Fort George's North the Fourth: Behind the Brew

     
One of the most unusual beers I sampled at the 2010 Holiday Ale Festival was North the Fourth, from Fort George Brewery + Public House.  Here's the description:  "This holiday delight was made with two pounds of candy canes, 60 pounds of cranberries, and over 40 pounds of spruce tips. Chocolate, caramel and 2-row make up the malty profile, balanced out with US Challenger and Czech Saaz hops" Fort George Brewery

In my 1st day HAF recap,  I commented on North IV.  "This one wins the award for most unusual ingredients.  The candy cane and spruce flavors come through.  But unlike chocolate and peanut butter, these tastes don't go well together."  The Not So Professional Beer Blog

It's fair to say I wasn't a huge fan.  However, I was curious about the story behind the beer.  Luckily, Jack Harris from Fort George Brewery commented on my blog, and we decided to chat...


What's your role at Fort George? 

I am co-owner and have been with Fort George since its inception in the fall of '05. I have never liked the title of Brewmaster and Spencer sort of stole my Head Brewer title, so I am not sure what the hell I do around here.


North IV has unusual ingredients  (cranberries, spruce tips, and candy canes).  What's the story behind the beer? 

Spencer and I were up late "guarding" the beer trailers at the Northwest Brew Cup and came up with the concept of putting a whole Christmas Tree into a beer. He had 50lbs of spruce buds in the freezer that he had picked earlier in the summer. I always liked those cranberry garlands that go on really old fashioned Christmas trees and we were both intrigued to find the biggest candy cane we could, just for the visual effect. We had a variety of responses when we pitched this idea at our brewers meeting, but we held firm. Personally, I like how it is like three different beers over the course of a pint. At first the spruce is intense. Halfway through the cranberries start to assert themselves, then for that last couple of sips while it is warm the peppermint and alcohol shine through. I might be romanticizing what others find an unreconcilable mishmash, but there is no accounting for taste.


Did you make a test batch?

We didn't do a test batch. The response has been about 50/50 which is pretty good for an odd-ball one-off Holiday beer.


What did you guys think when you first tasted it?

Mmmmnn, Christmas!


Are you serving it at Fort George?  How have your customers liked it?

Yes! We are serving it. We actually did our annual bottling of this and it sells really well out of the pub. We only have three kegs left.


Is this a one-time-only brew.  Or will we see it again?

Yes, one time only. Next year will be North V, it is a little early, but I am wondering if we can get Reindeer essence into a beer...

 
How did you come up with the beer's name?

Our first batch of Holiday beer was brewed with the Great Alaskan Barleywine Festival held in our Kitchen manager's hometown. So we called it North. Every year it is a little different.


I heard you will soon be canning beer.  When can we expect to see Fort George cans?

Our canning line is due to be installed just before Christmas. Our label designs have been sent in to the TTB for approval and we should be putting our first beer into cans by the second week of January. This is actually still ahead of our original schedule to be canning by April 1st.


Which beers will you can?

We will begin by canning our Vortex IPA in 16oz cans. We have also developed a California Common named 1811 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Astoria which we will be celebrating.


Any new beers in the works?

The 1811 is the only new beer we have planned. Right now we are pretty focused on keeping our line-up in stock, fine-tuning the new brewery and getting the packaging line up and running.


Do you give brewery tours?  Any upcoming events?

We love giving tours of the new brewery. On Saturdays they are generally at 1pm and 4pm, but we can arrange anything by reservation. Our Brewers dinner in January is very popular, all IPA's and Indian food. Wednesday January 19th. $65/person $115/couple all inclusive. Finally, we are already gearing up for Stout Month when we turn our whole tap system over to Stouts for the month of February. 5 of our own and lots of guests throughout the month. Blind taster trays, special T-shirts and a generally dark time to be had.


What's your favorite Fort George beer?

I probably drink more Oatmeal Pale Ale than anything, but that is like choosing my favorite child. I will drink all of our beers at one time or another. I stay away from the Vortex, generally, because it makes me fall asleep on the couch more readily than the others.


I'm really glad I had a chance to chat with Jack and learn more about North IV and Fort George.  Beer should be funand North IV is a fun beer!  While I didn't like it, I do admire brewers who take risks and try to make bold statements with their beer.  So if you get a chance to try it, you should.  You may love it!

So hats off to the Fort George crew!  I can't wait to taste North V:  Canned Reindeer...


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