Is Your Beer Craft Or Big Beer? Find Out With This App

Author: Jason Harris
September 17, 2017

With big beer buying local craft beer brands left and right, it’s hard to know which beers in stores and on draft at nearby bar are truly craft.

My pal Emily Price, an author over a Lifehacker, just wrote an article that enables us to know if that beer is ‘craft’ or not. And in craft, the Brewer’s Association means, is it small, independent and traditional?

By using the Craft Check – you’ll know whether that bottle is craft or not – which is important to beer snobs like me.

For example, I was just in San Diego County on vacation with my family. I ordered a Saint Archer IPA, thinking I was drinking a local beer. Upon looking up Saint Archer on my phone halfway through my pint, I found out this beer is owned by Coors. So much for supporting truly local businesses and brewers.

Craft Check App

No more – I’m doing a Craft Check whenever I’m unsure. 🙂

Friends don’t let friends drink big beer. Sorry 10Barrel, Shock Top, Elysian and all the others.

New Release: Attack Parrot IPA by Santiam Brewing

Author: Jason Harris
August 1, 2017

About 2 years ago, here in Salem, Oregon, we had an issue with an owl in a local park attacking joggers and other visitors. As a salute to the owl and the fame it brought Oregon’s capital city, Salem brewers came out with beers such as Attack Owl IPA and more.

This summer, the sarcastic fellows over at Santiam Brewing have released a fun parody-named beer called Attack Parrot IPA.

Attack Parrot IPA

Attack Parrot is a described as a dry-hopped Northwest IPA with 1.5kg of hops in each keg. That’s a lot – and it shows when you taste this beer. It’s comprised of Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Crystal, Cluster. Columbus and Citra hops, to be exactly

To get a taste, Santiam graciously provided me with a sample and I was blown away. Attack Parrot IPA is floral and refreshing, without being overly bitter. If you’re a hops fan that dislikes bitter beer face, you’ll love Attack Parrot.

This new IPA is available at the Santiam Brewing taphouse and select tap houses in the greater Salem area. Probst!

For something different, today we’re going to take a look at two ciders from 2 Towns Ciderhouse in Corvallis, Oregon. Following in the footsteps of Oregon brewing, ciders have now taken off and are becoming more prevalent at bars, taphouses and the like. 2 Towns is one of the most prevalent here in the Willamette Valley, thanks to their production capacity and well-earned poplarity

Serious Scrump

Serious Scrump is a strong cider that happens to be an imperial as well, coming in at 11% ABV

Serious Scrump is a dry cider made in traditional scrumpy fashion with a Northwest twist! An eclectic blend of Hood River apples, local Oregon blackberry honey, and a slow fermentation process create a tart, floral, celebratory cider.

I found this cider to be overly-sweet. Like, almost mouth puckering sweet like a barley wine. It pours white with a mild head – you’re hit immediately with the taste of chardonnay and sweet, sweet apples. It’s super dry with almost a farmhouse like yeasty taste…like a saison with a twist

Flight of the Kiwi

Named after the flightless bird from New Zealand, Flight of the Kiwi pours clear with hardly any head.

Electrifying & tropical, kiwis can’t fly, and that’s A-OK, because all the ingredients for this cider were grown right here in the Northwest; Fresh-pressed apples, hardy kiwi berries, and gooseberries.

When you pour this cider, there’s nearly zero foam. and is a rich clear yellow – looking like white wine. I sensed a fresh apple nose with a robust body – almost tropical and dry on the finish. This is a satisfying cider that is enjoyable from beginning to end.

What ciders have you been enjoying lately?

Victory Club and Santiam Brewing Now Open for Lunch

Author: Jason Harris
April 5, 2017

Listen up, Salem area residents (and those visiting the capital city!), there are some great new lunch options ready for you and your beer-loving taste buds.

Victory Club Now Opens at 11:00 AM

In a surprise announcement Monday, April 2nd, Vagabond Brewing announced that Victory Club is now open for lunch. Since the taproom opened last June, as you may remember, opening hours started at 5pm. Now, armed with local Salem beer and ciders, a new chef and an expanded menu, Victory Club is now open for lunch in downtown Salem.

My favorite day to go to Victory Club, besides the ones that end in ‘Y’, will be on Tuesdays because on Taco Tuesday, you get tacos and a Salem-brewed cider or beer for $8.

Santiam Brewing Also Open For Lunch

I’m not sure if the timing is coincidence or not, but also on Monday, Santiam Brewing announced that their taphouse over on the 19th Street SE would be open for lunch. Now, Santiam is blessed to have a catering company located next door that produces amazing food to accompany your favorite Santiam beer.

Santiam Lunch

So, whether you’re downtown or out in SE Salem, stop by either Victory Club or Santiam (or both!) for an exquisite lunch and top quality Salem-brewed ale/cider.

Cheers!

In addition to great breweries popping up all over the state of Oregon, another phenomenon has been the addition of taphouses. These are bars and growler fill stations that have in upwards of 40-50 taps, featuring craft beer from Oregon and the West coast.

Vagabond Brewing, the Salem-based maker of fine ales, has decided to add taphouses as a cornerstone of their business – with Victory Club opening last June and now Vagabond Outpost in Albany, Oregon.

Vagabond Outpost

Vagabond Brewing just celebrated its 3rd birthday and thee trio of co-owners show no sign of slowing down.

Vagabond Outpost is located near Heritage Mall in Albany and features 40-ish taps that pour ales from Salem, Corvallis, Eugene and more. There are also wines and ciders on tap and kombacha as well.  The taphouse is located right next to Love Love Teriyaki and near Red Robin, so if you’re hungry, grab food to go and eat it in the taphouse with a delicious beverage.

You can find Vagabond Outpost at 2195 14th Ave S Albany, Oregon.

 

Founders Brewing To Start Selling In The Northwest

Author: Jason Harris
January 16, 2017

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.

Founders Brewing

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.

Azacca IPA

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

Founders Brewing All Day IPAIn 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

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.

Santiam Cooler

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.

Abbey Porter

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.

Santiam Barrels

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.

Santiam Oak Barrel

“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. 🙂

The Easiest Way to Pack a Bottle of Beer in a Suitcase

Author: Jason Harris
December 23, 2016

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!

Review: Green Hour from Upright Brewing

Author: Jason Harris
December 23, 2016

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.

Review: Brrr from Widmer Brewing

Author: Jason Harris
December 22, 2016

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 Brrr

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.