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The folks at the Raccoon Lodge kegged the IPA in oak barrels, and they're rolling the barrels around the brewery to simulate the rocking of a ship at sea.

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Oregon Trail

by Michael Rasmussen

     One great pleasure in life is running into an old friend. One moment you're wandering through the grocery store and the next you're standing slack-jawed as memories flood through you. You may even have this experience if you spot a six-pack of Portland Ale╩-- the real, original Fred Bowman recipe Portland Ale╩-- at a grocery store or your favorite beer emporium. Its flavor rings true with memory. This is the kind of brew you keep on hand for a relaxed, straight-ahead glass of beer, or for sharing with a Bud Light-swilling brother-in-law or a Hamm's-imbibing father-in-law. Such people won't be put off by a Portland Ale. If they visit you often enough, they may even have an epiphany, like my real-life father in law did, and decide that mega-brews just aren't what they want to spend their lives drinking.

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     Another old friend that has emerged from hiding is Old Knucklehead. When Karl Ockert brewed up a batch, the brewery decided it was time to name a new Knucklehead, and Fred Eckhardt agreed to take on the responsibility. To some of you (and to this writer), the honor seems overdue. Consider, however, that Fred turned down the honor in the past when he "had a job as another beer." There is a rumor that Fred was bribed to accept the title this time around with promises of free beer. However, everyone was so jolly at the "knuckling-in" party that such tales are to be discounted. If you missed the bash and, misfortune of misfortunes, haven't tried the beer yet, your life is poorer for the lack thereof. This vintage of Knucklehead has a stiff helping of EKG hops that will ensure its graceful aging in your cellar. Whether it can age as long or as gracefully as Fred himself remains to be seen. It's doubtful that anyone will be patient enough to cellar the beer that long.

     Portland's west side has some interesting beer developments brewing. The Raccoon Lodge created an IPA that is being treated to a voyage╩-- at least within the brewery. The folks at the Lodge kegged the IPA in oak barrels, and they're rolling the barrels around the brewery to simulate the rocking of a ship at sea. They have a storyboard describing IPA history and tracking the progress of their "ship" around the horn of Africa and on to India. Each month a keg will be tapped so that the effects of the aging process can be experienced firsthand. On June╩15, the beer will be "tapped and inspected by the official tasters, whose evaluations could deny the beer entry into India." If the beer is deemed worthy, it will be released for consumption by the masses. This project showcases beer history and is presenting monthly tappings to demonstrate the effects of aging on beer. To paraphrase Joe Bob Briggs, "Oak Fu, Hop Fu, Roll-it-around-the-brewery Fu. Check it out." Future tappings are scheduled for April╩13, May╩11 and June╩15.

     When the Oregon Brew Crew and the Oregon Brewers Guild S.N.O.B. (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer) crowd independently schedule meetings on the same day at the same brewery, you know something is up. The something is Tuck's Brewery at 6712╩SW Capitol Highway. About three months ago, Tuck's hired Max Tieger as head brewer. By the time you read this and make it through the door, his work will have even more polish than it already does. You can expect a crispy German-style kolsch, an altbier, a kristall weizen (perhaps benefiting from Max's trip to Germany to capture yeast) and an English-style IPA (read: subdued hops). Rounding out the selection is a foreign-style stout, Barleywine Gluteus Maximus and a malt-driven old ale.

     Are you reading this issue in early April? Good! You haven't missed the Spring Beer and Wine Fest on April╩18-19. This year features a very positive change in venue. The fest will be at the Oregon Convention Center on Martin Luther King Drive. Can you say convenient? The MAX line runs right by the front door. For out-of-towners staying at a downtown hotel, this means free transportation, as the Convention Center is in Fareless Square. Another benefit of the change in venue is the abolishment of the admission fee. Congratulations to organizer Steve Woolard for making the fest easier to get to and cheaper to get into. Unchanged is the great selection of beers. Close to 50 breweries will be represented, each pouring at least two beers. If you're looking for some variety, this fest is the one that goes beyond beer, as you'll also find mead, wine and single malt Scotches for your enjoyment.

Michael Rasmussen is an award-winning homebrewer and beer enthusiast living in Portland, Ore.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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