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Klamath Basin Brewing Company: Sustainability Can be Hot

Reading Time: 5 minutes read

Last month, I did a travel post on our quick trip to Portland, and the train ride south, to Klamath Falls. We only spent the weekend there, but made sure to visit both local brewpubs. A couple of weeks ago, we featured a guest post on Mia and Pia’s, and this week, I’m writing about the city’s other brewery, Klamath Basin Brewing Company.

Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson
Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson

Nestled beside Upper Klamath Lake, K-Falls is the largest town in the northern half of the Klamath River Basin, and the seat of—you guessed it—Klamath County. With all the natural wonders and resources in the area (lakes, rivers, mountains, the world-famous Crater Lake, lots and lots of trees), you’d think they could have named the town for an actual geographic feature.

But no. Klamath Falls has no waterfall. Not even a constructed one, like Rochester’s High Falls. Fortunately, it does have two breweries, serving a population of 63,775,‡ if you include everyone in Klamath County. I’d hardly call that market saturation, which is probably why neither brewery seems to be hurting for customers.

Sunday, May 17th

The early evening sun spreads its faded golden benevolence on Main Street as we park across from the Klamath Basin Brewing Company. It’s been at least eight years since I visited the brewpub, but as our party walks into the historic building that once housed the Crater Lake Creamery,† it doesn’t look as though much has changed. Outside, a neon sign includes a blue cow, a clock, and the legend, “The Creamery.” It also bears the words “Pub” and “Grill,” but I’m fairly sure they’re a recent addition to the 50s-era sign.

The actual brewery runs the length of the right side of the building, visible through a glass wall. The taps are situated in front of it, providing bar patrons with a decent view of the goings-on. Opposite the door, an elk head presides over a brick fireplace, and a few loungers enjoy the leather sofas and recliners ranged around it. Normally, Ben and I would grab stools and, in the absence of actual brewers—it’s Sunday night, after all—chat up the bartender.

But this time we’re mixing research with socialization, so our group of four proceeds past the kitchen, down a short flight of stairs, into the secondary dining room. We’re the only diners in here, but the waitress shows no sign that our request to sit back here might be inconvenient. But of course, this is Oregon, not New York. I am continually amused by the unfailing tendency of wait staff in the latter location to stack patrons next to each other—even in an otherwise empty room.

But that’s “back East.” In a small-ish town in Southern Oregon, it’s understood that folk like their space. So we settle into a table by a window overlooking Main Street, and begin perusing the menu as we wait for our fifth party member to arrive.

Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson
Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson

Revisiting the brewpub where I celebrated my 21st birthday—no, I’m not telling you when that was—calls for a full tasting flight, and I waste little time in ordering one. The waitress brings me a tray with nine tasting glasses, mentioning that sometimes there are ten. I find this array impressive. Most breweries that I’ve visited serve no more than five or six beers in a flight, or they sell them a la carte, sushi menu-style. Not KBB though. They’ll give you some of everything on tap, which makes for a fun evening.

Headstrong Blonde Ale   

“Very faint, kind of honey-like nose. Pretty strong Pils profile, hint of hops, hint of DMS. Has a classic European character…seems like Carlsberg. Tastes lager fermented.” – Ben

Hard Hat Heffeweizen

Distinctive wheat character in the nose, wheat-contributed spicy hints. Citrus notes. Cloudy appearance, of course. Hints of banana, a little bit of Noble hops; pretty decent American Heffeweizen.

51st State Pale Ale   

Ah, hopses. And, as Ben notes, “honey, probably from American 2-row.” Tastes and smells like it’s probably Cascade, well-balanced with a malty backbone that, yeah, tastes like American 2-row. Compared to SNPA, well, it’s not the archetype of the style, but it’s still a reasonable West Coast Pale Ale.

Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson
Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson

Crater Lake Amber Ale

Clean, malty nose with faint hint of hops. Similar flavor; slightly sweet malt with lingering hop bitterness.

Seasonal – Wit

Faint Belgian yeast notes, and hops.

“How much you wanna bet there’s orange peel and coriander in there, and that’s why it’s a wit?” – Ben

By this time, Ami Melaine has completed our group, and this being a social occasion—our last night in town before heading back up to Portland—we start soliciting notes from the rest of our table companions.

Upon smelling the Wit, our good friend Erin declares, “It’s definitely heavy on the citrus.”

Rebellion Red Ale

Very decent red ale. The malt profile is roasty, and a touch sweet.

“Very clean; no DMS, no diacetyl, tastes like it has toasty notes from medium-handed additions of roast malts, maybe some English hops.” – Ben

Notch Eight IPA

Bitter, piney, good amount of hops lingering on the tongue. There’s also a touch of malt sweetness. “Floral, sour, bitter, warm,” Ami comments upon tasting it. From the smell, Erin says, “Bitter, dry, sweet.”

Perhaps the sour character has something do with the water profile; I’m not sure.

Defiance Double IPA

Decent, well-balanced IPA; cleanly fermented, with notes of pine, citrus, and according to Erin and me mum, grape. From Ben, the observation that “It smells like retsin.” Ami’s notes: “It smells like honeysuckle…and a little bit like sap. It tastes like grapefruit.” She continues, “It kinda tastes like, if you were chewing on a dandelion, there’s something green there.”

I get some bubblegum esters, and that green, sort of grassy character that Ami noticed.

Backroad Vanilla Porter  

This, Ben declares, “…is the best beer in their lineup.” Warming up to this beer notes thing, my mom observes, “It smells like wood, when it’s wet.” Giving it another sniff, she says, “It smells like a really dark chocolate, almost like cacao; it tastes like salted dark chocolate.”

The nose reminds me of Southern Tier Crème Brûlée; not too surprising, given the vanilla-ness. The vanilla is up-front, backed up with the expected roast and tannin. There’s a lingering roast bite that I find slightly harsh, and Erin describes as “Metallic.”

That roasty, somewhat astringent finish is what I expect from a porter. When a stout has that flavor and mouthfeel, it doesn’t seem right to me.

Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson
Photo credit: Benjamin Wilson

Geothermal Brewing

Remember those natural resources I mentioned earlier? Geothermal wells are one of them. The city uses them to heat sidewalks in the winter, and quite a few buildings in town, including the old Creamery building. KBB also uses geothermal for their heat exchangers, making them, as their website points out, “…the only known brewing operation that uses geo-thermally heated water for beer production.” The page features a cool video from The Green Economy about the pub and how it uses geothermal. Hurray for sustainable brewing! Especially when the product is a bunch of tasty beers. Oh yeah, and the food’s quite good, too.

References:

† “About.” Klamath Basin Brewing. 2004. Accessed June 12, 2015.

Geothermal Brewing.” Klamath Basin Brewing. Accessed June 12, 2015.

‡ “Klamath County Chamber of Commerce: Relocation.” Klamath County Chamber of Commerce. Accessed June 12, 2015.

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Pacific Northwest expat, travel and craft beverage writer. Exploring the intersections where beer (and coffee and spirits), food, travel and culture meet.

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