Brewpublic and Sixteen Ton’s Wine Barrel-Aged Beer Fest kicked off on Thursday. But not before we arose from hearty slumber at the Oakshire Farmhouse (with visions of Hellshire I dancing in our heads), met up with Powered By Yeast pointman Tim Ensign and Jeremy Lewis and Quyen Li owners of Roscoe’s in Portland, and headed over to Ninkasi’s tasting room for a taste of the newly released Critical Hit Barleywine. It was a terrifically fitting top o’ the morning for us. Then on to a pint of the KLCC Colaboration brew made with the Falconer’s Flight Hop. This Hop is a tribute to Glen Hay Falconer of Wild Duck brewing famous for the Sasquatch Strong (sorry TTB) Ale. The Sasquatch Legacy Project, a not for profile trust that enables brewers, made benefited largely from this bonanza of hops.
While at Ninkasi, Mark Henion gave us a tour of the brewhouse – a spectacular display of the Whitaker brewery’s rapid growth (Ninkasi is current the 50th largest craft brewery according to the Brewers Association; expect to see them climb higher beyond Rogue and BridgePort’s production numbers soon). Currently a 60 barrel brewhouse that put out 30,000 barrels last year, Ninkasi is also learning bout themselves as they grow. “God only knows what we’ll do this year but a lot more” says brand manager Morgan Miller. “We’re just getting used to the six pack numbers which fluctuate a great deal. But, he also notes the seasonality of brands and purchasing habits around the West Coast.
Ninkasi could could push to 100,000 barrels in their current roughly 140,000 square-foot space. “We’ve put money down on next building” says Morgan. Sweet.
Sixteen Tons cracked open special bottles of wine barrel-aged beer at at 5PM and The Bier Stein featured Full Sail Brewmaster John Harris hosting trivia. Rogue Brewmaster John Maier was in the house as well.
At our Wine Barrel-Aged Beer Fest revealed a smorgasbord of flavors from breweries throughout the Pacific Northwest, and even some European specialties. Highlights so far included Beetje Blue Foot Belgian Pale Ale which was aged for three months in Pinot Noir barrels with Roeselare yeast; Bear Republic Clobberskull a beer we’ve enjoyed a few years at Holiday Ale Festival time. It’s aged in French Oak Cabernet Barrels and brewed with split peas in a traditional English Estate style; the Blue Frog Peligroso 8th Anniversary Ale. This Fairfield, California unfiltered Strong Amber was aged three months in a Frech Oak Syrah barrel. Being more than three years old, this rare specimen has held up masterfully. Also worth noting was the tart Bruery Bottleworks XII Imperial Witbier aged in red wine barrels, with raspberries, and a Berliner Weisse yeast.
Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that we also returned to Hop Valley for the official release of the Tilley’s Chili beer. An amazing display of what pepper can do for a beer, this ale was an absolute highlight of Eugene Beer Week so far.
We gotta get going so that we can make tonight’s second round of Wine Barrel-Aged Beer Fest and possibly get our palates around Ninkasi’s Glen’s Best Bitter, also being released today at Ninkasi. The Hilton is hosting the Sasquatch Brew Beer Dinner in downton Eugene, and Boneyard will be rocking it late night at Diablo’s for an Oregon Ink tattoo art party. See you somewhere if you’re here. Cheers!