Walla Walla’s small but growing brewing scene

We spent the past weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, hitting up wineries and partaking in a bit of the Celebrate Walla Walla Wine event they have every year (this year’s theme was Syrah). Though Walla Walla for about three decades now has been known for its wine, there is a small but growing beer scene developing there. Here’s a rundown of what the current scene looks like:

Mill Creek Brewpub. If their website is correct, they are celebrating 12 years this month, which means they were established in 2002. I visited them once back in 2005, though I believe the brewpub has since changed hands so things might be a bit different  now.

Laht Neppur Ale House

Laht Neppur Brewing. Located in nearby Waitsburg, they opened an Ale House in downtown Walla Walla not too long ago, and according to their website is looking to build a production facility in nearby Milton-Freewater, Oregon. They are best known for their fruit beers.

Nosdunk Brewing. They are a production brewery closed to the public and only about a year old. Their bottled beers can be found at a few places downtown, and it looks like a limited rotation.

Dragon’s Gate Brewery. This “farmhouse nano craft brewery” is a few years old now and is actually in the Milton-Freewater zipcode, just over the state line. (Walla Walla and M-F are really only a few miles apart.) They have beer tastings and dinners in Walla Walla frequently and you can sometimes find their bottled beers in town.

Burwood BrewingBurwood Brewing. Brand-new, they actually had their official grand opening on the Saturday while we were visiting. Alas, we didn’t get a chance to visit, but interestingly one of the people who poured samples of wine for us at a winery was planning to hit their opening and opined that Walla Walla needs more beer.

There used to be another, Walla Walla Brewers, that is now out of business.

We did not visit Burwood, but did stop in for a sampler tray at the Laht Neppur Ale House on Saturday—I’ll have a short writeup and some pictures from that visit in a separate post. And we hit a few downtown shops where I picked up a few of the local beers to bring home: Nosdunk’s Walla Wheat and Stout, Dragon’s Gate Wit, and a couple of cans of Bale Breaker Top Cutter IPA. I will be writing about these beers soon.

(Bale Breaker is actually located in Yakima, in the heart of hops country, but it’s not available in Bend and I’ve been hearing good things about it, so I picked it up when I had the opportunity.)

The other beer of note is the one I had with dinner Saturday night at Brasserie Four, a French restaurant in downtown Walla Walla. Very French. I was a bit wined out at that point and was debating beer, and when I found out they had Kronenbourg 1664 on draft—on draft, mind you, something I have not found in this part of the country that I can remember—I jumped at the chance to enjoy it. Yes, I know it’s the industrial pale lager of France (the Heineken of France, if you will), but that’s just it: from France. And I’m okay with it. I had two.

Kronenbourg 1664

The 10th Annual North American Organic Brewers Festival

North American Organic Brewers FestivalI’ve said it before, this time of year is beer festival season in Oregon, and this weekend is one of the big ones: the North American Organic Brewers Festival taking place in Portland from Thursday the 26th through Sunday the 29th.

Two of Portland’s beloved industries – organic beer and sustainability – come together in an annual celebration designed to raise awareness about organic beer and sustainable living. We serve up organic beers and ciders alongside live music, food, sustainability-oriented vendors, non-profits and a children’s area – all in a beautiful tree lined setting overlooking downtown Portland.

Admission into the event is free. The purchase of a $6 reusable, compostable cornstarch glass is required for tasting beer, as are tokens, which sell for $1 apiece. A full glass of beer costs four tokens and a four-ounce taste costs one token (select beers cost double tokens). Patrons receive a $1 discount toward the tasting glass with a validated Tri-Met ticket.

The event is cash only. We do have ATMs on site, however, you will be charged event fees, so we recommend you plan ahead and bring cash!

It all takes place at Overlook Park, and (because it’s organic and sustainably-themed) there is no parking on site provided—you are encouraged to take the Tri-Met, or bike or walk.

The beer list is terrific and features all beers that are entirely or mostly organic (they have a handy classification for each one if you’re tracking that sort of thing).

Finally, soccer fans rejoice: the Fest will be hooking up four flat screen TVs in order to show all the World Cup matches as well as the Friday Portland Timbers game. So you won’t miss a beat.

Be sure to make the NAOBF part of this weekend’s plans, if you can!

The first Eastern Oregon Beer Festival, Saturday the 21st

Eastern Oregon Beer FestivalThe first-ever Eastern Oregon Beer Festival is coming up next weekend, on Saturday, June 21st, taking place in La Grande at the Union County Fairgrounds. As you’d expect there’s a good number of Eastern Oregon breweries represented, as well as some debut out-of-state ones. From their press release:

Sponsored by La Grande Main Street Downtown, EOBF will feature over beers from over 20 breweries, including craft beer stalwarts Cascade Barrel House and Hair of the Dog Brewing. A major focus of the festival is a highlight on Eastern Oregon’s emerging beer scene. Barley Brown’s, Prodigal Son and Terminal Gravity will be joined by neighboring Dragon’s Gate (Milton Freewater), 1188 (John Day) Bull Ridge (Baker City) and Beer Valley (Ontario). A number of other prominent Oregon breweries including Upright, The Commons, Breakside from Portland, and 10 Barrel, Bend Brewing and Good Life from Bend will also be participating. Also traveling to La Grande will be Buoy Brewing (Astoria), pouring in Eastern Oregon for the first time. A number of participating breweries have agreed to provide one-off or special beers to the event.

In addition to the above Oregon-based breweries, several out-of-state breweries will be pouring in Oregon for the first time. EOBF Beer Steward Jeff Dense, Professor of Craft Beer Studies at Eastern Oregon University has been able to leverage his contacts throughout the craft beer community to provide several surprises for festival attendees. Marble Brewing of Albuquerque NM will be pouring their World Beer Cup Gold Medal winning Pilsener. Comrade Brewing of Denver, CO, under the leadership of former Barley Brown’s Brewmaster Marks Lanham, has captured the imagination of the vibrant Denver craft beer scene. White Bluffs Brewing of Richland, WA, will be pouring Biere de Mars and their popular Red Alt. Dense promises a couple of last minute surprises for EOBF attendees.

I’m glad to see some nice beer representation hitting the underserved eastern part of the state, though for a festival they do have an unusual model, in that they pre-sold all of their tasting packages for the fest itself (which runs from noon to 8pm), and are now sold out. Unlike your typical brewfest which is open to general admission all day long.

However at 8pm they’re offering up an after party that’s open to the public with no entrance fee or cover charge, so even if you didn’t get passes for the main part of the fest you can still check some of it out afterwards.

All in all, nice to see a beer festival happening back east, as it were, and I hope it grows and turns into a nice regional fest. I won’t be able to make it this year, but hopefully in future years I will.

The Session #88: Traditional Beer Mixes

The SessionThe first Friday of the month means it’s time again for beer bloggers to participate in The Session, a monthly group exercise where everyone writes about a common theme or topic. This month our theme comes from Boak and Bailey who provide us a most interesting suggestion: Traditional Beer Mixes.

The topic we’ve chosen is traditional beer mixes.

In his 1976 book Beer and Skittles early beer writer Richard Boston lists several:

  • Lightplater – bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law — old and bitter.
  • Granny — old and mild.
  • Boilermaker — brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith –stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.

We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.

We’re deliberately aiming for something broad and accessible, but there is one rule — no ‘beer cocktails’! It’s been done, for starters. So, mix two beers, not four; and steer clear of syrups, spirits, flavourings and crushed ice.

I don’t even have anything pithy or topical to write; I’m familiar with beer mixes—the simplest being the Black and Tan, of course—but frankly it’s not something I’ve bothered with much. I remember once at Kelly’s Olympian in Portland many, many years ago I had a variation of the B&T featuring Guinness and Pyramid Apricot Ale which wasn’t bad at all.

Kentucky Cooper - mix of Kentucky Kolsch and Coopers Best StoutSo I looked at what I had on hand, and decided to mix up equal parts of Kentucky Kölsch (from Alltech’s Lexington Brewing) and Coopers Best Extra Stout. Each beer is a good beer on its own, but mixing the two I decided to dub the result a Kentucky Cooper. Here are my notes about it:

Light bodied, sparkling dry roast that’s pretty much exactly what I’d expect such a blend to yield. It’s easy to drink and feels almost sessionable. Actually, the more I drink and think about it, it reminds me of a Schwarzbier, light, roasty and super drinkable. Not quite the actual lager experience of course—there’s too much “ale” here with the ale characteristics to go full Schwarz. This is definitely something one could drink as a session black ale.

I definitely enjoyed the experiment and the drink. The only problem really was, since it wasn’t a mix I could make on tap… I ended up drinking two beers. Not the worst problem in the world!