In a massive west-coast sales expansion, Founders Brewing, the Michigan-based brewery, will start selling their ales at Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Founders is best known for All Day IPA, a session IPA that’s perfect for summer grilling or camping sessions. It packs a nice flavor profile and is only 4.5% ABV.
Based in Grand Rapids, MI, Founders was established in 1997 and ranks amongst the top 20 largest craft breweries in the US and the brand has been expanding aggressively in the last few years.
General Distributors, based in Oregon City, Oregon will handle distribution here in Oregon and I was lucky enough to taste three beers from Founders, thanks to a General sales rep that invited me.
The ales will be on sale in retailers such as Safeway, Albertson’s and Roth’s starting on February 6. They’ll also be available in finer taphouses in the state.
Of the beers I tasted from Founders, Azacca was my favorite. This beer pours a clear dark yellow with a sizable head and wonderful lacing on the glass. It smells of fruit, orange and lemons with mild floral notes. This beer is quite sticky in your mouth, with a high amount of carbonation which kind of burns at the end of the sip. It’s a nice bite that finishes off a floral, tasty IPA with a unique taste.
Azacca IPA is highly recommended – I suspect that even picky PNW hop heads will find Azacca to be a welcome entry into their fridges and ultimately their pint glasses.
All Day IPA
In my experience, session ales are ones that pack most, if not all of the flavor, of a ‘regular’ ale into one that’s lower in alcohol. All Day IPA pours a golden color and smells of grass, a little orange and a mild hoppy scent. Tasting it though – it’s more like a pale ale with a bit if citrus and a milt malt flavor.
Don’t buy this beer expecting IPA flavors – buy it because you want a tasty beer when you want to take it easy and enjoy a less alcohol-intensive brew.
Centennial IPA pours a murky orange color and smells of piney/citrusy hops and a hint of coffee. When you taste it, Centennial tastes malty at first with hints of caramel, with a noticeable burst of floral and citrus hop flavor that kicks in.
This beer is good, but not great – and in an area of the country where we love IPAs, Centennial is forgettable.
Salem, Oregon is home to four independent breweries and each has its own story and methods of differentiation. Today, we’re going to focus on Salem’s second oldest active independent brewery, Santiam Brewing.
You can’t tell the story of Santiam Brewing without talking about the founders who came together to create the now well-respected Salem brewing institution.
One co-founder’s story
To hear the story, I had the opportunity to sit down with co-founder and sales lead Matt Killikelly, originally from New York. Matt has a long-time love of beer and has a home brewing hobby that dates back to the 90’s. During his time in New York, he dreamed of owning a brewery and working full time in the beer industry. However, with a day job anchored in mortgage lending, he dabbled in home brewing until the housing crisis of 2008 caused the family to lose nearly everything.
It was then Matt and his wife Jennifer moved their young family to Oregon in a pursuit of the brewing dream. Matt settled in Salem and began to work within the beer scene in Oregon’s capital city and become a member of local homebrew clubs. Matt immersed himself in the brewing world by judging home-brew competitions, reviewing beers he’d buy from Capital Market on 12th Street in Salem, and home-brewing in cooperation with other brewers here in the city.
To achieve a formal education, Matt also enrolled in Siebel Institute online brewing classes and took classes at Chemeketa Community College as well. There he met Jerome Goodrow, who would eventually become Santiam’s head brewer.
Matt pounded the pavement in and around Salem. He quickly learned that the brewing community is very insular and can be hard to break into as a newcomer. Also, working as a brewer at a typical micro-brewery is a position that doesn’t pay enough to support a family. There are many young brewers and interns looking to gain experience and as a result, compensation can be low. Matt realized he needed to figure out a way to achieve ownership in a brewery.
Matt told me the story of trying to find work as an intern brewer, in which he was offering or very cheap labor to a brewery in exchange for mentorship and work experience. In his search from Corvallis to Portland, he only got one call back. His search was fruitless.
Through hard work and a roller derby connection with Dino Venti, a restaurateur in Salem, Oregon, Matt became active in Venti’s restaurant’s beer curators and established himself as a thought leader in the Salem brewing scene. Also during Matt’s constant hustle, he met Ian Croxall, a British ex-pat, who routinely hosted an event dubbed “Choir Practice”. However, no singing ever at the get-togethers – ‘choir practice’ was a weekly meetup for these hop heads to discuss and evaluate beer. It was out of a practice that the idea to start their own brewery was first initiated.
Santiam Brewing is born
Quickly, Matt made close friends with these beer nuts turned hops analysts that he’d eventually found Santiam Brewing with.
With a total of 9 initial investors, each putting forth $5,000 for a total of $45,000 seed capital money, Santiam Brewing was born in 2012. Typically, to start a brewery effectively, experts say $250,000 is needed to give the brewery a fighting chance. While Santiam didn’t start with a large cash store, the founders each brought expertise and drive that has made the venture grow steadily from the beginning. In the founding group, individuals emerged that brought forward talents to help establish the business. Experts in finance, management, brewing, sales and so forth came forward to help out in the business.
Out of the 9 co-founders, 4 individuals are most involved with the daily operations of Santiam Brewing.
Santiam Brewing’s lineup
It’s really hard to nail down Santiam’s ‘style’. It’s easy to pick up on the English influence as there are many English-style ales including a maibock, an amber dubbed Spitfire Amber and their flagship dark beer known as Pirate Stout. Santiam uses a high number of British, German and European hops and yeasts. Matt told me they try to be as authentic as possible and if they’re making a German Maibock for example, they use hand-selected ingredients (malts, barley, and hops) that are imported from Germany.
The core beers Santiam is known for include: Spitfire Amber, Cold porter, edelweiss , Infultrator Pils, Pirate Stout, Abbey Porter, 1859 Maibock, Coal Porter, Bloody Hell Imperial Grapefruit IPA, Tropical Daydream IPA.
Santiam Brewing is one of the few Oregon breweries to have a strong cask-ale program. On a constant basis, there are 3 or 4 cask-styles that are available only at their outstanding taproom in southeast Salem. What makes cask ale unique? Cask beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized beer that’s served by hand at room temperature – so the true flavor of the beer comes forward. These beers are naturally carbonated and are authentic to old-world recipes and flavors.
Expansion and growth
Through success and an excellent brewing line-up, Santiam has expanded and grown over the years. The company is currently completely self-distributed and has a footprint that extends north to Portland, all the way to the Oregon coast and east to Bend, Oregon.
Also, the taproom at Santiam’s home in Salem’s industrial district has seen expansion as well.
Brewing capacity expansion began in 2014 and 2015
Earlier in 2016, Santiam Brewing expanded the taproom, enabling 99 more patrons to sit at hand-made bench and table sitting. Made from salvaged lumber by Santiam staff, the benches are made of Oregon coastal redwood and the lounge tables are from black walnut. As Santiam’s brews is enriched by water drawn from Oregon’s Santiam River, it stands out to me that wood harvested from the state is part of the experience inside Santiam’s taproom.
As a part of the May 2016 expansion, Santiam’s capacity was boosted from the up to 200 barrels per month. Considering Santiam started with a 3.5 barrel system back in 2012, the expansion they’ve experienced is mind-boggling.
Matt showed me the backlot of Santiam’s brewing capability, including the ~150 oak barrels they’ve acquired for aging beer. Watching Matt and his colleagues tell their story is like watching a child light-up the day before Christmas. These beer enthusiasts are true pioneers…and their excitement is infectious.
On the taproom saving Santiam’s bacon
When they’re brewing beer, the Santiam team likes to make beers that are liked by many types of beer fans. And sometimes, the brewers want to get experimental and produce beers that aren’t typical, even in the eyes of Oregon beer snobs.
Matt told me that if you go to an average taphouse or bar in Oregon, most of the styles include amber ales, IPAs and porters – and he’s right. Having a successful taproom of their own enables Santiam Brewing to create styles such as a Scottish ale or a Welsh strong ale, that fall out of the buying bounds of a typical beer purchaser.
“The tasting room was really an afterthought. We had an L-shaped bar we built with three seats. To our surprise, from day one, our taproom was totally full of people and we reassessed the taproom’s importance”.
If you’re looking for Santiam’s beer in bottles at your local market, you’ll find Pirate Stout, 1859 Maibock, Spitfire Amber and Ecotopia IPA.
Excited for 2017 and beyond
As Santiam Brewing has expanded capacity, an established cask program and a new barrel aging program that’s about to start producing beer publicly soon, I’m excited for what’s next for Santiam in 2017.
Also, it looks like soon in 2017, Santiam is going to be selling beer beyond the Oregon state lines – as the company is about to begin selling beer in the Seattle metropolitan area.
The crew is anxious to make an impact and footprint in the mid-valley brewing scene and fans of local beer are awaiting, thirstily. 🙂
Living in the beer capital of the world, I often want to take 22 oz bomber bottles of beer with me when I travel for work. From sharing my favorite CDA or a bottle of Laurelwood’s Workhorse IPA, I love bringing beer to share with others.
But, I’m always worried about beer shattering in my bag. Fortunately, Conde Nast Traveler has a great video that’s aimed at packing wine, but there’s no reason the same method can’t be used when packing beer as well.
So, travel with beer in tow and share. Probst!
Editor’s Note: Today is day eleven in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Green Hour from Upright Brewing!
Upright is one of my favorite Portland breweries, as I used to work in the building they’re housed near downtown (right across from the Rose Garden). Upright brews French Farmhouse styles and is big into complex saisons and other unique ales. If you like French or Belgian beers, Upright might be up your alley.
Green Hour is a fresh hop saison that has hops from the Willamette Valley. This beer starts with more than 100 pounds of fuggle hops picked at the height of the season with Liberty hops from the end of the season. This beer has a fruity and spicy yeast.
Green Hour comes in at 6.1% ABV.
How does it taste?
Green Hour pours a glowing orange, translucent color with a sizeable white head. There’s lacing present as the beer rests in the glass. Your nose picks up on spice, wheat-like scents with a little bit of honey. This saison has a crisp, floral taste due to the use of copious amounts of fresh hops. It’s not overly bitter and there’s no hoppy taste at all.
The aftertaste is dry with an aggressive spicy, pleasing yeast that will fascinate any saison fan. This is a fantastic alternative holiday beer.
Should I buy it?
If you like saison, yes, absolutely buy this beer.
Editor’s Note: Today is day ten in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Brr from Widmer Brewing!
Widmer is, well, Widmer. They’ve been around since the 80’s, they’re brothers who defined Oregon brewing. Also, they went to Oregon State…..woop woop! I must digress.
Widmer is so big that they have defied the label of ‘microbrewery’. But, they still produce beers that are respectable and are still active in the homebrewing community within Portland, the company’s home town.
Brrr is a ‘winter warmer’ style beer that is actually just a strong red ale. Coming in at 7.2% and 50 IBUs, Widmer’s winter ale pours a deep red/brownish color with a considerable tan head.
To the nose, you pick up on Brr’s deep malty and dry fruit scent, which isn’t strong.
How does it taste?
Widmer’s Brrr is not overly-malty, instead it’s more of a slight malt with dried fruit flavors (think dried cranberries) with a medium hoppy finish. I also picked up on a light toffee taste profile combined with a touch of light citrus and molasses. The medium carobnation gives a little bit of bite to to this yummy beer.
Should I buy it?
Yes – get it in a 6 pack or on draft at your local taphouse.
Editor’s Note: Today is day nine in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Winter Ale from pFriem Brewing!
pFriem Brewing hails from Hood River, Oregon, a beer lover’s town that’s also known for Full Sail Brewing and Double Mountain Brewing. While pFriem might be slightly lesser known, the family-run brewery is known for producing high-quality ales that beer snobs all over the Pacific Northwest look forward to enjoying.
Winter Ale from pFriem pours an orangy-copper color that’s mostly see-through. There’s a very small head left at the top of the glass and moderate lacing. When you inhale Winter Ale, you pick up on some super aromatic hoppy notes with hints of spice, orange and even spruce.
pFriem Winter Ale is 7.5% ABV and comes in at 65 IBUs.
How does it taste?
Winter Ale tastes exactly how it smells – it’s a yummy, sweet, citrusy ale with a clear pine finish. There’s a caramel sweetness that balances out this ale. This is definitely more on the IPA-side of winter warmers and is a beautiful beer with a fantastic smell and taste profile. The beer finishes with a delightful dry pine-like finish.
So, even though pFriem calls this a winter ale, this beer bucks the malty dark trend and presents a super hoppy pale ale/IPA combination that is delightful and memorable. This is an easy drinking beer that makes you want to order another to extend the joy.
Should I buy it?
Absolutely – look for it in 22 oz bombers and on draft at your local taphouse. If it’s not on tap, ask your bartender to order it so you have it on hand.
Editor’s Note: Today is day eight in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, High Voltage IPA from Gigantic Brewing!
Gigantic Brewing is one of the newer breweries in Portland and hails from inner South East, just east of the Willamette River between the Ross Island and Sellwood bridges. The company is proud of their Gigantic IPA and seasonal beers that are made by the small team.
Today we look at High Voltage IPA, which is a blend of Mosaic, Citra and Cascade hops, which, according to the label, is balanced with Crystal Malt.
High Voltage pours quite dark for an IPA – it’s barely clear and is a dark coppery amber color. It leaves no head whatsoever and hardly any lacing – meaning this beer is watery and light. Your nose picks up on hints of tropical fruit, spice and a little bit of citrus.
How does it taste?
High Voltage IPA starts out quite fruity and is quickly replaced with a roasty malt and a bit of a toffee taste. This ale is ridiculously dry throughout and the taste profile definitely matches the smells.
This beer is super flavorful but not overpowering. The trio of malts produce a taste that’s refreshing and fulfilling at the same time.
Should I buy it?
Yes. Without question. This is my second favorite beer of this twelve day series behind Ecliptic’s Filament Winter IPA.
Editor’s Note: Today is day seven in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Red Elephant IRA from Laurelwood Brewing!
Red Elephant IPA is a hybrid between a red ale and an IPA. In this case, Red Elephant uses the malts from Laurelwood’s popular Free Range Red and the hops from Green Elephant IPA to produce a hop-forward beer that has a nice malty backbone.
Red Elephant is 7.0% ABV and 70 IBUs. The hops comprise of Nugget, Amarillo, Centennial, Citra and Ahtanum.
How does it taste?
Red Elephant pours a hazy reddish-brown colour and has a head about an inch high. To your nose, you’ll pick up on floral and piney hops. This beer doesn’t smell very malty but is more aromatic of an IPA.
When you taste Red Elephant IRA, you pick up on the caramel malts shortly followed by citrusy and piney hops and grapefruit-like citrusy smells. This beer is a well-hopped red ale. I thoroughly enjoyed this ale and would easily order it again in the Laurelwood Brewpub on NE Sandy in Portland, where I had it last night.
Should I buy it?
You’ll find Red Elephant IRA in 6-packs or on draft at the Laurelwood brewpubs and where good beer is sold in Oregon.
Editor’s Note: Today is day six in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Bifrost from Elysian Brewing!
Today we take a look at their annual winter ale – BiFrost. Tale is 8.3% ABV and is brewed with Amarillo, Centennial and Styrian Goldings hops.
Elysian isn’t shy about the hop profile in this beer – it’s a strong, hoppy winter ale.
How does it taste?
I poured Bifrost from the 22 oz bomber you see here and it has a toasted bread scent – my wife reported that she immediately smelled grapefruit. I’d say it was similar to orange spice tea. Don’t let that fool you though – this is NOT an orangey tasting beer.
The beer pours a hazy orange with a big off-white head.
At first sip, you pick up on the sweet hoppiness that’s notable but not overwhelming. Then, the citrus and sweet flavors produce a lovely feel in your mouth. This is a well formulated, smooth beer that both my wife and I enjoyed.
Should I buy it?
As long as you’re ok with mild bitterness in a beer, you’ll love this holiday warmer from Elysian. I bought it at Safeway and I’ve seen it at most stores that sell bomber bottles.
Editor’s Note: Today is day five in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Santa’s Reinbeer from Vagabond Brewery!
Santa’s Reinbeer is a lesser known holiday beer because it’s not bottled and it’s only available from the Vagabond Brewing taphouse and select Salem-area taphouses during the holiday months.
Billed as a “winter warmer with spices”, Reinbeer pours a brownish mahogany color. When poured, it leaves light lacing on the glass and has a two-fingered pale head at the top of the glass.
How does it taste?
When you sip Santa’s Reinbeer, you’re immediately greeted with smooth malty, nutty overtones. This ale isn’t overly carbonated and goes down easily. Then, the spice overtones kick in and give flavors of nutmeg and allspice.
I’m a fan of this beer because it’s not too sweet and not too malty, however, if you’re one who doesn’t like overly-spicy beers, this one will not appeal to your palette.
The spice force is strong with this one, beer Jedis.
Should I buy it?
Yes, it’s a great beer that Vagabond fans will love, granted you like medium-spicy ales.
Find it at Vagabond’s Taphouse at 2195 Hyacinth St NE #172, Salem, OR. Also, I’ve seen Santa’s Reinbeer on tap at Salem taphouses such as Heroes on South Commercial.
(Photo credit: Untappd user Rich C.)