Saturday, April 26, 2014

#10 For You, #2 For Me

This year marks the 10th Annual Oregon Garden Brewfest and our second year attending it. While last year everything was new and shiny to us, this year we had a better idea of what to expect and were eager to experience it again.

The first thing we knew to expect was that the later in the day we left to get down to Silverton Thursday afternoon, the more traffic there would be. We planned accordingly and found ourselves already nearing the Salem exits from I-5 just after 3 pm. After a quick look at options for ways to spend the hours between then and dinner, we decided to pay a visit to Vagabond Brewing. I'll be telling you more about that soon, but for now, just know that it was worth visiting and if you're in Salem don't pass up the opportunity to go yourself.

Once we arrived at the Oregon Garden Resort and got checked in we headed over to the Fireside Lounge for some pre-dinner drinks. There were plenty of familiar faces but this time instead of getting our beers and finding a seat on one of their comfy couches we opted to stay at the bar. We talked to quite a few people, including owner and brewer of Boring Brewing, John Griffith. I'd exchanged emails and phone calls with John the previous summer in the course of setting up a BREWVANA tour but this was my first time meeting him in person. Not only that but as I was to find out the next day, his Hot Scotch Scottish Ale (brewed with Scotch Bonnet peppers) was outstanding. Enough jumping ahead, a bit on the six-course Brewer's Tasting Dinner first.

The dinner offered a wide range of beers - from well-known breweries (Bridgeport, Stone and Cascade) to younger, less proven ones (Golden Valley, Rusty Truck and Salem Ale Works). Of the six courses there was only one where I didn't enjoy the beer, the food or the pairing and a second one where the beer was excellent but the food was by far my least favorite of the night. As is often the case there was one pairing where I didn't particularly enjoy the beer on its own (Golden Valley Pinot Noir Barrel-Aged Geistbock, pictured) but when paired with the hazelnut crusted goat cheese fritters, I found it much more enjoyable.

Both the second course - Rusty Truck Simcoe CDA with smoked sausage potato cakes - and the fifth course - Cascade Honey Ginger Lime with pork confit-stuffed artichoke - offered great beer, great food and a great pairing of the two. Going into the dinner we told ourselves that since we were staying two nights this year we should take advantage of the post-dinner drinking but alas, our bellies full of beer and food overruled our determination to "stay out" and by 10 pm we were both zonked out.

The next morning we enjoyed the rare opportunity to sleep in. After building a good base at breakfast and a stroll around the gardens there was still some time to kill before it was time to embark on the festival, just enough time for a session in the resort's hot tub. Then it was off to drink!

My plan for this festival, as it is at many, was to avoid the brews I had tried before regardless of how much I like them, and work on trying new-to-me beers. Four beers easily rose to the top: Boring Brewing Hot Scotch, something we had learned about the night before from John, Feckin Brewery Irish Oatmeal Porter, Flat Tail Brewing 6 am Stout and Goodlife Brewing Evil Sister, an imperial version of their Little Sister ISA.

Evil Sister was a heavenly citrus bomb but at 9% a bit to big to drink a ton of. Hot Scotch, while being the most delicious pepper beer I've had, still had more heat than I could drink more than a pint of. That left, when it came to the time in the festival when I still had tickets but had tried all the beers I wanted to, the porter and the stout. Enjoying them alternately until our tickets were exhausted and our bellies starting to grumble for a proper meal made for a great end to the festival.

The festival continues today (Saturday) until 11 pm, with live music starting at 5 pm, and tomorrow 12 - 5 pm. With only an hour's drive between Portland and Silverton, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, it's still a do-able option. Otherwise, keep the last full weekend of April open next year and consider attending the 11th Annual Oregon Garden Brewfest.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New to Me: Spring Beer & Wine Fest

Heathen Brewing Transcend IPA

This year marks the 20th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest but for me it was brand new. Why hadn't I gone before? There are a few reasons.
1. It's held indoors and unless there are valid weather reasons preventing a festival being outdoors, that's a bit of a turn off for me.
2. This will sound snobbish but it's a beer and wine festival. Since I'm only interested in the beer part, there will be a lot of it that I will ignore.
3. So often there are just so many things going on that one has to pick the one thing that is the most interesting.

Lake Chelan Gold Hard Cider

What got me to finally go was that a friend had a pre-purchased ticket unexpectedly available at the last minute. Since I didn't have something else I'd already committed to doing I thought, why not? An afternoon of wandering around, drinking beer with friends and nibbling on cheese, chocolate and other samples isn't a half bad way to while away some time.

Dick's Raspberry Belgian Triple

Getting past the fact that the fest is held indoors, it was well laid out with the various "factions" intermingled, encouraging attendees to wander all over instead of just sticking to the beer section or the wine section. I tended to try things from the smaller, out of the Portland metro breweries that I hadn't had many or any beers from before. While I can't say that I found any new diamonds in the rough I certainly enjoyed the experience.

Krauski's Brewskis Powder Stash Imperial Pale

Just before leaving there was a cider panel on the Culinary Stage featuring Abe of Cider Riot, Nat of Reverand Nat's, Daisy of Finnriver and Jeff (I think) of Portland Cider. It was great to hear a bit more about each company and be able to put a story and a face to the company name, something that I suspect will stick with me the next time I'm perusing a cooler of ciders.

Cider Panel

My first experience to this fest was good enough that if someone mentions they're going next year I'll probably see about joining them. Have you been? What are your thoughts on this fest?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hippity Hop Flop

Easter is just around the corner and with that in mind I felt compelled to take a run at pairing traditional Easter candies with beer. The Halloween pairing had gone well so I rounded up enough sugar to fill a few Easter baskets, some friends and off we went.

Our bunny trail was lined with the over-the-top-sweet Cadbury eggs, pastel speckled robin eggs (malted milk balls), an assortment of traditional jelly beans including the love-'em-or-hate-'em black ones and the quintessential Peeps.

Instead of selecting which candy to work on pairing first we decided to select a beer and see where it took us. First up was Breakside Pilsner, a German-style lager, which we found not to pair very well, save for three "flavors" of jelly beans - red, pink and yellow. Deciding to try another pilsner, we cracked open a Heater Allen Pils, a Bohemian-style pale lager, which turned out to be more agreeable to the sweet selection. It went nicely with both the Peeps and the malted milk balls.

Seeking to find something that would stand up to the toothachingly sweet Cadbury eggs, we tried both Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout and Lindemans Framboise. The stout turned out to have a flavor profile that was too close to the candy but not surprisingly, the framboise was very nice with it.

Since I was the only lover of black jelly beans in the group it was up to me to test them out. As it turned out I found them to be delicious with the framboise, the flavors combining to create a cassis-like (blackcurrant) flavor.

While this pairing wasn't quite a train wreck, it was certainly far less successful than the Halloween version had been. I remain undaunted and will be on the lookout for the next candy themed beer pairing I can convince some folks to join in with me. Are you in?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coming Up: 2014 Oregon Garden Brewfest

Last year was our first year attending the Oregon Garden Brewfest in Silverton, OR. While Silverton is only about an hour's drive south of Portland we'd never been there before and had no idea what the gardens were all about. This year when we were reminded that the festival would be taking place the last weekend of April the decision to attend again was an easy one - of course we would!

The festival takes place on a portion of the Oregon Garden grounds Friday, April 25th - Sunday, April 27th. Perennial early birds that we are, we'll be taking advantage of the front end of the festival, going down the night before to take in the Brewer's Tasting Dinner (which was all kinds of delicious fun last year) and then hitting the festival as soon as the gates open Friday. In between we'll have a leisurely breakfast on the patio and then take a spin around the gardens, enjoying all they have to offer and working up a thirst for the festival.

One of the great things about this festival, as opposed to many that take place in Portland, is the relaxed atmosphere. With 130 beers, ciders and mead from over 60 breweries it's nothing to sniff at; this is a real deal festival with live music both evenings of the festival, a shuttle running to and from Salem and for those looking to make a little getaway of it, packages that include festival tickets and accommodations at the Oregon Garden Resort.

Come on down and join in the fun!

Oregon Garden Brewfest
Friday, April 25th - Sunday, April 27th
Gates open at noon each day

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Toot! Toot!

Today I indulge in a bit of tooting of my own horn. Those of you in Portland may have already seen the April edition of the Oregon Beer Growler and if you turned to page 14, may have taken a gander at the first article I've written for the publication. For those of you outside of the area you can read it online, just scroll down until you get to page 14.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Delicious First Taste

You can only have so much beer before you need food. And sometimes food is just food, to fill the hole, to soak up the beer. But other times the food is equally as important, equally as good, perhaps even more so than the beer.

Tonight I had the chance to check out a place I had been hearing some buzz about - The Rookery, housed above Raven & Rose, in the hayloft of the Ladd Carriage House which is not only one of the few remaining buildings in the U.S. of the English Stick style of architecture but is also on the National Register of Historic Places AND an LEED certified building.

Starting next weekend they will offer a new family-style Sunday roast supper. This week's version of it featured two amazingly prepared meats - wood-fire roasted lamb and slow-roasted pork. Both were meltingly juicy on the inside with crispy exteriors. As a bonus the pork included the extra deliciousness of crispy chicharrones. The rich meats were accompanied by a well-rounded assortment of sides, my favorite being the beef fat-whipped potatoes. Yes, beef fat.

The Widmer/Logsdon Belgian pale ale collaboration, Ensemble, I had ordered before the group happily descended on the feast was a perfect palate cleanser. I could have spent hours alternating between bites of the luscious varieties of fats and refreshing sips of the pale ale.

The meal will be offered at $35/person 4:00 - 9:00 pm in the dining room and while they pour wine and cocktails, I highly recommend having your meal with a beer.

I'll also be recommending that my friends and I meet up either at Raven & Rose or the Rookery Bar to try more of the food I have no doubt will be equally as delicious as the Sunday Roast preview. Perhaps I'll be back next week on April 12th for the Samuel Smith's Brewer's Social. Who's in?