Sunday, October 27, 2013

Camas is a mill city & now has a fine brewery by that name

   Camas, on the Columbia just east of Vancouver, is dominated by a huge Georgia-Pacific mill (hey, didn't that used to describe Bellingham?).  The downtown streets are tree-shaded and their stores look to be thriving.  A nice place to locate a new brewer, Mill City Brew Werks, in business just since June.
   The actual werks are in the basement, but a glass enclosure allows restaurant diners to see the top of the shiny new 10 barrel system.
  Mill City had ten taps working for their own brews on the last Friday in October, and a half-dozen or so guest taps.  Besides the Bear Paw Brown, my choice (5.4% abv, 28 ibu, rich malty mouthfeel), I saw a good selection listed.  A Pale, a Hefe, a Porter, a Milk Stout, a couple of IPA styles, the almost-obligatory for this time of year pumpkin ale--gives an idea of the range of brewer Chris Daniels' interests.
    Chris was good enough to offer a short tour of the system down in the basement.  The fermenters are also 10-bbl sized and there is plenty of room to grow capacity down below.
   He pulled samples of a couple of werks-in-progress:  A smoked lager, real Bamberg-style Rauchbier with 80-85% of the malts being smoked, and an Imperial IPA, to be called Log Splitter, which, believe it or not, tests for bitterness around 100 IBUs but rolls across the tongue in a balanced way rather than a hop-heavy blast of bitter.  I hope this one gets to the winter festivals.
(Visited 10/26/13)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Firehall in B.C.'s wine capital

   Oliver, B.C. proclaims itself the wine capital of Canada, sitting in the middle of the Okanagon Valley and soaking up sunshine.  Like Woodinville down here, a wine-tourism town can still support local beer, too, and the Firehall Brewery in downtown Oliver is proof.
The building did once house the town's firefighters, thus joining breweries in Tacoma and Republic, Wash. with that historic link.  It opened in April 2012 and received good marks from Joe Wiebe in his Craft Beer Revolution for the Holy Smoke Porter, one of the two brews they made last year. This stout, made with German smoked malt on top of a dry stout recipe, won a medal at the FestivAle in Pendicton this April.
   The decor at the entry includes pictures of cantaloupe farming and packing, the first big agricultural boom in this part of the Okanagon. That was before wine grapes became so much more profitable than melons. The tap handles are little red fire hydrants; they had the stout and Backdraft Blonde on tap the day I stopped by.  The brewing apparatus is in the basement; a modern system of 1800 hectoliters capacity, according to Megan, friend of the brewer Sid Ruhland.
I have the FestivAle on my calendar for next April, even though a late winter can make some of the mountain passes dicey driving.  The highway goes through Oliver on the way to Pendicton so I'll be interested to see how Firehall is doing as they turn two years old.  Megan did say they just started bottling, so that good smoked stout will become better known, at least in British Columbia.
(Visited 9/19/13)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

BBW-II: a movable festival

   Bellingham Beer Week, the second annual, is history now, and a fine week it was. It was sort of like a one-day beer festival stretched out over nine days.  Each day had multiple events, often at the same time so no one could catch them all.  I'll post pix of several that I was able to partake.
   Fremont Brewing, which had already produced and bottled an Imperial Porter named  Bellingham Beer Week right on the label,  put on a tasting with deli snacks at a new retail spot out on Iowa Ave.,  amid the auto dealerships.
They had deli snacks, a drawing for swag every twenty minutes or so, and four kegs on tap.  Thanks, Fremont, for making the trip up from the center of the universe with so many tasty brews.
   Yakima Craft Brewing had a brewers' night at the Green Frog.  Neither of their famous monkeys, good or bad, made the trip over the mountains but they sent a half dozen kegs of other good things.  One of their brewers, AJ Keagle, stood by the service bay and described the choices to each customer as he or she reached the bar.  I was impressed: often at these brewer's nights you have to track down a brewer to get some information from him. AJ verified that the hi-tech 20-barrel brewing system is up and running now.
   Chuckanut Brewery hosted a book launch event one evening.  The American Craft Beer Cookbook, recently published in paper and kindle, was presented by the author, John Holl.  He related that he started out writing another travel book, coast-to-coast brewpub-hopping,and along the way the work morphed into this collection of 155 recipes from the kitchens of brewpubs and ale houses. Chuckanut has one in there.  I chatted a bit with Holl and learned he lives in New Jersey, knows the Philadpelphia beer scene well, and is inordinately fond of Monk's Cafe there, the great Belgian beer spot.
John Holl signing books.
     Not one but two beer book events happened during BBW.  At Elizabeth Station, our premier bottle shop-cum-pub, the Canadian beer writer Joe Wiebe introduced and signed copies of his Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider's Guide to B.C. Breweries.  I knew Joe's book was coming out, and had seen my first copy at the Firehall Brewpub in Oliver, B.C. earlier that month.  It was still a treat to meet him and hear some of his tales.
   I really love the way Joe organized his book.  Each chapter describes a cluster of breweries in a discrete location, e.g., Victoria, Vancouver city, the Okanagan Valley, etc. A table at the beginning of a chapter tells you whether the establishments covered in the following pages sell draft on premises, offer food, fill growlers, sell bottles for off-premise use, and offer tours.  Then if you are looking for a pint with a meal, you can skip the production-only breweries and turn to what you seek.  Each detailed entry summarizes the tap list--the standard offerings, not seasonals, of course--in a column on the left while the text has narrative on the owners, how they got there, some good stories along the way, etc. It's a great way to handle stuff like this and I hope American beer writers take note.
    That same afternoon, Elizabeth Station staff was busy pulling kegs in and out to set up a Total Tap Takeover, where one multi-faceted brewery sets up on all the taps in an alehouse.  This event was for Firestone-Walker, the well-regarded California brewery.
Other brewers put on takeover events at other watering holes in town.  Details can be gleaned from the BBW website.  The event is now history, but here and there a few bottles or cans of the two brews made in its honor may still be on sale somewhere.  These are the Imperial Porter made by Fremont and the Collaboration (all three breweries in town had a hand in it) Belgian Dark Ale.
   Hats off to the organizers, Bellingham Beer Week was a great time.
(Events attended 9/23, 9/25/ 9/28/13)