Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Expectations & Surprises

We all have expectations - when we see the name of a brewery we recognize or when we see a certain style of beer. Even before there is conscious thought there are the unconscious, built in feelings toward them. What happens next, whether you go with your expectations, your instincts whether or not to order X style of beer from Y brewery, is where the difference lies. Perhaps you've had a long day and you want a sure thing in your glass. Perhaps you're feeling adventurous or heard good things about something you normally wouldn't order.

This past weekend I attended the inaugural NW Coffee Beer Invitational at the Goose Hollow Inn. The festival was the brainchild of brewer Dave Fleming and featured 12 breweries who crafted their beer with coffee from a local roaster. Being a coffee lover and a beer lover it was a no brainer for me to attend. It was also a no brainer for me to review the beer list ahead of time and naturally I started to form some expectations.

Attending the festival with my better half, our admission packages combined meant we had 12 tickets, perfect to drink our way through the 12-beer line up.

Of the 12 breweries participating I'd had beers from all but one and naturally favored some over others. What ended up happening, not an uncommon occurrence at festivals, is that my expectations and my taste buds didn't line up across the board. On this day, however, I was more surprised than usual with the results.

My two favorite beers of the festival came from Widmer and Fire on the Mountain. In this town Widmer is a staple and I often overlook staples, unfairly. Their Scared Half to Death mocha pale ale reminded me that while they might be one of the bigger players in the craft beer scene, they didn't get that far by not being able to brew great beer. This beer was all cold-press coffee, starting with the aroma and following through to the flavor, with the additional twist of retaining the color of a pale ale.

Fire on the Mountain is known by many for their super-awesome-incredible wings (you guessed I like them, right?) and a few years ago they started brewing. They've steadily been improving their beer and their Nutty Irish Mud stout was a testament to their potential. The base beer was Electric Mud which they conditioned on hazelnuts, cold-pressed coffee and whiskey soaked oak chips. As with Widmer's beer this one started with great aroma follow by great flavor, in this instance the hazelnuts took center stage.

If you went to the festival I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you didn't go to the festival I'd be interested to hear, after looking at the beer list below, which beers you would expect to like and why. Is it because of the brewery? Is it because of the style? Is it because of the coffee used?

10 Barrel Brewing Co. - Pray for Joe strong ale - Backporch Coffee Roasters
Base Camp Brewing Co. - The Incredible Baltor baltic porter - Guatemalan Trailhead
Breakside Brewery - Coffee Sesame Brown brown ale - Stumptown Coffee
Burnside Brewing Co. - Trifecta Collaboration Stout - Ristretto Roasters
Coalition Brewing Co. - Night Cap IPA - Ristretto Roasters
Fire on the Mountain Brewing Co. - Nutty Irish Mud oatmeal stout - Spella Caffe
Grain Station Brew Works - Hank's Dark Roast CDA - Mud River Roasting
Lucky Labrador Brewing Co. - Counting Sheep black IPA - Portland Roasting
Old Town Brewing Co. - Ol' Joe old ale - Portland Roasting
Pints Brewing - Cherry Bomb berliner weisse - Portland Roasting
Three Creeks Brewing Co. - Coffee Strong Breakfast Stout - Sisters Coffee
Widmer Brothers Brewing - Scared Half to Death coffee mocha pale ale - Stumptown Roasters

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