Friday, November 17, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 6 - 12

This week's edition is dedicated to The Commons. As anyone living in Portland knows, last Saturday was the last hurrah for the current incarnation of The Commons. We say that because we firmly believe that we will see them again in the future, especially if Mike's recent collaborations are any indication. We showed up at opening Saturday and during the course of our time there were fortunate to be able to say a "see you later" to Mike in person. In addition, Travis' familiar face was to be found behind the bar, a face we hope to see popping up somewhere else around town after the transition is complete.

We enjoyed all of the beers that found their way from the menu board to our glass, but these four in particular.
Eidolon (R) - We first enjoyed this sour, barrel aged amber farmhouse five years ago. Noting at that time that it was a "great approachable sour" we agree with that first impression. The beer was matured on two strains of Brettanomyces in wine barrels but the Brett holds a supporting roll. The shining star is the super fun combo of Meyer Lemon peel, jasmine green tea, jasmine flowers and New Zealand Hallertau hops.

Anderlecht (L) - Our favorite of the day we were so stunned with its flavor that we can't express just how delicious it was other than to say it is simply an outstanding wood aged lambic. If we could have gotten growler fills of it, we would have rounded up all the growlers we had and happily handed over how much ever they were asking for it.

Galaxy Myrtle (L) - We've been quite pleased with the few hopped sour beers we had, with this one continuing the trend. Here the bright Myrtle tart farmhouse base found a great partner with the Galaxy hops used. Starting with a definite hop aroma, the flavor is a melding of the two.

Fresh Hop Myrtle (R) - More lightly hopped than the Galaxy non-fresh hop version, this beer features Meridian hops. Effervescent and easy drinking, we enjoyed this as much as we did when we first had it in 2013.

Now on to two other great beers we enjoyed to finish out our list.
Revision Dr. Lupulin 3x - We've just started seeing Revision's beers hit this market and so far we've been impressed with the offerings from this, hold on to your shorts...Sparks, Nevada brewery. Before we get to the beer, a bit about the brewery. Sparks is essentially a suburb of Reno, sitting on the Western edge of Nevada, and less than a day's full drive from Auburn, CA. That's relevant because Auburn is the location of Knee Deep Brewery, the brewery Revision's founder Jeremy Warren founded seven years ago. The full backstory is on Revision's website but the short of it is that Jeremy left, taking with him the first brewer he hired at Knee Deep, Jeb Taylor. Officially open just eight months ago, if this triple IPA is any indication of what is to come, we are totally on board because to make an 11.3% beer with massive IBUs this smooth is an incredible feat. 

Crux Tough Love [BANISHED] 2015 - Our favorite of the three vintages offered at The BeerMongers during their Tough Love event the big, Russian Imperial Stout offered a licorice aroma and flavor that was smooth with a tannic finish that makes one want to keep drinking it. 

This time next week we may all be waking up with a hangover (of the food variety). Before then, however, we'll be taking a look at some cranberry offerings that have recently come across our radar. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Look at Lompoc's Holiday Seasonals

This holiday season Lompoc will be offering seven seasonal beers plus Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison, the latter of which will be available starting this Friday, November 17th. Since that will be the first beer available, we'll start there. 

Available on draft and in 500ml bottles, Lompoc's Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison is a "Belgian style ale brewed with fresh cranberries and aged one year in port barrels that infused the beer with a drinkable tart and spicy flavor and subtle notes of port and oak. Pale and wheat malts keep it light, while the peppery yeast and noble hops lead to a tangy finish." 

Starting off with a beautiful, peachy color and slight barrel/funk aroma we found it to be nicely balanced between Saison characteristics and the contribution to the flavor from the cranberries. The very drinkable 5% beer it would be a great starter to any meal and a beautiful addition to a holiday spread. Friday's release will be accompanied by the Sage Derby Turkey Sliders chef Mark Otey created to pair with the beer. $3.50 each they are on the substantial end of the slider spectrum and combine many flavors of the Thanksgiving table into a sandwich.

Moving on to the holiday seasonals, we were able to try out five of the seven at a preview earlier this week (Blitzen and Brewdolph were still in the stable getting ready for their debut at the Holiday Beer Extravaganza on the 27th). Ranging from the 7% Top Shelf, Old Sport to two, 9.4% versions of Old Tavern Rat this year's beers offer a variety of flavor profiles.

Top Shelf, Old Sport is a Belgian style dubbel that we found to exude an aroma that was almost winey and attributable to the eight months the beer spent in Maryhill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The flavor profile is of an old library combined with a smoking room and the warmer it gets, the more complex and delicious it becomes.

Lump of Coal may be an imperial porter but we got a strong CDA aroma and initial flavor to match. As it warmed the flavor of the 200 lbs of  sour cherries the 1/6bbl batch of beer was aged on started to show itself.

Switching over to the most hoppy offering was C-Sons Greetings Double IPA. The 8% beer is quite similar to last year's version with plenty of bitterness from the seven "C" hops used. This is the only other seasonal beer that will be available in bottles, this in 22oz format.

Finally, the two versions of 2016 Old Tavern Rat, a barleywine that has been aging for a year. One version spent eight months in Maryhill Winery Port barrels and thus offers an aroma that is part barleywine and part port. Tasting to us slightly less boozy (they're both 9.4%) than the non-port barrel version it got our slight favor in a head-to-head tasting. The caveat is that the non-port version was outstanding paired with Moonstruck milk chocolate with sea salt and toffee that was thoughtfully brought and shared by one of the other attendees.

Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison Release
Friday, November 17
4-11pm

Holiday Beer Extravaganza
Wednesday, November 27
4-11pm

Both events take place at LompocSidebar ~ 3901 N Williams.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Second 2017 Beer & Cheese Pairing Party

We think beer and cheese is one of the most perfect pairings to be found and recently our small group got together once again to play with pairing. At least the fourth time we've done it, we gathered as usual at our favorite watering hole, each toting cheese, eager to grab beers and dig in. After a quick round of sampling all of the cheeses on their on that's just what we did. Here are the highlights.

Taleggio from Italy (Market of Choice), suggested as a replacement for the Limburger that was currently sold out, it was one of the most versatile of the cheeses. The only caveat was that it took far longer than the standard two hours at room temperature to come into its creamy, slightly funky own.
- Not surprisingly its funkiness paired well with the assertive Mexican hot chocolate flavors found in Stone's imperial milk stout, Xocoveza.
- With Anchorage Nelson Sauvin Saison with Brett the cheese brought out the hop bitterness of the beer, which depending on one's personal preference might be a bit too much, but we enjoyed it.
- Paired with the relatively mild North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince it surprisingly did not overpower the beer but instead they took turns complimenting one another with the beer allowing the funk of the cheese to come through and the cheese returning the favor, allowing the bright, tart cranberry to come in at the end.
- Somewhat similarly to the North Coast pairing, when enjoyed with Ballast Point Sour Wench the cheese allowed the fruitiness of the beer to really shine.

Rivaling the Taleggio for versatility was the Creamy Toscano dusted with cinnamon (Trader Joe's).
- No one in the group is much of a fan of pumpkin beers but the temptation of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking was too much to pass up as we know that dark beers tend to work particularly well with cheese. In this instance the cheese allowed the pumpkin to come out and rival the barrel-aged flavors of the beer nicely.
- With the Stone Xocoveza the cinnamon in the beer and the cinnamon in the cheese played wonderfully off one another, neither overpowering the other.
- In a surprising pairing, at least on the surface, the cinnamon in the cheese and the cranberries in the North Coast Berliner Weisse worked together. Thinking on it further and savoring the pair, it was similar to the way cinnamon and fruit work together in a pie or crisp.
- The gathering also included slices of Crimson Crisp apples (a relative of Honeycrisp) which combined with the cheese and the Stone Xocoveza for a triumvirate of tastiness.

Beecher's Flagship Cheddar (Fred Meyer) was quite possibly the overall favorite cheese of the day on its own and it found a singular perfect partner in Ruse Clock Keeper Saison/Farmhouse. The recommendation came from David, the beertender on duty, and it was spot on with the beer nicely lightening the luscious, flavorful cheddar.

Another cheese superstar with our group was Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog (Fred Meyer). Great on its creamy own, it brought a pleasant (at least to us) sharpness out in the rich Stone Xocoveza.

The gooey-est cheese of the day, Triple Cream Brie with Wild Mushrooms (Trader Joe's), was another crowd favorite even for those who don't typically dig on gooey cheeses. As with the Taleggio it found delicious partners with multiple beers.
- Block 15 Azaccasicle IPA, with its blend of tropical and citrusy hops and touch of milk sugar, made fast friends with the earthiness of the cheese.
- The depth of Pints Chocolate Nut Brown, brewed with UK Phoenix hops that in fact taste like chocolate, found a partner in the mushrooms.
- Once again the North Coast Cranberry-Quince mixed and mingled with the cheese. Here the tartness from the cranberries and the Berliner Weisse base balanced the richness of the cheese while the mushrooms took the tart edge off the beer.
- A final pairing but not a beer one, that we found deliciousness in was pairing this with Ilchester Smoked Applewood Cheddar. We thought the smokiness of the cheddar, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the brie would make an outstanding grilled cheese (further exploration is impending).

Not as gooey as a brie but silky soft once it warmed was Mitica Drunken Goat (Fred Meyer).
- The sweetness of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking balanced and was balanced by the saltiness of this soft but not oozy cheese.
- Reuben's Home From Home, a beer no one had a particular affinity for perhaps due to its super bitter-hoppiness (and this is coming from hop-loving folks), managed to become more balanced and drinkable when accompanied by the cheese.

Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberries (Fred Meyer)
- Pairing a fruit cheese with a stout is a bit of a no-brainer yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to find how delicious this cheese was with the Stone Xocoveza. The complexity of the beer had the potential to clash with the tartness the cranberries brought to this pairing but happily they worked harmoniously.
- With the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the cranberry-on-cranberry pairing worked nicely, being anything but one dimensional.

Stilton (Fred Meyer) is one of the more strongly flavored varieties in the blue cheese families and as such it did overpower some beers we tried it with.
- Surprisingly its powerful flavor mingled well with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince. Here the beer brought out additional, lovely funkiness in the cheese while still allowing the fruit in the beer to sparkle.
- The most decadent pairing of the day was here with the Stone Xocoveza. This is what post-dinner cheese course dreams are made of.

Face Rock Smoky Cheddar (Fred Meyer) is one of the creamiest cheddars we've had with a pleasant but not overpowering smokiness.
- A fun pairing with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the saltiness of the cheese came out, followed by the sweetness of the beer.
- Finding its backbone it stood up to the Stone Xocoveza, bringing the cinnamon in the beer to the forefront.

If you haven't tried your own beer and cheese pairing we hope this post encourages you to give it a go. As we move into the holiday season you'll likely have more opportunities at gatherings you host or attend. They won't all be winners but if you go into it with an open, exploratory mind, we bet it will be fun. And if you discover some great ones make sure to let us know!