I’ve been reading Brewing Local, Stan Heironymus’s latest book – almost two years old now but still relevant and amazing. He visited breweries all over the United States that are making what can only be called indigenous beer styles. Hieronymus – the living beer writer, not the dead Greek guy – explores forgotten American beer styles like Kentucky Common, Steam Beer, and Albany Cream Ale, styles of beer that no one’s tasted in generations. And we get a snapshot of how a new cohort of brewers is creating regional beer again.
It’s a great book, and it has me looking more for beers that could be made nowhere else. I decided it was time to open another bottle from Ale Apothecary, the brewery I thought best represented Oregon in bottled form. Ale Apothecary makes simple beers from Oregon ingredients. Locally grown and malted barley from Mecca Grade in Madras. Cascade hops from Goschie Farms in Silverton. And a blend of yeasts and bacteria from the air around Bend. If anything tastes like the Oregon high desert, it should be this beer.
But it just tastes like oranges. I mean, It tastes delicious, don’t get me wrong. It’s bursting with citrus fruit flavor – fresh orange juice, a squeeze of lime. The acidity is subtle but adds a nice sharpness. The wild yeast has been tamed into a whisper – no funky feet stank. The carbonation is creamy and the body is full. It’s really well balanced. It’s an amazing, amazing beer.
But it doesn’t taste like Bend to me. It doesn’t bring to mind a wood beamed garage on the edge of town. It doesn’t taste like doug fir and sagebrush. But I’ve never been to Ale Apothecary. What do I know? Maybe it’s not surrounded by old growth forests and fresh mountain spring water. Maybe it’s on an orchard. A delicious citrus orchard. Too bad all the branding emphasizes pine trees.