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. 




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]



Hopped Up Eugene


March 6 – 12

Plank Town Brewing Co. made quite the splash in Eugene and Springfield this past week.  The new Springfield brewpub was packed through the weekend and made front-page news across town. I have to admit; I got completely caught up in the hype, and actually made a visit TWICE in the last week.

Plank Town, in Springfield, is the newest brewpub to open with a huge welcoming.
Plank Town, in Springfield, is the newest brewpub to open with a huge welcoming.

Yeah, I suppose that qualifies me as a fan.  You’ve probably heard that the fries are delicious, and yes, I can confirm with 100 percent certainty that they are. The burger and Cuban sandwich on their currently limited menu are also great picks.  For the next couple of months, Plank Town will only be serving guest taps.  But, with 18 different beer offerings, I wouldn’t worry about the beer selection.  They even offered a cask beer from Brewer’s Union, although by Saturday night they were already sold out. Other beers in the selection included mostly northwest local breweries with a couple of options in each style.  The Base Camp Ripstop Rye Pilsner that’s drinkable enough to be a session beer, but with a kick of rye, pairs perfectly with the large burger and delicious aioli.  The servers seem optimistic that they’ll have Plank Town beer on tap sometime in May, but since production of the brewery is still in process it may be sometime this summer before we see consistent beer out of this location on tap.  But with Steve van Rossem from Block 15 as Plank Town’s head brewer, I think the hype surrounding this brewery is more than a fad.

With all of the Plank Town anticipation, you may have missed another exciting local beer milestone.  Oakshire officially joined the likes of Hop Valley in offering canned beer.  Watershed IPA is now found in 12oz 6 packs along with the 22oz bottles in stores across Oregon and Washington.  Why can beer?  Bottom line: it’s better for beer.  Yes, that may seem counterintuitive since you’ve probably seen more Millers and Buds in cans than craft beer, but expect that to change. According to the different sources, there are between 200 and 300 craft brewers that are putting beer in a can.  That’s still a tiny percentage, but expect the number to continue to grow.  Here are five convincing reasons why you should consider cans over glass bottles for your next beer purchase:

5. Outdoor Adventure:  A summertime rafting adventure on the water is the perfect time to enjoy a craft beer (responsibly of course), a backpacking trip, or a mid-day rest on the ski slope.  A glass bottle just doesn’t make since to carry around, and often glass isn’t allowed in certain areas like outdoor concert venues.  With a can, problem solved.  It’s lighter, a single serving (for responsible drinking), and you’ll look pretty cool when you easily toss your friend a delicious craft beer across the water.

4. Get It To Go: The same problem you have while trying to lug your 22oz on your backpacking trip affects distributors too.  (Trust me on this one: I did a stretch of the PCT in Oregon and had my Dad meet me at certain points to bring me beer since carrying a 22oz over 300 miles was not my favorite option).  With cans, easier packaging and lighter loads means smaller breweries will be able to send more of their beer to more places while still being cost effective.  Plus, since the beer lasts longer in a can (look at reasons number one and two), worrying about the 3-month expiration date on the shelf will have less of an negative impact for your out-of-town beer favorites.

3. Go Green: I really don’t feel like I have to explain this, but recycling cans is much easier than glass. I could figure out how much my carbon footprint would change if I switched all my beer drinking to cans- but that would involve facing the reality of how much beer I drink, so that’s not going to happen.  Simply put, switching to can recycling is an awesome thing.

2. Light: Often referred to as “Skunked Beer”, a bottle that gets a lot of light exposure on the bottle often will have a “skunky character.”  Glass color (brown instead of green bottles) in another way brewers help prevent light exposure due to the different color wavelengths that light is absorbed.  There could be many reasons for a skunky taste, for example transitions between cold and warm storage, but cutting out light exposure with canning helps give you the best beer possible.

1. Oxidation: Oxygen interacting with the various parts of beer over time can create a stale taste. The malt flavors become more sticky-sweet or as some describe “lipstick tasting”. Diacetyl, which in certain styles ruins the flavor with a buttery taste, may be present with oxidation in some beers. Cans have less oxygen pickup, which keeps the beer fresher, longer. The best way this was described to me is pretty obvious, but true: cans are like mini-kegs.  We all know beer tastes better on draft.  This same philosophy is basically true for cans.

Cans are gaining traction in the craft beer community.
Cans are gaining traction in the craft beer community.

So why don’t more breweries can their beer?  Primarily because it’s a huge investment. Canning lines are extraordinarily expensive.  Add the start-up cost to the fact that people still associate cans with a “metallic taste” (not true) and stigma of domestic beer and it can be a pretty large financial risk.  Still, there are countless local breweries that are leading the “Canning Revolution.” It started with Oskar Blues eleven years ago and includes heavy-hitters such as 21st Amendment, Magic Hat Brewing Company, New Belgium, Redhook and Stone Brewing Company all offering cans for either all their beers or only a few select styles. Here in Oregon we have Boneyard Brewing (plans for this spring), Caldera Brewing, Coalition Brewing, Fort George Brewery, Hop Valley Brewing Co, Hopworks Urban Brewery, and now Oakshire Brewing just to name a few on the list.  So, if you are considering cans, go out there and support Hop Valley and Oakshire.  We’re not going to see more options from breweries unless we prove there’s a demand for the can!


Hopped Up Eugene

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? 


Meet Lana O’Brien – EDN’s New Beer Writer

Lana O’Brien – behind the bar at Oakshire Brewing

There’s something about living in the Pacific Northwest that draws one to the craft beer scene. It could be the comfort we find inside our local tap house on a rainy night, or perhaps it’s the plentiful hop farms. Maybe there really is something in the water that goes into brewing the numerous local microbrews. Needless to say, a born and raised Oregonian, like myself, knows there’s something special about sipping a pint from your favorite brewery.

Although I have only been enjoying beer for a few short years, I have grown to love and appreciate the craft. I started in college with stealing tastes of friend’s homebrews to finally, with plenty of trial and error, home brewing myself.  When I worked in the tasting room at Oakshire Brewing here in Eugene, I learned as much from the brewers as I did from the regulars who gladly shared their own homebrew recipes with our small staff.

Before working in the beer-industry, I knew I enjoyed the delicious combination of hops and malts, but I didn’t realize how much I loved TALKING about it. And when you work in a tasting room, you end up talking about beer – a lot. What’s more, I’ve come to love tasting, sharing and analyzing what I’ve learned with others.

Beer tasting is similar to wine; it’s an experience. The act of enjoying a well-crafted beer involves all the senses. First look at the appearance and color. How carbonated is it? Does it look cloudy or clear? Next swirl the beer as you would wine and enjoy the aroma. Beer aromas can be incredibly complex and thoroughly pleasing. Finally, the part you’ve been waiting for, tasting the beer. Notice the mouth-feel. Is it watery or full-bodied? Compare the balance of sweetness and bitterness. Unlike wine, swallow the beer, as the aftertaste is just as important. When the beer warms or ages, you’ll notice different aromas and flavors come through. Tasting beer isn’t about chugging the most steins (although I’ve had my fair share of Oktoberfest nights), or finding the beer with the highest ABV (alcohol content) or IBUs (International Bittering Units aka general “hoppiness”). It’s about developing your own personal tastes and learning what to look for in a beer. And, if a girl like me can fall this in love with beer, I think you can, too.

I’m here to convince you that there’s a craft in craft beer, that every style deserves recognition, and that if you think you don’t like beer you just probably haven’t tried the right style. It doesn’t matter if you’re already a microbrew evangelist or just dipping in for the first time, I think we’ll enjoy each other’s company. I’m always looking for the next new brew, and hope to share what I find with you. From American lagers to Scottish ales- you name it, and I’ll drink it! Welcome to my weekly beer column, Hopped Up Eugene!

Hopped Up Eugene will be published weekly, on Wednesdays, in conjunction with the popular, Wine Down Eugene.




Oakshire’s Barley Wine Highlights KLCC Microbrew Festival


Much of the attention that is given to local beer in the Eugene community is directed at the Ninkasi Brewing Company, and deservedly so.

It was over six-and-a-half years ago now that Nikos Ridge and Jamie Floyd, in the back of a German restaurant, began brewing their first batch of what would eventually become the flagship beer of Ninkasi, Total Domination IPA. From these humble beginnings has emerged a micro-brew giant that is currently expanding into California while having its eyes set on the rest of the United States. Preaching a message that highlights the importance of supporting local companies and individuals, Ninkasi’s reach may only be limited by the sky.

And yet, despite the large claim to fame in Eugene that Ninkasi currently has, another brewery that has become a staple in this community is set to go toe-to-toe with them for years to come.

Like Ninkasi, Oakshire Brewing began in 2006 from humble beginnings, when two men (this time brothers) decided to see what talents they had at brewing beer. Unlike the many individuals who attempt to partake in this craft and fail, Jeff and Chris Althouse found success in what can be a very unforgiving market.

Oakshire's Brewers Reserve 6 was the highlight for many attendants of KLCC's 2013 Microbrew Festival. Photo courtesy of Oakshire Brewing.
Oakshire’s Brewers Reserve 6 was the highlight for many attendants of KLCC’s 2013 Microbrew Festival. Photo courtesy of Oakshire Brewing.

Over six years later–once again paralleling the path Ninkasi has taken–and Oakshire has become one of the signature companies in Eugene and throughout the micro-brewing industry.

And, on Friday night, Oakshire made the best of an already great event by providing attendants of the 2013 KLCC Microbrew Festival with a very special tasting.

Located under a tent that was placed next to many of the other breweries giving out samples during the festival–in stark contrast to Ninkasi’s large tent that was placed in its own individual corner that came fully equipped with a foosball table, mock fireplace, and bean bag toss station–Oakshire released  what was likely the most popular and hyped sample of the night.

Oakshire Brewers Reserve 6 was the beer–or barley wine–that everybody had been waiting for all night long. Originally making its debut this past winter to mark six years of the breweries existence, the barley wine drew crowds of people to Oakshire’s booth even before its scheduled release at 9 p.m.

Barley wine, for those who do not know, is not a wine. While there are hints of fruity flavors that you may find in a wine, barley wine is still classified as a beer because it is still made from grains while achieving the alcohol content of a wine. A breweries strongest beer can sometimes be considered its barley wine, though the alcohol strength should still be between 8-12 percent.

Oakshire's Brewers Reserve 6, an American barley wine, made an appearance on Friday night.
Oakshire’s Brewers Reserve 6, an American barley wine, made an appearance on Friday night.

And, standing at 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), Oakshire’s barley wine definitely meets its classification criteria.

The brew, which was barrel-aged in brandy barrels for one year, hit all the right notes on Friday evening, combining a hint of fruit with the great signature hops of the northwest. Oakshire’s website describes their barley wine as being able to provide “a warm, soothing and luxurious drinking experience,” something that many who sampled it on Friday agreed with.

The sampling of Oakshire Brewers Reserve 6 towards the end of the first night of KLCC’s 2013 Microbrew Festival was the highlight for many beer enthusiasts who came from all over the region to pay tribute to the evolving beer culture of the northwest.

Unfortunately for the individuals who lined up to taste this drink, Brewers Reserve 6 was produced as an anniversary brew, making its quantities severely limited.

However, for those who want to get a possible second taste of this unique barley wine, Oakshire will be holding a special release for their third barrel aged beer, Hellshire III, on February 16 and have announced they will sell some of their past brewer’s reserves as well as their other barley wine, Hellshire I.

It was not indicated whether or not Oakshire Brewers Reserve 6 would be one of the reserves to make an appearance.


16 Tons to Host Winter & Strong Ale Fest


This Saturday and Sunday (December 15 & 16), from 12pm to 10pm, 16 Tons will host the 3rd Annual Eugene Winter and Strong Ale Fest. 

When you are a business that makes its profits from the beer industry and are located relatively close to a college campus, it can sometimes be forgotten that the point of drinking beer is not to get drunk; the point of drinking beer is to participate in one of the longest-standing methods of socialization that the human race has come to know. Dating all the way back to the times of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (with an existence record since at least the 5th Century B.C.), beer has fostered some of the greatest interactions throughout history.

Recognizing the importance of beer and taking advantage of the quality Northwest breweries in the area, 16 Tons  has continued to emphasize the special place beer holds in society. Featured as one of Eugene’s best businesses in 2010, 2011, and 2012, this local taphouse also pays special attention to making their company as eco friendly as possible, offering their fresh draft beer to go in environmentally safe, reusable containers. Since their establishment they have expanded to feature over 300 craft beers, more than 250 wines, and a selection of Sake, Cider, and more.

16 Tons will have a diverse selection of beers, one of which is sure to fit your winter needs. Photo courtesy of 16 Tons.

16 Tons’ taphouse on 13th and High, one of their two locations in Eugene (the other location is placed at 2864 Willamette right next to Market of Choice and provides a cafe setting), will provide the setting for an event that is quickly becoming a favorite in Eugene. The Winter and Strong Ale Fest will emphasize those seasonal and rare beers that people grow fond of yet  can’t get their hands on for much of the year.

This years’ headlining breweries are Ninkasi, Oakshire, Boneyard, Deschutes, Hop Vally, Block 15, Flat Tail, McKenzie/Steelehead, Gilgamesh, Silver Moon, Elysian, Full Sail, Heater Allen, Hopworks, Laurelwood, Double Mountain, 10 Barrel, Midnight Sun, Gigantic, Alaskan, Widmer, Evil Twin, The Commons, Hair of the Dog, Brew Dog, Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, Stone, Mad River, and Fort George. The festival can provide the opportunity for breweries on the cusp of success the chance to expand their markets and showcase their style against some of the bigger producers in the area, such as Ninkasi, Deschutes, and Oakshire.

Offering tasters at $1-$2, depending on quality and production of the beer, the festival has particular emphasis on Boneyard’s Suge Knite Imperial Stout (Bend, Oregon) and Block 15’s Barrel Aged Figgy Pudding (Corvallis, Oregon). Like many other beers to be featured at this festival, these two brews are rare in production and high in demand.

As mentioned previously, the Eugene Winter & Strong Ale Fest will take place at 16 Tons on December 15th and 16th from 12pm to 10pm and play host to an added selection of beers in an effort to stimulate what can be a cold and rainy winter. Only persons of age 21 and over are allowed and there is free entry into the event.



Barrel Aged Brews – Part III: Firestone Walker 15


–Julia Crowley, EDN

In October, I sampled my first ever barrel aged beer, Oakshire’s Hellshire II. The intense bourbon, vanilla, coffee and caramel flavors of the Hellshire II urged me to explore the world of barrel aged beers, so I later attended the Winter and Strong Ale Fest at 16 Tons where I discovered a world of international and domestic beers packed with flavors from ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, to fig, molasses and caramel; hence, the beginning of my love affair with barrel aged beer.

There's a brewing company in Paso Robles, California that has my full attention, and that brewery is Firestone Walker Brewing Company.

One of the beers I sampled during the Winter and Strong Ale Fest that had me seriously intrigued was Firestone Walker 14. Complex flavors of brown sugar, maple syrup, dark chocolate, cherry and coffee flourished, and I was instantly hooked. I took home a bottle of Firestone Walker 14, and inside the box that the bottle was housed in was a note from Firestone Walkers Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson. Included in the note was a brief history on their barrel aged specialty brews:

The Bier Stein after the crowd dispersed

“Since founding our brewery in 1996, we have specialized in the rare art of brewing beer in oak barrels. In the fall of 2006, we released a limited edition oak-aged strong ale called 10 to commemorate our 10th anniversary. The experience was greater than any of us could have ever imagined. We now present 14, our fifth release in what has become an autumnal rite at our brewery.”

The note continued with information regarding the production of their 14th anniversary beer, and I learned that this beer not only had brewers involved, but winemakers as well. Five winemakers from the esteemed Paso Robles wine region used their blending expertise in a single blending session of six different Firestone Walker beers. The finished product is a beer that deserves to be served in a wine glass, and I truly enjoyed every sip of its complex goodness.

David Walker talks about Firestone Walker 15

When I heard that Bier Stein was having a release party for the highly anticipated Firestone Walker 15, in addition to a partial tap takeover of other Firestone Walker beers, I marked my calendar and called my beer enthusiast friends-it was a date.

When we arrived at the Bier Stein, it was elbow room only, so we got in line to order a glass of the Firestone Walker 15. With the purchase of the Firestone Walker 15, we also received a ticket to sample the 14, which was somewhere towards the back of the bar. The bartender pointed in the general direction, but we decided to search out an available table instead. We saw one table that had empty seats but a tabletop filled with glasses, so we headed in its direction in hopes that it had been vacated. As luck would have it, the table was taken; however, its occupier invited us to sit down, and he politely introduced himself to us, “David Walker, nice to meet you.”

The giddy school-girl in me almost showed its face, but I kept my cool and dove into a conversation with David Walker, owner of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, about his companies captivating barrel aged beers.

Firestone Walker 15 and 14

Walker explained that the goal of his brewing company’s barrel aged and blending program is to create several different forms of high gravity, complex, oak-aged beers that can be blended together to achieve stellar and harmonious new flavors. Just as I discovered from the brewmasters note in the Firestone Walker 14 box, those balanced and melodic flavors are acquired by the blending expertise of selected Paso Robles winemakers, thus creating the depth of character that I was currently discovering in the Firestone Walker 15 anniversary ale.

Firestone Walker 15 is a deep mahogany brown with a light tan creamy head. Much like wine, this beer needed to be sniffed first, and a wave of aromas blasted from the glass: vanilla, wood, coconut, almond and bourbon. The flavors came in waves, starting with vanilla extract, caramel and brandy and ending with an everlasting finish of intense toasted oak, chocolate and toffee. This brew had rhythm.

Walker continued with an overview of the eight different beers that were blended to create this symphonic brew:

  • Helldorado – a blonde barley wine aged in bourbon barrels and brandy barrels
  • Sticky Monkey – an English barley wine, also aged in bourbon and brandy barrels
  • Bravo – also aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, this is an Imperial Brown Ale
  • Double Double Barrel Ale – a double strength English Pale Ale that was aged 100 percent in retired Firestone Union Barrels
  • Good Foot -an American barley wine aged in bourbon barrels
  • Velvet Merkin – a traditional oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Parabola – a Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Double Jack – 100 percent Fresh-n-Hoppy, 100 percent stainless steel Double India Pale Ale

Each of the eight beers contribute different characteristics which achieve the unmatched, complex flavors found in this luscious brew. Surprised that all beers blended were barrel aged except one, Walker retrieved a sample of the stainless steel Double India Pale Ale, Double Jack, so I could taste it along side the barrel aged Firestone Walker 15, and the contrast between the two were astounding. Much like what a stainless steel white wine looks when placed next to an oak aged red wine, the Double Jack had a golden pale color, and it was much lighter on the palate. Although the Double Jack was excellent, the countless characteristics found in the barrel aged Firestone Walker 15 continued to marvel my taste buds like none other.

Walker is devoted to his one-of-a-kind brewing company, and his level of knowledge and passion for barrel aged and blended beers was clearly impressive as he educated me on the art of brewing. A trip to Paso Robles is no doubt in my near future, and I not only plan to visit the Firestone Walker Brewery, but I’d like to visit the wineries of the winemakers that participated in the blending session that created the incredibly distinctive and savory Firestone Walker 15.

*photos courtesy of Maria Curtis


Barrel Aged Brews – Part I: Oakshire Hellshire II


— Julia Crowley, EDN

Vanilla, cherries, molasses, figs, pumpkin, coffee, chocolate and caramel. As much as this appears to be a list of ingredients needed to prepare a holiday feast, they are actually just a few of the many flavor profiles found in barrel-aged brews. Because of these many distinctive flavors, the demand for barrel aged beers is on the rise and is a growing trend within the American craft and micro brewing industry.

Much like a high quality red wine, barrel aged beers have a longer shelf life, are more complex and tend to be more expensive than other beers. Aged beers also have a higher content of alcohol and are usually dark or sour. Since I love complex red wines that tend to impart the oak flavors that are acquired from aging in oak barrels, I was driven to experience the flavors of barrel aged brews, hoping that they, too, would be complex and contain flavors from the barrel used for aging. Having never tried a beer that was aged in a barrel, I decided to attend the release party for Oakshire Brewing Company’s bourbon barrel aged beer, Hellshire II.

Oakshire's Overcast Espresso Stout and Hellshire II

After arriving at the Oakshire brewery, I was immediately impressed by the amount of people that were waiting in line to try this just-released micro brew. The line of beer enthusiasts came out of the tasting room, into the parking lot and almost past the fence that surrounds the brewery. I took a place in the line and watched as people came out with tasters, snifters, pints, bottles and cases of beer. The people in line around me talked about the release of the new beer, and more people than not were wearing Oakshire logo hats, T-shirts or sweatshirts. Once inside the bustling tasting room, I ordered a taster of the Hellshire II, which is barrel aged, and a taster of the Overcast Espresso Stout, which isn’t barrel aged.

Both of these beers were very dark brown, almost black, in color and the Espresso Stout had a light tan head while the Hellshire II had creamy brown head. The Espresso Stout is an oatmeal stout, which was brewed with beans from a Eugene coffee roaster, and the medium-bodied flavors definitely showcased the espresso beans along with a malty, chocolatey finish. The Hellshire II is an Imperial Stout that was aged in bourbon barrels for seven months. Initial flavors consisted of oak and bourbon with hints of vanilla, and finished with intense yet balanced coffee and caramel flavors. Of the two, I preferred the Hellshire II, and without hesitation, I bought my first ever wax-dipped, spooky-labeled, fifteen-dollar bottle of barrel aged beer.

Wax drippings create an eerie yet fun look to the Hellshire II bottle

Before departing, I met up with two of Oakshire’s ambassadors who gave a group tour of the brewery. Of the six people in the group, I was the only person that wasn’t a home brewer; I simply wanted to check out the digs that were used to create the impressive Hellshire II.

The tour began at the Oakshire silo that houses the two-row Canadian malt grain that is the base of most beers brewed at Oakshire. Ambassador Jacque Barton described the process of making the brew. From that silo, the grains are brought into the mill room by way of an auger system. During this “hot” side of the operation, the grain goes into a grist hopper and is made into what they call “mash.”

The mash then goes into another machine where they make the wort, add in hops and add flavors for that particular batch. From there it goes into a whirlpool tank where the movement of water forces the impurities to settle on the bottom.

At this point, the beer is too hot to add the yeast, so it goes through a cooling process. Cold water is pushed into a radiator, and as the hot beer passes by, the cold water cools the brew to about 70 degrees, and the water heats up in the process. Now hot, the water gets put into a water tank outside the brewery that can then be used for another brew cycle. Since the water quality in the Willamette Valley is excellent, the water doesn’t need to be filtered, and it can be used for a couple brew cycles.

This tanks name is "Chunk"

Once the beer is cooled down, it’s moved to the “cold” side of the operation. Barton said this is “where all the magic happens.” This is when the yeast are added, and they start going to town by chomping on the sugar while producing carbon dioxide and alcohol — in other words, fermenting.

Once the yeast are done breaking the brew down, the beer is then moved to the bright tank where the beer sits for about 10 days, depending on beer style. After that, the beer it is pumped out from the top of the tank and can then be bottled.

For barrel aged beer, the beer goes into bourbon, whiskey or rum barrels, to name a few, and is aged for varying lengths of time.

Once we were in the room that housed the bright tanks, I noticed that the tanks all had different names. I learned from ambassador Dan Potts that the names on the tanks were given by investors. Instead of obtaining a bank loan for the very expensive tanks, which average somewhere around $75,000 per tank, the owners turned to investors, and these investors, which included friends and family, were invited to name the tanks that they helped purchase.

After my experience at Oakshire’s release of the Hellshire II, it’s easy to understand why the popularity of barrel aged beer is on the rise. With the unique vanilla, caramel and coffee flavors that I discovered in my first-ever tasting of a barrel aged beer, I’ve decided to delve into the world of these diverse micro brews and share my learning and tasting experiences with you through a series of Barrel Aged Brews articles, right here on Eugene Daily News. Cheers!

Wine Down Eugene

Julia Crowley, EDN

A great weekend to wine down

I’ve been spending the last few days shopping for groceries and stocking up on local wine and beer that I’ll be sharing with friends and family over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m truly looking forward to cherished time with loved ones.

Selecting stellar local wine to serve during Thanksgiving dinner has not been a difficult task for me since moving to the bountiful Willamette Valley wine region. However, this year I’m on a mission to not only serve excellent local wine, but to serve local craft brews as well.

Recently, I’ve delved into the world of barrel-aged brews, which are in high demand because of their unique flavors and aging potential. I attended the release party of Oakshire’s Hellshire II bourbon barrel-aged beer, and I spent several hours at 16 Tons’ ‘Winter and Strong Ale Fest’ tasting beers that were aged in wine, whiskey and even rum barrels. The distinctive flavors that result in these aged beers are incredibly savory and gratifying, and I can’t wait to pair them with some of the foods I’ll be serving on Thanksgiving Day. I’m also excited about an article I’m currently writing that’s all about these fantastic aged brews, which will be published soon, right here on Eugene Daily News.

Crafted local beers are a great match with the holiday trimmings

Aside from preparing for and enjoying the great feast on Thanksgiving Day, I’ll be taking advantage of the many events happening around town and in wine country during the long holiday weekend. On Friday, I won’t be missing the rare chance to take in the breathtaking views that surround the original Iris Vineyards tasting room while enjoying their fabulous Pinot Noir, in addition to visiting some of the other spectacular wineries in the southern Willamette Valley. On Saturday, I’ll be quacking for the Ducks at Autzen Stadium while tailgating with King Estate Winery for the Civil War game against Oregon State University. To finish off the long weekend, on Sunday, I’ll be heading south to explore the many wineries of the Umpqua Valley. This will be a great opportunity to pick up some excellent artisan winter warming red wines, like Reustle Prayer Rock’s Tempranillo and Melrose Vineyard’s Baco Noir.

Although the long weekends festivites may catch up with me next week, I’ll be thankful for every minute spent with friends and family while enjoying the multiple bounties that Oregon brings us year round, and especially during the holidays.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving! ~Julia

Wine Bars & Wine Shops

16 Tons (Supreme Bean location): Tue. 6-9 pm, Women’s Only Tasting and pre-show for “The Love of Beer,” a documentary celebrating women in the craft beer industry. 2864 Willamette #500, Eugene.

Le Bar at 5th Street Public Market/Marché: This new bar has an incredible wine list. 296 East Fifth Ave., Eugene.

Marché Restaurant: Sun. 6:30 pm, Sunday family style Supper. $25 per person, wine by the carafe and specials. 296 East Fifth Ave., Eugene.

Marché Provisions: Fri. 5-7 pm, Free Friday Wine Tasting. Each week a selection of wines will be available for tasting. 296 East Fifth St., Eugene.

Washburne Cafe: Fri. 5-8 pm, appetizers, local wine and beer, and live music with Jazz du Jour. 326 Main St., Springfield.

Oakshire Brewing: Sat. 12-4 pm, newly remodeled tasting room will be open and food is available for purchase from Delacata Food Cart. 1055 Madera St., Eugene.

Wineries without Walls (wine shop & tasting room): Fri. 2-6 pm, grand opening weekend celebration and wine tasting with Kandarian Wine Cellars, Spencer Creek Vineyard and Abbelone Vineyard; Sat. 2-6 pm, wine tasting with William Rose Wines, Kandarian Wine Cellars and Abbelone Vineyard. Enjoy snack and surprises for the grand opening celebration. This wine shop and tasting room showcases local wines and is located inside the Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center in Veneta. 24949 Hwy. 126, Veneta.

Mac’s at the Vets Club: Wed. 6-9 pm, Wine, Jazz & Variety Show with Gus Russell & Paul Biondi. A different Oregon winery is featured each week. $8 Burger and Brew night too. 1626 Willamette St., Eugene.

Authentica Wines: Tue.-Fri. 11 am – 6 pm and Sat. 10 am – 5 pm. wine tasting available every Saturday at the Wine Bar, and on the first Friday of each month during the Art Walk. With a focus on artisan, small production wines for every budget, you’re bound to find something you love at this wine shop. 766 West Park St., Eugene.

Territorial Vineyards and Wine Co.: Fri., Sat. and Sun. $7 Tasting Flight, local brews from Ninkasi and Oakshire. Fri. 3-9 pm, live music starting at 6 pm with Brooks Robertson; Sat. 3-9 pm, live music starting at 6 pm with Brook Adams; Sun. 3-7 pm, live music starting at 3 pm with Ally Losik. Unveiling of the expanded tasting room happens this weekend along with special offers of select wines and varietals from other producers. 907 West Third Ave., Eugene.

Café 440: Wed., all day. Wednesday Wine Flights for the month of November: California Rodney Strong red wines and Oregon whites from Erath, Montinore and Stone Wolf. Three pours for $10.50. 440 Coburg Rd., Eugene.

B2 Wine Bar: Happy hour is Mon.-Fri., 4-6 pm, and 9-10 pm; Thu. and Sat., outdoor barbecue. Loads of northwest wines offered here. 2794 Shadow Dr., Eugene.

Broadway Wine Merchants: Fri. 5-7 pm, Free Friday Wine Tasting. 17 Oakway Center, Eugene.

LaVelle Club Room
at 5th Street Market: Open during construction! Wed. 5-8 pm half off glass pours for ladies; Thurs. and Fri. 6-8 pm, live music. 296 East Fifth Ave., Eugene.

Sam’s Place Tavern: Sat. watch Oregon and OSU game; every booth has its own flat screen TV in addition to 22 plasma TVs; sports bar with a great wine list, 21 glass pours, all under $7! Wine list includes some excellent Oregon & northwest wines. 825 Wilson St., Eugene.

Red Agave: Excellent wine list including Oregon’s finest from King Estate, Territorial, Evesham Wood and Cristom, to name just a few; it’s impressive. 454 Willamette St., Eugene.

Ambrosia Restaurant and Bar: Mon. – Fri. 4-6 pm, happy hour wine and drink specials. 174 East Broadway Ave., Eugene.

Cork and Bottle Shoppe: Fri. 4 pm, free wine or beer tasting weekly. The Cork & Bottle Shoppe is one of Oregon’s only liquor stores that carry a large selection of local and international wine and craft beer in addition to liquor. 812 Beltline Rd., Springfield.

Sundance Wine Cellars: Fri. 5-7 pm, Frugal Friday wine tasting with Mario; Sat. 5-7 pm,   featuring local and regional wineries; wineries announced the day of on their Facebook page. 2441 Hilyard St., Eugene.

Jiffy Market: Fri. 5-7 pm, free wine tasting, house picks and pours; Sat. 6-10 pm. Purchase a whole sandwich from the deli and receive a Ninkasi pint for $2. 3443 Hilyard St., Eugene.

Café Zenon: Tue. Fifty percent off bottles of wine; Mon-Fri. 5-6:30 pm $1 off glasses of wine and pints of beer. Find King Estate’s Domaine Pinot Gris and Capitello’s Sauvignon Blanc here at half off on Tuesdays. 898 Pearl St,. Eugene.

Izumi Sushi and Grill: Like sushi & wine? Izumi has great sushi and they offer local wine and beer from Hinman, King Estate, Ninkasi and Oakshire. 2773 Shadow View Dr., Eugene.

Sabai Café and Bar: Wines by the glass, $6 and under. Excellent local wines from Territorial, King Estate, Capitello and Benton-Lane. 27 Oakway Center, Eugene.

Agate Alley Laboratory: Sat. 10 pm, Late Night at The Lab with $1 off glass pour wine, $3 well drinks and pints, $9.50 pitchers & appetizer special. Twenty-five varieties of wine for $25 dollars. 2645 Willamette St., Eugene.

Kiva Grocery: Wine Department focuses on affordable northwest wines, small European wines and organic wines. Ten percent off mixed case, 15 percent off unbroken cases. 125 W. 11th, Eugene.

Café Soriah: Wed. celebrate Wine Wednesdays. All day half off bottles of wine, including local notable names such as BrickHouse, Capitello, King Estate and Broadley. Bartenders have put together a special drink list for the holidays. 384 W. 13th Ave., Eugene.

Café Lucky Noodle: Tue. 5:30-7:30 pm Wine Night – all bottles 35 percent off, complimentary wine tasting in the lobby, excellent wine list. 207 East 5th Ave., Eugene.

Granary Wine Bar: Wed., all day $5 glass pours of house white or red. Find Patchwork Cellars delicious Pinot Noir here. 259 East 5th Ave., Eugene.

Cornucpia Maize Lounge: Daily happy hour 3-6 pm – “3/3/3  at 3” special. Three-dollar micros, wells and wine. 73 E. 13th Ave., Eugene.

June Restaurant and Bar: Tue. – Sat. 5 pm, New bar ‘Kate’s’ located inside June recently had its grand opening. Happy hour is Tue.- Fri., 5-6 pm. Their wine list has some great local wines. 1591 Willamette St., Eugene.

Wineries and Vineyards

Click here for the special Wine Down Eugene Thanksgiving Weekend Winery Open Houses

Save the Date or Reserve Now

Oakshire Brewing Co.: Nov. 30, 6:30 pm doors open for the 7:30 pm showing of “The Love of Beer,” a documentary celebrating women in the craft beer industry, followed by a Q/A with film maker Alison Grayson. Tickets available at Oakshire Brewing and 16 Tons. 1055 Madera St., Eugene.

Bier Stein: Dec. 1, 6-9 pm, Blue Dog Mead tasting. 345 E.11th Ave., Eugene

Saginaw Vineyard:
Dec. 2, 6-9 pm Friday Night Live in the Barn, featuring live music with Petri Dish. $10 cover charge includes wine tasting and simple hors d’oeuvres. 80247 Delight Valley Rd., Cottage Grove.

Silvan Ridge Winery:
Dec. 3, 6:30-9:30 pm, “Dead in the Sled” Murder Mystery Dinner. 27012 Briggs Hill Rd., Eugene.

Ambrosia Restaurant and Bar: Dec. 7, 5:30-7 pm, First Wednesday Wine Tasting, featuring all Italian wines. Twenty dollars per person includes a taste of ten wines and light appetizers. Read about these fabulous wine tastings here. 174 East Broadway Ave., Eugene.

Marché Provisions: Dec. 10, 8:15 pm, Wine Basics class – Champagne. Bubbles of all sorts, in-depth tasting notes and light appetizers. $35 per person. Call 541-743-0660 for reservations. 296 E. 5th Ave., Eugene.

Broadway Wine Merchants: Dec. 10, 5 pm to closing – 2011 Bubble Bash! Taste a wealth of delicious Champagne. Pricing will be at its best for holiday enjoyment and gifting. 17 Oakway Center, Eugene.

Sundance Wine Cellars: Dec. 10, 5-7 pm, wine tasting with Benton-Lane Winery. 2441 Hilyard St., Eugene.

LaVelle Vineyards in Elmira: Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery Dinner and Dance. $99 includes three-course meal prepared by Field to Table Catering, a three-act play and round trip transportation from Valley River Center if you choose to use it. Seating is limited and advance ticket purchase is required. 89697 Sheffler Rd., Elmira.