Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lucky Lab Hop Harvest - More Than Just Manual Labor

Fresh hop season is in full swing, the time of year when the mature hops are brought in from the field, filling the air with their most delicious scent and filling my Twitter feed with images of their glorious green color. Large commercial operations utilize machines to strip the hop cones from the hop bines (yes, it's actually bines, not vines) but as those who grow hops in their yards know hand harvesting is a labor-intensive process. However, just like home brewing, hand harvesting is made more fun by inviting some friends over and imbibing while the work goes on.

The Lucky Lab puts on their own hop harvest every fall, inviting whoever would like to immerse themselves in the aroma of fresh hops, and by night's end hands made sticky and dirty by the hop resins, to come to their Hawthorne pub. Some of the hops are theirs while others are contributed by people coming to pick. What results is an incomprehensible number of varieties of hops that will all be used together to brew "The Mutt."

Last night was the first year I took part in this event, having been busy or simply missing it in the past. I arrived early to find the tables laden with hops and groups of two or three getting to work. As the evening progressed the patio filled with more people and eventually the tide seemed to turn, progress on whittling down the piles of hop bines being made.

I'm always happy to lend a hand, especially when my help is going to result in beer being produced, but the best part of the event was the coming together of many beer friends I hadn't seen for some time. And as much as the labor of many hands helps the Lucky Lab harvest local hops for a fresh hop brew I think they too understand that this is a great way to bring the community of beer lovers together.

Good luck to Ben as he gets to work brewing this year's version of The Mutt today. I'm sure I'm one of many who is looking forward to tasting the beer in a few weeks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Macro BrewFest Musings

I suppose it was only a matter of time until there was a backlash against all the craft beer festivals in Portland. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say it was only a matter of time until someone figured out how to make money on it. Either way the Macro BrewFest is going on at "Foster/Powell dive O'Malley's" (Thrillist's words, not mine).

The three-day festival runs through today (Saturday) and for just $7 one can get your choice of four tallboys (from a selection of 14), live music and comedy. In case you're wondering just how macro things are, here's the list of 14: Genesee, Icehouse, Iron City, Hamm's, Olympia, MGD, Old German, Rainier, Busch, Rolling Rock, Miller High Life, PBR, Bud and Coors.


You could go get yourself a bunch of well-made craft lagers over at White Owl Social Club's first Lagerfest (running today and Sunday). The decision is yours. Choose wisely, my thirsty friends.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hops in My (new) 'Hood

We're in a new neighborhood this year but it's still Portland and there are still hops to be spotted. These hops are unlike the ones I spied last year however. Unlike those "abandoned/neglected" hops, these are quite obviously being cultivated.

They've been provided a gently sloping string to run up.

They're being watered.

And while they might be small in quantity, they are beauties.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Better Late Than Never

Confession: Breakside's Taproom and Brewery in Milwaukie has been open for seven months and it was only in the last week that I finally visited for the first time.

The taproom boasts an impressive 20 taps which includes beers from their year round line up but also include quite a few that you won't find elsewhere. In addition, Breakside has made it a point that the beertender will be one of their brewers. I don't expect all my beertenders to be brewers, just knowledgeable about the product they're pouring but it is a classy touch to make this a policy.

With a tap list of that size some might have a hard time choosing what to order first but I knew before I even got there what my first glass would be. It was none other than their recently released Passionfruit Berliner Weiss, a style which if you've read a few of my posts you know is a current favorite. Excluding the dirty dishwater color of the beer (not uncommon in beers containing fruit), the aroma was full-on fruit and the flavor...oh, wonderful tartness...the kind that made my salivary glands pucker up and beg for more.

I resisted the urge to order a second glass of Passionfruit but kept the sour theme going as I moved on to the Imperial Sour Apricot, a wheat based strong ale with a lactic-soured base. Here the color was brighter but the tradeoff was an aroma that wasn't as appealing. The flavor was not as sour yet it had a light decadence that reminded me of fruit-topped creme brulee.

My third and final beer was the New World Bruin. I was happy from the first whiff all the way to the last sip of this sour brown. I found it strongly reminiscent of Duchesse, albeit a less sweet version with a slight cheese funk on the back. Perhaps that doesn't sound like the most glowing description to you but for me it was delightful.

I would have loved to have lingered longer, enjoying more beer, but plans to meet a friend elsewhere were calling. Bidding adieu to beertender and brewer Tom, I left, looking forward to visiting again soon.

Breakside Taproom & Brewery
5821 SE International Way, Milwaukie
M - F 3:00 - 7:30 pm & Sat 2:00 - 8:00 pm (closed Sunday)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Plan B: Beer

One of the great things about being a beer geek is that anytime you have extra time on your hands, especially when you're out of town, is that you always have a solid Plan B, which is to seek out beer. Sometimes this can be challenging, if you haven't fully fleshed out Plan B in X location but thanks to smart phones, the interwebs and great apps like Untappd, those problems are easily resolved.

Saturday found us with some of the before-mentioned extra time in the Puyallup, WA area and while it might not be the hot bed of beer like its neighbors to the north (Seattle and Tacoma) we managed to find some places to check out.

The first, Northwest Brewing Company, is actually in Pacific, WA, a short drive from Puyallup. This brewery has gone through changes in both ownership and name (you might recall Trade Route Brewing and before that Laughing Buddha) but they've kept a couple of the recipes.

The brewery is located in a light industrial area and consists of a taproom with outdoor patio and indoor bar and table seating divided from the brewery by a partial wall. Of the 10+ beers they make, six of them were on tap and we started with a couple of their lighter offerings. I fell on the "chick beer" offering, Mango Weizen, while Mag checked out their Three Skulls Pale Ale. Both were good beers with the mango flavor of the Weizen being appropriately mild and thankfully not artificial tasting. We also tried the Jet Stream Lager (unsurprisingly Mag enjoyed more than I did), Hoppy Bitch IPA (great hop aroma) and Local Ink (a roasty brown that could easily be mistaken for a porter) before departing.

Our second stop, Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery, is actually housed in an old power house. The brick exterior gives way to an interior that while nice enough, is a bit too slick for me and seemed to be more restaurant than brewery. The 10-beer menu was displayed on a distracting and hard to read (even from the seats at the bar) mirror behind the taps. Trying to keep an open mind we tried the IPA, Scottish and Double Down IPA. While there were not any flaws in the beers they also weren't exciting and the highlight of what we consumed was the Breasts of Fire, chicken in an addictive, I'd-really-like-to-lick-the-bowl chili cream sauce served with crostini. Fortified, we moved on.

Our third stop, Puyallup River Alehouse, we found by checking out the "nearby" section of Untappd. They brew their own beer but also have an assortment of guest taps including ones we were familiar with (10 Barrel, Harvester, etc.). Us being us, we were most interested in their beers and made our way through a fair number of them including Apricot Saison, One Hit Warrior IPA, Cucumber Lemon Saison, Fryingpan Cascadian Red Ale, Strawberry Farmhouse Saison and Paradise Blonde Saison. All the beers were good but hands down my favorite was the Cucumber Lemon. This rivals and perhaps beats the cucumber beer I've thoroughly enjoyed from Flat Tail.

Not only was the beer the best at our third stop, but we ended up chatting with some fellow Untappd users. For a place that upon walking in looks like they'd only be serving up a selection of BMCs, I walked out of there a very happy beer geek. So if you find yourself with some time on your hands in Puyallup, grab a stool and order up some of Puyallup River's house brews.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sour Sisters

In case you haven't guessed it already, I'm a huge fan of both Coalition Brewing and The Commons Brewery. I love nearly everything both breweries are turning out and the owners/brewers are some of the best beer folks around. Over the last few months it occurred to me that a beer from one brewery reminded me of a beer from the one. However I was going on memory alone and I'm the first to admit how faulty my memory can be. Seeking to test my memory properly I opened a bottle of The Commons Maybelle side-by-side with a bottle of Coalition Sourpuss.

Maybelle is a 5% ABV American Wild Ale and Sourpuss is a 3.8% ABV Sour Belgian Wit. Different styles of beer, yes, but sisters or at least kissing cousins. Other than the obvious color and clarity difference, the flavors were close enough for me to feel that my memory hadn't misled me.

Maybelle's color was a bit darker, a bit cloudy and highly carbonated as was evidenced by a foam over upon opening the bottle. The sour aroma was followed by a softer sour flavor that got a little funk on it as it warmed.

Sourpuss was a brighter shade, clearer and more effervescent on the tongue. It gave off more of a funky, rather than sour, aroma but there was certainly some funk in the back of the mouth.

I will stick with my original Untappd ratings where I gave one a 3.5 rating and one a 4 but they are both great beers that I'd be happy to drink any day of the week. If you've had both were you reminded of one by the other? If you haven't had one or both, give them a try if you get the chance. The sourness/funkiness is mild enough in both that they should be palatable even to those who aren't nuts about the style like I am.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Weekend Recap: Burgers, Fries & Beers

Foster Burger's contribution to Portland Burger Week: all-natural NW beef patty, pepperjack cheese, American cheese sauce, thick bacon, locally-made kimchi and spicy cilantro aioli on sesame-seed bun with Burnside IPA.

Hopworks BikeBar's version of poutine: organic wedge-cut fries smothered in vegan brown gravy, topped with cheese curds and Pig War San Juan IPA.

Ate-Oh-Ate's contribution to Portland Burger Week: Laurelhurst Market burger patty on butter-toasted sesame brichoe bun, topped with slices of fried Spam and fried egg, garnished with toasted nori, iceberg lettuce, shaved sweet onion and spicy mayo with Pelican Silverspot IPA (not pictured).

Sadly, Portland Burger Week is over and although some of the participating restaurants highlighted burgers they serve regularly, both Foster Burger's and Ate-Oh-Ate's were specially made for the event. With any luck they'll have gotten such good feedback on them that they'll be added. The poutine, however, is a regular menu item at both the BikeBar and the original location.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's a...Beer?

Most people would agree that in this world there are cat people and dog people, beer drinkers and wine drinkers. Sure, there are some that swing both ways or perhaps tolerate their less favorite of the two. I fall into the dog person, beer drinker group but I'm not opposed to petting the occasional cat or trying some wine from time to time. What I tried last night blurred those lines.

Sixty-One, from the folks at Dogfish Head, is described as "the continually-hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must." From the first time I read that label last week I was intrigued and while checking out the 39th Mini Mart over the weekend I picked up a bottle. The blush color is not dissimilar to that of some of the fruit beers I've had but the flavor is all together new. I can honestly say that it tastes like what I imagine the perfect blend of a red wine and a mildly hoppy beer to be.

If you're one of those folks that likes to try new things and you happen upon a bottle of it, it's worth picking up. At 6.5% it's not a boozy beer and being in a 12-oz format it's one you could probably even struggle through on your own if it turns out not to be your cup of tea. If you've had it (or when you have it) I'd love to hear your take on it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Coalition Keeps it Simple

Yesterday Coalition Brewing released their newest beer, Simple ISA (India Session Ale). While clocking in at a mere 4% ABV it, like their Wheat the People (4.4%), doesn't skimp on flavor. There is enough hop presence to appease hop lovers while finishing clean, staying drinkable and refreshing. If you have enjoyed Wheat the People or are just looking for a sessionable summer beer, go grab a pint (or four) for yourself.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

39th Mini Mart: Specialty Beer Found Here

I've driven by 39th Mini Mart, located just south of Belmont on SE 39th (aka SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd), countless times and I've heard from numerous people that they have a pretty good beer selection. Yet yesterday was the first time I'd taken time to go in and see things for myself.

From the outside a quick look gives you the impression that it's like most other convenience stores. A slightly closer look at their signs, however, and one begins to wonder if they really do have the goods. Those signs speak the truth - there's plenty of specialty beer to be found within, including growlers just waiting to be filled from one of their 12 taps.

Their beer selection, all stored in coolers no less, isn't the biggest in town, but it's good sized. Focused on Oregon and U.S. beers primarily, there is one cooler section of imports and another dedicated to ciders. There's something for just about everyone here, including a couple from Hair of the Dog, newer-to-our-market brews from Ballast Point and yes, there are even a couple of coolers in addition to the ones pictured where you can pick up macros.

The growler fill station on the end is comprised of primarily Oregon beers, with Washington's Georgetown Brewing, California's Ballast Point and Massachusetts' Angry Orchard Cidery rounding out the nice selection. The pricing is simple - $9.99 for any growler fill or $5.99 for any grumbler/growlette fill. Sure, there are a few places around town where on certain days you can beat those prices but their tap list is solid and these prices are good all day, every day. Oh, and if you have misplaced your growler or grumbler/growlette, those are for sale as well.

I spoke with the gentleman working, the owner I believe, and he said that soon they'd also be serving up pizzas and fresh subs, making them a one-stop shop for kicking back at home or heading to a friend's house. In addition, he's open to customer suggestions to improve the selection so while 39th Mini Mart might be quietly going about their business, they're quite serious about doing it well. So the next time you drive by, or the next time you are in need of a growler fill, check 'em out.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Uptown Market

Uptown Market, the nearly two year old specialty brew store that offers beer on draft, bottles to drink there or to go and homebrew supplies, is getting ready to add one more facet to their business - commercially licensed brewery. Located west of Portland in Beaverton (a bit of a craft beer desert) their tap selection includes beers brewed on their small homebrew set up, a stepping stone to the increased production in their future.

The ownership trio of brothers AJ and Chris Shepard and Stuart Faris are in the process of making the necessary modifications to their space to turn a back area into a brewery. One of the two on demand water heaters that will supply the brew kettle has been installed while the 7-barrel system purchased from Two Kilts patiently waits for installation.

I had visited Uptown Market a couple of times previously for a pint and bottles to go but this was the first time I had tried any of their brews. Of the three, ISA (India Session Ale), IPA and Imperial Oatmeal Red, the red turned out to be my favorite. I'm excited to see their house brewed beer selection expand once the brewery is up and running. In the meantime, stop in for a pint, grab some bottles to go or perhaps pick up some supplies to brew up your own.