Monday, September 27, 2010

Typographer, OSU Marine Biologist win MacArthurs

The MacArthur "genius" grants are out, and a typographer, Matthew Carter, and an OSU marine biologist, Kelly Benoit-Bird, are among the 23 winners.

Carter's types are everywhere! Here's a Boston Globe piece from last week and the British Council on Carter.

Don't know a thing about Benoit-Bird, but she's a local! Her faculty page says:
In the ocean, most resources are heterogeneously distributed and highly dynamic. I am interested in how changes in resources over time and space affect trophic, competitive, and behavioral interactions of oceanic organisms. Because these interactions occur primarily below the surface waters, I am using a combination of remote techniques, including passive acoustics, active acoustics, and imaging optics complemented by net trawls to observe and quantify resource patterns. These data are used to generate and test energetic and behavioral models and to directly elucidate the importance of temporal and spatial structure in biotic relationships.
(Well, maybe she's not a writer...Paging Lewis Thomas!)

The research and specialties of the winners are fascinating. Take a moment to google someone and something new!

Anyway, to the winners a toast: Prost!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Autumn, by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

"The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

(Hops Picking Portrait: Oregon State Library)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three Mid-Valley Fests offer Tastes of Beer and History

Saturday is a great day for beer lovers! There are great beer festivals in Salem, Independence, and Corvallis this weekend. Ones in Independence and Salem even make a happy nod towards our hoppy history.

The Salem Beer and Cider Festival is at Mission Mill. It is $15, and includes a sampling glass and 5 tokens, additional drink tokens also $1.They'll have:
Gilgamesh Brewing
Seven Brides Brewing & Vitis Ridge Winery
Migration Brewing
Captured by Porches Brewing
Pale Horse Brewing
Fearless Brewing
Lucky Labrador Brewing
Cascade Brewing
Alameda Brew House
Klamath Basin Brewing
Golden Valley Brewing
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
Carlton Cyderworks
In honor of the fest, over at Poetry and Popular Culture, Professor Mike has a terrific set of riffs, hermeneutical and historical, on the 1911 Salem Beer acrostic and the "sale on ale in Salem." That's a dactylic treat!

The Independence Hop and Heritage Festival is also Saturday. They've got ghost tours, music - and beer. Rogue is a lead sponsor, and according to Brewpublic
The Rogue Shuttle will depart from the Festival Beer Garden in downtown Independence, Oregon every hour on the hour, and take festival attendees to the Micro Hopyard just six miles away.

Chatoe Rogue will host the following events:
* Free tasting of Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale
* Tours of the Hop Bed, Chatoe Rogue Tasting Room, and 55,000′ hop processing facility
* Ribbon cutting and ground breaking of Chatoe Rogue Farmstead Brewery at 3PM on Saturday
* Homebrewing demonstrations on Saturday
* Helicopter tours for fly-overs of Rogue Micro Hopyard
* Picnic in Rogue’s private beach on the banks of the Willamette River across from Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge
(For more on the Rogue farm, see our expedition notes!)

And if you can't get enough, and have a devoted designated driver, Septembeerfest is in Corvallis, at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Ninkasi, Block 15, and Calapooia headline. Admission is $10 and includes a pint glass and two drink tickets, additional drink tickets are $1.

So go taste something new this weekend!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chill Thursday with the Electro-Lounge Sounds of Kandinsky Effect

Anxious about Chickens? Doomy about the dark and damp?

Here's an unexpected pleasure: The Kandinsky Effect, a jazzy electronica-inflected trio comes to Willamette University on Thursday night.

They're from Paris, even!

Well, that's no guarantee they're great, but you can sample their music at myspace, and maybe you'll agree this is not something you'd ordinarily hear in Salem.

On the way or back, stop in at the Ram. Their Maibock won a Bronze at the Great American Beer Festival this past weekend.

That should stave off some of the gloom!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chemistry and Labor: Sorting at the Hop Harvest

The rains make us think of rot and sorting. Like wine grapes, hops can suffer from fungus, disease, and other pests. The modern quest for efficiency has stressed monoculture, vast tracts of single crops, but loss of diversity (at micro-levels, like genetic, and at macro levels like row-on-row of a single plant variety) rendered the crops even less hardy and increasingly dependent on fertilizer and pesticide.

Over at beervana, Jeff has three notes about organic hops farming (here, here, and here). The farmers growing organic hops will have other ancillary crop material to provide additional biodiversity, and may require more labor-intensive sorting strategies.

The 1933 hop strike was in part a response to increasing chemical levels and increasing demands on sorting.

In this "hops picking portrait," you can see the basket with each individual hop cone - few leaves, vines, or tendrils. Nowadays the hop cones are sorted mechanically.

Many of the very best wines are produced from grapes picked by hand. Machine harvesting can bruise the fruit, and the gentle processes of hand picking and hand sorting will yield the highest quality, intact fruit. During a rainy harvest this can mean the difference between a good wine and an average or even defective wine made with diluted or rotten grapes.

The quality of individual hops may not be as critical to making beer as the quality of grapes - as a proportion of the total beverage, hops are a much smaller ingredient. Still, the ideas of beer terroirs grow and mature, it might be that the very best beers will be made from organic and hand-harvested hops.

In any event, the cool summer and rainy fall will make harvest more exciting than most farmers will like. We toast farmers and harvesters: Prost!

(Hops Portrait: Oregon State Library)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weekend Fun: Oktoberfest, Septoberfest, Gilgamesh Dinner

[updated with Septoberfest] The weather is, if not exactly crappy, then certainly taking a turn to fall. But other beery diversions await!

All weekend: The Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel.

Saturday: Gilgamesh Dinner. It's in an RV Park, which is kinda odd, but that's apparently the home base for Loustic Catering.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah! Seven Brides has Septoberfest. Thanks to K&N for the reminder!

Confidential to Gilgamesh: Next time see if you can do the dinner in an old hall or church near a hops field!

(Hops Picking Portrait courtesy of the Oregon State Library)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rogue Hop Farm: Tall Trellising and Telling Tales

In search of Rogue's "World Class beer" and "Unique Thunder," the Capital Taps Expeditionary Forces* recently trekked out to American Bottom, just south of Independence, for some hop harvest action.

The fact that there's a tasting room on a working hop ranch is undeniably cool. Except for a few pockets of pre-prohibition vineyard land scattered around the state, the history of Oregon wine really starts in the 1970s. It's a baby here. Hops in Oregon, of course, solidly go back for more than a century.

At the same time, the operation rides on the coattails of a much larger enterprise. The thunder isn't all Potemkin village, of course, but it's more than a little bit of puffery, a courting display for the beery masses.

If you're already a member of the Rogue Nation, you'll love the farm. If you're not, but you don't mind a little bit of theater and pomp, you'll also enjoy yourself. And if you're not on board with Roguery, well, happily the craft beer industry is diverse and big enough you can easily move along to something more to your liking.

Tall Trellises

A couple of years ago Rogue leased 40-some acres from the Coleman family, the current owners of the Alluvial Hop farm, a much larger 290 acre commercial farm. The Rogue goal was to open a tasting room on the winery tasting room model, to develop and market a home-grown beer terroir, and to sponsor in-house some hops research and development.

But more than anything is the impression of the commercial scale of the enterprise. It looks like Rogue is operating a giant hops farm! A hops kiln dominates the compound.

Just around the L in the compound, hops are being unloaded. Their piney, resinous fragrance wafts over the entire driveway and yard. Hop trucks rumbled in about every 5 or ten minutes, leaving the road dusted in hop cones and tendrils.

Nevertheless, the center of Roguery is surely the Chatoe. It looks like a trailer, set up inside with lots of Rogue ales and t-shirts. There's one tap. It was pouring Creek, clearly offered as a Kriek-a-like.

On the entry ramp a wrought Iron gate sign reminded visitors of the olden times. We weren't able to learn whether it was modern or vintage.

Across the driveway is a 1912 farm house, once used apparently as a children's dormitory for hop pickers' kids, and now operated as the Hop-n-Bed. (If you snicker at all the innuendo, you won't be alone.)

Telling Tales

Rogue's "unique thunder" appears to invoke some minor-myth-making. In the spirit of the "jumping frog of Calaveras County," Roguery is all about the story.

The main story is the brand, the sometime slumming snobbery of the $11 six-pack: The chic socialist imagery of revolution and risk looks populist, but in fact the pricing is solidly capitalist, and more than a little elitist. It's like the winery that puts out a Chateau Moo-ton wine with a cow on the label: You have to know about Chateau Mouton Rothschild (itself a fine example of social climbing) to get the joke. Over at Beervana, Jeff has a more detailed "brand dissection."

This isn't the only switcheroo. Since Rogue is working cooperatively with the larger commercial farm, it is not difficult to imagine that the Coleman's Alluvial Farm activities take advantage of the contagion of Rogue glamor and indirectly pick up its branding. Equally, Rogue's farm gets to look bigger than it really is. The symbiosis is clever!

The history is also perhaps stretched.

A slightly skeptical commenter on the Beer Northwest blog noted that the farm isn't actually on what might be considered the original "Wigrich terroir":
Wigrich Farms, a consolidation of Wiggins and Richardson**, was located about three miles west (towards the town of Independence) and was regarded as one of the largest hop farms; whereas Alluvial Farms was always at the end of Wigrich Road. Also in the American Bottom was Wells, Hunnicutt, Pattons, Pinkus, Turners, Hadleys, Haeners, Sloper, McLoughlin, Millhouser, Prather, Hop Fields.
Delimited boundaries always get expanded - just look at the history of Napa. It's a benign stretch, but a stretch nonetheless.

In the end, we wish there was more education and less direct marketing and merchandising. Like how about bowls of each hop variety that you can scoop, and touch, and smell? Instead of bloviating about Risk™ and Dare™ malts, how about bowls of them as well? And so on... Maybe this is at the Hop-n-Bed, which seems to have a museum component, but no person or signage directed us there.

We found the experience aimed too squarely at members of the Rogue Nation and not at people with an interest in beer generally. Maybe this is by design, essentially a members-only perk. Still, as a pioneering tasting room and ranch combo, we wish its goals were a little more ecumenical.

The story of Oregon hop farming is worth telling, and even if we didn't find thunder (or rockets and OREgasm) at the farm, the Rogue Farm makes a worthy contribution.

So if you don't have the first weekend of fall on your calendar, make sure you mark the weekend of the 25th for beer! The Salem Beer and Cider Festival will be at Mission Mill, and the Independence Hop and Heritage Festival will be on Main street - where Rogue will have presence in Independence!

*Thanks to Agent RC for special help!

**The portmanteau "Wigrich" is especially interesting. The writer suggest "Wiggins" + "Richardson," but we could not confirm that easily. The Polk Directories, however, give a Wigan, Richardson & Co, based in the Bush-Breyman Block of Walter D. Pugh. The British company has a long history, going back to the 1700s, and had established an office in Salem apparently between 1905 and 1909. Here's a photo from the 1920s, when they had moved to the JC Penney's building (replaced in the 1940s by the Metropolitan building at 160 Liberty NE). We think the portmanteau, therefore, is Wigan + Richardson. (But clearly there's more research to be done!) While the hop farming was local, the parent companies were multi-national, and the hops a commodity. Wigrich here is far, far from terroir!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sometimes Historic Preservation Drives You to Drink

We were out the other day and saw this notice for a public hearing. Much of Salem's downtown is in a historic district, and this means that you gotta ask permission to make changes.

The Grand Theater is, of course, one of the neater elements of downtown. It's not in fact all that ornate or grand, but unlike the old City Hall, it is one of Walter D. Pugh's remaining buildings. And its interior remains useful, a great place for folk music and chamber pop.

But, you know, just a half dozen or so blocks to the south, the Blind School's gonna get demolished.

We suppose it's possible that a solar installation could be an eyesore and building-ruiner, but who's gonna see it, at least from street level?

Meanwhile, at the Deaf School, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is doing all kinds of wacky stuff & stunt without a hearing.

Anyway, at some level we think there's a missing sense of proportionality, you know?

Tip an extra pint today!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Toast f/stop Fitzgerald's Anniversary this Weekend

f/stop Fitzgerald's the place to be this weekend. It's their one year anniversary! Prost!
Friday & Saturday night (9/10-9/11)

Friday night we'll have wine tasting with Namaste Vineyards from 6-8pm. We'll have music from Bold Riley at 8pm.

Saturday night we'll get a visit from the folks at Cascade Lakes Brewery. We'll have a couple of their beers to try!

We hope to have a few surprises in store, as well!
They update facebook often with drink specials and highlights. It should also be noted they have been adding tap handles. On Thursday they were pouring:

O'Dark 30, Ill Tempered Gnome, Espresso Stout from Oakshire.
A Knotty Blonde from Three Creeks.
Black Bear Stout from Alameda.
Irish Stout from Murphy's.
Anthem Cider from Wandering Angus.

That's a nice mix of beers for the turn to fall!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Remember the Hops Strike of 1933 this Labor Day

In September 1933, as the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition was nearing ratification, local hops pickers went on strike.

The strike was not long, nor did it seem to be especially widespread. But by striking at a large hops ranch, strikers effectively increased the season's wage by 50% for all pickers.

(The Oregonian, Sept. 14th)

The walk-out had started on Wednesday, September 13th. Faced with "filthy" sanitary conditions, and increased sorting demands, which had cut daily take-home pay by half, the pickers had had enough.

They organized a strike committee and walked out.

By Thursday afternoon, Louis Lachmund settled.

Peace Prevails Along Hop Front After Growers Offer $1.50 Cwt.

Double Crossing of Wage Agreement Among Growers Alleged


Thirty cents ended a 30-hour strike of 1200 pickers on the McLoughlin [McLaughlin] hop ranch near Independence when Louis Lachmund, owner "played poker" with the crowd Thursday afternoon and by 4 o'clock the yard gang was hard at work attempting to pick sufficient hops to fill one kiln before night.

Lachmund had acceded to six of seven demands presented by the "strike committee," standing pat on refusing to pay the two cents a pound demanded. Leaving an elevated platform in the midst of the throng, Lachmund disappeared but returned a short time.

"I have just learned that several of the yards are paying $1.20 per hundred pounds for picking," Lachmund stated. "The hop growers association agreed to $1 per 100 pounds but they have seen fit to increase this becuase they are afraid of trouble in their yards. Well, I am going to call their offer and raise it to $1.50 per 100 pounds and make them walk the chalk line by going them 30 cents more."
The Horst, Wigrich, and Livesley ranches followed.

Interestingly, the need for sorting appears to have been an unintended consequence of fighting mildew. In order to have more hops, the growers had used "lavish" amounts of fertilizer and increased the number of vines per plant. Rather than merely increasing hop cones, the combination caused wild overgrowth, which aggravated mildew and increased the need for sorting.

Where this fits in a more general history of Willamette Valley labor or even a more specific history of hops picking, we aren't able to say just now. We haven't found any other evidence of strikes at hops yards, and we feel confident in saying they didn't happen often. But pickers might have struck occasionally. If strikes were very rare, it may be relevant that this was early in Roosevelt's first term. We just don't know. We also don't know about organizing. It is interesting that the Oregonian's tone is much more serious and threatened than the Capital Journal's, which is decidedly jocular.

Any readers with interests in the New Deal or Labor history out there?

(Capital Journal Front Page, Sept 15th, 1933. Note the New Deal National Recovery Administration logos!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Toast Cooke Stationery Tonight - Happy 75th!

Like paper, pens, or printing - and the word in ephemera form?

Make sure you head on over to Cooke Stationery tonight, this First Wednesday!

They're celebrating 75 years in business, and that's worth toasting!

But wait, there's more! There's lots of history here.

Here's a neat Statesman video about the building. (Make sure you catch the "hops" on the office doors!)

We've also mentioned two people associated with the building.

Sam Adolph built it in 1880 and over the summer we've found some interesting tidbits to add to some of our pieces (here, here, and here).

The building also has had interesting occupants.

Readers may recall that Madam Maggie Gardner died upstairs in the Adolph Block. Here's her headstone in the Pioneer Cemetery. Dalrymple was the name of her second husband. She was born in one Salem and died in another.

So a toast to Cooke Stationery! To the second 75 years!