Quantcast

Northwest Craft Brewery Primer

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Here in the Northwest, we're pretty hardcore about our beer. Breweries are popping up constantly because there's a constant demand for the stuff. Our craft breweries are top-notch, showcasing some of the most innovative ideas and dedicated enthusiasts in the craft.

Beer! What A Great Way To Bring Friends Together
One of the reasons for all the imbibing is the readily available ingredients. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are the top hops-producers in the country. Washington produces far and away the most, with 70.8% of the share, followed by Oregon with 15%, and Idaho with 10.9%. In terms of barley production, Idaho ranked number one in 2013 and 2014, ahead of Montana and North Dakota. Washington came in sixth.
Low shipping costs and high demand are huge factors in craft brewing's success here, but there are other factors. The Northwest's highly varying seasons make for a superb seasonal brew environment. Water purity is high, with lots of glacial runoff. And in Idaho, where I live, the state gives economic incentive to craft brewers, encouraging them to start brewpubs-anyone who produces less than 30,000 barrels a year qualifies to sell their own product as a vendor. It's already a cinch to start a small business in Idaho, and downtown in the capitol you can throw a rock and hit a brewpub from almost any corner.
Idaho's top craft brewery, Grand Teton, is located near the eastern border by Yellowstone National Park. Grand Teton has the jump on other Idaho breweries in terms of experience. The original incarnation, Otto Brothers Brewing, started in 1988 and became Wyoming's first modern micro-brewery. Way ahead of their time, they started doing 64 oz. growlers in 1989. In 2000 the name changed to Grand Teton, and under new ownership the brewery continued their focus on quality craftsmanship with a new, high-tech facility.
So about the beer: Grand Teton proudly claims Teton Valley is where it's at, with glacial runoff filtered by granite and limestone for 300-500 years. The runoff surfaces at a spring half a mile from the brewery. With fresh spring water as the starting point, they churn out beers like the double-hopped Sweetgrass, which won the Great American Beer Fest Gold for best American Pale Ale in 2009.
At 60 IBUs and an ABV of 6%, Sweetgrass boasts a citrus-heavy, resinous spiciness. They start with four hop varieties"Columbus, Galena, Zythos, and Cascade"and Idaho 2-row malt. Then, they dry-hop with Bravo to seal in a lightly floral, citrus bouquet balanced by yeast and malt, with notes of citrus, caramel and toasty biscuit on the palate.
Elsewhere in the Northwest, we have a heavy-hitter called Rogue Brewery. The production facility is located in Newport, Oregon, and it's a blast to visit, with huge silver vats when you first enter, and a tiny, old school pub upstairs where you can buy swag.

Rogue Brewery In Newport, Oregon
Rogue has grown their business like the Northwest grows hops: they now distribute to all 50 states, and 49 countries. They have 11 brewpubs in Oregon and California, 300 employees, and two farms one for malt and the other for eight proprietary strands of hops. They also grow a wide variety of the additive ingredients craft beer is famous for, things like pumpkin, jalapenos, cucumbers, and hazelnuts, which contribute to their incredible Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
There's a lot to choose from on their beer list, but I love the Hazelnut Brown, which just so happens to be the recipient of a ton of awards over the years, including World's Best American Brown at last year's World Beer Awards, as well as a Gold Medal at the 2014 World Beer Championships. It hits you with a gigantic hazelnut and coffee nose at first blush, followed by an agreeable nuttiness and mild spicy hop on the palate, with a nice, thirst-quenching malt finish. I recommend it as a fantastically balanced follow-up to a session of hoppy Sweetgrass.
With breweries like Grand Teton and Rogue operating independently and successfully here in the Northwest, we're as happy as any drinkers in the world. Anybody have some Northwest brew experiences they'd like to share? Would love to hear from you!//www.pinterest.com/pin/create/extension/ t=_self
 
Don't forget Seattle area breweries like Black Raven and Elysian. Plus just a little down the road Iron Horse. They've all got some great stuff.
 
Only mentioning 2 PNW breweries in this article is strange. There are dozens in Portland alone. Dozens more in Seattle. When I lived in the PNW in the '90s, back when Red Hook was still independant of CBA, we enjoyed Bridgeport, Pike, Maritime, Pyramid, Grant's, Deschutes, and many more. Could even count Alaskan as a PNW brew back then....
 
Visited 10 Barrel in Bend, OR a couple of times last week while on vacation. Excellent beer. And the fact that they have 10 beer flights was exceptional! In all I was able to try 13 of their brews in the two visits.
 
If anyone ends up in Spokane at any point, you're definitely going to want to stop by Perry Street Brewing. Cool atmosphere and excellent beer!
 
@BroomVikin
Agreed...it could certainly focus more on Seattle area, as well as some of the other little breweries all over the NW. That said, I'm certainly glad that Elysian was not featured; that's synonymous with featuring Anheuser-Busch, as they own these guys now. I don't want to see them or Ten Barrel or any big dogs featured. They all suck now in my book...still great beer, but just not my aesthetic. Rogue is like the Fugazi of the beer industry--getting huge, and doing so independently.
 
With 150-200 page books covering, for example, just Portland breweries and just Oregon breweries, a short Northwest Craft Brewery Primer article would be best called "A Primer on 2 NW Breweries". A better/more appropriate for this length article might be on the beer culture in the Northwest, the hops producers or maltsters in the Northwest, or even yeast producers in the Northwest.
 
Enjoyed the article, especially after spending a week driving between Denver and Portland last month and visiting a bunch of great breweries. Things are really popping on the Colorado craft beer scene and it was good to see that Utah and Idaho are growing as well. Oregon is going gangbusters, even since my last trip two years ago, with breweries and brewpubs popping up everywhere! It is truly a fantastic time to be living if you are a lover of good beer.
Seems that folks are angry at places like 10 Barrel and Elysian for signing on with the big boys...we've recently added Breckenridge in Colorado to that list. I was upset at first also, but after having tasted a few 10 Barrel beers and seeing Elysian in my local stores, and then talking with our folks at Breckenridge, I think it was (and is) a good business move. AB will make sure that these great beers get distributed, maybe world-wide and they'll take their cut of the profits, but it doesn't seem like they'll try to change too much. I was seriously impressed with 10 Barrel's beers, even styles I'm not fond of were brewed very well. I can't imagine that AB or any other large brewer/distributor would want to mess with success, and if they do, I'm sure that many of the other, smaller breweries will step in and fill that void.
And yeah, the Northwest is quite serious about their beer culture, which is why the growth is so phenomenal right now. Looks like we drinkers and brewers in Colorado need to up our game!
 
Top