Wednesday, September 12, 2018

House Spirits Distillery - Rooted in Craft Beer

"It takes a lot of beer to make whiskey." We're not sure who first said it but up until recently we took it to mean that distillers drink a lot of beer. While we'll leave them to say yea or nay, we've also learned that it literally takes a lot of beer, albeit without hops, to distill down into whiskey. So much that House Spirits in SE Portland utilizes 15 tons of malted barley per WEEK. Read on for a look at why they feel their beer brewing roots are integral to the whiskey they make.

Christian Krogstad and John Foyston
Founder Christian Krogstad, a Seattle native who attended the Siebel Institute and said his early years were greatly influenced by Redhook, moved to Portland in 1991. Right out of the gate he signed on with McMenamins Edgefield, which had just opened its brewery onsite. He spent quite a few years in the craft brewing world before he made the decision to apply his combination of education and experience brewing beer to distilling spirits, malt whiskey in particular. Those years instilled in him a deep understanding of the innovation that started the craft brewing movement in the Northwest and it was that innovative mindset, not Scottish tradition as one might suspect, that House Spirits is based on.

The self-funded enterprise began in 2004 in a modest facility adjacent to Roots Brewing (which closed in 2010) in SE Portland. Roots was the first, followed by many other local breweries, that allowed House Spirits to use their brewing system to make the basis for their whiskey, what is know as a wash. For those unfamiliar with the whiskey making process, a wash is similar to beer but what distinguishes a wash from beer is the time it takes to make it (far shorter) and that no hops are added. As mentioned before, however, they use plenty of grain in the fermentation of the approximately 8% ABV wash, 15,000 gallons of which is produced weekly. 

Christian's brewing background led to his choice to use all Northwest 2 Row Pale Ale malt as well as his choice of yeast. Instead of a standard distiller's yeast, the House Spirits wash is made with an ale yeast that he feels imparts a better flavor in the final productIn addition to drawing on his brewing background to choose ingredients, he has also assembled a team of distillers that, save one, worked for a brewery before signing on with House Spirits. The brewing knowledge that each member of the team brings with them is part of their lineage, linking them in a very concrete way to their brewing roots.


In 2015 House Spirits moved from their original SE facility to a much more roomy facility, intentionally selected to keep them in SE. The facility boasts a 30bbl brewing system and four 100bbl fermenters and is 10x larger than the original space. While no longer bursting at the seams and having a greater need to use the brewing set ups at local breweries like when they were making washes at Roots Brewing, Christian continues to partner with local breweries. Alameda, Breakside, Fort George, Migration and Green Dragon have all worked with House Spirits. In fact when Breakside opened their Milwaukie location they wanted to get plenty of practice on their new, larger brewing system. It wasn't beer that was first made however, it was a House Spirits wash. 


Christian pulling whiskey samples from the Frankie Claus barrel
Another ongoing relationship involves Migration's Frankie Claus, an imperial Belgian chocolate stout. Initially Migration got a whiskey barrel from House spirits and aged a run of Frankie Claus in it. Once the beer was emptied out of the barrel it went back to House Spirits where they decided to fill it with three year old Westward whiskey. After sitting in the barrel for a year the whiskey was pulled out and House Spirits released a stout whiskey. With both parties deeming it successful, this cycle has continued with the same barrel, now on the fifth filling of it. 

Just as we've found ourselves entranced listening to brewers talk about their history, their beer, their projects for the future, so, too were we entranced listening to Christian talk about House Spirits. If the brief picture we've provided you from our visit has whet your whistle for more then it's time for you to experience it yourself. Tours are available daily, public classes covering a variety of different topics occur every week or two and private classes/events are available.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2nd Annual Radler Fest

Dude. It's HOT. And while we're happy to quench our heat-induced thirst with refreshing, delicious craft beer the radler line up for Saturday's 2nd Annual Radler Fest at StormBreaker Brewing sounds even better.

The event will feature radlers from 20+ breweries/cideries that range from 2.4% to 5.5%. We recently had the opportunity to try a handful of the radlers from this sessionable lineup, three featuring beer, two featuring a new canned wine and both of the offerings from Steigl, sponsors of the event. We can't count how many times we've enjoyed Steigl Grapefruit, available almost anywhere, but it's the Zitrone (lemon) that is our favorite from these folks that started it all. Now onto some new ways radlers are being imagined.

We'll start with the wine radlers - Picnic Sparkling Wine Cocktails, a new product from the owners of Bull Run Distillery. Available in 12oz cans with a chardonnay base both the Berry (acai, pomegranite, blueberry) and Citrus (pineapple, lemon, tangerine, peach) versions are a bit on the sweet side for our beer-loving palates but are worth a try, especially for non-beer lovers.

The beer radlers we sampled came from 54° 40', Pono and event host, StormBreaker. 
54° 40' Ginger Lemonade Radler - Starting off with the aroma from the kolsch base, the flavor is a great blend of lemonade and the hand grated ginger that was used.
Pono Purple Stuff - We can't overlook that this is one of the best names, embracing the rad days of years past, and offers a flavor was more complex than the aroma - think Welch's grape juice - suggested. To make their entry for the event, Pono blended Brown Bag Vintage, a beer made with wheat and chocolate rye, Division Wines' Nebbiolo Must and a late addition of Pacific Gem hops, with grape soda. 
StormBreaker Passionately Pineapple - Total ReKolsch is refreshing on its own and finds a perfect partner with passion fruit and pineapple juices for a radler that is reminiscent of a mimosa. 

If your interest has been peaked and you're up for more creative, playful creations like those we tried, put this atop your To Do list for Saturday and get your tickets now!

2nd Annual Radler Fest
Saturday, August 11th 12 - 6pm
StormBreaker Brewing
Tickets: $18 in advance (festival mug and 10 tickets) or $20 at the door (festival mug and 8 tickets)
Additional tasting tickets will be for sale at the event
Kid, dog and designated driver friendly

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Picks for OBF 2018

The 31st Annual Oregon Brewers Festival kicks off on Thursday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. For those paying close attention, you'll notice that it's one day later than in recent years. The festival has scaled back from a five-day event to a four-day event for multiple reasons but has added a couple wine and cider options. 

A perusal of the beer list shows plenty of IPAs and a fair number of fruited beers that are made with guava. It's going to be a warm OBF so those lighter beers took on a particular shine as we compiled our hit list. Taking into consideration the number of beers we anticipate being able to consume during one visit, we divided our list of 45 beers (of the total 80+) into Tier 1 and Tier 2 (and further divided them by South and North tents). Our plan is to make it through as many of the Tier 1 beers we can and count ourselves lucky if we are able to return for a second day to take on Tier 2.


Tier 1 - South Tent
Backwoods Brewing Dreamsicle Kolsch - beer debuts at OBF, oranges and vanilla, 5%
Breakside Brewery Limon Pepino - lager conditioned on lime zest and 225lbs of cucumber, 4.9%
Heathen Brewing Raspberry Rhubarb Sour Ale - the description is all in the name, 5.7%
Zoiglhaus Brewing Company Elderberry Berliner Weisse - again, the description is all in the name, 2.8%
Caldera Brewing Company Coco-Nutty Blonde - golden ale brewed with toasted coconut chips and rolled oats for body, 5.6% 
Boneyard Beer Pinot Pulp - pale ale inoculated with Brettanomyces and aged six months in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, 7%
Oregon City Brewing Company Guavador Dali IPA - NE-style IPA with pink guava, 7%
RiverBend Brewing We Found Barb in the Strawberry Field - imperial milkshake IPA with lactose, vanilla and strawberry and rhubarb purees, 8% 
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Do You Even Zest?! - limited release imperial IPA with freshly zested citrus, 7.5%
Gigantic Brewing Magnificent 527 - IPA with Experimental Hop 527 that displays pineapple, mango, lemon and subtle strawberry aromas and flavors, 6.3%
Fort George Brewery It Takes Two to Mango - NE-style mango IPA, 7.5%
Everybody's Brewing Guango Deep - imperial hazy IPA with guava, mango and fruity hop flavors, 9.3%

Tier 1 - North Tent
Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro Currantly Hip Sour - American-style kettle-soured ale with a house blend of Lactobacillus and flavor of black currants and other forest fruit, 4.9%
Freebridge Brewing Summertime Radness - kettle-soured Berliner Weisse infused with rose of Merlot grapes, 4.3%
Fremont Brewing Limeshine - Pilsner with German malts, Yakima hops and lime, 5.5%
Fortside Brewing Company The Real Slim Hazy - hazy IPA, 5.5%
Natian Brewery 1306 - milkshake IPA with citrus backbone and juicy hop profile, made specifically for OBF, 6.8%

Tier 2 - South Tent
Insurgente Juan Cordero - Baja Calfornia, Mexico brewery made Pale Ale, 5.5%
Ecliptic Brewing Flamingo Planet Guava Blonde Ale - 100% pale malt, lightly hopped Blonde brewed with guava, 4.7%
Pelican Brewing Company To Peach Their Own! - lager infused with 500lbs of Oregon peach puree, 6%
Upright Brewing Berliner Weisse - soured with Lactobacillus in the fermenter and finished with Brettanomycs, brewed in February to allow the beer to develop, 3.6%
Portland Brewing Tart Me Up! - Berliner Weisse with grapefruit, mango and pineapple purees, 4.4%
Kells Brewery Mezcal-a-Gose - fruity, salty and smoky kettle-soured Gose inspired by the Mezcal cocktail, 5.5%
Ninkasi Brewing Company Fruited Gose - traditional unfiltered wheat ale with raspberries and lime, 4.2%
Widmer Brothers Brewing Lemonic Possession - imperial IPA brewed with lemon-nuanced hops and lemon zest, 8.8%
GoodLife Brewing Company Long Acronym - dry-hopped wine barrel-aged mixed fermentation blended Brettanomyces India Pale Lager, 7.8% 
Old Market Pub & Brewery Punchy Peach - imperial wheat ale aged for seven months in French oak Pinot barrels topped off with 250lbs of Oregon tart peaches, 7.8%
Cascade Brewing Belmont Street Bramble - blended Northwest-style sour ale aged in oak wine barrels with red raspberries and tangerine peel, 6.5%


Tier 2 - North Tent
Perennial Artisan Ales Bridge of the Gods - dry-hopped Grisette, 4.7%
Rogue Ales Pinch - imperial Gose, brewed specifically for OBF, 7%
Sasquatch Brewing Company American Aquarium Drinker - Gose brewed with squid ink and seaweed, 4.5%
Agua Mala Sirena - Baja California, Mexico brewery made Pilsner, 5.2%
Great Northern Brewing Company Big Mountain Tea - Pale Ale with subtle notes of Earl Grey tea, 5.2%
Silver Falls Brewery Wisp - raspberry wheat beer with raspberries added to the end of fermentation, 5.5%
Thunder Island Brewing Company Fuzzy Wit - Wit with generous mid-fermentation additions of Oregon peaches, 5.5%
Gilgamesh Brewing CBD Pale Ale - generously hoped Pale Ale with 5mg CBDs per 12oz serving, 5.6%
Transpeninsular Cerveceria Playitas Cali Pale Ale - Baja California, Mexico brewery made "double session IPA," 5.4%
Wendlandt Cerveceria Perro del Mar - Baja California, Mexico brewery made West Coast-style IPA, 7% 
Deschutes Brewery Fruit Fight - NE-style IPA brewed with six hop varieties, 6.7%
pFriem Family Brewers Mango Milkshake IPA - hazy and juicy IPA base with lactose, vanilla beans and mango puree, 7.9%
Oproer Refuse//Resist - Netherlands brewery made fruity double IPA, 8.5%
Border Psycho Brewery Pervesa - Baja California, Mexico brewery made imperial IPA, 9.3%
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery The Jester's Nightcap - imperial stout, 9%
New Holland Brewing Company I Like Pretzel Day - stout made with soft pretzels in the mash, bourbon barrel-aged for three months and balanced with extra salt and caramel, 8%
Heretic Brewing Company Goo - imperial milk stout, 12%

For ease of checking in when we're at the festival we've created a wish list in Untappd. Following our check ins and comments there will be the quickest way to see what rings our bell. We will also try to get a quick post up here or on Facebook after our first visit. No promises though because, well, you know how attending a beer festival can reduce one's motivation. 

Oregon Brewers Festival
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Thursday, July 26 - Sunday, July 29
Opens at Noon daily, closes at 9 pm Thursday - Saturday, 7 pm Sunday