beer, History

Oregon : We Love Dreamers

The Pacific Northwest’s first European explorers (Spanish) arrived in 1543, followed by the British in 1778. Other explorers, including Lewis and Clark who spent the 1805-1806 winter near the mouth of the Columbia River were also part of the early non-native visitors to the region.

But it would take the establishment of the Oregon Trail to bring more than explorers and traders to the region with the Great Migration of 1843 depositing 700-1000 new emigrants in the region. With this new influx of settlers, it wasn’t long before the first brewery opened in the region. The introduction of beer and brewing into a region usually coincided with the arrival of Europeans. Or, more specifically, as we have seen over the course of this blog, the arrival of Germans. The region of the Pacific northwest that we now know as Oregon is no different, with the German Henry Saxer establishing the first brewery, Liberty Brewery in 1852, seven years before Oregon became the 33rd state. However it was a different Henry from Germany, Henry Weinhard that would take control of the brewing industry and grow production in the Pacific Northwest to 100,000 barrels by the year 1890.

But Henry’s production levels would only last for 24 years, with the state approving a ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor in 1914, five years prior to the national prohibition. Like many other breweries of the time, Weinhard’s brewery made it through prohibition brewing near-bear, syrups and sodas. After prohibition the brewery was merged and sold multiple times, finally brewing its last beer in 1999, as part of the Miller Brewing Company.

While Oregon may have lost its early brewery to the mergers and acquisitions during the bad years in American brewing, it still retains a healthily number of local breweries. So many in fact, that Portland Oregon is considered to have more breweries within the city limits than any city in the world, and thats not all. Oregon has also become a critical component in the brewing process. With its Willamette Valley producing 4% of the worlds hops crop and the entire state producing almost 9% of the U.S. barley crop each year. With contributions like those, Oregon is definitely a beer healthy state.

Given the number of breweries in the state, it is not unexpected that finding Oregon beer in my part of New England requires little effort. Beer from breweries such as Rouge Widmer Brothers and Deschutes frequent the shelves. As a result, I wasn’t being too particular in my selection and quickly grabbed three bottles from two different brewers. One from Oakshire Brewing and two from Base Camp Brewing Company.

Oregon Craft Beer

This weeks selection from Oregon

Both of the bottles from Base Camp were actually metal cans, and play on the Oregon, outdoors feel. They both featured topographic map backgrounds and contained text relevant to the outdoors life style, such as references to streams, and packs and hiking. This led one of our tasters to refer to the bottles as having an Eddie Bauer feel. I didn’t mind them, and enjoyed their rustic feel.

We started the evening off with a Rye Pilsner called Ripstop (a type of fabric often used in outdoor gear.) I found this to be a fun beer, and would happily toss it in my pack. It had a nice, but not over powering, hoppy taste.

Oregon Craft Beer

Base Camp Ripstop

In the glass, this beer was light in color. I couldn’t get much of an aroma from the the beer, but that probably had to due with the just out of the fridge, cold nature of the beer.

After the Ripstop, we moved on to the next bottle can, this one, an  India Pale Lager called In-Tents. The brewer says this beer aged on an in-house toasted blend of white and red oaks, and that taste was hard for me to get over.

In the glass, this beer was darker than the Pilsner and had a nice hoppy smell. But I kept coming back to that smoked oak taste. This beer reminded me of some of the Kentucky beer, with its oak barrel aging coming through in the flavor, but others actually enjoyed those barrel aged beers and felt this one had something slightly off.

The final beer of the evening was a seasonal from Oakshire called O’Dark:30. The name, derived from the dark malt ingredient, mixed with a pre-dawn brewing, pays homage to the slang beer 30, but it also reminded one taster of the movie Zero Dark Thirty.

Oregon Craft Beer

Oakshire O’Dark:30

In the glass, this beer was dark, with a clean distinct head, and had a wonderful smell. Always a fan of a dark ale, I was looking forward to this beer, and was not let down. It was full of rich flavors and had a clean, smooth finish. Definitely my favorite of the night.

That wraps up Oregon and week 33. Next week, we head back eastwards to the state of Kansas.

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beer, History

Mississippi : Feels Like Coming Home

For most of the country, prohibition lasted for 13 years. From January 17, 1920 until April 7, 1933, the sale, production and transportation of alcohol was prohibited across the nation. However for some states, this period lasted much longer. Mississippi was one of a handful of states that enacted prohibition in 1907, a full 13 years prior to the national ban. And it didn’t end there. After the passing of the twenty-first Amendment, Mississippi still enforced prohibition laws until 1966. As the last state to repeal prohibition, Mississippians lived under prohibition laws for lengthy 59 years.

Even with the repealing of prohibition, it would take another 37 years for a brewery to operate within Mississippi. As Mississippi’s first brewery in almost 100 years, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, started in 2003, is also Mississippi’s oldest brewery.

We however only had to get 20 weeks into this project to experience Lazy Magnolia as Mississippi joins the United States as the 20th state in December 1817.

As mentioned previous on this blog, the federal prohibition decimated the brewing industry in the U.S. While some brewers scratched by making near beer or producing malt extract, most could not sustain viable income to endure the 13 years. But when it ended, most states started to see a slow come back to their brewing industry. One by one, craft brewers started bringing back old favorites, and developing new products for a growing consumer base. And while the craft beer explosion was occurring, during the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, beer lovers in Mississippi did not have a brewery to call their own.

Thanks to Lazy Magnolia that has now changed. As they went about blazing this path through the brewing frontier, Lazy Magnolia has kept their southern roots in check with our first sample of the week: Southern Pecan.

Mississippi Craft Beer

Lazy Magnolia

There are items that elicit memories of the southern U.S., and the pecan is high on that list. A species of hickory native the south-central North American, pecan means a nut requiring a stone to crack in Algonquian. Typically known as the key ingredient in Pecan pie, Lazy Magnolia used this nut as the key ingredient for a beer. Listed as the first pecan nut brown ale in the world, this beer was a fun find.

Much like a good Pecan pie, this beer was sweet. Even the color exuded a sweetness, with its deep red hues. But the sweetness wasn’t overwhelming. The beer was enjoyable. And while it didn’t have the distinct pecan taste, there was definitely a nutty taste that made this an enjoyable beer. It would have been interesting to try it with some good cheese that would complement the sweetness.

One of the tasters loved the diner menu, vintage look to the label on this beer. It definitely had a nice clean look to it, unlike many of the labels we have encountered so far on this project.

When Mississippi lifted prohibition in 1966, that wasn’t the end of the story for slow to change alcohol related laws in the state. In fact it wasn’t until March of this year that Mississippi legalized home brewing. And while that law had a tangential effect on the states brewing industry, another recently changed law had a much larger impact. From the time prohibition was lifted in the 60’s, until July of 2012, brewers in the state were not allowed to produce a beer with more than 5% ABW. To put that into perspective, only 7 of the 89 beers sampled so far on this project were less that 5%.

Mississippi Craft Beer

Lazy Magnolia

Expecting this law to change, Lazy Magnolia had our next beer, Timber Beast queued up and ready to roll on June 30th. Coming in at 9% ABV, at the time of its brewing, the Timber Beast was an illegal beer. However with the change of an old law, this beer was allowed out into the world, and we were fortunate enough to get our hands on some.

This beer was very enjoyable. Using Zythos hops, an IPA style hops blend, Lazy Magnolia went with a recipe inspired by the complex and beautiful flavors of Mississippi. This hops led to an interesting taste that I had not experienced in other IPAs over the course of this project. This hops had a more bitter characteristic that was enjoyable. While the bitterness hung around long after the beer was gone, this wasn’t a bad thing. Everyone tasting this beer really loved it.

With Mississippi, we have seen the craziest alcohol laws to date for this project. However we have also seen how a company like Lazy Magnolia can overcome those obstacles to create an enjoyable product.

Tune in next week for Illinois

 

 

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