Holiday Ale Fest 2009

I like my space, so the Holiday Ale Fest each year means that I need to simply get used to bumping in to people and spilling some beer for a little while. Like most festivals, I’ve made a habit of taking some work time off to visit before the crowds get too massive. This year was a quick affair; Michelle and I were only able to attend for about an hour before taking MAX home to pick up kids. We were fortunate to meet up with Curtis, Liz, Kevin, Ryan, and Michelle’s coworker Tim for several samples. Nothing we had was bad, and thanks to the early-ish arrival, no beer was bumped and spilled.

My favorites were Cascade Brewing’s Sang Noir, HotD’s Jim 2009, and possibly Oakshire’s Very Ill Tempered Gnome or New Belgium’s La Folie. Each was very different, and surprisingly good out of a plastic cup. The last beer I sampled was Upright’s Holy Herb, and it was unlike anything I’ve had before and I’m still not exactly sure what happened in my mouth. I meant to get over to Saraveza and try it again, but I think I may have missed it. I’m not going to try and describe it until I get a second opinion that doesn’t come at the end of 6 big-beer samples.

We meant to get back and burn up our last tickets over the weekend, but alas, the furnace broke and thesis work needed doing.

An unlikely review

I live in a fairly urban neighborhood in North Portland. I also live on a common route for bottle collectors to pass by on their way to the grocery store to refund bottles. Last time I was brewing, one of the neighborhood women who collects bottles all day stopped to see what I was doing with my dangerous multi-tiered system. When I explained that I was making beer, her interest piqued, and she mentioned that she’d never had any home-made beer. I told her I’d save her a bottle.

Well after a couple weeks, I finally got some bottled from the keg and was able to get it to her. I explained that it was a Scottish-styled beer and that it was a little darker, smokier and sweeter than she’d typically have here. She exclaimed that “it may be Scottish, but tonight it was going in to an American.”

I chuckled, then watched in stifled horror as she poured the beer from the glass bottle in to a used Gatorade bottle wrapped in a plastic bag and capped it. She then tossed the glass bottle in with her collection, thanked me, and went on her way. I was a bit shocked. I tried to remember a recent discussion on glassware and aesthetics, but ultimately just hoped that she enjoyed it. When I saw her a few days later, she let me know that she had indeed enjoyed it. Her review was that short, and I’m hoping she wasn’t just saying that to be nice. I’m saving some of the cream ale for her as well.

Stan, Stan, He's our Man Cream Ale

My grandfather passed away last weekend, and he was a big fan of my brewing, even if only in theory. He still hadn’t opened the IPA I brewed for my wedding nearly 8 years ago so he could show people the bottle. He was more of a macro-drinker, and combining that with his being Nebraskan and his love of cream can dinners, it only seemed appropriate to brew a cream ale of the pre-prohibition style.

I’m not going to stick with period ingredients, but I think he’d be happy enough with the results to keep a bottle on his desk well beyond the “best by” date.

I’ve not used corn before, so this will be yet another adventure.


  • 7 lbs Pilsner Malt
  • 3 lbs 2-Row
  • 1 lbs flaked corn
  • 0.5 lbs Carapils


  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 60 min (4% alpha)
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 10 min
  • 1 oz. NZ Saaz @ 5 min

Should be interesting. I’ll probably just stick with Safale S-05.

Hop planting

Yesterday Ella and I cleared some ivy off the south fence and turned some compost in to the soil before plating two rhizomes. I’ve grown hops in the past, but when we moved to NoPo, someone stole the 1/4 barrel keg I was growing them in, and I’ve not planted since.

We picked up our rhizomes from Portland Nursery, who sells around 8 potted varieties for $7 each. A little pricier than getting them from someplace like Freshops, but we were in the neighborhood and I love Portland Nursery. I got my first Nugget rhizome there a few years ago, but this year they have a wider selection of hops. I went with a Willamette (to stave off a shortage), and a Centennial. Ella picked Centennial over Cascade, but wasn’t to interested in learning the potential uses or characteristics and wanted to get back to putting gravel in the bird bath. (I cleaned it out, don’t worry)

Anyway, I hold high hopes for the plants. I love brewing fresh hop beers and will have two options this September.

March's Fermentation Friday

“How will you grow or change as a homebrewer this Spring? How will you embrace your Spring fever and channel it toward your homebrewing endeavors?”

Byron at poses this month’s Fermentation Friday topic. I’ve been a little busy the last w months with a new baby, but that dovetails nicely with my change. I’m working on setting up a tiered brewing system that utilizes gravity’s sweet love to move water from the hot liquor tank in to the mash tun, and that same gravity to lauter the sweet wort in to the brew kettle.

Sure, there’s the initial investment of time to build the setup, but then I’ll be able to step away from the lauter with a little more confidence to interact with the kinders during the lengthy brewing process. And the research and design process is fun.

Oh, and I’m going to start brewing 10 gallon batches. I’m now set up to do so and look forward to having doubly productive brew days.

Editorial on Oregon Beer Tax

Irene Firmat of Full Sail Brewing and Gary Fish of Deschutes Brewing have an editorial in today’s Oregonian regarding the proposed beer tax. They highlight the production side aspect of the tax, something that is often misunderstood. While I wouldn’t mind paying for many of the services this tax is trying to address, this isn’t how I’d choose to do it. It hurts my dear Oregon breweries.

Death knell for Willamette hops

I received word from the Hop Growers of America Conference that ABI (Anhuesher-Busch InBev) is going to stop using whole hops in their product and start using extracts. Additionally, they are going to stop using Willamettes, something they have spent the last year and a half touting on billboards in our region. This could have some major ramifications for local growers (who are being paid not to grow the varietal) as there are some limitations on what can be grown here because of susceptibility to downy mildews (guess what, it’s wet here.)

At the risk of sounding jaded, I wonder how many other long standing traditions AB will change now that they kowtow to an even larger number of shareholders. Will they stop using clydesdales and start using goats to save on stable an feed costs? It’s unlikely they’ll change anything related to marketing, since that is all their beers are. I shouldn’t care if they use hop oil extracts and pellets if the beer is the same, but they have claimed the opposite for so long.

I’m going to predict the rise of Bravo hops. It’s a high yield, high alpha varietal that has good downy resistance. Sure, we’ve already got a lot of Nugget being grown here, but Bravo has a higher alpha potential and a higher yield. We’ll just have to see what restrictions have been placed on growers this year.