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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lompoc's Cedar Experiment

One of my pet interests is the effect of locality on beer. Historically, beer was defined solely by what brewers had available locally. So the Finns lautered their beer through juniper branches and in Yorkshire they fermented on slate. Nearly four years ago, I wondered what could possibly be used that would contribute local flavor to Oregon beer and hit on cedar:
On of our most famous native variety is the Western red cedar (thuja plicata) which is, in fact, a false cypress, not a true cedar. This is the tree that produces the resinous, water-repelling wood that's used for shake shingles. It has been used for centuries by native people to make everything from homes and canoes to art. Its greatest claim to fame is its aromatics, which derive from thujaplicin, and contributes the classic cedar scent.
I've always wondered about it; though, in comments to the post someone noted that cedar is a pretty serious allergen, so I abandoned the idea. Lompoc, however, has not.
Also pouring in Sidebar on Friday is Cedar Proof Ale, our Living Proof Belgian Dubbel aged on cedar planks for five days. Made with malted barley, corn, molasses and Cluster hops, there are hints of licorice and tobacco with a malty body and a dry finish.
That description is actually just the text for Living Proof--one of two beers Lompoc brewed for Cheers to Belgian Beers. One hopes those planks added something more to Cedar Proof. Unfortunately, it's yet another beer I'm going to miss this weekend--the only time the Sidebar is open. Holler if you have a chance to try the beer in my stead.



  1. I'd like to try that. Cigar City has been doing cedar beers with great success in Florida for years, but I've never had the chance to taste them.

    Maybe this is a good idea for another festival - similar to PCTBB but with the emphasis on using ingredients indigenous to Oregon? (Besides hops).

  2. I would say that any aging in oak barrells is definitely an Oregon flavor. You could also use spruce tips from the Sitka spruce that grows on the coast. Haven't tried Rogue's Juniper beer, but that would be a nice homage to the dry side of the Cascades. If you want to get fruity, Elderberries and Oregon grape are both native and flavorful...

  3. As was observed above, cigar city in Florida has done a number of cedar-aged beers. I managed to get ahold of a bottle of the cedar-aged Imperial Stout that I brought to a BA tasting a year or so ago. It was really tasty, with the wood contributing a HUGE amount to the end flavor, and while it's not the best beer I've ever had, it was certainly one of the most interesting.

  4. Had an idea for a native northwest herbal inspired by Beaver Creek made with Sitka Spruce tips, Mexican Hedgenettle, Yarrow, and Western Red Cedar. Sadly could not find enough Hedgenettle or Sitka Spruce tips in a large enough supply.... Actually couldn't find hedgenettle in any supply

    I'd love it if breweries truly embraced the idea of local herbal ales. Sadly local and herbal seem to still be in the gimick/experimental territory here.