Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Beer Cocktails: Rum Edition

For our second installment of beer cocktails we chose the general category of rum to work with, leaving ourselves plenty of options by having light rum, dark rum, spiced rum and even Malibu coconut rum (which likely conjures up very specific memories for anyone). With such a wide array of liquor flavor profiles the beers we opted not to limit ourselves to a beer style and selected ones were equally wide ranging. Like any experiment there were some great ones and some “work in progress” (to be revisited and refined in the future) ones, the former of which are below.

Fell into a Pile of Leaves
- Whaler’s Rare Reserve Dark Rum
- Reuben’s Autumn Harvest Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- club soda
- coconut sugar
- candied jalapeno simple syrup
- white sugar rim
- candied jalapeno and roasted delicata squash garnish

Dry and mild with a distinctive “fall” taste. The pumpkin ale is one of the better ones we’ve had, providing a full aroma, yet restrained in the level of pumpkin pie spices found in the flavor with a well balanced body. In the candid words of Lee, “Ah, shit, that’s divine!”

Spicy Jungle Rum-tini
- Whaler’s Rare Reserve Dark Rum
- Evil Twin You’re in the Jungle
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- cacao juice
- coconut sugar rim

One of the later creations from this session, a time when we were venturing further afiled, we used two beers in this cocktail - the stout to provide both body for the cocktail and as a balance to the heat of the Evil Twin, a habanero peppers-containing beer. Much deeper and darker than the previous cocktail using the same rum, it tastes like what comes after fall - the holidays.

Santa’s Dirty Little Secret
- Havana Club Puerto Rican Rum (aƱjeo blanco)
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- homemade Kahlua
- heavy cream

This fairly straightforward cocktail was loosely based on the flavors of a White Russian and it was pleasing to find that each of the ingredients we choose stood up to the others. Cascading and combing over our palate, the multiple layers of flavor change with each sip. We think Santa would be quite pleased to find this “dirty milk” in place of the standard glass of white alongside his cookies. Speaking of cookies, we happened to have some coffee crunch cookies, a take on chocolate chip cookies, on hand that provided yet another layer of flavor. If you’re good little boys and girls we might share our recipe for these crunchy, coffee-forward delights.

You Put the Lime in the Coconut
- Malibu Coconut Rum
- Crooked Stave Sour Rose
- club soda
- cranberry juice
- sugar rim
- lime garnish

Just the aroma out of the freshly cracked bottle of Malibu made us want to find a beach, slather on some back-in-the-day tanning oil and relax. Instead we put our heads to work, coming up with a combination of sour/tart beer and cranberry juice to offset the overwhelming coconut profile of the rum, taking this from a 20-something drink to that a 35+ crowd wouldn’t be embarrassed to drink. The use of club soda boosted the carbonation provided by the beer for a cocktail that screams “lawn chair STAT and keep my glass filled!” regardless of the time of year.

Dark & Stormy Natian
- The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- Cock'n Bull ginger beer

Once again taking inspiration from a traditional cocktail, this time a Dark & Stormy, we put a beer spin onto it, betting the stout would compliment the “dark” characteristics of the rum in this sipper. Keeping the cocktail from being overly dark was the ginger provided by the Cock'n Bull and the next time we make this we'll expand on that with a candied ginger garnish.

With two editions of beer cocktails behind us (here's the first one in case you missed it), we're looking forward to continuing to use our creative juices to bridge the gap between a pint of beer and a cocktail.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Beer Cocktails: Oktoberfest & Vodka Edition

This year we've been getting more exposure to liquor and the experiences have opened our eyes and palates. We're not afraid to admit that the hard stuff has been intimitating, probably not too dissimilar to when we started drinking craft beer. What is actually good? What is worth the cost? What do we enjoy?

One of our partners on this exploration has been Annebelle, who has a great palate, a taste for cocktails and an eye for presentation. We came up with the idea to try our hand at making beer cocktails, getting together on a monthly basis to test out various combinations of a designated liquor and a style of beer each time. And while having more cooks in the kitchen isn't the best of plans, having another set of taste buds for our experimenting seemed prudent. Insert Lee who has a wealth of experience with tipples - being a mead maker, brewer and distiller - and is just as adventurous as we are.

Since fall is here it felt fitting to use Oktoberfests for the beer style and being our first go around, we chose one of the easier liquors to mix - vodka. What we came up with were a handful of cocktails, that may be subject to a bit more refining in the future, but we quite enjoyed and felt were worth sharing.

- Occidental Festbier
- Olde York Farm micro batch ramp vodka from Hudson, NY
- pickle brine
- lemon juice
- togarishi, salt, sugar, cayenne rim
- lemon slice and pickle garnish
All of the splashiness of a cocktail visually, this creation used a special vodka Lee hand carried back from a trip out east and a house-made version of togarishi in the rimming mixture. Reminiscent of a Bloody Mary in flavor without the heaviness from tomato juice.

Red Oktobier
- StormBreaker Stomtoberfest
- Belvedere vodka
- Apeol
- orange bitters
- lime garnish
Light and bright were the first words that came to mind upon trying this negroni-inspired beer cocktail. Using Apeol, similar to Campari but with a lower ABV, and beer made for a less bracing cocktail and the bitters filled in for Vermouth. 

Hipster Beerlini
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- peach juice
- peach slice garnish
A bellini can be a simple cocktail, just sparkling wine and peach juice or schnapps, and it's that simplistic take that we used to create our cocktail. Drawing on the beer for the carbonation sparkling wine would contribute we balanced the sweetness of the juice with just enough vodka to keep it feeling cocktail-ish. Using a perfectly ripe peach slice as garnish conjured up the aroma of being in the orchard at the height of harvest. 

Passion of the Beerlini
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- Amoretti passion fruit puree
- La Croix passionfruit
- lime
- muddled red raspberries
Taking the inspiration of a bellini further afield, we switched from peach to passion fruit for the juice component and added to the carbonation with flavored sparkling water. Muddling red raspberries gave it a rich color, with the lime providing a citrus brightness.

Although we had decided to make our concoctions with Oktoberfest beers and vodka after a few attempts with Spaten's beer we agreed whiskey was the way to go with it. Thus the final cocktail to come out of this installment uses a local whiskey and a majority local ingredients.
Go Westward, Spaten
- Spaten Oktoberfest
- House Spirits Westward whiskey
- Raft Botanicals smoked tea vanilla
- orange bitters
- The Barreled Bee whiskey barrel-aged honey rim
- orange peel

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

House Spirits Distillery - Rooted in Craft Beer

"It takes a lot of beer to make whiskey." We're not sure who first said it but up until recently we took it to mean that distillers drink a lot of beer. While we'll leave them to say yea or nay, we've also learned that it literally takes a lot of beer, albeit without hops, to distill down into whiskey. So much that House Spirits in SE Portland utilizes 15 tons of malted barley per WEEK. Read on for a look at why they feel their beer brewing roots are integral to the whiskey they make.

Christian Krogstad and John Foyston
Founder Christian Krogstad, a Seattle native who attended the Siebel Institute and said his early years were greatly influenced by Redhook, moved to Portland in 1991. Right out of the gate he signed on with McMenamins Edgefield, which had just opened its brewery onsite. He spent quite a few years in the craft brewing world before he made the decision to apply his combination of education and experience brewing beer to distilling spirits, malt whiskey in particular. Those years instilled in him a deep understanding of the innovation that started the craft brewing movement in the Northwest and it was that innovative mindset, not Scottish tradition as one might suspect, that House Spirits is based on.

The self-funded enterprise began in 2004 in a modest facility adjacent to Roots Brewing (which closed in 2010) in SE Portland. Roots was the first, followed by many other local breweries, that allowed House Spirits to use their brewing system to make the basis for their whiskey, what is know as a wash. For those unfamiliar with the whiskey making process, a wash is similar to beer but what distinguishes a wash from beer is the time it takes to make it (far shorter) and that no hops are added. As mentioned before, however, they use plenty of grain in the fermentation of the approximately 8% ABV wash, 15,000 gallons of which is produced weekly. 

Christian's brewing background led to his choice to use all Northwest 2 Row Pale Ale malt as well as his choice of yeast. Instead of a standard distiller's yeast, the House Spirits wash is made with an ale yeast that he feels imparts a better flavor in the final productIn addition to drawing on his brewing background to choose ingredients, he has also assembled a team of distillers that, save one, worked for a brewery before signing on with House Spirits. The brewing knowledge that each member of the team brings with them is part of their lineage, linking them in a very concrete way to their brewing roots.

In 2015 House Spirits moved from their original SE facility to a much more roomy facility, intentionally selected to keep them in SE. The facility boasts a 30bbl brewing system and four 100bbl fermenters and is 10x larger than the original space. While no longer bursting at the seams and having a greater need to use the brewing set ups at local breweries like when they were making washes at Roots Brewing, Christian continues to partner with local breweries. Alameda, Breakside, Fort George, Migration and Green Dragon have all worked with House Spirits. In fact when Breakside opened their Milwaukie location they wanted to get plenty of practice on their new, larger brewing system. It wasn't beer that was first made however, it was a House Spirits wash. 

Christian pulling whiskey samples from the Frankie Claus barrel
Another ongoing relationship involves Migration's Frankie Claus, an imperial Belgian chocolate stout. Initially Migration got a whiskey barrel from House spirits and aged a run of Frankie Claus in it. Once the beer was emptied out of the barrel it went back to House Spirits where they decided to fill it with three year old Westward whiskey. After sitting in the barrel for a year the whiskey was pulled out and House Spirits released a stout whiskey. With both parties deeming it successful, this cycle has continued with the same barrel, now on the fifth filling of it. 

Just as we've found ourselves entranced listening to brewers talk about their history, their beer, their projects for the future, so, too were we entranced listening to Christian talk about House Spirits. If the brief picture we've provided you from our visit has whet your whistle for more then it's time for you to experience it yourself. Tours are available daily, public classes covering a variety of different topics occur every week or two and private classes/events are available.