It was Royal Anne however that really caught my eye upon spying it in the box, for two reasons. One is very superficial (my middle name is Anne) and one is very beery - how would this stout made with Oregon-grown cherries taste? Would the roasty coffee and chocolate notes overwhelm the fruit? Would the fruit flavor come off artificial tasting? With only one way to find out I cracked a bottle of it open.
While I was pleased to find that there was no artificial cherry flavor I was also a bit disappointed that there was very little cherry flavor overall. There was definitely "something" in addition to the lingering, slightly chocolately flavor, but if I hadn't known it was cherry I'm not sure I would have been able to identify it. For a 7.8% stout it was nicely drinkable - not watery but not so heavy as to fill you up - yet I tend to enjoy fruit stouts where the fruit flavor is more prominent.
Ambers are not a style I expect much from however MacTarnahan's is a perfectly fine representation of the style. One redeeming quality in a mild beer like this is that they can serve double duty - you can enjoy drinking them and they tend to work well in cooking applications. With this in mind I whipped up a batch of mini soufflé bites. I'd made the recipe once before, as directed using milk and was pleased with the results, but was confident there were infinite other variations just waiting to be tested out. This time I used a different kind of bread, changed up the cheese and did a straight substitution of beer for the milk that was called for. And you know what? They turned out great! The beer flavor isn't overpowering but it's there and along with the other changes really makes this recipe more of an appetizer than a breakfast item. It'll be one I'll continue to play with, especially when I'm looking for a nice "something to eat while drinking beer" appetizer.
Finally I came to the porter, a style that is all over the board for me. This one I'm happy to say is the kind that is right up my alley - opaque black in color (blacker than many stouts), very roasty in back with just enough creaminess up front to keep me coming back for more. At a mere 5.3% this is a sessionable porter that roasty beer fans should check out.
Thanks to Portland Brewing and Watershed for not only their generosity but for reminding me that it's a good idea to check back in with local staples from time to time. You never know when you'll be reminded of something you'd forgotten how much you enjoy.