Sunday, October 22, 2006

Jamie Floyd @ Concordia Ale House

Last week I blew off work early so I could head out to Concordia Ale House for this month's "Meet the Brewer" event. I had never been to one of these get-togethers before, but I figured Jamie Floyd from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene was worth the trip.

I first heard about him a couple of years ago when he was still the head brewer for Steelhead Brewing (also in Eugene). I was impressed with the beer so when I stared reading up on the brewery I naturally came across his name. Then, about a year ago, I was reading an article about how the head brewer for Steelhead was leaving to start his own brewery. I always get excited when a new brewery or brewpub opens up, and the fact that I knew this guy could already make good beer only increased my anticipation.

My first tasted of a Ninkasi brew was at the twenty-aught-six Oregon Brewers Festival. One of the beers that was scheduled to attend didn't show, and in its place was Quantum Pale Ale. It was good, maybe a little bitter, but it's hard to judge that sort of thing when there is so much imbibing going on. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had their Fresh Hop Ale and enjoyed it very much. That brings us up to last Tuesday.

Quick tangent; the brewery's name comes from the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer and head brewer to the gods themselves. Around 1800 BC a Sumerian poet wrote the "Hymn to Ninkasi" on a clay tablet celebrating the goddess. This poet also gets credited with documenting one or the most ancient beer recipes ever found. The instructions were so detailed that in the early 90's Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania were able to recreate the beer.

"Meet the Brewer" turned out to be a much less formal event than I imagined. Jamie Floyd was just sitting at the end of the bar, having a beer and talking to whoever came up to him. I probably never would have even noticed him if I hadn't over heard some of his conversations. He told stories about his beer judging experience at this years' Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and his recent trip to Germany. Turns out one of the reasons he wanted to start his own brewery was so he could brew and experiment more with traditional European lager styles. His Avalon M√ľnchner Dunkel was on tap and I thought it was great. However, after he told me it still needed some "tweaking" I did notice that the bitterness was just a hair high in the aftertaste. I was impressed at his knowledge and shear love of beer and his use of brewing as a creative outlet.

I was also glad to find out that even though the brewery website has had "This site is currently under construction" for at least the last 6 months, they did set up a MySpace account that lists all the places that Ninkasi beer is sold. I often wonder why someone would start a new brewery in such a saturated market, but think these guys will do just fine. His American ales are good, but not dazzling (especially compared to the outstanding examples along the west coast), but his desire and skill in creating German lagers will set Ninkasi apart. They are currently renting a place to brew beer, but once they move into their permanent place and get aquatinted with the new brewing system I will be very excited to see what comes out.

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