Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekend Recap

The weekend turned out to be a busier one than I had anticipated, and not because I was Christmas shopping. No, I was on a far nobler mission, the mission of good beer.
Friday night I managed to drag my still-sick-with-a-head-cold-can’t-taste-much husband up to NE to check out the newest Fire on the Mountain outpost. I’m a serious addict of their wings, and didn’t anticipate this would change that, but the one, two punch of offering both house brewed beer AND pizza was too much to pass up.

They are currently offering four beers, The Eleven NW Pale Ale, which I had tried a few days earlier at the Burnside location, X-Tinguisher Wheat, Hoosier Amber and Shocks of Sheba IPA. It will come as no surprise to hear that I liked their IPA the best. Part of it may be that I’m a hop head and pitted against three less hoppy beers, the outcome was nearly assured. Part of it may have been that those other three beers were simply styles that generally don’t impress me. I’ll leave any further speculation up to you.

Saturday night I got beer geeky at Brian’s place, where he dipped into his cellar and fellow beer lovers brought delights to share. One of the highlights was a vertical tasting of Anchor Christmas Ale, a beer which has never screamed out to me. While I still won’t be going to any lengths to acquire my own, the vertical tasting was very interesting. The 2005 was my favorite (and upon closer inspection, the only bottle with a screw-off cap), the 2007 & 2008 similar to one another, the 2009 & 2010 also similar to one another but a departure from the previous two and the 2011 nothing to write home about (maybe it needs a couple years in the cellar). There was also a magnum of Our Barrel Ale, which was a delicious blend of beers.

Three other beers of note from the night were Breakside Brewery Soursop Wheat, New EnglandBrewing Company Imperial Stout Trooper and Three Floyds Brewing Arctic Panzer Wolf. These three probably couldn’t have been more different, ranging from a delightfully, light sour beer, to a chocolate, roasty imperial stout to a huge hop bomb.

Sunday afternoon I had my second chance to get beer geeky at The Beermongers’ Cellar Dip. Sean brought out some treats, as did the other beer geeks that showed up. There weren’t any verticals but the vast majority of beers were ones that were not possible to get here. Some were personally brought back, others had been sent by friends and others came as the result of trades. Three Floyds once again came in my top three, this time with their 2009 Behemoth Blonde Barleywine, along with the now closed Roots Organic Brewing Epic Ale and HoppinFrog Brewery Barrel Aged Naked Evil Belgianesque Barleywine.

It was a busy weekend for this beer geek. Thanks to everyone that helped make it such a good time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Brewing with PBS at Coalition

I’ve never brewed commercially. In fact, I’ve never brewed anything larger than what our standard-sized home brewing set up can handle. And even though that equipment made the cut on what to keep and what to get rid of when we moved to Portland, we haven’t used it since well before the move. Sunday I had the opportunity to help brew, this time in a real brewery, albeit on a small system.

The Saturday prior I had attended a Pink Boots Society meeting where there were a number of LOLA members and other ladies from the local brewing scene. One of the things discussed was what type of brew would be made the following week and in the end the decision was made to go with a chocolate raspberry porter. Besides being a collaborative brew, brewed on the equipment Coalition uses for its Coalator program, the final product is destined to be part of The New School Beer Blog’s New Year’s Eve party. The bash will be held at Burnside Brewing and proceeds will benefit local charities.

Although I wasn’t able to stay the entire time I did get to sample the fresh, hot wort. It was darn tasty, like real maple syrup, although not quite as sweet. The raspberry puree was added near the end of the boil and I look forward to trying it in a couple weeks when it’s ready to be kegged.

Thank you to Coalition for the use of the space and equipment, Great Western Malting for the malt, to Lee for heading up the brewing and to all the great ladies for a few fun hours brewing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Debut of The Commons

Like many young adults who are put their childhood on the shelf, reach toward adult status and vary their name to something they feel is more reflective of the person they are trying to be, Beetje Brewery has become The Commons Brewery. They’ve upgraded their accommodations from what was surely becoming a very crowded garage with a 1bbl system to a shiny, yet unpretentious, space with a 7bbl system in SE Portland.

Saturday marked their official opening to the public and it was exactly what I needed, having come from the far-too-crowded-for-me environs of the second to last day of the Holiday Ale Fest. This, this is the kind of place I expected to, and did, see many of my fellow beer geeks. In the course of chatting we made it through a sampling of the seven beers available: Urban Farmhouse Ale and Flemish Kiss from their year round selection, Sticke, a seasonal, and four in the Beetje Series, Fleur de Ferme, Rooibos, Touch of Essex and BBL 1. My favorite of the group, no surprise, was BBL 1, a tart barrel blend.

I was one of their followers who was sad to see the Beetje name officially change, but they’ll always be Beetje to me. Just like I’ll always be known as “Krissy” to a handful of people who are very dear to me.

For those interested in checking it out in person, the tasting room is open Fridays 5:00 – 9:00 pm and Saturdays 4:00 – 9:00 pm. Cash and credit card accepted, minors politely declined.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Remembering #HAF2011

After a five-day run, this year’s Holiday Ale Festival is now just a memory and it’s time for a little reflection. Overall I found the offerings to be a bit weaker than last year or maybe it was that while there were some really outstanding beers, there were some very disappointing beers, something I don’t recall from last year.

Very Tasty Beers
Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin – Yes, I’m hopping on the bandwagon and giving this beer two thumbs up.

Laht Neppur Laughing Boy Stout – This was my second beer of the festival and I was pleased to find it a very well done bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.

MacTarnahan’s Barrel Aged Ink Blot Baltic Porter – This beer was on my “skip” list simply because it was from MacTarnahan’s. I was wrong, so very wrong, and I'm super pleased I had the chance to try it.

Stone Ruination IPA DDH Apollo/American – Besides being completely different from most of the beers at the fest, it hit the right notes for me being packed with hoppy grapefruit flavor, very smooth and immensely drinkable.

Disappointing Beers
Upright Provision – While I like some Upright beers and dislike others, this one fell solidly in the disappointment category. My sixth beer of the fest, I don’t think my taste buds were that far gone but I got nothing, just nothing from this beer.

Brew Crew Hallucinator – One of my main reasons for trying it was that it was billed as a Holiday Ale Fest only beer. Lesson: that doesn’t mean it will be good.

Buckman Fruit Cake – Fruit cake has a bad reputation, sometimes undeserved, sometimes rightfully deserved. This proved to be the latter.

Natian HOLLAday Ale – In general I’m a Natian fan (especially after meeting Nat recently) and I was excited to try all of the holiday treats in one glass. I guess sometimes there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

Beyond the beers there were a couple things I hope the festival organizers will take note of and improve upon in the future.
Water Stations: Water, for rinsing and for drinking, is essential at any beer fest. When a fest bars outside food and beverage from being brought in, it’s particularly essential that there are plenty of well stocked water stations available. Besides the hydration factor, it’s impossible to get the true taste of a beer if the last one is still lingering in your glass. One water station near the exit for a multi-level event doesn’t cut it.

Re-entry: Both this year and last year we went to the festival multiple days. Last year there was no issue with coming back, as long as it was the current year’s festival mug in your hand, all you had to do was get ID checked again and buy more tasting tickets. This year however, I feel we came very close to having to pay for a whole new package ($25 for a mug and 8 tasting tickets) because our stamps had worn off and we had taken our wristbands off. I understand that the festival doesn’t want one person buying a glass and then letting buddies use it. But what the festival didn’t seem to understand is that I, and probably a good majority of attendees have jobs, professional jobs, where wearing a bright red “ID checked” wristband and not showering in order for the stamp to stay on is simply not acceptable.

While I may complain about some of the beers, you won't find me dwelling on them. In fact, if you ask me in a couple months which beers those were I will likely have to pull up this post to remember. And for the critiques of the water and re-entry issues, well, I'm an event planner and I can find things that need to be improved upon at nearly any event. So no hard feelings, friends. You win some, you lose some. And there will always be more beer to enjoy.