The Willamette Week hosts the best festival of the year in my opinion (see below for 5 reasons why) and I’m thankful that we got to participate!! I submitted an application as a home-brewer and we got paired with the OG’s of craft beer in Portland- the Widmer Brothers crew to collaborate for Pro/Am beer!
Thom and I met Parker to discuss our initial ideas for the beer and the collaboration. We brainstormed about Widmer and BREWVANA, the history of each and how we’ve both contributed to the culture of craft beer in Portland. We wanted to create something that would be representative of thier style of beer - in a NW way with a story to tell. Since it was fresh hop season we wanted to take advantage of the access to the best hops in the world and brew a fresh hop beer. Since lagers aren’t as typical in the craft beer world and more challenging to make we decided to brew a fresh hop lager since we were brewing with the pros! We had enough time to ferment fully so we decided to take a stab at it! So glad we did.
What I didn’t know was that what we brewed was very dependent on the day we made it out to the farm. The variety of hop is only harvested for a couple of days and it’s harvested when it’s ready. So depending on the day that we visited the farm we would only have certain hops that would be available. Originally we were going to get nugget hops but we had to reschedule our visit and ended up getting crystal hops instead. We were really excited about this- it was meant to be!
Monday evening, the crew met at Widmer pub to grab some beer and gather before we hopped on the bus for a ride out to Goschie Farms. The ride was beautiful it was a late summer evening and the sun was just starting to set. Brian greeted us upon arrival, a few of the people had not ever been to a farm before so Brian gave us the full tour starting with the hop picker (where Jordan lost his sunglasses) through the drying area and finally where they bail the hops. The smell was intoxicatingly delicious! We left with three huge bags of crystal hops. Hops were flying through the air on the bus during the ride back home, while the crew sipped on beer.
Bright and early Tuesday morning we met the Widmer crew at the innovation Brewery to start our brew day! Parker and Dan were prepared and had the recipe ready to go. We started with the mash, all the grain had been milled the night before. It was the press of a button before we were in the next step of the brewing process. It’s a lot of sitting around and waiting but we got a lot of new information about the brewing process that we had not learned before.
The most fun part of the brew day (besides hugging the hops) was having lunch with everyone! Dan and Parker are the nicest guys and we are so thankful that they allowed us to come into their brewery and brew a beer with them! Aaron Filipowsky joined us for the brew day to take some video to document the experience- check it out below. He also came up with the name that we decided to go is for our fresh hop lager, “The Dank Crystal”
We let them do the dirty work of transferring the beer to the fermenter, pitching the yeast as well as taking care of beer during fermentation. When it was ready we got to do the fun part- tasting! We had to make sure it was good enough to serve for the Pro-Am! It was crisp and clean with the beautiful melon hop aroma and flavor and quite sessionable at only 5% alcohol. We were happy with our creation.
The Pro/Am Beer Fest was Sunday, October 11. Kevin and I got to pour our beer and talk about our process and how delicious it is! It was great to be able to tell the story and share with the participants at the festival. I got a chance to walk around and check out other peoples creations and taste some of the beers - but I definitely missed out on a lot of them. The good news is most breweries put the beer on tap after the festival so I’ll have to get out and taste.
Tuesday after the festival we tapped the keg at the Widmer pub and had a nice little release party! Lots of people showed up to taste the beer and we raffled off a couple of gift certificates in which Doug Rehberg (director of production brewery operations) won! Doug has led many tours for BREWVANA in the past I am happy to get him on the bus to experience a tour soon! We got to take a keg to our office to share with everyone. I also got a crowler filled and sent it to my Dad in NC, Papa Sal is stoked to try it too- after all, he’s taught me everything I know about beer and brewing!!
Get yourself some of The Dank Crystal at the Widmer pub before it runs out!
Five reasons why a pro-am is the best festival of the year
Beers are special! They are brewed specifically for the event and no one else has tasted them before.
It’s at collaboration in the community and connects Homebrewer’s that are passionate about beer with professionals who love to share their knowledge and appreciation. It promotes learning and is a lot of fun!
The event is small and intimate. The max number of tickets sold is 600. There are about 30 different beers and ciders and you can taste them all!
The Brewers are the ones pouring the beer! They are the ones who made the beer and are the best at describing it and talking about the process. There’s nothing worse than going to a beer festival and some volunteer is pouring beer that they’ve never had sampled before.
It’s a judged competition with peoples choice too.