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Craft of brewing beer gives goosebumps

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The summertime favorite Sunflower IPA is available for a limited time only at McMenamins locations.

A major reason why I started teaching cooking classes a dozen or more years ago was so that people would understand the source of the food that they eat.

I wanted them to understand that chicken didn’t miraculously appear in the meat section of a grocery story. It was a living creature, which had to be fed, watered and tended before it became a beautifully browned roasted chicken dinner. Nothing is more pleasing to me than to see the light bulb go off when people make that connection or to see how wide a smile I can generate by transforming a little flour, sugar, butter and berries into a lip-smacking scrumptious pie.

So was it any wonder that I got goosebumps listening to McMenamins's West Linn location's brewer Jacob Willson explain how he brews beer?

In honor of July being Oregon Craft Beer Month, Jacob invited me to the West Linn Brewery to learn how beer is made. When I arrived he was already busy with the day’s brewing but it didn’t take long to get caught up in his passion for the process. He had me smell the different grains and hops; from those aromas I could recognize flavors I’ve enjoyed when drinking an ice-cold beer.

Jacob had already milled the grains and had put them into a large vat. He said this part of the process was not unlike making a giant cup of coffee: just like hot water is poured over coffee grounds and drips through into a cup or pot, hot water was pouring over the grains and what would eventually become beer was collecting into another vat.

This process would take two hours to complete, then the extracted liquid would be pumped into a larger container where it would actually cook. He explained when hops and other flavoring ingredients would be added.

After the beer cooks the prescribed amount of time it would be quickly chilled and then put into fermentation tanks. How long the beer takes to ferment depends on the type of beer. For example, Ruby, one of the popular McMenamins standard ales with a light, crispy and refreshingly taste, ferments in about seven days. Another McMenamins standard, Terminator Stout described as a full bodied, flavor packed ale, completes its fermentation process in 12 to 14 days.

“Timing is key,” Jacob said. Timing, as well as using fresh clear Oregon water and the highest quality ingredients and years of experience.

“We are constantly learning and experimenting,” McMenamins General Manager Rob Vallance said.

That’s why it is called a craft.

The men told me that each batch makes 12 kegs, or 120 pints of ale. Now you understand why they are called microbrews.

Back in August 1995, when he was the head brewer at the West Linn Brewery, Rob created a very special summer beer, Sunflower IPA. It was named in honor of the giant yellow sunflowers that guarded the pub’s back entrance.

“The name just kind of rolls of the tongue — Sunflower IPA,” he said. “The beer is the same color as sunflower petals.” Every year McMenamins brings this dry-hopped favorite back for a limited time. You can enjoy it now at all of the McMenamins locations. You will also find the McMenamins standards — Ruby, Hammerhead and Stout Terminator — at all locations plus the seasonal beer, Copper Moon.

Currently at the West Linn Brewery you can enjoy Purple Haze, a light, crisp and refreshing fruity ale made of boysenberries; Terminus Amber; Over Par IPA; Citrus Wheat and Sgt. Pepper’s Porter and a few others.

And if you want to sample even more great brews attend the 27th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, taking place July 23 through 27 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. Wednesday through Saturday the taps are open noon to 9 p.m. Sunday the taps will be open noon to 7 p.m.

Admission to the festival is free, but in order to drink beer you must purchase a 2014 souvenir tasting glass for $7. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens which cost $1 apiece. You can pay four tokens for a full glass or 1 token for a taste.

And what to eat with beer? Rob had one very interesting suggestion:

“It sounds odd but try chocolate with a hoppy IPA,” he said. “Take a bite of chocolate and chase it down with a nice cold beer. The tongue loves it!”

These Beer-Brined Grilled Pork Chops sound good to me. If you need suggestions for a dark lager, visit the McMenamins West Linn Brewery and see what they would suggest.

For more information on McMenamins brews and events visit mcmenamins.com. Be sure to check out their passport program, too.

For more information on Oregon Brewers Festival visit oregonbrewfest.com.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Beer-Brined Grilled Pork Chops

Makes 6 servings

2 cups water

2 cups dark lager beer

1/4 cup coarse salt

3 tablespoons (packed) packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses

1 cup ice cubes

6 1 to 1 1/4 inch thick center cut bone-in pork chops

7 large garlic cloves, minced

3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dried sage

Combine 2 cups water, beer, 1/4 cup coarse salt, sugar and molasses in a large bowl. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Place pork chops in large resealable plastic bag. Pour beer brine over pork chops; seal bag. Refrigerate 4 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove pork chops from beer brine; pat dry. Mix garlic, pepper, 2 teaspoons salt and salt in a small bowl. Rub garlic mixture over both sides of pork chops. Grill pork chops until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 145 degrees F, about 10 minutes per side, occasionally moving chops to cooler parts of rack if burning. Transfer chops to platter; cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2001.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfoods.

Jacob Willson is the head brewer at McMenamins West Linn Brewery. He gave Barb Randall a tour of the brewery.


By Barb Randall
Staff Reporter
503-636-1281 Ext 100
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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