Thursday, July 18, 2019

Crushable, Light and Fruity - Two Beers for Summer

We were recently gifted two beers to try, one a lager and one a fruited wheat beer, and we're pleased to say that we'd be happy to stock our fridge with either or find them as we dig into a cooler at a summer gathering. If that's all you need to seek some out yourself, great! Head out and grab some Zoiglhaus/Zupan's Farm-to-Market German-style Lager and Public Coast Farm Stand Series Blueberry Wheat Ale. Want a few more details first? Read on.

Zoiglhaus/Zupan's Farm-to-Market German-style Lager
This lager is the ninth beer in Zupan's Farm-to-Market series, one that began in 2015 and has produced collaborations with Coalition Brewing, Buoy Beer Company, Hopworks Urban Brewery, pFriem Family Brewers, The Commons Brewery and now Zoiglhaus takes its turn. This is the first beer in the series that has been presented in can format - 12oz cans for sale at all Zupan's Markets in 6-packs for $10.50.

Those familiar with Zoiglhaus won't be surprised to see that this beer is solidly in their German-style beer wheelhouse. Nor should one be surprised that it is very well done. Crisp and clear in appearance with a characteristic Pilsner aroma it drinks easy and finishes clean. At 4.7% ABV it goes down as gently as a summer breeze. In addition to being enjoyed on its own, we feel it would pair very nicely with a wide variety of foods.

Public Coast Farm Blueberry Wheat Ale
Our first visit to Public Coast Brewery in Cannon Beach was two and a half years ago and since then we were able to enjoy their Black Jack Bumbleberry Sour Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts in February. Having found that one to our liking, it was not surprising to find this beer to be equally well made. Pouring a stunning berry shade with the slightest hint of haze that adds to the depth of color, there is a slight acidic fruitiness up front. The mild blueberry flavor carries through, without being sweet, and a moderate level of carbonation enhances the flavor.

The beer features blueberries from Public Coast Farm, situated on 40 acres in Banks, OR. This is the first foray between the brewery and the farm but both parties are hoping that it will be the start of something ongoing. If the fat, fresh, beautiful berries that came along with the beer sample we received are any indication, things are off to a great start.

We give both of these beers two thumbs up for appealing to a broad range of palates and being packed with flavor while remaining low in ABV. Dare you to disagree. 


Friday, June 28, 2019

Beer Cocktails: Gin Edition

"I love Gin
Ginny Ginny Gin
mmmmm Gin
I love Gin"
- Ron Burgundy, Anchorman

We agree with Ron that Gin is a lovely thing. It is also one of the staples of any liquor cabinet or cocktail list and the varieties range from subtle to highly botanical. For infusions, like the ones we made for this Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen, we chose subtle New Amsterdam to allow the flavor we were infusing to take center stage. 


Here are our most successful concoctions, ones that we'll likely be refining in the future.

Gin & Jam
Laurelwood Lost in Happy Mountain Saison
Lavender infused Gin
Rhubarb lemonade
Marionberry jam
The beer is a collaboration between Laurelwood Brewing and Happy Mountain Kombucha and caught our eye while we were shopping for beer for this installment of the Test Kitchen. Not something we'd normally pick up to drink on its own, the subtle flavors of the beer were accentuated by the infused Gin, the lemonade added a touch of tartness and the jam gave it just the right amount of sweetness, leading us to comment, "that just goes down easy."

Arnold Gin & Juice Bomb
Matchless Brewing Juice Bomb Units
Hendrick's Gin
Rhubarb lemonade
Pearl Soda Company Blue Mountain Sunshine bitters
This alcoholic take on an Arnold Palmer gets its lemonade flavor components from both the Matchless Brewing hazy IPA and the lemonade while the Pearl bitters contributed a tea-like quality that gave the cocktail added depth.

Rosemary's Baby Mama
Wild Ride Tarty to the Party Sugar Plum
Lavender infused Gin
Rosemary sprig
A simple cocktail, the fruity sourness of the beer (yet another in Wild Ride's great Tarty to the Party series), the floral-boosted gin and a savory balance contributed by the rosemary played remarkably well with one another.

Peachy Gin Fizz
Tieton Cider Works Bourbon Barrel Peach Cider
Rolling River Gin
Luxardo Marschino Liqueur
Torani Amaretto syrup
Egg white
Lemon
Pearl Soda Company Blue Mountain Sunshine Bitters
Our first try at this cocktail was sans the egg white and while it doesn't contribute any flavor to the sour and sweet flavor profile, it did give the cocktail the missing body component. Besides a frothy top makes for an eye pleasing drink.

Mas Nap
Founders Brewing Mas Agave Gose
Prairie Artisan Ales Lil Nap 
Ginger infused Gin
Luxardo Maraschino Liquor
Squeeze of lime
Gose style beers are usually low on the ABV meter, however this version from Founders went well out of the typical ballpark clocking in at a robust 10%. Instead, Lil Nap, a blackberry and lime sour, filled the low ABV slot while being highly flavorful. Looking at the other components of this cocktail one might think there is a little too much going on but thankfully we were able to find the right ratios to create a cohesive, summery, pre-nap cocktail.

The Crooked Cucumber
Crooked Stave Sour Rose
Cucumber infused Gin
Marionberry jam
Inspired by the refreshing flavor of cucumber water, we infused Gin with cucumbers and here, paired it with the effervescent and slightly fruity wild ale from Crooked Stave. The jam added a touch more sweetness and helped amplify the pink color from the beer for a cocktail worthy of a fluted glass.

Tea Cream Shandy (aka Sweet Creams Are Made of These)
Great Notion Brewing Orange Creamsicle IPA
Jasmine tea infused Gin
Sparkling water
The Bitter Housewife orange bitters
Orange squeeze
Equal parts of orange and tea flavors keep this lower ABV cocktail light in flavor, light enough that we decided it should be served in a pint glass. If it makes the cut to be refined we may look at getting some shaved ice to serve it with for a playful cocktail.

With each Test Kitchen we're learning more about the basic components we'd want to have in our beer cocktail kit. Some things are nice to have and fun to play with while some are quickly becoming essential. 

Thanks again for sticking with us as we explore beer-related pursuits. If we've inspired you to venture out on some of your own, or have suggestions for the future, leave us a comment.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Oregon Cider Week 2019

Oregon Cider Week starts today, and just as Portland Beer Week was, this "week" is an 11-day long celebration that encompasses two weekends. We were fortunate to be able to attend a preview event earlier this week that featured 20 local cidermakers and over 60 ciders. Try as we might, we didn't make it through all of them but of the ones that we had those that rose to the top of the barrel were:

Tieton Cider Works Single Varietal Harrison - Tieton cans some of their cider but the Single Varietal series is in bottles. Speaking to them we learned that they grow all of their own fruit in Yakima and that the Harrison apple was a variety that nearly went extinct shortly after Prohibition. Not an eating apple as much as what one would consider a baking apple, it hit the mark for us as a cider apple.

Square Mile Cider Hopped Cider - First off, yes, Square Mile is a Widmer Brothers "sibling" - make of it what you will. As for this Galaxy dry-hopped cider what really impressed us was that not only did the dry-hopping impart a beer-like aroma, it provided plenty of beer-like flavor to the still-a-cider base. It's certainly not for some people but should we run across someone who was gluten-free and craving hoppiness, we'd recommend checking this cider out.

2 Towns Ciderhouse Camp Clementine - We've been impressed by 2 Towns ciders again and again so it wasn't a surprise that this passionfruit and clementine cider was one of our favorites. Passionfruit can sometimes be a bit too sweet but the clementines nicely restrained the sweetness here. Bonus points for a "sunny" and thoroughly summer looking label.

WildCraft Cider Works Willamette Heritage - There are a ton of American ciders we love but the key to our heart really is a funky, barnyard French cider and this offering from WildCraft is one of the closest we've had to something from across the ocean. If you like a bit of barnyard in your cider, too, seek this out.


AVID Cider Dragonfruit - While the aroma was a bit muddled, the flavor combination from the dragonfruit and raspberries used was quite nicely tart. The can sports an eye-catching label and we also loved it paired with the Blue Star donut* featured at the event. 

AVID Cider Watermelon Rhubarb - Would you expect a cider that smells like a Jolly Rancher to actually taste good? Of course not. You'd expect it to be gimmicky and over the top sweet. Not so in this case. Yes, it smells like a watermelon Jolly Rancher but the actual flavor is far less sweet and somehow the rhubarb manages to provide a rind-like flavor to the cider. It might possibly be black magic.

We won't re-list the information about all the Week's events here, but direct you to their website and Facebook page. One event, however, that we enjoyed last year and if we were able to attend again would be the Oregon Cider Summit. It takes place at The Fields Park Friday and Saturday and like the preview we attended, is a great way to try many ciders in one place. If you buy your ticket online today it is $30 (+ $2.85 fees) for a glass and 12 tasting tickets. At the door, if tickets remain, they will be $35.

*Vanilla cake donut with a glaze made from Bauman's Loganberry Cider, fresh raspberries and juicy blackberries. Topped with a salted crumble made with olive oil and lemon, vegan to boot. Available at all Blue Star locations throughout the Week.