Brewvana Mid-Valley Brewery tour. Second Stop: Flat Tail Brewing

11 Feb

As Michael mentioned, we went on a brewery tour in Albany and Corvallis last weekend. I’ll admit, it felt a tad weird to be on a tour to my home town. Plus, I had been to all three of these places at least once before. Well, not technically. I have never been to Flat Tail Brewing as Flat Tail Brewing. Back in the day, Flat Tail was a little pub called the Fox and Firkin. And it was at the Fox and Firkin that Michael and my love story began. Almost as importantly, it was where my love story with craft beer began.

It was the summer of ’98 and Michael and I met right across the street, working at Great Harvest Baking Co. The bakery crew decided to meet up for happy hour at the Fox and Firkin. Everyone had ordered a beer and I was feeling a bit embarrassed to admit that “I don’t really like beer.” Up to this point, my college beer experience had been composed of what I could find at parties: coors light, bud, keystone ice, busch, mgd, etc. So, I had no idea what to do. Michael was sitting next to me, so I asked him what was good. Like he still is today, he was very excited about craft beer and getting someone else excited about craft beer. He helped me find something I would like. And I did. I don’t remember what brewery it was from, but I remember it was a stout. After that stout, another stout, a first date and another craft beer, another date and another craft beer, and so on.

Needless to say, it was really fun and exciting to arrive back, and for the first time, at Flat Tail Brewing. It’s actually pretty awesome that such an important place in my beer history is now a fantastic little brewery. Upon arrival we were greeted by the brewer, Dave Marliave, and a pitcher of their Kolsch, Tailgater. The Kolsch was light, with a great fruity hop and a crisp finish. What I really liked about it was the body. Sometimes these light beers are a bit too light in body for me. My only complaint is that it was so easy to drink that I was done before we were even a quarter of a way through the tour! I could totally see myself drinking a growler of this the next time I tailgate at an Oregon State game.

Brewer Dave Marliave giving us a tour of Flat Tail

Dave gave us a little history about himself. He’s a native Oregonian – no wonder I really like him – and he moved up from Medford for the fermentation science program at OSU (Michael’s a little jealous as the program didn’t exist while he was a student).  Now that he is at Flat Tail, he is churning out new and unique beers left and right. If I remember correctly, he brewed around 60 different beers last year! He’s brewing with a lot of different yeast strains, he started a barrel aging program, and he experiments with the old standards turning them into completely new beers.

While on the tour, Dave told us about a number of beers that were currently in tanks and barrels. They currently have a Flanders Red in Domaine Serene wine barrels that is only six months old right now. The red is also fermented in the barrel, which Dave explained should give the beer additional vanilla and tannins. This should be released later this year, with plans to release it yearly, so keep your eyes out for that one. It sounds delicious.

Dave also told us about Wild Blonde, their Kolsch re-imagined. They added honey, chamomile, Brett C as the primary yeast, and maybe something else I didn’t quite get jotted down. He poured this one straight out of the tank for us, and I found it to be quite enjoyable. It was fruit forward with just a hint of the chamomile, and I found it a little less crisp and citrusy than the kolsch, probably from the honey. Dave explained that while this beer is a fresh blonde right now, with age it will become wicked sour from the Brett C. Luckily, they plan to serve this beer fairly young, before the wicked sour stage. So, enjoy!

Dave pouring Wild Blonde from the tank

At this point, Dave started pouring us beers off the zwickel and from their standard line-up. I had their IPA, from the zwickel, which tasted just a tad thin and slightly grassy. It wasn’t quite ready, but I thought, hell, I’d drink of a glass of this right now. I’d like to go back and have a pint when its ready. I also had a small beer, the second runnings of a Russian Imperial Smoked Stout, called Session Stout. The smoke was definitely still there, but it was lighter and less rich than it’s predecessor. This was actually similar to a schwarzbier, in my opinion, and was a fantastic dark, session ale.

But the winner, for me, was my glass of Owd Ruddy. The oats and barley gave this beer a nice, hefty body, while the Wellers Wheat Whiskey Barrels added some beautiful aromas and complex flavors. I enjoyed the flavors of rich chocolate, roasted malts, and even a hint of licorice while sipping on this beer for the remainder of our visit.

In talking to Dave, I found out that they have started to bottle a couple of their beers (yay! i can get the kolsch on game days). However, beers like the Owd Ruddy will only be available at Flat Tail or one of a few beer bars (like Belmont Station, double yay!). The reasoning being quality control. Beers fermented and/or aged in barrels, and those using certain yeasts, can be unpredictable in how they age. And if somewhere along the line they are improperly transported or stored, or even if let to age too long, the beer won’t taste good, or as the brewer intended. I have to say, I really respect and like this about Dave, and the ethos at Flat Tail. It’s about unique beers, fun beers, and excellent beers. Without compromise. And when a beer is ready, it is ready to be drank! Amen to that!

IPA off the zwickel

So, if you have a pint or a bottle of Flat Tail that you enjoy, my suggestion is to head down to the brewery. You are sure to find something even more special on tap, probably for a limited time only.

If it isn’t already obvious by this lengthy and exuberant post, I had a fantastic time being a Brewvana tourist, even in my hometown. Mad props to Brewvana and the New School for setting up a fabulous tour. This was a VIP tour, indeed. These brewery tours were not your run-of-the-mill brewery tours. We were immediately shuttled into the brewery, served several samples of new and standard creations, and given loads of brewing details and funny stories. The brewers gave us a lot of their time and were great hosts. Everyone on the bus was friendly and brought extra beer and treats to share on the bus ride. We were chauffeured door-to-door, which made it possible to enjoy that extra sample or two, or lets be honest, ten. Not to mention all the free schwag (glasses, t-shirts) that we took home with us. I will definitely be hooking up with Brewvana again sometime in the future, especially for VIP tours beyond Portland. In the meantime, you should check them out!

And look for Brian’s post, coming shortly, on the final leg of our trip.

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One Response to “Brewvana Mid-Valley Brewery tour. Second Stop: Flat Tail Brewing”

  1. Sister Schoultz February 14, 2012 at 12:01 PM #

    okay, really? you’ve been trying to get us to move to Oregon for how long now, and you never mentioned a fermentation science program at OSU before. what kinda program is this? is there a degree involved? bobby was WAY interested. and mom would be so proud.

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