Musings Fermentation Underground opening!

Home brewing is rarely a solitary endeavor. Years ago when I started, I had two other friends who also took the same exploratory journey. Scott channeled his inner nerd and took fastidious notes. Joe had a more curious and open spirit. All three of us eventually brewed good beers all over the spectrum. We even schemed about one day opening something formal. Scott and I went nowhere. I think I hung up the apron first. Scott still owns his equipment, but I don’t know when he last brewed a batch. But early on, Joe got serious.

Joe and Lindsay at the Sasquatch Brew Fest in Eugene, OR in 2008.

Joe went to school at UC Davis and got a proper education. Then, he had a series of jobs of increasing importance in the industry in Oregon. He made a name for himself (which he will deny) for being a quiet and patient presence, but also for creating great beers with incredibly consistent and predictable (and supremely drinkable) product.

Joe checking on fermentation at a place he made into a functioning brewery with good beer.

After a few years of working for notable breweries out west, he and his partner moved east for school. He brewed for a giant out east, but also had his sights on doing something himself. He and his partner Lindsay (a dope Geographer) explored the world of wild and open fermentation, both in Europe, and the few places it was being done at the time here. On the verge of launching a place, COVID made things impossible. But now, they’re on the verge of their first open house.

So if you’re out east in Delaware, go see their open house this Saturday. Musings Fermentation Underground is finally launching. Congratulations, friends! I know it is going to be great. Joe is an incredible brewer and I’m thrilled for the two of them that this day has finally arrived.

Old World Ales, no lagers

On a recent trip to Whidbey Island with the Dunlaps, we stumbled upon Olde World Ales & Lagers – but only just barely. Michelle noticed the sign pointing us back an alleyway to the brewery otherwise we might have walked right past. We joked that maybe it was just a trap set for us, but sure enough, the front roll-up door was open and people were sipping beer. They don’t have any food, but were happy to let us bring some from elsewhere. We grabbed some mixed items from the nearby market and sat in the sun on an old cable spool and sampled the beers. The wit was perfect for the occasion – sitting in the sun and enjoying lunch. The IPA was true to the brewery’s name – a more subdued English-style ale with a solid bitter and nice hoppiness. The porter was, despite being a warm, sunny day, perfect for the ocassion as well. It had a lighter body (and thankfully a lower gravity) and still covered all the dark malt and chocolate notes.

After eating, Scott and I chatted with the brewer/owner who had been pouring. He’s put together a nice micro-brewery and even has a nano-brewery test setup made from an older keg. Sadly there were no lagers to be had due to some problems with the lagering system, so I’m afraid we’ll have to go back later.

As an fyi, they do fill growlers, and their beers are worth taking with you.

Scenes from last brew day

I’m still brewing on a proto-tier system and taking notes about the height, usability and relationships between vessels so I’ll know exactly where I want things before I make them static. I used to be somewhat sensitive about that state of my “brewery,” until I started looking at other people’s tiers on the internet. Now the white towel rack from our first apartment no longer embarrasses me. And I know it’ll be retired soon after a second productive career.

I started heating water in the HLT at 6 am on Monday (it was light and so very nice out) and was really happy working in the quiet and cool morning, and I’ve grown so very fond of brewing outside, so I’ve got to make sure this system is still portable and can be broken down to store and transport. As I was setting up and breaking down, I started to realize how many piecemeal items that were added along the way can be made a permanent fixture and save time. I also realized that my wort chiller needs some modification to work in my new brew kettle.

Oh, and I still dislike pelletized hops. Such a mess.

Visiting Oakshire Brewery

Ella and I were down in Eugene last Friday and were lucky enough to get a private tour of Oakshire Brewery from the head brewer, uncle Joe. The brewery is located in a light industrial area next to the train yard, which Ella pointed out over and over. The only clue that it was a brewery was the stack of kegs in front, otherwise, it looked like the other surrounding businesses. When we arrived, it was shortly before closing on Friday night. The garage door was open and a fellow my age was mopping the floor to clean up dirt that had been tracked in by a bobcat moving through the brewery to what would become the cellar. The man, Chris Althouse, happens to be one of the founders putting in his time at his brewery.

Oakshire Brewery

Joe poured me a sample of the wheat and Ella and I watched and explored as he finished up work for the day. The wheat (beer) is filtered, and has all the trappings of a summer beer; clean, bready and refreshing. Though filtered, it doesn’t lose the interest you might expect.

The brewery is about to change, but the current configuration is a single mash/lauter tun, single kettle, 4 fermenters, 1 bright tank and a cooler for cellaring. I’ve forgotten the volumes of each, though I’d guess the fermenters are ~20BBL and the kettle is under 10BBL. Hopefully Joe can correct me on these.

Joe monitoring fermentation

Joe poured me a sample of the Amber, which surprised me at first. I’ve grown accustomed to hoppy or sweet (and frankly boring) ambers and this is a departure from that. It’s delicious though – toasty and malty and just enough roast to remind you of a Scottish. I’d really like to try it again, so hopefully I can figure out where Point Blank distributes the beers here in Portland.


The brewery has remnants of the proprietors’ home brew days. Old Sankey keg conversions have been repurposed for cleaning and sanitizing. As we talk about the various equipment, Chris mentions which parts they hope to upgrade soon and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone in to the brewery and to the direction they’d like to take it.

Next I tried the IPA, a beer I’d sampled at a festival in the past. It has a malt body that’s a little more old world, but the hops clearly have a northwest pedigree. The hop bill might change given the market, but if my memory is correct, it’s Centennial and Cascade for the aromatics and some Amarillo and Simcoe for dry hop. I want to say that Chinook was the bittering for all the beers, but it may have been Columbus. The IPA is a solid beer which Joe is happy about, comparing it to the IPA from some of his past jobs. I agree with him – it’s very drinkable and is a mouthful of the things I like in an IPA.

The last sample is of the coffee stout which Joe draws off the bright tank. Ella helps him sanitize the outlet afterwards, keeping the beer safe. It hasn’t fully carbonated yet, but that isn’t a detriment to the beer. I remember this beer fondly from a past festival. Cold-pressed coffee and chocolaty roasted barley make for a smooth and delicious beer. Despite being winter, I’ve had a limited intake of stouts this season, but this one is great. There’s no harsh bitterness from the coffee. I really recommend finding this one on tap somewhere soon.

Ella helps keep clean

While finishing this last sample, Jeff, the other co-founder shows up and the two brothers catch up on the construction progress, the plans for the weekend, and sample some of the IPA. It’s clear from their mood and from the beers themselves that things are going well and that the future is promising. Joe is an excellent addition to the brewery and I expect he’ll only help make things better. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a calm demeanor and strong set of problem solving skills that are necessary in the brewhouse. Since I’m a friend of his, take from these comments what you will, but I think you’ll find the proof in the puddin’.

Oooh… tapioca beer. That’d be like petrified carbonation. I’m going to call dibs on that, even though it’s sounding less and less appetizing as I think about it.