Saturday, November 30, 2013

Makin' a List: Prepping for the Holiday Ale Festival

With the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah feasting behind it's time to look ahead to the liquid feasting the 18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival will provide. Due to how late Thanksgiving fell this year that means that there are just a few short days to prepare for the five-day festival.

Angel, this year's vintage pin up girl
I recently sat down with the list of standard release beers to identify those I don't want to miss. That short list includes:
Cascade Brewing Cherry Diesel (barrel aged imperial stout) Generally I stick to their sour offerings but after being blown away by their Oblique Black & White Coffee Stout I'll give this a go.
Gigantic Brewing The Scut Farkus Affair (holiday ale) A beer made with Haribo gummy bears? I'm in!
Kells Brew Pub Fruit Cake Ale (imperial brown ale) Fruit cake can be good, fruit cake can be not good. I'll be interested to see which camp this beer inspired by it falls into.
Lagunitas Brewing Co High West Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout (stout) I'm already a fan of the standard version so I can only see a barrel aged version being even better.
McMenamins John Barleycorn Mele Kalikimaka Coconut Stout (imperial stout) Being one that enjoys Maui's Coconut Porter this heftier beer might be pretty tasty.
Oakshire Brewing Co Swiss Mrs. Alpine Alt (milk chocolate sticke alte) Mashed with toasted marshmallows along with lactose and cocoa nibs, this sounds like a perfect cold winter drink to me.
Old Town Brewing Co Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum (rum barrel aged old ale) I'm a sucker for barrel aged beers and interested to taste Bolt's creation.
Slanted Rock Brewing Co Panty Hose Porter (imperial baltic vanilla porter) This is a brewery I've never had a beer from and in fact never heard of. We'll see...
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Erotic Cake (chocolate milk stout) Similar to some of the other beers on my list, I hope the beer lives up to the description.
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery The Twerking Elf (northwest sour brown) I love sours so I've got high hopes for this one.
Stone Brewing Co Spiced Unicorn Milk (chai milk stout) Chai doesn't do much for me but Stone makes solid beers that are usually right up my alley.

In addition to the standard release beers, there will also be at least 16 limited release beers tapped the first four days of the festival (none on Sunday). As of today the 2013 list was still a work-in-progress so I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled when I am there for both the tapping times - they ranged from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. last year - and the beers.

If you're one of those that will be making your own hit list for the festival, what ones are you most looking forward to? Or will you be scoping out the beers when you arrive, opting for those with the shortest lines? Maybe you have some other beer festival plan of attack?

Holiday Ale Festival
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Wednesday, December 4 - Sunday, December 8
Gates open at noon on Wednesday, 11 a.m. daily after that

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lompoc Holiday Beer Preview

Whether you want to admit it or not, the holidays are nearly upon us. Thankfully folks like those over at Lompoc have been brewing up some delicious hop juice to help us get through the season.

Earlier this week I had a chance to try out eight beers that will be released the first week of December. They ran the gamut from lager to porter, Belgian to Imperial IPA and included two that utilized local sour pie cherries. It's no surprise that the hop-forward, piney C-Sons Greetings was a favorite. Many consider this beer to be Lompoc's flagship seasonal and it is one of only two of the holiday seasonal offerings that will be bottled.

Going to another end of the flavor spectrum, Holiday Cheer, a robust vanilla porter, was delightfully roasty with a lingering chocolate flavor. The presence of the beer in this year's holiday lineup will be good news for some and sad news for others as it means that 8 Malty Nights will be sitting out until next year. I would argue that even if you're sad about 8 Malty Nights, you should give this one a chance, especially if there's any to be found on nitro.

The tasting also offered a side-by-side comparison of Old Tavern Rat and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat. The beers, named for none other than the original tavern rat, Don Younger, are 9+% ABV barleywines. While I generally prefer BBAs, in this comparison I found the non-BBA more pleasing and if you trust my palate you'll be happy to know that this is the other one that will be available in bottles.

With the variety of seasonal offerings from Lompoc there's sure to be one that you'll enjoy as well as one your buddy, your Uncle Joe or your sister-in-law Amy will be happy to tip back. So stop in at Lompoc starting the first week in December, check out their beer at the Holiday Ale Festival and enjoy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dirty Hands Brewing Company

Yesterday took us across the border into Washington to attend a friend's bottle share. Being that we needed to be there early evening we gave ourselves plenty of time to deal with rush hour and ended up in Vancouver with plenty of time. Knowing this might happen I figured we could pop into By the Bottle for a pint or two however as we turned down W Evergreen Blvd, what did I see, but a brewery! We quickly swung around the block, easily found a parking spot and proceeded to enter Dirty Hands Brewing Company.

Although it was just after 4:00 pm, there were already a few patrons inside and we made a beeline to the bar. With five beers on tap we ordered up a sampler tray and started in. Before we got even half way through one of the owners came over and introduced himself. Phil and his business partner, Grant, are both chemists by trade and Phil previously worked for Miller in their R&D department followed by time with a winery. Phil graciously offered, and I accepted, a trip down stairs to check out the brewery. With relatively low ceiling height they may have to look at a warehouse space for much expansion in the future but for now they have plenty of room in the brewery.

Dirty Hands, a name that speaks to both the history of the building (formerly housed a newspaper) and the fact that brewing will get ones hands dirty, has been open for less than a week. The 3.5 barrel system is housed in two levels of what was most recently a bridal shop. The corner location with large windows catches the eye (that's how we found it!) and the warm glow draws one in.

As for the beers, of the five the Liberty Ship Stout was easily my favorite. It's a roasty stout with very little sweetness and at only 5.6% ABV, one I could enjoy many pints of. I also enjoyed their Redemption Brown Ale which had a milder roastiness and as Mag said, "a very sessionable brown." The other three, 320 Mule Wheat, New Deal Amber Ale and WPA (a golden ale), aren't styles I generally enjoy but there was nothing off or unpleasant about them. I'll be interested to see what direction their beers take as they grow but for now I think the stout will be a crowd pleaser for the winter months.

With all the breweries popping up in Portland,it's easy to forget that there's a similar trend just across the border. Now I wouldn't recommend making the trip during rush hour, but if you find yourself with time on a weekend, a quick run north might be a good way to spend an afternoon. We'll certainly be making it a point to visit again soon.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Might Be a Bottle Share Addict & Why Beer People Are Great

Taking a look at the past couple of weeks and the coming weeks I'm starting to think that I might be a bottle share addict. For those wondering what I'm talking about, cruise on over to this Wall Street Journal piece then come on back. For the already initiated, continue.

Photo courtesy of PDX Bottle Share
In October, after not having attended a bottle share in a while, I went to my first PDX Bottle Share at Reverend Nat's. Appropriately the theme was "ciders" and while there were plenty of ciders shared and opened there was also a nice infusion of beers throughout the share.

Then last weekend I hosted a small bottle share, un-themed, where about 10 of us opened enough bottles to have satiated 20. The "two hour" event ended up lasting closer to six hours for me - six hours of pure beer enjoyment.

Turning the calendar to next week there's an annual bottle share that a friend is hosting and another PDX Bottle Share, this time at Bridgetown Beerhouse. Things quiet down around Thanksgiving before next month where I may be hosting another small share and PDX Bottle Share will gather at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom.

Circling back to my friend's bottle share, the "5th Annual Winter Beer Fest," I have no doubt it will live up to its name. And its name brings me to what I love about these shares. They really are mini beer festivals and they include a mix of friends, beer acquaintances and sometimes people I'd not met before, just like any other beer festival. Nevertheless, the attendees are all in it for the love of beer. That's a really cool thing. What's even cooler is that this is often times beer that has been lovingly cellared, home brewed or acquired by trade. And yet, beer people are more than willing to share what they have. Beer people are great.