Monday, April 27, 2015

Whole Foods Pearl: More of a Beer Resource Than You May Think

Recently I had a chance to sit down with Jason Jamie, the Beer Specialist at Whole Foods in the Pearl District. Jason hails from Texas, the cool part of Texas...Austin...and has been with Whole Foods for 11 years. Not long after relocating to Portland "the best job in the store" opened up and he jumped at the chance to fill it. A craft beer fan, sometimes home brewer and occasional blogger he's in the envious position of having a job he loves.

I asked Jason what his biggest challenges were and as Portlanders might guess, high on his list is keeping up with all of the beer releases. That's no small task in this neck of the woods and he's committed to making sure they have a great, current selection of new and seasonal beers. In fact this month all of the Whole Foods stores in this region have been focusing on IPAs and hoppy ciders. The ones Jason selected are a combination of solid beers from Oregon and Washington including Laurelwood Workhorse IPA, Walking Man Homo Erectus DIPA and Breakside Lunch Break ISA. Speaking of Workhorse, it's a beer Jason maintains they will "forever" carry 6-packs of for $7.99. That right there may be incentive for a trip, and the headache of parking nearby, another challenge he identified of this urban location. Conversely the location is a boon in terms of the tourist crowd, especially those staying downtown. As a good beer buyer should, Jason works to make sure he has a great selection of Portland beer at eye level to appeal to them.

Beyond keeping the shelves filled with great beer Jason's excited for Portland Beer Week in June where Whole Foods is a major sponsor. During that week they'll be throwing a beer festival, shutting down a block of NW Couch, which will also serve as a fundraiser for Harper's Playground. In addition to events, including a continuation of the beer pairing dinners held upstairs in a bright, airy space adjacent to their café, Jason anticipates the impending warmer weather will bring an increase in canned beer sales. As people spend more time hiking/boating/camping where cans trump bottles in terms of weight, lack of restrictions by venues and ease of disposal. With ever more breweries offering their beers in cans his choices are plentiful and while it might make his job a bit harder selecting which ones to bring in, it's a boon to consumers to be able to take quality craft beer with them in a more portable friendly format.

So the next time you're making a beer run, keep Whole Foods Pearl in mind. You can keep up on the selection over on Instagram and events on Facebook and Twitter. And the next time you're at a beer event, you might even run into Jason like I did during CBC week.

Update: They will validate parking in their ramp. Thanks for the tip, Chad!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bring on Summer with S.M.A.S.H.

The recent weather has been a preview of the beautiful Portland summer ahead so it was only fitting that a bottle of Portland Brewing S.M.A.S.H. Pale Ale arrived on my doorstep. You know I love to find beer and food combinations that work together so the wheels started turning almost immediately about what might be a fit for it. Coincidentally the current issue of Cooking Light had also just arrived and the recipe for esquites (creamy corn salad) caught my eye. Last night as I finished making the recipe, topping it with avocado and sautéed onions and garlic, thoughts of summer flooded in and those wheels that had been turning stopped in their tracks, urging me to crack open the bottle of S.M.A.S.H.

Knowing that the food would color my palate I tried the beer first and found it to be mild, perfect for summer drinking, perhaps on the sweet side. Then it was time to see how it would work with my summery corn creation. All of the sudden the Simcoe hops jumped to the forefront. Unable to resist a bit more experimentation, I gave S.M.A.S.H. a try with the roasted potatoes only to find the Goldpils Vienna malts strong-arming their way back to center stage.

It was one of the more eye opening experiments I've done recently and as a hop head I highly recommend making a big dish of esquites (preferably with the addition of avocado and/or sautéed onions and garlic) and grabbing a bottle of S.M.A.S.H. Even if the weather isn't cooperating as fully as it was for me last night you can make your own summer with this combination.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day Trippin': Into the Gorge

We continued our day trippin' explorations last weekend setting our sights on a few Gorge breweries. Buzzing east on I-84, taking the Cascade Locks exit we wound our way through town and to the end of the road where Thunder Island Brewing sits. Walking up we took in a good sized patio with nice view of the water...or it would have been nice if it had been sunny and warm instead of cool and wet. Inside we found a small but cozy place filled with more people than I had expected (and the cutest little fermenters ever) so we quickly claimed two seats at the bar and keyed in on the beer menu.

Don't you just want to hug the little buggers?
Sticking with our new places M.O. we ordered up a sampler tray to get the best feel for their beers as possible. Of the nine we tried Under the Radar, a 4.5% session pale ale, and Beliz Chocolate Stout hit the highest notes for me. Pale ales and session beers often don't do it for me but this was a highly flavorful beer. As for the Beliz, it was like drinking a 70% cacao bar - roasty without being overly dry and just a hint of sweetness. I haven't seen a lot of Thunder Island in the Portland market to date but you can bet I'll be keeping my eyes out for them from now on.

Finished and ready to hit the road we headed out into the wet, having concluded that any thoughts we might have had about a little hiking we'd save for another day. Passing up the parking area at the Dry Creek Falls trail head, we crossed the Bridge of the Gods (which is guarded by trolls) into Washington. In minutes we were in Stevenson, home of Walking Man Brewing. As we descended the stairs to the pub I again cursed the weather as they, too, have a great patio set up that I suspect sees plenty of use and live music in the summer.

Equally as full as Thunder Island, we wasting no time grabbing seats at the bar, followed by an inspection of the beer menu. The difference here was that we'd had quite a few of Walking Man's beers in the past, but there were still enough on the menu we hadn't had to have to require the making of the "what to have first" choice. Both the Pale Strider, a single hop (Topaz) pale ale, and Iron Man IIPA clicked for me. In addition we ordered a basket of garlic herb fries served with tartar sauce, which seemed an odd condiment choice but was surprisingly good. If you're a garlic lover like I am these are a must order!

As we finished up our beers we revisited the idea of cruising up the road a bit more to Backwoods Brewing in Carson but ultimately we decided it was probably better to start making our way back. No need to rush as if we're on vacation trying to fit everything in. We'd simply figure out a way to work that stop into a future day trip, which things continue will be a regular weekend or every other week(end) occurrence.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Baker's Dozen Event Gets Saturday's Drinking Started Early

Saturday Brian Yaeger is providing you the perfect excuse to start your weekend day drinking early (if you and your liver are still functioning by then) with his Baker's Dozen event. Taking place at Culmination Brewing it will feature 13 coffee beers and an equal number of doughnuts, although it will be up to you to decide your own pairings. All but one of the beers is from an Oregon brewery and was made using locally roasted coffee. The one exception is from Funky Buddha from Florida, a brewery not currently distributed in Oregon, who is sending a keg of Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. Beers will be served in 3-ounce size and doughnuts will be quartered.

Boneyard The Backbone - chocolate-espresso stout with Backporch Coffee
Breakside Salted Caramel Mocha Stout - Salted Caramel Stout with Stumptown Holler Mountain Coffee
Cascade Oblique Stout - golden ale with Oblique Coffee
Coalition Loving Mug - Loving Cup Maple Porter with Ristretto Coffee
Culmination/Kells collaboration - coffee cream ale with Bridgetown Coffee
Falling Sky Coffee Table Bier - 3% ABV table beer with Global Delights Coffee
Feckin Top o’ the Feckin Morning - chocolate espresso stout with Happyrock Coffee
Gigantic Too Much Coffee Man - Belgian Black ale with Coava Coffee
Hopworks Double Shot Survival Stout - Survival Stout with twice the usual amount of Stumptown Coffee
Laurelwood Organic Espresso Stout - made with Portland Roasting Coffee
McMenamins Crystal Brewery Turkish Brown - brown ale with McMenamins’ own roasted coffee and cardamom
Oakshire Orange Mocha Frappuccino - special request beer from brewmaster Matt Van Wyk taking Oakshire’s Overcast Espresso Stout and adding cocoa nibs, orange zest and Wandering Goat Coffee
Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter**

Annie’s - apple fritter
Blue Star - blueberry basil bourbon
Coco Donuts - chocolate espresso raised
Delicious - blueberry cake
Donut-o-rama - crème brulee
Fleur de Lis - potato doughnut
Helen Bernhard Bakery - glazed raspberry jelly
Moody’s (Rocking Frog Café) - cinnamon cake
Tonalli’s - banana buttermilk bar
Tulip Pastry Shop - half & half
Voodoo - Oh Captain, My Captain
Stacatto Gelato - Migration Brewing Terry's Porter glazed

Sweetpea Baking - lemon-pistachio chocolate (vegan)

Baker's Dozen Coffee Beers & Doughnuts
Saturday, April 18, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Culmination Brewing, 2117 NE Oregon St.
Tickets are $20 ($10 if you're a CBC badge holder ) and limited to 300.

**IMPORTANT UPDATE: At 2:40pm 4/16 I received word that there is only a 1/6bbl of this beer, meaning there is only enough for 200 samples. So if you're going make sure to ask for it right away.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Beer & Cookies: Sweet Local Bites & Beer

To start this week of decadence (a.k.a. #CBC2015) off I present you with a pairing of local craft beer and cookies.

Sunday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day and two of my favorite foodies were contestants in Franz's grilled cheese competition. It was held at Migration Brewing and going into it all I knew was that I was looking forward to trying all four of the grilled cheese creations. What I didn't know until after the Franz folks checked my I.D. and stamped my hand was that I'd also be getting tickets for two free pints of beer!

The sandwiches were amazing but what was possibly even better is that I found two of Migration's beers are killer with Franz's Frosted Party Animals. I don't know that I would have ever on my own thought to pair little frosted cookies (but only the white ones, not the pink ones) with a schwartz beer but when there are bags of cookies on every table in sight it's impossible for me to resist.

Mag had a pint of Terry's Porter on nitro and combined with the cookies it was like (chocolate) milk and cookies. It was the sweeter of the two pairings, with the roastiness of my Too Schwartz countering some of the cookie sweetness but if you have a chance to try either - Do It!

To see a bunch of drool-inducing pictures of the grilled cheese event head over to Instagram and search #franzgrilledcheezeday.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day Trippin': Down South

Our recent situation change has given us the freedom to do day trips with much more ease than we've been accustomed to. And after living in Portland for nearly five years we realized that we haven't gotten "out" very much, a realization that came with some regret that there are probably plenty of great places and things we haven't seen. So a couple weekends ago we set our sights on Silver Falls State Park as our first "empty nest" day/half-day trip.

Before we hit the road we picked up supplies for a simple picnic lunch, then off we went, on the approximately 75 minute drive from our inner SE Portland abode. We opted to take 205 to 213/214 (I-5 is another option) to Sublimity, OR, just a bit south and east of Silverton. The park was surprisingly busy for the last weekend in March and the weather a bit cool but we found a picnic table in the sun and ate while we figured out which path to set out on.

Neither of us being hikers and not in the mood for anything with much difficulty we chose a route that took us past a few falls along a two mile or so course. The number of people, especially the couple with a stroller and mom with a bum arm, was more challenging to deal with that the terrain, although there were a few steep areas but it was a relatively easy walk that went behind the two falls. Pretty cool.

Back at the car, with the nature/park/hiking itch scratched we started to feel the beer itch. Being a stone's throw (ok, probably only if you were a giant) from Silverton we decided to pop into the taproom at Seven Brides Brewing. This is a place we'd visited the last couple of years on our way to the Oregon Garden Brewfest and found the same friendly woman behind the bar. As we enjoyed our pints we plotted the rest of the day and decided to make our way back towards Portland with a stop in Oregon City.

You may have heard some beer news out of Oregon City lately, that Coin Toss Brewing is opening up there, but our destination was Oregon City Brewing Co. I'm not sure what I expected but I know I didn't expect a good-sized, dedicated parking lot, nice patio set up and 40+ tap lines. That day the list included six of their own beers, a great selection of other craft beers plus three ciders and four wines. If you aren't able to find something to drink from their menu then you should probably just go to the grocery store and pick up a sixer of some crap macro.

The inside and outside were about as busy as one would suspect for a sunny Sunday mid-afternoon with a record player behind the bar sending out some old school tunes. The staff was inviting and friendly, pouring mostly pints but filling growlers as well. Perhaps the best overheard conversation was a patron with two growlers that asked the beertender how many growlers he could have filled at one time. The beertender's answer: How much money do you have?

All of the house beers we had were solid and without going into detail, suffice it to say that it's worth the drive to Oregon City to visit OCB. If you're looking to make more of a day of it or want some "nature time" as well, include Silver Falls State Park in your day trip plans with a stop at Seven Brides.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Whatcha Doin' Today?

Today is going to be more of a typical early spring day - not as warm as some of the days we've recently enjoyed and while it won't be entirely wet, there's a chance for some showers. So you could take your chances and make some outdoor plans OR you could ignore the whole weather issue and drink inside the confines of the Oregon Convention Center at the Spring Beer & Wine Fest. I was there yesterday and at the point I noticed it was raining I mentioned to my drinking companion that save for its size and brightness, it was really like going into a dark bar. You know those places, the ones where you know not the weather outside or the time of day unless you care to, a place where you can enjoy your drink until such time you need to leave.

As I mentioned in my story in this month's Oregon Beer Growler on the festival, one of the things that makes it unique is that festival founder Steve Woolard seeks out the new, smaller and perhaps less well known vendors that are interested in personally manning their booths in order to tell their story and introduce their products to attendees. On the beer side of things that includes:
  • Just-open Coin Toss Brewing who is pouring Black Hole CDA and George's Honest Ale (brewed based on a "recipe" from George Washington's journal and using molasses, 6-row pale and Cluster hops)
  • Krauski's Brewski's, the brewing portion of The Hoppy Brewer in Gresham, who is pouring The Poacher Imperial CDA and The Plunger Triple IPA

An inclusive festival, there's also wine, mead, distilled spirits and a variety of food. While I'd seen Nectar Creek (mead) before and I'm pretty sure I've had some of their products I enjoyed the heck out of both the Sting (ginger) and Brood (raspberry) they're pouring. Neither is of the sticky sweet variety and the ginger in particular I could see appealing to white wine drinkers. The company was started by a pair of brothers, one of which has a background in beekeeping and has allowed them to cultivate direct relationships with the beekeepers they source the raw, unfiltered Oregon honey they use in their meads from. They recently swept the Dry Session Mead category at the Mazer Cup International, equivalent to beer's GABF, and rightfully so from the tastes I enjoyed.

Moving further afield from my regular drinking habits I tried wines from Cooper Ridge Vineyard & Winery who just started selling wine this year after starting their vineyard in 2008. Their tasting room, where their wines will be available exclusively, will open on Mother's Day in Roseburg. A slightly less new kid on the block, Hood Crest Winery, started six years ago and was open by appointment only but starting next weekend will have regular weekend hours that will expand as summer progresses. They've just started working with a distributor so their wines can be found at select locations in Portland. Trying wines from both wineries was good continuing education for this beer drinker.

There are also plenty of tasty treats including my favorite vendor Cypress Grove Chevre and Melting Pot Candy. English toffee is one of their specialties and for those who like a bit of spice in their sweet, the Jalapeno Almond is subtle and awesome. And you know those warm, roasting nuts you find at many beer festivals? Well, they make a Cinnamon Pecan Milk that taste just like they smell.

The Spring Beer & Wine Fest offers something for everyone so grab some friends and head on down today!

Spring Beer & Wine Fest
Friday, April 3 & Saturday, April 4th
Oregon Convention Center

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why a Beer Tour Guide Won't Purchase 10 Barrel or Full Sail

Today I'm pleased to share with you a post from guest blogger Alex Stanuch.

Since November of 2014, the blogs, beer sites and overall internet has bombarded the educated consumer of beer with countless updates of AB-InBev purchasing our "craft" breweries. You can easily find 73291 opinions on what that new trend in selling out means to the quality, economics and future of our craft beer industry. The abundance and current trend of these articles sure are annoying. But with each opinion posted, I learn new information that has helped me to form my own unique view and carryout my actions accordingly.

I am posting not only to annoy you, but to indicate why as a beer guide in Portland, OR, I will cringe when I am forced to bring customers to the new 10 Barrel location in downtown Portland. This can also serve as a passive-aggressive indication to my employer that I will most likely repeat phrases such as, "After Deschutes Brewery, we will visit AB-InBev's 10 Barrel location" or "With every purchase at this "Oregon Brewery," you have no idea how much of your money stays local. Please buy some t-shirts." The trend of some companies selling out was inevitable. Yet, as a consumer I can attempt to buck the trend and support Made-In-Oregon, not Sold-In-Oregon.

The main reason that I shit on breweries owned by big business is that I am worried about who is profiting from craft beer. For example I visited a local dive bar recently. One of the kinds that has Coors, Budweiser and Shock Top on tap, which is totally fine! I have no problem with this because on their tap list of 12, there are usually eight or nine beers from breweries in CA, OR and WA in which you can look up the owners' names and send them an email. While I pondered my choice I observed a beer option from Red Hook, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Deschutes, Rogue, two from Widmer and two from Full Sail. If you are aware of the recent employee approved transfer of Full Sail to the Oregon Craft Brewers Co. (owned by the San Francisco based equity firm Encore Consumer Capital) and that Red Hook and Widmer are part of the Craft Brew Alliance (owned roughly 32.2% by AB-InBev) then the list of beers available looked kind of like this: one MillerCoors, one AB-InBev, two Encore Consumer Capital, one Rogue and one Deschutes. So of the 12 beers available, only two are exclusively owned by non-corporations... I shit myself right then and there.
My soiled pants were due to one simple notion… "If this is what a beer selection looks like in downtown Portland, what will be available in every other bar in the United States?" Because let's admit it, this tap selection is much greater in diversity and quality than the bars back in my beloved Rochester, NY! There are two available "Shit beers" (Coors and Bud), one mom-loving "macro-craft" beer (Shock Top) and nine "craft" beers. This made me realize that all the beers from Oregon and Washington that will find their ways to the rest of the US and even the world, will not be owned by Oregon and Washington companies. And since the craft beer craze is hitting the rest of America, the beers to pioneer the way will be IPAs from 10 Barrel, sessions from Full Sail and specialty beers from Elysian. THAT my friends is why I will refuse to purchase these brands any longer regardless of preserved quality. And when Encore Consumer Capital flips Full Sail to AB-InBev or MillerCoors in a few years, we can say we saw it coming. God Bless corporate America and may the people bless the business next door.

Guest post from Alex Staunch, casual blogger and enthusiast of all things beer. Alex is a beer tour guide in the Portland area and is interested in foraging for beer ingredients in the plentiful Pacific Northwest.