Stir Things Up at the Labrewatory

Tucked away on NE Russell Street is a small, relatively young brewery and taproom.  It’s in the same area as some favorite past watering holes on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – the historic White Eagle Saloon, Prost and The Rambler are just a few. (Click on the links to see the reviews)

Although the Labrewatory is typical of many small breweries – a large garage door that can be opened in good weather – the venue is more than a cool, fifty-seat taproom.  t’s actually a brewing experiment – an idea generated in late 2015 by its head brewer, Charlie Johnson.  And it gets some good reviews including being selected by Travel Portland as one of “Portland’s Best New Breweries in 2015:”

“A new project by Portland Kettle Works (a company that crafts equipment for many local breweries), this cutting-edge brew lab is the first of its kind in the city. Rather than employing its own brewers, The Labrewatory serves as a testing ground for sudsy new experiments from creative minds all over the country.”

Laura, Ryan and friend Kenzie Larson at 2014 Stamtisch Beerchasing

The idea to visit The Labrewatory (hereafter LB) was my son-in-law’s, Ryan Keene.  He and wife, Laura, are veteran Beerchasers, having been on several expeditions before their recent September marriage last year.  These included Stamtisch, Quimby’s and MadSon’s Pub.  (To see Thebeerchaser reviews of these watering holes, click on the link over their names.)

Ryan and Laura debating on the LB beer choice

 

 

 

It was a nice Father’s Day gift to me and Ryan’s dad, Ron, who along with Janet Williams, my wonderful Beerchasing spouse joined our group.  The five of us enjoyed both the beer and the venue.

This was the first Beerchasing expedition for Ron who grew up in Spokane and has been in Portland close to 35 years.  He works for XPO Logistics as a business analyst in IT working on pricing projects. Ryan, who is a an expert runner and excellent athlete, inherited much of his athletic talent from his dad although Ron asserts that “I owned Ryan on the Ping Pong table until he was 12.”

Charlie Johnson, the aforementioned head brewer, has both a masters degree in microbiology and a doctorate in chemical engineering and perhaps considerably more vision in his high school chemistry class than I did.

Dmitri wore a funny hat and drank vodka rather than beer……

Most of us just tried to understand the logic as to why Iron was abbreviated Fe (Atomic # 26) while Iridium was Ir (Atomic #77) on the Periodic Table of Elements and what Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was trying to prove when he created it.

The LB has a very upscale and attractive interior:

“The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom.”  Willamette Week Bar Review (12/30/15)

The LB is a great place to taste beers from smaller breweries with the four guest taps hosting Freemont, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Lakes breweries when we were there.  But you can also experiment with BL’s own innovative beers with ten on tap.

Ryan and Ron try a $12 sampler with six different beers.

We tried two of their samplers and were able, with the six beers on each tray, to try most of the options.

And the samplers are reasonably priced at $12 for six four-ounce pours.  Our two favorites were the BL Falcon IPA and the Cascade Lakes Brewing’s Salted Caramel Porter.   BL’s Yuzu Mimosa (Kettle Soured Golden Ale) and Gose in Your Mouth both had plenty of pucker power!

Given their business model, it’s understandable while LB chose not to provide food service – at least not right away – but that does not seem to be a problem.  Multiple parties were ordering food from Tamale Boy, right next door and the offerings (which they will deliver to the Labrewatory when ready) looked very good i.e. reasonable prices and expansive menu – while also getting stellar review in social media.  For example, this 6/21/17 review on Yelp.  

Tamale Boy provides great food options

The quality of tamale goes beyond just authentic. A single tamale is $5 but is almost double the size of tamales I’ve eaten in the past. It is plump and avoids being dry. Wrapped in a freshly steamed leaf, you can tell care went into its production…..The salsa that accompanied the had a great tang, on the spicy side with fresh chunks of cilantro and tomato- excellent!

Delicious, made to order, fresh and full of flavor! Qué fantastico. Super fun eating experience. You can sit (if w/kids), in between the store and the brewery, and they will serve you on your wine barrel.   (Yelp 1/8/17)

Where the innovative brewing takes place….

And the LB deserves credit for their enteprenaurial spirit and innovativeness.  For example, in January of 2016, they released a crowd-sourced beer brew – the @PDXBottleshare IPA...

What’s that?  Well read the description from their website:

“The beer was brewed during the December 2015 @PDXBottleShare event held in our taproom. Participants brought in a bottle of beer to share…and a bag of hops to contribute to the brew.

Nearly 40 people showed up to the event at Labrewatory, bringing in 50 bottles of beer and 23 different hops for the event brew!… For the IPA, Charlie used all of the hop additions in the mash and during fermentation- none in in the boil. He used a very low mash temperature and used traditional German mashing schedule to keep the beer dry, and then the beer was fermented with our house yeast strain from Imperial Organic.”

And the creativity is also reflected in their activities.  In six years of Beerchasing, I have not seen another combination of yoga and beer similar to what goes on once each month:

Monday nights are Yoga + Beer nights in Portland! The last Monday of each month is our class at Labrewatory…..After class we roll up our mats, spread out the tables and enjoy pints of their most recent (and tasty!) concoctions. This detox + retox class, led by Yoga + Beer instructor, Jana Bedard, is an all-levels flow yoga class. After class, yogis are invited to stay to enjoy a delicious beer!  

Yoga and Beer on the last Monday night of each month.

The cost is $20 for the yoga class and a pint or $15 just for the yoga.  (They didn’t offer a beer-only option for somebody who wanted to come and observe the class and just drink while they were inspired by those more motivated to stay in shape.)

There are other interesting stories and perhaps Charlie’s imagination got a little overzealous for one of his first creations.

Loligo vulgaris = squid. Supplied the ink for one of Charlie’s first beers

“…..It’s not too often that a brewer gets so much creative freedom to make beer. Then you get to ask yourself, ‘how far can you push the limits’?”   A cherry Gose brined with squid ink. Yes, squid ink. The ink will act as the salty agent in the beer and give an enticing dark color.”   11 November http://labrewatory.com/meet-our-first-brewer/  

Then there was another one based on an idea by a fellow brewer as documented in New School Beer.com: http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2015/12/the-labrewatory-is-now-brewing-up-strange-brews.html

“This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.”

No need to follow the steps of Pierre and Marie Curie when brewing….

Perhaps those experiments go beyond the cutting edge and maybe it’s a good thing Charlie got his PhD in chemical and not nuclear engineering.  (He might decide to do some brewing with Radium – that’s Ra and atomic number 88 in the Periodic Table.)  While I have no problem with brewing creativity, I don’t want to have to use a Geiger counter when having a brewski…..

Check out the Labrewatory.  You will enjoy it and there are a lot of other good bars nearby if you want to make it an evening.

Labrewatory        

670 N. Russell Street

 

 

 

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Roll Out the Barrel at the House of Sour..

Cascade Barrel House is kind of an unassuming structure on SE Belmont Street  – a plain rectangular building with a large row of windows on the front and an awning over a patio accommodating a number of picnic tables in front.

It has essentially no ambiance, but that was offset because I was having another lunch with my favorite group of tax lawyers – not a group which you would expect to demand a rich environment – just one which allows a break from interpreting provisions of the Internal Revenue Code

The interior is also kind of stark – a few round wooden tables with steel stools and a bar which faces a bunch of taps ingrained in six barrel-type housings.  Two big screen TVs are available for watching sporting events.

A bit of a stark interior

To be clear, this is not a review of the Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub, which is the primary Cascade Brewing facility – located in SW Portland.  http://raclodge.com/

While we had no expectation of an intriguing interior – typical of most dive bars (like the recently reviewed and nearby Gil’s Speakeasy) and many breweries, at least the beer at Cascade does have interesting and unusual characteristics.

Gils Speakeasy – no sour beer, but dive bar ambiance!

As one enters, a large barrel-end  displayed on the wall with the words “House of Sour” in large black letters greets the customer.  A majority (about 12 or 13 of the 18 beers on tap) are considered sour beer. 

According to their website: “A sour beer is one that has been deliberately brewed to achieve high levels of acidity. This elevated acidity delivers a predominantly sour flavor to the beer as opposed to the bitter or sweet flavors found in standard ales and lagers.”  (But there’s a lot more to sour beers – see below)

Cascade Brewing was founded in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception.  In fact, Cascade has a long-term reputation – even nationally,  for its sour beer.  “Cascade Brewing makes a variety of ales, but has made a name for themselves as pioneers of very distinct sour beers……distributed in eight states across the country.”  (Cascade web sight)

“After tasting twenty different sour, wild and farmhouse beers from all over the country ……..Cascade’s 2014 Kriek, a (barrel-aged) sour cherry beer brewed in the Belgian style …… was the best sour beer of them all……in a national survey conducted by New York Times on sour beer.”   Willamette Week 9/9/16

How was our lunch at Cascade Barrel House? (hereafter CBH)  Well, there’s a limited menu – a few decent sharable appetizers, four sandwiches – kind of expensive with most at $10.50 and $11.00 not including a side dish – three were available ala-carte for $1.50 to $2 extra – and four salad options.

Reuben sandwiches not a strength although at least they weren’t sour!

Coincidentally (and maybe because of the lack of choice), all five of us had a pork pastrami-Reuben sandwich ($10.50), which I thought was somewhat mediocre especially for the price, and would not order again.

Goose Hollow’s Claim

For example, compare the Reuben at former Portland Mayor Bud Clark’s Goose Hollow Inn, which advertises it’s sandwich as “The best Reuben on the Planet.”   Based on Thebeerchaser’s experience several times, this may not be an exaggeration and it is available with sides for $9.95 and $10.95.

Small glass of Oblique Coffee House Blonde

Three of the five of us had beers – all Cascade’s own – Oblique Coffee Blonde Stout – 6.5% ABV  (This blonde coffee stout features 1-1/4 lbs per barrel of single origin coffee beans from Colombia called El Corazon, roasted locally by Oblique coffee roasters.

Aromas of sweet, bright, fruity coffee with hints of caramel percolate from the glass. Smooth caramel, cream and coffee notes dance on the palate and lead to a soft, creamy caramel finish.”  (Rate Beer.com)  

And the dark Sang Noir – a whopping 9.5% ABV (“This deep, dark double red was aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels, then blended with a barrel of Bing cherries.” – Beer Advocate.com)  Reaction to both was very good – they were unusual and not available at most pubs.

The Sang Noir

And when I asked retired Schwabe Williamson lawyer, Pete Osborne how he liked his Cascade IPA – 5.7% ABV, he replied, “It was okay, but I’m not a good judge.  The only bad beer, in my opinion, is an empty glass!”

Prices for the beer are on the high side – eight ounce sour mugs run from $6-8 with pints of non-sour about $5 or $6.   I had one of the small glasses for $2.50  – this is one place, given the characteristics of the beer, where the small glasses of beers may be a good idea to hone in on one that comports with your taste in sour beer – provided you have one.   If not, you can always try the Cascade IPA, which also gets good reviews.

And the staff was very efficient and helpful – both our server and bartender, who answered some questions about the history of Cascade.

Friendly, helpful staff

Now before you lose your pucker, let’s talk a little more about the concept of sour beer.  I tried to gain a rudimentary knowledge after visiting CBH and admit, there’s more involved in brewing this type of beer than meets the palate – like a bunch of chemistry, microbiology and technical brewing stuff.  But remember, notwithstanding the name, this blog is primarily about bars – not the beverage served……

According to an article in the March 19, 2015 edition of Paste Magazineentitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Sour Beer”: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/03/beginners-guide-to-sour-beer.html

A Yeast Cell

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts – Lactobacillis, Acetobacter, Brettanyomyces and other critters that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. 

Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma…..For some of the sour styles, the wild bacteria and yeast come into the beer during an open or spontaneous fermentation (something that sounds like a college date…..) with open vats of wort exposed to natural air. 

As the barrels get older, the more sour the beer gets, which leads to the common practice of blending beer from several different barrels, young and old to get a consistent beer.”

And its tricky and uncertain because evidently rather than the sterile environment of modern brewing, wild yeast and bacteria are introduced rather than pure yeast cultures and because the beer can take months to ferment and years to mature.”  (Wikipedia

Our bartender emphasized how long it takes to age the sours and this may be one reason that while the tasting room at CBH is very small, according to their website, they have another 5,000 square feet where sour beers are aging in barrels.

And boy do they have a wide range of bottled fruit beer selections – enough for your quota of fruit for the month and possibly tempting you to plant the bottles in your yard to see if they might grow at your home i.e. tangerine, apricot, strawberry (3 different years), blackcap-raspberry, raspberry, blueberry (3), cranberry (3) and elderberry (2).

If you just want a good pub or bar experience, the Cascade Barrel House isn’t necessarily a great option.  And if you decide to try it, you might want to check them out on “Tap It Tuesday” nights at 6:00 when they tap a new creation which gets good reviews.  Happy Hour is Monday-Friday from 4:00 to 6:00.

But if you want to explore sour beers or if you are a real fan of the concept, the CBH is a good bet.

Gils – after your sour beer and to quench thirst for a PBR

And maybe another option is to have a good (albeit expensive) sour beer and then walk just five blocks to Gil’s Speakeasy for a great environment and a $1.50 happy hour PBR nightcap. You can.even listen to Dion and the Belmonts sing “Teenager in Love” on the classic juke box!

Cascade Barrel House      939 SE Belmont Street

 

 

Navigate a Course to Flyboy Brewing

Michelle and Mark – at the controls of the new venue

Mark Becker, the founder and owner of Flyboy Brewing and Michelle Faubion, his Operations Manager, are wonderful people and typical of those one meets in the Oregon microbrew business.  Flyboy Brewing’s “takeoff” is another one of the entrepreneurial successes.

Thebeerchaser blog has chronicled the path of similar microbreweries in Oregon including Caldera in Ashland, Ancestry in Tualatin, Sasquatch in SW Portland and Wolf Tree on the Oregon coast to name just a few.  All have helped to make the $4.49 billion direct and indirect contribution to the Oregon economy according to Oregon Brewers’ Guild.

And like a number of other venues featured in past posts, one may not be captivated when viewing the enterprise from the outside.  But stepping into Flyboy (at least as evidenced by my six visits to the new brewpub in Tigard), one is hit with the vitality and energy which emanate from patrons, staff and even from the beer itself!

Flyboy is a dream of Becker, whose story is below.

And the selection of beers and hard ciders is robust and changes often to allow new adventures.  Michelle is a Level II Certified Cicerone which means she’s a beer expert.  After passing the Level I exam, she mastered the second exam which requires detailed knowledge on the following:

Janet Williams with Cicerone Michelle who explained all the beer options

“…retail beer storage and service issues, excellent knowledge of modern beers and styles, beer history and historical styles, competence in identifying flawed beers and recognizing appropriate and inappropriate flavors in modern beer styles, beer ingredients, the brewing process plus knowledge of beer pairing principles”

And Mark and Michelle’s passion about beer and service is echoed by their staff.  Our parties were always impressed that they urged us to sample new beers and took the time to explain the nuances of each.  http://www.flyboybeer.com/whats-on-tap/

Thirty beers and ciders on tap from a diverse group of breweries….

This encouraged us to try a slew of different options from the thirty beers and hard ciders they have on tap including four of Flyboy’s own (Fighting Red Tails IPA, Tri-Wing Double Fokker Red Ale and a Kolsch.)

Among those we tried were SunRiver Brewing’s Vicious Mosquito and Vermont Vacation, Light Me Up Lager by Springfield’s Hop Valley Brewery  and Three Headed Hop Monster (a collaboration by Boneyard, Melvin and Barley Brown Breweries – a very limited release which went fast…), one of my old standby favorites – Vortex from Astoria’s Fort George plus all of Flyboy brews and a beer with a kicker, Breakside’s Safe Word Triple IPA with an ABV of 11.1%!

And a good way to enjoy a number of the beers and not have to rely on Uber for a ride home, is their Beer Flights – five for $10.  You might want to include the Wizard of Koz in that group, which Michelle recommended – blueberry, chocolate, vanilla aged in a bourbon barrel – new from Founder’s Brewing in Michigan – a venue Michelle discovered when she was in medical sales after nursing school at the University of Washington.

Happy-hour is 3 to 6 PM each weekday and all day Sunday.  That means Flyboy brews are only $4 per pint, $1 off wine and good appetizers ranging from $5 to $8.

On my last visit, Mark had just returned from Seven Brides Brewery in Silverton which is assisting Flyboy until their equipment is fully operational (within the month).  He was working on his Pilot’s Peach Ale, one of Flyboy’s flagship beers to be released on May 26th and told me, “This one is going to win some awards!”

This ones going to win some awards!

A graduate of Vancouver’s Hudson Bay High School and Clark College, he started brewing in his parents’ house while still in high school.  He was not deterred by some minor explosions in the basement brewery and when in 1986, his parents admonished him that beer was not going to be big in the NW, Mark told them, “It’s too good to be a passing fad.  I’m going to make my living doing this someday!”

The original Flyboy in Lake Grove

Well it took awhile – like twenty years in the automotive industry at Leif’s, Les Schwab and Beaverton Honda and then tile work.  He and his wife had been prudent and after working in the corporate world, wanted to be their own bosses.

The original brewpub in Lake Grove

The launch of the small Flyboy taproom in Lake Oswego in 2014 was an all-in proposition – no partners and capitalized with their own savings in what Mark described as “anything but a smooth takeoff…..”.  (I remember going there shorty after it opened and they had run out of their own beers because they could only brew two kegs at a time.)

The name of the brewery is a tribute to his grandfather, a B-29 pilot in World War II and who also trained pilots in P-51’s.  His other grandfather from the Great Generation helped build the battleship, USS Missouri.

The flag and the dummy bomb (from training exercises at the Big Spring Army Air Corps Base in Texas) were his grandfather’s and complement the art and the other aviation memorabilia.

Mark’s research determined that the name “Flyboy” was available and after securing the legal rights, he wrote to the American Aviation Historical Society for permission to use their artwork – it was in the public domain and they sent out templates for him to convert into signs and interior art which are a highlight of the pub in Tigard.

As is often the case with start-up breweries, the active and passive resistance of bureaucrats can discourage or even crush the plans of entrepreneurs.  Mark persisted after his plan to expand in 2014, and which initially looked promising as a venue in a hangar at the Aurora Airport, was batted down by the FAA and Marion County

Then while going to the Tigard Home Depot, he saw vacant space and contrary to his prior experience, PAC Trust Realty and the City of Tigard were “awesome” in the manner they responded and expedited the lease and permits to start their Sequoia Parkway location.  The grand opening at Tigard was April 17th – three years to the day of the original location in Lake Grove.

A great team – Michelle and Mark

Mark originally met Michelle Faubion at a beer conference, and as is the case with most people, remembered her.  She accepted his offer to become his Operations Manager.

Michelle is a remarkable woman and besides having an impressive background, is one of the most charismatic people I have met in the five and one-half years of Thebeerchaser.   She was originally featured in this blog as the co-owner of the Hop N Cork in Lake Oswego.

The Classic Burger – a bargain at $10

The Hells Angel Chicken Sandwich ($12)

The food is also a plus at Flyboy.  Great burgers,   sandwiches, salads and pizza (rectangular! at $10-14).  The prices are very reasonable.

Becker franchised a Vancouver brewpub and the Tigard location has growth potential with 160 parking spaces available and ample brewing and kitchen capacity (he purchased his brewery equipment including nine fermenters and a seven barrel system from Brett Joyce, now President of Rogue Ales).

He will start brewing 300-325 kegs per month with limited distribution and a patio in front of the restaurant will be ready this summer.

Waiting in anticipation for the patio this summer…

Since the Flyboy opening was only three months ago, there aren’t a lot of social media comments, but this excerpt from a Yelp review on 5/11/17 is a good summary and from a Californian, no less:

We need places like this in SoCal! The beer is top shelf, the food is amazing made with fresh ingredients, and the staff is amazing…… Some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Michelle’s personality is infectious, the nicest most genuine person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

My wife and I have been amazed with the enthusiastic crowds each time we have returned – and a lot of them appear to be regulars already.  Mark’s story and perseverance is absolutely inspiring.   Navigate a flight path to Flyboy and say hello to Mark and Michelle – don’t worry, Michelle will beat you to the punch with the greeting!

Flyboy Brewery and Restaurant     15230 SW Sequoia Pkwy   Tigard

Flyboy Taproom      15630 Boones Ferry Road, Suite 1A
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

 

 

The Burnside Brewing Company – Try the East Side

2017 has seen Thebeerchaser’ Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs move slightly away (although never too far in physical proximity and thought) from classic dive bars to breweries and brewpubs.  Recent visits to the relatively new Portland brewpubs of Ten Barrel and Breakside in the Pearl District were interesting (the reviews are forthcoming) but the east side of the Rose City cried out for attention.

While not in the legendary Barmuda Triangle southeast of the Willamette River and not a new establishment, having been opened in 2010, Burnside Brewing Company has a nice atmosphere, some good beer and a reputation for being a progressive and innovative force in the Oregon beer community.

Not only experts on the Code, but great people!

As has been the case at two prior Beerchasing events (Life of Riley Tavern (3/16/16) and Brannon’s in Beaverton (3/3/15) – a venue which had great potential, but unfortunately a rather short lifespan, I joined a distinguished and erudite group (if you will…..) – eight individuals who all are either current or former members (or have a direct connection) to the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm Tax and Estate Planning Group.

For the brewery’s grain storage

Burnside Brewing, like many of its competitors, is housed in a building with roots other than malt and hops – in this case an industrial laundry built in 1927, according to Mary, the manager.  The exterior is pretty Spartan and aside from the massive and distinctive silo (used to store the grain for brewing) and the patio in front, Burnside looks like a plain industrial facility.

The availability of parking in its lot and spaces available on the street is a plus, however,  and one which makes parking in the Pearl District frustrating.

The interior is spacious and pleasant with high ceilings, an exposed kitchen, a long walnut bar with walnut tables and a Pacific Northwest décor that is tasteful and interesting.  Compared to a similar nearby (5 minutes or 2.3 miles) venue previously visited by Thebeerchaser – that being Ecliptic Brewing (5/6/15) – it has much better ambiance.

The lunchtime crowd had a nice energy – and it wasn’t just because of the outgoing natures of our cadre of tax lawyers who not only earned law degrees, but supplemented those three years with Master of Tax (LLM) degrees.  This graduate degree required an additional year of focus on such stimulating topics as conduit entities, the assignment of income doctrine and constructive receipt.  

The brewery prides itself on innovation and their “think-outside-the-box approach to brewing reminded me of the nearby Hair-of-the-Dog Brewery reviewed on this blog in February23, 2016 –  https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/02/23/hair-of-the-dog-brewery                  

  For example Burnside’s website states:

“The people of Burnside Brewing Co. make it what it is. They are risk takers, lovers of food to be enjoyed with easy to drink beers……takes an alchemist approach to enhance the craft beer and culinary experience……is widely recognized as a visionary leader in the Northwest brewing industry—bold enough to take risks and smart enough to leave a creative impression on your palate. The finished product is an outstanding combination of original cuisine and beer, both deeply rooted in innovation and quality.”

And the press and media reviews are very positive about this seven-year old venture of co-founders Jay Gilbert and Jason McAdam and echo plaudits for their creative approach to brewing, which the Portland Mercury described in a 4/28/2011 article, the year after the brewery opened, as “Beer-ed Science – Burnside Brewing’s Futuristic Fermentation.”

Beer-ed Science

Another example is this excerpt from the 2016 Willamette Week Bar Guide:

“Between its extensive, off-the-wall lineup of seasonals and decor guaranteed to appease the expectations of tourists visiting a Real Portland Brewpub™, Burnside has maintained its status as a must-visit for nearly six years…….. To complement its enduringly popular IPA and throwback Couch Select Lager, Burnside has concoctions infused with everything from Earl Grey tea to galangal, pumpkin puree and pepitas.”

We had various sandwiches on the lunch menu ranging from the chicken and the schnitzel sandwiches to the cubano and the burger.  All were good and had a generous helping of fries although the prices were a little bit high at $14 and $12 for the burger.  And one of the more pleasant parts of our lunch was the demeanor and competence of our server, Amethist, (she changed the y to an “i” but she is still a real gem!)

Amethist – a real gem!

Burnside takes pride in its food prep (“a menu offering cured meats, charcuterie, pickling, and culinary artistry all done in-house”) and gets good marks especially on the dinner menu for such entrées as Maple Cured Pork Loin ($15), Grilled Octopus ($16) or the old standard – Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($16.

There are also some good bargains during the Fermentation Hour menu and beer is only $3.75 for a pint on Wednesdays – $4.75 on other days)  Check out their brunch menu – Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00, where you might want to try the Pork Belly Eggs Benedict.

A Jambalaya special with chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage.

Since a majority of our group was still working, partaking of beer was minimal, but I returned a few weeks later and had a sample of the Isomer IPA and a pint of the Burnside IPA, two of their flagship beers – I understand why.  The Isomer had a nice fruit taste and the IPA was just the right hoppiness for me.

Grace, the bartender also talked about the cherry wheat beer they were introducing later that day which would have been a good bet.  And the pints were only $4.25.

National and State recognition for its beers

Burnside has been recognized for its beers, winning its first gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 2012 for Sweet Heat Ale (The chutney inspired wheat beer made with apricots and Scotch bonnet peppers won the gold medal in the Herb and Spice Beer category.”

Sweet Heat Ale –  Gold Medal Winner

More recent awards were at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards including a silver medal for their Juin in the Belgian category and a gold in the dark and hoppy category for their Keg Nog.

One way to explore the broad selection of beers at Burnside and which draws rave reviews, is to try the sampler.  As Grace explained, one can either sample the nine seasonal beers or seven perennials for $12 each or try the entire menu (usually 18 beers on their tap list) for a very reasonable $20.  Typical reaction to the deal is this 12/5/16 review on Yelp:

“The fact that they offer a sampler of everything on tap for $20 is amazing.  We split that sucker 3 ways and left feeling good.   The vibe here is a cool and definitely different from the typical hipster brewery feel.  It’s more classed up and full of adults on dates and stuff.  That and 3 wet dudes at the bar drinking 17 beers (it’s now 18) for $20.”

Sample either the Perennials or the Seasonals or all 18 for $20

The following complaint about the sampler was a little bit unusual – it’s from 2014 so the sampler had only 12 beers for $16:

“……the sampler tray (made of wooden blocks) was filled with beer that the bar tender over poured so the sampler tray was seeping beer onto the table and the cups were dripping a lot when picked up.”  Yelp 10/14

Most of my Beerchasing companions would not look at this as a negative and would just ask for a sponge and then slurp up the seepage, but then we are not a genteel crowd.

Now some who have read the past posts in which the Beerchasers attending are tax lawyers have questioned the quality of the conversation with such a learned professional group.  They have asked rhetorically, “Who wants to ponder the advantages of an S versus a C corp while swilling the seepage on a beer sampler or downing a pint of the Burnside porter named ‘Guts and Black Stuff?’” 

A great law firm with an outstanding Tax and Estate Planning group

But as I have stated before, this team is a well-rounded and quality group of individuals involved in broad civic, athletic and intellectual adventures.  As evidence, take Pete Osborne – now partially retired and of counsel at Schwabe, but recognized by his peers as one of the brightest tax lawyers in Portland.

Pete Osborne

Pete and his wife Terry, now retired from the legal department at Standard Insurance, are reading the Modern Library list of the 100 best 20th century novels.  Pete has checked forty-seven off his list although he admits that a number of them were read in his twenties ((on top of his law school reading….) including A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises both of Ernest Hemingway’s works on the list .  He also stated:

The biggest surprise author for me on the list was Carson McCullers’ ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’. The weirdest book so far is ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess.”

Note:  I can identify with Pete’s earnest ambition although from a slightly different focus.  Pete is reading 100 of the greatest novels and after five years of Thebeerchaser, I have now visited and/or written on 208 bars, taverns and pubs in Oregon, Europe and throughout the US.  Having a “worthwhile” educational goal in retirement is very important!

Obornes rendering of The Three Sisters

In the prior posts, I also included some of Pete’s art, which is impressive and asked him to send me his latest piece which is untitled –  a collagraph (a print made from a collage of various materials glued onto a board.)

Untitled caligrograph

As additional evidence that Pete is a Renaissance Man besides understanding the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code  he is a skilled poker player.   He travels to Las Vegas each year for the World Series of Poker and reported that in 2016 while playing in the Super Seniors (over 65) No Limit Hold Em event last June, he placed 36th out of 1,476 entries –  “This was in the money.”

Finished “In the Money”

One final note on Burnside Brewery.  Some patrons prefer a venue where they can raise a mug without having to watch or listen to youngsters as part of the equation.   Burnside is one of a number of breweries and pubs where kids are welcomed  – until 10:00 PM when accompanied by an adult.  However, sometimes this creates dissonance with the patron who craves a more sedate experience as evidenced by this 2/28/16 complaint on Yelp:

“Special note for Parents who bring in their precious spoiled children:  DON’T!!  Can’t you monitor your brood and keep them from tearing up the crayons so OTHER children may play with them???? Is it really that hard?? JUST STOP IT.” 

At least the dispute wasn’t about the President.

Or perhaps the complainant was irate because his or her kid didn’t get to use the crayons.  This was not a problem with the tax group because they unequivocally deferred to Pete’s use of the crayons given his artistic talents.

By the way, another interesting feature of the décor is the local art they feature.  Most recently, one of the prominent pieces is the one of the “hairless cat” which changes colors and one unnamed source opined that the regulars would probably not be sorry to see it go.  (While having no artistic judgement, it did appear to be inconsistent with the rest of the décor and was a distraction.)

In summary, Burnside Brewing Company earns good marks for ambiance, beer, food, parking, the staff and its entrepreneurial spirit.  While there are some good options on the Westside, try this near Eastside venue and you will want to return.

Amethist and Grace at work with local art in the background (notice that the cat is now green…)

Be sure to say “hello” to both Amethist and Grace, and if it is a nice day, stretch out with a pint of Burnside’s Immaculate Decoction Belgian Strong Golden Ale and dig into W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage.

British novelist and playwright

Then return and have their Too Sticky to Roll IRA and start your second work on the Modern Library 100 list – let’s say, Oregon’s own, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.  Maybe Pete Osborne will be willing to start a book club with meetings at breweries – “Book and Brew” might be a good moniker!

Note:  I see that Book & a Brew is also the label for a “……one stop monthly subscription (£12.99) service for book lovers and people who appreciate a nice brew,” but it should be noted that the brew, in this case, is tea rather than beer. 

A good place for a book and a brew on a sunny day…

Burnside Brewing Company           701 East Burnside

Ancestry Brewing – “Anchoring” the Tualatin Beer Desert….

photo-feb-02-11-43-00-am

After my two visits to this small brewery in Tualatin, which opened in March 2016, I was prepared to describe it as just another of the many similar suds-related start-ups in Portland.  In fact, the Portland metro area currently has 105 breweries.  http://oregoncraftbeer.org/facts/

complex-facebookThe brewery and taproom are located in a non-descript commercial complex on the Tualitan-Sherwood Highway in what Willamette Week described in 2016 as “the virtual beer desert of Tualatin.” It fits the description of one Trip Advisor reviewer who visited Ancestry within the last several weeks who stated:

“Weird location, meaning that if you didn’t know it was here, you wouldn’t know it was here, but you should stop by.”

The Sellwood Tap Room

The Sellwood Tap Room

My trip to what Ancestry labels its “Neighborhood Spot” in Sellwood – opened shortly after the brewery – presented a similar picture, at least externally. It’s housed on the first floor of a brick commercial building shared with a brokerage firm and space used for a yoga studio with condos in the several story structure above.

Sellwood "Neighborhood Spot"

Sellwood “Neighborhood Spot”

As an aside, the challenge for both new and existing breweries in Oregon is mounting according to an excellent February 15th Willamette Week article entitled, “Over a Barrel.”

“…..the number of Portland area breweries has nearly doubled during the past four years……’In the  past, there was enough growth to go around,’ says Brewers’ Association economist Bart Watson.  ‘Now we’re seeing competition for tap handles.  Growth of your own sales comes at the expense of other brewers.'”

Ancestry Brewing is both an interesting and heartening story and one which affirms the vitality and positive impact of micro-brewing on the Oregon economy and spirit.  I was personally interested based on its ties to both the US Navy and Oregon State University through the owner, family members (they describe their beer as “family-crafted”) and a number of the brewery personnel.

ancestry-logo-facebook

Ancestry Logo

In fact, the Ancestry logo – an anchor and sextant on a signature blue color, are meant to pay tribute to Jerry, the brewery co-founder (father of Jeremy Turner, the General Manager’s and partner) in addition to Cellar Manager and brother-in-law, Mel Long, for their military time on the guided missile cruiser, Canberra and aircraft carrier, Coral Sea, respectively, during Viet Nam tours.   uss_canberra_cag-2_badg

You can also commemorate this service by ordering the USS Canberra Burger (“1/3 lb. burger……with house sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomato and thin-sliced red onions with Tillamook cheddar cheese.”) or the USS Coral Sea Burger (“1/3 lb. burger topped with melted Brie and our house-made tomato-artichoke relish.”) Both are $11 and are two of the seven burgers/sandwiches on the menu. 

The USS Coral Sea - big like the burger named after it at Ancestry

The USS Coral Sea – big like the burger named after it at Ancestry

Although the burgers looked delicious and tempting, my friend,  Walt Duddington (he also joined me on a previous Beerchaser trip to the Lutz Tavern – click on the name to see the review of this historic bar), opted for the Vegan Burger (“house-made vegan patty, grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and house-made pesto served on local chibbata”).

Walt’s expression, shown in the picture when his food was delivered was just as happy after he finished this healthy option – okay, I guess he did have French fries….!  I had the same reaction to my Beer-battered Fish and Chips (the cod for $12 versus the $14 salmon option).  photo-feb-02-12-05-14-pm

Another reason for the smile on his face is that he is recently retired from telecommunications firm Level 3 Communications, after nearly forty years in similar sales and management positions at US West, Electric Lightwave and Integra.

I first met Walt in the late ’80’s when he was the US West project manager for the installation of a new telephone system at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm.  Neither Walt nor I had smiles on our faces at that time and we had a lot of sleepless nights when the hardware vendor under-configured the system which resulted in system crashes and disconnected calls.

New technology can also have its challenges....

Better than a rotary-dial phone, but new technology can also have its challenges….

Fortunately, lawyers (about 150 of them) are very patient and empathetic with management on technology issues………He and his team also provided excellent support ten years later when Walt coached the Integra team which installed a multi-office network connecting the firm’s offices.

 We also enjoyed the beer with lunch – an interesting and broad selection is available from what Ancestry describes as its “3 Pillars of beer – American, English, and Belgian.”

After sampling a few options – something which is appreciated at the brewpubs who provide this complimentary option – Walt chose the Seasonal IPA (A light bodied ale with orange peel and pine like qualities” – 35 IBUs-5.3% ABV) and this guy who is not often a fan of IPAs described it as having a robust, fresh aroma and chilled to the appropriate temperature – a nice complement to the meal.”

photo-feb-02-12-01-09-pmI had the Piney IPA (“Caramel and nutty undertones offset by solid hop  finish, red berry and pomegranate flavors with a strong piney aroma and undertones of tropical fruit” – 61 IBUs-7.1% ABV) – a good brew.

Given the robust list of beers, if you or your group can’t decide, they have flights:

Single 4 oz. taster: $2.00     Flight of four: $8.00     Flight of six: $10.00

The space at the Tualatin taproom is like a lot of small breweries – somewhat sparse or meager on ambiance, although it is easy to envision people enjoying their brews on a nice deck which overlooks a wetland behind the structure.

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photo-feb-02-12-00-57-pm

 

 

 

 

The Sellwood Taphouse, while very small, is a nice space that started filling up on the Friday afternoon that I visited and had a great conversation with AJ Cabrera – the genial Restaurant Operations Manager who has been with Ancestry since its inception.

Dean on the left) and Ops Manager, AJ at Sellwood

Dean on the left) and Ops Manager, AJ at Sellwood

He responded to my question about its heritage by affirming that it was the very space in which the legendary dive bar, Black Cat Tavern, served Sellwood regulars for decades before its demise for the current building as reported by an article in the Portland Tribune on 8/2/2013:

The historic Black Cat Tavern - gone but not forgotten. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Jean Beacuchamp

The historic Black Cat Tavern – gone but not forgotten. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Jean Beacuchamp

“After over 68 years, the Black Cat Tavern – a landmark in Sellwood, on S.E. 13th at Umatilla Street – will make its last call for beverages and spirits later this month, to the loyal customers who have patronized the establishment over the years.”

While the Sellwood spot doesn’t have the character of an historic dive bar, it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood.  Although it is not as big as nearby Sellwood Public House, the space is a lot brighter and more inviting.  Ancestry has discussed future plans to open two similar operations – one in St. John’s and one on SE Division.

Choosing from their twenty-five beers was a challenge, but I sampled both their flagship beer – the Best Coast IPA (77 IBUs  – 7.0% ABV) and a  Irish Red (21 IBUs – 5.4% ABV), I had a pint of the latter although either would have been a good choice.  photo-feb-17-3-50-52-pm

The commitment of the family, a good business plan and fortuitous timing have all contributed to Ancestry’s success to this point:  “But while the midsized craft breweries are squeezed by both the new brewers and large distributors, there remains a bright spot.  Portland brewpubs are still doing very well….” (Willamette Week 2/15)

Sam Holloway - Professor and micro-brew industry expert

Sam Holloway – Professor and micro-brew industry expert

One of Thebeerchaser’s resources is Dr. Sam Holloway, University of Portland Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and consultant to the brewery industry (also one of three principals in the brewery consulting and educational firm Crafting a Strategy)

He was also Thebeerchaser-of-the-Quarter in August, 2015 https://thebeerchaser.com/2015/08/25/sam-holloway-educator-craftsman-and-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/  logo_vertical

When asked about Ancestry, Sam’s comments were as follows (he disclaimed that Ancestry is a member-client-of Crafting a Strategy):

I really like Ancestry brewing…….their beer and business model is rock solid. They’ve even done a few innovations in growlers, filling them in advance of the beer being ordered and utilizing a better seal/cap system……..Their business model is actually as creative and well executed as their beers. Both very good.”

Nice view of the brewery in operation in Tualatin

Nice view of the brewery in operation in Tualatin

I would suggest that one of the reasons that there are many positive comments on the beer is Head Brewer, Trevor Laumann, who took his passion for home-brewing to the next step and graduated in 2015 from the Oregon State University Fermentation Science program.

Pints are a reasonable $5.  The brewery and taprooms are open every day but Monday and minors are permitted from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Ancestry Brewing and Taprooms

                Tualatin – 20585 SW 115th Ave.                 Sellwood – 8268 SE 13th Ave

 

Bridgeport – Good Brewery “Infrastructure”…….

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Our “Walking Group” which has been present at other venues reviewed by Thebeerchaser such as Produce Row, SaravezaBazi Bierbrasserie, Hair of the Dog Brewing and Ecliptic Brewing (click on the name to see the prior Beerchaser post) hit Bridgeport Brewing Company on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in October.

photo-oct-26-5-09-08-pmBeing of sound collective minds, we abandoned plans to walk that day – understandable given that this tenth month was the third wettest October in recorded Oregon weather history.  (we are not wimps and have often walked in the rain…..)   We met at the Bridgeport Brew Pub in NW Portland.

photo-oct-26-5-43-23-pmAnd while Bridgeport did not have the idiosyncratic charm of a dive bar or the intimacy of one of the smaller brewpubs such as Sasquatch or Tugboat, it proved to be a great selection based on the beer, the food and the service.  In addition, the Cubs won the second World Series game  (5 to 1) as we watched while talking and drinking beer.

Bridgeport, originally founded by the Ponzi’s of Oregon winemaking fame, as Columbia River Brewing, has an interesting history, claiming to be Oregon’s first craft brewery. It was established in 1984 – one of 94 US breweries – and has grown from a small operation (600 barrels annually at inception ) to a thriving enterprise with annual production over 100,000 barrels and now one of 4,269 (2015) breweries according to national Brewers Association statistics.  In the early 2000’s it was listed as one of the top fifty breweries in the US, but is not currently in that category although Oregon has four of which the largest is Deschutes in Bend.

The mezzanine

The mezzanine

Our group of eight, found a good table on the second floor or mezzanine level – smaller and more ambiance than the expansive main level – immediately adjacent to the bar and served by a wonderful young woman named Kelsey.  And as you will see below, our experience was very positive – beer, food and service.

Outstanding server, Kelsey and bartender, Leah

Outstanding server, Kelsey and bartender, Leah

 

In researching on social media sites, I was curious about some of the negative comments.   One always expects some about food or service in any venue with a lot of customers, but a number of the disparaging remarks were very old and, as expected, based on changes when one grows comfortable with a favorite watering hole.

For example, this one from Yelp clear back in March of 2006 after a major remodel – they are still in their original structure, an historic building on the west edge of the Pearl District:

What a letdown!  They made it more upscale and fancy…….No game room anymore.  Gone was that cool pub feel.  And you could no longer see the brewery behind the taps and kitchen, they walled it all off.  It’s just a fancy looking place now.  The only good thing was the beer, and the people were friendly and nice.

photo-oct-26-5-17-40-pmAnd as expected, Portlanders were upset when the founders, sold to the Gambrinus Company a large beer distributor and brewer in San Antonio in 1995, whose founder, Carlos Alvarez’s, original beer operation was in Acapulco, Mexico – creating all kinds of ominous predictions about the future of Bridgeport.

However, as with most brewers, Bridgeport has been a model citizen, showing growth, community involvement and impressive sustainability practices as set forth in great detail on their website.  It’s also a great place to have a beer and a meal with friends.

photo-oct-26-6-06-00-pmTwo of our group (including Thebeerchaser) had what we considered outstanding pulled-pork sandwiches and everyone (ranging from blackened salmon salad to the chicken sandwich to vegan bowl to the quesadilla) with one exception, thought the food was great and reasonably priced.

The happy-hour “boulevard burger” with cheese was a disappointment although it only sets one back $6.  I also thought the old-fashioned dumbwaiter they used to move food from the kitchen on the first floor to the mezzanine was cool.

Moving food the old-fashioned way....

Moving food the old-fashioned way….

We were all pleased with their beer and since there were nine on tap plus a barley wine, Kelsey was wonderful about letting us have multiple tastes to hone in on a favorite.

The mezzanine bar - nice bar selection

The mezzanine bar –

 

 

We tried the Stumptown ORA (oatmeal red ale – my favorite), the Hop Harvest Red IPA, the Cream Ale and the Porter.   And at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint, the price-point was a winner.  Happy-hour is 3:00 to 5:00 for food and 3:00 to 6:00 for beer on Tuesday through Friday and 10:00 to 11:00 PM on weekends.)

Good beer at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint....

Good beer at $3.75 for a happy-hour pint….

Given the number of good beers on tap, when we go back, we’ll try the sampler of eight beers for a tidy $9.

Now in looking at all the reviews – both positive and negative, Bridgeport does very well and as is the case with many of the social media sites, one gets a few with a myopic perspective (some might call them idiots…).

The beer sampler (courtesy of Don V Yelp reviewer)

The beer sampler (courtesy of Don V – Yelp reviewer)

Such is the case of the Yelp reviewer in September, 2016 who I would suggest rather than go out, should just stay in his pajamas and get a six-pack to consume in the basement of his parents’ house while he watches the game:

Bridgeport hasn’t sold its soul completely. But they might be losing their way a little. Case in point: I went there last during the kick-off weekend of college football, and had to ask them to change to channel to the Oregon Ducks game. They had the bar television on the Esquire channel, which I never knew existed. I am sorry, but beer goes with sports. Period. End of story.

If you have televisions, they should be featuring whatever major sporting event is occurring. If not that, then shows what lively fan bases like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones…….I don’t know that they are there yet. Just having the television on the Esquire channel and not on the duck game is forcing me to dock them a star. Sorry. Not really. (emphasis supplied and I will restrain myself from pointing out that this guy probably went to school in Eugene and not Corvallis…..!)

photo-oct-26-5-18-31-pmAnd as a final note, I would add that the week after our visit to the Bridgeport Ale House, we went with some friends visiting from New York to the nearby Deschutes Public House – also in the Pearl District.

While the beers were comparable in quality, Deschutes is a much larger operation and is more like a large restaurant than the brewpub environment of Bridgeport especially if you eat on the nice second level in the latter.  And although it appears that they have a few more beers on tap, Deschutes does not have a happy-hour and pints are about $5 to $6.  The parking is much easier at Bridgeport as well.

Besides, it would be difficult to get a server better than Kelsey!

Bridgeport Brewing and Brew Pub         1313 NW Marshall        

 

 

Ashland’s Caldera Brewery-Now that’s a fine kettle of beer(s)!

A gem in southern Oregon along I-5

A gem in southern Oregon along I-5

On a recent road trip from Portland to Yosemite National Park, we decided that rather than drive ten hours in one day to Sacramento, we would see how far we got along I-5 leaving Portland in the afternoon.   This spontaneity was fortuitous because when our usual Marriott choices were filled in Medford, we pushed on to Ashland.

Ashland - Shakespeare and excellent beer too!

Ashland – Shakespeare and excellent beer too!

And based on the recommendation of the reception clerk at the motel, we found the Caldera Brewery – a gem and one with an outstanding reputation only a half-block away.  This business grew from Jim Mills’ hard work and creativity when he was a young man, to a brewery, restaurant and tap-house which employs 100 people and now ships its product internationally, but it has garnered a national reputation for the quality of its beer.

Caldera was born on the 4th of July in 1997 as a small 10-barrel brewery and tap-house and expanded in 2011 to much larger capacity – 30-bbl and 28,000 square feet – including what is now one of the largest restaurants in Ashland.  Besides the 92-seat interior, it has an expansive patio which seats another 42.

We were amazed to see that they had 43 of their own beers on tap.  (We did not visit the tap-house in downtown Ashland, but it has 20 Caldera beers on tap.)

2016-09-27-20-21-54Besides the nice ambiance including an attractive bar, Caldera has a unique collection of bottles and cans that provide the central décor for the brewhouse and restaurant. In fact, at 4,567 in number, they claim it is the largest collection of its kind in Oregon.  That assertion seemed pretty credible to me given the visual when you walk in.

(In case your wondering, given Oregon’s location on the Cascadia Faultline and the state’s average of sixty-five earthquakes per year, all the cans and bottles are glued to their shelves – which perhaps might prevent a catastrophe, of sorts, in the event of The Big Shaker.  Fortunately, Jackson County has only had five since 1931 and the probability of a 5.0 quake in the next fifty years in only 11.94%! – Homefacts.com)

An amazing bottle and can collection....

An amazing bottle and can collection….

And their beers are plentiful and very good based on what we sampled.  It appears from their website that they brew seventeen year-round and another twenty-one that are available periodically and their brews have won multiple awards.

For example, in 2016 alone, they won a gold, two silvers and three bronze medals in various beer competitions. The most prized is the gold medal at the World Beer Cup – the Olympics of Beer held in Boulder, Colorado for Caldera’s Ashland Amber in the English Style Pale Ale category, where they bested thirty-two other entries in an international competition that comprised 253 judges from thirty-one countries.  (And Janet and I can vouch for the quality of this great beer by the pint we shared that night in addition to a wonderful Dry Hop Orange Session IPA.)

___ beers on tap

43 beers on tap

 

Ashland Amber - Gold Medal Winner

Ashland Amber – Gold Medal Winner

Caldera also has some great names for their brews including Vas Deferens“a Belgian Strong Dark Ale with a unique twist incorporating a little snip of this and a little snip of that….” (I’m not sure how a guy would work that beer into a pick-up line in a bar.)  Other great names were the Hopportunity Knocks and Lawnmower Lager – chosen one of the “Twenty Great American Lagers not Named Budweiser in 2016 by gearpatrol.com (“This was one of our favorites. Sweet on the nose, like a graham cracker, it’s a clean and drinkable lager that doesn’t taste overly boozy or hoppy.”)

A strategic and smart growth plan

A strategic and smart growth plan

It seems like this brewery has followed a very smart and strategic growth plan in the last twenty years.  They were the first craft brewery in Oregon to brew and can their own beer (their capacity is now 1,200 cans per minute) and currently ship their cans and bottles to seventeen states and six countries including the Netherlands, Malaysia, South Korea, Brazil and Japan.  And check out the graphics on their cans – they are superb and creative.

Cans shipped all over the world

Cans shipped all over the world and 100% recyclable….

They age some of their beer in Kentucky bourbon barrels.   Oh, and don’t forget their non-alcoholic soda and teas – root beer, ginger ale, craft soda and “hibiscus rose petal” iced tea.

Their sustainability policy appears substantive and thorough with detailed information about practices in food and brewery operations plus building and brewery design.

And if our example on a weekday evening was typical, their staff people are solid representatives of the company.   Our bartender was friendly and knowledgeable and when I showed Restaurant and Bar Manager, Savannah, my card and told her about Thebeerchaser blog, she gave me a personal tour of the brewery, which was an impressive physical layout.

Savannah - the Restaurant Manager on our tour of the "back office."

Savannah – the Restaurant Manager on our tour of the “back office.”

 

2016-09-27-20-21-54

 

 

 

As MSN stated in their article, “The Best Breweries Across the Fifty States,”

“Caldera is a small yet revolutionary brewery. In 2005 they became the very first brewery on the West Coast to both brew and can their own beers. They have a little something for everyone, from those who love to stick with traditional and familiar brews to those who want to branch out and try unusual flavors like smoke or red roses.” 

Jim Mills is the owner of Caldera and its former head brewer and his story is one that will be in the annals of Oregon Brewery history when the last mug is raised – maybe after the Cascadia Faultline decides to finally have its due.  His passion for beer emanates from an early age:

“So I just started homebrewing and kept bugging the old manager here at the old Rogue brewery (formerly on the current Caldera site) to give me a job. I finally got a job bartending and working in the kitchen. Then I started washing kegs for free just  to learn how to brew, get in there. I was brewer’s assistant for a while. Then I was head brewer here in ’94-’95. Then in 1995, I started my business plan.”  BrewPublic 9/23/2009

2016-09-27-21-27-05William Shakespeare once wrote “Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.”  Perhaps this quote describes Caldera Brewing’s almost twenty-year history although Mills is not afraid to take a risk in his creative approach to brewing.

The next time you pass Exit 14 on I-5, stop and have one of their excellent beers, see the bottle collection and judge for yourself.

Caldera Brewing        590 Clover Street      Ashland, Oregon