Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Pairing Dinner to Remember - Featuring Cider

Last night was one of the most outstanding pairing dinners I've been to and yet I have not a single picture of the meal to share. Maybe that's not a bad thing although the dessert and third courses were certainly as much a feast for the eyes as for the mouth.

If you can get past the lack of foodporn I'll do my best to use my words to tell you about this first ever pairing dinner held at the Alberta Street Pub. They teamed up with Reverend Nat's, makers of some of the best cider being produced anywhere, for an intimate meal.

Sacrilege Sour Cherry with Fernet & Sour Cherry-Glazed Hazelnuts
Not only is this a beautiful cider to look at, it's absolutely delicious to drink and complimented the hazelnuts wonderfully. The glaze, made with a reduction of the cider, was slightly sweet and while it worked I'm curious as to how roasted, salted hazelnuts would be with the cider. It's something I may have to explore as I will most certainly look to enjoy more of this cider, which according to Nat this version is slightly different from past batches and will be the recipe going forward. Yum!

Tepache with Guajillo Chile Braised Pork Cheek Tacos
I generally think of Tepache as a summery drink but when paired with this exceptionally tender and flavorful pork was transformed into a comforting, cold weather drink. As with the first course, the cider was used in the preparation of the food, no doubt infusing just the right amount of sweet into the dish. The portion size was very generous - two tortillas (not made in house, but you could have fooled me by Mike, their kitchen manager) chock full of hunks of meat and slaw - and could have been slightly smaller. That said, I finished every last morsel on my plate (and would have eaten more).

Winter Abbey Spice with Shepard's Pie
Whereas Tepache represents summer, this cider, which was aged for six months on raisins, exemplifies all that is winter. In this pairing it cut the richness of the Shepard's pie - served in muffin sized ramekins, a bottom of tender, flavorful meat and topped with cheese-crusted mashed potatoes - but was even more spectacular with the soda bread. This bread was no afterthought; the flavors from the raisins it contained clearly intended to play off the aging of the cider and the outside perfectly crusty to compliment the melt-in-your mouth interior. As an added bonus the cider was a delight with the remaining hazelnuts from the first course.

Whiskey Sour with Sea Scallop Masala
Not being a mixed drink drinker I can't say how true to the drink this cider is but if so I may have to start ordering them. Tart and lovely it played well with the smoky, perfectly cooked (if slightly over salty) scallops and was surprisingly stunning with the oven roasted tomatoes dotting the plate. Those tomatoes were reminiscent of the tomato confit I made recently and has planted the idea to make them again soon, pairing them with this cider, bruschetta-style.

Revival with Panna Cotta with Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Served in a stemmed dish the creamy panna cotta was topped with a chunky, fresh sauce and bordered with fresh orange slices. The most straight forward cider of the evening, a semi-dry cider aptly named, combined with the dessert to provide a refreshing end to the meal. I was revived and ready to start the whole thing over again.

The dinner wasn't without some issues from the kitchen - some courses coming out too close to one another, others with a significant pause between them and some dishes that were closer to room temperature than hot - but just like a newly opened restaurant, I'm more than willing to give them a pass. The quality and flavors of the dishes were outstanding and for the first time out, from a 10x10 kitchen no less, there's most definitely promise. I'm looking forward to getting information about their future dinners and I encourage you to do the same.

In the meantime, head over to Reverend Nat's tasting room or grab a bottle at your favorite shop to enjoy the liquid portion of this meal or visit Alberta Street Pub to enjoy the on-menu versions of the Irish Soda Bread, Pork Cheek Sliders or Shepherd's Pie.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Burnside Brewing Celebrates 5th Anniversary Deliciously

Craft beer, people and breweries both, are notoriously generous and recognize their success is based on the people who enjoy their products. Burnside Brewing just celebrated their fifth year in business and invited people into the brewery to say thank you with a golden rye beer brewed five ways and a spit-roasted pig served five ways.

Excited to try the beers that had been specially brewed for the event along with the food pairings, I showed up just as things were starting. Having run into a friend on the way in we approached the jockey boxes to get the details on how to pay and how to order the pairings. To our surprise we were informed that there was no charge. All of the beer and the food being prepared just off to the side were there for our enjoyment, as much or as little of it as we cared to partake in.

Recovering from that unexpected news we dove into the first pairing, pleased that the pours and portions were small so that one could enjoy all five. As we made our way through, more people arrived and "the kitchen" got into its groove so that soon the brewery was comfortably filled with people enjoying sips and nibbles.

In short it was all great. My personal favorites were:
Beer - Rum & Bosc Pear Barrel Aged Golden Rye (Natalie's recipe)
Food -Sweet Heat BBQ Pulled Pork with Roasted Fresno Pepper & Napa Cabbage Slaw
Beer & Food Pairing - Top Secret Dry Hop Golden Rye (Hopsteiner experimental & Apollo hops) + Chilaquiles with Radish Salsa

I'd love to see Burnside incorporate the rest of these (the chilaquiles are already on the menu) into their regular offerings. Kept in small portions like were served yesterday, they'd be great happy hour items. And the bahn mi, pulled pork and porchetta could easily be scaled up to be full sized meals.

Thank you, Burnside, and here's to many more years!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Last Minute Gifts

The older I get the less I'm interested in receiving stuff as gifts, preferring instead to receive experiences. Don't get me wrong, I'll never look a beer-toting gift horse in the mouth and in fact, in my mind "experiences" include edible gifts.

For those of you that are behind the eight ball in buying a gift for the craft beer person in your life or you need to send some suggestions to the panicked relative that calls mere days in advance here's a short list of experiences that have the added bonus of being available for online purchase with online delivery.

Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom
Imperial is one of the best combo bottle shop/taprooms in town and by purchasing a gift card from them you're giving the gift of beer without the worry that the bottles picked out are going to be up the recipient's liking or figuring out how to get those bottles to them since as we all know, it's illegal to ship beer.

Portland Craft Beer Festival
The folks behind the festival, which debuted this year and takes place July 1 - 3, 2016 at The Fields Neighborhood Park, are on the ball and have made sure that you can purchase festival tickets as holiday gifts. To sweeten the pot a $25 ticket includes mug and 15 beer tickets (for the same price at the door it's only 10 tickets).

Brewvana Brewery Tours
Brewvana offers multiple tours weekly, as well as specialty tours (like the January 8th Join the Dark Side tour that includes dark beers, chocolate and coffee) and gift certificates can be purchased in multiple amounts, redeemable for any tour or even merchandise.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beer & Chocolate - Pairings You Want

The holidays are upon us, a time when food and beer take on (an even more) prominent role and there are gifts to be bought. While I was attending the beer presentation at Beer last night with Xocolatl de David I not only enjoyed the indulgence of the delicious beer, chocolate and pairings presented but I also put this on my list of great gifts for the foodies/beeries in my life. Whether intentional or mere happy coincidence all of the beers on the evening's pairing menu are available in bottles.

In case you weren't able to make it to the event and you don't want to buy a bar and bottle of each of the pairings (although this would make a GREAT dessert course at any holiday gathering you're hosting or attending), below are my impressions of the pairings that may help you decide which to start with or choose for giving to the beeries/foodies in your life.

Almanac Meyer Lemon Gose (5%) with The Sourdough & Olive Bar
The gose was lightly lemon with the salt coming through most intensly in the front. While the beer didn't impress me enough to drink on its own the chocolate definitely elevated the beer. The chocolate on the other hand was most delicious on its own.

New Belgium Le Terrior Dry Hopped Sour (7.5%) with The Olive Bar AND The Hazelnut Black Truffle Bar
The beer was outstanding on its own, one I was sure I'd had before but Untappd argued otherwise, with the dry hop-ness being intensified by The Olive Bar. With the other bar the beer really made the truffle characteristics pop. In talking with David at the event about the tasting he did to determine the pairings he said that this was the only pairing where he felt, as I did, that both chocolates paired incredibly well with the beer; thus he decided to offer them both. Thank you, David!

Logsdon Far West Vlaming Flanders Red (6.5%) with The Rose Hips and Berries Bar
This beer is indeed one I've had and enjoyed on many occasions but it became something entirely different when paired with this chocolate. Unlike the previous pairing where elements of the beer or chocolate brought out elements of the other, with this pairing it felt more like the two melded in my mouth to instantly create a decadent chocolate brownie that was topped with perfectly ripe, fresh berry coulis.

Ballast Point Ginger Big Eye IPA (7%) with The Coconut Lemongrass Bar
I was particularly excited about this beer as I'm a big fan of ginger in both food and beer yet ended up slightly disappointed when it wasn't as powerful as I was hoping; instead it was balanced by the hops (as I'm sure was intended). As for the chocolate, before I even got it into my mouth, the aroma struck me. Trying not to gobble it all down at once I found that the trifecta of ginger, coconut and lemongrass created thoughts of a savory main dish. Far from a beer and sweets pairing it was transformational, bringing to mind Thai dishes that utilize those same flavors.

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist Stout (11%) with The Brown Butter Bar
Saving this until last both because of the heftiness of the beer and because I was sure it would be a slam dunk (David, too, commented that The Brown Butter Bar is an easy choice to pair with stouts) I was not disappointed in the least. BBB presents with a huge roasty aroma, followed by a smooth (especially for 11%) flavor with barrel characteristics. The Butter Bar instantly brought to mind an array of tasty holiday treats, all which employ generous amounts of butter. Together the beer and chocolate were heaven with the only thing that could have possibly made it better would have been a cigar.

I thought at that point that I was done but a friend was seated next to me and generously shared the "extra" pairing - Russian River Supplication Pinot Barrel Aged Brown Ale (7%) with The Foie Gras Bar. Clearly there are some that will write this pairing off immediately because yes, there is foie in it, but for those undaunted (or better, chomping at the bit to try it) this is indeed a delightfully sinful pairing.

Thank you to Beer and Xocolatl de David for a delicious evening!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween Beer Pairing

Whether you're going to a Halloween party, throwing one or will be passing out candy to the neighborhood kiddies you're going to need some sustenance. Give that sustenance a festive twist by pairing McMenamins Black Widow Porter with a grown up version of caramel corn. Sweet and salty with just a touch of heat it pairs beautifully with robust roastiness of Black Widow.

Spicy Peanut Popcorn
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (to yield 12 cups popped)
1/2 cup roasted and salted peanuts
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chipotle powder

Pop popcorn in air popper (or alternative desired method). While popcorn is popping, rough chop peanuts. When done mix popcorn and peanuts in one very large bowl or split between two bowls.

Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, making sure to break up any clumps of sugar or spices. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup mixture over popcorn mixture; toss well to coat. Immediately spread popcorn mixture out into prepared jelly-roll pan. Cool completely.

Cooled mix may be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.

Friday, October 9, 2015

More Than Just Another Beer Festival

A week ago I was stoked for the Willamette Week's Beer Pro/Am. This week has me already excited for next year's event and here's why.

The biggest reason is that this is one of the few, possibly the only, beer festival in town where you'll be able to talk to each and every brewer and they'll be pouring the beer. I'm not talking about just the amateurs. I'm talking about the professionals, too. Most festivals utilize volunteer pourers, many of which who have never tasted the beer they're pouring and I consider it a huge disservice to the beer and the brewer/brewery that made it.

A very close second reason is that this is a huge opportunity for both amateurs and professionals. On the amateurs' end, they collaborate with a professional and brew on a commercial system, things even well-seasoned homebrewers can appreciate. On the professionals' end this is a way to stay connected to the homebrewing and craft beer drinking community in a way that is increasingly difficult yet important to the heart of craft beer.

Beyond that the beers made for the festival rank right up there in creativity with those of the Fruit Beer Festival and tend to reflect the signature style of the brewers. For example, Capsaison from Upright Brewing and Ritch Marvin, was a barrel fermented saison with chili peppers. Saisons are in Upright's wheelhouse and anyone that knows Ritch knows his thing for growing and using chili peppers.

This year marked the third year of the festival and it's grown by leaps and bounds. Starting out in the Con-Way Warehouse in NW with a mere 12 Pro/Am pairs, last year it moved to Zarr Studios in SE where it filled the space to its gills and this year, now with 21 Pro/Am pairs, expanded to the former Metalcraft Fabrication location, now called The North Warehouse, just down the hill from Widmer. The space easily accommodated the event and I'm hopeful that it will be utilized next year. Regardless where it's held you can bet I'll be there to see what the Pro/Am pairs have brewed up.

In case you didn't attend or missed the subsequent coverage below are this year's winners and here is a full listing of the pairs:
Judges' Choice - 1st Place
13 Virtues and Bill Schneller
OG Stout, Historical 19th Century Imperial Brown Stout

Judges' Choice Honorable Mentions
Culmination and Jim Sullins
Kludde, Belgian IPA

Baerlic and Paul Key
First Crack Coffee Pale Ale

People's Choice - 1st Place
Coalition and Cullen Conway
Figtory! Saison with roasted figs

People's Choice - 2nd Place
Baerlic and Paul Key
First Crack Coffee Pale Ale

People's Choice - 3rd Place
Breakside and Larry Clouser
Palekaiko, Hawaiian Farmhouse Ale with Calamansi Lime and Habanero

Thursday, October 1, 2015

George Washington Ordered Growlers?

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine heard a rumor that George Washington had included "growlers" in the list of supplies for his troops. Wanting to find out if there was any truth to this he wrote to the VP of Historic Preservation and Collections at Mount Vernon. Being good folks that they are, they delivered to him a 10-page document relating to George Washington and beer. Alas, there does not seem to be any documentation of him ordering growlers but there were some interesting bits included in the document.

"Take a large Sifter full of Bran Hops to your Taste.-Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Galln. into a Cooler  put in 3 Galln. Molasses while the Beer is scalding hot or rather draw the Molasses into the Cooler & Strain the Beer on it while boiling Hot let this stand till it is little more than Blood Warm then put on a quart of Yest [sic]  if the weather is very Cold cover it over with a [Blanket?] & let it work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask-leave the bung open till it is almost done working- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."1

Regarding the above recipe, "Washington was probably a bachelor when he wrote down the above recipe; perhaps he had to concern himself with this task, as well, until he found a wife."2 This was because, "Brewing was generally done either by a housewife herself or under her direction by the butler or another servant and was undertaken every two weeks to once a month."3

Beer may have been a common beverage consumed by all - adults, children, servants and slaves - but that doesn't mean George was drinking it out of just any old vessel. "Special glasses were purchased for serving beer throughout Washington's lifetime.  In 1755, his rather spartan bachelor quarters were cheered by the addition of a "Beer Glass and Pepper Box."  He received twelve "beer glasses, Mugs &ca" from England in 1757, which were augmented with a dozen beer and cider glasses ordered in 1760.  Two sizes of white enameled beer glasses arrived in 1763, while another six were ordered in 1765, with the injunction that they be "handsome."  Three years before the Revolution, Washington placed an order for six more "Neat and fash[ionabl]e Cut Beer Glasses," which he specified were to match a set of decanters.  Still more were purchased on April 6, 1795 and December 19, 1796, presumably for the table in the executive mansion."4

Thanks to my friend, Leafy, for passing this on to me and huge thanks to the Mount Vernon staff for pulling it together. That concludes today's history lesson. Now get to happy hour and impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.

1 George Washington, “To make Small Beer,” [1757-1760] (manuscript, New York Public Library; typescript, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
2 Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, 17
3 Paston-Williams, The Art of Dining, 220; Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, 17; Dorothy Hartley, Lost Country Life (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1979), 192-193
4 Ledger A, 2/1/1755, 19a; Orders & Invoices, 8/1757, 9/1760, 4/1763, and 9/1765; George Washington to Robert Cary and Company, 7/15/1772, The Writings of George Washington, 3:92.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Guinness Goes to the Hops

Guinness is rolling out a new product in the U.S., Nitro IPA, in nitrogenated cans and on tap at select bars. The beer is a part of Guinness' The Brewers Project in which six brewers are exploring new beers at a pilot brewery at Dublin's St. James's Gate.

At a preview dinner last night two Guinness employees talked about the beer, noting that the company values balance in their beers. While the beer is brewed with five hop varieties - Admiral to start, Topaz and Celia in the whirlpool, followed by Challenger, Cascade and more Topaz for dry-hopping - they were clear that this is an Irish IPA, not an American IPA. This is a particularly important distinction for hop heads like myself that are used to a strong hop punch from their IPAs. The combination of being an Irish IPA, being served on nitro - which tends to mellow the hop bite of any beer - and being brewed with the same proprietary, 100+ year old yeast strain used in Guinness stouts makes for a beer that one might be more pleased with were it called a Pale Ale instead. It's a simple fact that there are expectations based on style and when a beer doesn't meet that expectation the overall impression may be less than stellar no matter how well made the beer is.

When asked about who the brewers hoped to reach with this beer, they said it wasn't developed with a particular segment of drinkers in mind. I'm certain they're hoping to tap into both the pool of IPA fans they hadn't reached in the past as well as those who are classic Guinness stout fans. Whether each pool will be hooked will be interesting to see as it likely won't be hoppy enough for most IPA fans and perhaps too hoppy for stout fans. Either way, one cannot dispute the visual appeal and silky mouthfeel the nitrogen widget, developed by Guinness in 1988, produces. And at the suggested retail price of $8.99 for a six pack of 11.2oz cans, it is an approachable price point.

Seeing that it was a "dinner" you might be wondering how the beer pairs with food. My overall impression was that it is a good "with food" beer. By that I mean that while the beer didn't pop or make any of the dishes pop, it also didn't distract from, clash with or overpower any of the dishes either. Even the dessert, Guinness Pot Au Creme, which I hoped would be served with stout, remained delicious with the IPA. A sessionable - 5.8% ABV - beer, it is one that could easily consume a few pints of during the course of dinner, or an evening. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let the Feasting Continue

Hello, friends. I've finally pulled out of my Feast Portland-induced food coma and I'm back to share a few things that Feast not only opened my eyes to, but can still be had even though the Feast party is officially over.

Nuvrei Matcha Chocolate Almond Croissant & Widmer El Injerto Pale Ale
Coffee and pastries are a no-brainer combination and while a beer might not be on the docket for weekdays, this would be a hell of a way to start weekend day. Located in the North Park Blocks area, Nuvrei offers savory and sweet pastries, any of which, if this particular croissant isn't up your alley or isn't available when you go, would likely be lovely with this coffee beer. Your best bet to get the beer is to visit Widmer's pub and get a growler of it.

Pip's Original Honey and Sea Salt Doughnuts & Stumptown Nitro
I was a Pip's virgin before Feast Portland and unaware of the amazingness of their doughnuts. They're like the hot, fresh ones from childhood fairs, the way I remember them tasting (although those doughnuts would undoubtedly not taste as good as my memory). They need no more than a drizzle of honey and a dash of sea salt to shine. And like the last pairing, albeit a non-alcoholic version, coffee and sweets are a no-brainer. Cold-brew fans should grab a can of Stumptown's Nitro, an incredibly smooth cold coffee, and enjoy bites of hot doughnuts alternated with cold, creamy coffee.

Annie Pies Salty CocoaMello & Two Kilts Scottish Ale
Scottish ales tent to be a bit malty and sweet for me on their own but Two Kilts Scottish Ale is a great compliment to Annie Pies Salty CocoaMello. Enjoy this for yourself by visiting your local New Seasons Market to pick up a half dozen (more if you intend to share) of these salty, chocolate bites to go along with the conveniently portable cans of Two Kilts, available at many retailers.

Dave's Killer Bread The White Thai Grrr Sandwich
Their entry for Thursday's Sandwich Invitational, it's a deceptively combination that might not have much curb appeal but once it's in your mouth you'll be a believer. Making your own is simple: grab a loaf of Dave's Killer Bread White Done Right, a jar of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters Spicy Thai Peanut Butter (at most New Seasons and Whole Foods), a jar of orange marmalade and pull that bottle of Sriracha out of the fridge. Eat, enjoy, repeat, adjusting the ratios to your personal preference, until one of the ingredients runs out and you have to make a supply run.

Bee Local White Oak Smoked Honey
An easy snack (or dinner if you're feeling indulgent/lazy) would consist of a baguette, chevre and honey. Use this honey however and I dare you not to eat the entire baguette, all of the cheese and at least half of the bottle of honey. In fact I bet it would make a killer nut butter and honey sandwich.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

To Do List for Saturday's Oregon Bounty at Feast Portland

For those going to the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting at Feast Portland today, there are a few things you should definitely do.

1. Go up to the wine tent and get a sling for your wine glass. There are no beer glasses so accept you'll have to drink beer out of a stemmed wine glass and make your like easier by using the sling, thus freeing up a hand.

2. Get a couple bites and sips and then make a beeline for the USA Pears Pop Up. "Seatings" are only every 15 minutes but if you do this early you may only have to wait a few minutes. You'll get a bourbon cocktail that isn't shy on the bourbon and three outstanding bites. My personal favorite was the Foie Gras and Seckel Pear Mostarda on Crostini.

3. Go a row or two over, near the center of the main tent, get a Scottish Ale from Two Kilts Brewing and have it with the Salty CocoaMello from their neighbor, Annie Pies.

4. Go to the far left side to the main tent (of you're outside, looking in), grab a Buoy Beer Co. Cream Ale and the Wasabi Tuna with Buoy Beer Aioli from the Stephanie Inn next to them. Last year my favorite thing was in the same spot as the fish, which was also fish, so I'm starting to feel this is a blessed spot.

5. When you feel like you've gotten the bulk of the main tent covered, or it starts getting too busy, head up to the Bon Appetite area. There are only a handful of vendors up there but make sure to visit Kerrygold. The have generous cubes of cheese and melt-in-your-mouth shortbread that pairs wonderfully with the Goose Island Oktoberfest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Countdown to Feast Portland

I cannot believe that in just over a week this year's Feast Portland starts. That means is that there are quite a few events that have sold out but don't despair; you've not missed the boat completely. To help you out, my beery friends, I've come up with a list of four events, one for each day of Feast, that still have tickets available and I think will be up your alley.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational Presented by Dave's Killer Bread
Thursday, September 17

6:00 - 9:00pm, Director Park
As I mentioned in my last post, I am SO excited to be going to this event! And I can't believe there are still tickets left. Get yours now and join me.

I'm in a Cult
Friday, September 18

2:00 - 3:00pm, Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall
Part of the Drink Tank series, it's described as an introduction to some of the world's most sought-after collectible beers. The exciting part about this particular event for me is that locals Sarah Pederson of Saraveza and Lucy Burningham, author of Hop in the Saddle, are part of the five-person tastemakers panel. These awesome ladies know their beer and it should be a good time.

Old MacDonald Had a Brewery
Saturday, September 19

2:00 - 3:00pm, Portland Art Museum Evans H. Roberts Sculpture Hall
Another offering from Drink Tank, this panel includes David Logsdon of Hood River's Logsdon Farm Brewery and Christian DeBenedetti from one of the newest breweries in Oregon, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg.

Beer Bites with Christian DeBenedetti & Andrea Slonecker
Sunday, September 20

1:00 - 2:30pm, Oregon Culinary Institute
A guided beer brunch? It sounds like a slam dunk to me. I've never been to a pairing event that I didn't love and coming from the folks at Feast I'm sure it will be a delicious way to brunch.

These are not the only events that still have tickets left so if you're looking for more check out the full schedule. But whatever you do, if you've been meaning to make plans to attend Feast, don't wait any longer because it's coming next week.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Confession

Forgive me, Beer Geeks, for I have sinned. Maybe that's being a little dramatic but earlier this week I did finally cave to the pull of $1 happy hour beers at Splash Bar. As you may have read about over on The New School, Splash Bar offers pints of their house beers - currently three of them - for a mere $1 during happy hour and $3 the rest of the time. So with a little time between their 5pm opening time and dinner plans with friends I stopped in.

Going in I had set the bar pretty low in my mind for what the beer would taste like and a first glance at the surroundings, beer pong tables set up for play and a shot bus just inside the entrance, didn't do anything to improve my expectations. Nonetheless I was there and I promptly ordered up the first pint - Tiger pale lager. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it's quite similar to a beer of the same name from Asia Pacific Breweries. For a buck, sure, I'm in. Perhaps even for $3 although I'm pretty sure it would be a weird experience to be at Splash Bar after the end of happy hour when the age of the target market would leave me feeling older than I want to.

Since Mag was joining me I ordered up a second pint, Jaws IPA. This is not your typical NW IPA; instead it's a mild version and apparently it's specifically designed to be more approachable for a crowd that probably doesn't get into hops the way you and I do. Again, exchanging one dolla for a pint of it is an acceptable transaction. However between the pale lager and the IPA I have a slight preference for the lager. I'd rather either have the hops be there or simply drink something where they aren't expected to play a prominent role.

While we could have finished those two and split the third house offering - Lava Hound Hefeweizen - we decided to shove off to meet our dinner companions. Perhaps I'll stop back sometime when I'm in the area to try that or something else they've brewed up. If you're nearby, feeling thirsty but not particularly discriminating give it a try. You've probably spent considerably more to be disappointed by at least one other beer in the past.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ringing in Harvest Season by Picking Hops

Yesterday's hop harvest at Hopworks Urban Brewery was a very fitting way to usher in September, fall and the best time of year for brewers - the hop harvest. Coincidentally, it was also harvest day for the McMenamins breweries. Called the "Running of the Brewers", it's a marathon of a day starting with the bines coming out of the Sodbuster Farms fields in the morning followed by a mad rush for seven drivers who delivered 1,120 lbs of fresh Simcoe hops to 20 McMenamins brewing locations for this year's Thundercone. Many photos and videos documented the event on their Instagram account.

Back to Hopworks, a smaller scale operation, but one that annually invites the public to come help with the harvest of the estate-grown hops from the SE location. Picking hops is a fairly mindless task but what makes it fun is meeting and chatting with the other harvest helpers. This year I was seated next to a couple of gentlemen from Oregon City and as usual when craft beer drinkers get together, we had no problem keeping the conversation going during the four hours of picking.

The hops that the group picked were a combination of an experimental variety that currently has the unfancy name of X17 and Willamette and Cascade hops from their backyard. In total 94.9 pounds went into the brew kettle to create Estate IPA, a beer that is the fresh hop version of the classic Hopworks IPA. The fresh hop beer will be available in two to three weeks and when it is I plan to get down there to do a side-by-side tasting of the Estate IPA and its classic cousin.

If you, too, want to get your hands dirty (literally - your hands will get dirty and sticky and you'll LIKE it), mark your calendar for next Tuesday. That's when the SE location of the Lucky Lab will be holding their community harvest. Everyone is invited to help pick the fresh hops off the bines, a combination of ones grown by Lucky Lab, homebrewers and drinkers across the city. The conglomeration of many varieties of hops will be used for the 11th annual brewing of The Mutt.

Lucky Lab
915 SE Hawthorne
Tuesday, September 8th starting at 4:00 pm

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beer Musings is going to Feast Portland

Last year I went to Feast Portland on behalf of #pdxbeergeeks and found out first hand that it was as amazing as I had heard. This year I applied for my own blogger pass and am stoked to have gotten approved. I should probably stop eating right now to prepare because yes, it is a multi-day event of feasting on top of feasting.

If you haven't been, perhaps because you think it's just a food event, it's most definitely not. Breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries are involved in nearly all of the events and there's even a series of events dedicated just to booze - Drink Tank. The six events in the series include two on my favorite tipple plus whiskey, pinot noir, margaritas and one in which "a few key players in the wine and spirits industry...share drinking wisdom and closing-time tales."

One of the events I'm most excited about is Feast Portland's Thursday night kick-off party, Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational Presented by Dave's Killer Bread. That's a mouthful and I expect the event to be one, too, with 15 chefs from Portland and across the country competing to claim the judges' and people's favor.

From there, all the way through Sunday night there is an impressive lineup of events taking place across town. While I'm still figuring out all that I'll be at I'll definitely be at Sunday's Tillamook Brunch Village that among other things had most amazing bloody Mary bar I've ever been privy to. Brunch in Portland is what church is to many other places in the country and this event does justice to the esteem we hold it in.

Finally, Feast Portland is not just a food and drink festival but also an event that supports local and national programs to help end childhood hunger. In three years Feast Portland has raised over $162,000 for Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon (PFHO) and No Kid Hungry.

Feast Portland
Thursday, September 17 - Sunday, September 20

Find events/buy tickets

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Run at Gluten Free Beer

I've been waffling about penning this post for weeks. Part of me feels like it'll just come across shilling for BMC while the other part of me, the part of me that started the post all that time ago, feels there is still some merit to it. The latter half has won so here we go.

On a random Tuesday night in June I went to a macro beer dinner as the +1 of a friend. Yes, you read that correctly. I accepted free beer and food from the evil empire. In return I got three good things: 1) A fun evening with beer friends 2) Great food and an introduction to a new-to-me restaurant in a part of town I don't frequent 3) A gluten-free beer that isn't bad if you are GF.

The dinner was part of the promotion of Coors Peak Copper Lager, a beer that is currently only available in the Seattle and Portland metro areas. The beer is naturally gluten free, being brewed with brown rice, brown rice malt and pure pea protein. As an adjunct brewer Coors is no doubt well versed in the use of rice to make beer so I not that surprised that they've done a darn decent job with this. Or maybe it's the pure pea protein (if anyone has a lead on more information on that let me know).

Gluten content is a big deal these days and Coors ensures the glutenlessness of Copper Lager by doing their own internal testing and having the FARRP Lab at the University of Nebraska test every batch of packaged beer. Apparently those tests consistently show that Coors Peak gluten protein level falls far below the FDA regulated 20ppm, coming in at 5ppm. Interestingly enough, it's also GMO free.

But the taste, what about the taste, right? I haven't done a blind testing, mostly because I'm lazy, but I'd reckon that if I were handed two glasses of copper lager - one with gluten and one without - I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. And while it's still an amber beer, this IPA drinker probably wouldn't mind throwing a few back. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'd take it over Groundbreaker's gluten free beers (they use hazelnuts instead of grain), mostly because they DO make IPAs, but it's a far sight better than the few other gluten free or gluten-reduced beers I've tried.

I don't know if there are enough celiac disease sufferers still looking for a beer they can drink to make this a nationally viable product line. Perhaps the product will just quietly go away instead of having its market expanded. Or perhaps it'll gain some traction for the simple fact that it tastes better than most BMC products, gluten-filled or gluten free. If you've tried it I'd be interested to hear what you thought.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Beer Geek 1st World Problems

As a beer geek I tend to fall prey to that beer, the one on the beer list that I've never had almost regardless of whatever other amazing beers are available to me. As an Untappd user I get waaaaay too happy about earning badges and I admit to badge whorin' at times.

One of those times happened this past weekend when we met up with a friend at a sports bar to catch the Timbers game. They didn't have a great tap list and the cream of the crop were ones I'd previously had. So I rather offhandedly ordered my first beer, one of their seasonal selections and one I'd had before. Shame on me because I relied on my faulty memory instead of checking Untappd and ended up with a pint of something that I didn't actually like as much as I thought I had. Beer geek first world problem, right?

Lesson learned and the next beer I chose more thoughtfully. Specifically I noticed a beer on the list that I knew had a badge associated with it, confirmed in Untapped that I had not yet earned that badge and placed my order. The beer wasn't great but I've endured worse to earn a badge. Yes, 100% badge whorin' and another beer geek first world problem.

Nearing the bottom of that pint it was once again time to figure out what the next one would be. Feeling like it was slim pickings I read more carefully and this time saw a beer from Kona that I didn't think I'd had before, probably based mostly on the style - a golden ale. Back I went to Untapped, confirming I had not tried the beer and thinking, "well, at least it will count toward my unique beers and maybe eventually to some badge." I found that globally Kona Big Wave Golden Ale gets a 3.48 rating over 141,000+ check ins, with my friends being a bit harsher with a 3.2 rating however as I scrolled through the ratings and notes there was one that said, "like the tropical notes." Intrigued, that sealed the deal and I ordered it up, finding the beer to fit that comment perfectly. Then I proceeded to enjoy the best pint of the night.

Moral of the story: I may be a beer geek who will chose a new-to-me beer over a long time favorite just to try something new and am not immune to badge whorin' (I was a Girl Scout after all) but sometimes I stumble upon a darn good beer that without my faults coming into play and using my Untappd crutch I would have continued to overlook.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Light Side is Calling Me

Ryan Pappe & Night Market paired with shrimp
and spring rolls.
It seems the tide is turning on my relationship with lagers. Perhaps it's my palate, perhaps I'm trying a greater number of them or perhaps more are being produced with a greater range of flavors. Whatever the reason the list of ones I enjoy continues to grow with the most recent addition being Portland Brewing's Night Market Special Lager which I was introduced to earlier this week.

Right off it was the surprisingly pleasant mouthfeel of the beer that caught my attention. That was followed by a slightly sweet, but by no means cloying, flavor that finished bright and refreshing. This single hop (Liberty) beer with lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves and ginger was brewed on the 2bbl system that was acquired earlier this year. Head brewer Ryan Pappe, who has been with Portland Brewing for seven years, is enjoying the flexibility of brewing on the small-batch system, including being able to lager this beer for five weeks. That's an unheard of amount of time for their large, commercial brewing system.

Part of the brewery's Guild's Lake Series, Night Market was brewed to honor the 2nd annual Jade International Night Market, a cultural event hosted by the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO). Portland Brewing is the exclusive beer sponsor for the two-Saturday event (August 15 & 22) being held at the Portland Community College SE Campus and will donate $1 of every pint sold to APANO. The best opportunity to try this limited draft-only offering (only 4bbls were produced) will be at the event with a few, select locations receiving the remaining 1/6bbl kegs.

Todd Struble, Jade District Manager
The Guild's (pronounced like "child's") Lake Series was created to highlight the many diverse and tight-knit communities that inhabit neighborhoods throughout Portland. The name Guild's Lake comes from a now extinct oxbow cutoff of the Willamette River was temporarily deepened in 1905 for the Lewis and Clark Exposition and later filled in with silt dredged from the Willamette River. The series provides a way for one of the pioneers in the Portland brewing scene to give back directly to neighborhood organizations.

Previous beers in the series include Round the Block Belgian-Style Golden Ale that benefitted the Audubon Society of Portland and Pier Park Piney Pale Ale that benefitted the Friends of Pier Park. Some of the Pale Ale may still be available in St. John's locations like Plews Brews and Skyline Tavern. Coming next will be the October release of a pumpkin beer for Sauvie Island tentatively named Rico Sauvie.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Coming Up: North American Organic Brewers Festival

The 11th Annual North American Organic Brewers Festival kicks off this Thursday at Overlook Park and if you feel like something's different, you're right. The festival has historically taken place in June but due to some shifting around of other beer festivals it's taking place in August this year. That's hunky dory by me as there is so much going on in June with Fruit Beer Festival, Beer and Cheese Fest and Oregon Garden Brewfest that this may end up being a more ideal time for it to be held. The festival, which boasts 60+ beers, ciders, meads and a braggot from five states and four countries, expects attendance of around 12,000. With the move from June to August I'll wager attendance will exceed expectations but I still expect it to be the most chill festivals with plenty of space for everyone.

As due diligence requires, I've taken a detailed look at the tap line up, created my handy dandy "drinking list" and added those beers to my Untappd wish list. You're more than welcome to check out either of those lists but if CliffsNotes are more your style here are the top four I'm looking forward to.

Lakefront Brewery Growing Power - Lakefront still holds the trophy for my favorite brewery tour ever so there's definitely some nostalgia influencing me here. There's also in interest to see how bright and citrusy this 6.7%ABV pale ale is.
McMenamins Crystal Brewery Oaken Tower Barrel-Aged Ginger Beer - Raspberry-hibiscus ginger beer that's billed to have "tart acidity and muted funkiness"? Ummm, heck yeah!
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery Double Barrel-Aged Pavol the Collector - Some Baltic porters don't do much for me but I'm hopeful that this "dark, chocolately, organic lager bomb" will be a version that is right up my alley.
Pints Brewing Co Green Line Organic Radler - I'm already in love with their Hot Seismic Squeeze, a blend of Seismic IPA and Hot Lips lemon-lime soda, so I'm excited to see how the pale ale-lemon soda blend stacks up. If the weather stays warm I suspect this will be one of the biggest sellers of the festival.

None of these four are obvious choices for a lot of beer geeks. Lakefront isn't distributed out here, McMenamins gets a lot of flack (from me included but for things other than their beer) and Pints is in my opinion the most underrated brewery in Portland. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to those and at least another nine beers. Beyond that...well, we'll see how the day progresses and if I'm able to make it back for a second day. If you're planning to be there when gates open on Thursday, keep an eye out for me and let me know what you think of these four beers in particular, should you decide to give 'em a go.

North American Organic Brewers Festival
Thursday, August 13 - Sunday, August 16
Overlook Park, 1301 N Fremont St
Gates open daily at 12pm
$7 tasting cup, $1 tokens

Friday, August 7, 2015

For the Love of All That is Holy Can Someone Please Open This for Me?

I was recently contacted by the PR company that is working with Churchkey Beer Co. on their re-launch in Portland. Having not tried (but remember seeing) the beer a while back I took them up on their offer and subsequently received a care package. Before we go further, in case you haven't heard about them, here's a bit of background.

"Founded by Portland native Justin Hawkins and actor Adrian Grenier, the brand was born from the desire to experience a tasty beer in a simple can the same way generations before had. Bringing back the flat top can - originally introduced in 1935, but long forgotten – the team hopes to reinstate a beer experience that is worth the effort of slowing down for in today’s fast-paced lifestyle."

The first step to trying the beer was opening the flat top can, which did indeed cause me to slow down. Based on my struggle (it's ok if you chuckle at me) I'm glad the vast majority of the beer I consume is opened by someone else, comes in an easily opened bottle or can with a convenient pop-top.

Once I'd appropriately punctured the can I found a product that matched my expectations well for a "refreshing, crisp, Czech-style pilsner" weighing in at 5.5% ABV and 29 IBUs.

I don't drink many pilsners in general so you won't find me stocking my fridge with this but, yes, I'd drink it again...on the condition that someone else open the can for me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hit up Lincoln City for Cooler Temps, Games & [of course] Beer

For many in Oregon summer means taking a trip to the beach. I'm not much of a beach person but then again Oregon's beaches aren't of the Caribbean variety. In fact, when we made the last minute decision to head to the beach a couple weeks ago it was precisely to avoid the heat. The forecast was for the upper 90's all weekend so when we found out a buddy was spending a few days in Lincoln City we decided to join him.

Lincoln City isn't much of a craft beer destination, we knew that going in, but it's also still in Oregon, where craft beer has a way of finding its way into most places. After taking a refreshingly chilly walk on the beach and checking into our motel we met up with our buddy at Rusty Truck Brewing/Roadhouse 101. We'd never been but based on the beers I'd had from them in the past I wasn't expecting much. Without dragging you through all the details suffice it to say that either they've changed brewers or their beer is best when you get it from the source. Either way, it was a pleasant start to an afternoon of drinking. If you find yourself there on a Wednesday there are $8 growler fills or on a Thursday pints are just $3.

Not interested in getting too deep into our cups that early in the afternoon we took a beer break with a round of mini golf at the All American Putt n Bat, conveniently located just up 101. Food and beverage is not allowed on the indoor, 18-hole course and there are a few cheesy holes (when aren't there at putt-putt?) but Hole 18 is worth it. To find out more you'll have to check it out yourself.

With our thirst sufficiently regained we continued up 101 to Game Over to find not only do they have beer, the beer list is pretty decent AND pints are a mere $3. I suppose it makes sense that they don't want you blowing your wad on beer; you have to have money left over to play your choice of pinball, old school games, etc. I'm a pinball fan myself and recommend both the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Lord of the Rings games. Stay away from Circus Voltaire - it was eating quarters when I was there and the staff didn't seem too eager to make that known to other patrons. Perhaps in a "fate will offset things" bit of fortune, in the middle row we found a driving game called Off Road that had 19 credits for the blue car. The game appears to default to taking credits for just one car instead of allowing multiplayer but whatevs. One more game to note is the multi-player Pac Man right inside the door. Grab a couple of friends (or heck, even strangers) and put your Pac Man skills to the test.

Our next stop was planned as the place we'd watch the Timbers game that night - a bar called Aces at the Chinook Winds golf course. As advertised on more than one billboard, they indeed do have 28 taps which when we were there included three from Pelican and two from McKenzie, a brewery we were introduced to at Game Over. Their Twisted Meniscus IPA was a little on the sweet side but good enough to keep ordering it*. Continuing on our game themed afternoon (and waiting for the Timbers game to come on) Mag and our friend Regan used the golf simulator. It's one of those full wall sized deals that you may have seen at golf supply stores to help you select clubs. Pretty cool technology and free of charge. But that's not the only game they're running - there's also corn hole, shuffle board and a pool table, all inside for your enjoyment.

So if you find yourself in Lincoln City looking for some beer and games now you know places that rain or shine, will make for a good time.

*McKenzie is the "outside distribution line for Steelhead Brewery."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Kiwis and Their Beer: Part II

Continuing our look at the five New Zealand brewers that were in town for OBF in Part I, we'll pick up with a look at ParrotDog's beer, Riwaka Secret.

The double IPA they brought to town, Riwaka Secret is named for two unique New Zealand and Australian hop varieties, Riwaka which is very hard to come by and not exported outside of New Zealand, and Victoria Secret which now goes by "Vic Secret" after a cease and desist letter from that lingerie company. Using at least two hops in every beer is Matt's M.O. as he admits that he's not a single hop beer fan, perhaps because he feels like he's never brewed a good one. DIPA and hop-forward fans will enjoy this beer.

Those into Harley Davidson motorcycles may recognize the name "Panhead" as slang for one of the old HD engines and Panhead Custom Ales is a brewery that likes to tinker, to customize and to make accessible, drinkable beers. Founder Mike Neilson expanded on Carl's comments about the challenge of getting his beers into bars with the update that today the challenge is less about fighting for tap handles with the big guys and more about getting into the good beer bars. In Wellington there are only about 15 of those, which have anywhere from eight to 40 taps. To the brewers' benefit, those taps turn fairly frequently and those bars tend to give New Zealand brewers 75% of their handles, a percentage that would please most craft brewers and drinkers anywhere. Replacing the challenge of fighting the big boys has perhaps been the challenge New Zealand brewers have with capacity. Looking at the US market, they're heartened that craft beer drinkers will be eager to fill their pints with as much as can be produced.

The final representative of the New Zealand craft beer scene to speak was Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys. First off, I have to give huge kudos to Stu for soldiering on after breaking both his forearms during this trip (neither of which required a cast, but only one of which was bandaged and in a sling). Stu is a self-described "yeast-head" that got his start after receiving great praise for his homebrewed porter, which in turn became Yeastie Boys' first commercial beer. Initially they were only brewing every three months while Stu continued to work his day job. Recently he's been able to quit that and move to the UK where brewing operations will be based.

In creating a beer for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, Stu cupped 20 teas to find just the right one. That right one is Earl Gray Blue Flower, a tea that reminds Stu of his childhood, and is used so heavily in the beer that it is described as "dry-leafed" (a counter to "dry-hopped"). Named Gunnamatta, this is also the beer that they brought to OBF. Not being a big tea fan myself, I wasn't sure how well I'd like it and I was pleasantly surprised from the first sip all the way through the last, at which time the beer was warm and may have been even more enjoyable than when it was first poured.

If you didn't run into any of the brewers or drink the beers that they brought to OBF, the opportunity to taste their work hasn't completely passed. While the group was in town, each of them teamed up with a local brewer to make a collaboration beer. When exactly those beers will be released I have not yet heard but keep an eye on the local breweries - Cascade, Ecliptic, Gigantic, Lompoc and Widmer - for more details.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Five Kiwis and Their Beer: Part I

If you went/are attending the Oregon Brewers Festival this year (and why wouldn't you if you're in Portland?), I hope that you did/are planning to hit up the beers in the International Beer Garden. In my last post I gave some reasons why you should. Today I want to share the first of two posts that will provide some back story on the brewers, breweries and beers. If you're like me that's part of the appeal of craft beer.

Carl (right), Mike Neilson & Doug Donelan
Tuatara Brewery is one of the oldest craft breweries in New Zealand and was certainly the elder in the group at Thursday's Meet the Kiwis event at Belmont Station. Established in 1999 by Carl Vasta and his wife, it began as a 600 liter operation (that's 158.5 gallons for the non-metric folks, about 3.7bbls for beer folks) and has expanded to 9,000 liters after four upgrades. One of the biggest challenges at the time was getting their beer in bars because many larger breweries owned or had exclusive arrangements with many of the bars. Luckily two bars were willing to carry Carl's beer and from there he built a following.

As for the name of the company, a tuatara is reptile endemic to New Zealand and has existed since the age of the dinosaurs, somewhat fitting for a brewery that has direct lineage to the start of craft beer in New Zealand. Fitting as well are the hops that are used in their Sauvinova, a single hop pale ale, Nelson Sauvin. Those hops came onto the scene about the same time Tuatara did and are used in copious amounts, providing balanced bitterness.

Garage Project gets it name from the fact that it actually started in a small garage where Jos Ruffel brewed 1/2bbl batches. (If you're a Kiwi, "garage" is pronounced in a far less pedestrian way with heavy emphasis on the first part of the word so that it could almost be mistaken for two words.) From the beginning Jos was interested in creating an urban brewery that would focus on trying new things. Case in point was their 24/24 project where they brewed 24 different beers in 24 weeks. Their Venusian Pale Ale was one of the beers that came out of that project and was a collaboration with a local graphic artist in which they sought to create a beer that could fit within the elaborate universe of the artist - a little bit of a trippy story. As for the beer itself, the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and grapefruit peel are ingredients that make the beer scream, "I'd be even more delicious with food!" Currently they are bottling and canning by hand with limited Southern California distribution on the horizon so perhaps in the not too distant future I'll have the chance to make a pairing happen.

Matt Warner started ParrotDog in 2012 after taking up home brewing while in college. In the beginning the beer was contract brewed, something that seems to be a more legitimate start in New Zealand than in the US and may be used as a stepping stone to opening one's own brewery. When the demand for tank space at the contract brewery became too great Matt began hunting for a space out of necessity. Even three years ago financing was a challenge, something US brewers can identify with, but like many passionate brewers before him, Matt found a way to make it happen.

And now for a break, because I have a thing about long blog posts. I don't like to read them and therefore I'm not going to subject you to them. So, check back tomorrow for Part II, including ParrotDog's Riwaka Secret.