Nothing Says Central Oregon Like Brewing Beer Next to the River

The Bulletin highlights The Oregon I Am project and a beer partnership between the Land Trust and Crux Fermentation Project.
By Jon Abernathy
The Bulletin

 

On a sunny afternoon in late April, I drove out to the Camp Polk Meadow Preserve near Sisters for a special brew day with Crux Fermentation Project. Crux partnered with the Deschutes Land Trust to bring its mobile coolship to the Preserve, along the banks of Whychus Creek, to create a wild yeast-inflected Experimental IPA. I was invited to join the brewery and the Land Trust to observe the brew in action.

A coolship is a broad, shallow open-top vessel used to cool wort (unfermented beer), allowing it to cool overnight in the open air. Wild yeasts and bacteria settle into it to begin the process of fermentation; these organisms reflect their particular environment and lend a unique terroir to the finished beer.

The wort was prepared at Crux’s brewery in Bend, then trucked out to the Preserve, still hot. As we watched, steaming hot sugary liquid jetted into the coolship. It took about 40 minutes to fill the open tank, and members of the Land Trust added handfuls of juniper boughs and three large bags of Sterling hops to infuse the wort as it cooled.

This partnership and beer are part of a larger project spawned by the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT). This project, “The Oregon I Am,” features a first-of-its-kind map highlighting 81 different locations throughout the state that anyone can visit. COLT partnered with eight breweries, including Crux, to brew beers inspired by Oregon’s diverse landscapes.

With the exception of Crux’s beer, all are being released this week; Crux will release its beer on the 25th to coincide with a virtual tasting event for the project.

I asked the brewery about the inspiration behind the recipe for this IPA.

“The inspiration is about being subtle to allow nature to grab hold of the wort and inspire us,” said brewmaster Larry Sidor via email. “Because it is an Oregon beer, the malt was sourced from La Grande and Klamath Falls with some unmalted wheat from Malpass Farms in the Willamette Valley. Thus, it was inspired to be in harmony with Oregon and Whychus Creek specifically.”

Crux’s Experimental IPA is the fourth beer to utilize the brewery’s mobile coolship. The previous three beers were part of its Gypsy Coolship series, rustic, farmhouse-inspired wild ales fermented with the native flora present in different locations around Central Oregon. The brewery previously partnered with the Deschutes Land Trust on one of these (Gypsy Coolship No. 2), so it was a natural pairing once again for “The Oregon I Am.”

“We partnered with Crux on the coolship at the Metolius Preserve,” said Sarah Mowry, Outreach Director for the Land Trust. “We partnered with COLT to include our publicly accessible properties on the map. For the brewing, the Crux crew wanted to try out Whychus Creek and Camp Polk Meadow so that’s where we ended (up).”

According to Sidor, the brew at Whychus Creek was a successful one, with fermentation starting before getting the beer and coolship back to the brewery. Even so, he chose to fast-track the process with Norwegian kveik yeast.

“Usually with coolship projects, we schedule a year for the beer to come into its own,” he said. “With The Oregon I Am beer, that option was not available to us. Thus, we chose to finish it with the kveik yeast after it had been inoculated.”

The beer wasn’t yet available for tasting at the time of this writing, but Sidor offered hints, noting samples taste “Wonderful, a bit of sour, earthy, quite a few esters from the kveik yeast, layered with some juniper notes. Overall, a light refreshing beer that begs for more protection of Whychus Creek.”

On June 25, COLT is hosting a free, statewide virtual happy hour via Zoom featuring the beers from all eight partner breweries: Crux, Ferment Brewing Company, Little Beast Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Oakshire Brewing, Terminal Gravity Brewing, Von Ebert Brewing, and Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery. This virtual release party is open to the public and will include brewers and land trusts chatting about the project and the beers. You can register for this event at www.theoregoniam.org.

Be sure to pick up Crux’s The Oregon I Am Experimental IPA and taste a bit of the Whychus Creek terroir. You can also visit the Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and other places in person with the COLT project map, which is available for free with registration at The Oregon I Am website.