Oregon Mead and Cider

Yesterday, I was meeting my wife and some friends at Culmination Brewing, but I ended up getting there way early (I work 6AM-2:30PM).  I remembered that Stung Meadery was in the same building and so I figured I’d check them out and do a tasting while I waited for everyone else.  When I got there, I discovered they had also begun making cider and had changed their name to The Oregon Mead & Cider Co.  You can check out their website HERE.

I was planning to just get a glass of something while I waited and after some initial confusion found out they don’t pour pints/full pours.  They have a taster flight you can try, or just a handful of small tasters, and for take home they have bottle sales and growler fills.  So I ended up doing the full flight.  8 samples which included six of their bottled products and then two choices from the draft only menu.

First the ciders:  The first one I had was the Cherry Vanilla Cider.  This was the first one I picked and was planning to get the full pour of when I discovered I could only get tasters.  It was good, but I’m glad it wasn’t the only thing I had because some of the stuff that came later was really delicious. Next from the draft list was the Pinot Gris Barrel aged FrankenCyser.  The server (who’s name I didn’t catch.. of course.. my bad) explained to me that Cyser is a blend of Cider and Mead and this Frankencyser was the leftovers from the bottom of the tanks after bottling the standard mead and cider and it was blended together and put into a wine barrel.  This was delicious and picked up a lot of the white wine character.  Next were their two bottled ciders.  The Free Press Cider and the Free Press Hopped Cider.  The base cider is very clean, very lightly flavored.  It was good but very basic.  The hopped cider was very nice.  The hops added a fruity/floral component to the cider.  They don’t boil anything, so no bitterness was added, just “dry hopped” so to speak with the hops.

The interesting thing about these ciders is that they are very dry.  I have a tendency to like my ciders sweet, and I think part of the reason is a lot of dry ciders, especially English ciders, tend to be harsh and tannic and astringent.  These ciders aren’t that at all.  They are dry… but just dry enough.  Like a white wine, rather than a steeped tea.  They aren’t bitter or astringent.

Next the meads: The first mead I tried was their standard base mead Drink Mate Die, AKA Worker Standard Sparkling Mead.  So, the first thing in that name that jumps out is sparkling.  These are carbonated meads.  The standard mead uses ginger and Cascade hops.  I’m not usually a fan of ginger, but it’s very easy going here.  They use a light touch, it’s very subtle.  Quite tasty and quite drinkable.  The other mead I tried was a Mosaic Sparkling Mead which had the addition of Mosiac hops, which are very fruity.  A very nice compliment to the honey.  These two meads, and all of the Worker series, are pretty low alcohol (by mead standards) at around 6.5% A lot of meads and honeywines clock in at 10-15% like standard grape wines.  Fear not, OM&CCo has a few of those as well.

The last two meads are from the Queen Series.  These are the showstoppers.  Single varietal honeys and specific areas to showcase the flavor of the honey.  These also clock in at around 16% alcohol.  The two that I got to try were the Blackberry Blossom and the High Desert.  The blackberry blossom is exactly what it sounds like, honey from bees that only eat from the flowers of blackberry vines.  It’s very fruity with notes of the berries themselves.  It’s amazing that flavor passes through just from the nectar.  The blueberry is very boozy and has a good bit of burn to it.  Not sure if aging would help that, or letting it stand like a wine.  The High Desert honey is harvested from out near Bend where the bees eat from sage. rabbit brush, and other desert wildflowers.  This mead has a really interesting herbal quality to it.  The sage really shines through.  It was really quite interesting.  Similar alcohol to the blackberry but this one was much, much smoother.  Dangerously so.  This would be quite drinkable on a hot day, so watch out.

Much like the ciders, the meads are also bone dry.  They use champagne yeast to get a complete and clean fermentation.  Some meads can be cloying sweet and heavy in mouthfeel that makes it difficult to drink.

If you’ve never had mead, this would be a great place to do a flight and try several different kinds.  If you love mead but haven’t been here yet you should put it on your list.  I would highly recommend it for fans of cider and mead.  It’s different than most of what I’ve ever had and I would assume that would apply to others as well.

Cheers!

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.