Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 15 - 21

The recent warmer weather, ok HOT by Portland standards, seems to be influencing our taste buds as this week's best beers are dominated by light, bright beers that go down particularly well on a warm, sunny day.

Pono Brewing Kikiao - Pono, while founded in 2013, has expanded their offerings and the availability of them this year, much to our delight. Focusing on tropical and exotic beers, this one follows that theme and is described as a "South Pacific Farmhouse." The mango and passion fruit provide mildly fruity notes, with the green tea and farmhouse yeast keeping it from being one-dimensional. Super refreshing!

The Commons Citrus Myrtle - A seasonal take on their year round Myrtle, a tart farmhouse ale that uses Silverton-grown lemony Meridian hops, it is made with Buddha's hand, a citron fruit, and orange peel. Citrusy and easy drinking at just a hair over 5%, it's great on its own or with a sushi burger at Wasabi Sushi PDX that we checked out last week.

Culmination Momentary Lapse of Reason - A New England style double IPA dry hopped with Polaris, Cascade, Citra, El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops, this beer is all about bright and juicy. Nearly as easy drinking as the other two, its 8.4% does pack a bit more of a punch. Enjoyed at the McMenamins 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop in NW, drinking there was not a momentary lapse of reason, but a conscious choice because as much as we like to joke/poke them, Kyle curates a great tap list and packs the coolers with a selection of bottles and cans that rival other top notch bottle shops in town.

Xbeeriment Black Force One - The one beer that deviates from the sessionable and bright beers that make up the rest of this week's list, we did in fact enjoy this outside on one of last week's warm afternoons from taps at our neighborhood beer cart, Captured Beer Bus. The 10% smoked imperial stout is an import from a Denmark phantom/gypsy brewery and the first beer we've had from them. Starting off with an aroma that is deep and a bit salty, the flavor follows in depth without being deep sweet, finishing a little peaty and roasty.

As we head into Memorial Day weekend, a bit of extra time off for many hopefully, we wish you happy trails that are lined with, or at least lead to, great beer!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inside Wasabi Sushi PDX

We've all heard the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" but we also know we've gotten burned when we fell to the temptation of an awesome label/name only to find that the cover was far better than what was contained inside. So, too, are new food trends sometimes more hype than substance. Put all of those doubts aside as we take a look at Wasabi Sushi PDX's new brick and mortar location.

Three short years ago Alex and Phyu Naung met with Steven Shomler to discuss an interest in opening a food cart and in the fall of 2015 they did just that. The following year they opened a second cart and an indoor location at CARTLab PDX. This year they are opening their first brick and mortar location, complete with full catering capabilities, at 980 SE Madison. We had the pleasure of attending a preview of the new location yesterday, including a new addition to their menu - the Sushi Burger.

Steven, guru of all things food and beverage in Portland, has not only coached the Naungs but is also managing the bar at the SE Madison location meaning that the four taps are pouring an excellent selection of local, craft beer. Selected to compliment the food menu, the opening line up consists of Culmination Phaedrus IPA, Little Beast Bes, Ruse Translator IPA and The Commons Citrus Myrtle with Zoiglhaus and Sunriver kegs waiting in the wings. For non-beer or equal opportunity drinkers there are also two sake options from Sake One, a trio of Whoa Nelly! wines, a pair of Vin de Days wines and bottles of Reverend Nat's Revival and Deliverance Ginger Tonic.

While we were definitely impressed by the liquid offerings the food was most impressive as well. Sushi is possibly the most an eye-pleasing of all cuisines but here, especially in the case of the sushi donuts (above), that eye candy is taken to a whole 'nother level. Similar to a maki roll in composition, there are three flavor combinations, each competing to be the prettiest and served on a nori sheet to facilitate eating by hand just as one would a sweet, doughy creation.

One item, new and available only at the Madison location, is the Sushi Burger served with fries, that upon quick glance might be mistaken for something one is used to. But taking a second, more detailed look (and taste!) all four options are served on buns made from pressed Forbidden/black rice seared on the grill with a side of sweet potato fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning. We sampled the shrimp katsu version whose elements - avocado for creaminess, slaw for texture and a spicy sauce - combine with the fried shrimp to form a complete package. As with any delicious burger, this one will get messy by the end but the use of multiple napkins is well worth it. The sweet potato fries (a food we are admittedly not a fan of generally) are thinner than most, cooked to achieve actual crispness and find a perfect flavor partner in the Old Bay were so good that we ate them all.

In addition to the "donuts" and "burgers" there are Sushi B-Rittos (including one coated with hot Cheetos and containing wasabi sauce) that rival the bulk of many traditional burritos. Fans of more standard fare will find familiarity in the sushi roll and bowl offerings.

Tonight at 5pm is the friends and family, soft opening with the grand opening on Thursday. The full menu will be available tonight and as an added incentive, pints are specially priced at $4.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 8 - 14

This week's beers are all over the board in terms of style, size of brewery that made them and geographical location. Where they come together is that they all garnered a rating of 4 out of 5. With that, let's look at what made each of them stand out.

Montavilla Brew Works Warren's Big Barrel Porter - The only Portland (or Oregon for that matter) beer to make this week's list comes from one of our favorite breweries to drink at. The captain's chairs at the bar invite one to stay for a good long while, which we did, and as an added bonus to the beer, Flying Pie Pizza is just across the street. (Of course we got some of that as well.) This was tops of all the beers we drank there that night, starting out with a slight aroma and a flavor [especially as it warms] of gentle maple syrup with a touch of barrel. A very drinkable 9%, upon looking back at the check in saw a note that "it would be great with flan," which is particularly interesting since we don't eat much flan. But we'll trust our past self and roll with that idea.

Firestone Walker SLOambic Batch #2 - Firestone Walker does great things when it comes to wild ales and this one, fermented with blackberries, is no exception. Tart, sour and mildly fruity, it has held up well (brewed 1 1/2 years ago) and it was a treat for our tart/sour taste buds to be sure.

New Holland Dragon's Milk Reserve: Mexican Spice Cake - We've had plenty of beers that are designed to have a similar flavor profile to Mexican cake or hot chocolate and they've been done with varying degrees of success. This Midwest-brewed one is definitely one of the best. Starting off with an aroma of coconut (which is somewhat puzzling as there is no coconut in it...perhaps it's the vanilla beans?), the flavor is nice and spicy...eventually. This is a beer you gotta let warm up, so pull it out of the fridge/cooler a beer before you want to drink it but then savor every drop of it.

Other Half Hop Showers - Found in our beer fridge, we apparently forgot to put a note on it so that we could remember who gave it to us. There are two likely subjects but whoever it was needs to be commended. East Coast IPAs (and we don't mean the hazy, NE-style ones that have become so popular recently) have generally failed to wow us, being spoiled with the abundance of and skill used in creating hoppy beers by many West Coast breweries, but this one most certainly did. Thank you, Joe, Kris or whoever is responsible for gifting this to us!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

PDX Beer Week Official Beer Preview

PDX Beer Week runs June 8 - 18 and in addition to the multitude of events listed currently, and will surely be added as we get closer to it, the official beer has been brewed. Hop Berry IPA from Culmination Brewing was brewed during a media preview that we had the pleasure of attending. Using marionberry and blackberry purees from Oregon Fruit Products, the premiere choice of brewers using fruit in their beers, it was dry hopped with Vic Secret and Galaxy hops and should clock in at a drinkable 7% ABV.

As a part of the preview we had the opportunity to taste six fruit purees from Oregon Fruit Products and talk to Chris Hodge, Director of Sales Brewing. The 85-year-old family owned company located in Salem processes fresh fruit into sterile, 18-month shelf stable packages. It's a straightforward process in which the fresh fruit undergoes a short heating period to kill any "bugs," then the skins and seeds are removed, all in a sealed system to eliminate contamination. 

While they produce over 20 purees, Chris brought a selection that included their number one selling puree, raspberry. That beauty in the middle of the picture uses berries from Washington and was the first puree that they made. Oregon grown blackberry (far left), pineapple, grapefruit , blood orange and mango rounded out the selection. The flavor of all of them were of perfectly ripe, just harvested fruit, a seemingly amazing feat for something that could (but why would you?) sit on your shelf for over a year. We're not generally fruit juice drinkers but if we had bags of any of these, especially the mango, on hand we might change our mind about drinking fruit.

In addition to the Week's official beer, Hotlips Pizza has once again created an official pizza. Featuring pork belly and kimchi, an idea from Tomas, owner/brewer of Culmination, the pizza's flavors are balanced and should be delicious with the forthcoming Hop Berry IPA. 

Those familiar with Hotlips know that they don't just make pizza, they also make a line of sodas. Using Oregon Fruit Products puree as well, their blackberry soda will be available for drinking side-by-side with the official beer. Beer, pizza,!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 1 - 7

The three beers on this week's list were so good that a few beers that would have made the list in other weeks aren't included here. Not including them doesn't diminish how good they are, it's simply a matter of perspective. Just like when someone asks, "what's your favorite beer?," and the answer is a favorite current beer (or two), those beers that didn't make the short list are in comparison to the beers drank in chronological proximity.

Coalition Dark Horse - Last Saturday Coalition resumed taproom hours at their brewery (huzzah!!), with weather that was made to order for such an event. This rare beer was one I hadn't had before but was so glad I had the opportunity to drink. An imperial stout that was aged on Brett and cherries in Pinot barrels, it definitely took on wine characteristics in the most delectable way. Appearing black it's actually the deep red color one would expect of a wine and while lower in ABV than most wines at 9%, it is a dangerously drinkable beer.

Brouwerij Rodenbach Alexander - Shared by my friend, John, who had been sitting on this beer for many years there were no defining markings on the bottle to verify the vintage so 1990 check in on Untappd is only a guess. That said, this is one of the best beers ever to have crossed these lips, riding the perfect balance of tart and fruit and funk.

Crux In the Pocket [Banished] 2017 - Also courteous of John, the use of Brett in what is described as an "imperial rustic Saison" that was aged in red wine barrels makes the 9.9% ABV nearly laughable. Following Dark Horse's lead it would be so very easy to finish off the full 22oz bottle on one's own.

So there you have it, two beers you can probably find with some looking, and one which may or may not live up to this rave review depending on its vintage. Happy drinking!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Beer & Cheese Pairing - 2017 Edition

We recently got together with friends and fellow cheese lovers, Chris and Lyn, for another play date pairing beer and cheese. We each brought a selection of cheeses (plus crackers, won ton chips, blue cheese scones and dried fruit compote) and settled into our favorite haunt to crack bottles.

We'll start the rundown with an apricot stilton (purchased at Trader Joe's and one of Lyn's favorites) which we found to create a light, summery pairing with Modern Times Fortunate Islands. The beer is available in 16oz cans, making it an easily portable and openable selection for your next picnic, camping trip or outdoor activity.

Not a cheese, but containing our go-to blue cheese (also from Trader Joe's), was the blue cheese scones. Serving not only as another vehicle with which to consume cheese but also as a bit of a palate cleanser between cheeses, they, too paired well with Fortunate Islands. The beer accentuated the pleasant bite of the blue cheese (added with a gentle hand to a standard scone recipe) and mellowed out the butteriness of the pastry.

Each of us contributed a gouda and each of them found a different beer to play well with. The deli sliced version by Boar's Head from Fred Meyer found a happy pairing with a beer we got in trade, Black Hog Brewing Co. Disco Pig Brown Brett Braggot while a double cream version from Trader Joe's went in an opposite beer direction, making friends with Breakside Wanderlust IPA.

That IPA was not only a group favorite but overall the most pair-able beer of the day. It was one of the few beers that paired nicely with Rouge Chocolate Stout Cheddar, a cheese we were all on the fence about, as well at two others. In the case of the ooey-gooey Trader Joe's triple cream brie the beer brought out a pleasant sharpness in the cheese and in return the cheese accentuated the beer's hoppiness. And for as much as we enjoyed the way the aged cheddar played off the beer, each improving the other, in cold form the consensus was that a hot combination (i.e. beer cheese soup) would be fantastic. Should you try it out please invite us over for a bowl.

Another variety of cheddar that made an appearance was a smoked cheddar found at Whole Foods. Even through the wrapping the smoke aroma was strong and in addition to a similar presence in the flavor there was a mouth-pleasing creaminess. Paired with Clown Shoes Black Currant Saison (a beer that didn't live up to expectations on its own) the smoke became even stronger, which we enjoyed but take that recommendation with a wisp of smoke if you're not into smoky cheeses. Where the cheese really had a chance to shine was with Pelican Father of All Tsunamis, an iteration of their Tsunami Stout. This 11.2% imperial stout made for a very decadent pairing similar to other RIS-blue cheese pairings we've enjoyed. Thanks to Chris for both the beer and the pic!

We had tried diligently to get our hands on a blueberry stilton but were unable to so in its place went a blueberry Havarti from Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Less fruity and more cheese-forward than the apricot stilton, its tanginess created a bit of a challenge to find a partner for. We lucked out pairing Pelican's Tsunami which was able to stand toe to toe with the tanginess.

Closing things out and coming full circle with another lighter pairing - Against the Grain All Funked Up Fruitus the Farmer Beescake and that triple cream brie. One might not think of a luscious brie as part of a light pairing but it brought the cider-like aroma of this Brettanomyces-finished Saison out in the flavor, which lightened the overall feel of the pairing. If there are any cider-Brett-brie fans in the audience please proceed as quickly as possible to your nearest better bottle shop to grab the beer, then over to Trader Joe's for their Le Delice de Bourgogne triple cream brie.

While our pairing play wasn't as structured or organized as our Girl Scout cookie pairings were it was at least as fun (and didn't lead to the sugar hangover). Besides, cheese is good for you, right?

Thanks to my partners in the pairing, including David who was our fabulous beertender that day!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 24 - 30

After last week's marathon of a list we've dialed it back with just three Best Things, followed by four [very] honorable mentions.

Against The Grain Fruitis The Farmer Beescake - Selected during our recent beer and cheese pairing fun day (more to come on that) this melon Saison finished with Brettanomyces, a part of their Wild Series, displayed a sharp, almost cider aroma with a flavor that was definitely Brett-forward. Oh yum!

Three Magnets Helsing Tempranillo - One of the more difficult to find beers from Three Magnets, we have to give huge thanks to Chris for sharing some of this delectable drink with us. The flavor that is packed into the mere 7.5% combined with the great wine aroma is impressive, even for one who knows little about wine and drinks even less of it. Wine barrel aged on Tempranillo grape musts and bottle conditioned with champagne yeast, this is definitely worth picking up if you run across it.

Boneyard Incredible Pulp - Juicy and yummy, especially for a pale ale, while we most recently enjoyed it on tap, the artwork it pretty damn cool, too, if you run across it in packaged format. Boneyard is an expert with hops and this citrus-forward example further proves that.

Ruse Translator IPA
In the honorable mention category come two beers that we've had in the past, Ruse Brewing Translator IPA which was enjoyed in last Friday's brilliant sunshine outside at Culmination Brewing, and Little Beast Fera that after debuting the previous week found its way onto the taps at our favorite haunt. Both beers were ones that we couldn't pass up enjoying again.

Additionally, we found two other beers that really tickled our summer taste buds. Uinta Lime Pilsner, in a very attractive can, was refreshing and although we really, really like lime and thought it could have used a touch more, this should be right up the alley of anyone that loves a bright, citrusy, easy-drinking beer.

The other was one we had seen in the cooler and mistakenly thought we'd had before. Upon checking however, Modern Times Fortunate Islands had not yet passed our lips. Rectifying that we found a refreshing surprise that was both more hoppy and tropical than wheaty.

All of these beers clock in at 8% or less, perfect for the beautiful, more seasonal weather we've been promised is coming this week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 17 - 23

After last week's short two-beer list, this week we found a ton of delicious beers in our glass. We'd be remiss to cut it short so grab a beverage (a beer if you can) and settle in because there is a whole lotta stuff we're excited to tell you about.

Starting off with the best of the best, it turns out all of these were enjoyed at our favorite haunt. As usual we opened and shared bottles (the good and the bad because it's only fair) with our friends and relished the reciprocation. Big thanks to Chris for the tasty treats below that he brought to our attention.

Holy Mountain The Grey Tower (Blend #3) - Described as a blended Saison, the aroma is more Brett than Saison (a happy turn of events for us) with the flavor being comprised mostly of oak, a bit of Brett and imperceptible Saison. It's a winning combo in our book.

Almanac Blueberry Jack - This beer follows the trend of most of the Almanac beers we've had by being amazing. From the start with that gorgeous label this dry hopped and barrel aged fruit sour excited us. Upon opening cattiness was prevalent in the aroma but as it warmed both the aroma and flavor leaned more toward sour, much to our delight.

The Libertine Wild IPA - The first beer we've had from this brewery, it is a great wild/open fermented IPA. Apparently it is heavily dry-hopped but done so in such a way that the aroma of the hops used is showcased rather than their bittering qualities and it really is the wildness that more pronounced than the hops. Works for us!

Southern Tier Thick Mint - We've had plenty of Southern Tier's sticky sweet beers and while we enjoy them, they tend to be over the top. This one isn't as tooth achingly sweet and as expected it smells and tastes just like those iconic cookies. A great dessert beer for sure, if we had any of those cookies left we'd be interested to see what they taste like together. Would they clash? Would they be meh together? Would it blow our mind? Perhaps next year we'll find out.

Sunriver Cocoa Cow - This was not the first time we'd had this beer but this time around we had it in a bottle instead of on draft. Some beers are significantly different between formats so maybe that's the reason why we enjoyed it even more this time. Maybe not. Maybe we'll have the opportunity to do a side-by-side sometime. In the meantime we'd be happy to have more of this chocolate-milk-meets-beer sweet stout.

The second half of this week's round up rated only a teeny, tiny lower than the first half. They did however show more diversity both in style and in where we drank them, in case you think we don't get around ('cause we do).

Little Beast Brewing Fera - Little Beast is the new brewery from Charles Porter, most recently at Logsdon, and last week they officially hit the scene at OP Wurst. A 100% Brett Saison, it is light and easy drinking on its own but also pairs wonderfully with cheese (see the big hunk below), our favorite beer pairing food.

Matchless Voss IPA - This is one of those recently popular, hazy IPAs and as such, isn't much of a looker. Ignoring that one finds a delicious grapefruit flavor from the Simcoe and Mosaic hops and Norse farmhouse yeast, the region which it hails from and the basis for the name of the beer.

Samuel Smith's Organic Perry - There's plenty of Samuel Smith around currently due to a passport-style promotion meaning more than the usual availability. Similar to a cider, but using pears this has a bright, fruit aroma and a flavor that is of actual pears (as it should be) and not overly sweet.

Pyramid H7 Unfiltered Imperial IPA - Sent to us by the good folks at Pyramid, it is part of their Brewer's Reserve series and uses seven hops - Apollo, Chinook, CTZ, Simcoe, Amarillo, El Dorado and Calypso - thus the name. Presenting with a rich copper color and a distintly boozy nose (no surprise for 9.5%), the flavor starts a bit harsh but mellows midway through, finishing with a nice hop hit.

Block 15 Alpha Northwest-style IPA & Atmosphere Pale Ale - Both were enjoyed at The Hoppy Brewer during a Block 15 event and both are dry hopped. Perhaps less important in the IPA, it's that dry hopping that elevates the pale ale to what our hop-favoring taste buds desire.

Loowit Lager - Lagers are a hard style to impress us but we have to congratulate Loowit for creating a straightforward, clean lager that will be something particularly refreshing this summer.

Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Latte - This was a bit of a happy accident as we thought we were picking up a Belching Beaver beer Chris brought to our attention earlier. Turns out it was an IPA with a label similar in color that he was talking about but we were very pleased to find this to be super drinkable with a nice (not fake) peanut flavor that was mildly sweet. And clocking in at a mere 5%? Absolutely!

Crooked Stave Serenata Notturna Blueberry - Belgian golden ales aren't generally in our wheelhouse but here the base beer contributes a hay-like (note, not manure-like which we do also enjoy) characteristic that in combination with the use of blueberries and the aging in oak barrels has created a super easy dranking (yes, not drinking) 12%. Proceed at your own risk with more than one bottle.

Double Mountain Sweet Jane - It used to be that the biggest hits from Double Mountain were their fruit beers, which are amazing, but either the taste buds are a changing or perhaps they're dialing in their non-fruit recipes. This one, in addition to a beautiful, colorful label has a sweet aroma to begin and a somewhat sweet, but not cloying flavor. A very clean beer.

Kudos to you if you made it all the way through this post in one sitting and/or actually read the whole thing instead of just skimming. We'll work on drinking less amazing beer this week so next week's post won't be such a tome (kidding...we'll drink as much yum as we can).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 10 - 16

In reviewing our drinking last week it turns out that we had a lot of good beer, in fact so much that we decided to distill this post down to only the top two.

Ruse 4th Kind - Ruse is one of those breweries that holds a special place in our hearts, in part because we got to know owner/brewer Shaun Kalis when interviewing him for a piece in the Oregon Beer Growler last year. His brewery is housed inside Culmination, where he is also part of their brewing staff. This Northeast-style oatmeal pale ale, brewed with lactose, is citrusy and juicy and hazy as one would expect for this style of beer we're seeing an abundance of lately. Certainly one of the best hazy beers we've had the pleasure of enjoying it is not "traditionally pretty" but it's so damn delicious it doesn't even matter.

The Commons & Grains of Wrath Pay No Attention to This IPA - The collaboration beer, from another special-to-us brewery and a new-to-us brewery, is definitely something to pay attention to. Earlier this year The Commons brewed its first IPA which was delicious and showed that while they don't usually make this style they are more than capable of making a very good one. This time around they have surpassed the initial IPA bar they set for themselves and gotten us excited about future beers from Grains of Wrath, the Washington brewery from former Fat Head's brewer Mike Hunsaker. With so much hoppy yum-ness we know we'll be missing it once it's all been consumed but in the meantime we'll do our part to drink plenty of it.

While those two were our favorites, close runners up and tasty in their own right were:
- Block 15 Animal Cookies IPA
- Culmination Away Days English IPA (brewed for The Toffee Club)
- Modern Times City of the Dead barrel-aged coffee stout
- Modern Times Oderville IPA
- Montavilla Citrasphere IPA
- Pono El Garrote IPA
- Schilling Grapefruit Cider Special Release

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest

Yesterday the 2017 Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest kicked off its two-day run at the Oregon Convention Center. One of the few indoor only beer festivals, in addition to the beer and wine the name alludes to, there are also distilled spirits, food booths and something for just about everyone. Oh, and sugar gliders.

We always find ourselves introduced to someone new when we attend this festival and this year was no different. One of those new-to-us folks was Bandon Rain cider. Located on the southern Oregon coast south of Coos Bay they are a family operation that started as a hobby. They brought to the festival their signature cranberry apple cider, Cranberry Squall, and Apple Pie. Both are semi-sweet ciders, at 6.7% and 6.9% respectively. Beyond being available in Bandon and Coos Bay, they currently are available in Eugene, Forest Grove and here in Portland at Bushwhacker Cider.

Among those returning to the festival is Pono Brewing with two delicious and decidedly different offerings - Southern Whirl Belgian Strong Golden Ale with black currant and Oregon grown raspberries. Gorgeous to behold, the berries temper the Belgian characteristics to make for a drinkable 8.14% beer. Their other offering, El Garrote IPA, sports a great caveman logo and "will knock you out." We'll be looking forward to seeing much more of this around town.

Since we are hop heads, we can't overlook mentioning two other IPAs that we had for the first time at the Fest - Montavilla Citrasphere IPA and Modern Times Orderville. Citrasphere was the first beer in our glass yesterday and the lovely citrus aroma and flavor made for a great start to things. Shortly thereafter we had the dank-to-the-max Orderville. And while we won't go on and on about all the rest we drank and ate suffice it to say it was a very enjoyable time. The festival runs 12-10pm today and we'd recommend finding time to check it out yourself.

Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest
Oregon Convention Center
April 14 and 15, 12-10pm

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 3 - 9

This week's Best Things is dominated by fruit but used in a variety of beer styles which kept things interesting (and pretty to boot).

Yachats Salal Sour - Sitting at the top of the heap according to our taste buds is one of the first beers Yachats has bottled. We've known Charlie and Jenna for awhile and are thrilled to see their beers making it up to Portland. This one presents with a tart, fruity aroma and an absolutely gorgeous color. Made with local, wild salal berries (used by the indigenous people of Cascadia for generations) it is a clean, drinkable fruit sour. Keep 'em coming!

StormBreaker Guava Man - "Don't judge a book by the cover" definitely applies to this beer. Looking like cloudy grapefruit juice the appearance belies the delicious flavor, which is in fact pithy as well as hoppy, that is found upon drinking it.

North Coast Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse - We were surprised to see North Coast making this style of beer but couldn't pass up trying it. While we found it to be a bit on the sweet end of the fruit Berliner Weisse spectrum it was very drinkable with a real cherry flavor, the result of using real Michigan Montmorency cherries. Apparently it's a very limited release beer so if you're intrigued and see it you'd better grab it now or  settle for regretting it later.

Modern Times Black House Nitro w/Coffee, Coconut & Cocoa - A take on the brewery's oatmeal coffee stout, there is an impressive amount of flavor - mild coconut, coffee and hop bitterness - packed into its 5.8% ABV. We continue to be impressed with beer after beer from this brewery and are excited to have a newcomer that is so solid in our market.

McMenamins Captain Neon's Mango Double IPA - We loved the colorful can artwork from first glance and were very pleased with the beer inside. At 9%+ ABV it's not surprising that the aroma is somewhat boozy. What may be surprising is that it doesn't drink that heavy. The combination of dry-hopping with Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic and Chinook and use of mango puree creates a yummy, hoppy flavor that may or may not have led to the consumption of multiple cans one evening (under the watchful eyes of Thing 1 and Thing 2).

If you've had any of these beers we'd love to hear what you thought of them. And if you've had anything outstanding you think should be on our radar, let us know.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: CA Vacay Edition

This week's best list is dominated by beers we consumed while taking a long weekend vacation to the Orange County, CA area. We drank plenty more than made the list (Portland still wins at beer) but there were definitely some remarkable beers had during the trip as well as some we had before we skipped town to soak up some much needed sun.

Phantom Carriage Broadacres with Passionfruit - We get some Phantom Carriage in the Portland market and knew that they did a great job with sours so finding ourselves in the vicinity (Gardena, CA), we couldn't resist stopping. The brewery is unique, being part café and part haunted cellar (complete with horror movies playing) and overall damn cool. This was the best of the beers consumed there and sour to the max. The passion fruit used in this iteration of Broadacres gives it just enough mouthfeel to take some of the sour bite off.

Barley Forge Wedding Tackle - Somewhat stumbling on this brewery (aka using a "search nearby" map function for breweries), we found ourselves surrounded by really great beer and a hopping taproom on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. The huckleberries used in this sour blonde ale were present from the start - both in giving it a beautiful color and on the nose - and carried through to the flavor. The lightly, brightly sour flavor was enhanced by the cherry wood it was aged on.

Barley Forge Nom Nom - We'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite between this hefeweizen and the sour, both incredible beers at easy drinking ABVs. A well crafted hefe, its classic characteristics are there and enhanced by the mango that was slightly present on the nose and more prevalent in the flavor. This is a very crushable beer that would be perfect for sunny, summer drinking.

Block 15 Cosmic Cold Brew Double Ristretto - Block 15 does amazing stuff with hops but their coffee game is equally strong. Starting out with an aroma that is all coffee, followed by a smooth mouthfeel and finishes with a lovely lingering milked-coffee flavor.

Firestone Walker Bretta Rose Batch 3 - A beer we'd had a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed, it seemed a great prelude to heading out to celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss. The extra year of age did nothing to diminish, and perhaps even enhanced,  the tart, fruity yum that is so delicious.

Honorable mentions go out to Stone for their Tangerine Express, enjoyed with breakfast on the first day of vacation at a sports bar, Tustin Brewing and Gunwhale Ales. If you find yourself in the area with limited time Barley Forge is definitely the place to hit. Gunwhale, a somewhat sterile feeling taproom, and Tustin, a neighborhood hangout filled with TVs for sports fans, are fine and we wouldn't steer you away from either, just keep in mind Barley Forge is where it's at in the Costa Mesa area.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 20 - 26

This week's list is short and topped by local, fast rising star Great Notion. We met a couple friends there last weekend and ran into a couple more...go figure...and also chatted with two of the owners. In addition to completely turning around the former Mash Tun Paul, James and Andy are great guys who I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing for a piece in the Oregon Beer Growler this time last year.

Great Notion Super Ripe - The brewery has done a few iterations of Ripe and this double dry hopped one is absolutely delicious. Starting with a zesty-juicy aroma, the flavor is more juicy than zesty and very drinkable for 9.5%.

Great Notion Heart of Gold - Once again showing their command of sour beers, this barrel aged Saison made with peaches and sour bacteria has a smooth peach aroma, golden color and lovely sour bracingness.

Omnipollo Bianca Mango Lassi Gose - Omnipollo is essentially a gypsy brewery with the recipes conceived at their home base in Sweden but brewed at breweries around the globe. This beer, a 6% gose brewed with rock salt, lactose and mango puree, was brewed at Buxton Brewery in the UK. While we didn't find much in the way of fruit character it was a nice gose that had the pronounced salt profile one would expect from the style.

Cider Riot! Everyday Semi-Dry - We find ourselves adding cider into the mix more often and this one is exactly what the name says, something we'd be happy to drink every day. We had it on tap, while checking out a Portland institution we've driven by hundreds of times - Sandy Hut, but it is also the first canned offering from the cidery. Six packs will start popping up next week and to celebrate this next step in the young cidery's life there is a can release/dance party on April 12th at Mississippi Studios.

In putting together this week's list it seems clear our taste buds are more than ready for spring, which will hopefully finally settle in as we put March behind us and welcome in April this weekend. With any luck we'll be getting out and about more soon, perhaps toting some cans, possibly the 12oz variety from Cider Riot! or the large format crowlers from Great Notion.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 13-19

This edition of Best Things runs the gamut from light, spring-is-just-around-the-corner beers to dark, event/holiday-driven beers.

Since at this time of year, no matter where you live, you're probably itching for Spring to spring we'll start with the springy-ist of the Best...two goses.
  • Anderson Valley GT Gose - Anderson Valley has really done of great job of remaining relevant with their line of goses. This version, "reminiscent of a classic cocktail, our GT Gose showcases botanical flavors and aromas of lemon peel, juniper, lemongrass, and grains of paradise, with a juicy lemon-lime tartness and a slightly peppery finish" was great when we first tried it last year, on draft then. This year it's joined the others in cans and we're thrilled to have a portable, lower ABV gin and tonic in beer form.
  • Modern Times Fruitlands (Passion Fruit & Guava) - Modern Times has entered this market with guns ablazin' and this crushable beer adds to the track record of delicious beers we've had from them. Starting with a pleasant fruit aroma, followed by a moderate saltiness, we hope that it is available all summer.
Then a couple of beers showcasing those hops that we love...
  • Burnside Isomer IPA - Last week we bopped on down to Burnside for the official rebranding celebration and were able to try this super drinkable for 8% beer. Ekuanot is a newer hop we're not familiar with the new name for Equinox hops (thanks, Corrie!) and we can't say for sure yea or nay on Meridians but in this combo Burnside has created, we're happy with both.
  • The Commons Mr. Irrelevant - Anyone familiar with The Commons knows that in their six years in business they have never commercially made an IPA. When we heard that we had, we were eager to try it. It came as no surprise that the talented brewing team had created a superbly balanced IPA.

And finally, the darkest beers...
  • Bell's Kalamazoo Stout - Last week was, of course, the first amateur drinking day of the year and while green beer and Guinness may have been sold in unfathomable quantities we were more concerned about drinking something we actually enjoy. Thus, when we went out, to a location we knew would not be overrun by said amateurs, we fully enjoyed the roasty yum of this Midwest favorite that is better than Guinness by miles in our book.
  • Alaskan Brewing Barley Wine Ale (2013) - Barley Wines can be a tough cookie if they're young and still hot but they can also be great. This one, drank during part II of our Girl Scout cookies and beer pairing, was a bit hot yet after 4 years but it was great enough with Toffee-tastic Girl Scout cookies that we couldn't leave it off the list.

There you have it. Now the only questions are what will you be drinking this weekend, where and with who? Because beer is just better with friends, ones you already know or ones you might find during the shared enjoyment of a delicious drink.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beer & Girl Scout Cookies Pairing Year IV, Part II

Last week, on Pi Day, we dove in to part II of this year's Girl Scout cookies and beer pairing. On the docket were:
- Thin Mints
- Caramel de-Lites/Samoas
- Do-Si-Dos/Peanut Butter Sandwich
- Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties
- Toffee-tastic (gluten-free)

Since our venue happened to have 2013 Alaskan Brewing Barleywine on tap and previous years had taught us that chocolate cookies, which were most of what we had in front of us that day, went well with darker beers like this Chris had to go for it. Although four years old, the beer retained a boozy profile that ended up working well with the Thin Mints, the mint negating that booziness and the beer amping up the mintiness of the cookies. Another big boy - the 18% Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - also found a companion in the Thin Mints. Mag, not one for big beers like these, found Half Acre Daisy Cutter pale ale to be a nice complement to this staple of the cookie line up.

Samoas, a cookie some of our pairing group love and others really don't, can be challenging to pair both because of the overt sweetness and the coconut. Here we found Cascadia Ciderworkers Berry's combination of blackberry, blueberry and cranberry to be quite complimentary to the coconut, to such an extent that the caramel and chocolate flavors nearly vanished. The big Dogfish Head stout also paired well with the overt sweetness of the cookie and the 18% ABV balancing one another.

Switching from chocolate to peanut butter, the Cascadia cider also went nicely with the Tagalongs to provide a peanut butter and jelly sandwich flavor combination. Working off of our love of coffee and coffee beers we opened a beer from a new-to-this-market brewery, Modern Times, their Black House coffee beer. Presenting a strong roasty aroma and flavor it enhanced the peanut butter qualities of this cookie, muscling the chocolate component to the back seat. Once again, diverging from a similar flavor profile and towards a complimentary one, the Half Acre Daisy Cutter hit the mark.

The other peanut butter cookie, Do-Si-Dos, went best with Modern Times Black House, the combination being reminiscent of a cup of coffee and a slice of toast topped with peanut butter. Sounds like a good way to start the day, right? Chris happened to have a Golden Road 329 (lager) open and while the beer itself was sweeter on its own than he would prefer it actually worked with this cookie, confirming Craft Beer & Brewing's recommendation of a malty lager.

Finally, the sole gluten-free cookie of the bunch, Toffee-tastic. It's a cookie that we unanimously like on its own, in large part because of its strong butteriness. It was due to that butter profile (similar to Trefoils) that it worked with and was balanced by the Alaskan Barleywine. With the Modern Times coffee beer it was similar to enjoying an iced coffee and a butter biscotti. And for the an all around gluten-free experience we recommend Magner's Original Irish Cider. The apple-toffee combo played off one another, each enhancing the flavors of the other.

Huge thanks to Chris for procuring the cookies, especially the out of market ones, and being an eager participant along with Mag and the many friends who helped consume All. These. Cookies.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bomb Shelter Beer

Bomb shelters aren't something many under 40 have much of a frame of reference for except perhaps being akin to preparing for a zombie apocalypse. They are a real thing, the majority of which are probably only known to a small number of people. One in Portland was "discovered" by a friend who showed up at an estate sale and kindly shared a couple pictures he snapped while there.

This particular bomb shelter is located in SW and belonged to a prominent, local radiologist. It contained, among other things, some bottles of Widmer beer in brown paper bags. My friend was able to acquire those bottles and over the weekend invited some folks over for the opening of one of them.

A Festbier at a mere 5.2% ABV wouldn't be an obvious choice to age and might be regarded with some suspicion but I've had 20-year-old beers before that turned to be quite good. This one was coming on 28 years old and we figured as long as this didn't foam over upon opening it was probably fine. Not only did it not foam over, there was a pleasant "fsssss" as it was uncapped letting us know that some carbonation remained.

Poured into glasses, it gave off a raisin aroma reminiscent of a fairly sweet beer, sweeter than it actually was and it wasn't unpleasant to drink. Overall, quite impressive for a low ABV beer to have aged so well for such a long time. Nice job, Widmer! And big thanks to Paul for the invitation to try this rare beer.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 6-12

This week's Best Things is a short list and one of the weirdest mixes we've had in a while - sour, citrus, coffee and horse blanket. Go figure, some weeks we fall into a pretty tight profile, some weeks we're here, there and everywhere.

Citrus Myrtle enjoyed at our usual
The Commons Citrus Myrtle - This is one of the beers recently we've been most excited about because we love The Commons. Plus Myrtle is a great beer on its own and it seemed like the addition of citrus would only make it better. Such was the case with a mix of citrus flavors present with lime gently muscling its way to the forefront, especially on the nose. 

R. Zabala R. Zabala - We generally dig on Spanish ciders and this continues the trend, giving us that lovely leather and horse blanket profile we get giddy about. Once again big thank to Chris for knowing us so well and sharing this.

Ecliptic Carina Peach Sour - Ecliptic's beer naming theme is celestial and we appreciate that they provide us with some education each time we drink their beer. Carina is a constellation in the southern sky, the keel of the ship Argo, and is also a bright, fresh, peach sour ale that uses lactobacillus to give it a tart finish.

Orpheus Coffee Minotaur - A bottle shared by some beer friends, at first take one would probably not think that a sour ale made with coffee, Java Lords Coffee in this case, would work, especially when the nose is of maple syrup. Turns out the Orpheus folks know what they're doing and should we have a chance to try more of this Georgia brewery's beers in the future, we'll be excited to do so.

Both the Ecliptic and The Commons beers shouldn't be too hard to find around town and the cider available at better bottle shops. Whatever you're drinking this week, let's at least agree that it won't be green, eh?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beer & Girl Scout Cookies Pairing Year IV

It's hard to believe we've been playing this annual game which is part helping the Girl Scouts out and part adult play. But here we are and once again we've stepped up the game, taking what we've learned to make the pairings more successful, more fun and since we're not kids, more adult-gut friendly.

This year there are some two vegan cookies being made that through our network we were able to get our hands on. That's cool but that also means more cookies to try so in order to avoid total sugar shock we split the pairing into two sessions, the first of which recently happened and the second of which will take place later today. Because what else would you eat on Pi Day but cookies?

Part I Cookies
- S'Mores regular
- S'Mores vegan
- Savannah Smiles
- Lemonades (vegan)
- Shortbreads aka Trefoils
- Thanks-A-Lot

Both versions of the S'Mores cookies are new to the GS cookie line up this year and while both are s'mores-y they are very different cookies. The non-vegan version is a graham cracker sandwich cookie with chocolate and marshmallow filling that has almost an almond flavor. Perhaps one of the best as a stand alone, we found that it paired exceptionally with Alaskan Smoked Porter (which we had opened to pair with another cookie). The beer's smokiness completed the campfire package that the cookie started.

The vegan S'mores also starts with a graham cracker cookie but diverges from there, being twice dipped in crème icing before being covered in chocolate. One of the Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine suggestions (the base that we chose to work from this year) was Cascade Kriek Ale and while that is a local option, it's a 750ml bottle and knowing how many beers we were going to be opening, even with our group, we tried to steer our selections to smaller 12-16oz options. Ommegang Rosetta (thanks, Robby!) fit the size preference and its flavor profile is similar, if perhaps with a bit less tart bite than the Kriek. This may have been a blessing in disguise as the cherry-juice like profile combined with these cookies to taste just like chocolate covered cherries - outstanding!!

The next most chocolaty cookie of this group is Thanks-A-Lot which isn't listed as being new but we don't recall having before (maybe it wasn't in our market last year). A fairly large, thin shortbread cookie with one side dunked in chocolate fudge, the chocolate component allowed it to pair well with Alaskan Smoked Porter, Ommegang Rosetta and Founders Dirty Bastard (again, an bottle opened with another cookie in mind). We also chose one of the CBBM suggestions - Sixpoint Resin - which at least a couple in our group have little love for on its own. But, hey, we've had plenty of beers that we didn't particularly enjoy on their own be great when paired with the right thing so we were hopeful this would be the case. IT. WAS. NOT. The incredible bitterness of the beer was increased by the cookie to the point where it was like chewing on an aspirin. Ick. Perhaps an imperial IPA - the overall suggestion - with a sweeter profile would work better but if you want to play it safe, go with beers that work with the chocolaty-ness.

Since we've now mentioned two beers that we opened with another cookie in mind, let's talk about it - the Shortbread/Trefoil. This cookie has probably been around as long as Thin Mints so no doubt you've tried its buttery goodness. Both the Alaskan and a barrel-aged version of the Founders were suggested for this cookie and we'll agree that they both work. The maltiness of Founder Dirty Bastard compliments and is complimented by the heavy butteryness of the cookie and the Alaskan's strong smoky flavor easily stands up to the cookie's richness.

Moving to the lighter, lemony cookies - the Savannah Smiles that we found a great pairing with last year (thanks, Chris!) and the new-to-us, vegan Lemonades. That great beer is Saison DuPont and although we still enjoyed it with the powdered sugar covered Savannah Smiles, it paired even better with the lemon iced shortbread Lemonades. Another beer that worked well with both was Culmination Peche, especially if you enjoy a bright tartness. Those looking for a sweeter fruit pairing might prefer Founders Rubaeus, a beer that was all around yummy with the Smiles and one whose slight tartness served to balance the Lemonades' icing sweetness. Going in a completely different direction, but taking the CBBM suggestion for the Lemonades, we cracked open Lagunitas Citrusinesis Pale Ale. Its citrus components, the zestiness complimented the Lemonades but really shined bright with the Smiles where witbiers and mieres de miel had been suggested.

With six cookies tackled in that session, that leaves five more - Thin Mints, Toffee-tastic, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas and Tagalongs - for part two which is going to happen later today. So while you enjoy your pie, we'll be slaving away on the cookies. Check back to see, for better or worse, what we discover.