BeerEric Steen

Oregon Beer Scene meets Colorado Beer

BeerEric Steen

I spent the past month in Portland, Oregon because, in addition to visiting friends and family, I had organized a number of events that brought some of what Focus on the Beer is all about to the Pacific NW. As you know, our wonderful state of Colorado is home to well over 150 breweries, so I worked with about ten to bring their beer to a special event during Portland Beer Week. In addition to that I also organized a couple Beers Made By Walking walks and a BMBW tapping. I'd like to share some of the photos from these experiences. Many of our Pikes Peak Region readers have been a part of our BMBW walks, or you have attended some of our events, so you know what fun they can be. It felt really special to be able to do some of these things in a city that has such a huge influence in the beer industry.

Portland Beer Week is not really a beer week, it's an entire ten days of impressive beer programming. From the Portland Fruit Beer Fest, which challenges people to think very differently about fruit beer, to the Wine and Cheese Fest, to the barrel age beer seminar, the entire thing is one of the more serious educational beer programs I've ever seen.

So, when I was asked to help one of my favorite bars, Belmont Station, organize a Colorado Beer Tapping, I was truly thrilled to take part. I emailed many of my favorite breweries to be a part of it. Many have never sent their beer out-of-state so Belmont Station helped them work out a special deal. Not all were able to participate, and at some point I was asked to stop inviting breweries because the taps were full.

As you can see above Jason Yester from Trinity and Nick Nunns from TRVE joined Isaac and I in the celebration. The bar was full for most of the night and people were really enjoying beers that they can't get anywhere in Oregon. Even we have a hard time getting a hold of some of these beers...even in Colorado! I do want to send special thanks to Jason and Nick for coming out to the event. Both their beers were a big hit, as were everyone elses. The other breweries included: Backcountry, Crooked Stave, Elevation, Great Divide, Grimm Brothers, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and Ska.

When I saw Nick talking to this beer drinking Portlander I thought it would make a great photo. I apologize for not remembering this other person's name, but he also attended the Beers Made By Walking tapping. Nick gave TRVE shirts to the bar staff, so it was pretty surreal to be in this bar with all the CO beer and CO beer industry paraphernalia. Trinity's four "Case of the Mondays" beers were poured in sample trays and people really enjoyed them.

Beers Made By Walking was well received too. Again, I organized a tapping event at Belmont Station for PDX Beer Week, this one took place the night before the CO Beer Tapping. I also organized two different walks. One took place in a neighborhood in Southeast Portland and the other took place in the famous Forest Park, the largest in-city park in the country. Below are photos from those walks and information on the beers that were served. The beers were seriously a treat!

The first walk took place in May. The brewers from Upright Brewing and Coalition Brewing took part in it, and unlike 95% of the hikes we do for BMBW, this one took place in a neighborhood. We started with about 25 people, but it was practically a monsoon that day. It is a rare occasion that it rains as hard as it did that day in Portland, but many people stuck around till the end.

An image of Glen Nagel teaching us about medicinal plants. Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing is in the background.

The walk was led by Glen Nagel, a professor at Portland's National College of Natural Medicine. The plants that we identified were plants in front of people's houses, we found them in vacant lots, and on sidewalks. They include: Ginkgo Biloba (right in front of Coalition too!), Rosemary, "Melissa" Mint / Lemon Balm, Clover, Wild Lettuce, English Plantain, St. John's Wort, Yarrow, Burdock, Fennel, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Parsley, Fig, and Purple Leaf Elderflower. At the end of the hike it seemed like Coalition was pretty set on the Melissa Mint and Upright was considering the Elderflower. These beers will be available during a special BMBW tapping in Portland with about ten other Oregon based breweries that have participated in this year's programming. Details to come as we firm them up a little.

As you can see in the images below, the public walk we scheduled at Forest Park also took place on an incredibly rainy day. We sold tickets through the Forest Park Conservancy, so the proceeds went to them. On the ticket I wrote "rain or shine" but I'm not sure that what we experienced was rain per se. As I was driving up the hill to get to the Northernmost reaches of the park, where Newberry Road connects to the Wildwood Trail, I started laughing because the rain practically created a river, there was a mudslide, and I was determined to make the walk happen regardless.

In the photos above you can see Matt Wagoner leading the preliminary Forest Park Hike with Ben Edmunds, head brewer at Breakside Brewing. We did the walk a month in advance and then the brewers from Breakside, Coalition, and Hopworks had exactly one month to create a beer.

Well, about half the people showed up to the hike due to the rain but we still had a great time, and about half way through, after we were already soaking wet, the rain stopped.

Forest Park gives us a look at what the area was like before loggers stripped the land down to provide housing for the people in Portland. Actually, that's not quite true. The park currently holds trees that are about 75-100 or so years old. They are big and tall, but they aren't as big and tall as the previous trees. A lot of trees where we hiked were Hemlocks and Cedar. Apparently the cedars live for a couple centuries and as they die they make more room for the Hemlocks, which can live for over a thousand years. Before the logging, the trees were old growth. Forest Park still claims some old growth cedar forest, which is open to the public only certain times of the year.

This is vanilla leaf. It's not related to vanilla bean, but when it dries out it has a vanilla-like fragrance to it. The beer from Hopworks contained vanilla leaf and it contributed a cedary, cinnamon-like flavor. We think it also added the light astringency, which reminded me of what you would expect in a salad with dandelion leaves. We also identified Minors Lettuce, Elderberry, Dull Oregon Grape, Sweet Cicely, Twisted Stalk/Scoot Berry, Salmon Berry, Wild Ginger, Stink Currant, Spruce, Red Huckleberry, Thimble Berry, Fiddle Heads, Vanilla Leaf, Cascara, Hemlock (the tree), Licorice Fern, English Hawthorne and the Hazelnut Tree.

The brewers that came along on this hike were from Breakside, Coalition, and Hopworks. The beers, which were inspired by this particular portion of the trail, had already been prepared in advance and went on tap the next day at Belmont Station. The ingredients were not foraged in Forest Park but were sourced elsewhere because it's illegal to forage there without a permit. The beers were wildly experimental and a ton of fun, here's what we got to try:

  • Breakside: Just The Tip - American golden wheat ale with local spruce tips
  • Coalition: Saison du Forest Park - Classic, Saison with Red Huckleberry during primary fermentation and Ginger Root in secondary.
  • Hopworks: Balch Creek Sour - Belgian-style Red, tart and tangy from lactic souring and Salmon Berry. The Vanilla Leaf provides a honey-like aroma and a woody astringency.

All in all my time in Oregon was a lot of fun. I was glad to be able to share some fantastic Colorado beer and some programming that I began here in Colorado Springs. I'd like to leave you with this image, which doesn't quite do justice to the insane amounts of water pouring over the park, but you might be able to see rain if you look hard enough. Cheers!

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