Friday, June 24, 2016

Deceptively Good

On our way back from the Oregon Garden Brewfest we decided to sneak in a couple of brewery visits, places that aren't far from Portland but are just far enough that we knew it might be a while before we took the time to visit them. Wolves & People, the highly buzzed about addition to Oregon's breweries, was the first that came to mind but upon seeing that they didn't open until 2pm we searched a bit and were reminded of Deception Brewing in Dundee. Opening at noon, it seemed the perfect way to span the time between checking out of our hotel room and when Wolves & People would open.

Deception Brewing sits along 99W and while we'd driven by it at least once coming back to/leaving from Portland it hadn't been a planned stop so we ended up not stopping (sound familiar?). Coming south on 99W it was an easy turn into their parking lot in back and as we walked up the beautiful, heady aroma of beer being brewed hit our noses, bringing immediate smiles to our faces.

The front sports a permanently covered area with picnic tables and a fire pit. An indoor/outdoor bar with tall bar chairs on each side spans one half of the front wall, a perfect place for us to sit with our pooch (the patio being dog-friendly) while still feeling like we were getting the brewery experience. In our direct line of site was a window to the brewery where as our noses had tipped us off to, the brewers were hard at work.

Inside above the actual bar was a chalkboard with 10 beers listed, five of which we immediately ordered up in sampler size. We worked our way through two pale ales (Long Gone Day and Spruce Tip), Menage a Hop IPA, Ragged Rocks CDA and Sludge Factory stout. The Sludge Factory smelled amazing, giving a preview of the rum barrel-aged beer, but per our general tasting plans we started out on the light end. Long Gone Day was almost hoppy enough to be an IPA - excellent! - and while I didn't get much spruce character the Tip was fine for the style. The IPA was right up my alley and while the CDA could have used more hop bite in my opinion, Mag was quite pleased with it. Finally it was time to see if the flavor of the Sludge lived up to the aroma. Oh yes it did!

While we could have continued on the sampler path with a second set to ensure we tasted everything available that day we moved to pints of our respective favorites of the five. Leaving some un-tasted gives us all the more reason to head back in the near future. Perhaps you'd like to come along.

Deception Brewing
1174 SW Hwy 99W, Dundee
Open M-F at 4pm, S & S at noon

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brewer's Tasting Dinner Recap

Last weekend marked our fourth year attending the Oregon Garden Brewfest and its night-before event, the Brewer's Tasting Dinner (now in its fifth year as part of the festivities). The six-course dinner is an interesting mix of industry folks (brewers, bar/restaurant/business owners and media) and people who may or may not be attending the festival as well. One of the couples at our table this year had only heard about the dinner the morning prior on their local news of choice and although they had other plans preventing them from attending the festival they jumped on tickets to the dinner, driving down from Portland for the evening.

The first year the dinner was great, the second not quite as good and last year, well let's just say that if it had been the only year I'd attended I might not have gone again. But this year, wow!, a redemption in the food and the beers and even the service was a bit more coordinated. Grab a napkin for your drool, here's a recap of the meal.

First Course
Arugula and tangerine salad with toasted almonds and poppy seed dressing, fontina crostini

Worthy Brewing Coeur de la Peche

The beer, part of their Saison program and made with peaches and apricots, was something I was looking forward to but the Saison characteristics were a bit too pronounced for me to enjoy much of it on its own. The food however, especially the fontina crostini but also the poppy seed dressing, made a fantastic paring. Light and balanced in intensity, the meal was off to a promising start.

Second Course
Thai-style coconut and lemongrass soup with crab and chili

Fremont Brewing Interurban IPA infused with basil and lemongrass

The soup, similar to something I make at home, had amazing aroma and flavor with the only detraction being that unchewable portions of the lemongrass had not been strained out of the soup (something my dining companions commented on as well). The infusion of the beer was something done especially for this festival and in my view could have been done with a heavier hand as the flavor was mostly from the hop profile. No problem though, the beer was tasty and a great counterpoint to the soup, neither overpowering the other, instead complimenting and amplifying the spiciness of the other with each sip and slurp.

Third Course
Bacon and brisket hush puppies, Terry's BBQ sauce and tangy slaw

Silver Falls Brewery NW Red Ale

Here the food was the dish I was most excited about. I mean bacon and brisket? Yeah. Fresh out of the kitchen the aroma left my mouth watering and they were perfectly cooked, remaining moist and not at all greasy. The beer, heavy on the malt aroma and flavor, I wasn't a fan of on its own but it paired exceptionally well with the cornmeal in the hush puppies. More of the BBQ sauce would have been great as there was only enough for my hush puppies and I would have liked a bit more to drizzle over the slaw.

Fourth Course
Papparadelle with prosciutto, asparagus, hazelnuts and lemon

Ordnance Brewing Garden Beer

Pasta can be done well or pasta can be uninspired and forgettable. This was most definitely the former, being buttery and lemony (although it needed pepper). The pale ale was said to have been infused with spruce tips from the Oregon Garden and although I wasn't getting any spruce it was delicious and amazing for being a pale ale. In addition its brightness provided a compliment to the lemony pasta and balanced the rich butteriness.

<<<Here the dinner took a slight intermission while Gale Goschie, of Goschie Farms, came to the front to talk. She was a delight to listen to, talking about hop farming and being part of the next generation of this family-owned farm. As good as the food and beer had been she was definitely the highlight of the evening.>>>

Fifth Course
Herbed ricotta and spinach stuffed chicken breast and herbed potatoes white balsamic and plum sauce

Nectar Creek Cluster

Mag was correct in his observation that this was dish was comfort food all the way. The chicken, another potential hit or miss item, was very tender and although a bit over salted, was nicely balanced by the sweet, vinegary sauce and the mead. Speaking of Cluster, it was beautiful to look at but to drink on its own, is reminiscent of Kool-aid. Another successful pairing and a good thing there was only one more course to go as my belly was filling up.

Sixth Course
Tuxedo Mousse and cherry truffles

Three Creeks Brewing Stampede NW Strong Ale

Dessert was a beautiful presentation of a towering mousse creation with cherry-goodness truffles. The beer being a strong ale was expectedly malty, hoppy and big. Perhaps a bit strong for the mousse, even as full as I was I would have eaten a table's worth of the cherry truffles and drank a pitcher of the beer the pairing was so good. A perfect ending to dinner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Oregon Garden Brewfest Changes: Yea or Nay?

The 12th Annual Oregon Garden Brewfest took place last weekend on the gorgeous grounds of the Oregon Garden. Like any annual event it will periodically undergo changes, hopefully changes that will make it better and more appealing to attendees. Two years ago it made a significant change to the date, going from April to June when not only was the weather more likely to cooperate but the gardens were more beautiful.

This year there were three noticeable changes:
1) The start time was moved to 3pm instead of noon on Friday
2) It was held in the Discovery Forest portion of the gardens instead of in a large tent and permanent building
3) Each ticket was good for a 2oz sample (a full glass remained 4 tickets)

The change in start time, perhaps a mere three hours to some, is most significant for those of us who came down the night before for the Brewer's Tasting Dinner. In the past the noon start time has usually meant a slow Friday morning, perhaps recovering from a wee bit of over indulgence of food and drink the night before. While the later start time doesn't necessitate a change to that, it does leave more hours to fill. We used that time to go on a hike and were able to take our time doing so instead of feeling rushed to get out of the room in the morning and rushed to get back for the start of the festival. For those who didn't stay overnight the difference may not have even been noticed and I suspect the reason for pushing it back was to eliminate a few hours when there was not a huge crowd.

The second change, setting up "tasting cottages," each housing the beers/ciders from three breweries in Rediscovery Forest upped the appeal tenfold. No longer relegated to fitting rectangular tables into a square or rectangle structure, the "tasting cottages" were spread along a slightly curving, woodchip-lined lane under the towering trees. An added bonus is that since dogs are allowed in the gardens, dogs were allowed at the festival and it afforded our new pup his first beer festival experience.

The final change was that the tasting marking on the festival glasses (real glass pints) was significantly lower to the bottom than in the past, allowing for 2oz instead of the standard 3 or 4. At first take I was a little irritated but in practice the reduced amount meant I was able to try more beers before reaching my limit. I suspect part of this decision may have been influenced by the varying price of the kegs. It seems lately more and more festivals are charging varying numbers of tickets for the same size sample. I can do math and I get it; nevertheless I do feel a little nickel-and-dimed when I get to a festival only to discover at least half of the beers I planned to try are double or triple the number of tickets (I've yet to see the number of tickets each beer will cost posted in advance). This is an alternate way to deal with the issue of pricier kegs and keeps things simple for everyone involved. I'm not saying I love it but I do think I prefer it to the alternative, more widely used option.

One final note, this year's Brewer's Tasting Dinner was the best to date. I'll try to find the time in the next few days to put together a post of the deliciousness to share with you.