The Road to Ten: Ten years of Beer Making Evolution and Community at Oakshire

 

In less than two months we celebrate ten years of brewing beer in Oregon, and boy have we come a long way. On October 12th 2006 we brewed the first batch of Original Amber. We had a four barrel brewhouse, and were known at the time as Willamette Brewery. We were one of 1409 breweries located in the US. In ten short years that number has grown to 4225 breweries across the country at the end of 2015.

Our founders Jeff and Chris Althouse were the only employees and in the remainder of 2006, made just six barrels of beer. In our first full year of production we only made 300 barrels of beer. Jump to 2016; last year we made 8851 barrels of beer, and currently employ twenty-five people. We saw a name change from Willamette Brewery to Oakshire Brewing in 2008, the introduction of a canning line in 2013, and a revamped and updated branding in 2016. Through all the change; with us, the town and the industry as a whole;   our original values of being a community inspired small batch brewing company remain an integral part of who we are.

To celebrate our tenth anniversary we are going to release ten new beers for the ten years of brewing here at Oakshire . Some are an homage to beers of years past, and some a reinterpretation of our original line-up. But all show the progression of our brewing evolution.

As a little preemptive teaser I thought I would give the rundown of the beers that we are going to be brewing:

·         Dry-hopped Oakshire Amber- Progression of the brewing industry often dictates the beers that are made. However some recipes still hold strong years later. Our Amber is the same recipe that Jeff founded Oakshire with, unchanged and as great as ever. But what if Jeff had written the recipe in 2016, how would it change? Hops of course! We are taking our Amber ale and dry-hopping the bajeezus out of it.

·         Imperial IPA- In 2007 we brewed the first batch of Watershed IPA… Well not exactly … The first batch of Watershed came way over the anticipated gravity, and so Oakshire’s first Imperial IPA was made. It went over so well that our now yearly favorite Perfect Storm was born, and Watershed is still our best selling beer. As a tribute to those first batches of Watershed and our continued love of brewing hoppy beer, we are brewing a special Imperial IPA. This one is going to be insanely hopped, but incredibly drinkable. We’re busting out some awesome new techniques to really make this beer shine.

·         Oakshire Wheat- For the first few years of the company one of the mainstay beers was our Oakshire Wheat ale. We are brewing a reinterpretation of Oakshire Wheat. An American Hefeweizen for the beginning of fall. Light and very quaffable.

·         Imperial O’Dark:30- In 2009 we first brewed O’Dark, a  Cascadian Dark Ale or Black IPA. It remained in our seasonal line-up until 2014. Always a crowd favorite, we are bringing it back bigger and better than ever. We’re going to kick it up a notch and make an awesome Imperial Black IPA. This time hopped with a huge amount of Simcoe and Chinook.

·         Barrel-aged Imperial Stout with Coconut- In 2010 we released the first batch of Hellshire, an American Barleywine aged in Bourbon barrels. In March we released Hellshire VI and Hellshire VII is quietly resting away in our barrel warehouse. The first of our anniversary barrel releases, we found a barrel of imperial stout that we liked and further aged it on toasted coconut.

·         Heart Shaped Box- A reinterpretation of an awesome beer that we did in 2011. Another barrel-aged imperial stout, this one is further aged on coffee, cocao nibs, vanilla beans and bing cherries. Basically our take on a candy bar beer. We are really looking forward to this one!

·         Welcome Whit- For the opening of our Public House in 2013 we brewed a Belgian Wit beer as a way of saying thank you to the Whiteaker neighbor for welcoming us with open arms. This is, as brewers, one of our favorite styles to make and we are excited to bring it back to the neighborhood. Brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Belgian Wit yeast.

·         Drop Bear 2016- Our wonderful Galaxy hopped IPA makes its return, this year in 6-packs of cans. A beautifully pungent IPA brewed with Australian grown Galaxy hops.  If you have had it in years past, you know what we are talking about. If not, you have to give it a go!

·         X- Our Tenth Anniversary Beer- Through ten years of brewing we have continued to push the bounds of how we see beer. This beer is a culmination of all of our progression and learning. We dug deep into our wild beer cellar and selected the most expressive and unique barrels to create a beer worthy of being called X. It is a blend of three distinct threads: golden farmhouse with white wine grapes, Biere de Garde, and Brett Table Farmhouse beer.  The beer  will be bottle conditioned and ready to drink now, or cellar for years to come. This beer is our thanks to all the people that have supported us over the last ten years.

We’ll begin releasing our ten anniversary beers on October 6th. Some will be first released at the Public House, and others at events across town over the course of ten days as a thank you to everyone that has helped to get us to where we are today. On Wednesday October 12th, we will have our official birthday party at the Public House with the debut of X.  

We on the brewing staff look forward to bringing you all this rad line-up of beers!

Cheers!

Dan

#tenyearsofbeer #xforX #anniversarybeer #cuvee #barrelagedbeer 

Aug 29th, 2016

Show me your Pellicle- The Beauty and Wonderment of Open Fermentation

Welp. we’re back at it again making more open oak fermented beer destined for extended aging in barrels before getting introduced to fruit. We made wort on Monday evening and pitched our mixed Brettanomyces culture into the barrels. It took nearly 48 hours for fermentation to start in any barrels, and nearly 72 for all the barrels to be fermenting. 

The interesting fact is how the barrels reacted to fermentation. Two of the barrels took off like normal and formed a head of krausen (yeast and wort proteins) at the top of the barrels. The other two barrels, the ones that took longer to start, formed what is a called a pellicle on top of the beer. What is this pellicle? 

Pellicles are most commonly found in wild and sour fermentation. They are not often able to be witnessed because they form inside the barrel and the only way to see one is to pop the bungs out during aging. We got lucky with our open fermenters and get to witness a pellicle in all its strange glory.

A pellicle will form as wild beer ferments and ages and the beer comes in contact with oxygen. Brett prefers a semi-aerobic (it likes a small amount of oxygen) fermentation. In general the only time that a brewer wants to introduce oxygen is before fermentation as it helps to promote yeast cell growth. After the initial growth of the yeast, oxygen is harmful to the beer. Because Brett works so much slower extended absorption of oxygen can help the yeast through the course of fermentation and aging. This amount of oxygen however needs to be regulated. To do so Brett forms a pellicle.

The pellicle is a thin bio film that forms on the top of the fermenting beer. This film allows for a controlled intake of oxygen over the course of fermentation. It prevents the beer from taking in too much oxygen, which with result in oxidation characteristics such as wet cardboard. It also helps protect the wort from other organisms trying to get to the sugar such as acetobacter. 

The yeast goes the top of the beer where it is in contact with oxygen and starts to link together to form the pellicle. Where the different areas link up spider web looking designs often begin to form as well as bubbles of trapped CO2 from the beer below. Though it can look rather strange at first, the pellicle is a beautiful reminder of the wild fermentation process that we as brewers are enamored with. Below are some pictures of our pellicles. 

Cheers all and have a great weekend!


The head of krausen that formed in two of the barrels of our fermenting wort

Our two different barrels and the pellicles that were formed

Heart of Collaboration Pt II- Cambridge Brewing Company and Beavertown Brewery- Three Chords and the Truth

oakbrewer:

Our second collaboration release this month was brewed in April 2015 with our friends Will Meyers and Logan Plant. Will is the Brewmaster of Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachusetts and Logan the founder of London’s Beavertown Brewery making this a brew day of international effort and inspiration!

But how did an international 3-way collaboration make it’s way to little old Eugene? In April of 2015 Portland was hosting the Craft Brewers Conference; an event where 11,000+ brewing industry employees descended on the state for a week. Our former Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk had known Will for a number years from different industry events spanning the country. Will was traveling to Oregon for the conference and asked if we would like to do a collaboration. At the same time Logan was on a cross country trip collaborating with breweries at different stops along the way . One of Beavertown’s employees at the time, Jeremy Luz, just happened to be from Eugene and suggested that Logan attempt to set up a collaboration with us in his home town. We were ecstatic at the possibility of hosting a collaboration, and just like that our little 3-way brew day was born.

Once the players were set, we needed to decide on a style to brew. Often with collaborations the style chosen represents the forte of one if not all of the brewers. All three breweries have an affinity for barrel-aging, especially wild beers, so after much deliberation the style of Barrel-aged Brettanomyces Pale Ale was chosen and a recipe developed. The thought with the beer was to brew a low bitterness, but high hop flavored and aroma beer. We would ferment the beer with house yeast strain, before moving the beer to barrels with a mixed culture of Brettanomyces. After a number of months in the barrel the beer would be blended and dry-hopped to compliment yeast profile developed during the time in the barrel. The hops chosen for the initial brew day were a mix of Old World traditional varietals along with New World high aroma hops. The team decided to leave the dry hop varieties as an open discussion until blending. We used a mix of two Brett strains to drive a funky and fruity profile in the beer.

We had an awesome brew day, including a Beavertown/Cambridge tap takeover at our Public House and at the Bier Stein all in one night. We said goodbye to our friends and so began the long wait till maturity.

After eight months we began to taste through the six wine barrels filled with our collaboration beer. Each one unique in it’s own way, but with a common thread in the aroma of each barrels. It was time to blend our beer. We still needed to decided on the dry-hops that we were going to use. We deliberated and consulted Will and Logan and we decided to go with a heavy dosage of Nelson Sauvin and Mandarina Bavaria. 

The beer turned out so well that we decided to bottle it. We naturally conditioned the beer in 750ml capped champagne bottles. It was our first time using such bottles, but we saw it as a great opportunity with the impending new logo release. This was to be the first beer release in our Vintage program. With bottle conditioning you must wait until the beer tells you it is ready. This beer has been conditioning in the bottle for nearly 5 months and is now ready for your enjoyment.

So tonight at 6pm we’ll be releasing Three Chords and the Truth on draft and in bottles. 750ml capped bottles will be $25/bottle. There will be no limit on bottles, however only about 50 cases of this beer was produced. We hope you enjoy and look forward to seeing everyone at the release and in the pub over the next few weeks to try this awesome collaboration beer.


Will Meyers (L) of Cambridge Brewing and Logan Plant ® mashing in Three Chords and the Truth

(L->R) Logan Plant, Will Meyers and former Oakshire Brewmaster (now of Alesong Brewing and Blending) Matt Van Wyk

The guys graining out

Three Chords and the Truth in new 750ml capped champagne bottles. This beer has been conditioning in the bottle for five months and is being released tonight at 6pm on draft and in bottle. $25/bottle, no limit. 51 cases produced

Front and back of our new Vintage Program bottles and labels.

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The Heart of Collaboration Pt. 1- Sunriver Brewing- Parkes and Wreck

Over the next couple of Tuesdays we will be releasing a pair of collaboration beers that we did at the Public House. I want to give a little insight into the beers, the process, and what collaboration means for brewers.

When people see collaboration beers they often just see their favorite breweries getting together to make a doubly or even triply better beer. For us as brewers it is a lot about comradery; coming together on beer styles that we both enjoy brewing, and having fun with friends. It is also a lot about trust and belief in a brewers abilities. When you welcome other brewers into your brewery, your opening a door to your brewing soul. You’re allowing them to see and learn from your processes, as well as share ideas and knowledge, Craft brewing is a very welcoming and open industry, but we don’t want to give away all of our secrets. It takes a lot more then just, “Hey you brew beer! Me to. Let’s brew a beer together.”

For us to get together with Sunriver Brewing was a no-brainer on both ends. Sunriver’s Head Brewer Brett Thomas is a close friend. He began his career under our Director of Brewing Operations, Tyler West, at Silvermoon in Bend, OR. Under his time with Tyler Brett received the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship to the American Brewers guild. Soon after Tyler joined Oakshire and Brett took over as Head Brewer before joining on with Sunriver. 

In early 2013 I joined on with Oakshire as the Public House Manager. Later that year I applied for and received the same scholarship to the American Brewers Guild as Brett had. After I completed the program I moved into brewing under Tyler, eventually working my way to Lead Brewer a few months ago. Over that time, I also became very good friends with Brett. We talked from time to time about coming together to do a collaboration. Tyler was very enthusiastic about the idea of Brett and I brewing together, and finally this year we were able to make it happen.

We wanted to do a beer around the time of the Sasquatch Brew Festival here in Eugene, that is held each year (though it was unfortunately canceled at the last minute this year), in honor of Glen. We each already brew a special beer for the fest each year, so wanted to find another common ground to brew under, and that was our schooling at the American Brewers Guild, and it’s lead instructor, Steve Parkes. The school is located in Vermont, a state known for it’s IPA’s specifically one called Heady Topper, which is where we drew our inspiration to brew a Vermont-style Double IPA. Vermont IPA’s are known to be low bitterness, and heavy hop flavor and aroma.

We met, hashed out all the details and at the end of May I made my way to Central Oregon for the brew day. We laughed, we shared brewing insight, stories, and beers. Really what a collaboration is all about. Now a month later Brett will be making his way down to the Public House for the Eugene release of Parkes and Wreck this coming Tuesday, July 5th. 

Steve Parkes, Lead Instructor for the American Brewers Guild and inspiration for the collaboration

Brett Thomas of Sunriver Brewing on the deck during the collaboration day

(From L-R) Zach and Chris of Sunriver and myself sharing a beer and some laughs as we talk all things beer

Our recipe for Parkes and Wreck

A big shout out to all the folks at Sunriver that made my trip and the brew day so awesome. I look forward to sharing my first taste of the beer with all the customers on Tuesday.

Happy 4th and Cheers to Collaboration!

Dan

Beer Release Tuesday June 28th- Lime Kölsch “A Brief History and Modern Spin on a German Classic”

A few weeks ago we released our interpretation of a German Kolsch beer. So what exactly is this Kolsch? 

Kolsch originated in the Cologne region of Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. To this day to be called a Kolsch in Germany the beer must be produced in and or around Cologne, and the brewery must be a member of the Kolsch Konvention, a Cologne Brewery Association. From the beginning Kolsch has been related to German Altbiers in style as it is fermented cold with an ale yeast. However it was actually derived from the much hazier Weiss beers. 

The style did not gain much footing in the country for many years outside of Cologne, as lagers were the preeminent beers of choice. This changed after WWII, and the demand for Kolsch around Germany, and throughout the world began to expand. 

The culture surrounding drinking Kolsch in Cologne is a huge aspect in itself. Unlike other German glassware Kolsch is served in what is called a Stange (or rod) glass. The glass is only .2 Liters or about 6.5oz of beer. Waiters in Cologne, referred to as Kobes, deliver a Kolsch and coaster to the patrons of the cafes. Once the patron finished their glass of beer, another one will be immediately delivered to the table and a mark made on your coaster without you asking. This process will continue for subsequent beers. The only way to end the service of the beer is to place your coaster on top of the glass. At that point the waiter tallies your marks, you pay, and away you go. A very unique service experience indeed!

Stange Glasses 


A coaster marked with the number of beers had. This represents your tab


So we brewed our Kolsch beer with German malt and hops and fermented the beer at 62 degrees with ale yeast, try to keep with German brewing tradition. After fermentation we lagered the beer to achieve a very nice clarity, racked half the batch into kegs and two weeks ago released Kolsch #2.

At this point we took our interpretation of a classic style and turned it on its head. With the remainder of the batch we added 3 gallons of lime juice. The lime juice added a wonderfully refreshing tang to an already great summer drinking beer. It helps to add a fun experimentation aspect to the beers that we make. Our brewing and techniques are founded on tradition and style. With that foundation set we are able to really delve deeper into the beer and make modern twists on old classics. It keeps us as brewers engaged in the process as we explore beers that we hope you the consumer will enjoy drinking. 

Cody is set to release Lime Kolsch tonight at 6pm. Over the next few weeks come in and try the two versions side-by-side. We hope you enjoy both!

Prost!


Dan 

Open Fermentation; Connecting Tradition, Artisan Brewing, and Modern Technology

As brewers we come from a rich and lively history dating back thousands of years. Of course as technology advanced, brewers embraced it. Long were the days of free fermentation in open vessels. A very small amount of European brewers hung onto those traditions. 

As craft brewing began to arise in American, we embraced the use of stainless steel everything. We also fermented all our beer in closed vessels, for fear of contamination of what is considered wild yeast and bacteria. Recently however craft brewers around the globe have begun to embrace the traditions and brewing techniques of old, but often times with a modern twist.

Recently we have set out to join this small, but growing group of brewers in a quest to pay homage to our brewing ancestors. For much of our existence as a company we worked with the art of aging beer in oak vessels, whether they be wine or spirit barrels. However, nearly every time we primarily fermented the beer in closed stainless steel, and in the case of our wild and sour beers would then add these “wild” yeast and bacteria directly to the barrel for a secondary fermentation and aging. 

Recently we decided to give 100% oak fermentation a try. We took it a step further and built open top fermenters out of used wine barrels. The reason was to truly embrace the environment of our brewery and add what is referred to in the wine world as terroir to our beer. We pitched a mixed culture of different strains of brettanomyces to the barrels and let them sit open for fermentation. This allowed the beer to also come in contact with the air in and around our brewery, as well as the cultures of yeast and bacteria that live in the wood. 

For our first iteration, being release tonight at the Public House, we fermented the beer in oak for two weeks. Once fermentation was complete we moved the beer to a stainless steel tank atop a mix of blackberry, marionberry, and raspberry at a rate of nearly one pound of fruit per gallon. The beer refermented the sugar in the fruit and picked up a beautiful purple color. The result is a bright and expressive representation of the different fruits that we used.

Just last week we brewed our second batch into our open barrels where it has been quietly fermenting away. In the next day our so we will transfer the beer into more oak wine barrels for an extended aging, before we again transfer it onto fruit. We hope to have two new fruited wild beers for enjoyment come Labor Day Weekend. 

It has been a really fun and exciting project to undertake at the brewery and we look forward to seeing the results moving forward. Some pictures are posted below so you can see the process.

Prost!

Dan

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Our open oak fermenters

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Filling barrels

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Tyler pitching a mixed Brett culture while we fill

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Our first open fermented beer called Fruit and Brett. Refermented on Oregon marionberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Being released tonight at 6pm at the Public House