Beer Sherpa Recommends: Wayfinder Mindstürm

Wayfinder Brewing, the intriguing lager-focused project from ex-Double Mountain founder Charlie Devereux, opened its doors on October 1, 2016. That was much-delayed from a reported April opening. But it was nothing compared to the gaping chasm of time that it took for the "brewery" to produce a batch of beer made on the house system. Their first beer appeared on June 27--nine months later. Impressive! (To be scrupulously fair, brewer Kevin Davey has been collaboratin' all over town so original beers have been available most of that time.)

At some point I will sit down with Kevin and Charlie and hear about their beer, their vision, their dispense system (yes, there's actually an interesting story there), and their approach to making sessionable, lager-focused beer. In the meantime, let this count as a bookmark and an invitation. The brewery has slowly been building their repertoire, which now includes a pilsner, Vienna lager, IPA, and hefeweizen--and I've seen a helles and cloudy IPA make appearances as well. The IPAs are solid, but I'd like to call out their more unusual offerings for special attention. The Vienna lager has a rounded, toasty maltiness that is going to be great in the fall, and in a vacuum I'd probably promote Party Time pils, which is a really wonderful, unique example in a state already lousy with them. The hop profile is an unusual one; there are elements of traditional herbal German hops in there, but something bright and citrusy, too--but in a continental rather than new-world way. Sort of like Tettnangers, but with a sidecar of something unrecognizable.

Mindstürm on the left, Party Time to the right.

Instead, I'm going to highlight the hefeweizen, since there are so few good examples in Oregon. Fortunately, we have finally seen a slow rise in the number of true, Bavarian hefeweizens (Widmer's non-Bavarian version cleared the field for a couple-three decades). Drinkers have slowly come to understand the delights of banana and clove. For the most part, though, the model brewery is Weihenstephan, which is also the usual source of yeast. Weihenstephan's hefe is very light-bodied, light of hue, light of clove, and heavy heavy heavy on the banana. It's a confection as much as anything, and while a glass is welcome from time to time, I find the balance far too much in the candy direction.

The original weissbier is one people rarely use as a model: Schneider. It is so out of step with later arrivals that it is considered atypical. It's as dark as some breweries' dunkelweizens and far fuller and creamier. Its central calling card is clovey phenolics, which dominate the far more subtle fruit esters. This is intentional. Hans-Peter Drexler, the long-time brewmaster at Schneider, put it this way:

For me, there are three different styles of aroma in a Bavarian wheat beer. Most of them are very fruity; from the Weihenstephan 68 strain. There’s one that is more neutral. And there are some that are more spicy like the Schneider yeast. Spicy-tasting like clove and nutmeg.
— Hans-Peter Drexler

The background on how brewers pop the clove is fascinating, but I will not wander down that road just now (indulge yourself here if you wish.) But safe to say that Kevin Davey likes him some Schneider, because Mindstürm is both dark and spicy. It also boasts Schneider's creaminess and full mouthfeel. According to at least one report, he does use the Weihenstephan yeast, and that's not surprising--there's a lot of fruit here, too. The banana is pronounced, though I'd call it secondary to the spice, but there's also apricot and citrus. In fact, all the flavor dials are turned to maximum here--it's just a big, booming hefe, with fruit and spice to spare. I absolutely love it, and can't seem to resist picking up at least a half-pint when I stop by.

I know Charlie and have been following this brewery since before he even had a site picked out. I checked out his social media dispatches when he went on a fact-finding mission to Bavaria and the Czech Republic. And I've stopped in regularly to hear reports about when that showcase brewery would serve as something other than an art piece. So for literally years I have been anticipating Wayfinder's beer. I have so far not been disappointed. The hefeweizen is in some ways the best example of their potential--it is both classic, but also bold and, for Oregon, unusual. This is definitely a promising new Portland brewery, and one you should check out if you haven't already.

PHOTO CREDITS: WAYFINDER BEER (except one; can you guess which?)