“Things in the world are awful, but it’s okay to sip and ponder a tasty beverage every once in a while ... or often.” — Jen House, Double Mountain Brewery

At this writing, Oct. 13, Gorge weather has taken a nasty turn but the forecast for the rest of the week looks fine and fond, if cool and cloudy. Which means autumn days that are still prime for enjoying outdoor beer drinking in the kind of weather normally seen at the annual Hood River Hops Fest — canceled this year to due to pandemic.

As an alternative, thanks to collaboration by local brewers, we’ve mashed up a “visual hops fest.”

Also in The Ale List online: New beer news from the Gorge.

This is just the second The Ale List since February, so there is plenty to catch up on. For starters, what had been a sloping lawn across from East Wind Drive In in Cascade Locks is being transformed into the home of Gorges Beer Company, set to open in May or June 2021, with a business design influenced by the COVID-19 time.

Summer 2020, for all its “challenges,” brought enjoyable outdoor beer-drinking experiences including the ever-busy deck at Everybody’s in White Salmon, and the Second Avenue patio at Freebridge Brewery in The Dalles, where the expanse of the old Mint property lent itself to socially-distant dining — with the bonus of music coming from Rivertap across the street.

For the sake of economic survival of all food and beverage businesses, so vulnerable in the pandemic, here’s hoping for a pathway through the coming months when outdoor seating is, for nearly everyone, not an option. For now?

Bundle up and savor your beer.

The lure of the patio

Oak Street Pub in Hood River used its expansive patio area to create plenty of socially-distant seating this summer. The pub, commonly referred to as “the British pub” — it still flies the Union Jack sign — has long been a destination for extensive and unusual beers. Two examples are Wells Banana Bread Beer, from Britain, and Mac and Jack from Redmond, Wash.: They had it before anyone else.

Then, in June, in Hood River came the advent of in-street parklets at 64 Oz. Taphouse, pFriem Family Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery, Stoked coffeehouse, 1805 Distillery, and Andrew’s Pizza (Slopeswell Cider had to move its parklets off 12th so they put them in back on private property and dubbed them “porches”).

The parklets were a drastic but necessary step for those businesses to stay afloat when inside space was not legal or feasible.

At 64 Oz., owners Rod Steward and Lorraine Lyons watched one day as a truck backed into one of its parklets (which they had built by hand) and drove up the block with it attached the bumper, leaving the structure in pieces. Within 48 hours, they had it rebuilt.

Last week, the city agreed to extend the merchants’ parklet permits until Nov. 3. That’s good news, but COVID and code are not compatible, so weather and other factors ought to determine how long the parklets stay in use.

With roofs and other modifications, business owners have stated that they could extend the parklets’ use into the autumn and even winter months. Keeping them in place for as long as possible will pay dividends for the businesses, extending their investments and their ability to serve customers.

Full Sail was lone among the operating breweries in Hood River County not to offer pub service or takeout since March, but from Solera in Parkdale to Everybody’s in White Salmon, the pubs moved from simple takeout to some form of seating, indoor or out, once Phase 2 came to be. pFriem Family Brewing had to forgo its summer party series but from March onward, it opened up a window on Portway for to-go sales that drew a continual string of beer drinkers from near and far. In July, they added a parklet for outdoor seating, on the east end of the building.

Meanwhile, with COVID-19 restrictions ruling the day, the busiest outdoor venue around has been Ferment, which adapted its food and beer service to its expansive patio with its views of the river and downtown Hood River.

Ferment’s setting, with its wide floorboards, had its risks, though. Picture these scenes: One afternoon, while Mom and Dad enjoyed pints, their son opened up his new Legos set and a piece fell off the table and dropped through the cracks to the brewery patio below. The boy cheerfully ran down and retrieved it.

A few weeks later, some Scrabble players (okay, it was my son, Delaney, and my friend, Sam, and I) watched as the letter H dropped to the floor, and through the cracks. Sam cheerfully went down and got it. (I’m told that Ferment employees have found a variety of oddball items that fell between the boards, including ear buds and vape pens).

Among non-brewery beer businesses, COVID has been a challenge and they’ve come through, striving to keep things from falling through the cracks.

Ferment recently reconfigured its tables for indoor dining as well, and Thunder Island’s new deck affords stunning views. At both breweries it’s a north AND south perspective. While the view is only one part of the brewery experience, it raises an interesting point about these two locations: I’m not sure of any brewery in the state with equivalent north-south views. Skyline in Corvallis and McMenamin’s in McMinnville actually give you a 360-view of those two downtowns. Pelican on the coast comes close, and while others that can say they have stellar vistas — Solera in Parkdale, Everybody’s in White Salmon included — they can’t claim as much of the compass.

Looking ahead, Double Mountain has plans in 2021 to operate a beer garden at its storage facility just off Indian Creek Road at Windmaster Corner. It will be the first beer service at the location, which has been its barrel aging and cider-making facility for the past four years. Owner Matt Swihart is working with the county on permitting the beer garden outside the former Diamond fruit facility, which is on property lined with oak and blackberry (and more on that berry patch in a bit).

And now, ‘Virtual Hops Fest’

People make do and respond to a need. As mentioned earlier, with no hops fest happenings, The Ale List decided this month to arrange a virtual festival by asking local brewers three questions:

1. What hop-forward beers have you got going now?

2. What have you brewed that would have appeared at Hops Fest (real or imagined)?

3. What other hoppy ales have you enjoyed of late?

Here are responses from breweries that responded, edited for length and content (brewers get “salty” sometimes, and not just with Gose).

Freebridge Brewing in The Dalles, co-founder and brewmaster Steve Light:

“We just gave COVID-19 the middle finger and produced three fresh hop beers this year.

“We just released Phase Two Double IPA. Packed full of fresh Willamette Valley Simcoes. Next is our crowd-pleasing Scandalous Pale beaming with Willamette Valley Mosaics.” (Due for release this week.)

“Lastly, we brewed a malty, delicious Märtzen Lager to celebrate Oktoberfest 2020 ... cuz what the heck ... featuring Willamette Valley Willamette hops. Releasing around the second week of Oktober. Prost!

“Everybody’s Head Stash Fresh Hop is my review pick. Super dank and ultra crisp. Has a real brite hop aroma without the grassyness that usually comes with fresh hop beers. Always a favorite of mine year after year.”

Dwinnell Country Ales in Goldendale, founder and brewer Justin Leigh:

“Last harvest, we made ‘Acid Wash,’ the result of blending barrel-aged brett saisons, recirculating for an hour or so on freshly picked Mosaic from Loza Farms in Wapato, and conditioning in package with our mixed-culture. We brewed this in collaboration with Cloudwater Brew Co. from Manchester, UK, who, earlier this year, featured this beer at their Friends & Family & Beer festival. We held back a few kegs and, after nearly a year of maturation, the beer remains impressively bright and juicy from the use of fresh hops.

“This beer is a wonderful example of how mixed-cultures of yeast and bacteria can interact with hop compounds over time to sustain volatile aromatics and give rise to new, uniquely integrated flavors.

“Had any fresh hop festivals occurred this harvest, I would have brought Acid Wash to share. Also, we had planned this year to make a brett saison with a field blend of hops grown at Sauvie Island hops, but the cones we intended to use were beat up badly by recent wind and smoke.

“I recently had the pleasure of sampling from a couple tanks at Ferment Brewing and was really excited by Dan’s Strata fresh hop pale ale.”

Everybody’s Brewing, White Salmon, head brewer Adam McClure:

“We love hop forward IPAs here at Everybody’s. To celebrate this year’s hop harvest, we just released Head Stash, our Fresh Hop IPA (details below).

“In many ways, 2020 has been a tough year for a lot of people. Rather than brewing yet another overly complicated, aggressive IPA, we decided to challenge ourselves and brew a beer that celebrates the simplicity of fresh hops. Head Stash Fresh Hop IPA is an easy going 6.5 percent, West Coast-style bright IPA. It was brewed with the freshest Simcoe and Centennial hops, picked just hours before at Loza Farms in Wapato, Wash. It features delicate notes of pine and orange citrus, a touch of malt sweetness, and a nice clean crisp finish.

“I’ve recently enjoyed the Strata Fresh Hop IPA from Ferment Brewing. It’s super clean, well balanced and really showcases the dank, yet fruity characteristics of Strata hops.”

Solera Brewing in Parkdale, head brewer Jason Kahler:

“Last weekend, we tapped a new Blonde IPA, featuring a unique hop combination of fruity Citra and peppery Czech Saaz hops. Light bodied, clean, crisp hop finish, 6.0 percent.

“Due to the ongoing struggles of trying to operate a small brewery in this climate, this will be the first time in 20 years I won’t be doing a fresh hop beer,” said Kahler. “Instead, I dug deep into the archives and brewed a classic Double IPA that began the ‘Rabbit Slayer’ series of Fresh Hop DIPAs. Look for Fast Forward DIPA on tap here soon.

“Our pals down at Double Mountain recently brought up some of their fresh hop beers to share. The Killer Juicy hits all the notes for me, balanced bitterness with bright stone fruit hop aroma and a sustainable ABV of 5.4 percent.”

pFriem family brewers, Hood River, Josh pFriem, founder and head brewer:

“Although we did not brew any fresh hop beers this year, we are really excited about our brand new beer that we are launching in a can next week. We are very excited about pFriem Pale!”

pFriem gave these beer notes on the Pale: “This bright pale ale illuminates golden with crown of white foam. Fruity aromas of melon, passion fruit, berry, and citrus. Fresh and juicy flavors of mango and cantaloupe. Finishes full, crisp, and satisfying.

“For Hops Fest we were planning on having a beer that we have done in the past that we really enjoy — Fresh Hop Centennial IPA. We were also planning on a Fresh Hop Mosaic Hazy IPA. Here’s to next year!

“The other day I had Breakside ‘What Fresh Beast- Hazy IPA with Mosaic hops.’ It was awesome, I really enjoyed it! Really nice balance of the intense nature of Fresh Hops. It was pungent, fruity, floral, and really nice texture. The crew over at Breakside sure do make some great beers!”

Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River, founder Matt Swihart

“We just kegged our Killer Lion (7.5 ABV, 85 IBU, it’s a healthy beer), our fresh hop made from the last hops off the fields. We had a total of four beers in mind (for Hops Fest): Killer Lion and we brewed up batches of Killer Red, Killer Green and Killer Juicy, and they’re just about all gone by now. Killer Lion will be on for awhile, the focus hops on that is Idaho 7, though we didn’t make quite as much as some years since the market is not as big, not as many bars and restaurants are open. Our keg sales are down but our bottle sales are doing quite well. Our Woodstock (Portland) location is holding its own, we’re doing take out and we have room inside and plenty table space outside.

“I haven’t gotten out nearly as much as usual since COVID started, and I feel badly about that, but I did get over to Everybody’s because I really like their deck, and I enjoyed their Three Sport Day lager. It’s really tasty.” (You know: Three Sport Day, such as biking, skiing and kayaking in a 24-hour period?)

Gorges on the horizon

We have other catching-up to do on local beer-related news, and it can be as much fun those captivating pallets for the palate, the fresh taster tray. Anyone ever notice how those samplers, lined up with their golden or russet or amber tones, resemble autumn leaves?

In Cascade Locks, Gorges Beer Co. owners Willis Boyer and Travis Preece plan a three-story facility with a brewhouse and bars on the first and third floors, and a deck with a view of the Columbia River. With brewer Bryan Keilty directing things, the Cascade Locks facility will have cellar space for barrel aging. Currently Gorges has its pilot brewery going in Portland at S.E. 27th and Ankeny, the former Coalition Brewery; to-go beer can be purchased around the corner at Preece’s Tap and Table Restaurant, which also has plenty of outdoor seating thanks to a street-closure permit from the city of Portland.

“We’ll be a standard brewery with a restaurant but with the amount of space we have, a little under two acres, we plan to create a more open atmosphere, with a big lawn, and individual space on the grass, with a dog park and hotel hopefully coming,” Boyer said. “We anticipate hosting weddings and music as well. The views are great, with the mountains and the river.” He noted that the views will also take in the iconic East-West neon sign. “It’s cool we are across from one of the most recognizable features of the Gorge,” Boyer said.

“We’re all really excited about the space, the city, the location, being this close to Portland and being part of the Gorge loop. We’re really looking forward to it,” Boyer said.

GABF is this week

Great American Beer Fest, Oct. 16-18, goes online this year, but there is plenty to learn and drink involved in 16th annual event that has seen pFriem Family Brewing and other area breweries bring home awards in past years. For details, see greatamericanbeerfest.org.

A $20 Passport allows the holder into a variety of virtual lectures and discussions on the beer industry. Awards will be presented Oct. 16.

Through Oct. 18, Passport holders can enjoy a free taster flight at Ferment Brewing in Hood River, 20 percent off growler fills at Walking Man in Stevenson, or discounted tastes at Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, including Country Boy, Ping Pom Pomegranate sour, Petrichor Helles Lager, Stir It Up Hazy IPA, and Illuminated NW IPA.

Full Sail joins with Reed’s

From earlier this summer: Full Sail Brewing launched a new partnership, with Reed’s Ginger Ale launching its first-ever alcoholic beverage, Reed’s Zero Sugar Classic Mule, a naturally brewed, ready-to-drink ginger mule made in partnership with Full Sail. The Zero Sugar Classic Mule is packed with real fresh ginger root and made through a unique handcrafted brewing and fermentation process, according to a press release. The Classic Mule contains seven percent alcohol, and a light-spice flavor profile with no artificial colors, gluten, GMOs or caffeine.

Cory Comstock, CEO of Full Sail, said, “With Moscow Mules being one of the top-growing cocktails in terms of popularity, we were thrilled to partner with Reed’s to bring a handcrafted, zero-sugar option to the ready-to-drink marketplace. We’re always innovating new ways to deliver an on-trend cocktail in a can, and our partnership with Reed’s Inc. was the natural fit to deliver a ginger-packed Moscow Mule experience that taps into consumers’ heightened interest for on-the-go and sugar-free offerings.”

Everybody’s releases Head Stash

Everybody’s Brewing has released its Head Stash Fresh Hop IPA, in 12-ounce cans and draft. Head Stash (6.6 percent ABV and 69 BUs) is packed with fresh Simcoe Hops from Loza Farms of Yakima.

The brewery sees cans of fresh hop beer as a new opportunity to explore, according to a press release. “With so many bars running at reduced capacity, we decided to run some cans along with our kegs of Head Stash this year,” said co-owner/brewmaster Doug Ellenberger, “This year we’re adapting to the times and we’re excited to see it on the shelves of some great local bottle shops and grocery stores. We’re looking forward to the day when our friends at lots of bars and restaurants are able to open back up, but until then, we’ll be coming out with a quite a few new cans.”

Head brewer Adam McClure said, “Whirlpool hopping provides plenty of juicy flavor while guaranteeing the quality of the beer we put in cans.” The brewery also conducted their normal microbiological stability and oxygen level testing at their in-house quality control lab.

2020 marks the 11th consecutive year that Everybody’s has worked with Loza farms to source their fresh hops. Loza is the only known Mexican-American owned commercial hop farm in the U.S. and Everybody’s is proud to work the family-owned operation. “They are a class act from the top down, and they grow some of the best hops in Yakima. They treat us like family and going up there to pick up fresh hops is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Ellenberger.

McClure shared his fondness for fresh hop season as well.

“It’s a reminder of how lucky we are to live in the Pacific Northwest, so close to the source of our ingredients. These beers are unique and delicate. They are the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people — from farm to glass — each doing their part to preserve the freshest hop essence. “

Ferment hits the Strata-sphere

Since entering Phase 2, Everybody’s Brewing has been open to the public for dine-in and takeout; the taproom has been rearranged to provide for proper social distancing and minimal multi-touch interactions. Visitors can dine indoors or outside on their shaded deck.

Ferment Brewing Co. released two fresh hop beers this season, ones that bear a “terpene punch” according to Dan Peterson, Ferment brewmaster.

Fresh Hop Strata IPA, a collaboration with New Seasons Market, released on Sept. 11, and Fresh Hop Amarillo Pale Ale (6 percent ABV) came out Oct. 1 as part of the brewery’s Top Ferment line, a series of seasonal, experimental, and one-off ales released quarterly that explore different hops, malts, and yeasts. Both beers will be available in draft and in single and four-pack 16-ounce cans.

Fresh Hop Strata IPA started as an actively fermenting hazy IPA, which was then racked onto hundreds of pounds of fresh Indie Hops Strata gathered from Coleman Farms. The yeast worked to tease out aromatics and a terpene zing that can only be found in a beer this time of year. “Hop harvest season is one of our favorite times of year, as it gives us an excuse to drive out to see our friends at the hop farms and to mix up our normal brewing days by coming up with ways to get interesting and unique character into our fresh hop brews,” said Peterson. “Our Fresh Hop Strata IPA is a soft and nuanced hazy with an interesting, cool, herbal finish, while our Fresh Hop Amarillo Pale Ale is a bright, pungent, Northwest pale with a big, fresh terpene punch.”

‘Werk’ the Wait at Double

Just over two years ago, I had a “thorny” exchange with founder Matt Swihart while at the brewery’s barrel-aging and cider-making facility in the old Diamond building at Windmaster south of Hood River. The beer we talked about became what “might be our most laborious small batch beer yet!”

The conversation was thorny because the topic was blackberries, and the luscious orbs Swihart and his crew had just harvested from the brambles growing around the grounds. I’m one of those rare avid blackberry pickers and — not to divulge too much — there is fine picking to be had right next to where Swihart found his. (Okay, it’s the south border of the Traner Field parking lot. Now you know; just leave me a few next August, okay?)

That day in 2018, Swihart had just put the berries into the mash for a beer that he would roll out in a year to 18 months. And I somehow let it slip my mind that this rare caneberry ale was in the works. Then, in August of this year, I stopped in at Double Mountain to see what was new and noticed two Belgian-style sour ales: Domo Apricato and Patch Werk.

The first of the two names is a prime play on the Japanese phrase Domo Arigato — “thank you very much.”

Swihart and his brewers have never shied from word play either in beer names of beer notes, and what appeared on the menu for both ales bears repeating, starting with Domo Apricato and its Mr. Robot reference — it’s the first beer note I’ve ever seen done in first person:

“I’m not a beer without emotions — I’m not what you see. I’ve come to help you with your problems, so we can be free. I’m not a hero. I’m not a savior. Forget what you know. I’m just a sour whose circumstances went beyond her control. Thank you very much, Mr. Robata, for helping me escape just when I needed to.”

Patch Werk was kept in the barrels longer than expected; brewer and barrel manager Jen House wanted to infuse more berry flavor so they closed it with raspberries “for a total of nearly 30 pounds of fruit per barrel.”

Here’s House’s recollection of that blackberry picking day two years ago:

“There is nothing simple about making a beer like this. Two years ago, we had some leftover Tahoma kriek base that we racked into a stainless tote. The brewers hoped to make a different fruit beer and decided that a blackberry sour sounded really tasty. Lead brewer Matt Coughlin deserves credit for the ridiculous idea of hand-picking all the blackberries ourselves at the warehouse, as they covered literally acres of the property. After several days of blistering heat and dozens of thorny scratches, we yielded 100 pounds of juicy wild blackberries and tossed them into the beer. And then we waited for a year ... and we just didn’t love the beer; it was missing something. Cough’s buddy, Shane, founder of E9 and maker of excelled fruited sours, informed us that blackberries rarely work well as a single fruit, but shine better when paired with another berry. So, we dosed this beer with another 50 pounds of local raspberries and waited yet another year. This time we were stoked!

“Things in the world are awful, but it’s okay to sip and ponder a tasty beverage every once in a while ...or often.”

House calls it “COVID-strong and Double Mountain sneaky.”

She said, “You’d never guess that this summery sour clocks in at 9.7 percent. Cheers!”

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