It’s Oregon Craft Beer Month, when the state’s breweries celebrate the production of flavorful ales of distinct varieties, usually in small quantities, seasonably prepared and in a diverse set of styles.
In a state with 110 craft breweries Hood River County claims its share of Oregon’s international reputation for excellent beer. Hood River has a distinct beer culture of its own, with more breweries per capita than any U.S. county.
Portland may claim the mantel “Beervana,” but locals and visitors have plenty of reason to say “Ale-aluiah.”
In this edition we embark on a month-long series of articles profiling the breweries and beer purveyors of Hood River County.
The series starts with a profile of a unique specialty beer, and the men behind it, at Full Sail Brewery.
We start, seasonably, with Summer Delight, a warm-weather beer with a truly colorful twist.
This Berliner Weiss, made by Chris Haveman with help from Chef Mathias Engblom, can be found on tap only at Full Sail Brewing, and is sold in bottles as the latest in Full Sail’s line of Brewer’s Share ales.
Of Hood River County’s breweries, Full Sail Brewing may be the largest, and the oldest, but it boasts an innovative approach to marketing and the exploration of the many beer styles that make the brewing art such a deliciously creative culinary pursuit.
That innovation is the Brewer’s Share series, which started in 2008 as an opportunity given to Full Sail employees four times a year to create their own beer for dispensing at the home pub in Hood River and the Portland Full Sail Riverplace.
With Brewer’s Share, a brewer or other employee crafts, of their own design, a unique beer in a style not normally found at Full Sail, and sometimes nowhere else in Oregon — more on Haveman’s concoction in a moment.
Each Reserve brewer works with the brewing supervisors and executive brewmaster Jamie Emmerson to develop the brew, and chooses a local nonprofit organization to receive proceeds from the sale of the beer.
Two years ago, Full Sail decided to start bottling selected Brewer’s Share ales. The small-batch offerings are available in 22-ounce bottles and on draft. The other beers in the 2012 line-up include Extra Special Barney (ESB), Phil’s Existential Alt and Big Daddy J’s Malt Liquor. Full Sail will release one Brewer’s Share at a time and a new beer will be released for each season.
Summer Delight, Haveman’s personal take on the classic tart beer Berliner Weiss (white) is the latest in the bottled reserve line.
Drinkable on its own, at the pub it can be embellished with cherry or woodruff syrups, made by chef Engblom, in keeping with the ale’s German origins.
Adding the cherry or woodruff syrups conveys a subtle fruit or herb tone to the mildly tart ale.
The Weiss can be ordered as is, or in a smaller glass comprising a “Stoplight.” The woodruff is added to one glass for the green light, and the cherry to the second for the red, while the third, in its natural amber, is Weiss alone.
Haveman first created Summer Delight as the May 2009 Reserve beer at the pubs, and has slightly updated it for the 2012 bottling and tap service.
“I changed things a little, reduced the acidity a little bit,” Haveman said. “I like it a little tarter but felt it was too tart, so I dialed it back to balance a little more and felt like we really nailed it.”
“It’s super crisp, and clean; especially good for drinking outside on a summer evening,” said Haveman, who is assistant brewing supervisor.
Three years ago, Haveman had access to a supply of woodruff syrup, but this year could only obtain two small bottles at a German bakery in Portland. He consulted Emmerson, who asked Engblom to look into creating the syrup in house. Engblom is a veteran at fruit syrups but has never made them for use in beer.
Full Sail obtained some dried woodruff and Emmerson and Engblom found some recipes online, and Engblom massaged a couple of them into his own version.
“It’s a little more difficult making syrup for beer. It takes a sweeter syrup,” Engblom said. Woodruff, he said, has a flavor similar to tarragon.
“I had never worked with it before,” he said.
The woodruff sits in simple syrup for six days just to develop flavor, Engblom said.
“Just like tea; it steeps,” he said. The actual cooking process takes only a half hour to make about a gallon. Engblom has a few gallons of the woodruff and cherry, and can make more. Haveman expects the Summer Delight to be available for about two months.
Haveman said he and Engblom worked “together but separate” in developing the beer and syrup for the Stoplight.
“Mathias designed the syrups based on what he thought would work, and he had his process of tasting the beer with syrup added, to see what dialed it in.”
“I had to add twice as much woodruff than what I tried first,” Engblom said, “It just didn’t come through, the dried being so concentrated, at first I thought about half would be enough, but I underdid it.
“It has a pretty strong flavor, actually I really like it,” he said.
“The woodruff flavor is a lot different than the store-bought variety,” Haveman said. “It tastes a lot more natural, and doesn’t have a strong marshmallowy flavor that store-bought does.”
Haveman said the ale needs more cherry syrup for the flavor to come through in the beer, “and it’s still really subtle.”
He likes the look of it as much as the taste.
“It is a fresh fruit puree, with chunks of cherry visible, so you know you’re getting the real deal,” Haveman said. (At that, Engblom said he has added a finer filter to the syrup, so the chunks are now flecks.) The cherries are from Siragusa farms in Underwood.
“It’s awesome; a great spin in the local area, because we use local cherries and the flavor is really subtle and it complements the beer really well,” he said.
The inspiration for the name “Brewer’s Share” came from that mysterious portion that vanishes from a barrel during aging that brewers refer to as the “angel’s share,” and that led to “Brewer’s Share,” an equally mysterious offering that appears during inspiration. Brewer’s Share can also mean a unit of ownership, as in stock.
Consider this program to be an Initial Pub Offering (IPO). Whenever you purchase a Brewer’s Share you get a unit of ownership — one share of the batch. As a shareholder you have the right to consume the beverage. In doing so you will also be investing in the public good — as each brewer not only chooses the recipe, they choose a local charity or organization that will benefit from each bottle sold — which can bring an excellent return on ingestion (ROI).
With each Brewer’s Share series beer, Full Sail picks a local charity or organization to receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the beer. Haveman has chosen to support the Oregon State University Brewing Sciences Program, from which Haveman is an alumnus. The program is one of the few in the nation that studies all aspects of producing beer, wine, and fermented foods.