Late Spring Beers Made By Walking in Portland

Since late Spring, we have seen two public Beers Made By Walking hikes in Portland and three beers went on tap at a special tapping during Portland Beer Week.

The first walk took place in a neighborhood in Southeast Portland and the other took place in the famous Forest Park, the largest in-city park in the country. Below are photos from both walks and information on the beers that were served. The beers were seriously a treat!

The first walk took place in May. The brewers from Upright Brewing and Coalition Brewing took part in it, and unlike 95% of the hikes we do for BMBW, this one took place in a neighborhood. We started with about 25 people, but it was practically a monsoon that day. It is a rare occasion that it rains as hard as it did that day in Portland, but many people stuck around till the end.
An image of Glen Nagel teaching us about medicinal plants. Alex Ganum of Upright Brewing is in the background.

The walk was led by Glen Nagel, a professor at Portland's National College of Natural Medicine. The plants that we identified were plants in front of people's houses, we found them in vacant lots, and on sidewalks. They include: Ginkgo Biloba (right in front of Coalition too!), Rosemary, "Melissa" Mint / Lemon Balm, Clover, Wild Lettuce, English Plantain, St. John's Wort, Yarrow, Burdock, Fennel, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Parsley, Fig, and Purple Leaf Elderflower.

At the end of the hike it seemed like Coalition was pretty set on the Melissa Mint and Upright was considering the Elderflower. These beers will be available during a special BMBW tapping in Portland with about ten other Oregon based breweries that have participated in this year's programming. Details to come as we firm them up a little, but you can expect these to be available sometime in October.

As you can see in the images below, the public walk we scheduled at Forest Park also took place on an incredibly rainy day. We sold tickets through the Forest Park Conservancy, so all the proceeds went to them. On the ticket I wrote "rain or shine" but I'm not sure that what we experienced was rain per se. As I was driving up the hill to get to the Northernmost reaches of the park, where Newberry Road connects to the Wildwood Trail, I started laughing because the rain practically created a river, there was a mudslide, and I was determined to make the walk happen regardless.

In the photos above you can see Matt Wagoner leading the preliminary Forest Park Hike with Ben Edmunds, head brewer at Breakside Brewing. We did the walk a month in advance and then the brewers from Breakside, Coalition, and Hopworks had exactly one month to create a beer.

Well, about half way through the hike, after we were already soaking wet, the rain stopped.

Forest Park gives us a look at what the area was like before loggers stripped the land down to provide housing for the people in Portland. Actually, that's not quite true. The park currently holds trees that are about 75-100 or so years old. They are big and tall, but they aren't as big and tall as the previous trees. A lot of trees where we hiked were Hemlocks and Cedar. Apparently the cedars live for a couple centuries and as they die they make more room for the Hemlocks, which can live for over a thousand years. Before the logging, the trees were old growth. Forest Park still claims some old growth cedar forest, which is open to the public only certain times of the year.

This is vanilla leaf. It's not related to vanilla bean, but when it dries out it has a vanilla-like fragrance to it. The beer from Hopworks contained vanilla leaf and it contributed a cedary, cinnamon-like flavor. We think it also added the light astringency, which reminded me of what you would expect in a salad with dandelion leaves. We also identified Minors Lettuce, Elderberry, Dull Oregon Grape, Sweet Cicely, Twisted Stalk/Scoot Berry, Salmon Berry, Wild Ginger, Stink Currant, Spruce, Red Huckleberry, Thimble Berry, Fiddle Heads, Vanilla Leaf, Cascara, Hemlock (the tree), Licorice Fern, English Hawthorne and the Hazelnut Tree.

The brewers that came along on this hike were from Breakside, Coalition, and Hopworks. The beers, which were inspired by this particular portion of the trail, had already been prepared in advance and went on tap the next day at Belmont Station. The ingredients were not foraged in Forest Park but were sourced elsewhere because it's illegal to forage there without a permit. The beers were wildly experimental and a ton of fun, here's what we got to try:
  • Breakside: Just The Tip - American golden wheat ale with local spruce tips
  • Coalition: Saison du Forest Park - Classic, Saison with Red Huckleberry during primary fermentation and Ginger Root in secondary.
  • Hopworks: Balch Creek Sour - Belgian-style Red, tart and tangy from lactic souring and Salmon Berry. The Vanilla Leaf provides a honey-like aroma and a woody astringency. 
These beers might be available again sometime in October depending on whether or not the breweries can remake them. We'll keep you updated on that. Be sure to sign up for our email updates and like us on Facebook.

We'd like to leave you with this image, which doesn't quite do justice to the insane amounts of water pouring over the park, but you might be able to see rain if you look hard enough. Cheers!