2 Northwest Brewing News • October/November 2017 By Aaron Brussat We are very, very beer-focused here at Northwest Brewing News (for obvious reasons), and take pride in our local and regional beer scenes. We travel for beer, we talk about beer at parties, and we write about beer because we are passionate about it (yes, we get paid, too). When national statistics about beer are released from the Brewers Association, we pay atten-tion. When breweries in our respective areas win medals, we are proud. When a new brewery opens up, we want it to succeed. There is one fact that has wrinkled some brows in the industry recently: beer is slowing. Economically speak-ing, that is. Although there are still a ton of breweries-in-planning, drinkers are shifting away from beer, choosing wine and, notably, spirits as their swill of choice. This is no doomsday speech; beer is not going anywhere. In fact, some of it is going to the pot still. From broadening its selection of house-made beverages to making the best of a batch gone awry, it makes plenty of sense for a brewery to also run a distillery. Mario Rubio took up the reins for this issue’s main story, and explores some of the history and nuance behind craft brewers-cum -distillers in the Northwest. Though not as common as standalone operations, the opportunity for creativity is vast. To non brewer-distillers, though, the process can be a bit opaque; like brewing, there is plenty of jargon to obfuscate an otherwise simple action. All spirits start as a beer, wine, or other fermentation. Distillation is heat-ing a completed fermentation until the alcohol (composed of ethanol and other -nols), which evaporates at a lower temperature than water, leaves the solution. Distillation is done in a closed environment so that the alcohol vapors don’t just dissipate into the air like steam off a kettle. A tall metal column or a copper gooseneck is attached to the top of the kettle to catch and con-dense the alcohol vapor, and move it to a separate vessel. There are four main products of a distillation: the foreshots, heads, hearts, and tails (which happen at the beginning, middle, and end of a distilla-tion run). The hearts are pure ethanol, while the foreshots (always discarded), heads, and tails contain other sub-stances such as acetaldehyde, a com-mon, headache-inducing off-flavor in beer, that may be re-distilled or added back into the hearts in small quantities to add character, depending on the type of spirit. I have always considered those who distill to have an extra layer of love for alcohol (not in a bad way) because it takes so long, and reduces the volume of a fermentation by a factor of ten. Distillation is, literally, concentrating a fermentation into its essential parts; this means that an unhealthy fermentation will multiply in harshness when distilled. If you’re a curious amateur mixolo-gist as well as a beer drinker, I suggest you try your hand at a beer cocktail or two. There is a wonderful book, Cocktails on Tap , written by Portland author Jacob Grier with help from Ezra Johnson-Greenough of The New School beer blog, that lays out historic and modern recipes for cocktails with beer. Whether you’re into the Flip or the Mai-Ta-IPA, the combination of craft beer and spirits in your glass can be enlightening. On another note: The Northwest offers no shortage of suds, or inspiration to brew them. This season is host to the most fleeting of beer styles: fresh hop beer. Brewers across the region rush to hop farms, stuff hundreds of pounds of the freshly-stripped cones into their company vehi-cles, and battle the sleep-inducing yel-low dust on the way to submerge the sticky green mass into some hot wort at the end of its roil. The experience can be ethereal, and provides a mea-sure of terroir rarely noticed so directly in beer. Give me your grassy, your herbal, your dankly hopped masses!