Hopworks Urban Brewery

I’ve been to Hopworks many times with my wife and friends.  The beer is great, the food is top notch and it’s just a neat place to hang out.  This last Sunday, Hopworks hosted an AHA rally at their brewery which I attended and I learned some really cool new things about Hopworks that I didn’t know and that makes them just even that more impressive.

Owner/Brewmaster Christian Ettinger talked at the beginning of the rally and then later Head Brewmaster Trevor Bass gave the brewery tour that I was on and this is where these tidbits came from.

  • Hopworks is solely owned (and locally owned) by Ettinger and his wife.  They have been careful not to expand too quickly and not have to allow an outside equity firm to come in and prop them up.
  • Hopworks is expanding.  They’ve taken control of the building that adjoins the brewery and the building behind them (which I always assumed was already part of their property).  The distant building is housing the experimental beers such as sours and lacto beers to prevent infecting the main brewhouse.  The side building is going to become the new brewhouse, and Hopworks is also going to begin making ciders. While still being careful not to overstretch their bounds, they feel they can begin to expand their presence in the neighborhood.
  • Hopworks gives away it’s yeast to homebrewers.  After they’ve used it as many times as they are going to, but when it still has usefulness left, HUB will give it’s yeast to homebrewers who come in with a clean sanitized jar.  The two strains they use are Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager and (I believe) 1332 Northwest Ale.  Christian also acknowledged if one of the neighborhood brewers such as Laurelwood came to them in dire straits they would give them yeast as well, highlighting the  “work together” mentality of Northwest brewers.
  • Hopworks has a single dairy farmer that they sell their spent grain to, and in Christian’s words he pays “a little bit of money”.  They are committed to processes further down the chain, and offer the grain to him as organic food so he can get his dairy products certified as organic.
  • Hopworks used to get organic two row pale malt trucked in from Canada, but now, whether from market pressure or insistence from Hopworks, they can get organic malt locally from Great Western Malting, which lowers their transportation burden and carbon footprint, and supports a local company.
  • Hopworks is constantly upgrading their brewery and restuarant to reduce time, electricity and water usage.  They recently installed a centrifuge which reduced water usage compare to previous filtering and also means they can stop using diatomaceous earth, which while not harmful to skin or the environment, can be harmful if inhaled.

I already had a lot of respect for Hopworks, but this new insight into their inner workings just gave me even more things to like about them.  Big thanks to Christian and his crew for hosting the AHA rally and really making us feel welcome with pizza, beer and unprecedented access behind the scenes.

Widmer Sampler Pack

Another sampler pack for me to crank out several tasting notes at once, this one by Widmer.  This is their standard sampler.  Three of the beers are standard offerings and the fourth is a rotating sampler.

Widmer Hefewiesen – 4.9% ABV

This beer pours a cloudy pale yellow with a thin white head.  A light aroma with some sweetness and just a little bit of bready aroma.  Very light hop aroma.  Clean crisp flavor with a little bit of hop bitterness that fades quickly. No aftertaste.

Rating – 3.5 (out of 5) Stars: A nice serviceable beer.  The American Style Hefe doesn’t have the characteristic spice and fruitiness of German counterpart.  This however, is the beer that started it all 30 years ago.

Alchemy Pale Ale – 5.8% ABV

This beer pours a nice golden color with a thin white head.  Some malt sweetness in the aroma along with pine hop aroma.  Crisp bitterness in the flavor with a lot of pine hop and some citrus. Clean finish.

Rating – 3.5 (out of 5) Stars: Another good serviceable beer.  Tastes especially good after finishing the Shamrock Run 8K.

Upheaval IPA – 7.0% ABV 85 IBU

This beer pours a nice reddish gold color with a thin white head.  Strong citrus and pine hop aroma.  Some caramel sweetness in the aroma as well. Pine hop flavor right off the bat which mellows into a combination of citrus hop and malt sweetness. Bitterness lingers long into the finish.

Rating – 4.0 (out of 5) Stars: A solid IPA without being a hop bomb.

Brrr – Winter Red Ale (Seasonal) – 7.2% ABV 

This beer pours a nice reddish brown color with a thin white head.  Sweet caramel malt aroma, faint aroma of citrus hop.  Slight sweetness in the flavor which gives way quickly to hop bitterness.  Piney and earthy hop flavors.  Bitterness lingers into the finish.

Rating – 4.0 (out of 5) Stars: Nice seasonal winter warmer.

*A note on the head retention.  All of these beers had fairly thin heads, but I think some of that could have been coming from bottled product as opposed to draft.

Portland Spring Beer and Wine Fest – April 4-5, 2015

*This past weekend my wife and I volunteered to pour samples at the Spring Beer and Wine Festival.  We had a blast, and this event review is a copy of a newsletter article I wrote for the Oregon Brew Crew newsletter.

“Beer and Wine” in the title of the Spring Beer and Wine Festival is a bit of an understatement.  Because, joining the thirty-three breweries and fourteen wineries in attendance were seven cider makers, nine local distilleries and a handful of local artisan cheese and chocolate makers in a huge celebration of Portland and the Northwest. Also joining the party were dozens of merchants selling everything from kilts to timeshares; wrought iron beer bottle holders to massage chairs and everything else imaginable.  The festival is a Portland institution now in its 21st year. The website touts it as the nation’s largest, sampling related springtime event.

For those of us who have caught the brewing bug, the Oregon Brew Crew were on hand showing off some nice homebrewing gear and answering questions.  They were also showcasing a couple of beers from the Collaborator series, which are homebrew recipes that are chosen in a competition and brewed on an industrial scale by Widmer Brothers.  Proceeds from the sales of Collaborator beers fund scholarships in the brewing program at Oregon State University.

Whether or not it was intentional on the part of the organizers is unclear, but this festival seems to be geared towards the smaller local breweries.  Noticeably absent were the major local players like Widmer, Full Sail and Deschutes. One of the major national figures was present and pouring some of its smaller craft-style offerings.  Blue Moon, Leinenkugals and Crispin Cider (All distributed by MillerCoors) were pouring samples as well.  Rather, this festival was filled with small breweries with funky, fun names like Rusty Truck, Calapooia, Awesome Brewing and Sasquatch.  The festival has a “trade show” type feel, in part from being hosted at the Convention Center and each brewery has an individual booth, but also there weren’t the huge lines of a lot of other festivals, as there is ample seating and people mostly mill about and enjoy the atmosphere.

One of the breweries in attendance was so new, they haven’t actually opened yet.  Coin Toss Brewing out of Oregon City is set to open their tap room in June or July and this festival was their first time serving beer to the public. Brewer/Owner Tim Hohl was on site most of the time anxiously watching people’s reactions to his beers.

Throw in some perfect Spring weather and you have a great weekend to be a beer drinker in Portland.  Cheers!