James' Beer and Homebrew Page

the beer made me do it

I felt it was necessary to share my hobby of homebrewing with the whole world, and this web page is the result. You'll find some silly pictures, recipes, info on growing hops and finding a use for blackberries, and some links to local resources.


Here's a picture (and another) of me brewing up a lager in the late fall on my old front porch. Someday I'll have a spare refrigerator to help me with this task.


Brewing Complexity

Homebrewers can start off simple with a basic pre-cooked kit recipe. My first was a brown ale and it came out great.

Some brewers want more control and an ability to experiment with raw ingredients, and they progress on to malt extract brewing. That's where I am now, and I have a lot more exploring to do at this level.

Advanced brewing techniques include mashing, being your own maltster, preparing and carbonating kegs of beer, and so on. Maybe someday!

The keys to making good beer, whatever you do, are: 1) scrupulous sanitation, 2) learn your fundamentals, 3) ongoing learning, 4) fine tuning through repetition. Cooking is another of my hobbies, and the constant practice, learning, and building on the offerings of others works there, too. In cooking as in beer making, the best ingredients are necessary for superb results.

Lately I've been taking recipes from Beer Captured and making minor modifications.

The Good

Here recipes I've made that worked out great:

Too soon to tell

Here are the recipes in process that I can't speak for yet:

The bad

Here are the ones that didn't work out quite as well:
  • RESPECT Barleywine -- technically, with all the honey, a bragot. I couldn't ferment it down far enough so while it is rich and complex, it is unfortunately too honey-sweet for the style. STILL, it is pretty darn close on the flavors and after a few years continues to be interesting and improve. I wouldn't call it bad anymore, it's good, but I had to give it time, and next barleywine will probably be honey-free.
  • Voter Brown Ale -- a most basic English beer. This one developed a light body and uninspiring metallic taste. Sigh.

Growing Hops

Blue Heron Herbary on lovely rural Sauvie Island, has an impressive collection of living herbs for brewing medicinal beers. In exchange for a few bottles of the derived brew, Mr. Hanselman will slice off some hop root for you to grow your own. For inspiration, you might want to look at Stephen Harrod Buhner's book, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation.

State of Oregon's Department of Agriculture maintains a commodity commission called the Oregon Hop Commission. At their website you can find out about growing hops in your own garden.


Blackberries have taken over Western Oregon, and even have their own State Commodity Commission. The corresponding website has a wealth of information on the blackberry plant and industry. Most Western Oregonians treat them as a nuisance plant -- many are the cuts I've gotten viciously pruning them out of my garden -- and Round-up! doesn't kill their strangling, wandering roots, either.

However, if you are patient enough to wait a year for the results, all these blackberries are a boon to the home fermenter. It is nearly trivial to use the blackberries with concentrated winemaker's grape juice to make blackberry wine, or combine the blackberries with honey and enzymes to make a lucious, rich mead. I even daresay might attempt a blackberry beer this fall.

If you can't wait a year, make blackberry muffins, blackberry coffee cake, or blackberry pie. Sprinkle blackberries on your ice cream, on your breakfast cereal, with whip cream on shortcake. Make a dessert pizza with blackberries. Blackberries everywhere!

Local Resources and Links

The Greater Portland, Oregon area has been called Beervana (look for search results for Beervana on Yahoo here). No doubt this is due to the incredible proliferation of microbreweries, nearby wineries, and homebrewers in this hop-friendly land. In the Beaverton area, I make frequent use of the following homebrewer resources:
  • Main Street Homebrew Supply Co. -- Kevin and Doug run a great store in Hillsboro for the home beer, wine, and bread maker. The finest ingredients and tools. No question is too stupid, they are there to help.
  • Above the Rest Homebrewing -- Tigard is a little closer on those rainslicked trafficky nights, another good resource.
  • Foam Rangers is a homebrew club in Houston, TX. I am not a member but I use their webpages frequently to look at the list of beer styles, compare to award-winning recipes, and to look up useful statistics about the ingredients I am using (acidity of hops, for example).
  • American Homebrewer's Association -- I am a member, and their magazine, Zymurgy, is excellent.
  • Oregon Brew Crew -- A Portland-area homebrewer's club. They also run this lively e-mail list.
  • Celebrator Beer News -- a Pacific coast paper & web magazine detailing events and businesses for people who love beer. I can't even begin to list the number of quality microbreweries in the area.
  • Local craft and commercial beer events include the Portland International Beer Festival and Oregon Brew Fest in Portland in July, and the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest further up the Willamette Valley, in September.
  • SakeOne Corporation -- okay, it's not beer but it is the only commercial sake manufacturer in the United States, it's in nearby Forest Grove, and their sake (often spiced with local nuts) is excellent.
  • McMenamin's -- a couple of local brothers built a microbrewery business that rapidly expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest. It's provided work for imaginative artists, restored landmark buildings, features the amazing Edgefield resort, and offers some distinctive small-batch pub-brewed beers.

Thanks for visiting my page! If you have info or feedback please send me email