Last Friday evening, I had the opportunity to join my friends from Vagabond Brewing (thanks AJ and Dean!) at a private mini-brewfest at Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Oregon.
It was simply fascinating to tour Crosby Hop Farm and see the entire process of how hops are brought in by truck from the fields, dried, processed, and ultimately prepared for brewers as either whole-leaf hops or pellets.
In fact, I learned that Crosby is the only hops farm in Oregon that has an on-site pellet processing capability.
After our tour, we were able to sample from breweries in the area including Vangard Brewing in Wilsonville, Silver Moon in Bend, Santiam here in Salem. It was amazing to meet all these amazing brewers and hear about their craft, inspirations and more.
Now, the brewery has announced a locally designed, limited edition growler created by Salem native Yuki Saeki. The growler celebrates Japanese culture and also Salem’s link to Japan. In fact, Salem, Oregon has a sister city relationship with Kawagoe, Japan.
Alvin Klausen, of Vagabond, told me today that the brewery desires to always have a growler for sale that is limited edition. The first installment, pictured below, was designed by Saeki, a friend to Vagabond and a local anime artist.
The growler is free with the purchase of a growler fill until August 21. There are only a few hundred that have been made – so get down to Victory Club or Vagabond Brewing and celebrate the new arrival!
Deep in the heart of the Willamette Valley is an amazing brewery and restaurant that serves a huge lineup of outstanding ales and cuisine that would delight the most serious foodie – all in a family-friendly venue that it enjoyable, historic and pleasing to the eye.
Grain Station was started in 2013 by Kelly McDonald and Mark Vickery as Oregon’s first Community Supported Brewery. The concept of a CSB is that the community buys into the brewery as supporters for a share of the brewery’s beer. Like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a group supports a local farm and receives weekly shipments of the vegetable harvest, CSB is the same concept, just in the form of a mug-club.
Grain Station Brew Works is located in an old 1930’s era lumberyard building that has been beautifully restored into a modern-looking farmhouse building that houses the brewpub and a coffee shop. The brewpub is the centerpiece of the Granary District, a mixed-use development with 7 buildings on 4 and a half acres. On the site is also a coffee house, Salon and Day Spa, Karate Studio, four wineries and other retail businesses.
The complex is quite the outdoor destination as there is regularly live music and with Granary District outdoor patio (mini-amphitheater, really), it’s the perfect place to grab a pint of beer/cider or a glass of wine and take in music with friends or your family.
I had the opportunity to get a tour with Kelly McDonald, co-owner of GSBW and hear about the day-to-day operating of McMinnville’s ultimate entertainment spot. Kelly is a direct descendent of early Oregon Pioneers from the mid-Willamette Valley and moved to McMinnville to attend nearby Linfield College. Since then, Kelly has been a businessman in McMinnville for decades and is devoted to bringing out McMinnville’s potential.
In the brewing process for Grain Station, the brew team has first-name relationships with growers in the Yamhill and Polk County region that bring about the finest ingredients for their brews.
Grain Station has six signature beers that join an ever-changing lineup of seasonal and limited-edition beers. I had a chance to sample a flight and was seriously impressed with all of them. Here’s a run-down:
Like the sun shining on a field of freshly baled hay on a clear summer morning, Haystack Gold is light, crisp and refreshing. Put your feet up and reward yourself with liquid sunshine. OG: 1.044 · ABV: 4.5 · IBU: 15
Our Bavarian-style weizen’s (wheat beer) unfiltered brew is swimming with clove and banana and stirs up a frothy head. Don’t let “sprout” fool you – this hefe is full of flavor. OG: 1.051 · ABV: 5.2 · IBU: 20
WALNUT CITY RED
Our red ale celebrates McMinnville’s roots as The Walnut City. Locally grown cascade hops throughout impart floral citrus notes and a crisp bitterness. OG: 1.055 · ABV: 5.4 · IBU: 45
BET THE FARM IPA
Our flagship IPA packs a whopping 85 IBU punch. It is boil and dry hopped with a balanced blend of bitter and aroma hops, In other words: flavorful and aromatic hoppy goodness. OG: 1.064 · ABV: 6.5 · IBU: 85
HANK’S DARK ALE
This is a laid-back, easy-starting dark ale with a smooth malt finish. De-husked carafa malt gives this beer its dark color without a heavy roasted malt character. OG: 1.058 · ABV: 5.8 · IBU: 60
GRAIN STATION STOUT
Served on nitro, this creamy, smooth-bodied stout is rich and malty with a sweetness that doesn’t fade away. OG: 1.060 · ABV: 6.2 · IBU: 30
For the full up-to-date list of GSBW beers, visit the Brews page.
A New Era Begins
2016 marks two new additions to Grain Station’s Brew Works’ staff that have made an immediate impact on the guest experience. Earlier this year, Grain Station Brew Works promoted Joseph D’Aboy as new head brewer and hired a new head chef, Matt McMahon.
Joe was the assistant brewer for the last few years and is taking the existing GSBW brew lineup to a whole new level along with developing refreshing new brews as well. The results are impressive as we’re seeing amazing new brews come on tap.
In my interview with Joe, I asked about his start in brewing. Like many in the industry, he said, he got his start homebrewing and his craft took off from there. Originally from Sandy, Oregon, Joe attended college at Linfield and fell in love with McMinnville. He’s proud of the solid lineup built at GSBW and is happy to be experimenting with new styles.
Earlier this year, Joe and co-owner Kelly McDonald made changes in the brewhouse, including upgrading equipment. Part of this included installing automated cooling to existing 7-barrel fermenters, addition of a 15 barrel bright tank as well as other infrastructure changes. Joe says GSBW’s beer is unique because of his close attention to the yeast strains found in their beers.
He’s developed 3 core strains – hefe, saison and lager and will use these foundational strains and build upon them.
Recently, in Bend, Oregon, I had Farmhouse Saison, which was on tap at Brown Owl. It was a perfect blend of complex yeasts and malty backbone and was ideal on a warm summer night.
For the Saison, specifically, Joe will introduce fruit-infused versions of them including dark cherry and apricot. I got to tour the new barrel aging room – where GSBW has acquired wine, whiskey and gin barrels from local sources and has 10 set up as a lab of sorts. Joe’s admits: he’s lucky to have the space to experiment at GSBW as many brewers are confined by physical locations to store items such as barrels. “Kelly’s a commercial real estate guy, so space is something he’s thought about – and I was able to use this store room in a very tactful way”.
A New Focus On Cuisine
In addition to new beers coming out, Kelly McDonald focused on the kitchen as well. In hiring Matt McMahon and building out his kitchen staff, GSBW is now defying what ‘brewpub’ food typically means. Matt was raised mostly in Texas and learned barbecue at a very young age. After touring around the country as a military kid, Matt picked up culinary styles along the way. His influences come throughout the Southern US, Maine, Canada and more.
Matt gained his culinary training in Portland and was a chef at Portland City Grill when he learned of an opportunity at Grain Station Brew Works. He was attracted to McMinnville and GSBW specifically because of the unrealized potential of cuisine at the restaurant. Again, with Kelly’s connection to local growers and farmers, Matt can use these local flavors in his food each and every day.
GSBW’s cuisine program, powered by Matt, has a theme of bringing fine dining to McMinnville at an affordable price. Farm to table is an over-used term these days, but the practice is at work at GSBW on the plates and in pint glasses.
Also, Matt is in constant contact with Joe and the two work together to bring out dishes that compliment the upcoming beer offerings. For example, soon Joe will start offering a gin aged ale and Matt is coming in to pair it with lamb seasoned with lavender and juniper that will be the perfect accompaniment.
Matt told me that he’s excited about winter because “that’s when people really want to eat” and he can respond with root-vegetable enable stews that are French and German inspired and go along with the darker ales really well.
The combination of family-friendly atmosphere, focus on live music and quality drink and food make Grain Station a unique place. McMinnville is lucky to have such a stellar brewpub in town and we’re lucky in the Willamette Valley to have access to their beers.
You’ll find Grain Station at a number of places both in bottles and on draft. Look for Grain Station 22 oz bottles at Roth’s Fresh Markets in the Salem area on draft at your preferred pub or growler fill station in the Willamette Valley. Also, in Bend at the Brown Owl.
As a frequent visitor to Bend, Oregon, I’ve been a long-time frequenter of Bend Brewing Company. I’ve always enjoyed the restaurant’s amazing food and family-friendly-ness and of course, their beers have always been amongst Central Oregon’s best.
Late in 2015, BBC announced a changed in ownership that made fans hope for new developments to ensure BBC’s future at the forefront of the brewing community here. As Bend’s 2nd oldest brewery (just behind Deschutes), BBC is an important fixture downtown. They have a very limited upstairs brewing production floor that limits their growth as craft beer has exploded in the last 10 years.
It didn’t take long for new owners Patrick and Leslie Deenihan to get to work. In the spring of 2016, construction began on a street-front bar/serving area renovation. The new space, pictured below, features 4 taps, new seating areas, and an opening door that invites you in for a pint and a meal.
On Friday, BBC announced that the new owners purchased the vacant land just south of the brewery. This exciting news means that BBC will expand southward, creating more jobs for downtown Bend and expanding one of this beer fan’s favorite eateries.
In the Bend Bulletin article regarding the bold move, Patrick Deenihan said the current plans involve a large outdoor patio that’s “uniquely Bend”. Considering the property has a riverfront view, facing Mirror Pond, this is a fantastic move.
Also, in the article, the co-owners noted that they’re on the hunt somewhere in Bend for space to expand their brewing capacity. This would take brewing (at least, in part) outside of their current upstairs spot and move it, aptly, to a more suitable location. As downtown Bend real estate is pricey and limited, moving production to a different location only makes sense.
Kudos to Patrick and Leslie for the bold move, we’re excited to see where the next year takes Bend Brewing Company!
Summer is always a good time to try new India pale ales, and today’s look brings Ninkasi Brewing’s Beer Run IPA to my pint glass. This is a new brew and is a seasonal.
As you can see in the promo video, this IPA pours clear. The brew was perfected using feedback from runners to give them a beer they could enjoy post-run. Well, I’m not a runner, but I’m a cyclist, and I can tell you this beer is a refreshing and crisp IPA that I’d enjoy on a hot day after a workout.
What does it taste like?
Beer Run IPA has a thick head as I poured it out of a 22 ounce bomber; however, it’s light in hoppy profile, despite it’s 90 IBU rating. The beer smells fruity, like a cross between orange and peach. The flavor isn’t overly bitter. It’s fruity and sweet and is quite refreshing on a hot summer day.
Should I buy it?
If you like IPAs, yes, you should!
For a very long time, we, the Salem, Oregon beer brigade, have wanted a downtown taphouse or brewpub to showcase the amazing beer made in our state and in our city.
Salem’s brewing scene has grown vastly in the last half-decade, first with breweries such as Gilgamesh, Pale Horse (which is now closed); and now with a vibrant scene featuring Vagabond Brewing, Santiam Brewing, Salem Ale Works and Sparky’s. Still, we haven’t had any taphouses or brewing operations in downtown Salem, which is truly the heart of this spread-out city. Until now.
Let’s head downtown for a pint!
Enter Victory Club, which is a brand new taphouse owned and operated by the three-man team behind Vagabond Brewing. Located in the Salem Arts Building (155 Liberty St NE) facing the rear alley, the Victory Club is a 2,500 square foot restaurant/taphouse that features 35 taps, with two taps reserved for every Salem brewery and local cideries Wandering Angus and Anthem.
This means Victory Club will be the premier destination for Salem-made beer. If you’re more into cider and not a beer fan, you’ll be able to buy locally-made cider. Also, as an amazing step, Victory Club is working with the mixology team at nearby Archive Coffee and Bar to have hand-crafted cocktails on tap at Victory Club.
To this Salem resident, a big factor that makes Victory Club unique is the collaborative nature in which its being built. Rather than being strictly a Vagabond taphouse that’s located downtown, the owners want the venue to be a meeting place for Salem’s craft beer and cider movement. Victory Club is a showcase for the emerging spirit of hand-made spirits, ales and ciders from the state’s capital.
I think Victory Club’s coolest feature is going to be the designated outdoor patio. Right off the front door is a patio that’s about 15’x40′ where picnic tables, umbrellas and more will welcome beer fans who want to dine outside. One advantage to Victory Club facing the alley is that the patio will be quieter, with less street traffic to disrupt groups while dining outside.
The Victory Club opens on June 3 and will be open 11:00 AM-10:00 PM Sunday-Wednesdays and from 11:00 AM – Midnight Thursday-Sundays. There’s a ‘soft-opening’ preview event this weekend, May 27 and 28 and the venue will be open in the evenings.
Music and more
Victory Club is sort of an L-shaped space. Upon entering the main room, you have the bar on the left-hand side and semi-private booths that line the right-hand side. The bar itself is rather gorgeous. The tap array is adorned with a copper feature that was hand-built for Victory Club by the copper artist who also makes copper creations for McMenamins.
At the far end of the L, past the bar, there’s a rolling barn door that reveals a separated space that has a long events/concert room with a stage and its own small tap array. This area can be closed off and Dean Howes, a co-owner of Vagabond, told me the space will be used for live music, karaoke and in time, private parties and events.
If you head to Victory Club hungry, you won’t be disappointed. There’s a small kitchen that will serve a traditional pub menu with burgers, tots, nachos and more.
Howes told me they want Victory Club to be a downtown venue that serves multiple purposes. Along with a taphouse serving local pints, the owners hope to have beer pairing dinners, karaoke nights (something we don’t have downtown now) and more.
Catering to craft aficionados. Despite having a full liquor license, the Victory Club owners want the venue to be a haven for craft lovers. By featuring locally made ales, ciders and Salem-made house cocktails, there was an active decision made to avoid having rum and coke well drink specials, that invite a more ‘let’s go party!’ crowd.
Using a network of local distillers, cider makes and more, Victory Club will feature a premium cocktail selection that will vary based on curation and seasonality.
Boosting Salem’s brewing visibility
Right now, if you were to ask a group of Salem residents whether we have local breweries, I’d imagine half or less would say ‘no’. The goal of Victory Club, according to Howes, is to change this. By being central and downtown, the owners want to raise the visibility of our town’s brewing prowess and history.
You see, Salem used to be ‘beer central’ going back 100+ years. In 1866, Samuel Adolph founded “Pacific Brewery” which sadly burned down a few years later. Then, in 1885, The Salem Brewery was renamed “Capitol Brewing” after Adolph sold the brewery to two employees. There’s a vast history of brewing in Salem, to read more, see Salem History.
One of the best known beers made in Salem was Victory Club ale, hence the venue’s name.
Resurrecting the Salem Brewery Association
With the new resurgence of Salem brewing, the independent owners of these Salem-based breweries have re-formed the Salem Brewery Association. The organization meets monthly to organize and think of ways to boost Salem brewing’s visibility. Howes tells me the organization is looking to start events such as a Salem Beer Week and others, to bring Salem residents to area breweries and open the doors to everyone in the area.
Happy Thursday to you! Did you know, it happens to be National Beer Day? From Wikipedia:
Recognized nationwide among beer enthusiasts,National Beer Day is an official holiday in the United States celebrated every year on April 7, and marking the day in 1933, the first day in 13 years, that people could legally buy, sell, and drink beer.
National Beer Day is a celebration of the Cullen–Harrison Act being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt made his famous remark, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The law went into effect on April 7 of that year, allowing people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol by weight (or 4.05% by volume) in states that had enacted their own law allowing such sales. People across the country responded by gathering outside breweries, some beginning the night before. On that first day, 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed, inspiring the future holiday. Today, April 7 is recognized as National Beer Day and April 6 is known as New Beer’s Eve.
National Beer Day was first created in 2009.  After much prodding from his friend, Mike Connolly, Justin started a Facebook page that was noticed by Colorado Beer Examiner, Eli Shayotovich. Justin’s promoting of the new holiday via various social media outlets was rewarded when the beer drinking app, Untappd, created a badge for National Beer Day that rewarded participants that checked a beer into the app on April 7th.  National Beer Day has since been trending every year on April 7th using the hashtag #NationalBeerDay.
It’s awesome to see local breweries chiming in on social media:
So, what are you drinking on #NationalBeerDay? I’ll be toasting with a Santiam Brewing Ecotopia IPA!
For today’s glimpse at a local beer, we head down to Eugene, Oregon to Oakshire Brewery. This beer has been around for a few years and is one of Oakshire’s more well known brews. While Eugene is most well-known for Ninkasi Brewing, Oakshire turns out quality beers on a consistent basis.
What does it taste like?
Oakshire Watershed IPA pours medium gold in color that has a slight orange hue – you can see through this beer as it leaves its one inch ivory head. Your nose instantly picks up on the strong-citrus smell accompanied by a hint of pine.
When you first sip this hop-forward IPA, the taste mirrors the smell as you first sense a grapefruit hoppiness and strong, bitter piney aftertaste. Because this beer has moderate carbonation, it amplifies the tangy and spritzy flavor.
The piney aftertaste dissipates really quickly, making the taste profile of this beer remarkable, in a word. This IPA is super dry, making it strongly appealing.
Should I buy it?
Absolutely. Pick up a bomber like I did, you won’t be disappointed if you like hop-forward beers!
Back in 2011, I reviewed Emily’s Ember and gave it a shrug. However, I’m returning today with a refined palette and second look at this locally made red ale.
Emily’s Ember is made from Seven Brides Brewing in Silverton, Oregon. The beer is a classic American red ale, which means it should have a higher degree of malt profile to compliment its hoppy boost. This is a lighter ale at 4.5% and only 35 IBUs and therefore should appeal to most beer lovers as it’s not too bitter.
How does it taste?
Emily’s Ember pours a deep reddish brown color and leaves a light head that quickly disappears. It has a unique smell of caramel and nut tartness that makes you excited to take your first sip.
The taste is malty – with hints of nut and caramel. There’s a very dry taste to this ale as you pick up on the hint of hops and bitterness at the end of your sip.
Keep in mind though, this beer does not a strong taste, one way or the other. It’s a beer that will appeal to many because it’s not too hoppy and not too malty – just smooth all around.
Should I buy it?
Yes, you should absolutely try Emily’s Ember. It’s great for a pint if you can find it on tap.
“West Coast IPA” is a term that is thrown around in Oregon so much that it’s almost useless at this point. Even so, I was excited to review my first beer from Sunriver Brewing, a newer brewer in Central Oregon. Vicious Mosquito IPA is the company’s flagship IPA and I was pleased to discover it in 20 ounce bottles here in the Willamette Valley.
How does it taste?
I’m not sure where the name came from, but I’m sure there’s a story there! This beer pours almost clear and has a very floral, citrusy smell. This IPA is graced by five different hops including Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe.
When you first sip this brew, you are hit in the face with a grapefruit-like, overwhelming punch of hops. It’s a punch that is brief, but it overwhelms your palette and leaves nothing in the way of malt kick to counter the hop attack.
It’s too much of a strong hop taste and I don’t like it. This, coming from an IPA fan.
Should I buy it?
No, skip it. If you’re truly curious, get a taster.