Over a Pint with Natalie Baldwin of Burnside Brewing

Natalie Baldwin is the brewer at Burnside Brewing in Portland seen here smiling over a pintAs a beer writer who really writes about people, the idea for this Over a Pint series (for me and all beer bloggers who’d like to join in on last Mondays) is to go out for some beers with a brewer and have a conversation beyond the parameters of what’s going on in the world of beer. Sort of in the vein of The Session but with just two instructions.

  1. Head out with someone who brews for a living and talk to them over a pint (or more) without recording it or taking any notes. Just chat. About stuff.
  2. Don’t do it at the brewery’s pub or tasting room.

Let’s begin.

Name: Natalie Baldwin

Brewery: Burnside Brewing

Professional brewing experience: PINTS Brewing

I excuse myself for not having met Natalie sooner because when she began working at Burnside last September, initially as a cellerman, I was living overseas. That’s pretty much the only thing that’d keep me from going to the Fruit Beer Fest, which is where I met her this year.

It’s also where she made her first impression, of the liquid and good variety. Her creation for the host brewery was Peaches of Immortality, a kettle-soured farmhouse ale with said stonefruit and some lavender. It earned its name from peaches’ role in Chinese mythology that they are, if not the fountain of youth, the fruit of it. And I gotta say, Natalie looks great for being 3,025 years old. I may be off by a sesquimillennium.

We met up at Stammtisch where we inevitably prost’ed over some German biers. She with her sour Leipziger gose; me with a half maß of Mahr’s Ungespundet-hefetrüb because I love kellerweißes (unfiltered lagers). Then the purple and pink haired brewer adorned with equally colorful tats regaled me with stories of her badass youth growing up near Vail, Colorado. Well, she may or may not have been a badass, but her skiing style certainly was, hence the double hip surgery back in high school. Every now and then my wife and I fantasize about moving somewhere like Bend or even Hood River, in part so our toddler can grow up skiing as often as possible and master the mountain. But mountains, like everything encompassed by Mother Nature, cannot be mastered and now I’m not sure if I wanna bring the kid in to have both hips replaced.

Her outdoor recreational pursuits have grown tamer since she moved to Portland three years ago with her boyfriend—she’s big into hiking with her pups—but her favorite time to go is in the rain so she can have the trails to herself.

Her initial gig was valet parking. Who valet parks? Apparently as few people as we suspect since she needed to supplement with another part time gig. Now, as a result of said move here, not that Coloradoans aren’t into beer, but working at Pints Brewing led to Natalie’s interest in doing more than just drinking the stuff. She credit’s Pints’ brewer Alan Taylor’s passion and education to putting her on the path. That’s probably one reason she’s so open to the panoply of beer styles especially German given Alan’s continental bent. That leads to our next round, Köstritzer Schwarzbier—grainy, toasty, bitter—over which Natalie told me about her recipes at Burnside.

Co-owner and brewmaster Jason McAdams calls her Nilla. Evidently she uses a lot of vanilla. She was getting ready to rack a vanilla and strawberry imbued rendition of Peaches of Immortality, but it doesn’t look like it’s on at the pub now. There was another version, but with strawberries and mangos, that then got to age in a Ransom gin barrel, which alas was tapped two weeks ago and I missed. Which sucks. And not because I want to live forever.

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