Eugene + Beer

ninkasiSomething happened to our old neighborhood in Eugene since we left.  It appears that a whole load of hops have arrived.  Eight years ago, Eugene had Steelhead, a few McMenamins, and a Rogue franchise.  Now, Eugene boasts Nikasi, Oakshire, Hop Valley and something called “Claim 52” which I have never heard of.

It was fun keeping up with Ninkasi’s success since we moved to Portland.  I marginally knew the owner/head brewer in college, so I was a ready-made fan of my old college-town label.  (Okay, yeah, so I knew him.  I doubt he knew me.  You know how it goes…you pass someone every day as you walk out of theater class and you eventually think you know them.)  Anyway, I have been pleased to see Ninkasi taps spring up all over Portland and beyond.  It is good beer, after all.  Oatis Stout on tap at a cafe near me got me through months of my teaching-license-recertification/hoop-jumping.

On our most recent trip to Eugene, we stopped by the massive brewery down in the heart of Whiteaker, just three blocks from where we used to live.  My friend who lives across the street says that now that the brewery has replaced the plumbing supply building, it smells “like corpses”, but she is both pregnant and not a beer drinker.  I think there is some hyperbole involved in this description.  Anyway, with nothing but a light smell of fermenting malt in the air, Brad and I took in a sampler tray of Ninkasi’s specialties.

beerI purposely chose special releases that are mostly not found outside their tasting room; Sterling (a pilsner), Little One (small ale), Ancient Aleiens, and Double Dry Hopped Tricerahops. Quantum Pale Ale is part of their “flagship” series, but I wasn’t familiar with it, so I figured I would taste it too.  Ninkasi’s flagship series includes my favorite, Believer Double Red Ale, Quantum Pale Ale, Oatis Stout, A vanilla Oatis, Total Domination IPA, Regular Old Tricerahops (it is really just called Tricerahops, but I am trying to distinguish it from the double hopped variety that I tried).   R.O. Tricerahops is available in grocery stores, but our tester was a special version that amped up the hops and the alcohol. It was Brad’s favorite, but TOO alcoholic for me.  I like beer precisely because it does not knock me on my ass (like wine).  I don’t really want to get drunk—- I just want to sip and chill out.

My favorite from this testing tray was Ancient Aleiens, a tribute to the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Jam-packed with tastes of molasses, chocolate and coffee, this beer was remarkably light for the deep tastes that comprise it.  I tend to like alts, so I found this delicious.  Brad was maybe a bit turned off by the heavy coffee scent; I loved it.  Sterling is a German style Northwest pilsner— pleasant, but not exciting to my palate.  I kind of think that I am not a pilsner-type of girl.  Little One was intriguing to me as I had just finished a book set in pre-Elizabethan England.  Those characters were always running for a pint of “small ale” whenever tired or struggling emotionally.  It was seen as the great restorative, but I suspect that it was also easy for Elizabethans to brew.  Made from left overs from brewing another beer, that sort of utilization appeals to me.  Let’s not waste, right?  Small One was sort of bready-biscuity tasting, but that isn’t a bad thing.  It is considered a bitter, which I suppose I don’t get yet.  I will add this to my list of things to understand in the future, along with the different degrees of musical scales, the French Revolution, and THE ECONOMY.

I would like to say more, but my children are clamoring for attention.  Can you believe it?  They actually want me to feed AND talk to them.  So demanding.  In closing, yay Ninkasi!  I am so proud of you.  Being that you are from Eugene, I feel a little chunk of pride in your success.