What’s better than beer on a Thursday afternoon? A beer and cheese pairing! Breakside Brewery and Steve’s Cheese are teaming up for a titillating afternoon of beer and cheese pairings, followed by a tap takeover, on March 7th hosted by Lardo East, located at 1212 SE Hawthorne. From 2-5pm, join Breakside Brewmaster Ben Edmunds and acclaimed cheese-monger Steve Jones as they chat about the pairings. Lardo will have 8 Breakside beers on tap, including a number of small batch seasonals such as Battle of the Bulge Belgian Stout, Cedarbaumbier, Barberhop Quartet Double IPA, MacFischer’s Scottish Ale, Szechuan Blonde and French Fennel Farmhouse. Space is limited! So please reserve a spot by emailing [email protected]Walk-ins will be accepted only if there is still room.
Schmizza Pub and Grub (320 NW 21st Ave, Portland), 7-9 PM
Come hang out with Breakside’s Senior Brewer, Sam, Monday, March 4 @ 7pm! Free tastings, beer trivia, schwag giveaway! Delicious pizza!
Our new taproom in Milwaukie is opening on January 30, 2013. We’ve heard from some friends that the new location can be a little tricky to find, so we wanted to write out a set of simple directions.
First, if you are coming from the West, Google Maps will tell you to turn on Freeman Way. Do not do this!
Whether you are coming from the East or West on Highway 224, you want to exit at the Lake Road/Harmony Road off ramp. At the exit head north and drive to the first light. This is International Way. Take a left at the light and then make an IMMEDIATE right turn into the first driveway. You will see a sign for Breakside Brewery. Drive about 100 yards through the parking lot, and our new brewery will be on your left!
Hope to see you there soon; cheers!
Now that we’ve officially rung in the New Year, we can close the books on our 2012 brewing logs and take stock of what the Breakside team has accomplished over the last twelve months. In 2011, we released 92 different beers. 2012’s total came in slightly lower at 83 beers; though, considering that we did more re-brews and built out a new brewery, this is still a pretty respectable number. Here are some interesting notes about those 83 beers:
- 17 fall into the broad category of “American ales.” These include all of our hoppy Northwest-style IPAs and pale ales, our fresh hop beers, CDA and imperial red. As mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, we did three different fresh hop beers this year, including the very popular Fresh Hop Citra Wheatwine.
- We can’t keep pace with Cascade and their barrel releases, but we did release 12 beers this year that were 100% barrel-aged. If you count beers with barrel-aged components, or beers that were barrel fermented that number rises slightly. Most of these beers were released either around our 2nd anniversary back in May or at our bottle release and Winter Formal last month. To break it down even further, there were 3 gin barrel-aged beers, 7 bourbon barrel-aged beers, 1 from a Chinato barrel, and 1 beer that is wild fermented in neutral oak.
- As for European-inspired brewing, we released 13 Belgian-style beers, 10 German-inspired beers, and 8 that come from the classic British brewing tradition. Looking at these numbers now, I’m surprised that we didn’t do more British ales this past year. Notably, we made no Scottish-style ales, nor any lower alcohol bitters or pale ales. Had it not been for Andrew Horne’s ESB in the fall, we would have failed to make any bitters at all!
- And then there are the out-of-style beers. I’ve long maintained that our experimentation with non traditional fermentables and flavors in beer is just one component of what we do at Breakside, and I do bristle at the descriptions of Breakside that characterize us as a purely “experimental brewery.” That said, we made 23 different beers that can’t easily be categorized or that clearly violate the German Purity Law. Here is the complete list of adjuncts that made their way into our beers this year: espelette chile, salted caramel, sour cherries, lychee, counoise juice, maple caramel, fennel seed, pineapple, fatali peppers, aji cerezas, tarragon, sweet orange peel, chamomile, coriander, bitter orange peel, habanero peppers, serrano peppers, Dutch chocolate, cacao nibs, western red cedar tips, chestnuts, wildfire honey, lapsang souchong tea, lemongrass, tomatillo, Oregon sea salt, lavender, kaffir lime, galangal, coffee, rhubarb, strawberries, lemon peel, Colorado spruce tips, vanilla bean, star anise, cucumber, lime peel, sungold tomatoes, Genovese basil, Oregon wild plums, candy cap mushrooms, ginger, saffron, pumpkin, apples, coconut, dill flower, caraway, rosemary, hazelnuts, nutmeg, passionfruit and blueberries.
There were a few areas of beer world that we really didn’t get to explore in 2012, and I expect that we’ll be spending more time brewing more lagers and recreating historical styles in 2013. Indeed, with our new production facility ready to pump out a huge amount of beer this year, we’ll have a lot more flexibility to dedicated time and tank space to lagers. In January alone, we’ll be releasing three of them!
Now, what about favorites? First off, I think it’s important to mention that we do recognize that not all beers are created equal (nor are all beer styles), and there were some missteps amongst those 83 beers of 2012. Before I start patting Sam, Jacob, Andrew and myself on the back for a job well done, I think there are a few misses that are worth remembering. Here are the five beers we made in 2012 that you likely will not see again:
- There were a handful of beers that we made that were damned by a flawed malt profile. Perhaps these beers shouldn’t make the ‘never again’ list, because really what they need is some fundamental changes. Our East Coast Pale Ale was a nice Cascade-driven hoppy beer that was marred by the false diacetyl flavors from Crystal 60L malts; International Way APA and the second version of our Newport Summer Ale both demonstrated why Simpsons Golden Promise is a better base malt in dark beers–the husky/grainy flavor was super unpleasant in such light bodied beers. And, Victory malt has been forever banned from use in our Belgian-style beers after it overtook the flavor profile of our Belgian Pale Ale. So, if these beers do re-emerge, expect to see them have entirely new malt flavors.
- I am done with Gose, at least flavored ones, at least for a while. I love using salt to add complexity and mouthfeel to beers, but the Cucumber Gose and BLT Gose that we made this year both were disappointments. With gose, where the salt character is meant to be prominent, these beers quickly move into the territory of undrinkability, and we certainly were guilty of trying to use a neutral gose base as too much of an easy springboard for further experimentation. I do think that there’s some potential here, but if we make a gose in 2013 it will be a ‘plain’ one, and if I want to flavor it I’ll mix it with some Bloody Mary mix in a brunch cocktail rather than in a fermentor.
- Smoky Radler. Peated malt plus lemon peel. Not sure what we were thinking with that one.
- Lavender Fudge Stout and Coffee Cream Stout. Both of these were ‘doctored’ versions of our dry stout, and they were demonstrations of how difficult it can be to balance flavors delicately when trying to ‘reverse engineer’ a beer. In the case of the LFS, the lavender-to-cacao ratio just skewed a little too much to lavender. The Coffee Cream Stout was proof that dry stout and coffee really should not be mixed.
- My personal biggest miss in brewing this year was our Yakima Valley Sour Ale. This was brewed with the intention of being a ‘blueberry sour,’ and the beer was neither sour enough nor did any real blueberry character come through. On the upside, this beer did provide us with a fantastic way of culturing some bacteria and wild yeast that were later used (more successfully!) in our Passionfruit Berlinerweisse and the New World Bruin (currently in barrels, due for a May release).
Writing that is a good form of brewer’s catharsis. Now that I’ve expiated those 2012 beer sins, here is my highly personal list of our eight best beers this year:
8) Session Brown I wrote this recipe in June on a flight from Boise after judging at the North American Beer Awards and tasting through many milds and browns. It was fun to re-tool it for a few more batches in the summer, and then a wonderful surprise when it medaled at this year’s GABF.
7) Apizza Alt There were a number of beers that were part of our Chef Collaboration Series that were highlights for me over the past year, but the delight that this beer elicited from Brian Spangler of Apizza Scholls was a real validation of the entire project.
6) New Nordic Porter I was really satisfied by how well the dill, caraway, and fennel intermingled in this beer. This beer is my case that ‘experimental flavored beers’ can be drinkable, balanced, and complex. One of our riskier experiments this year (dill beer, really?) was one of my most pleasant surprises.
5) Smoked Apple Ale An idea that I’d been toying with for a long time came together really nicely: 200 pounds of free apples fell into our laps, and the guys at FH Steinbart were kind enough to let me press all of them in the rain on Election Night. The result: our fastest moving one off in Breakside history.
4) 1911 Vienna Coffee Beer Our senior brewer, Sam Barber knocked it out of the park with this beer that was a three way collaboration between Breakside, Saraveza, and Red E Coffee Roasters. The sweet, medium-bodied base beer complemented the lightly roasted, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Red E just beautifully. To me this was proof, that there’s a whole realm of lighter coffee beers waiting to be explored.
3) Gin IPA In the interest of full disclosure, I stole this idea directly from Ben Flerchinger at Lucky Lab. The name says it all: Breakside IPA went into an Old Tom Gin barrel from Ransom Spirits, got re-dry hopped in the barrel and then bottled. I’ve heard from some folks that these beers are still holding up beautifully, so you might want to try it now if you have any left from the 2nd Anniversary sale.
2) Cedarbaumbier We’ll be doing a lot more foraging in 2013, and western red cedar tips are at the top of the list of ‘crops’ to get again. There’s no beer that we make that is more “Oregonian” than this one, and I’m still impressed by the complex aromas–so similar to hops, yet distinct–that come from using tree tips.
1) Woodlawn Pale Ale What began as a project to re-tool our Hoppy Amber evolved into the creation of an entirely new, year-round beer. I’ve probably spent more time thinking about the recipe and execution of this beer than any other over the last eight months, and now it’s scaled up for 60 barrel production. Only 26 IBUs, and still one of the most hop forward beers we’ve ever made.
To those folks who came and tried one, some, many or all of our beers in 2013, thank you so much for your support. The rest of the brewery staff and I promise you more creativity, fun and deliciousness in the coming year! Onward to 2013 and a whole new set of beers!
Hey folks, this post is kind of a random assortment of things going on at the brewery right now. Enjoy!
A Brief Update on our Milwaukie Brewery
Things are rapidly finishing up with construction at the new brewery. We are a little past our original completion date because of a couple of construction hiccups with our steam boiler, so our first brew is going to be pushed out a bit from what we originally thought. We were hoping to be brewing in less than three weeks! All of us are ready to jump onto the system as soon as it is ready.
Our new 30 barrel Metalcraft Fabrication brewhouse is beautiful, and is patiently waiting for us to put it to work. All of our fermentation and lagering tanks are getting piped and cleaned this week. Our first step, after a thorough cleaning, will be to move water through the whole system to make sure the piping goes where it is supposed to. Once we have everything calibrated, it will be time to brew! Look for the first beers off of the new system to be available in late December, and an update on how they are coming along as soon as we have anything to report. Our plan for the time being is to brew a one-off unfiltered lager (“New Milwaukie Lager,” of course!) as a calibration batch before starting to scale up recipes like Dry Stout, Pilsner, Woodlawn Pale and Session Brown. For you IPA fans, you’ll likely have to wait until early next year to see the first batch of Breakside IPA come out of the new place: our hop contracts on important varietals like Citra don’t go into effect until the first of January.
Two Strong Holiday Beers: Imperial Red and Imperial Stout
Even though we make a lot of different styles of beer at Breakside, I think that one of the areas where we tend to focus a little less is high gravity (ie high ABV) beer. So, it’s a little out of character for us to be releasing two ‘imperial’ beers over the next two weeks, but that’s exactly what we’re doing. Two weeks ago, we brewed our beer for this years Holiday Ale Fest, an Imperial Red Ale. We decided to brew a collaboration with our friends at Lompoc Brewing. Bryan Keilty from Lompoc, Ben, and I sat down, tasted through a few examples of the style, and designed a recipe which we are calling India Passion Elixir. For the recipe we decided to include a touch of flaked rye, as well as some dark wheat malt, for a nice spicy flavor. We also added a bit of wildfire honey to enhance the fruity malt character and fermentation esters. This is a very rich, complex honey that will add more depth to the finished beer. We wanted to have a hop character that was both simple and big. For this we used Centennial and Willamette hops from Yakima. Willamette hops work well with the spicy rye character, and the Centennials lend a clean bitterness and burst of the delicious pine and citrus character that we all love. This red ale is going to be VERY hoppy at 80 IBU, most of which coming from aroma additions. This will be a big, flavorful, hoppy beer perfect for the cold season. Look for it at the Festival and our tasting room at the end of next week.
Last week we also brewed a new recipe for an Russian Imperial Stout that I designed. This is a big, rich beer that will come in over 8% alcohol when it is done fermenting. We will be putting a portion of it into a Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel that currently has our Oatmeal Stout in it. Using the barrel the second time will lend more of the flavors of the oak and a more restrained bourbon flavor without contributing any alcohol. The barrel is going to add a lot of complexity to the finished beer.
The Imperial Stout recipe is a relatively simple recipe. The base is two very flavorful malts: Scottish Golden Promise and a bready American Munich. Three different specialty roasted malts were used to contribute the rich chocolate and roast characters: Scottish roasted barley, German debittered black malt, and American chocolate malt. I added some brown sugar for richness, as well as a flavor reminiscent of the caramelized sugar on top of creme brulee. We also boiled longer than we normally do, in hopes to enhance the rich roasty character. We are hoping that this beer finishes very complex and deep. It should be perfect for the wet, cold winter that looks to be headed our way.
A quick teaser…
We’re not just releasing ourselves to high octane seasonals over the next month. Keep an eye out for two experimental beers that Ben has been developing–one is our New Nordic Porter, a robust porter made with carraway, fennel pollen, dill pollen, and plums. This beer is inspired by the Scandinavian spirit aquavit and was made in collaboration with Jacob Grier, one of Portland’s top cocktail gurus. The other experimental beer is a Rosemary Winter Warmer made with hazelnuts and nutmeg. Writer Lucy Burningham is joining Ben in the brewhouse to develop this beer, which will coincide with the release of her new book Hop in the Saddle. All of the beers mentioned above will be available at some point in December…be sure to visit the pub and try one, or all, of them!
Thanksgiving Week is upon us, and my mind is firmly on the family feast that I’ll be sharing back in Michigan with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, grandparents, and friends. Thanksgiving is a big deal for my family, and for a long time, it’s been one of the few times of year that I dependably return to the Midwest and get back to my roots.
My mother (like yours too) makes a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, and she likes to make it herself. Despite my annual offer to help in the kitchen, I often find myself getting out of bed far after she has finished her kitchen work for the day. If I’m on good behavior at home, I’ll get to carve the turkey again this year, but I’ve happily accepted the fact that my role every year at our family gathering is to choose the alcohol. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Mind you, my father takes care of the wine, and I’m sure he’s read the excellent post from the New Yorkt Times on friendly wines for the Thanksgiving meal. With regard to dessert wines and amari, I’m taking my cues this year from two posts on Serious Eats and will do my best to procure and share some of what they suggest. But when it comes to beer, I let my own knowledge, and a good dose, of habit guide my decisions.
Before I get into what I’ll be doing, I should make a shameless plug: both our Session Brown and Coconut Pumpkin Stout would be perfect accompaniments to many of the dishes at your meal this Thursday, and they are both availble to go as growlers. Since I’m headed to Michigan and refuse to check a bag, I won’t be bringing either of these lovely beers with me. However, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of our pub, I strongly urge you to share one of these beers at your Thanksgiving! Pictures of Breakside growlers on your Thanksgiving table can be posted to our Facebook page and will be rewarded handsomely.
Now, over the years, I’ve developed a certain routine to my Thanksgiving. I workout, watch the Lions play (ie lose), spend time putting together hors d’oeuvres, and then enjoy our relatively early meal. By the time I settle in for the football game, I’m drinking beer, and I’ve found a progression that I love for the day. So, acknowledging that this is a wholly subjective approach to recommending beers, I give you my suggestions for a beery Thanksgiving:
I like to start with a Wit. I usually find myself drinking Bell’s Winter White Ale. Despite the fact that this beer might seem out of season, I think that the spice profile of a nicely made wit, along with its light acidity nicely sets the tone for the day. Drinking wit in late fall/early winter also highlights one of my favorite aspects of the style: a well crafted witbier has a soft and round mid palate with a touch of residual sweetness to balance the spices, and they are often less summery than they might seem. There aren’t many wits available this time of year in the Northwest, but I think Upright Four would make for a fine starting point to the day. If you want something that invokes the spirit of wit without the lightness, you might also grab a growler of (ahem) Breakside Oude Noire.
By the time that we are gathered in our family room for preprandial drinks and snacks, I transition into German-style alts or American brown ales. We tend to have a spread of summer sausages, mild Midwest cheeses, and other snacks around the room. With the wide range of options, it’s difficult to choose something that will “pair perfectly,” but when all else fails I find that these two styles play nice with just about any fatty hors d’oeuvre. Amnesia’s Dusseldorf Alt is a great Portland-area option on this front.
On that same note, there’s no such thing as a perfect beer pairing that suits all the various meats, sides, and vegetables on a traditional Thanksgiving table, but rustic Belgian/French ales like saisons, biere de gardes and beers with a distinctive Brettanomyces character do well to match the richness of the food and maintain a dry, refreshing finish. I’ve made it an annual tradition to open a bottle of some vintage Jolly Pumpkin beer for my family, and many of those beers are available in Oregon. Similarly, I could see a bottle of Flemish Kiss, the award-winning brew from The Commons Brewery serving the same role at the table.
For dessert and the end of the night, I predictably turn to strong flavored stouts or old ales. A coffee stout, such as Oakshire Overcast or Hopworks Seven Grain Stout does double duty as a closing beer and a substitute for a late night cup of joe. And finally, if I round of my day of epicurean indulgence with beer, it’s likely to be something strong: a barrel-aged old ale, barleywine, or American strong ale. Though, this year, I’m guessing that I’ll be more inclined to move over to one of those amari that I mentioned before.
So there you have it: the unofficial and highly personal Breakside guide to drinking beer on Thanksgiving. What about you? Do you have any strong feelings about beers to have on Thanksgiving day?
For those of you who have visited our pub lately, you’ll know that we have transitioned our lineup of rotating offerings to reflect the cooling weather. This is my favorite time of year to make “seasonal” beers; there is a wide variety of freshly harvested produce, and people seem to be excited to drink heavier, more complex beers again. Gone are the light, crisp beers of summer, and in their place we have darker, more robust releases that match the diminished daylight, rain and colder temperatures of an Oregon autumn. Many of these beers are traditiional styles–we have a strong ESB and oatmeal stout available as I write this, and very soon we’ll have two new, unique beers that reflect the transition of the seasons.
It’s become an annual tradition for us to make a couple of pumpkin beers at Breakside. Unlike many pumpkin ales that get released in September or (the horror!) August, we wait until fresh pumpkins can be had and the temperatures are cool to make our two pumpkin beers. I fully understand why many brewers release their pumpkin beers early: sales of these beers, especially in bottles or cans, peak in early October and die off by mid November. Because we do these in very small batches (only 6-7 kegs), we don’t feel the pressure to make and move the beer so early.
With that said, we’ll tap our 2012 Vintage Pumpkin Biere de Garde this Sunday. Biere de Garde is an oddball style. Literally, the name means ‘beer for cellaring,’ and it’s often associated with French farmhouse beers that are slightly maltier than Belgian saisons. Jeff Alworth over at Beervana has pointed out that biere de gardes are actually far more diverse than mainstream style guidelines suggest. Our version of it uses the Thiriez yeast, flaked oats and malted wheat to produce an amberish beer with a lot of residual body and a strong yeast profile. As for pumpkin, we cut, clean, roast and skin the pumpkin in our kitchen at the brewpub and then add it to the fermentor, where the wort sits in direct contact with the pumpkin during fermentation. Each year, we rotate the spice profile on this beer, and we try and steer away from doing anything that resembles pumpkin pie or other stereotypical pumpkin beer spices. Last year, our mix included cinnamon, sage, and lemongrass. This year, we’ve spiced the beer with candy cap mushrooms, fresh ginger, and Jacobsen sea salt. If you’ve never worked with candy cap mushrooms, they are one of the most delicious and aromatic fungi on the planet–they literally smell and taste like maple sugar, so don’t expect a ton of earthiness here. The balance of acid (from the yeast), light vegetal notes from the pumpkin, sweetness from the mushrooms, and zip from the ginger create a beer with a ton of depth. Most of this beer will be served at the Dekum pub, but we will be sending a small amount out to The Beermongers, Bazi Bierbrasserie, and Bailey’s Taproom. The second pumpkin beer, our Imperial Pumpkin Cream Stout, will be released shortly before Thanksgiving.
Even more evocative of fall is a beer that I’m going to brew this Sunday, so it should be available by November 10: a Smoked Apple Ale. Inspired by memories of autumn (think, the smell of burning leaves) in Michigan, historical writings about gratzerbier, and New Glarus Brewing’s Apple Ale, this is a new beer for us and I’m incredibly excited about it. It will use some oak-smoked wheat from Germany and a small amount of traditional apple pie spices (freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg, allspice and ginger) as well as about 50 liters of freshly pressed apple juice. The base beer also uses a good bit of crystal malt so there is a dark, red color and a bit of caramel in the flavor as well.
Be sure to come by the pub while these small batch offerings are available! I don’t expect either will last more than a few weeks on draught.
This week, the whole Breakside crew heads off to Denver to participate in the Great American Beer Festival. With 580 breweries and 2700 beers, it is one of the biggest and best beer festivals in the world. It will be a good time, to say the least…
I can remember the excitement of my first GABF. I had been a brewer for only 4 months when I found myself wandering the aisles of the largest beer festival in the country. To be honest, I hadn’t really known what to expect. Other than a trip to Oktoberfest while studying abroad in Germany, I had not attended many beer festivals of such scale or magnitude and was ill prepared for the palate shock that ensued.
First there were the California IPAs. Sticky-sweet and unctuous in a way you don’t often see in the Pacific NW. Then I had Goose Island’s truffle beer. Talk about overwhelming. There were the 6 different lagers from August Schell, each unique and refreshing in its own way. Not to mention the most amazing American gueuze from Allagash. Made in the traditional style it was funky, complex and delicious. I could go on, but the most amazing part about the whole festival was the education I got. There is no equivalent to trying seven hundred different beers over the course of a couple of days. GABF is the largest horizontal tasting in the world. Nowhere else can you try so many versions of so many styles of beer.
So as this year’s GABF grows closer and closer, my excitement has naturally been building. In addition to all the amazing beers we’ll get to drink, it is an amazing opportunity to show the brewing community what we can do. To win an award at GABF is a validation of the highest kind; it lets you know that people who have dedicated their lives to this amazing beverage value what you do on a daily basis.
Last year, we weren’t sure how to be strategic when entering the competition. We chose 5 beers that were idiosyncratic and on the fringe of the style guidelines, hoping that we could impress the judges by being different. Unfortunately, this was not a winning strategy. We walked away with a silver medal for our Dry Stout, but when it came time to start thinking about our entries this year, we decided to revise our strategy.
We ultimately decided on beers that we love and we thought would do well. In my opinion, these beers represent just what Breakside is all about: tradition as well as experimentation. We tried to be strategic in how we entered our beers. Is Bourbon Barrel Aztec more suitable for the barrel-aged beers category or the experimental beer category? Will our IPA stand up against some of the bigger sweeter IPAs in the IPA category? These are the kind of questions we took into consideration. Then we went back and refined our recipes. Even the Dry Stout recipe got revised. We want a gold medal! We also sought to package the beers in a way that would allow them to be as fresh for the judges in Colorado as they are here on tap at the pub. We wanted each beer’s aroma to stand out in a flight of eight or nine beers. Ranging from some truly classic styles to beers we think are pushing the envelope, we entered eight beers into this year’s competition: Dry Stout, Session Brown, Smoked Porter, IPA, Passionfruit Berlinerweisse, Aztec, Bourbon Barrel Aztec and Cedarbaumbier. Five of those beers will also be available for tasting on the festival floor!
Though it’s impossible to predict how we’ll do, we are confident that we sent solid representations of some amazing beers. We can only hope the judges agree! Keep your fingers crossed for us; hopefully, we’ll see some of you in Denver!
If you take a quick survey of beer blogs and beer events over the last month, there is no doubt that one type of beer has been on everyone’s mind and palate. In the past five years or so, fresh Hop Beers have come to dominate the late summer/early fall draught sales in a way that is truly astonishing. Now that fresh hop season is coming to a close, I’ve had some time to pull my thoughts together about this phenomenon and to assess our fresh hop beers this harvest.
I’ll be the first to admit—these are not my favorite style of beer to drink or to brew, so I’m going to rant a little about them. I find wet hops tempermental, unpredictable, and often underwhelming. It’s easy to find fresh hop beers that have an intense chlorophyll-esque flavor that comes across as tasting like cooked vegetables or wilted lettuce; while some people love the ‘greenness’ of those flavors, I am not one of them. Similarly, when balanced well, the fresh hop flavors are so delicate that they can be obscured by other aggressive flavors in the beer—a strong malt character, aggressive yeast profile, higher alcohols, or even high levels of carbonation. Fermentation itself is an enemy of fresh hop flavor, as the carbon dioxide kicked off during alcohol production literally scrubs out and dulls hop flavor and aroma. I can’t tell you how many awesome tasting partially-fermented, fresh hop beers I’ve had that are only two days old; by the time they’re on tap, they come off as pale imitations of the fresh ‘beer’ they were before. The best fresh hop beers I’ve had (such as Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond) tend to use fresh hops only on the ‘cold side,’ that is after fermentation is complete.
Then there is the scheduling issue: most of the year, we set our brewing calendar on a fairly predictable clock. Part of good fermentation management is knowing exactly how your yeast is going to perform on every beer, so we can reliably expect to brew IPA every 12 days at Breakside, racking the finished beer into kegs the same day that we prepare a new batch. This system works well given that it really allows us to maximize production, something that matters when you’re brewing on a system as small as ours! With fresh hops, you often don’t know when the hops are going to actually be harvested until 48 hours ahead of time. From a scheduling point of view, this is a major nuissance, since you have to keep fermentors open that would otherwise be used for making beer. With this year’s harvest, for example, the Citra crop got pushed back two times. This led to less beer getting brewed, which is negative for business and customers both. Finally, I believe that since brewers only have the chance to work on these beers once a year, we get less practice, opportunity for improvement, or ability to develop expertise than with other types of recipes.
OK, enough complaining. I hope it’s clear that what I really mean to say is that Fresh Hop beers pose a unique challenge to brewers, and despite my reservations, I embrace the challenge of working with an ingredient that is this difficult. In an effort to learn as much as we could about brewing with fresh hops, we released three beers in the style this season. What follows is a discussion of some of our techniques, lessons learned, and thoughts for what we’ll do in the future.
A word, quickly, on what I mean by fresh hop beer: there is a lot of debate amongst brewers and beer fans around the appropriate use of the term ‘fresh hop,’ and I don’t want to rehash those discussions. At Breakside, ‘fresh hop’ (or ‘wet hop’) refers to a beer that uses a significant amount of direct-from-the-farm hops that have not undergone the typical drying and baling process for most hops. We consider beers that use dried hops in addition to ‘fresh hops’ to qualify as fresh hop beers.
The first of our three beers this year was our Wet Hop Simcoe IPA. Last year we made a Wet Hop Simcoe Pale Ale that was brewed with 100% fresh hops, and our original plan was to do that again this year. Unfortunately, the timing of the harvest worked out such that we ended up making a slightly stronger version of the beer and did include two doses of pelletized Simcoe hops in the kettle. We added the fresh hops in three stages for this beer. First, we added some hops to the mash. I believe that this helps lower the pH of the finished beer, which also reduces bitterness. I don’t really know if mash hopping has any effect on flavor or aroma in the finished beer, but every beer we’ve made that uses this technique does have a nice, rounded finish and lower perceived bitterness than you might expect from a hop-forward beer. Then, we did a second addition of hops by using the mash tun as a giant hopback, transferring the wort out of the kettle onto the hops, before pumping over to our fermentor. Finally, the beer was fermented directly on fresh Simcoe hops throughout fermentation. We were happy with this beer, though like I said before, the intensity of the fresh hop flavor dropped dramatically during fermentation itself. The finished beer had a subtle hop aroma, with a nice strong Simcoe flavor especially on the midpalate. This beer proved wildly popular on draught and disappeared within 10 days.
Up next was our International Way APA, an American pale ale made with fresh Amarillo hops. This was our most experimental approach to using fresh hops, as we did multiple infusions of fresh hops (using the mash-tun-as-hopback technique described above) into the wort at different temperatures before it reached a boil. This was loosely an attempt to use ‘first wort hopping’ as the main source of hop flavor. The beer then got an additional charge of Amarillo flavor and aroma through dry hopping. Interestingly, we did not boil all of the wort for this beer (everything was ‘sterilized’ by getting above 185 deg F), and I do think that this approach helped retain some additional hop character that would have been otherwise lost. But this was my least favorite of our three fresh hop beers, largely because I think we made a misstep in designing the malt bill for the recipe. We used Simpsons Golden Promise, a beautiful malt from the UK that is the pale base for our Dry Stout. Compared to many other base malts, it is very characterful, sweet and nutty. We use it predominantly in darker beers, where some of the base character is neutralized by all of the roast and dark malt character around it, but in this delicately hopped beer, the malt flavor sort of overran the Amarillo notes. Lesson learned.
The final of our three beers, which is still currently available, is the one I consider to be our finest achievement this year: Fresh Hop Citra Double IPA is a wheat-based double IPA (aka ‘wheatwine’) that uses the same aroma hop which dominates our flagship Breakside IPA. In this case, we stuck with a single, brief infusion of fresh Citra hops in the mash tun between the boil and pumpover to the fermentors. The beer did use some dried Citra hops in the kettle for bitterness as well. We thought that using a large quantity of Citra hops for a very brief contact time would maximize extraction of flavors. Tasting the wort as it began to ferment, I thought we had a real winner on our hands. Unfortunately, as happened with the Simcoe IPA, the hop flavor started dissipating as we hit the third and fourth day of fermentation. It was a nice double IPA, but it didn’t scream ‘fresh hop’ in any obvious way. There was some nice, green Citra character that seemed to be sticking on the mid palate, but aromatically this beer needed help. We settled on two separate dry hop additions—one while the beer was still warm, the other after it had been cooled down to 35 degrees F. The resultant beer has a tremendous, sticky bouquet of stonefruit and citrus, complex early hop flavors, a round palate thanks to the wheat and higher alcohols, and a flavorful, fresh hop (earthy/green) finish.
As I said, the reason we did made three fresh hop beers this year was for personal and professional edification. Sam, Jacob, Andrew and I wanted to see what really works (and doesn’t work) when it comes to dealing with fresh hops. Next year, I think that we’ll still continue to use the mash tun as a hopback, rely on dry hopping when necessary, and occasionally do some mash hopping. We’ll ditch characterful base malts, fermentor hopping, and first wort additions with fresh hops. I’d also like to try doing ‘cold side’ (ie brite tank) dry hopping with fresh hops, like Deschutes has done with some of its beers. I think that this has the ability to extract and retain more of the classic harvest flavor that customers seek in these beers. I’d also like to try and make exclusively lower alcohol fresh hop beers to test if beers with less carbon dioxide production retain the hop character better. Finally, I wonder whether using German spunding techniques, where a tank is sealed before fermentation is complete to allow the beer to naturally carbonate would help retain some of these aromas.
If you’ve tasted our fresh hop beers and have thoughts on what you liked and didn’t, let us know. We’ve got a whole eleven months to plan the 2013 batch of Breakside Fresh Hop, and we want to take on that challenge with even greater success next time around!
As we move to the new space in Milwaukie, we’ll be posting more often with exciting updates. For now, I’m going to take the opportunity to tell you about one of my favorite styles of beer, Kolsch, which happens to be my first recipe for Breakside.
Roughly described, Kolsch is a light bodied, pale golden, slightly fruity ale that is traditionally brewed in and around Cologne, Germany. My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Cologne a few years ago, and we fell in love with the style. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really like the style until I visited its birthplace. We stayed for three days and were able to sample examples of the style from eight different breweries. The difference between them was astounding considering the simplicity of the ingredients. The most simple recipes are just Pilsner malt and a few German hops. Some incorporate a little malted wheat in the mash as well. Traditional German Noble hops, like Tettnanger and Hallertauer, are the only way to go with this beer. The hard thing about brewing this style is trusting in the subtle flavors of quality ingredients and keeping them balanced.
We brewed our Kolsch several weeks ago with a German yeast strain that we got from our friend Dave Marliave at Flat Tail Brewing in Corvallis; the beer fermented quickly and underwent a brief cold conditioning period. We started with imported Pilsner malt from Bamberg, Germany that all of us in the brewery love. We decided to incorporate a small addition of German malted wheat, as well as a touch of light caramel malt just to round out the body. We backed off of the bitterness and kept it around 16 IBUs which is fairly light (especially for Northwest IPA drinkers), but it is enough to keep the finish clean. For hop aroma, I added a touch of beautiful Tettnang hops from Germany. These hops will lend that classic hop aroma reminiscent of a German pilsener, but they are soft and restrained enough to let the malt shine.
As a fun side project, Ben decided to fill a neutral oak barrel with some of the actively fermenting Kolsch and then add some fun ingredients. He went by the PSU Farmer’s Market and picked up some amazingly sweet Sungold tomatoes, beautifully aromatic Genovese basil, and some sweet and tart Italian plums. He and Sam have released this beer before and called in Birra Minestra. They based it on a dessert they had at Park Kitchen, and the beer will be available for a limited time at both Breakside and PK.
I hope you all enjoy these beers, and I look forward to updating you with our progress and news.
Brewing is hard physical work, but we also try and keep our minds nimble and flexed during the workday. Here’s a set of links to interesting articles that we’ve been discussing and sharing around Breakside:
The Brewers Association has published an article from The New Brewer on incorporating higher end culinary techniques into brewpub menus, as demonstrated by a Michelin-starred German chef.
A few years back, there was some talk of doing a junk food and beer pairing event in Portland; Serious Eats has put together a do-it-yourself guide if you are interested in making it happen.
Andrew Rich’s extraordinary 2011 Sauvignon Blanc has had us buzzing at the brewery, and a recent New York Times report on Loire Valley whites has kept our interest piqued and our palates ready.
If you’ve never been to one of Paul Kasten’s beer dinners at Wildwood Restaurant, you’re missing out. Paul is a good friend, and he is also the best beer chef in the United States. This Friday’s dinner with Upright Brewing is one of the “not to miss” beer events of the month.
As many of you know, we are in the middle of building a new brewery that will be located on International Way in Milwaukie, OR, just off of route 224 near Bob’s Red Mill and Dave’s Killer Bread. The new facility will house a 30 barrel brewhouse (that’s 10 times larger than our current setup), and if we max out the system we would be able to produce as much as 30,000 barrels per year out of this new space. We’re incredibly excited about what this means for Breakside as a company and for us as brewers.
From this new facility, we will finally be able to meet demand in our pub, open a new tasting room, sell beer out of house to draught accounts around the Northwest, grow our barrel-aging program and expand our distribution eventually to include bottles and cans as well. There are thousands of reasons that this excites the brewing staff, but that is fodder for a future post.
One of the questions we’ve been getting from friends and followers of the brewery lately is ‘how is the expansion coming along?’ Here, in black and white, is the most official update we’ve released yet:
The space we’ve procured is roughly 14,000 square feet and, up until earlier this year, was used as a warehouse by an emergency response supply company. The building is relatively new, and, fortunately for us, in very good shape. We’re in full on demolition and construction mode this month, and we expect that to be finishing up the first week of September. By middle of next month, we’ll be epoxying floors, taking delivery of our grain silo, and piping all of the gas, steam and water lines.
We’ll see our new brewhouse be delivered the final week of September. We’re getting a beautiful 3 vessel brewery from Metalcraft, a fabricator right here in Portland, who also designed the tanks for our friends at Burnside Brewing and Gigantic Brewing. Similarly, all of our fermentors and brite tanks will arrive that same week, and they’re supplied by local brewery equipment broker Jason Ager. We’ve used Jason’s fermentors at the pub for the last two years, and we love how sleekly and simply designed they are. Our cellar package is a little unconventional: we’ve chosen to bring in 5 brite beer tanks of various sizes as well as 4 conical fermentors. The extra brite tank will give us excess cellaring capacity, which in turn will allow us to produce a full-time lager as part of our new beer lineup.
For the last two years at the pub, we’ve done what is referred to as ‘unitank fermentation,’ where you use a single tank to ferment, condition, and lager a beer. This setup minimizes the equipment needed to produce beer and can yield great beer, but it creates a significant bottleneck for beer production. For example, if a beer takes an extra day or two longer than expected to move through the cycle of fermentation and lagering, the whole brewhouse gets stopped. With dual tanks for all of our fermentors, we’ll be able to increase our output of beer while also giving each batch ample time to clear up and mature before serving.
If we hold to this schedule, we should have the brewery fully installed and online in the second half of October, and as soon as it’s ready to go, we’re going to brew! We’ll likely run a calibration batch of something simple, maybe an oatmeal stout or an American pale ale. This will give us a sense of how our pub recipes will scale up to the new system, what hop loads the new brewery can take, and how we need to adjust all our processes to make great beer; plus, by brewing a recipe that not one of our current products, we won’t be as constrained by making sure the first batch is ‘true to brand.’
Once we’ve had a calibration batch or two under our belts, we’ll try scaling up one of our year round recipes, like Dry Stout or Aztec. Following suit will be our two IPAs, our Pilsner, and a host of new beers that we expect to start releasing in late November. But that’s right around when putting official dates to things gets a little dicey…so, we’ll all have to wait until November to see what exactly happens when.
As you can tell, it’s going to be a big and busy fall for us; we hope you’re as excited to visit our new space and enjoy the beer from it as we are to work there. We’ll be sure to post pictures and updates as the build out unfolds!
You’ve found us! Welcome to the official Breakside Brewery blog; it’s taken us over two years to sit down and finally start one of these things. In the Internet age, that’s the equivalent of several eons, so why now, you ask? Well, 2012 has been a big year for us already, and we think that there’s even more great stuff to come in the next few months: in May we celebrated our 2nd anniversary and won a medal at the World Beer Cup; this October, we’ll start brewing on our brand new 30 barrel production facility in Milwaukie. We want to share the adventures of growing our brewery and company with our fans, and a blog seems like a great place to do that.
I (Ben) and the other brewers will be the principal contributors to this blog, so it will focus predominantly on the things that are going on in the brewery—both at our Dekum pub and at our new space. You can expect updates on the expansion, discussions of upcoming beers and new releases, philosophical disquisitions on brewing technique and the beer industry, as well as posts about upcoming events and other things related to craft beer.
We hope that our regular readers will come to see what it is that motivates and inspires us at Breakside, what our approach to beer is, and how we dialogue with the larger world of craft food and drink around us.
We hope you enjoy the blog and come back to check in on us often; cheers!