Friday, November 19, 2010
Quick Hits from a Trip South
I spent the last two days on a whirlwind tour of southern and mid-valley breweries with The Beerax which will take a while to digest and report on. Jeff will carry most of the water I am sure (he actually took notes!) and I will try and add some thoughts on the economics (of course), the business and the contrasting and complimentary visions of the four breweries/pubs we visited which were (in order of visit): Oakshire, Ninkasi, Brewers Union and Block 15.
But here are four quick hits I'll start you off with:
1. If you are a beer enthusiast in Oregon you MUST get yourself to Oakridge, Oregon and spend time in Ted Sobel's Brewers Union pub. Ted fell in love with the village pubs that brewed beers in rural England and has recreated one in his own vision in Oakridge. It is a cozy, warm and friendly place that serves hand made authentic English style real ales on cask. Add in great pub food and spectacular scenery on the way and it is well worth the trip - even, or especially, in winter where you marvel (as I did) at the clouds shrouding the tall fir trees and the snow flocking the trees on the hilltops. Gorgeous.
Plus if you are a Duck fan or a fan of Oregon sports history take a close look at the Brewers Union floor - it is an old basketball court from Mac Court. Ted doesn't know what years the floor was in service but Jeff and I encouraged him to claim it was the floor played on by the legendary Tall Firs who won the first (1939) NCAA national basketball championship. And it could be too, those floors back then were used forever.
2. Oakshire has made a small beer from the the second runnings off the mash of their special winter seasonal: Very Ill-Tempered Gnome. It is known as, amusingly, the Well-Mannered Gnome. If you are a fan of small beers and mild beers than your trip to Oakridge should include a stop at Oakshire to have a taste. It is 3.8% ABV beer, very light and quaffable. I have often wondered why more Oregon breweries who are brewing gigantic beer don't do small beers more often - now I wonder even more. Yum.
3. Ninkasi's new tasting room and patio are really nice - even on a cold wet fall afternoon, punters were huddled around the outdoor fire pit keeping warm and drinking beer. And if you go soon, you can taste Ninkasi's stereotype shattering Berliner Weisse, and their stereotype enhancing dry-hopped Tricerahops hop bomb. Both are excellent and the Weisse is a softer, less tart version that does not call for syrup.
4. Block 15's Figgy Pudding is indeed exceptional. It goes on sale tomorrow and quantities are very limited so it is highly unlikely you'll see any more of it available in Portland. Go and get some and plan to stay for the food and some great beers on tap. I didn't try but all the talk was a special IPA with Sorachi Ace hops (Brewers Union has a Sorachi Ace IPA as well) called NuIPA. I get a strong and unpleasant dill note from Sorachi Ace hops which is shared by others I know, but we appear to be in the minority and most love the hop and its lemony/peppery notes. So I didn't sample it but the bar was raving about it.