This year we've been getting more exposure to liquor and the experiences have opened our eyes and palates. We're not afraid to admit that the hard stuff has been intimitating, probably not too dissimilar to when we started drinking craft beer. What is actually good? What is worth the cost? What do we enjoy?
One of our partners on this exploration has been Annebelle, who has a great palate, a taste for cocktails and an eye for presentation. We came up with the idea to try our hand at making beer cocktails, getting together on a monthly basis to test out various combinations of a designated liquor and a style of beer each time. And while having more cooks in the kitchen isn't the best of plans, having another set of taste buds for our experimenting seemed prudent. Insert Lee who has a wealth of experience with tipples - being a mead maker, brewer and distiller - and is just as adventurous as we are.
Since fall is here it felt fitting to use Oktoberfests for the beer style and being our first go around, we chose one of the easier liquors to mix - vodka. What we came up with were a handful of cocktails, that may be subject to a bit more refining in the future, but we quite enjoyed and felt were worth sharing.
- Occidental Festbier
- Olde York Farm micro batch ramp vodka from Hudson, NY
- pickle brine
- lemon juice
- togarishi, salt, sugar, cayenne rim
- lemon slice and pickle garnish
All of the splashiness of a cocktail visually, this creation used a special vodka Lee hand carried back from a trip out east and a house-made version of togarishi in the rimming mixture. Reminiscent of a Bloody Mary in flavor without the heaviness from tomato juice.
- StormBreaker Stomtoberfest
- Belvedere vodka
- orange bitters
- lime garnish
Light and bright were the first words that came to mind upon trying this negroni-inspired beer cocktail. Using Apeol, similar to Campari but with a lower ABV, and beer made for a less bracing cocktail and the bitters filled in for Vermouth.
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- peach juice
- peach slice garnish
A bellini can be a simple cocktail, just sparkling wine and peach juice or schnapps, and it's that simplistic take that we used to create our cocktail. Drawing on the beer for the carbonation sparkling wine would contribute we balanced the sweetness of the juice with just enough vodka to keep it feeling cocktail-ish. Using a perfectly ripe peach slice as garnish conjured up the aroma of being in the orchard at the height of harvest.
Passion of the Beerlini
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- Amoretti passion fruit puree
- La Croix passionfruit
- muddled red raspberries
Taking the inspiration of a bellini further afield, we switched from peach to passion fruit for the juice component and added to the carbonation with flavored sparkling water. Muddling red raspberries gave it a rich color, with the lime providing a citrus brightness.
Although we had decided to make our concoctions with Oktoberfest beers and vodka after a few attempts with Spaten's beer we agreed whiskey was the way to go with it. Thus the final cocktail to come out of this installment uses a local whiskey and a majority local ingredients.
Go Westward, Spaten
- Spaten Oktoberfest
- House Spirits Westward whiskey
- Raft Botanicals smoked tea vanilla
- orange bitters
- The Barreled Bee whiskey barrel-aged honey rim
- orange peel
Stay tuned for the next installment!
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
"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|
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 product. In 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|
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.