Cascadia Nation Black Lager

cascadia-black-lagercThe Cascade Mountain Range extends from Southern British Columbia through Western Washington and Oregon, into Northern California. Part of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” its highest peak is the volcano Mount Rainier. To its west are the hipster havens of Seattle and Portland, famous for some of the finest craft beer in the world. To its east lies the fertile hop growing region of the Yakima Valley in Washington. South of Portland, at the western edge of the Cascades, another stretch of fine hop farms fills the Willamette River valley.

The Cascade Range and its surrounding hop and barley farms form the mythical country of Cascadia. A generous cartographer would include the barley-growing regions of the Columbia Basin, and the Palouse, stretching east and south from Spokane, Washington. It also makes sense to declare San Francisco an honorary member among Cascadia cities, for it is the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in the United States, thanks to the visionary efforts of Fritz Maytag and his Anchor Brewing Company.

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

The strains of hops developed in Cascadia, fittingly often begin with the letter “C” themselves. The “Four C’s” as they are sometimes called, are Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus. More recently Citra ™ has joined the group. They are dominantly bright, piney, citrusy and resinous in taste and aroma, and form the basis of most American India Pale Ales. Recently, they have been incorporated into a style known as Cascadian Dark Ale.

As hop and barley production began to ramp up in Cascadia during the 1980s, another development took place 180 degrees away in the Ring of Fire. Japanese brewers were early to recognize the potential for product differentiation offered by creating all-malt lagers in their commercial operations. Kirin and Sapporo led the way with premium “black beer” (黒ビール), featuring roasted malts and a sweet finish.

The Cascadia Black Lager shown here pays homage to both sides of the Ring of Fire. It is hoppy (40 IBU) like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, slightly roasty like a dark ale, with mildly sweet maltiness like Japanese black lager. It uses the San Francisco lager yeast to keep the finish drier than a typical ale. Cold-infused specialty grains, including debittered Carafa II, Munich malt and Breiss Special Roast maximize flavor while keeping away excessive burned harshness. A nice thick head leads to a moderately full mouth feel, and its 5.7% ABV is assertive, while keeping it well within the range of sessionability for the discerning and determined tippler!

Rum-barrel Hop-burst Robust Porter

RBRobustPorterPCRobust Porter is the best kind of porter. Who would want a pathetic porter? The freight porters of old were a strong bunch. This is a strong drink for them.

To add to this porter’s robustness, the brewer uses the technique of “hop bursting.” Hop burst recipes call for adding to the wort only one large charge of the freshest possible hops with fifteen minutes left in the boil. The result is considerable bitterness, but with a huge amount of flavor and aromatic oils retained in the brew.

But this is more than just Hop Burst Robust Porter. It is Rum-Barrel Hop-Burst Robust Porter! Take toasted oak cubes and cover them with your favorite rum. Let it sit for two weeks, and then pour the tincture into the secondary fermenter. You are rewarded with a thick, rich, wildly complex beverage. After a long day down at the docks, this is going to be a big reward. This is seriously good Porter.

FAQ: AKA The Umami Factor Elevator Pitch

Umami Factor_front1w


It’s two things. It’s the title of my new book, and it is the principle for making fermented beverages that provide a complex, mouth-filling, satisfying flavor sensation by balancing multiple aromas with the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.


Umami is the taste sensation of savory foods. The word is Japanese for “delicious” taste. It’s provided by receptors in your mouth, throat, esophagus, and even stomach that detect the presence of glutamates, which are derived from amino acids. The umami sensation is pleasant for the same reason that “sweet” is pleasant.

The body is cued to detect vital, high-engergy nutrients: carbohydrates with sweet taste, and proteins with umami taste. Natural, unfiltered fermented beverages are packed with umami-producing compounds from the fruits, grains, and yeast they are made of.


Full-spectrum fermentation describes a process of techniques combined with intricate ingredient formulas that create complex flavor arrangements evoking the response “There’s so much going on there! How did you do that?”

Full-spectrum beverages are complex and improbable, but ultimately well-balanced drinks.


It takes a full-spectrum look at beverages from soft drinks to hard liquor. It thoroughly discusses the components necessary for flavor balancing. It examines related spectra, such as the inebriation spectrum and the commitment spectrum. It has a textbook approach to data, with a multitude of tables for ingredients and supplies. It provides recipes and detailed instructions, but more importantly it is a call to chefdom for aspiring fermentation artists. Tally Ho!

Buy The Umami Factor now for a substantial pre-release discount here.

La Belle Creole Black Lager

La Belle Creole2I just opened my last bottle of La Belle Creole Black Lager. It’s three and a half years old, and it is magnificent. I like to make “tribute” beers, rather than clones. This is a tribute to Dixie Blackened Voodoo. I first saw a bottle in a liquor store in New Orleans. I had to try it out–I loved the concept.

The execution didn’t really live up to the idea. There are a lot of constraints on bringing a cool idea to market, and Dixie’s attempt was pretty one-dimensional. I wondered what the theme could produce without commercial constraints: La Belle Creole takes the “Voodoo Brew” idea quite a bit further into the bayous.

Central to the voyage is the Voodoo Spice that goes into it. This is a mixture of primarily French Roast coffee, with chicory added in the style of New Orleans’ French Market. Smaller additions of other spices create a complex blend of flavors: cubeb berry, sassafras bark, gumbo file, sarsaparilla root, licorice, paradise seed.

La Belle is based on Munton’s light DME, with an addition of plain and home-toasted Munich malt. A blend of four crystal malts, chocolate malt, black malt and roasted barley provide the dark color and flavors. Noble hops in the lager tradition, including Northern Brewer, Tettnanger and Perle provide bitterness and hop flavor.

Starting gravity was 13.75 degrees Plato (1.055) and the beer finished at 4 Plato (1.015).

The amazing San Francisco lager yeast (White Labs WLP810) offers a connection to that other American Voodoo sea port, fermenting the brew out dry yet flavorful. The Voodoo Spice addition kicks it up a notch. To add the spice I crushed 12.5 grams of the mixture in a mortar and soaked it for 13 days in 120 ml of 190 proof Everclear ethanol. Filtered, this potion went into the secondary fermenter: enough Juju to boost the alcohol content by 0.5 percent.

This is a very dark, but crystal clear ruby beer with a tan, frothy head. The caramel and roasted coffee nose also offers light notes of chocolate and sassafras. Full-bodied in the mouth, the flavors dance between rooty, resiny, herby and toffee. The Everclear has nicely blended into the Voodoo spectrum. Mild bitterness finishes with roasty malt flavors.

I don’t usually make labels for my beers but this one was destined for some gifting, and so I did. La_Belle_Creole_labelI went looking for pictures of Creole Belles, and found a great one in Wikimedia Commons. It's an 1890s lithograph cigar box label, a brand manufactured by Hernsheim cigar factory, Magazine Street, New Orleans. I just love this sweet lady with a giant silver crucifix on a ribbon around her neck. That's Belle Creole style.

I can imagine what it would have been like jazzing around the French Quarter back in those days. But I’m pretty sure this Creole Belle’s daddy would not have let me get near her with my Voodoo Spice.