Homebrewed by Design: When Brewers and Designers Collide

I expect you've never attended a beer event like this! As part of Design Week Portland, twenty Portland-area homebrewers and independent graphic designers are collaborating to create an event like no other.

Earlier this summer, I submitted an application, was selected to participate, and will brew a White Session IPA for the event. I can't wait to see my professionally designed label! 

For more details about Homebrewed by Design, check out the information below. It should be a great event!

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Homebrewed By Design
October 10th / 6pm
One Grand Gallery / 1000 E. Burnside St., Portland, OR

Homebrewed By Design is an event that pairs aspiring homebrewers with independent graphic designers in Portland. Twenty homebrewers have been tasked with making a specialty brew and twenty designers have created a label for the bottles. Rose City Label, a company that prints many labels for commercial breweries across Oregon, has graciously donated the printed labels for this event. Bottles will be on display, and opened for consumption, on Thursday, October 10th, starting at 6pm. Come taste and see all the brewer's and designer's creations! 

The first visitors in the door will receive specialty glassware, provided by Widmer Brothers Brewing. Outside the gallery space, Tanner Goods will set up their van to be a mobile beer-coaster maker!

See below for a full list of beers, brewers, designers, and sponsors.

The beers, the brewers, and the designers:
  • If It's Not Scottish It's Crap Wee Heavy / Scottish Ale
    Brewed by Duke Geren, Design by Corbin LaMont
  • Smoking Gun / Grätzer
    Brewed by Eric Sadlo, Design by Murphy Phelan
  • Summer Lovin’ / Saison
    Brewed by Ryan Spencer, Design by James Mitchell
  • Syncline / IPA
    Brewed by Will Minderhout, Design by Matt Sundstrom

  • Mix Up / Session Dark IPA
    Brewed by Scott Beck, Design by Dominic De Venuta
  • Gold Fuzz / IPA
    Brewed by Jabien Letlow, Design by Brad Simon
  • Smoked Cherry Ale / Specialty Rauch
    Brewed by Dean Reiner, Design by Craig Wheat
  • Leaky Tun CDA / Cascadian Dark Ale
    Brewed by Jason E. Barker, Design by August Miller
  • Simple People Porter / Porter
    Brewed by Tim Gazdziak, Design by Tina Snow Le

  • Bir / Belgian Pale Ale
    Brewed by Dean Ehnes, Design by Bijan Berahimi
  • Black Castle / Russian Imperial Stout
    Brewed by Dan Kimbrow, Design by Adam R. Garcia
  • Blonde on Blonde Ale / Bonde
    Brewed by Martin Peters, Design by You Are Here Portland
  • Bibliophile / Imperial IPA
    Brewed by Doug Franz, Design by Jason Sturgill
  • Portland Summer Rye / Belgian Seizoen
    Brewed by Rick Okamura, Design by Jenny Tiffany

  • Western Native / White Session IPA
    Brewed by Sanjay Reddy / Design by Matti Jonsson
  • Thai Iced Gose / Specialty Gose
    Brewed by Cory Knight, Design by Shelli Ben-ner
  • The Excommunicated Tripel / Belgian Tripel
    Brewed by Kyle Sanders, Design by Hiller Goodspeed
  • Sammy Brown's Nut Brown / Southern English Brown
    Brewed by Samantha Underwood, Design by Nicole Lavelle
  • Mosaic Pale Ale / American Pale Ale
    Brewed by Mark Easton, Design by Bologna Sandwich
  • Seeking Shade Pale Ale / Pale Ale
    Brewed by Kevin Burke, Design by Phillip Stewart

Labels provided and printed by Rose City Label:

Glassware provided by Widmer Brothers:
The event is also sponsored by the Oregon Brew Crew:


This event is part of Design Week Portland. Check out http://designweekportland.com/ for other events that are happening during the week.

Vertigo Brewing Turns 5. Join the Celebration!

If you've read this blog recently, you know that Hillsboro is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene. One of the older kids on the Hillsboro beer block is Vertigo Brewing. In this case, older is relative, as Vertigo is celebrating its 5th Anniversary. They're holding a birthday bash on Saturday and you're invited!

Vertigo Brewing's 5th Anniversary

21420 NW Nicholas Ct.,
Hillsboro, OR  97124
 September 28, 2013
4 - 9 p.m.

Food, bands, and of coursebeer will be served. To commemorate this special occasion, Vertigo is releasing Super Dude, a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Big Bottom Whiskey barrels for six months. I tasted it over the weekend. It has loads of chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, whiskey, and a touch of oak. It may be 9.2% ABV, but it's smooth and stealthy. This is a beer you don't want to miss!

Since we're in the middle of wet hop beer season, be sure to check out their Hop Harvest IPA. 45 pounds of wet Centennials were added to a 4.5 barrel batch just hours after they were harvested.

Cheers to Mike Haines and Michael Kinion on their big milestone! I can't wait to see what Vertigo has in store for us during the next 5 years!

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Brewing with Yogurt

If you want to sour a beer with lactobacillus, there are many ways to do it. One way is to pitch a culture from Wyeast or White Labs. Sour mashing is another technique you can use. Or if you're more daring, you can use yogurt!

For the 3rd Annual Portland Fruit Beer Festival, The Commons Brewery made Biere Royale, a sour spelt ale made with black currant puree. Sean Burke, The Commons' Head Brewer, soured the beer with lactobacillus. But in an unusual twist, he cultured the bacteria from Nancy's yogurt! 

I loved Biere Royale. It had great lactic tartness (bordering on sour) that nicely complemented the fruit. I was intrigued by Sean's yogurt technique as my previous attempt at a lactobacillus soured ale took over two years and I was less than satisfied. I hoped to replicate Sean's technique for a sour blackberry homebrew. I reached out to Sean in hopes of learning how he cultured lactobacillus from yogurt. Not only did Sean explain his process, but he also provided me with detailed step-by-step instructions!
Biere Royale.  Photo courtesy of The Commons Brewery

I learned a lot from Sean's instructions and wanted to pass them on so other brewers could benefit as well. Sean's complete instructions are listed below. Text in bold italics are my comments and provide context. So grab a carton of Nancy's yogurt, and read on!

Sean Burke (left) and Mike Wright, owner of The Commons

Brewing Sour Beer with Lactobacillus Cultured from Yogurt
Instructions by Sean Burke Head Brewer, The Commons Brewery

  1. A week or so ahead of the brewday I pull about 2 liters of un-hopped wort from whatever I am brewing (Urban farmhouse is perfect for this) and chill it down with a water bath to somewhere around 110 degrees. 
  2. I then take a spoon full of Nancy's Greek yogurt and pitch it into the starter. I have a stopper with an airlock and temp probe that goes down into the wort. I then hook up a heating pad to a temp. controller and set it for 100 degrees. That will sit for about 4 days at that temp. The key there is the relationship to acid production and temperature. The cooler you have it the longer it will take, but you don't want to go above 130 either or the lacto won't perform.
  3. I will then pipette out some wort and take a pH reading usually targeting around 3.5-3.8. I should mention lactobacillus prefers an anaerobic environment so I would avoid using the stir plate as that will oxygenate the wort. I have found that the stopper with the airlock helps to keep the O2 out. The other advantage to keeping it anaerobic is that it will reduce the chances of something else can growing in there. You are really just promoting the lacto to grow by giving it the perfect environment.
  4. On the brewday I will mash and lauter as usual and run all the wort into the kettle. I then run it through the heat exchanger to get the temp down to 125 degrees. I then take the lacto starter and pitch it in and then close up the kettle. I will do this on a Friday so that when I come in on Monday it should be at the desired pH which is usually 3.6. I will then turn on the kettle and boil for 90 min.
  5. One thing I have found with this process is that because we use a pilsner malt for our base malt, which has more DMS precursor we will get some DMS produced during the lacto inoculation because the wort is sitting there warm for an extended period of time. This is why we will give it a longer boil which will volatilize off the DMS.
  6. After the boil we run it into a fermenter and pitch a clean ale  yeast (Wyeast 1007) and start fermentation at 58 degrees. After 48 hrs I will let the beer come up to about 68 degrees and keep it there throughout fermentation. At that 48 mark which is usually high krausen, I add the black currant puree and let that just ferment out.
  7. As you can see, this is different than the approach you are suggesting taking (NOTE: I was planning to initially pitch lacto, followed by an ale yeast a few days later). I settled on this process mostly because we can get a clean sour beer in a very short amount of time. There are people out there that will pitch the lacto in a secondary situation. I know that this will work but one of the main reasons I don't take that approach is that we re-pitch our yeast. By boiling the wort with the lacto in it, it kills the lacto and allows us to re-pitch the yeast and not worry that whatever beer it ferments next will have active lacto in it.
  8. One method that might work well for you (NOTE: I initially planned to split my wort into two batches and ferment half with Wyeast Lambic Blend and the other half with the Yogurt Lacto culture) is to boil as usual, then when it comes time to chill it, run half your wort into a carboy at about 125 degrees and pitch the yogurt in there.Then the second half of the batch could get cooled down to a normal pitch temp and you could add the lambic blend. You could try to hold the yogurt half at about 100 degrees while it is souring, then cool it down to whatever pitch temp you have chosen for your yeast. Pitch the yeast and after high krausen you could add your fruit. I bet that would work quite well.
  9. One thing you will find is that it actually doesn't take much lacto to get the desired acidity. Lacto grows about 10 times faster than saccharomyces so it will take over pretty quickly and by under pitching you will be promoting ester formation which will give it more depth. I think that you really could just put it straight into a carboy and it would work pretty well. Just remember to try to keep the O2 out.
  10. I have found that the lacto strains we use will not actually ferment out the sugars in this short of a time. As in the gravity does not change that much. We use a couple of lactobacillus delbrueckii strains which I harvested from a bottle of German Gose for a different beer and I have found that the pre-boil gravity doesn't really change that much. Maybe 4/10ths of a degree plato. With the yogurt you have two different strains of lacto. One is lactobacillus acidophilus which is the one that is really good for digestion as it actually lives in our guts. The other is lactobacillus casei. I am pretty sure that this is the one that is more dominant in this method. It is a pretty aggressive lacto strain and has no qualms with consuming the sugars available in wort. If I remember correctly it is also homofermentative, which means it will only consume sugars and create acid as a byproduct vs. heterofermentative lacto strains which will consume sugars and not only produce acid but will also produce alcohol and CO2 therefore dropping the gravity more.

Armed with the knowledge behind Sean's technique, I gave it a try: 

  1. I made one liter of wort in a flask using 3 oz. of DME, cooled it down to 110º, and added about two teaspoons of yogurt.
  2. I placed the flask on a heating pad and set the temperature to high. Since I don't have a temperature controller, I just monitored the temperature of the starter and adjusted the heating pad controls to keep the temp in a 100º-130º range.
  3. After 32 hours, my culture reached a pH of 3.8, so decided it was ready to be unleashed!
  4. I originally planned to inoculate my wort with the yogurt lacto starter and add ale yeast a few days later. However, I decided to stick to Sean's method as it would enable me to control the level of tartness and then kill off the lacto in a long boil. It also provided of the benefit of brewing a "clean" beer without the worry of pesky lacto bacteria getting into places where they're not welcome.
  5. The next day was brew day. After the mash and lauter was completed, I divided the wort into two 3.5 gallon batches. I pitched the the yogurt lacto starter in half (pictured at bottom left). For the other half, I boiled and pitched Wyeast Lambic Blend. 
  6. Since my brewpot isn't insulated, I knew maintaining 3.5 gallons of lacto inoculated wort at 110º-120º for a few days would be a challenge. So I kept it in my oven. Every few hours, I heated it up to 170º for 30 minutes or so. This allowed me to maintain the wort at a temperature range of 95º-125º.
  7. After about 3.5 days, the wort had a pH reading of 3.6 and had a solid lacto tartness. I was very pleased with it and decided it was time to boil!

As an homage to Biere Royale, I've named my beer Blackberry Royale. It's happily fermenting as I write this. For more details, check out my Blackberry Royale brew log. I have high high hopes for this beer! More importantly, I'm thrilled to have learned a new technique that I'll continue to experiment with in the future.

Finally, a huge thanks to Sean for taking the time to document his method for me and for answering my numerous follow-up questions! If my beer turns out half as good as his, I'll be thrilled!

If you try this method, please let me know how it turns out!

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Beer Run: Non-Gourd Fall Seasonals

Autumn has finally arrived and I plan to celebrate with some fall seasonals! While I'm ready for something new, I'm definitely not prepared to drink the pumpkin beers I have collected. I have nothing against pumpkin, but it's a bit too early for me. Maybe in a few weeks...

In the interim, I've assembled a collection of fall seasonals from across the land:

I'll sleep well knowing that no gourds were harmed in the making of these beers. What are your favorite fall seasonals (sans pumpkin)?
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Review: Swill, 10 Barrel Brewing Co.

10 Barrel Brewing Co. — Bend, OR

  • Style:  Berliner Weiss w/ soda
  • Bitterness: 14 IBU
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Special Ingredient: Soda
  • Sampled:  12 oz bottle

Description:  Beer guy! Stop taking yourself so serious, our Swill was designed to throw down. German Berliner Weiss with multiple layers of grapefruit – delicious, fun and easy to drink. — 10 Barrel Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  After I left college, I vowed to never drink swill beer again. But all rules are meant to be broken, aren't they? Swill is a blend of Berliner Weiss (one of my favorite styles) and soda. I'm drinking Swill as part of my summer beer series.  Radlers and shandies also blend beer with non-alcoholic beverages.
The tasting:  Golden in color, clear, with a white head that dissipates very slowly. Aroma is full of sweet grapefruit (not the hoppy grapefruit that's common in many craft beers). Taste of tangy wheat, lemon, grapefruit, and a touch of grassy hops. The beer has a moderate to heavy sweetness that begins with the first sip and lingers through the finish. Hop bitterness is very low and alcohol is not present in aroma or flavor. Swill is light bodied and finishes with sweet grapefruit. 

Rating:  3 star. Good. I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  The sweetness from the soda was too cloying for me. However, Swill is worth trying, especially if you've never tasted a shandy or radler. It's a good hot weather beer (assuming you like your beer sweet) and might serve as a crossover for those who are not crazy about beer. Swill is still available at retail, but probably not for long since 10 Barrel's winter seasonal, Pray for Snow, will soon be arriving.
Have you tasted 10 Barrel's Swill (not the macro swill)?  How did you like it?

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Full Sail's Fall & Winter Releases

The kids may be back in school, but summer isn't ready to move on. While a few more days (hopefully weeks) of beautiful sunny weather are perfectly fine with me, the changing craft beer seasons wait for no one. Full Sail and other breweries have already released their fall seasonals, and gasp--some winter beers! 

I received a few samples from the brewery. Yes, that's a bottle of Wassail pictured below. When the delivery guy dropped off the box 'o beer, it was 95 degrees outside. Wassail is a fine beer, but I think I'll let it chill in my beer fridge for a few months. I expect I'll be craving it the day after Thanksgiving.

While Wassail can wait, Oktoberfest will not. I tasted the latter for the first time a few weeks ago at Full Sail's Hop Harvest tour. It's selling out very quickly (completely gone in my neck of the woods), so find some if you can. 

What are your favorite Full Sail beers? When you will you be ready for a Wassail?

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LTD 07: Oktoberfest Lager
This three time gold medal winner is a smooth, malty lager brewed in the true Bavarian Style, using Two-row Pale, Vienna, Caramel and imported roasted Munich malts, moderately hopped with imported Czech Saaz and Yakima Sterling hops. Flavors reminiscent of honey, nougat and roasted nuts. Complex and beautifully balanced. Prost!
ABV 5.7%. IBU 26.  Available 47 days only, September - October

LTD 06: Black Bock
There's no coffee or chocolate in this limited edition lager but your mouth might insist otherwise. Brewed for the Holidays, this black bock is lush and full bodied with hints of roast, coffee, & chocolate in the aroma followed by flavors of caramel & figs with a long creamy smooth finish. Brewed as a Czech style Cerné Speciální with 2 row Pale, Munich, Caramel, & Chocolate Malts & hopped with Santiam and Perle hops..
ABV 7.0% IBU 34.  Available October - December
Wassail (Pub Series)
This holiday treat is deep mahogany in color, has a full malty body and a pleasantly hoppy finish.

A few unmistakable signs tell us when winter has arrived here in Hood River. The waterfalls in the Gorge start kicking out the jams. The snow report for the backcountry regains its hold over us. And the Wassail starts flowing once again. We’ve brewed Wassail every holiday season since 1988, and it’s now as much a part of the festivities as sharing a roaring fire with our closest family and friends.

It's no wonder this multi-medal winning Winter Warmer is one of our favorite beers to brew. Choosing our ingredients for Wassail is like taking time to choose the perfect gift. Each year we carefully select the best hops and malts to brew this special beer. This year’s Wassail is brewed with a range of caramel malts and dark chocolate malts giving it a deep mahogany color and a full malty body. We used a blend of Pacific Northwest hops for a pleasant hoppy aroma and finish creating a deliciously balanced beer that appeals to both hop and malt lovers alike. In other words, a Christmas miracle
ABV 7.2% IBU 56. Available 90 days only, October - December

Mainbrew to Open New Taphouse in Hillsboro

Three years ago, Mainbrew (then known as Main Street Homebrew) started carrying a small selection of bottles in their small downtown Hillsboro shop. I wrote about this as one of my first blog posts. That was just the start of a tidal wave of changes. They moved to a much larger space, greatly expanded their bottle and keg offerings, added growler fills, and even changed their name. Now you can even drink a pint from one of five rotating taps (one of which is dedicated to Boneyard) while you shop.

Well things are about to change again! As you can see from the picture below, they're adding a taproom. While Portland has plenty of taprooms, this one will be very unique. That's all I can share at this time, but I hope to provide more details soon. It's going to be big!

As an aside, Mainbrew is offering a nice $11 deal on Living Social for a five beer sampler, grenade glass, plus a fill. Check it out here. The Mainbrew site lists what's currently on tap.
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Widmer's 9th Annual Oktoberfest

Widmer Brothers hosted their 9th Annual Oktoberfest this past weekend. I attended the festival for the first time on Saturday evening, a few hours before it closed.

The evening weather was perfect, a nice sized crowd was in attendance, and all were in great spirits! It is Oktoberfest, after all...

Widmer served up 8 beers on draft, as well as a few from their Omission gluten-free line. Normally, I tend to drink small tastes of many different beers at festivals. But at Oktoberfest in Germany, they don't do 4 oz. tasters. So going for authenticity, 16 ounce mugs of cold beer were served. I ended up drinking portions of three:

  • Okto: Full bodied, malty, and crisp, Widmer's take on the Oktoberfest style is a great beer for fall.
  • Green and Gold: This was the first time I tasted this kölsch which was brewed in honor of the Portland Timbers. I wish I tasted it sooner as it would have been on my summer beer shortlist. 
  • Brotha From Anotha Motha: This Bavarian-style hefeweizen is fermented with a yeast that imparts strong banana and clove notes not found in Widmer's flagship Hefeweizen. The first couple sips were unusual, given the strong flavors. However, after that, I settled into it and savored the beer. 
To my surprise, I liked drinking three larger beers versus the many small samples I usually taste at festivals. It allowed me to sit back and enjoy each beer over a long period of time. As an added benefit, I didn't spend much time waiting in line for refills.  

If you missed Widmer's Oktoberfest, and you're dedicated, you could fly out to Munich's Oktoberfest, which will be held September 9 thorough October 6. Otherwise, grab an Okto and mark your calendar for Widmer's 10th annual Oktoberfest!
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Pumpkin Beer, Schmumpkin Beer!

Ready or not, pumpkin beer is here! A harbinger of cool autumn days to some, and a ghastly abomination to others. While some despise the taste, many just don't care for the timing. After all, Halloween is nearly two months away. It's akin to the seeing department store Christmas decorations in July. 

While at the Full Sail Hop Harvest tour a few weeks ago, I asked Jamie Emmerson (Full Sail Brewmaster) about the early release of fall beers. Jamie explained that the fall beer season is very short, and is sandwiched between the long summer and winter seasons. Timing is the name of the game, and breweries would rather be early than late. After all, who wants to drink a pumpkin beer on November 1? They turn intowell, pumpkins at the stroke of midnight.

Consumers vote with their dollars and they're buying the gourd beer now! At my local bottle shop, they were flying off the shelves yesterday. Since I'm ready for a change of seasons, I selected four pumpkin beers to profile:

The first three on the list are making their debut in wide release. If you want to see my profiles on a bunch of other pumpkin brews, check out my Great Pumpkin Beer Roundup from 2011.

What's your take on pumpkin beers?

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Three Mugs Brewery & Taproom Opens In Hillsboro

Citizens of Hillsboro! You now have a new place to enjoy beer. Three Mugs Brewing Co. opened last month. Three Mugs is owned by Jay, Wendy, and Chris Jennings. The family (father, mother, and son) also owns and operates Brew Brothers, a homebrew shop that happens to be a benevolent sponsor of this blog!

Located in an industrial park at 2020 NW Alocleck Dr. in Hillsboro, you'll find Three Mugs directly behind Brew Brothers. This little corner of Hillsboro has evolved into a beer hot spot, as it's just a short walk from Vertigo Brewing. About a year ago, Vertigo opened their own taproom. Earlier this summer, Orenco Taphouse opened shop about one mile west.

At this time, only the taproom part of Three Mugs is open. They currently offer five rotating guest taps and a small, but growing, bottle selection. The brewery will begin operation as soon as the OLCC paperwork is finalized. Chris will then fire up the brew kettle and begin serving his beer. Expect to see the number of taps increase in the near future.

The taproom has an industrial warehouse vibe. Yet, at the same time, it's very relaxed and homey. I felt like I was having a drink in someone's home barand I mean that in a good way. I stopped by earlier this week and tried a Berliner Weisse from Pints Brewing. It was quite a bit more sour than I expectedbut that's fine by me!

Congrats to the Jennings family on their new venture! It's great to see another player in the quickly growing westside beer scene!

I'll provide another update after the brewery opens.

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Costco's Growing Craft Beer Selection

I hate going shopping. There are two exceptionsmy homebrew shop and Costco. If you like beer, Costco is a good place to shop. Offerings vary by state, but in the Portland area, Ninkasi, Bridgeport, Deschutes, Widmer Brothers, and Rogue are usually in stock. They even offer their own Kirkland Signature Handcrafted Beer variety pack.  However, since Costco is a warehouse club, bulk is the name of the game. If you buy beer at Costco, you need to buy a full case. If you want anything less than 24 bottles, you're out of luck. Until now...

Recently, I've been noticing bomber (22 oz. bottle) multi-packs and single 750 ml bottles. During a visit last week, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of non-case craft beer offerings they had in stock. See pictures and prices below.

As much as I love Costco, I still don't buy beer there. I shop at grocery stores and bottle shops that allow mixing and matching. I love to create my own mixed six-packs. This allows me to sample a wide variety of beers and experiment without getting stuck with a case of beer I might not like. Nevertheless, I still love to browse the Costco beer aisle and am thrilled to see their craft beer offerings outnumber the macro brewsat least in Portland, anyway.

If you live outside of the Portland area, what craft beers does your Costco stock?

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