Thursday, November 25

An evening with Ron at the Cascade Barrel House

It wasn't too long ago that the Cascade Barrel House opened their various different doors. Unknown to many, over in Beaverton Oregon, is their Raccoon Lodge which was fired up in 1998 by Art Larrance. Art also co-founded Portland Brewing back in 1985. At that time, I was 7 and listening to Van Halen's "Jump" on MTV. Beer then was just a big air filled bottle sitting next to me. The photo to the left is Head Brewmaster, and Master Blender Ron Gansberg who is about to crack into a conditioned barrel of goodness for the first time at the Barrel House.

I was first introduced to the Raccoon Lodge by my sister as she lived only a hop skip and a jump away from Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway on Canyon Road at the time. I was in my early twenties, and worked at a dealership there as a mechanic. I developed a good taste for their regular lineup up brews, and really liked the Porters and Razberry Wheat. At the time I never knew what a sour ale was. Like today, many who go to the Raccoon Lodge have no idea they offer fine sour ales. These folks have been going there for years and have never pieced two and two together. They know the name 'Cascade Brewing', but never knew it was the Lodge. I have many times stirred up discussion at the bar there to inform folks.
 "Behind the wooden barrel" Nov. 23, 2010

I was fortunate enough to attend a tour of the Barrel House with many other local Bloggers. The hospitality was great, and they served up some fine new sours and grub for those in the media. The photo to the right is of Ron Gansberg, placing one of the two total barrels which great conditioned ales will pour. The other decorative barrels house their standard taps which also pour fine sours on top of their regular quality beer lineup. Usually a dozen or so sours are pouring at all times.
The Cascade Barrel House was much anticipated by craft beer enthusiasts everywhere. Sours have gained huge popularity over the years with many other brewers offering them such as Russian River, and Upright Brewing to name a couple. Also the BeerAdvocate hype machine is very well oiled, and can almost spur wars if not maintained.  Soon after the opening, they were releasing two brand new medal winning sours in bottles...  Bourbonic Plague and Vlad the Imp Aler. I mentioned to Ron that he was going to sell out of those in one day. The hype machine was well on the move, and folks everywhere were trying to get orders in as fast as they could. The Bourbonic vanished pretty quickly, and I am sure there wasn't as much of it around like the Vlad. There are still many cases of Vlad to be purchased at this time. The bottle limits changed within the same day as the turnout was massive. I bet the staff felt extremely overwhelmed. But they managed, and I am sure realized...  they are one of very few that live up to the demands and challenges of the beloved hype machine. They truly are worth every bit of hype, blog posts, and word of mouth advocacy there is. The Cascade Barrel House I feel is even going to be much more responsible for more traveling and tourism to Portland. It is seated in a beer mecca of spots in SE Portland.

Ron was full of information and jokes while guiding us beer nut bloggers around. The photo here to the right is just a few of many barrels in the joint...  staged and ready for use. Just the red stains from where fluids have poured made me thirsty. Ron and his crew often use Port, Wine, and Bourbon barrels for their aging and souring process. French oak seemed to be more common on many of the barrels I read, which had various stamps and markings on them. Most of the sours are all blends of variously aged brews..  fresh, 6 months, to even 36 months which I believe is what Ron said was the longest aged brew.

 The best part of the tour was seeing Ron's passion for his work. It's no wonder why all the sours...  each and every one... have turned out so well. The photo to the left represents many of the well known and liked bloggers of beer in the Portland area. I think Ron really enjoys educating and discussing his work with us. From the start to the finish, I was a sponge. The information was great, and really engaging.

I am one for getting worried. Worried that the supply won't live up to the demand. But here still today, there are various new blends and seasonal sours hitting the taps and bungs. My favorite Sang Noir wasn't there that day, but that is okay because a new Blueberry sour was on the taps and it was my first ever blueberry beer. It was great, and wasn't too buried in berry. The Beck Berry is a fantastic favorite as well which Ron said is the only sour so far brewed with Brett. It may be the only one too, as this particular bacteria can spread like the Bourbonic Plague infecting other beers. Ron believes the isolated strain came over with some of the barrels.

I love sours. They truly are my favorite style, and that is with thanks to Ron Gansberg and his sharing of his passion of the sour. Here on Thanksgiving Day I give thanks to all those who are as dedicated to their craft as Art Larrance , Ron Gansberg, and the rest of the crew at Cascade Brewing. The service at both locations is always stellar, and of top quality. The "House of Sour" is great, as the menu is rather small. I think that is a good thing. They know many are there for the sours and just might want some finer appetizers and foods to pair with the sours. The layout is great, and has large garage doors that open during the summer months. Also there is a lot of seating outside as well when temperatures rise. Inside is quite cozy as well and seats many.

I can't wait to continue trying new projects from Ron and his brew crew. The Cascade Barrel House is here to stay, and I know they will continue to be very successful. All they have to do is continue brewing up killer beers with the positive attitudes in which they have.

It was a great evening, and it was great finally putting some faces to the various blogs around town such as Its Pub Night, Behind the Pint, The New School, Portland Beer & Music, Portland Beer, Pubs of Portland Tours, The Daily Pull, PDX Pipeline, and Taplister. Be sure to check out their blogs as well, as I am sure there will be some great information. Portland certainly is a great place to be...  especially when sours are readily available. Cheers!

(p.s. If there are any errors, please send me a beer, and I just might fix them!)

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