PROOF THERE IS A GOD: VORTEX MONTH

When Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris opened Fort George Brewery 17 years ago, they put a beer on tap that was simply mind-blowing.

That beer, of course, was a deliciously hoppy IPA named Vortex. 

It was the fledgling Astoria brewery’s biggest seller in 2007. And today, despite the release of hundreds of other Fort George beers over the years, including scores of rival IPAs, Vortex remains the flagship brew.

Even more incredibly, the beer keeps gaining in popularity year after year, according to Nemlowill, who wrote the original recipe. 

“It’s a unicorn,” he says proudly.

In a recent interview with Astoria Beer Zone, Nemlowill said the recipe has never stopped evolving.

Today’s version is “lighter in color than the original batch,” he said. “Less caramel malt, less specialty malt. More of a focus on the hops and the aromatics. We dry-hop it a whole bunch more than we originally did. There’s more late-addition hopping. We’ve decided to go with some slightly different hops that we think are a little bit more innovative – cutting edge.”

By now, the story about how the name was chosen is part of beer lore. 

Nemlowill and Harris were escorting their first brewhouse across the country in 2006 when a twister struck in Nebraska, nearly ending the venture before it started. After that brush with disaster, Vortex seemed an obvious choice.

To mark its 17th anniversary and honor the beer that rocketed the brewery to craft beer stardom, Fort George is celebrating throughout April. They’re calling it Vortex Month.

“Vortex has grown every year that we’ve made it,” says Brian Bovenizer, the brewery’s marketing director. “We want to keep it going.”

In April, three exciting variants of Vortex will be released. Three!

Here they are:

Version 1: Double Dry-Hopped Vortex – This beer made its debut last year, and it’s coming back with a vengeance. The brewery describes it as “Vortex, but with more Vortex in it.” Added dry-hopping creates bolder flavors and aromas. 7.2% ABV. (Release: April 1)

Double Dry-Hopped Vortex (Fort George photos)

Version 2: Cryotex – Brewers took the original Vortex recipe, but substituted modern Cryo and CGX hops from Yakima Chief Hops and Crosby Hop Farm, respectively. It’s billed as a “futuristic version.” The lightning label on the can is pretty cool, too. 7.2% ABV. (Release: April 1)

Cryotex

Version 3: Vortex Hands – A must-try collaboration that honors Vortex and Sticky Hands, a venerable imperial IPA created by Block 15 Brewing in Corvallis. 7.7% ABV. (Release: April 15)

Vortex Hands

The “holy trinity of new Vortices” will be on tap at the Fort George pub and taproom. They’ll also be sold in 16-ounce cans.

Stay tuned for additional Vortex-related public events. We’ll update this post when we get details.

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Astoria Brewing was still called Wet Dog. Fort George Brewery wouldn’t make its transformative debut for another five years. 

And the downtown beer zone? A mere fantasy.

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