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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oakshire Willamette Dammit

Having put 36 hours between myself and that painful ending at the national championship game, I am now prepared to return to the scene of the crime. Not to talk about the game, but the beer. I watched from the Guild Public House, auspiciously celebrating its first night of business with a packed house. On tap was one Willamette Dammit from Oakshire, a part of the brewery's single-batch series. A super simple recipe, with just Maris Otter and Willamette hops (the old workhorse bred in the 70s from English Fuggle hops), a session of 4.9% heft. What a joy.

Rarely do I sit down for a full session with just one beer, but the experience is delightful. A session ale really doesn't show its chops until pint three, when it needs to be just as fresh and interesting as the first sip. Any faults will, after two pints, be evident to the drinker--and annoying. Ah, but a good session is greeted by the tongue as an old friend, one who can recognize and appreciate its good qualities. I would say Willamette Dammit was about 8 BU out of balance, but that was perfect for me (if a bit much for Sally)--especially on pint three. Also a joy was the name, a lovely homage to the pronunciation of our famous river (the two words rhyme)--all doubly perfect when watching the Ducks play. I only wish it wasn't a single batch.


NB. Here's an interesting question: is balance an objective or subjective concept? We don't have to agree that beers should be in balance to agree that such a thing exists objectively. Some regions will prefer beers skewed toward malt, others toward hops, but I wonder, would all parties agree that their beers were in fact skewed? Or is balance like chili fire--a subjective continuum where each taster is his own judge?

I tend to think balance is mostly objective--say objective within a range--but I might be kidding myself.


  1. I wish Oakshire would routinely report the IBU of their beers.
    I wish every brewery would.
    My wish for 2011 is that all craft beer brewers . . . communicate . . . better.

  2. Jack, no worries. My tongue is an incredibly sensitive instrument, with a margin of error of +/- 4 BU. It got a reading of 37 IBUs for Willamette Dammit.

  3. And yes, Ted, it would have been even better on cask.

  4. I was down there at Oakshire for the annual southern valley OBG meeting a couple of weeks ago, and a mutual ribbing was exchanged between us brewers about temperature and so forth, not to mention the fact that they're appropriating my recipes. Needless to say, I fed my liver two full pints of the stuff.

  5. I've never managed to relate an IBU number to how bitter a beer actually tastes. I don't think there's a direct relationship between the two.

    Anyway, a session beer at 4.9% ABV?! There's no way you could pass off rocket fuel like that as a session beer in a British pub.

  6. Willamette Dammit sounds tasty.

    Jeff, your comment has me thinking. I, too, enjoy cask beers, and I was amused that a brewer friend of mine who is in a training program in Scotland said he misses U.S.-style carbonated beers. He said all the cask pints tend to bore after awhile.

    Too much of a good thing? I'm wondering if we would prefer cask pours if it was the dominant form here, rather than a much-appreciated departure.

  7. He needs to get up to the BrewDog bar in Aberdeen.

  8. A nice fairly balanced British style beer sounds like a fine addition to the Oregon beer community even though I'd prefer a "British Style" Pale ale to actually use British Hops along with the British produced Maris Otter Pale Malt. While Willamette hops are readily available in the NW, they are a rather simple earthy hop, not to different from the original British Fuggle. Of course, the British East Kent Golding would be an extremely lovely Oregon addition. ;-}

  9. Thanks Jeff!
    Ha Ha funny guy Ted! :) I too would like it on cask. Jack R, I rarely calculate IBUs (we do for the bottled beers)and agree with Beer Nut, IBU number and reality (taste) are often not the same. Frankly, I don't evenn like 'having' to state IBUs. But alas we do.
    Finally, it is a good idea to recreate regional styles using authentic ingredients, and then again, some times it isn't. Or sometimes we have two boxes of Willamette hops in the cooler and it becomes a nice little single batch beer. Whims are fun to follow....

  10. I have to admit to using Willamette instead of Fuggles in a lot of my traditionals. I also know a certain brewer in Northwest England who uses the same.

  11. rocket fuel...

    Beer Nut, that cracks me up. But it also points out one way in which the US is woefully behind you guys--we really have no appreciation for small beers. Anything under 5% is a session ale here--and pretty rare.

    Matt, thanks for confirming my numbers on the IBUs. (Also, consider this a request to upgrade the beer from a "single batch" to something more regular. I mean, the name alone demands a regular appearance.)