August 2, 2011 by fhsteinbart
Recently I had the opportunity to attend Kriek Kamp at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon. From the evening July 13th, to the early afternoon of July 15th, we were immersed in all things Kriek and I thought I would share with you a synopsis of what we were able to see, taste and experience.
I arrived in Hood River on Wednesday evening to start our Kriek Kamp experience with a Brewer’s Dinner hosted by Double Mountain co-founders Charlie Devereux and Matt Swihart. Matt, Double Mountains Brewmaster, led us through a tasting of three different krieks from Belgium paired with various cheeses to start off the evenings dinner. With each Kriek, flavors and aromas became a little more pronounced and complex. All in all, each of the three krieks in the flight were quite good, but they would quickly pale in the shadow of what was ahead for us. A vertical tasting of Double Mountain Bing and Raineer cherry krieks dating back to 2008, one of which was believed to be extinct until Matt found a keg in a corner of his cellar.
Dinner would consist a spinach salad with dried cherries and marcona almonds, an entrée of rack of lamb served with polenta cakes and grilled asparagus, followed by a desert bar with cherry preserves playing the star. With each course, one and sometimes two krieks were served to highlight the flavors and aromas of not only the kriek, but the course itself. The added benefit of this dinner, was giving us all something to talk about, thus getting an opportunity to meet and get to know our fellow Kampers. I think it goes with out saying that the meal and the krieks were fantastic and very satisfying. Not a bad way to kick off the first day of Kriek Kamp.
The following morning we returned to the brewery to participate in a sensory evaluation training led by Matt. Matt started off by educating us about how our palates, sense of smell, and even memories play an interconnected role in how we perceive the many layers of flavor and aroma in a beer. Matt asked us to start by moving around the room to one of ten foil wrapped and numbered rocks glasses (so we couldn’t see the contents) that he had scattered about the room. Our task was to put our nose to the holes in the foil of each glass and write down the first thing that came to mind whether it was a particular smell we detected or even just a memory that leaped to mind.
Of the ten, only one scent stumped everyone. The fresh cut grass. You would think that would be impossible to miss. Everyone recognizes the smell of freshly cut grass right? Clearly not when it is less than a dozen blades of grass. The smell was so light and intangible in such a small quantity that nobody could even wrap a description of what they had smelled in that glass. The point of the lesson was to exercise our senses and our brain to detect flavor and aroma compounds that exist in beer, both intended and unintended. From here, Matt went on to pour a flight of five samples of the same beer. The first was the unadulterated control sample so we always had a baseline against which to compare the doctored beers. The next four samples highlighted sweetness, saltiness, creamed corn and buttery flavors. We discussed the causes of each of these flaws and how to avoid them in the brewing process as well as discussing how some of these flavors are intentionally introduced into some beers with specific intent.
After the conclusion of the sensory evaluation, it was time to tour the brewhouse. As an added bonus, one of my favorite DM beers was being brewed that day, Hop Lava. After a quick walkthrough, highlighting a typical brewing session, we were just in time to see the fresh batch of Hop Lava leave the boil kettle and make it’s way through the huge hopback packed with Cascade and Centennial hops before heading for the chiller. The smell was nothing short of heavenly. In fact I’m pretty sure I saw a ray of light shinning on the hopback and an angel singing somewhere in the background trying to sing above din of the pumps.
Following the brewery tour, it was time to hop on the bus and head out to Mosier to pick cherries at the orchards of the Evans Fruit Company, a family owned farm since taking over an old neglected orchard in 2000. Once there, Philip Evans educated us on the ins and outs of cherry production, taking us through the different varieties that they produce and how they are grown. After that, it was time to grab our buckets and head into the rows of cherry trees to pick nearly 300 pounds of fruit. That sounds like a lot, but between 20 plus Kampers, it took less than an hour. At Matt’s direction, we picked two different varieties of cherries, Bings and Montmorency. Bings are your typical supermarket/farmers market variety while the Montmorency is a smaller bright red sour cherry. Overall, the Montmorency accounted for about 10% of our overall haul. Once we had eaten, er, um I mean picked our fill of cherries, it was back on the bus for the next leg of our journey.
Our next stop would be Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in Odell, Oregon. Logsdon is a co-operative brewery operated chiefly by Dave Lodsdon (found of Wyeast Laboratories) and Charles Porter. Charles took us on a tour of the brewery built in the farm’s big red barn. It doesn’t get anymore farmhouse than that! While there, Charles poured samples of the first two ales to be released just last week, the Seizon and Seizon Bretta, a saison fermented with brettanomyces. Next we headed to the small plot where Logsdon is growing root stock with which to start their own orchard of Belgian sharbeekse kreik. This is the variety of cherries traditionally used to make krieks. Logsdon has jumped a multitude of regulatory hurdles in order to import this variety from Belgium and start an orchard intended to provide fruit for future Logsdon beers.
After departing Logsdon, it was off to Matt’s home and site of his own cherry orchard (used exclusively for Double Mountain’s krieks) where hey played host for a sumptuous BBQ provided by Apple Valley Country Store and a relaxing evening chatting and strolling around his property. A great end to a wonderful day.
Late the next morning, it was back to the brewery where just out in front of the brewery, we crushed our haul of cherries, put them into huge straining bags, and then loaded them into Double Mountains 5 bbl fermenter. This fermenter is used for some of their one off beers and pilot batches. From here the fermenter was moved by forklift back into the brewery where it was filled with a porter that was already three days into it’s fermentation. The plan was that the vigorously fermenting porter would go to work on all of the sugars we had introduced via the cherries and really take off. That and the conditioning on the skins for three weeks, should make this a porter worth waiting for. Once our task was complete we had a farewell lunch in the tap room and shortly there after went our separate ways.
I really enjoyed Kriek Kamp. Charlie, Matt and the rest of the Double Mountain staff put on a top notch event. Everyone at the brewery was extremely gracious and accomodating and really brought us into their world, if only for a couple of days. I look forward to heading back to Hood River in a few weeks to sample the fruits of our labor (pun intended) and hope to get a chance to share a glass with some of my fellow Kampers. If Double Mountain ever hosts another event of this nature in the future and you are thinking about going……DO IT!!!