As I walked through the swinging glass door of the red brick layered building on 13th between Pearl & High, I immediately felt like a kid in a candy store; an 8 year old on my first twisting, turning roller coaster; a ParrotHead in Paradise at my first Jimmy Buffett concert; yet, here I was, in downtown Eugene, literally surrounded by tons of local and international wine and beer. I originally came to Sixteen Tons to try their featured wine of the week, Redman 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, but my eyes were wide with amazement at the multiple shelves filled with beer from around the world that lined the walls from floor to ceiling. I was overcome with curiosity by the colorful, artistically designed labels and, for the first time ever, I headed to the beer section before heading to the wine section.
Beer guru and co-owner of Sixteen Tons, Mike Coplin, caught me before I got lost in beer-vana, and quickly realized I was more of a wine wench than a beer guzzler, so he led me to the barrel aged brews. He began to tell me in detail about Flanders Red Ales, but the phrases that registered into my wine brain were, “Burgundy’s of Belgium”, “the most ‘wine-like’ of all beers”, “common flavors of raspberry, plum, and spice”, “some aged in Chardonnay oak barrels”, “tannins”. Ok, Mike, you definitely got my attention.
Flanders Reds tend to have a strong fruit flavor that is similar to its aroma, yet more intense. They are aptly named ‘sour’ ales because of their high acidity which can range from being quite moderate to very strong. They go through long periods of aging, sometimes a year or more, often in oaked barrels. Mike suggested the Belgium ‘Duchesse du Bourgogne’, a Flanders red that is aged in oak for 18 months, and also pointed out the line of Russian River Brewing Company’s barrel aged brews out of Santa Rosa, California. I first noticed the blue labeled bottled named ‘Supplication’, a brown ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with the addition of sour cherries. Another Russian River Brew that I narrowed in on was the ‘Temptation’, a blonde ale that’s aged in French oak chardonnay barrels for twelve months. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout the aging process, and then it’s re-fermented in the bottle to create carbonation – the same process used for making fine champagne.
Continuing down the line, I was intrigued by the bottle in a box with a $24.95 price tag, Mike brought out the Firestone Walker 14th Anniversary Ale that came complete with a spec sheet that listed the components used to create this complex concoction, “Firestone Walker 14 was crafted from separate lots produced over several months and years, then carefully blended into a truly unique and complex beer.” Their goal was to “create complexity centering on oak, in a multitude of forms, by brewing high gravity beers in complementary styles, aging them in different barrel formats and then blending them together to achieve harmonious new flavors.” To achieve this goal, Firestone Walker brought in some neighboring Paso Robles winemakers who assisted with their expertise in the art of blending.
While I didn’t get a chance to sample the Firestone Walker 14th Anniversary Ale, I did get a chance to learn about an exciting upcoming event at 16 Tons: Brewpublic Wine Barrel Aged Beer Fest. On May 5th and 6th, 16 Tons will feature 18 wine barrel aged beers on tap and many more in bottles. Great timing on 16 Tons part because the annual 2011 Sasquatch Brew Fest is scheduled for Saturday, May 7th, so beer fanatics will already be invading Eugene. But, most notably, Mike Coplin and co-owner Jeff Moores , who is also a life-long friend of Mike’s, have been working hard to create the first official Eugene Beer Week – Celebrating Craft Beer Culture and Community in the Willamette Valley, which will encompass both the Sasquatch Fest and the Wine Barrel Aged Beer Fest in addition to bringing a greater awareness of craft beer in the Willamette Valley by organizing beer celebrations to promote the industry.
Eugene Beer Week runs from May 2nd to May 8th, and some of the celebrations include multiple beer release parties, a Women’s Only Beer Tasting and Discussion, Kegerator classes, and prix fix dinners all week long at Marché where delicious food will be paired with local brews. For the entire line-up of events so far check out http://www.eugenebeerweek.org/.
The name of this shop came from one of Mike and Jeff’s favorite 1950’s singers, ‘Tennessee’ Ernie Ford. The song was originally recorded in 1946 by Merle Travis, but in 1955 Ernie Ford sold over 20 million copies of “16 Tons” and it was considered one of the all-time best selling records in history. Sixteen tons of beer and wine? Most likely. The choices are in abundance. I was very happy to head home with the featured bottle of Redman 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that I had originally ventured out for, and it was gone by the end of the night. But, Mike’s got me tempted, and I’ll be back real soon for Russian River’s barrel aged brew, “Temptation”.
235 E. 13th, Eugene
Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine (& beer) Scene!