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The beer champs
Columbia County residents win McMenamins' contest for their brew known as Dark Star
It could be the unique mix of hops and grains. It could be the fact that it's 8 percent alcohol. It could be the 'vote-mongering' carried out by its creators.
Whatever it is, this much is true: Dark Star Black IPA - brewed by Vernonia-resident Brady Romtvedt and Scappoose-resident Chris Oslin - is officially the best beer brewed by McMenamins. There's even a title belt that will soon be engraved commemorating their win.
The contest was decided on Feb. 26 at McMenamins' 18th annual Hillsdale Brew Fest, where 20 different McMenamins brewers competed for the title. Besides bragging rights, winning means that the beer will represent the chain of brewpubs at the Oregon Brewers Festival in July.
Both Oslin and Romtvedt say that is a real honor.
'We were pretty confident going in,' Oslin said. 'We knew we had a good beer.'
The winner was decided by a popular vote of customers at the festival. According to McMenamins' website, 'shameless vote-mongering' - that is, beer-making teams lobbying for customers to pick their brew - is an essential part of the competition.
'It was a real team victory,' Oslin said last week while he and Romtvedt showed off their brewing space at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse.
Dark Star has been around for about a year and is the brainchild of Romtvedt, who's only been working as a brewer for two years.
'I have to give credit where credit's due. It was his vision,' Oslin said. He added later: 'Winning the Hillsdale as a 'newbie' is pretty impressive.'
The concoction is heavy on the hops, but tempered with dark grains for a more bitter, chocolaty taste that's not too sweet.
'It allows you to have a beer that's still focused on the hops, but with a bigger body,' Romtvedt said. 'I'd put it up against any other IPA.'
Both Oslin and Romtvedt say that working at McMenamins allows them a creative freedom to pursue making the type of beer they like. It's what made Dark Star possible, they say, and is pretty unusual when compared to other breweries.
For Oslin, who's been brewing for more than 10 years and teaches a fermentation science class at Portland Community College, making beer is a passion that connects to the past.
'The thing I really love about it is that it's an ancient craft,' Oslin said. 'I'm continuing on in an age-old tradition.'
Try the beer
Dark Star is available at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, 4045 N.W. Cornelius Pass Road.
Meet the brewers
Meet Brady Romtvedt and Chris Oslin on the last Wednesday of every month at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse.