Monday, September 30, 2013

Beer and...Cereal

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head, likely around the time of my beer and cookie pairing experiments that I wanted to try my hand at pairing beer with cereal. I'm not talking about using beer instead of milk to pour on a bowl of cereal but munching on the cereal dry, snack mix style.

I generally don't buy much cereal so as I thought through how this would work I decided that those packages containing 10 or 12 mini boxes of cereal would be perfect. After some searching I determined that they must not make them anymore however I was able to find the single serving plastic bowls, the kind where you just tear off the top and can pour the milk right in. I picked up six and my initial plan was to do all of them at once. They've been on my shelf for a month so getting impatient, I grabbed a couple

One of the two - Frosted Flakes - has been around as long as I can remember while the other - Krave - was something I hadn't heard of until I picked it up. Without any sort of plan for the Frosted Flakes I somewhat randomly pulled it out when Mag had a bottle of Ballast Point Fathom opened. The style - India Pale Lager - isn't one I've had a ton of experience with. The aroma was that of honey, the flavor a little less so but came across as sweeter than most lagers and without the aftertaste I associate (perhaps incorrectly) with lagers. Drinking the beer between bites of the dry cereal Mag commented, "It shouldn't be good but it is." I agreed and was pleased that this latest experiment was off to a good start.

Krave - for those who aren't familiar with it - contains squares that are similar to graham crackers and filled with chocolate. This one I had a hint of what might work - something along the lines of a stout - so when a bottle of Breakside's Alan From the Wood was opened I dove into the second pairing. This one worked as I had hoped with the graham cracker part keeping the pairing from going into sweet overload. Next I opened a bottle of Founder's KBS, "an ale brewed with chocolate and coffee aged in oak bourbon barrels," and found, not surprisingly, that it also went well with Krave.

After two successful pairings I'm looking forward to the next four cereals I picked up - Special K, Fruit Loops, Corn Pops and Apple Jacks. Two at a time seems easily doable so check back for a couple more installments of this silliness.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fresh Hop Beers All Over Town

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the Hood River Hops Fest and I know plenty of people that are looking forward to it. I have yet to make the drive out to this festival, especially when there are so many fresh hop happenings going on without leaving the comfy confines of Portland.

Already in progress is Concordia Ale House's Fresh-Hop-a-Palooza where one can get a "groovy taster tray" of 10 fresh hop beers for $12. Those who have been to their events before know to expect that the beers will be presented blindly with the names of the beers revealed the Monday following the conclusion of the event (September 30) and a people's choice winner announced from the votes submitted.

Next weekend Roscoe's throws their 4th Annual Fresh Hop Summit and the Fresh Hop Fest takes place at Oaks Park. The Summit, or if you prefer "tap takeover-style event," starts Friday, October 4th and will feature 17 fresh hop beers. Since that number is greater than the number of taps they have the beers will be presented on a rotating basis throughout the weekend with taster trays available. A partial list of breweries and beers is currently available on the Facebook event page; expect more details to be announced as the Summit approaches.

Running Friday evening and Saturday Oaks Park Fresh Hops Fest will be serving up another line up of fresh hop beers. Drink packages run $15 - $40 for glasses + tickets and can be purchased in advance or at the door. I've yet to see a beer or brewery lineup released, which is generally par for the course for this festival.

The following Tuesday (October 8 for those not following along with their calendar) is White Owl Social Club's Heathens & Hops Fresh Hop Celebration. This music venue and quietly-working-on-becoming-a-beer-bar had their first beer festival last month, Lager Fest. As I understand it, the turnout was lower than optimal, due in part to some early fall weather raining on the parade. I'm pleased to see that didn't seem to deter them as they take another stab at it with a festival featuring 15 breweries, primarily from Oregon. The brewery and beers list can be found on their Facebook event page.

Besides the festivals there are of course plenty of fresh hop beers to be found at breweries and bars all around town as well. With all the choices you're sure to find a time and venue to get your fill of bright, fresh-from-the-vine hopped beers.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where Did September Go?

September has been a busy one on this end but a good kind of busy. We had multiple houseguests, starting off with our Minnesota friends Kat & Scott who are Portland pros. Excluding the fact that we now live in Portland, they've visited more times than we did before moving here. Since they're also beer lovers each visit is about showing them new or not before visited places. We had no lack of new places to go in the Portland area but we also ventured out of town to some new to us places.

Newport was our destination and on the way we stopped at Block 15 in Corvallis for lunch. While I have enjoyed plenty of Block 15 beers this was my first visit to their restaurant and brewery where I enjoyed one of the largest salads ever (Oregonzola, figs & chicken) and Framboise Rouge, one of their sour offerings. We could have easily stayed around all afternoon but with half of the drive left we hit the road after fueling up.

Arriving in Newport we dropped our bags (at the Holiday Inn instead of the Rogue B&B we'd hoped for) and hit a couple of the Rogue locations. Rogue is Rogue and with their wide distribution we didn't find anything new to drink. But all was not lost as we were tipped off about a place called Bier One.

Bier One, a bottle shop and taproom, is larger than any of the bottle shop/taprooms in Portland due to the fact that beyond beer they have two pool tables, foosball, a couple of dart boards and a small sidewalk patio. Their tap selection offered us the chance to try beers we'd never had before and while the bottle selection was contained in just a couple of coolers, a quick look at it revealed that while the quantity might be small, the quality was solid.

After a pleasant evening there we took a longer route home the next morning, heading up the coast to Pacific City and Pelican Pub & Brewery. Although it was past Labor Day and a Tuesday, the place was packed when we arrived for lunch. A brief wait, made shorter by a pint of beer and taking in the view from their deck, and we were seated. The food and the beer were good but the setting was the most stunning part. Had we had more time I would have been first in line to slide down the huge adjacent sand dune or just hang out on the patio.

Returning to Portland we had another day before seeing them off. Then it was a short turn around and a reconfiguring of the mind before showing a Portland first timer and inexperienced, yet very willing to try any beer, friend from Iowa around town. More on that next.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bread, Beer & Cheese - A Delicious Event

This trifecta of fermented foods was presented by THE cheesemonger, Steve Jones, owner of Cheese Bar with Josh Grgas, from one of my favorite breweries in town, The Commons, and Dillon DeBauche of Little T Baker, which up until the event I was unfamiliar with. The event "came from a place of dorkiness" and was conceptualized when Steve introduced Dillon to Josh, saying "I have the dork to pair you with." Thus the dorks came together to present a lineup of five breads developed with unique fermentation methods and five beers crafted from different yeast cultures expertly paired with five cheeses. The short review is that it was simply an outstanding event. For more details, keep reading (or just scroll down and peruse some pictures).

Pairing #1 - Farmhouse bread with Urban Farmhouse Ale and Ancient Heritage Hannah
The bread, while not containing any beer, did use The Commons' yeast culture and contained the same percentages of malts as the beer. The cheese comes from one of my favorite local cheese makers who also happens to be one of the bigger sheep dairies on the West Coast and was reminiscent of a parmesan. That sharpness was balanced by the sweetness of the beer and tied together further by the bread, which smelled just like beer being brewed.

Pairing #2 - Cornbread with Cascade Serenade and Bellavitano Pastorale
This was the pairing that Josh admitted he was most pessimistic about and the only beer of the evening that I had not had before. An American wheat beer with elderberries and orange peel, I noted that it was a "very strange beer" and while I can't nail it down more than that, I can say that I enjoyed it more with the cheese. Speaking of cheese, Steve commented that the bread, a moist, delicious version of cornbread, spoke to him very quickly and he went to "the tamale place" for this pairing. The cow/sheep blend comes from Wisconsin and was wrapped in smoked paprika.

Pairing #3 - Coffee Rye with Madrone and Central Coast Goat Gouda
This was another challenging course for the masters. The bread starts from old spelt bread soaked in water, a rye sourdough starter and involves caraway and coffee grounds. Dillon says "no one ever buys this bread" although it is one of his favorites and one I found to offer a dark rye aroma while being pleasantly more moist. Madrone, a clean cut beer, balanced out the very creamy flavor of the cheese and in turn the cheese was delicious with the bread.

Pairing #4 - Beet bread with Biere Royale and Remeker Pure
This pairing was unique in that cultures from Nancy's yogurt were used to make both the beer and the bread. The beer is one of my current favorites from The Commons and I felt was the best beer-bread pairing of the night. The sour characteristics of the beer played well with the beet sweetness and pecans in the stunningly colored bread. The cheese was very aromatic with a delicious funk that paired well with the beer but was a bit overpowering for the delicate flavors of the bread. No doubt though, the color that the beets imparted into the bread and the currants imparted to the beer made this the most beautiful course.

Pairing #5 - Anamada bread with Ortucky Common and Rogue Smokey Blue
Although the bread and beer names were a bit unusual this was not only my favorite pairing of the night but due to the flavors, easily acted as "dessert." Anadama contains cornmeal and molasses and has become a new staff favorite bread, being appropriately described by Dillon as comfort food. The beer, another sour I greatly enjoy, is a play on a Kentucky Common, one of the few indigenous beers in the U.S. and was a collaboration with one of Oregon's newer breweries, De Garde. The molasses in the bread imparted sweetness, working very well with the pungentness of the assertive, smoky cheese and the beer was strong enough to stand up to such a cheese.

I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the evening and I'm very hopeful that the hints about making this a regular event come to fruition. Thanks to Steve, Dillon and Josh - some of the coolest dorks in Portland!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Salt Lake City: At Least I Can Say I've Been There

It should come as a surprise to no one ever that finding good beer in Salt Lake City would be more challenging than in many other cities. Yes, Epic and Uinta are turning out some nice brews (most of which make it to the Portland market) but beyond that there is a distinct lack, likely attributable to the laws under which Salt Lake City brewers must operate.

Spending three days in SLC over the Labor Day weekend we found some nice beers at both Red Rock Brewery and Desert Edge Brewery (both brewpubs). The four we had at Red Rock (IPA Junior, German Pilsner, Oatmeal Stout and Special Bitter, the latter two on nitro) as well as two of the three we had at Desert Edge (Utah Pale Ale and Espresso Stout on nitro) were solid beers. That's saying a lot considering that all of them clock in at about 4% ABV.

The bottles we picked up* however were more of a mixed bag. While the Bobcat Nut Brown from Red Rock was acceptable for the style, their Elephino Double IPA was too floral for me. The two Moab Brewery cans we picked up (yes, Moab isn't in SLC but I haven't seen it in the Portland market to date) couldn't have been further apart. The lager was well-done and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it while their Johnny's American IPA was one of the worst beers I've had. The two Squatters Brewery bottles were the best pair we picked up however drinking them out of order probably gave the IPA a bit of a short stick in terms of objective evaluation because the Hop Rising was a great full-flavored, not-too-sweet DIPA.

Most of the beer available in bottles and cans were things that I've seen in Portland, making beer drinking in SLC far less interesting than I find it to be in other cities I have visited. Operating on the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" rule, I'll defer to Mag's summation that Salt Lake City is "a good session beer town."

*Pro tip: Should you find yourself looking to pick up beer in SLC, DO NOT go to the State Liquor Stores; Harmon's grocery had a much larger selection AND they had beer coolers. However, if you're looking for a couple minutes of entertainment, drive by one of the State Liquor Stores on a Friday night. The phrase, "busier than a one-legged grape stomper" comes to mind.