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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Touring the Cascade Barrel Room and Blending Facility

Ron Gansberg (r) gave Edwin Johnson the
hat off his head.
On Monday, I had the good fortune to tour Cascade's impressive new(ish) blending facility in Beaverton. It's a place the brewery hasn't spent much time advertising or opening to the public, but it's big, growing, and really impressive. Brewer Ron Gansberg has something on the order of 1,300 wine and liquor barrels (including a small array of cognac barrels that arrived just recently) and maybe ten medium-sized wine foudres (or foeders in the Flemish) of around 55-65 hectos. (They vary.)

John Holl was in town for a bit over 24 hours and had arranged the tour; I got lucky enough to be offered the chance to chauffeur, which of course meant taking the tour and ending up on an epic bottle tasting as Ron and the gang started raiding the library for vintage rarities. By the end of the tasting, everyone on-site had joined in the fun, and I'm afraid we dented their productivity. Fortunately, a lot of the newer guys hadn't tried some of the older beers, so I think it can be written off as a training/team-building exercise.

 At one point, Ron dispatched one of the guys to go get the last bottle of Blackberry Ale dating back to around 2007 or so. It had been hidden somewhere, and only a couple people knew where it was. We also tasted a Kriek from that vintage, which was spectacular. The Blackberry was never as good as the Kriek--with fruit ales, you deal with terroir and the vagaries of the quality of the fruit in any given year--but drinking it was more sacrament than indulgence. We let the history pass across our tongues and considered the arc of this brewery's history.

Anyway, here is a photo essay of the day. What I didn't capture were large conditioning tanks where fruit was sitting for months on beer--cherry, raspberry, apricot. They don't look all that magestic compared to the French foudres, but one of them contained nine tons of fruit. You had to use your mind to apprehend that majesty. All right, here goes.

The barrels are packed tightly. Once they're in
place, they stay in place.

These foudres should last thirty years.

More after the jump.

John Holl in front of the biggest foudres.

Edwin selects what I thought to be just two bottles
from the library for our post-tour delectation.
But then some of the Cascade team joined us and
more bottles were fetched from the library.

Leading to high spirits ... and new headwear.

At the end of the session, even the Cascade team
was taking photos of the empty bottle array.

Thanks to Ron and the team for a great time.

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