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Jim Jamison and the Story of His Grapes

Home wine makers have been able to buy fresh grapes from FH Steinbart for many years.  But where do those grapes come from? Like all the ingredients we stock at the store, we source our grapes from someone with a passion for the craft.  Jim Jamison of Richland, Washington has been supplying grapes to FH Steinbart customers since 2011. Jim is a grape grower and wine maker himself who grows grapes on two acres of his own land on the boundary between the Columbia and Yakima Valley AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) and manages four other small vineyards nearby.  Jim’s varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese, Grenache, Mourvedre and Malbec. Besides the varieties he grows, Jim can often find others that customers want because he works closely with several small grape growers in that area to market their grapes.

Jim and his wife moved to Richland in 1974 from the East Coast, where Jim was stationed while serving in the Navy on a nuclear submarine. He planted his first vineyard in 1982.  He built a house on the property for his growing family and as his first vines began to yield fruit, Jim was ready to try his hand at making wine from his own grapes. The wines tasted pretty good, and some did well when he entered them in the local County Fair.  Soon he and a group of friends were enthusiastically making wine on a barrel-scale in the garage and driveway.

In the 1990’s Jim and his friends toyed with the idea of starting a commercial winery, but when his interest in that waned he turned his energies to marketing his grapes to other winemakers.  As neighboring properties changed ownership and new owners showed no interest in growing grapes, Jim took over the care of the vineyards. He now manages several of these parcels, which he calls his “orphans”.

Beginning in late August or early September and continuing through October, Jim takes vineyard samples each week to monitor the changing pH, acid (titratable acidity), sugar and flavor qualities.  The analysis results are used to predict the best date for harvest of each variety. Many customers from Seattle, Spokane, Eastern Oregon and the Portland area visit Jim’s property to pick up their grapes.  In most years customers include a half-dozen wineries, several winemaking clubs and many individual home wine makers. For FH Steinbart, Jim delivers weekly. Winemaking customers who order their grapes from FH Steinbart can be assured that their fruit has been grown and cared for by someone with a real commitment to supplying the best possible ingredients.

Thanks to Jim!

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Meet Our Staff: Natasha Godard

What Do You Like To Make?
While I enjoy brewing beer and I’m looking forward to learning to make wine, my current fermentation obsession is vinegar. I had already decided to attempt beer vinegar long before I started at FHS, but this job definitely accelerated my experiments, since we sell vinegar mothers. It wasn’t too long before I’d started red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. Since then, I’ve been given other beverages to vinegar-ize, and those are definitely going strong too. I am most looking forward to my marionberry wine vinegar finishing up. For those who are interested and can make it into the shop, I leave samples of my red wine vinegar and my beer vinegar behind the counter.

What Do You Like Most About Your Job @ FH Steinbart?
It’s a tie between helping customers with their problem-solving, which is incredibly satisfying, or all the new knowledge that’s being crammed into my cranium just by virtue of being here. This is pretty convenient since one leads to being more effective at the other.

How Do You Like To Spend Your Free Time?
I have a number of pastimes. Some are rather seasonal. I love being outside in nice weather, for example, but the grey and rainy Portland winters drive me indoors almost completely. Luckily, things like reading can be done in both locations. I also enjoy board games, cooking, and engaging in new hobbies to see what sticks. As you can read above, vinegar stuck. I’m now eyeballing our cheese-making kits to see about that…

What’s the Life Arc That Brought You To Portland?
I grew up in New Mexico and find myself in Portland by way of D.C., Baltimore, and Chicago. I got myself a M.Sc. in Biology while I was living in D.C. and Baltimore, and landed in Chicago to continue that path. Somehow, though, I ended up a Certified Cicerone® rather than a biologist. Though, to be honest, that biology education comes in handy on a regular basis. I landed at FHS because Mark mentioned a job opening. I had brewed a little bit of beer back in Chicago, but I got out of the habit. I figured a good way to get back in the habit and learn more about brewing as I consider studying for Advanced Cicerone® was landing the job here. I had nooooo idea how correct that was, and I’m extremely glad I’m here now.

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Sometimes a Great Notion

Sometimes a Great Notion (Extract Recipe)

Sometimes a Great Notion Hazy IPA Label

DESCRIPTION
This hazy IPA is bursting with a blend of citrus and tropical hop flavors. The soft mouth-feel and restrained bitterness is reminiscent of a NE IPA, but with our unique NW twist. We created this recipe with some of our favorite hop varieties; Mosaic, Citra, & Galaxy. We’re still homebrewers at heart, and are excited to partner with F.H. Steinbart Co. to bring you this unique recipe kit.
–James, Andy, Paul & the Great Notion Team

5 Gallon Extract with Specialty Grains
60 Minute Boil Time
Ready in 3-4 weeks

OG 1.070
FG 1.010
ABV 7%
SRM 4
IBU 45

FERMENTABLES
6 lb. Extra-light dry malt extract (DME)
1 lb. Wheat dry malt extract (DME)
1 lb. Dextrose (corn sugar)

STEEPING GRAINS
1 lb. Flaked oats
1 lb. Carapils (dextrin) malt

HOPS
4 oz. Mosaic pellet hops
4 oz. Citra pellet hops
4 oz. Galaxy pellet hops

YEAST
Imperial Yeast #A38 Juice

OTHER
1 Grain steeping bag
12 Hop steeping bags
4 oz. Dextrose (corn sugar) – bottle priming

ON BREW DAY
Be sure to read all instruction before beginning

  1. Use as much water as your kettle will allow (up to 6 gallons). The larger the boil, the more effective your hops will be (See note at end of this recipe for more details).
  2. Steep crushed grains in steeping bag for 20-30 min. at approximately 160°F. Remove grains and discard.
  3. Add dry malt extract (DME) and stir to dissolve. The liquid is now called wort. Bring liquid to a boil, watching carefully for boil overs.
  4. Chill wort to under 100°F1 as fast as possible and as close to 65°F as possible (If you do not have a wort chiller, set the kettle in an ice bath in your sink).
  5. While the wort is chilling, sanitize fermenting equipment, carboy, stopper, airlock, funnel, etc.
  6. Pour chilled wort into fermenter and place in a location that allows fermentation to occur at 65°F (or as close as possible).
  7. Aerate wort by putting a stopper in the carboy and rocking it back and forth for several minutes.
  8. Optional: take a specific gravity reading using a triple scale hydrometer. The reading should be approximately 1.070 SG. Record the number as your OG (original gravity).
  9. Pitch your yeast when the wort is at appropriate temperature (65°F). Fill airlock with water or sanitizer to the fill line and seal fermenter.

HOP SCHEDULE
A standard hop schedule tells you when to add your hops to the kettle throughout the one hour boiling time. Hops added “@ 60 min.” are boiled for the entire hour. Hops added “@ 15 min.” are added when there are 15 minutes remaining in the boil. Hops added at the end of the boil or “@ 0 min.” are refereed to as “flame-out” hops and left to steep in the hot wort prior to chilling for 10-20 min. Use 1 oz. of hop pellets per steeping bag and tie a knot at the top, allowing as much room as possible for the hops to expand inside the bag.

Great Notion employs a unique hopping strategy to obtain huge amounts of flavor without increasing the bitterness. While it might seem unconventional to boil for an hour before adding bittering hops, rest assured this special technique lies at the heart of Great Notion’s signature flavor profile.

HOP SCHEDULE
2 oz. Citra pellet hops @ 0 min. (flame-out)
2 oz. Mosaic pellet hops @ 0 min. (flame-out)
2 oz. Citra pellet hops @ dry-hop for 7 days
2 oz. Mosaic pellet hops @ dry-hop for 7 days
4 oz. Galaxy pellet hops @ dry-hop for 7 days

PRIMARY FERMENTATION
A wide-mouth carboy is recommended for dry-hopped beers. You will begin to see activity in the fermenter within 24 hours. A foamy cap will develop on the top of the beer and bubbles will escape through the airlock. Over the next several days the activity will begin to slow down. Primary fermentation typically lasts one week. After the primary fermentation completes, it is ready for dry hopping.

DRY HOP
Place fermenter in a location where you can hold the temperature at 70°F (to maximize dry-hop extraction and allow the yeast to finish).

Add 4 oz. Galaxy, 2 oz. Citra, and 2 oz. Mosaic pellets for 7 days before packaging (do not exceed the 7 days, it is better to remove them a day early than to leave in longer).

BOTTLING & BEYOND
Fermentation is finished when the final gravity (FG) reads 1.010 SG +/- 2-3 points, but timing at this stage is flexible. When you are ready to bottle your beer:

  1. Make a simple syrup by combining 4 oz. of dextrose (corn sugar) in a pint of water on the stove.
  2. Bring the sugar solution to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Let this cool to room temperature. Sanitize your bottling equipment; bottles, auto-siphon, tubing, bottle filler, and bottle caps.
  4. Add the cooled priming sugar solution into the bottling bucket.
  5. Siphon your beer into the bottling bucket to mix thoroughly with the sugar.
  6. Then siphon the beer into your bottles using the bottle filler and secure the caps. Your beer will be ready to drink after conditioning for two weeks at room temperature (70-74°F is best).
  7. Once conditioning is complete place bottles in cool place and/or refrigerate. It is best to refrigerate for 24-48 hours before opening to ensure that the CO2 generated during bottle conditioning has fully mixed in with the beer.
  8. Pop the cap, relax, don’t worry, you’re drinking homebrew!

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Mecca Grade Malthouse and Farm Tour

Mecca Grade Estate Malt

In today’s world of global industry, malt production for beer brewing is a pursuit of massive scale, impeccable consistency, and relentless efficiency. In contrast, Seth Klann and his family are producing malt with a focus ALWAYS on flavor. Every step of the process, from breed selection to kilning has been diligently curated to yield products that stand alone in quality and individuality. We recently had the opportunity to tour the Mecca Grade malthouse and farm in Madras, OR and participate in an innovative sensory analysis exercise at his laboratory / taproom onsite.

The original barn from 1905. I hadn’t realized that the farm is older than Steinbart Co.!

Madras is high desert country, with average yearly rainfall at about 12 inches (Portland received about that much in February 2017!). I was intrigued to learn that there is a good reason to grow malt in Madras, as the hot, dry climate lends itself well to seed production. If you have ever grown basil, cilantro or fresh greens in the summer, you know why the desert would make for a great place to grow seed.

For anyone who questions the desert-like nature of the Madras region, note the scorpion that I shook out of my boot on the first morning of our trip.

Beer Nerd Achievement Unlocked!

When we arrived at the malthouse, Seth lead us through a blind sensory exercise called the “Hot Steep Method” of various pilsner malts, including his “Pelton” iteration. The method has recently been approved by the American Society of Brewing Chemists for sensory analysis. It is a great method of tasting malt ingredients that uses common equipment and can be done in the home quickly. Read more about the method (here ←–link).

I was enlightened by the exercise, as I have developed an expectation that Mecca Grade malts are “malty-er” than their non-craft counterparts. But I was surprised to find that Pelton was the lightest in color, and full of classic haylike and grassy notes. This was not just a “pilsner-esque” malt, it was exemplary. It was nice to see that Seth’s malts can shine in traditional styles and purposes.

After the sensory we spent some time in Seth’s Lab and Brewery. He has built an impressive electric brewery, with all the bells and whistles. It seems he does a lot of testing in there on his own, although all the analysis of Mecca products that you see posted is from an independent party.

Can you guess what a friabilimeter measures?

After learning a lot in the lab, we moved on to the malthouse where Seth was steeping a batch of Vanora in his One-of-a-kind “mechanical floor-malter”. Seth designed and built this all-in-one machine from the ground up. It slowly turns over a long and shallow bed of malt constantly during steeping and kilning, ensuring unrivaled consistency, kernel by kernel. As I watched the behemoth slowly churn out Oregon’s finest malt, it became apparent to me the innovation at play in Seth’s invention. The “Uni-Malter” steeps and kilns in the same machine, 12 tons at a time. (Due to the proprietary nature of the machine, we won’t be posting any pictures of the Uni-Malter.)

Although this silo holds one million pounds of grain (and they have four of them!), Mecca Grade is still a tiny malthouse in relation to the rest of the industry. It was impressive to see such vast amounts of material completely processed by just two people.

As we proceeded to tour the fields of the Klaan family farm, Seth and Brad showed us the test field, where they are growing experimental breeds of barley in a search for Oregon’s next ground-breaking beer ingredient. In partnership OSU’s barley breeding program, The Mecca Grade farm is doing their part to grow, analyze, and brew with the next generation of malt breeds. The potential is exciting, to say the least. There is talk of a hybrid malt of Maris Otter and Full Pint (potentially called Maris Beaver, in reference to the OSU mascot!) or Golden Promise and Full Pint (Oregon Promise).

In the back of the Farm is a lookout from “The Mecca Grade”, with a spectacular view of the Deschutes River. Wild high desert herbs like yarrow and sage grow here, and Seth sometimes employs them in his brews as a nod to land that produces his malt.

The view from “the Mecca Grade” looking over the Deschutes River.

For brewers like me who are always seeking the highest quality and authenticity in beer ingredients, Mecca Grade malts are in a class of their own. Full Pint is truly a breed of barley that belongs to Oregon, and the malt made from it is distinctively ours as well. To learn more about the line of malts we offer check out Seth’s descriptions here: See Our Mecca Page

We brought a keg of beer to serve in the Mecca Grade taproom, however, we found it necessary to tap it a little early, during our camping trip in Ochoco Forest. Here we used nature’s kegerator to keep it chilled.

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Tips for Wine Season

“In wine, there’s truth.”
Pliny the Elder, Natural History

Tips For Wine Season

With the 2017 grape harvest rapidly progressing, we guide more and more new winemakers through their first vintages. “Country Wine” aficionados have already completed their annual batches of dandelion wine, and fermenters across the northwest are filling up with strawberry, rhubarb and all sorts of fruit wines (stay tuned for our 2017 fruit wine class). Here are our top tips to remember when preparing for a productive and successful season of fermenting our region’s natural bounty.

Preparation

Great wine is made from fruit picked at the peak of ripeness. Some produce can go from bitter and under-ripe to mushy with signs of mold in just days. A well prepared winemaker has clean fermenters and fresh chemical additions at the ready, which makes for a well organized and enjoyable, stress free crush when it’s time to harvest. Dig out your seasonal equipment and dust it off or give it a deep clean. Check the moving parts of fruit crushers, mills and presses and consider oiling them with a food grade lube.

Fresh supplies

Sulfite, sorbate, yeast nutrient, reagents and various testing supplies all have a relatively short shelf life. A common rule of thumb is to replace chemicals and supplies yearly, just before wine season. This will make for accurate adjustments and more predictable, reliable fermentations. A quick note: cleaners and sanitizers in their concentrated form last quite a long time, we recommend replacing them at approximately 5 years old.

Utilize a wide variety of container sizes

Fruit harvests can be unpredictable. This leads to opportunity for the savvy winemaker. You may find a farm or supplier with a glut of fruit that can be had inexpensively (or even free!) and we can’t always predict what size and combinations of containers we will need to ferment a lot of fruit. Well prepared winemakers employ a range of fermenter sizes to ensure versatility and convenience during the season. This concept applies to glass carboys or secondary fermenters, because the yield of finished wine from a certain amount of fruit is quite variable. In addition to 3, 5 and 6 gallon carboys, half and one gallon jugs are indispensable for storing extra wine. Variable Capacity Tanks, or “VCT’s” have a floating lid that can be sealed at any depth to accommodate an infinitely variable amount of wine.

Utilize our community of winemakers

In the northwest, a litany of resources exist for the resourceful winemaker. Winemaking clubs are numerous and accessible, like Portland Winemaker’s Club.  These clubs are a great way to meet and learn with other winemakers, and pool resources like grape crushers and fruit presses.

Being in the heart of a world-class fruit growing region is an aspect of the community that should not be taken lightly. Drop by fruit stands and markets throughout the region to look for deals on lots of fruit that is approaching over-ripeness. If you keep an ear to the ground, untended farms or wild growing berries can be gleaned (with land owner’s/manager’s permission of course) for buckets and buckets of free fruit.

Steinbart’s is a prominent participant in our winemaking community, and you can find many resources through our various wine season events, classes and programs. We offer Rental Equipment for wine and cidermaking, and we source a wide range of grapes from prestigious northwest vineyards. Pre-Order Wine Grapes Here

Dare to blend

Don’t be afraid to blend varietals, fruits, finished batches or even vintages to increase complexity and highlight the strengths of your wines. Professionals rely heavily on this technique, but it’s usually among the last skills a home winemaker learns.

Try blending tannic varietals with rich jammy ones to create complex and big bodied red wines. Mixing fruity whites emphasizes tropical, refreshing flavors. If you like your strawberry wine, you may love a strawberry/rhubarb or mixed berry.

Blending is a fun skill to learn in that it is really just glorified drinking. Grab yourself a 100-500ml graduated cylinder and many sampling cups, take good notes, and let your tastebuds guide you. Make all your measurements in metric to facilitate straightforward scaling-up of your favorite blends.

Hang out at Steinbart’s

F.H. Steinbart has decades in the winemaking community, and our staff is available 7 days a week to help you guide your grapes to greatness.