side as opposed to a pale ale, but that’s just because it isn’t an IPA wanna-be. I usually don’t order Mirror Pond, but when it’s the only craft beer on tap, it goes great with a burger and fries. It’s the perfect introduction to craft beer, and to the Bend beer scene.

2. 10 Barrel, ISA. 10 Barrel is exploding over Eugene, so it’s not surprising that it is one of the fastest growing Oregon breweries. Last summer I fell in love with their ISA: India-Style Session Ale. This new style basically just means that it’s a session (meaning a low ABV beer that you can drink a lot of) pale ale. It’s light with citrus grape-fruit aroma and flavors.  There’s a hint a sweetness that balances out the hop bitterness perfectly. This is a beer and brewery you’re likely to see around town this weekend.  If you don’t see the ISA on tap, their flagship Apocalypse IPA is also a good choice. You may also see 10 Barrel’s Swill on tap (I know it was pouring at the Scandinavian Festival!). It’s a very grapefruity forward, more sweet-than-sour, beliner weisss (aka sour wheat) beer that’s delicious on a hot day.

3. Boneyard RPM. I can guarantee that you’ve seen Boneyard around town as well.  Along with 10 Barrel, these two Bend breweries are everywhere. Their RPM, IPA is by far their most popular beer. For those of you that love hoppy IPA’s- this is your beer. In fact, they almost have a cult following of devoted RPM fans (I may have been one in the past). They’ve had some issues with consistency, but overall it’s a great beer.  RPM a sweeter IPA with great amber color and a tropical citrus-y taste. Very drinkable, so watch out since it comes in above 7% ABV.

Enjoying a Crux Impasse Saison at the Bier Stein.
Enjoying a Crux Impasse Saison at the Bier Stein.

4. Crux Fermentation Project, Impasse Saison. Crux is one of the newest breweries to open in Bend and is already one of my newest favorites, with everything they’ve made tasting delicious. One that I’m loving right now is the Impasse Saison, which was just tapped at the Bier Stein. It’s a delicious Belgian harvest beer, with strong citrus and clove spices. It’s a bright, bold beer that may not be for everyone, but I loved it and would recommend you give it a try. Other beers to try from Crux, although you may not see them in Eugene, are Off Leash Session Ale and Mosaic Imperial IPA.

These are my top Bend beers to find in Eugene bars and restaurants right now, but there are plenty more to taste.  Look out for anything from Silver Moon or Goodlife Brewing Company- they’re both favorites of mine, although a little bit harder to find here in Eugene.  If you can make it to the Bend Brewfest, it’s happening August 15th-17th at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.  Details can be found at www.bendbrewfest.com.  If not, join me here in Eugene where we can enjoy the best that Bend has to offer. Have anything from Bend I should try?

 

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

//

I’m going to start off this column by apologizing to all the die-hard baseball fans out there, especially our local Eugene Emeralds fans. True, you are most likely a small and dwindling group, but I applaud your fortitude and envy your dedication.  If I were a true Ems fan, or even a baseball fan, I would be crushed by our mid-season loss to Boise last night.  I, however, am apparently not a very good fan because I had a fun and rowdy time at last night’s game.  I love baseball games.  And, if in anyway you have been following this column, you know why: the beer.  Yes, I will admit that I enjoy our nation’s pastime for a less worthy, but in my mind just as patriotic reason.

Lana (far right) enjoying the Ems game and beer with friends on Tuesday.
Lana (far right) enjoying the Ems game and beer with friends on Tuesday.

Growing up in Eugene, summers were filled with family trips to the old Civic Stadium.  I loved the wooden benches, heckling fans, and most of all inning 6 when my dad finally let me get a sno-cone. In the time sense, my purple and blue sno-cone stained mouth has developed cravings more on the beer side, and luckily PK Park doesn’t disappoint.

Tuesday’s are craft beer night, so for just $3 for the small or $6.50 for the large cup, you can enjoy Ninkasi or Oakshire.  This year Ninkasi created a special red ale where fans submitted and voted on the name in June at the season opener.  The final decision: E.R.A or Emerald Red Ale.  (Just to prove how little of a baseball fan I am, it took me more than a second to realize the baseball connection).  Ems staff picked the hops, malts and general flavor profile that’s completely unique to PK Park. The beer is an amber colored red ale that has the classic crisp, hoppy Ninkasi body. It’s a beer that you can sip and enjoy on a hot day while taking in a game.

ERA is a hoppy Red Ale. Photo from ninkasibrewing.com.
Photo from Ninkasi Brewing

For you craft beer nerds here’s what’s in the beer: the malts are 2-Row Pale, Carahell, Bonlander Munich, Black Malt and Flaked Barley.  The hop blend in E.R.A is a mix of Glacier and Calypso; two deliciously citrus hops.  Calypso is a bit fruity, some say pear and apple, while Glacier is a great hop for adding a full fruity and slightly woody aroma. IBUS are 56, and it sits at an easy 5.7% ABV.  If all that meant nothing to you don’t worry, this is still the beer for you.  ERA is an easy, drinkable beer, that will put in the perfect mood to enjoy a game.

The Em’s season, as well as summer, is halfway over.  Luckily there’s still plenty of time for you to get yourself down to PK park for some baseball, or as I like to call it, some beer.

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

///

Wow! It’s only mid-July, but I feel as if I’ve already had a full and busy summer. I haven’t written a Hopped Up in a few weeks, but I have an excuse: sunshine. I’ve been on vacation enjoying the beers and beauty of the Northwest. I first escaped with a long weekend of camping in the Three-Sisters Wilderness. It’s a beautiful area that has helped to inspire the many names of Deschutes Brewery beers such as Black Butte, Mirror Pond, Green Lakes, etc.  I also had the pleasure of taking time off to see two college friends tie-the-knot at a beautiful Mt. Shasta wedding.  We’re friends because they dutifully supplied an open bar that included Ninkasi’s flagship summer wedding ale: Maiden the Shade. And they’re smart and kind, and really good people. But also Maiden the Shade. As you can see, I’ve been taking full advantage of summer.

Getting out of town is always great, but it left me missing the local scene, new and old.  So, when family came to visit, I had to make sure they were caught up with Eugene’s three biggest breweries and newest neighbors in the Whiteaker.  You may think that because I’m such a beer fanatic, it was passed down from my parents.  Not the case. Although my last name is O’Brien, so the big Irish laugh and love of the pub is probably in my blood, my parents rarely imbibe except for special occasions.  Luckily, family visiting was enough of an event to get my mom, dad, brother and uncle out on the town.

The Whiteaker Brewery Walking Tour: Oakshire to Ninkasi to Hop Valley.
The Whiteaker Brewery Walking Tour: A). Oakshire to B). Ninkasi to C). Hop Valley.

We started our Whiteaker brewery walking tour at Oakshire’s new Public House. Oakshire is great about letting you sample, and it’s a good thing since there are always new beers on tap. The flights of beer, at one dollar a taster glass, are totally worth it.  You have to start with the year arounds (Watershed IPA, Overcast Espresso Stout and Amber) and Seasonal (This time of year it’s Line Dry Rye). Then you can move on to the more adventurous single batches, nitro and cask taps.  My mom (the very much non-drinker) loved getting the small samples of each taster. She fluctuated between telling all of us that she loved the Hops. Then a minute later, no scratch that, she loved the beers that were heavy on the malts. Then later, perhaps after enjoying the tastes, she loved the Cast beer. No mom, we had to say, it’s called cask with a “K” beer.

Be careful when you serve out of town guests a full Ninkasi taster tray.  They may want to stay in town longer than welcome.
Be careful when you bring out-of-town guests to Ninkasi. They may never leave.

We then took the short ten minute walk through the eclectic homes of the Whiteaker neighborhood to Ninkasi Brewing. I love this brewery tour on foot because you really get to witness the feel of a neighborhood that’s uniquely Eugene.  At Ninkasi we decided on a another two full taster trays. With the tasters you can try the ones you like, and if something is two hopped up, move on. It’s perfect for sharing with a family of light drinkers that aren’t quite sure yet what they like or don’t.  Included in the flights are any combination of the classic Total Domination, Tricerahops, Oatis Stout and whatever else is on tap. At Ninkasi we had the exact same conversation with my mother as at Oakshire.  She liked one, then didn’t like it, then couldn’t remember what she liked.  Really though, that’s the point of beer tasting.  No one knows what they like without trying it once, twice, or more, and then learning what hops, malts, yeasts and more generally, the styles they prefer over time.  For my uncle who was visiting from Los Angeles, he was very excited to visit Ninkasi since he had seen and tried the bottles in California stores.  Of course, no one can deny that beer tastes better at the source.

Hop Valley offers a delicious menu, and the perfect place to end the tour.
Hop Valley offers a delicious menu, and the perfect place to end the brewery tour.

For the final stop on our walking brewery tour, we finished at Hop Valley’s new location.  If you still haven’t had the opportunity to peek in, I highly recommend it. The inside is beautifully covered in dark wood with plenty of seating and a large glass window that looks into their new production brewery.  And of course getting to the most important part: they have 28(!) beer taps. They also have a delicious menu, which will probably be needed at this point if you’re following in our footsteps.  At Hop Valley I went straight to their new listing of specialty beers.  They have a few great lighter beers that are perfectly enjoyed in their large outdoor porch area.  I recommend the saison that I’ve already gone back for another pint of a few times.

The Whiteaker brewery walking tour is the perfect activity for out of town friends and family visiting.  We started at about 7:30 and were able to stop in each brewery and be home by ten-ish.  My younger brother (who’s not yet 21) was our designated driver home, and you should probably recruit someone just as unlucky as well.  But, if you don’t have a younger sibling to bully, the shared tasters and a walk between each stop still make this excursion a fun family outing. 

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

///

Plank Town Brewing was bustling on Tuesday night.  Not with patrons, although Plank Town has had their fair share of crowded evenings, no this was the staff.  Brewers, owners, kitchen staff and bartenders were putting the final touches on getting the building ready for their official grand opening on Saturday. 

Plank Town's own brews are now on tap, and they do not disappoint.
Plank Town’s own brews are now on tap, and they do not disappoint.

The juxtaposition of busy workers and those relaxing and enjoying a beer was refreshing.  Even the rock music overheard playing from the kitchen added character and personality.  I first visited Plank Town when they first opened, and although the food was delicious, I never made a second trip.  This time I felt at home and at ease, and quickly found myself thinking I could easily become a regular.  

Currently Plank Town has five of their own beers on tap, all brewed by their fabulous brewmaster Steve Van Rossem (who was previously brewing at Block 15 in Corvallis). My friendly bartender Michelle was kind enough to let me taste everyone (and even emailed me the spec sheets later).  It was hard to pick a favorite, so I recommend getting the taster tray.  Here’s what’s on tap: 

Plank Town Extra Pale Ale. 45 IBUs, 4.6%. This beer is a light golden, classic pale ale, with a nice crisp hop forward flavor.  This beer would be great for someone looking for a drinkable beer, and would be pair perfectly with most of the food on the menu.

Brussel Sprouts and Barts Best Bitter are a delicious combo.
Brussel Sprouts and Barts Best Bitter are a delicious combo.

B^3 Bart’s Best Bitter. 18 IBUs, 3.5%.  Although English-style Best Bitter’s aren’t the most popular style, this was my favorite on tap. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, unless you like Best Bitter’s.  The beer is well balanced between hops and malts with clear with a nice pale straw color. There may have a been a slight buttery taste, but I enjoyed the pint and would order it again. It also paired perfectly with the brussel spouts (and I realize I may have just listed two things you don’t like).

Foggy Scotsman. 25 IBUs, 5.2%.  In the style (surprise) of a Scottish-style porter, this beer hits the spot.  The aroma on this beer is rich and malty. It’s sweet with a smooth but slightly smoky finish.

Li’l Red Ryder. 50 IBUs, 5.4%. This rich and spicy Cascadian red ale is one that I suspect will become a house favorite. Good red ales are hard to find, but this one fit the uniquely NW style perfectly with a full body hop finish. I wish there had been a slightly stronger aroma, since it’s full of NW hops, but it’s always hard to tell in a taster glass.  If I were to order a burger or bigger meal- this would be the pint.

IPA. 60 IBUs, 6.2%. American-style IPA with UK malts and NW hops, specifically; Tomahawk, Centennial, Cascade, Chinede, Simocoe and Mosaic. The beer is a slightly sweeter IPA that’s balanced and delicious.  It’s sure to please any IPA fan in this IPA crazed town, and from what I hear, has already been selling like crazy.  You may have seen it on tap at the Bier Stein or 16 Tons. 

Plank Town now has a full menu of delicious food and brew.
Plank Town now has a full menu of delicious food and brew.

Also on tap are two cask beers.  These cask beers are collaborations porters with Ted from Brewer’s Union in Oakridge.  Firkin Toad is the lighter of the two with a nice light and smooth body. Perfect cask porter. Simply delicious and smooth. The second, Warrior Trail, has a darker head, and is rich, sweet and malty, maybe even a little jammy, but has a full lingering flavor of nutty, roasted chocolate malts.

If you make it to their Grand Opening this weekend, June 22nd and 23rd, you may have the pleasure of trying a few more of their beers.  I’m looking forward to their Saaz-all Lager.  It’s a lager with Czech Saaz hops that sounds delicious. Also on tap you may find Plank Town Stout or ExSB. During the Grand Opening celebrations the Red Raven Follies are playing 6-8p on Saturday and Sunday.  On Sunday at 9pm, Betty and The Boy are playing at 9p. If you want to get a brewery tour in, stop by Saturday or Sunday at 1, 3 or 5p.

With the great new beer selection of Plank Town brews finally pouring from their taps and a new full menu, this Springfield brew pub and bar is definitely on my short list of new favorite places to enjoy a pint of craft beer.

 

 

Cheers,

Lana

 

Plank Town is located on 346 Main St., Springfield.  541-746-1890. 

 

Hopped Up Eugene

//

Earlier this year in February I wrote about a special release from Oakshire Brewing during their Zwickelmania event. Among the various barrel aged beers that were pouring that weekend at Oakshire, Hellshire III stood out as a favorite.  Now, four months later, Hellshire III is tasting better than ever.  Fresh from taking home a Gold medal at the North American Beer Awards on May 31st and previously winning gold In November 2012 at the Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer, this beer is worth writing home about.

Hellshire III just won Gold at the North American Beer Awards.
Hellshire III won Gold at the North American Beer Awards.

Hellshire III is third in the Hellshire series from brewmaster Matt Van Wyk at Oakshire Brewing.  The Hellshire series is part of Oakshire’s commitment to unique and specialty beers, and has helped to put the once small but ever-growing brewery on the map. Hellshire I was released in May 2011 and is a bourbon barrel aged barleywine. It spent 10 months in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels. Although hot at first, this specialty beer has now aged as is quite delicious, although hard to find. Hellshire II, a bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Coffee released in November 2011, drew criticism as it contained unintended lactobacillus (a good beer for a sour- but not what the brewery intended). Luckily the brewery admitted the mistake (one that is incredibly easy to make while aging beers) and now with this newest release the Hellshire series is back on top.  Hellshire III is a Foreign Style Stout aged for nearly a year in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hills Distillery in Kentucky.

The aroma on Hellshire III is one of the best.
Hellshire III is a bourbon barrel aged foreign stout with a delicious aroma.

On Tuesday, Oakshire re-released another set of Hellshire bottles and offered the beer on tap. The beer pours with a rich dark color and a perfect inch head. I actually tried to stick my nose in so deep that I barely touched the beer and had to wipe away a drop on the tip of my nose.  The aroma is full and sweet with notes of caramel and delicious oaky bourbon. The mouthfeel is perfect, any hotness that was present earlier is now balanced with the coffee and malts.  There is a nice warm flavor that is entirely drinkable. The beer is sweet upfront with notes of vanilla but is followed by a perfect mellow bourbon finish with rich chocolate flavors that linger long after your last sip.

Hellshire III is the perfect use of the foreign style stout (they are generally sweeter than other stouts) and the Heaven Hill bourbon taste. Heaven Hill, if you haven’t heard of the popular Kentucky distillery, it’s known for their bourbon.  Aging the beer in bourbon barrels allows the beer to take on the oak and bourbon flavors, giving it a warmly unique taste and aroma. It’s not unlike how quality wine aged in oak barrels begins to taste more full and complex.

You can find bottles of Hellshire III at Oakshire, 16 Tons and the Bier Stein.
You can find bottles of Hellshire III at Oakshire, 16 Tons and the Bier Stein.

Barrel Aged beers lend themselves well to stouts and barley wines, and have become quite popular in the craft beer industry over the last decade.  But if you’re worried about opening a bottle to yourself, the beer is a low 8.6% ABV. Okay, maybe that’s not a “low” ABV, but for barrel aged beers that’s pretty good considering many of them hit the 12% range.

This beer was entirely deserving of the North American Beer Awards gold medal in the barrel aged beer category.  It’s a hard thing win a medal. Runners up in the barrel aged category were Gin Eddy from Kettlehouse Brewing Co. who won silver and Highlands Oaked Scotch from Idaho Brewing Company who won bronze. Judges taste each beer for aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and their overall impression.   In my book, Hellshire III passes on all, and will definitely be one I add to my collection. However, if you don’t have the patience to wait for a beer to age, Hellshire III is perfect to drink today. 

Cheers,

Lana

 

Hopped Up Eugene

//

Eugene’s warm weather forecast lasts through next week (hopefully through summer), and many of my beer drinking friends have starting discussing their love for lighter beers.  The Pilsner is one of those styles that often doesn’t get much attention in northwest craft beer, but can be a diverse and delicious style. They are generally lighter in alcohol; usually around 4 or 5 percent ABV, and in color; a light pale or golden yellow with high carbonation.

Ninkasi's Sterling Pils is sold in Six-Packs in Eugene.
Ninkasi’s Sterling Pils is sold in Six-Packs in Eugene.

There are many different styles of pilsners and variations of pilsners but most are categorized as either a german-style or czech/bohemian pilsner (or pilsener). The main differences between the two are the hops are used, however, as new breweries begin experimenting with new and different things, the distinction between the two styles isn’t always apparent.  Regardless, when the sun heats up, a cold refreshing pilsner always hits the spot.  Lucky for us here in Eugene, not only do we have a warm front moving in, but Pilsners are lining the shelves in town and we have a few delicious options to choose from.

Ninkasi’s Sterling Pils, a german style pilsner, is part of Ninkasi’s current line-up and is sold in six-packs. The name comes from the bittering hops used (sterling) and is a slight twist on the traditional german style. Sterling hops are very similiar to Saaz hops which are traditionally used in Czech Style Pilsners. Sterling is a northwest hop that has a nice fresh but also herbal and spicy flavor.  If you’re hesitant that a brewery known for it’s hops could make a light, fresh beer, don’t worry.  

Hop Valley's Czech Your Head is a perfect summer day beer.
Hop Valley’s Czech Your Head is a perfect summer day beer.

 

All of Ninkasi’s beer’s in the Prismatic Lager Series (you may remember Helles Belles) have been fantastic. It’s a deliciously drinkable beer that hopefully sticks around through June.  It came out it April, so if you haven’t tried it yet, get yourself to a store or tasting room this weekend. 

Hop Valley recently re-did their packaging, which made me even more excited to try their Czech Your Head Pilsner.  It’s (obviously) a czech style pilsner with  german hops and malts. It’s light, crisp and refreshing.  I probably wouldn’t have this beer everyday, even though you probably could since it’s light and easy drink, but it’s a great one to recommend to novice beer drinkers. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Hop Valley’s future (the new location in the Whiteaker is coming along) so I can’t wait to see their beer production skyrocket. If you still want a light beer but pilsners aren’t your thing, the 541 Lager is now in six-packs cans, and they just released another summer beer, Pollination Summer Ale. 

Ryestop Rye Pilsner from Base Camp Brewing, in Portland.
Ryestop Rye Pilsner from Base Camp Brewing, in Portland.

A new beer that’s one of my growing list of favorites comes from Base Camp Brewing in Portland, OR.  Base Camp is relevantly new.  They opened their doors last fall, but have exploded since then.  Here in Eugene you can find their beers on tap at places like the Bier Stein or 16 Tons, and their bottles are sold in many of the grocery stores (Market of Choice, Safeway, etc). The Ripstop Rye Pils is a reinterpretation of the classic pilsner.  There is european malts and spicy rye malt, with a noticeable hop character. It’s different, but in a good way that’s still very drinkable.

Hope you enjoy the sunny weather and a few of the delicious pilsners available in stores during your weekend!

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

//

When ordering a light lager of the domestic kind, perhaps your favorite Pabst Blue Ribbon, you may at one point experience the heckling of a craft beer fan.  “I can’t believe you’re

Cask Ale is served from a traditional "beer engine" that siphons the beer through.
Cask Ale is served from a traditional “beer engine” that siphons the beer through.

drinking that. Drink an IPA. Order a real ale!”, they may say.  Well, I’m happy to report that when that happens you can turn around and politely tell them they’re wrong. What many people refer to as “Real Ale” or Cask Ale is growing in popularity, but still rather hard to find in the States. Cask Ale means that the beer was cask conditioned.  It’s unfiltered and un-pasteurized beer without any added carbonation, and is generally served in pubs from casks barrels, or firkins.  And, although I would never make the distinction between what’s a “real” ale or not, drinking a cask conditioned beer, served at just below room temperature is something that anyone who’s starting to get into craft beer should try.  

Cask Ale is different from other ales, lagers and stouts due to the fermentation process and carbonation.  The vast majority of beer that you find in stores or at bars goes through a carbonated process at the end of the brewing cycle.  Similar to how nitro beer tastes, cask beer has a smoother, less sharp mouth feel that can really allow for certain flavors and aromas to emerge. Cask beer is also unfiltered, so many drinkers may notice a hazy look, similar to some craft beers.  I will admit that there are  certain beers that I’ve tried on cask and with carbonation, and I have preferred the carbonation (same as with nitro). But, it’s a fun way to test your palette and see how carbonation can change a beer. The name “Real Ale” comes from the fact that in traditional english pubs, all beer is served as cask beer at cellar temperatures (between 50 and 55 degrees).  To the American taste buds, this can come across as warm and flat.

Cask conditioned ales at Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge.
Cask conditioned ales at Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge.

If you want to get the full cask experience, I recommend traveling east on Highway 58 to Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge. After spending a rainy Memorial Day weekend camping at Hills Creek Reservoir, I was more than excited to stop in at Brewers Union and order a pint or two of their cask ale. The beer is brewed on sight, then naturally fermented in the casks where CO2 builds up. If you never get to experience a British pub, Brewers Union is the best you can get here in Oregon. Their public house is kid-friendly and a perfect stop on the drive back to Eugene.  We split the Fish and Chips between two, but I would recommend any of the food options. The cask beer is on a rotating selection of four taps.  And, if you’re still not sold on warm un-carbonated beer, they do have six other guest taps.  

Cask Stout (left) compared to Nitro Espresso Stout (right) at Oakshire's Public House.
Cask Stout (left) compared to Nitro Espresso Stout (right) at Oakshire’s Public House.

Here in Eugene, multiple spots around town are starting to serve cask.  One of my favorite spots here in Eugene is Oakshire’s new public house.  With a  traditional british beer engine and a new cask beer on every couple of weeks, it’s a great place to start trying out something new.  Right now on tap is a similar recipe to the Overcast Espresso Stout, but without the coffee.  It’s rich dark stout that’s a perfect introduction to your first cask experience or one that you can keep coming back to.  Cask conditioned ale, isn’t always easy to find, but it’s worth giving a try.  While I realize the words “warm and un-carbonated” can be off-putting, that description alone really doesn’t give cask beer a chance.  It’s a style of beer that deserves more attention on this side of the pond, and any beer from Brewer’s Union or Oakshire I would recommend.  As to whether it’s the only “real” ale, I’ll leave that discussion up to you. 

 

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

//

Often in life there is a turning point to a specific event or occurrence   A moment where you look at yourself and acknowledge (maybe with a choice explicative), that there’s no turning back now.  I know we’ve all had these moments so I don’t feel the need to embarrassingly relay any of my less than flattering times I’ve gotten in too deep, most of which occur after a pint or two. On the flip side, there exists a tipping point where everything starts to come together all at once, and good things start to happen.  You can call it hard work and timing, plain good luck, or maybe magic. Whatever the phenomenon, it feels good.

Everyone can get behind more choices! Flight at Ninkasi.
Everyone can get behind more choices! Flight at Ninkasi.

The craft beer industry feels like it’s right at that tipping point.  Both locally and nationally, we’re seeing big changes happening.  Granted, all of this success does come with a lot of worries.  Many of us get frustrated when domestic beer giants try to spend there way into looking like a fresh new craft beer company.  Third Shift Lager, anyone? And for every new craft brewery startup, the founders may be wondering if the bubble is going to burst. But for the rest of us, craft beer is finally opening us up an entirely new world of tastes and experiences.  Before if you wanted to try a new style, a tiny beer bar was usually your best bet.  Now, the local pub and grocer are offering more and more choices.  It means they’re listening to the customer, and craft beer is coming out on top. It also means that people who used to be 100% “yellow beer” drinkers and 10 times out of 10 stuck to their Buds, Millers or Coors, are trying craft beer and enjoying the choices and variety that they bring.

With these additional choices, you may have some questions as your palate tries more, and generally more hoppy, beers of the pacific northwest.  You may not like all, or any, IPAs and you may be wondering why.  So, this post is not intended for those of you who already know what you like and why.  Nor is this intended to be a catch-all for craft beer.  Craft beer is complex and different and varied.  Every style is unique, as is every beer and every batch within that style.  But, for the sake of getting a few quick FAQs out there, I’ve compiled a small list of a few common “hoppy” craft beer questions and answers.  

Fresh hops ready to be brewed last fall.
Fresh hops ready to be brewed last fall.

1. What exactly are “Hops”?  Hops are a vine cone plant (cousins to cannibis) that grow extremely well in the same type of climates as grapes.  This is one of the reasons why Yakima Valley is the number one place to grow hops.  Many gardens and farms in Eugene also grow hops, and you’ll see the female cones flowering in the summer which can later be used for brewing.  The hops are added at different times in the brewing process for bitterness and aroma.  Each hop variety will add something different, which sometimes can mean a real sticky mouthfeel, a piney flavor or a grapefruit aroma.

2. What are the most common hop varieties?  If you can only remember two, just remember your geography. The two most popular hops, especially for pacific northwest pale ales and IPA’s (and this is only based on my opinion), are Cascade and Willamette hops.  Cascade hops are often where you get the citrusy and floral aroma and hop character.  Willamette hops are more fruity and floral.

You can also generally count on the “3 c’s” for IPAs; Cascade, Centennial and Columbus.  All are citrusy with a slight “resin” flavor.  Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means yet- it takes time to be able to distinguish hop characteristics.  Other hops to know are Simcoe, Summit, Crystal and Amarillo.  I better stop myself before I start listing them all, but my point is that there are lots of different hops, and lots of different combinations.  So if there’s a beer or a brewery that you don’t like, you may not like that specific hop variety that’s being used.

Outside Boneyard's Brewery in Bend, OR. Their popular IPA, RPM, uses 4 different hop varieties.
Outside Boneyard’s Brewery in Bend, OR. Their popular IPA, RPM, uses 4 different hop varieties.

3. I don’t like hops because I don’t like the bitterness.  Now what? You’re going to hate me for saying this, but don’t knock the hops.  First off, hops aren’t 100% responsible for the bitterness.  There can be countless different reasons why a beer is bitter (including the possibility that something when wrong in the brewing process).  Secondly, and if you read question 2 you’ll know, there are many different hop varieties and each one has a different mouth feel, a different taste and a different aroma. And if you think you’ve tried them all, you haven’t because new hop strains are being developed every year. Lastly, beer isn’t just hops.  Don’t give up on craft beer just because you had one (or ten) beers with a hop forward profile that you didn’t like.  There are plenty of breweries that are making beers that have exciting and complex malt profiles, fun things going on with the yeast, and interesting barrel-aged experiments. You can still enjoy and love craft beer, without falling for every double or triple IPA.

That’s all for this week.  Let me know your follow up questions or comments and I’ll either give you my unscientific opinion, or try to find someone who actually knows the answer.

Cheers, Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

//

With countless new breweries formed every day across the country, large expansion projects, bottles and cans shipped across the world, rising profits and quarter sales goals, it’s easy to forget the root of craft and get caught up in the business that is beer.  But, on a small farm on a back road between Coburg and Harrisburg outside of Eugene, Agrarian Ales has brought it back to the earth-grown beginnings of craft beer.

Agrarian Ales is a hop farm and brewery located just 30 minutes outside of Eugene.
Agrarian Ales is a hop farm and brewery located just 30 minutes outside of Eugene.

Every Sunday I play in a city-league Ultimate Frisbee game.  After our last Sunday game it was too hot for our Oregonian dispositions and we were in desperate need of some R&R and a big pint of beer. So, dressed all in Tie-Dye (our team uniforms), we caravanned to check out the new brewery. Agrarian Ales is a very special place.  You feel instantly welcomed as you drive into to gravel lot and walk past the children hula-hopping and adults sipping on pints to order a beer from the chalkboard sign and taps pouring from their walk-in fridge.

The beer list at Agrarian is always changing.  Seasonal beers are actually defined by the seasons, since every beer is made with 100% organic hops grown on the farm.  If you head out there now, you may get a chance to taste the Indigenous Lager, one of the few Chile beers I actually like, or the Kashyyk, a Sasquatch tribute beer. Belegene, perhaps their most “popular” beer is the hoppiest beer you’ll find at Agrarian.  It’s a northwest or “Eugene” belgian style beer that I would highly recommend.  Often, it’s easy to get caught up the hop-intense trend of IPA’s and you forget to notice the other flavors that make beer great. At Agrarian you have time to sit back and enjoy the entire craft beer experience.  The hops are grown on their 25 acres and picked by hand.  I’m a firm believer that food made in love tastes better, and this beer is no different.

Playing Horseshoes while enjoying Agrarians "Field Bier"
Playing Horseshoes while enjoying Agrarian’s Field Bier.

With a beer in hand, the rest of the afternoon was an idyllic   I kicked off my shoes, played a few games of horse shoes, and enjoyed the company of friends on our picnic blanket as they munched on tacos made at a stand outside of the brewery.  Everyone at the farm was happy, friendly and having a good time.  I felt less like a consumer buying a product, and more like a family member at a summer barbecue. Supporting this hyper-local and organic farm and brewery is something that you can feel good about. Sipping beer right next to the source with your toes in the grass is truly the the key to slowing down and simply enjoying life.

Agrarian Ales is located at 31115 West Crossroads Lane, (don’t worry, it’s easy to find with or without an i-phone map).  They are open Friday from 3pm-8pm and Sunday from 12pm-7pm.

Cheers,

Lana

Hopped Up Eugene

//

beerweekIt seems like every day there is something new happening in the Eugene craft beer scene and this week is no different.  So put on your sunglasses, pop a bottle of your favorite spring seasonal craft beer (I’d recommend local favorites Oakshire’s Line Dry Rye or Ninkasi’s Spring Reign) and get a moment of relaxation in today… because starting this weekend Eugene is going to be in full beer-drinking mode as we kick-off Eugene Beer Week! There are events everyday, so I’ve compiled your 8-day, can’t miss them for the world, list of the best events in Eugene.

Saturday Sasquatch Brew Fest: Eugene Beer Week starts with Sasquatch Brewfestival this Saturday, May 4th.  Doors open at noon, and for only $10 you get a commemorative glass and two taste tickets.  With live music playing all day long, this event should be the highlight of your spring.  Where: Eugene Hilton 66 E 6th Ave, all day.

Sunday Sasquatch Recovery Hash Bar: Thankfully the guys at Falling Sky are the smartest people I know, because honestly, a recovery Hash Bowl the morning after is such a good idea. Join in at 11am, then spend your day enjoying the sun with a Spring Seasonal brew and maybe an afternoon nap.  Trust us, you’ll need the rest as you gear up for the rest of the week. Where: Falling Sky, 11am.

Line Dry Rye is the perfect seasonal beer to put on draft in your home kegorator.
Line Dry Rye is the perfect seasonal beer to put on draft in your home kegorator.

Monday Learn to Build a Kegorator: Join the friendly folks at Oakshire Brewery for your how-to class on kegorators.  As a someone who built her own (with FOUR taps!) understands, a little extra instruction with a pint or two is never a bad idea. After, check out their new public house at 207 Madison, across from Wandering Goat Coffee. Where: Oakshire Brewery (1055 Madera St), 5:30pm-7pm.

Tuesday Bend at the Bier Stein: Even though it’s Eugene Beer Week, it doesn’t mean that the Bend Breweries can’t get some love.  Check out the new Bier Stein location for the second-annual Bend tap-takeover.  Brewers will be there from 6pm-9pm. Where: Bier Stien, all day.

Wednesday Meet The Brewer: Meet Simon Sothras as he presents his first Ninkasi brew – Babylon Double IPA. Get an inside look at what went in to making this deliciously hoppy beer from mash tun to pint glass. If you can’t make this one, Ninkasi Brewers are doing exclusive sensory classes and tastings everyday this week. It’s worth checking out if you’re new to craft beer or a seasoned pro.  Where: Ninkasi, 4pm-6pm.

Relax with some Spring Reign from Ninkasi!
Relax with some Spring Reign from Ninkasi!

Thursday Real Ale Fest: Join Falling Sky at 3pm for an afternoon of firkins and a special cask release. They’ll have two different beers from Falling Sky and two guest firkins, all pouring for $3. Yum! Where: Falling Sky, afternoon.

Friday Cheese Wars:  This is one you’ll have to buy tickets for in advance, but it’s completely worth it.  It’s 5 courses of cheese, paired with beer and wine. If you think wine will always win- think again.  Beer pairs beautifully with certain cheeses. Where: 16Tons Cafe & 16Tons, 5:30 and 8pm.

Saturday Claim 52 Inaugural Cornhole Tourney: I’m so glad Claim 52 is around this year for Eugene Beer Week, because this is a seriously awesome way to end the week. Register your team at [email protected] or day of event starting at 2:30. 10/ team gets you two skill-enhancing beverages and a chance to compete for fab prizes, including a private tasting party at the brewery. Double elimination tourney.  Where: Claim 52 Brewing, 3pm. 

Questions about the events or want to learn more about Eugene Beer Week? Visit the website here, or email [email protected]

Cheers,

Lana