Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Full Sail

Full Sail's main brewery is in Hood River but they also operate a small brewhouse on Portland's southwest waterfront. Situated within McCormick & Schmick's, they brew small batches with a 24-barrel brew kettle. Their fermenters can accommodate a double batch and their output is approximately 3,000 barrels/year, far less than the 100,000+ barrels the main brewery produces.

Brewer Phil Roche, who created Phil's Existential Alt for Full Sail's Brewer's Share series, makes the most of the small brewing space. The entire operation can be seen by standing in one place and when it's time to fill kegs and bottles, every piece of equipment and the supplies are carefully laid out with the finished products temporarily being stacked on the sidewalk outside. The coolest piece of equipment however is their tipping mash tun, which I'm told is the only one in the U.S. Even empty, it's pretty impressive and worth a minute to watch.

In addition to touring the brewery Phil also provided samples of three of their beers: Cascade Pilsner, Chris's Summer Delight Berliner Weiss and Session Black. I have to admit that I don't drink much Full Sail but after tasting these three, I'll be rethinking that. The pilsner was delightfully hop heavy with 54 IBUs, the Berliner Weiss a very approachable example of the style and the Session Black roasty yet clean and drinkable in the way one would expect a lager to be.

Tours of the brewery aren't generally available but you might be able to get a peek from above if you happen to visit McCormick & Schmick's on a Tuesday or Wednesday (the days Phil is most likely brewing). Nearly half of their taps are Full Sail products so short of visiting Hood River, this is the best place in town to sample a wide range of Full Sail beers (six-beer samplers are available). Who knows, even if you've had Full Sail beers in the past, you may find like I did, a new appreciation for them.

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