Salem’s beer scene has, at last, sparked a fuse. Todd Hutchens, a representative for Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, conceived the Salem Fermentation Project, a series of events designed to bring the local breweries and cidery together for some big promotional events with the goal of focusing attention on “our own back yard,” as he put it. The whole shindig begins tonight, Friday, Feb. 27, at Duffy’s Hangar in Salem. All 12 of the taps will be taken over by locally produced beverages, and Hutchens’ band, Stump City Soul, will provide music to help bend elbows. Hutchens has planned several more of these tap takeovers: At The Beer Station in Wilsonville on 3/13, at the Barrel and Keg in Salem on 4/4, and at Salem’s Westside Taphouse on 4/9, with other tentative events taking place around the state.
Even four years ago, Salem was pretty much a drive-thru city for beer folks; McMenamins Thompson Brewery and The RAM were the only producers; everything else was Portland and beyond (Note: those two are not to be overlooked; Thompson brewer Jennifer Kent has worked there for over a decade, and RAM produces a GABF gold medal winning blond ale, among others). Now the veil has lifted, or the clouds have parted, or whatever; beer happened! Santiam, Salem Ale Works, Gilgamesh, and Vagabond are all pretty new breweries, but they’ve seen enough demand to warrant expanding their systems. Each has its own approach to the craft, and they’ve all shared the labor and love as they’ve grown in such a fresh brewing community.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks has been around for a decade, first as a higher-end cidery with offerings like Wickson, a single varietal cider made from a crabapple, and then adding its Anthem line of cider at a more consumable cost. Their ciders are consistent and refreshing, not too sweet at the very sweetest (Bloom) and tannin-bomb dry at the driest (Dry Oaked).
Hutchens has been perusing Salem’s beer history for inspiration, and came up with an old Freemason tradition called the Salamander, and a beer called Salamander Brau brewed by the Acme Brewing Company, a brand of the Salem Brewery Association (which existed in the first half of the 20th century). Salamander is a peculiar toast, to be done with the same beer in each glass and involving several circular motions, counting, and chugging. At any rate, Hutchens wants to employ this toast along with an interesting collaboration idea: that each Salem brewery make a version of, say, a blond ale (could be Belgian, could be Kolsch-style), and tap them all for the toast. Keep your eyes out for more from newly beered Salem.