Friday, October 30, 2009

Locally Sourced

One of the Big Ideas I had when I was planning on opening this place was to local source as much as possible. The reality is that I'm not the guy to be doing this - I'm not a kitchen guy - and our chef at the time didn't seek out the contacts. As of the beginning of the month of October we have a new kitchen guy who is going after the local market. Meet Christian. He's the guy with the handful of mushrooms, picked in some classified location in the Willamette National Forest by agents unknown.

Tonight we are serving some sort of mixed texture sautee that includes Bolitas, White and Yellow Chanterelles, Lobster Mushrooms, Hen in the Woods and Cauliflower Mushrooms. Garlic is also rabidly employed. From what I understand the goodies in the boxes are the pick of the crop, with the seconds going to the fancy restaurants and markets in Eugene. Another reason, along with this pint of cask-conditioned session bitter, to boldly state that "you can only get it here."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mention in Oregon Business Magazine

I really wish I could attend more festivals and events and whatnots, but the reality is that we're dirt poor. Not all the time - this summer was really nice, and back bills got paid off. Most of them anyway. Before I started this project, I was told aplenty not to open a brewery in Oakridge, especially one that brews and serves real ale. I still get asked, on a regular basis, why I don't open a pub in Eugene, or Salem, or (of all places) Portland. Maybe I will someday (any investors out there?), but my answer is always that a) I live here and b) every small town needs a pub.

I was recently alerted to an article in Oregon Business Magazine that neatly describes the situation in which we live. We have a goofy economy, times have changed, and to make a living you have to have a vision, a really thick skull, a willingness to work every day for three years or more, and lots of credit cards. No, scratch that last one. Customers help, too, so I've now shifted my thinking towards waiting for the big snows to fall. There's certainly not much going on now up here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Release!

Catchy, huh? Excitement! A new beer is released. I see this all the time on blogs, twitters, tweets, bleats, honks and brewery websites. But what does it mean? What is a release? Last year, a few months after we opened, I notified the Oregon Brewers Guild that I was "releasing" my Christmas ale around Thanksgiving time. And there it was, on the official site for all to see. In the Spring I did the same with my whisky chip extra special bitter. As my new batch of Christmas ale ages back in the cellar, I have been wondering about this new release issue and whether it really applies to this shed brewery and pub up in the mountains and trees.

For one thing, we don't really conform to the standard rules of an American brewpub. Our ale is only available at the pub, there is no bottling, no keg distribution, and no onion rings with ranch. We are located so far from the clusters of humanity that nobody is really going to drive three hours just to have a pint of Tanninbomb. The brewer himself is often the one pulling your pints and cleaning your tables after you've wandered off. And we certainly don't have any money. Someday we'd like to get some T-shirts printed.

Today I'm going to, depending on my opinions of what dribbles out of the first firkin that's been on stillage for the last couple of days, "release" a simple session bitter similar to an American Pale. I think. When I finish this blog entry over coffee I'm off to give it a whirl. I have to hastily work up a pump clip, but that's easy. If satisfied, it will be released. Or not. I don't know. In my mind I'm just putting it on the pumps. It's not like I've "designed" the beer, by any stretch of the imagination. I just knocked off a simple recipe on brew day and now it's available for sale - something to fill the session bitter niche.

A couple weeks ago I "released" a special bitter called Good With Bacon. Or not. It was just not there one day, and the next it was. I was initially unhappy with the outcome, but as the finings continued to struggle with their calling it improved nicely, and is now eminently quaffable. The idea was to make something like Old Speckled Hen, except I didn't have Challenger hops, nor any brewing sugar, and I've been unable to locate a pitchable brick of California Ale Yeast, so I made a few substitutions. It was suggested that I put the word "Amber" in the description, as we get calls for an amber all the time, and this ale just happens to have that color. Isn't that what an amber is?

The current batch, number 11, of Union Dew came out with an ABV of 6.2%, up 0.4% from the last batch. I think this is due to the inaccuracy of the cheepo thermometer I use to measure mash temperature. Is this a new release? Or is it just the same stuff but different, subjected to the whims and vagaries of a primitive, non-push-button, shed brewery?

Or, better yet, how about: "Brewers Union Local 180 Releases Firkin Number 7 of Schrodinger's Beer". It is noticeably better than number 6, as the magical complex chemical reactions continue to work and the dry hops dance about with the joy of creation.

Naww. I'm thinking I'm just not going to announce releases, except here on the blog. This pub is a casual place, and whatever is pouring on any single afternoon might not be exactly the same as what's on in the evening. If I decide to roll on a cask of something new, then you will have to keep vigilant and check on us frequently. So, if you're in the area, stop by and have a pint. We are happy to do tasters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tools of the Trade

It's brew day again. This is an event that requires 8 empty firkins and at least a continuous 9 hour stretch of time that hopefully starts no later than mid morning. The understatement of the day is that ingredients are important too, and I hope I can scrape together $1600 to pay off my last grain bill so I can order more. There is about one batch's worth of Maris Otter in the millhouse at the moment, after milling out 200 lbs of the stuff for today's batch. Today's experiment is another batch of West Coast IPA based on Schrodinger's Beer. This time, instead of using the 14% alpha Sorachi Ace for bittering, I will be substituting something else with a lower alpha but using twice as much. I'm not sure what yet; there is a limited number of choices in the cooler. Us shed brewers operate under a different economy than the Big Boys (tm). As such, I'm also contemplating raising the price of a pint (proper) of this brew to $5.50 to pay for the 7 Kg of hops that will be going into it. I don't think this is unreasonable, as many places already charge this in urban locales that don't have to suffer the higher costs of delivery and the relative paucity of patronage. At least it's not the $6.50 that Pelican (a Big Boy (tm)) charges for a pint of room temperature bitter, with the justification that they operate in an economically and seasonably challenged location. And Rogue? Don't get me going on Rogue.

But this is not a blog about beer - it is a blog about tools. I have directed a few posts in the past to you, yes YOU, the prospective brewer and pub owner. This is another. As you progress your way into this silly business, it would serve you well to know how to handle a vast array of implements of de- and con-struction. A week ago, on brew day, my fancy shed brewery counterflow heat exchanger "blew a gasket". As $2500 in potential profits were being brewed at the time, this needed to be fixed before the end of the boil, so as to chill the wort on the way to the fermenter. There's nothing quite like sweating pipes while 100 gallons of wort boils a yard to the posterior, occasionally burping a gobbet of enthusiastic froth over the side and onto the floor, endangering life and limb.

Postscript: As I'm writing this in the cracks of time afforded during the brewing process, I have since weighed out the bittering hops. I went with Centennial for bittering, using 1.5 Kg instead of the 2.0 I had originally thought necessary. This harvest has an alpha of 8.8%. Total bittering hops weighed out at 3.5 Kg, which is the most I've ever used in a batch here at the brewery. I used the same 2.0 Kg of Glacier to partner with it as I used in the last batch of Schrodinger's.

Last week's repairs are still holding. For Christmas I would like a nice new Big Boy (tm) plate heat exchanger, so please put it on your list.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mention in the Oregonian

A former, and future, Oakridge resident has written an article for the Portland Oregonian about Oakridge, including a mention of the pub.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Hours

Winter. The Off Season. The Rainy Season. Whatever you want to call it, it's here. This means that the masses hibernate up through the middle of December when the snows lure them into the mountains. This also means that it doesn't make sense to spend $20 to make $10, and so we have cut back the pub hours. It's not too drastic. On Tuesdays we will now be closed. Just plain closed. Not that the work will stop - there's always something to brew, cook, fix, improve, fulfill or complete. On Wednesday and Thursday we are just cutting back the lunch and afternoon. Hopefully this will help us cut costs and keep us open. Margins are tight up here, and I have a forthcoming post on just that topic to dispel all notions to the contrary. See you at the pub.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Schrodinger's Beer

Cask number 4 is being served. Cask number 5 is settling out on the stillage. Numbers 6, 7 and 8 are in the back cellar. And I still haven't written about Schrodinger's Beer. Many of you may be familiar with the famous thought experiment by physicist Erwin Schrodinger involving the unknown state of a cat in a box subjected to the uncertainty of quantum events. Is the cat dead, alive, or in a putative third state until observed? Same with this beer. It was an experiment. Many of the concoctions coming out of the brewery are.

I've written before about hoppy, high gravity West Coast style IPA's on cask, also referenced from "It's Pub Night", although slightly inaccurately, as I don't question the sanity, per se. I am tempted to use the verb "designed" when talking about how the recipe came about, but that always sounds so much like what the Big Boys do, instead of someone who has never had any formal training in the arts. So, I'll say that I hacked together the recipe, based on my first attempt at a biggie cask IPA over the summer called "Whatever". This batch was deemed too light on the bittering, as if there was a hole in the flavor profile, so I cleverly decided to double the bittering hops. Otherwise, same grain bill and finishing.

A further word about experimentation: Before the pub opened, during the hop crisis, I had very little choice as to what to purchase in the way of hops. As a very small brewery, the cash flow and uncertainty of a new business, especially in a small town in the woods, makes it unfeasible to contract with hop growers and suppliers. As a result, I ended up with spending $6000 on a few boxes of three strains: E. Kent Goldings, Glacier and Sorachi Ace. Never heard of the last one? I've found few brewers using it - that I know of, that is. It's a strange one, with a unique lemony (for lack of a better word) flavor and aroma. It's also 14% alpha. This hop is the driving force behind Union Dew, an unusual, unique and popular IPA, and which is the one beer that I continue to have to brew on a regular basis. Batch 11 was just casked up two days ago.

How does this relate to Schrodinger's Beer? Well, I wanted to see how it acts as just a bittering hop. 1 Kilo of this up front, along with 2 Kilos of Glacier, makes up the bittering. The finish is 3 Kilos of Cascade spread out over 15 minutes. Dry hop was 40 grams Cascade per firkin. I suffered through two weeks of nervous impatience before tapping the first cask. It has subsequently been pronounced delicious - the first firkin only lasting a day and a half. It's not over the top in any way, coming out at 5.9%.

Many of you American readers might not know what a sparkler is. It is a plastic device with small holes in it that is screwed onto the end of the swans neck of a beer engine. The effect of an ale dispensed in this manner is a creamer, smoother mouthfeel. In the UK it is a subject of much controversy, ofttimes caustic, with those of a generally Southern persuasion describing it as a "nefarious device" or the "work of the devil". I can handle cask ale both ways, but tend to prefer the common Northern inclination for drinking a sparkled ale. I have discovered, however, that this particular ale, and likely the bigger West Coast styles in general, is definitely better sans sparkler. So be it - that is the way it is being served. Come down and try a pint. See you at the pub.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Honest Pint

This revisited. This time, thanks to Jeff Alworth of Beervana, the Blog, we have been certified as serving an honest measure. No, we don't actually serve it, we purvey it. Such a good word. Other purveyors can be viewed at the Honest Pint Project site.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


We have some good music lined up for October. It is nice to have musicians contacting me and asking for gigs. Pop over to the About page for a listing.

It always amazes me how little interest there can sometimes be on a good night of quality live music. Last Saturday we had the entire Groove Liberation Front playing, and it was probably the slowest Saturday night we have had in months. By 9:00 the pub was empty. I got to enjoy it, though, and it was a nice way to round out a long week at the bar. I suppose everyone else was huddling in their living rooms, staying out of the rain and watching some exciting reruns. Or maybe crooning out a few soulful rounds of karaoke down at the Corner Bar.