Clear Creek Distillery
January 17, 2010
Yesterday, I took another tour of Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, OR where they make high quality brandy and are especially known for their Bartlett pear eau de vie, which is a fruit brandy.
Brandy is a distilled product much like other spirits such as rum, whisky, gin, vodka. Clear Creek Distillery takes fresh Oregon grown fruit and crush them, and then allow the fruit to ferment to 5%, skins, stems, seeds and all. The batch is then put into a still and heated. Alcohol boils before water does, so that part becomes steam and rises out of the liquid and goes though long cool metal tubes where it condenses, allowing them to collect the spirit. It is a little more technical than that, as the first part of the steam contains some toxins which smell more like nail polish, and Clear Creek Distillery uses as disinfectant due to the high alcohol content. Next is the drinkable part, which is called the heart. The last part includes some water, which diminishes the scent of the spirit, so they hold that part out as well and call it the tail. Since the alcohol is boiled off, the spirits are bone dry but contain the smell and essence of the original source.
Clear Creek Distillery offers their brandy, which is a distilled grape wine product, eau de vie, grappa, and sweetened liqueurs. They even have a brandy made from Douglas fir. They started out making a Bartlett (AKA Williams) pear eau de vie, but they told us it takes 30 lbs of pears to yield one bottle. That’s a lot of fruit!
I mentioned the first time I went to Clear Creek Distillery had an immense affect on me. Granted, at the time, I didn’t completely understand the whole process, especially before stilling, but I think that is the day that started me down the path towards a cidery. I was standing in there thinking, “How cool would if be if I did this,” and because of my roots, I believed that I could.
Well, it turns out that distilling even a drop without being licensed is illegal in the United States, but there was a man in our tour group who started talking about how he makes cider. Before I even knew about the legalities distilling, I thought that cider would be a great place to start. After all, I did have access to apples. Also, some eau de vie, especially Calvados, is made from cider.