Picturing beer provided a blend of tastes and insights into fermenting at the Nov. 4 “Art & Beer: Pitchering Oregon” event at Portland Art Museum.
pFriem Family Brewing debuted a Pre-Prohibition Lager brewed especially for the event in the statewide exploration of landscape, art, place, and history, through the lens of Oregon craft beer and cider making, coordinated by artist Eric Steen. A diverse lineup of 18 Oregon craft brewers were paired with 18 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection.
pFriem head brewer Gavin Lord introduced the lager as an all-local hops beer in the style of the “light and crisp” private reserve lagers made in Portland in the 19th and 20th centuries by the legendary Henry Weinhard.
The pFriem Pre-Prohibition was “paired” with Lily White’s “Evening on the Columbia, 1903-1905,” of a boatman on the Columbia near Beacon Rock. Lord wrote, “We’re making a Pre-Prohibition lager, which fits perfectly into the era during which this photo was taken, at the turn of the 20th century. The photo is an iconic representation of the magical place we call home in the Columbia River Gorge.”
Steen is an artist and marketing manager at Hop Works Urban Brewery, has taken ideas he learned and transferred them into beer-related events and celebrations.
“In many of the beer events I challenge brewers to create beer or cider that somehow connects beer to their neighborhoods in meaningful ways,” he said at the Nov. 4 event.
Amy Gray of Hood River works part-time for PAM and had a direct hand in the event. Gray ran the research part of the project, which she described as “diving into each of the works and getting that information from our archives and artist files into the hands of the brewers.” She saw that the brewers had access to the images and received packets of paperwork “you can’t find on Google, as our collection is not one open to borrowing.
“It was so much fun, and then there was the part about connecting to the living artists, including 90-year-old Norma Driscoll Gilmore, whose painting was paired with WildCraft Cidery,” she said.
Gray said, “I couldn’t leave the museum altogether but I knew I can’t work here full time and live where I want to live,” Hood River. Gray recruited Hood River friends Christie Clark, Maya Theo and Emily Brennan of Hood River to pour beer.
(Other Hood River County connections at the event included Dan Hynes of Breakside Brewing, formerly with Thunder Island in Cascade Locks, and Charles Porter, formerly of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, who now owns Little Beast in Beaverton.)
Gray does special projects under contract with PAM and works 10 hours a week for Arts in Education in the Gorge, “which means I get to do the fun stuff and none of the management. In arts education, there are so many opportunities,” Gray said.
Stephanie Parrish, associate director of education, and Eric Steen, assmebled Art + Beer, with “Pitchering Oregon” being a play on words and extension of the online Pictuing Oregon program at PAM.
Gray said Steen “thinks deeply about what beer does for a community,” and first worked with him on PAM’s “Shine A Light,” a 2007 series of guided tours for brewers connecting them with art of Oregon to give them a sense of place and community.
Gray also introduced Jules Bailey of the sponsor Oregon Bottle Drop, a service of Oregon Beverages Recycling Co-op, which recycles containers throughout Oregon.
“This is what makes me so proud of Oregon,” Bailey said. “Art + Beer is about innovation linked to sustainability, linked to community, and that’s what we have done since 1971, processing your empty bottles so they are recycled and that is what the Co-op is all about,” said Bailey, who also invited breweries to participate in the Co-op’s new refillable beer bottle program. (Double Mountain in Hood River has operated its own refillable program for four years.)
Charles Porter profiles flavors
At the event, I caught up with former Logsdon Farmhouse Ales brewer Charles Porter, another Art + Beer brewer who founded his brewery Little Beast three years ago in Beaverton.
“I was honored to be brought into this so early,” said Porter, who was assigned a photo of a fog-draped parking lot and a barren oak tree, taken by Shawn Records, a Beaverton photographer.
Porter’s taproom is open on limited hours, but his ales are available at Volcanic in bottles and sometimes on tap.
Records said the beer, a Belgian-style Bruin, as a reflection of his photo was “a discovery. I was worried only because I read in the description it was oak and berry. I don’t consider myself an oak and berry guy, but I loved it.”
Porter said, “What I’ve been striving to do for years even before Logsdon is trying to create very diverse flavor profiles, not only through the yeast but malts and recipes, and hop ratios less so, but more importantly steering the profile with different cultures.
“I started doing Lambic-inspired barrel aged beers in 2003 when I moved to the Hood River Valley and it’s progressed from there,” Porter said. His saison Fera is made with 100 percent Brett-fermented.
“That creates really good flavors because not all of them are approachable and with other beers we have primary fermentation with sacharomyces yeast blended with lacto-fermented wort to create a tart beer and then dry hop it — really aiming to create diverse flavor profiles.”
“Oak Arcane” stems from processing at least eight fruits this year, while carrying just a “dash” of blackcap raspberry for color. He fermented the beer in French oak foeder and blended in berry puree.
“We do a lot of fruit-centric beers, really dry, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, pinot noir and pinot bris grapes collaboration,” Porter noted.
Horse Brass Specials
Solera Brewing’s Enduring Oak Scotch Ale (7.2 percent ABV) will pour all month at world-famous Horse Brass Pub in Portland for its month-long 41st anniversary. I stopped in at the pub, which I first visited back in the smoky days of 1981, and sampled the Solera. This flavorful pour with its smoky forest sensibility fits nicely in the cozy confines of the pub, and paired excellently with a reuben sandwich, but would work well as a stand-alone post-hike warmer-upper given its array of earthy, fragrant tones.
Speaking of Little Beast and Horse Brass, the brewery’s Animal Family Farmhouse ale (9.0 ABV) is also a featured beer this month at the pub. Porter writes in his menu notes, “Seven distinct microflora come together in this oak aged ale to produce a dynamic mixed culture beer. It is aged six months in a foeder that used to hold Cabernet Sauvignon; look for tart stone fruit character.”
At the European Beer Star Awards In Nuremburg, Germany, in September, the Gold medal for Traditional Belgian-style ales went to pFriem Family Brewing for its Saison. Judges tasted a total of 2,100 beers from 46 countries.
Sip of the week
Just in time for winter savoring: Nightmare stout from Big Horse (6.0 ABV, 33 IBU). In his menu description at the pub, brewer Neil Brent describes it this way: “This medium, bell-balanced ale is made using dark roasted malts and barley kilned to the point of being charred, imparting notes of coffee and chocolate.” All of that is correct, but I immediately found a pervading aroma and flavor I have never seen in a stout before: sassafras. The nose was a little bit of licorice giving way to root beer, leading to a flavor and mouthfeel that is rounded and soft; this is a stout that will satisfy those who enjoy the style’s robustness as well as those who think a stout is too big a beer.
‘Stumbler’ out of Backwoods
Backwoods Brewing Company is releasing a new bourbon barrel-aged stout, named The Stumbler. Not to be confused with their Imperial Honey IPA, the Bumbler, The Stumbler is a Russian Imperial Stout aged for 18 months in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. This is the longest barrel aging Backwoods has ever done.
The Stumbler gives off notes of vanilla, charred oak and brown sugar, and follows with a light smokiness. It clocks in at 12 percent ABV and 35 IBU and is available on draft and in 22-ounce hand-waxed bottles. The base stout is comprised of four different malts, including roasted barley and chocolate malt.
Kevin Waters, Backwoods’ Brewmaster, was able to order 12 barrels altogether for this beer (each barrel was filled with 50 gallons of stout). “Barrels are getting extremely expensive and hard to find. Generally, you have to do a buy-in with several other breweries in order to meet the distillery’s minimum. For this shipment of barrels, we teamed up with Everybody’s Brewing and Breakside Brewing,” said Waters.