Friday, November 17, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 6 - 12

This week's edition is dedicated to The Commons. As anyone living in Portland knows, last Saturday was the last hurrah for the current incarnation of The Commons. We say that because we firmly believe that we will see them again in the future, especially if Mike's recent collaborations are any indication. We showed up at opening Saturday and during the course of our time there were fortunate to be able to say a "see you later" to Mike in person. In addition, Travis' familiar face was to be found behind the bar, a face we hope to see popping up somewhere else around town after the transition is complete.

We enjoyed all of the beers that found their way from the menu board to our glass, but these four in particular.
Eidolon (R) - We first enjoyed this sour, barrel aged amber farmhouse five years ago. Noting at that time that it was a "great approachable sour" we agree with that first impression. The beer was matured on two strains of Brettanomyces in wine barrels but the Brett holds a supporting roll. The shining star is the super fun combo of Meyer Lemon peel, jasmine green tea, jasmine flowers and New Zealand Hallertau hops.

Anderlecht (L) - Our favorite of the day we were so stunned with its flavor that we can't express just how delicious it was other than to say it is simply an outstanding wood aged lambic. If we could have gotten growler fills of it, we would have rounded up all the growlers we had and happily handed over how much ever they were asking for it.

Galaxy Myrtle (L) - We've been quite pleased with the few hopped sour beers we had, with this one continuing the trend. Here the bright Myrtle tart farmhouse base found a great partner with the Galaxy hops used. Starting with a definite hop aroma, the flavor is a melding of the two.

Fresh Hop Myrtle (R) - More lightly hopped than the Galaxy non-fresh hop version, this beer features Meridian hops. Effervescent and easy drinking, we enjoyed this as much as we did when we first had it in 2013.

Now on to two other great beers we enjoyed to finish out our list.
Revision Dr. Lupulin 3x - We've just started seeing Revision's beers hit this market and so far we've been impressed with the offerings from this, hold on to your shorts...Sparks, Nevada brewery. Before we get to the beer, a bit about the brewery. Sparks is essentially a suburb of Reno, sitting on the Western edge of Nevada, and less than a day's full drive from Auburn, CA. That's relevant because Auburn is the location of Knee Deep Brewery, the brewery Revision's founder Jeremy Warren founded seven years ago. The full backstory is on Revision's website but the short of it is that Jeremy left, taking with him the first brewer he hired at Knee Deep, Jeb Taylor. Officially open just eight months ago, if this triple IPA is any indication of what is to come, we are totally on board because to make an 11.3% beer with massive IBUs this smooth is an incredible feat. 

Crux Tough Love [BANISHED] 2015 - Our favorite of the three vintages offered at The BeerMongers during their Tough Love event the big, Russian Imperial Stout offered a licorice aroma and flavor that was smooth with a tannic finish that makes one want to keep drinking it. 

This time next week we may all be waking up with a hangover (of the food variety). Before then, however, we'll be taking a look at some cranberry offerings that have recently come across our radar. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Look at Lompoc's Holiday Seasonals

This holiday season Lompoc will be offering seven seasonal beers plus Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison, the latter of which will be available starting this Friday, November 17th. Since that will be the first beer available, we'll start there. 

Available on draft and in 500ml bottles, Lompoc's Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison is a "Belgian style ale brewed with fresh cranberries and aged one year in port barrels that infused the beer with a drinkable tart and spicy flavor and subtle notes of port and oak. Pale and wheat malts keep it light, while the peppery yeast and noble hops lead to a tangy finish." 

Starting off with a beautiful, peachy color and slight barrel/funk aroma we found it to be nicely balanced between Saison characteristics and the contribution to the flavor from the cranberries. The very drinkable 5% beer it would be a great starter to any meal and a beautiful addition to a holiday spread. Friday's release will be accompanied by the Sage Derby Turkey Sliders chef Mark Otey created to pair with the beer. $3.50 each they are on the substantial end of the slider spectrum and combine many flavors of the Thanksgiving table into a sandwich.

Moving on to the holiday seasonals, we were able to try out five of the seven at a preview earlier this week (Blitzen and Brewdolph were still in the stable getting ready for their debut at the Holiday Beer Extravaganza on the 27th). Ranging from the 7% Top Shelf, Old Sport to two, 9.4% versions of Old Tavern Rat this year's beers offer a variety of flavor profiles.

Top Shelf, Old Sport is a Belgian style dubbel that we found to exude an aroma that was almost winey and attributable to the eight months the beer spent in Maryhill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The flavor profile is of an old library combined with a smoking room and the warmer it gets, the more complex and delicious it becomes.

Lump of Coal may be an imperial porter but we got a strong CDA aroma and initial flavor to match. As it warmed the flavor of the 200 lbs of  sour cherries the 1/6bbl batch of beer was aged on started to show itself.

Switching over to the most hoppy offering was C-Sons Greetings Double IPA. The 8% beer is quite similar to last year's version with plenty of bitterness from the seven "C" hops used. This is the only other seasonal beer that will be available in bottles, this in 22oz format.

Finally, the two versions of 2016 Old Tavern Rat, a barleywine that has been aging for a year. One version spent eight months in Maryhill Winery Port barrels and thus offers an aroma that is part barleywine and part port. Tasting to us slightly less boozy (they're both 9.4%) than the non-port barrel version it got our slight favor in a head-to-head tasting. The caveat is that the non-port version was outstanding paired with Moonstruck milk chocolate with sea salt and toffee that was thoughtfully brought and shared by one of the other attendees.

Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison Release
Friday, November 17

Holiday Beer Extravaganza
Wednesday, November 27

Both events take place at LompocSidebar ~ 3901 N Williams.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Second 2017 Beer & Cheese Pairing Party

We think beer and cheese is one of the most perfect pairings to be found and recently our small group got together once again to play with pairing. At least the fourth time we've done it, we gathered as usual at our favorite watering hole, each toting cheese, eager to grab beers and dig in. After a quick round of sampling all of the cheeses on their on that's just what we did. Here are the highlights.

Taleggio from Italy (Market of Choice), suggested as a replacement for the Limburger that was currently sold out, it was one of the most versatile of the cheeses. The only caveat was that it took far longer than the standard two hours at room temperature to come into its creamy, slightly funky own.
- Not surprisingly its funkiness paired well with the assertive Mexican hot chocolate flavors found in Stone's imperial milk stout, Xocoveza.
- With Anchorage Nelson Sauvin Saison with Brett the cheese brought out the hop bitterness of the beer, which depending on one's personal preference might be a bit too much, but we enjoyed it.
- Paired with the relatively mild North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince it surprisingly did not overpower the beer but instead they took turns complimenting one another with the beer allowing the funk of the cheese to come through and the cheese returning the favor, allowing the bright, tart cranberry to come in at the end.
- Somewhat similarly to the North Coast pairing, when enjoyed with Ballast Point Sour Wench the cheese allowed the fruitiness of the beer to really shine.

Rivaling the Taleggio for versatility was the Creamy Toscano dusted with cinnamon (Trader Joe's).
- No one in the group is much of a fan of pumpkin beers but the temptation of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking was too much to pass up as we know that dark beers tend to work particularly well with cheese. In this instance the cheese allowed the pumpkin to come out and rival the barrel-aged flavors of the beer nicely.
- With the Stone Xocoveza the cinnamon in the beer and the cinnamon in the cheese played wonderfully off one another, neither overpowering the other.
- In a surprising pairing, at least on the surface, the cinnamon in the cheese and the cranberries in the North Coast Berliner Weisse worked together. Thinking on it further and savoring the pair, it was similar to the way cinnamon and fruit work together in a pie or crisp.
- The gathering also included slices of Crimson Crisp apples (a relative of Honeycrisp) which combined with the cheese and the Stone Xocoveza for a triumvirate of tastiness.

Beecher's Flagship Cheddar (Fred Meyer) was quite possibly the overall favorite cheese of the day on its own and it found a singular perfect partner in Ruse Clock Keeper Saison/Farmhouse. The recommendation came from David, the beertender on duty, and it was spot on with the beer nicely lightening the luscious, flavorful cheddar.

Another cheese superstar with our group was Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog (Fred Meyer). Great on its creamy own, it brought a pleasant (at least to us) sharpness out in the rich Stone Xocoveza.

The gooey-est cheese of the day, Triple Cream Brie with Wild Mushrooms (Trader Joe's), was another crowd favorite even for those who don't typically dig on gooey cheeses. As with the Taleggio it found delicious partners with multiple beers.
- Block 15 Azaccasicle IPA, with its blend of tropical and citrusy hops and touch of milk sugar, made fast friends with the earthiness of the cheese.
- The depth of Pints Chocolate Nut Brown, brewed with UK Phoenix hops that in fact taste like chocolate, found a partner in the mushrooms.
- Once again the North Coast Cranberry-Quince mixed and mingled with the cheese. Here the tartness from the cranberries and the Berliner Weisse base balanced the richness of the cheese while the mushrooms took the tart edge off the beer.
- A final pairing but not a beer one, that we found deliciousness in was pairing this with Ilchester Smoked Applewood Cheddar. We thought the smokiness of the cheddar, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the brie would make an outstanding grilled cheese (further exploration is impending).

Not as gooey as a brie but silky soft once it warmed was Mitica Drunken Goat (Fred Meyer).
- The sweetness of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking balanced and was balanced by the saltiness of this soft but not oozy cheese.
- Reuben's Home From Home, a beer no one had a particular affinity for perhaps due to its super bitter-hoppiness (and this is coming from hop-loving folks), managed to become more balanced and drinkable when accompanied by the cheese.

Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberries (Fred Meyer)
- Pairing a fruit cheese with a stout is a bit of a no-brainer yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to find how delicious this cheese was with the Stone Xocoveza. The complexity of the beer had the potential to clash with the tartness the cranberries brought to this pairing but happily they worked harmoniously.
- With the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the cranberry-on-cranberry pairing worked nicely, being anything but one dimensional.

Stilton (Fred Meyer) is one of the more strongly flavored varieties in the blue cheese families and as such it did overpower some beers we tried it with.
- Surprisingly its powerful flavor mingled well with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince. Here the beer brought out additional, lovely funkiness in the cheese while still allowing the fruit in the beer to sparkle.
- The most decadent pairing of the day was here with the Stone Xocoveza. This is what post-dinner cheese course dreams are made of.

Face Rock Smoky Cheddar (Fred Meyer) is one of the creamiest cheddars we've had with a pleasant but not overpowering smokiness.
- A fun pairing with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the saltiness of the cheese came out, followed by the sweetness of the beer.
- Finding its backbone it stood up to the Stone Xocoveza, bringing the cinnamon in the beer to the forefront.

If you haven't tried your own beer and cheese pairing we hope this post encourages you to give it a go. As we move into the holiday season you'll likely have more opportunities at gatherings you host or attend. They won't all be winners but if you go into it with an open, exploratory mind, we bet it will be fun. And if you discover some great ones make sure to let us know!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Oct 30 - Nov 5

This week's list is composed mostly by California breweries, although if you consider that Modern Times will have a brewing location in Portland in 2018, our list is equally split between California and Oregon beers. The bonus this week is that they were all enjoyed in packaged form meaning if you look around you, too, should be able to grab them, for enjoyment now or soon.

We start off with two beers from Beachwood Blendery, the offshoot small batch beer producer established in 2014 by the same folks behind Beachwood Brewing. The Blendery focuses on Lambic style beers from Belgian using ingredients, equipment and brewing methods steeped in tradition but with an admittedly modern twist.
Strawberry Provence - Made with strawberries and Herbs de Provence, this is the most amazing strawberry aroma we've ever experienced in a beer, like peak-ripe strawberries. From there the flavor takes a deliciously tart turn for a complex, enjoyable experience. 

Dia De Los Mangos - According to the local distributor of Beachwood Blendery (who shared the Strawberry Provence with us), this beer uses the same base as that one. We would have never guessed as it is completely different and so complex. A blend of one year old barrels aged on mango and tamarind for eight weeks and infused with Ancho, Aleppo, Aji Amarillo, Guajillo and Green Serrano chili peppers the beer displays pleasant chili characteristics without being a spicy bomb.

Moving to the currently-California-brewery-but-soon-to-be-in-Portland-brewery is Modern Times who you may recall that we've been quite enamored with even before the announcement that they would be filling the vacancy that The Commons will leave when they vacate their inner SE Portland location.
Spaceship Earth - Described as an "outrageously tasty pale ale," we couldn't agree more. Juicy in aroma and flavor, hazy in appearance we think both pale ale and IPA fans will enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of tropical fruit and citrus found here. 

The final beer making this week's list is Little Beast Animal Family. It is one of the two recent foeder-aged bottle releases from Little Beast. There are quite a bit of winy qualities found in this beer which may strike some odd (including us initially), but we found the oddness very appealing. Thanks to Chris for once again sharing an outstanding beer with us! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Halloween Edition

With the exception of one, all of the beers making this week's list reflect the turn in the weather and daylight, taking us down the path of darkness. The majority were dragged up from various cellars and enjoyed at fall's celebration of darkness that was filled with beer lovers.

Book ending our rundown are the non-Halloween beers and we'll start off with the lone light beer, Bend Peach Offering, before descending into darkness. The 100lbs of Oregon peaches made themselves known in both the great peach aroma and flavor with the whole chamomile flowers contributing soft fruit flavors and delicate floral notes and Lactobacillus providing that lovely, bright tartness that we so enjoy. A mere 4.5% its light and refreshing qualities would make it a great start to any holiday gathering.

And now for the adult goodies shared at that Halloween party...
Surly Darkness 2014 - The only recent year vintage that we don't have in our beer cellar, we counted ourselves lucky to have been around when a bottle of this delicious chocolate-licorice goodness was cracked open. The other vintages we've had lately also seem to be doing well, making it tempting to break into all of them however they also show that they are holding up well as they age. Oh, the conundrum.

Block 15 2011 Imagine Barrel Aged (bourbon) - The only Imagine we've tried, save for the delicious Cherry Imagine two years ago, the 15% barrel-aged Belgian imperial stout started with a fruity-molasses aroma. The flavor feels perfect for the holiday season, a beer we can imagine sipping as we relax in the warmth and comfort of friends and family. 

Kane Sunday Brunch - A beer we first became acquainted with last year at GABF, it was a treat to enjoy it again. The imperial milk porter with coffee, cinnamon and maple syrup drank like Mexican hot chocolate without being overly sweet. The only two times we've had beer from this New Jersey brewery we hope to find ourselves in the company of others in the future that have obtained some of their Belgian-influenced ales.

The Commons Brotherly Love - The party's host shared this beer that felt particularly special in light of their impending closure. The craftsmanship of this 10% barrel-aged Belgian dark strong ale matured with tart cherries and roasted cocoa nibs was both clear and bittersweet. While we savored it, just as we will savor the remaining days of The Commons, we also jealously wanted to steal away to down the whole bottle.

Finishing off the list with the other non-Halloween-enjoyed beer is Cascade Tidal Bore. Ordered a bit by accident due to a too quick perusal of the menu upon arriving tardy to a gathering, this was a very happy accident. The imperial stout started off with an amazing aroma and drank incredibly smooth for 10+%, yet there was enough booze presence to remind us to slow down, savor and share.

As we enter the often hectic holiday season we are going to try to slow down and savor many things, perhaps with a glass of something delicious in our hands, and hope you'll be able to do the same.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Impact of 2017 Oregon Brewers Festival & Changes for 2018

Image courtesy of the Oregon Brewers Festival
It's an annual tradition that a study of the economic impact of the Oregon Brewers Festival is done, the legwork and analysis by Jeff Dense, professor of political science and craft beer studies at Eastern Oregon University and his team of students. They interviewed over 900 festival attendees to come up with their estimates. It's a bit geeky, unless of course you're one of the festival organizers or perhaps one of the tourism-related businesses that benefits from the total $23.9 million impact the 2017 festival had on Multnomah County.

Those who lean geeky, especially numbers geeky, may be interested in the one-page executive summary. The rest may be satisfied knowing:
- 48.7% of attendees were out-of-town visitors, 30% of which stayed with friends or family, leading to a 38% decline in lodging expenditures
- 44.2% of attendees were women, who Dense says "are the key to the future of the craft beer industry"
- 47.2% of attendees were attending the festival for the first or second time, a number that speaks to the vitality of the festival in its ability to attract new visitors
- 28.3% of attendees were 50 years of age or older, a population segment that is highly desirable due to their high level of disposable income

Now about those changes for the 2018 festival:
- The festival will revert to a four-day event, taking place Thursday, July 26 - Sunday, July 29, 2018.
- The tent that in recent years has featured specialty or international beers will go away.
- Replacing the departing tent will be two ciders and some wine offerings, designed to address those with celiac issues as well as to be more inclusive of equal opportunity and non-beer drinkers.
- There will continue to be a map of the festival grounds but no longer the extensive, multi-page printed program. An electronic listing will be made available.

Whatever your personal thoughts on the changes it's important to note that change, for anyone, for anything is essential. It would be foolish to think that a festival looking down the barrel of their 31st year could have lasted this long without making changes along the way. We congratulate the festival on the 30 years under their belt and raise a glass to another 30.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Second Profession Brewing Gives Second Life to Former BTU Space

Whether you drive the stretch of NE Sandy Blvd often or not, you've likely heard that BTU Brasserie was for sale and has been acquired. Sporting a new paint job outside and in, founder and brewer Charlie Goman has established Second Profession Brewing

Charlie has no commercial brewing experience and is drawing on a combination of his homebrewing experience, mentoring by Tomas Sluiter of Culmination and assistance from Marc Martin of Northwest Brewery Advisors. Working on the nearly new Portland Kettle Works system that was part of the acquisition, Charlie plans to brew beers that are heavily Northwest-influenced, spanning a variety of styles. At a recent media preview we tried two of their beers (others this close to being ready were finishing in the fermenters). Professional Pale Ale, an English-style pale with NW influence from the Cascade and Mt Hood hops, drinks true to its description. Their Rye IPA is most certainly spicy with more rye spiciness coming through than many other examples of the style we've tried. Both beers, in addition to being enjoyable on their own for those looking to drop in for a pint, are also good companions to the food menu.

That menu, described as "German comfort food" is made up of dishes from Charlie's home of Milwaukee, WI and are executed by their chef who comes from the now closed Der Rheinlander. Sausages sourced from Zenner's, in full in-bun format as well as sliced in sampler platter format for easy sharing, are the focal point of the menu and entirely too delicious. Sides include warm German-style potato salad, soups, green salads and the winner in our book, garlic fries. The fries are very good on their own but what is even better is the sage aioli they're served with (incidentally, in the cutest mini-buckets). One could probably dip slices of drywall in this aioli and eat through a sheet, it is that good.

As for the name, one component of it is fairly obvious in that the decision to open a brewery is a second profession for Charlie. He previously sold copiers, something he didn't find fulfilling, and churned through lots of ideas about what he would do instead before settling on taking his love of homebrewing to the next level. Another part of the decision to settle on the name of Second Profession came from a conversation with a buddy who commented that "brewing is the second oldest profession." Finally, Charlie feels many of his customers will identify with their second profession as being what they choose to do during their time outside the office. The logo, created by Room Service Creative, illustrates a second profession for many Oregonians - enjoyment of the abundance of outdoor activities available - while perhaps for others our second profession would be described as enjoying the abundance of craft beer available.

A few additional components of the new venture to note:
- The brewery, with the exception of the seats at the actual bar, is family friendly and the menu will include a couple of kid-focused items. 
- The menu, although in its soft-opening format succinct state is sausage-heavy, will also offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Thank goodness, because even if kids weren't allowed no restaurant will survive here without allowing (wait, inviting) vegetarians and vegans.
- The drink menu includes a section of beer cocktails Charlie hopes will bridge the gap between beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers.
- They hold a full liquor license and will stock a supply of basic liquors.

Second Profession Brewing
5846 NE Sandy Blvd
Open Wednesday - Sunday 4 - 10pm
Grand opening October 27 - 29 (more details)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: October 16 - 22

We're going back to the sour well this week with five of the six beers making our list in that camp.

Little Beast Dream State - Receiving one of our highest ratings this first fruit beer from Little Beast is outstanding. Generally strawberries are one of our least favorite fruits to be used in making a beer but the 100lbs of hand-picked Oregon strawberries displayed their heady aroma up front and with their lush fruit character following the mid-palate funk. It would be easy to drink the full 375ml bottle by one's self but we were fortunate enough that the person that shared it with us was feeling generous. 

pFriem Bosbessen - Switching berries to blueberries, they impart a gorgeous color and tart blueberry aroma into this barrel-aged lambic-style ale. That's where they depart and the funk goodness takes over, dominating the flavor in the most delicious way.

Almanac Tropical Galaxy - The name Almanac is nearly synonymous with sour/wild beers although this one is distinctly different from many of the fruit-forward ones we've enjoyed before. A dry-hopped farmhouse aged in oak barrels with mango, lime and coconut the aroma is pretty funky with a flavor that is both smooth and balanced between the various components. 

Our next two beers come from the same brewery - Urban Family - but couldn't be more different.
Guava Dawn, displaying a bright color from the pink guava that also infuses the aroma, it is subtly balanced by the Brett, Sacc and Lactobacillus mixed culture it was fermented with. The result is mimosa-like and crushable.

Dark Perennial goes to the dark side of sour beers with a nearly opaque color, a combination resulting from the blackberries, boysenberries and Midnight Wheat. The rhubarb contributes tartness, which often makes for a bit of an astringent mouthfeel, but here is pleasantly overpowered by the Midnight Wheat to provide the a velvet mouthfeel we've not before experienced in a sour beer. A fantastic winter sour.

Departing the sour train, the final beer making this week's list combines our second favorite drink - coffee - to create the most recently enjoyed lovechild of this union.

Ruse Grizzly Menace - A robust coffee porter that was conditioned on cold brew from Coava, the aroma is all coffee with a combination of coffee and chocolate characteristics in the flavor. Complimenting the aroma and flavor is a silky mouthfeel that could be associated with the use of lactose but here it comes from oats. While we love lactose for the mouthfeel and sweetness it imparts, the use of oats is more appropriate for a porter base and keeps the result from being sweet. We've had IPAs, sours and now a coffee porter from Ruse and we're thoroughly impressed with all of them. You can bet we'll be visiting their space along the orange Max line once it's open, currently slated for early 2018.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Pro/Am Edition

This week's list is dedicated to the masterful work of the pro and amateur teams from Saturday's Willamette Week 5th Annual Beer & Cider Pro/Am. As you'll see from the list below, the ciders weren't an afterthought by any means; they easily held their own with the beers.

Fort George Bat Sh!t Hazy - It should come as no surprise that Fort George (with amateur Lisa Morrison) would turn out a stellar hazy IPA. Soursop and tangerines combine with "crazy amounts of hops" to create spot on aroma and flavor.

New West Cider Whistlin' Pete's - The first offering we've had from New West (with amateur Keegan Fennel) is like a cold cider version of a hot toddy. Aged on Jim Beam Choice and American Oak the whiskey notes are appropriately balanced with the bright lime and mildly spicy ginger.

Carlton Cyderworks Bitter Witter - Another cidery we don't have much experience with, along with amateur Coyan Corder, produced what we feel is a spot on dry English cider. The multi-varietal apple blend was 50% wild fermented and 50% Champagne yeast fermented with the resulting product named after Coyan's wife.

Reverend Nat's Riff Raff Banana Royal - Switching to a cidery we've had tons of experience with and feel is one of the best around, they teamed up with Bit House Saloon's group who call themselves "Team Riff Raff." Those familiar with Reverend Nat's know that they do not make sticky sweet ciders and once again, even when creating a cider that has "notes of coconut and vanilla mingling with rum raising ice cream and banana richness" that is truly dessert in a glass, it remains deliciously drinkable.

Fat Head's Mexican Gose - We tend to associate Fat Head's with great IPAs and the amateur they teamed up with, Ritch Marvin, knows his way around peppers. Their creation is a "margarita-like Gose with accents of lime and Serrano pepper" that mimics the drink's flavors without the disgusting sweetness. Peppers grown by both the pro and the am were used in the brew. 

Zoiglhaus Sweet Mild of Mine - While the hazelnut aroma and "layers of chocolate and hazelnut" in the flavor surprised us coming from Zoiglhaus (with amateur George Dimeo) what didn't surprise us was the incredible craftsmanship that packed all of that flavor into a 3.3% beer. We'd love to drink this beer all day, every day!

McMenamins Wonderberry: Spiced Cranberry Berliner Weisse - Standing by and supporting our assertion that McMenamins creates one-off beers that will rival anyone (here with amateur Mike Marsh) is this kettle soured Berliner Weisse. Sporting a lovely color from the cranberries used, its slightly sour aroma screams "THANKSGIVING." The flavor perfectly melds cranberries and oranges way better than the relish often found at family Thanksgiving dinners and if we had the chance we bet our relatives would agree.

Gigantic Saison L'enorme - Taking the very highest rating in our book it completely surprised our not-always-on-board-with-Saisons palate. The "unique blend of farmhouse Saison-Brett beers refermented with apricot puree" is the result of blending barrel-aged creations from Gigantic and amateur Dean Ehnes. What turned us from "unsure" before trying it to "hells yeah" once we tasted it was the Brett fermentation. Great funk supported by the apricot and mango flavors. 

While we considered including only Pro/Am beers in this week's list it just felt wrong not to include the following three beers which were enjoyed earlier in the week. 
Surly Darkness (2011) - Pulled out of our cellar in part to celebrate the Vikings win over the Packers and to bring some luck to the Timbers playing later in the day (it worked!), we were pleased to find that at six years old it is even better than when we had it the year it was produced. It was pretty awesome back then but with the age on it slight smoky aromas are coming through along with dark fruit flavors. Two more bottles remain in our cellar; perhaps we'll share some with you. 

Upright Shades - There is so much cherry-Brett lovely in this "Fantasia on cherries" we have to thank Chris for sharing with us. The blonde color belies what is found in the flavor and should you find a bottle available we highly recommend grabbing it. 

Bruery Terreux Beret - Another "thank you, Chris" beer, it combines slight funk with a hint of fruit for a delicious, dangerously drinkable 8.5% sour. 

If you've made it all the way through this marathon list, thank you! We hope you've had some great things in your glass lately and would love to hear if any of these hit high notes with you, too.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: October 2 - 8

Last week while our taste buds were clearly tuned to "sour" the three beers making this week's list span the seasons.

Dionysus Super Funkadelic - Shared by one of our frequent drinking buddies at The BeerMongers, this dry-hopped gose hit the perfect balance of sourness and hoppiness. On the big end for a gose at 6.5% it's still incredibly drinkable with the hop profile making it feel like a suitable fall beer. Bonus points for a label that is as cool as the beer is good.

Buoy Benedict Cumberbatch - Another gose, this one featuring freshly chopped and juiced cucumbers and Jacobsen sea salt, it is super refreshing. It would be a great summer drinker so we'll have to hope it shows up next year but we would be quite pleased to continue drinking it throughout the winter.

North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince - One might recall seeing North Coast's other Berliner Weisses making our Best Things list but this one is quite possibly the best of the series so far. The most gorgeous of this week's list, the fruits used in it are ones we associate with fall and winter. Both the color and the flavor profile would make it a great beer to take to holiday gatherings. 

What's hitting your high notes recently? Seasonal offerings like fresh hop beers and Oktoberfests? Your go-to style, be it Pilsner, IPA or stout? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

5th Annual Willamette Week Pro/Am - Now With Cider!

Here in the PacNW there's no denying that cider is making a big impact on the market and we're A-OK with that. In fact there are quite a few ciders that we enjoy (which you may have seen pop up on our Best Things round up from time to time) and we're very excited that the 5th Annual Willamette Week Pro/Am is now officially the Beer and Cider Pro/Am. Last year's event featured a couple of non-beers; this year there will be eight joining the 24 beers.

The event returns to the city's best quadrant after a couple years inhabiting the North Warehouse. The 32 beverage line up will be pouring at District East (2305 SE 9th) and it will be our fourth year attending. Each year the growing number of entries reflects the growing popularity of the event. The full list of pro and amateur brewing pairs is here and like us, there's a good chance you'll see some familiar names on the Am side. The names/styles of the beers/ciders will be revealed at the event however one of the Ams is giving us a sneak peek of his collaboration. 

VIP tickets get you in at Noon, are limited to 100 people and include a meal voucher for one of the food carts that will be on-site; general admission ticket holders have 1pm entrance. With either option you'll get to try all 32 entries and be able to vote for your favorite beer and cider (two separate categories). We hope to see you there!

Willamette Week's 5th Annual Beer and Cider Pro/Am
Saturday, October 14
District East, 2305 SE 9th Ave
12 - 6pm
Tickets: $55 VIP, $28 GA, $10 DD

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Welcoming in October

It may be the first week of October but that doesn't mean we will be seeking out pumpkin beers. We might try one that is offered to us but it's unlikely you'll find one gracing on this list. Instead we have a mix of beers we hope to enjoy throughout the coming dark months and some of our preferred flavors of the season. 

Melvin Uncle Ruckus - Enjoyed at a beer pairing dinner, this double stout has a great cocoa-y profile on its own. This night it was part of the dessert course, paired with a creamy leche flan-topped chocolate cake that was drizzled with a berry puree, all atop a smear of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters espresso nib peanut butter spread. The combination was the perfect ending to an incredible dinner.

Firestone Walker Mocha Merlin - Another stout, but with almost half the ABV, it does seem that they used a bit of "seasonal sorcery" to pack so much coffee and cocoa flavor into the beer. The oatmeal and lactose combine to provide a creaminess and roundness to further elevate the flavors. No surprise it was drank at The BeerMongers but by lucky happenstance, Sean was sharing some soft blue cheese and that combo was fabulous!

Founders Nitro Rubaeus - A favorite from this Midwest brewery, we've enjoyed it in the past but never on nitro. It appears to be popping up around town on nitro taps and after trying it, for good reason! The berry flavor leans even further towards juice when served this way with the bonus of a smooth, creamy head.

Fort George Fresh IPA (2017) - It seems that we're enjoying more fresh hop beers this year (or perhaps we're just being more selective about the ones we're ordering, upping the probability of "success"). Either way this can of tasty Citras is a worthy follow up to our most recent favorite from Fort George, the now-gone-from-shelves-and-taps 3-Way.

Breakside What Rough Beast Fresh Hop - A version of a beer that we've already been smitten with, this might be better. Whether it's the "ground breaking liquid nitrogen hop shattering technique" or just that Mosaics are one of our favorite hops, we're thrilled with it.

Firestone Walker Bravo (2017) - Circling back to the dark beers that hit the highest notes for us, this bourbon barrel aged imperial brown ale starts off full of huge barrel aroma. The balanced booze flavor (13.2%) is rich, toasty and chocolaty with just the right amount of noble hops. 

Thanks for reading, friends! Whatever your favorite styles of the season are we hope you're enjoying them to the fullest.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: September 18 - 24

We drank a ton of great beer last week! And like last week those beers fall squarely into to two quite dissimilar categories - stout and sour.

Barley Brown's Don Vanuchi 2017 - This first beer is one we were lucky enough to drink thanks to Chris' recent trip to Eastern Oregon, which included a visit to his favorite brewery, Barley Brown's. In past years this Russian Imperial Stout has been barrel aged and while we enjoyed that, it really shines without the addition of the qualities the barrels imparted. It drinks bitter, like really good dark chocolate, which pleasantly masks the 9.5% ABV.

Adroit Theory B/A/Y/S (Ghost 546) - Another Russian Imperial Stout, its cocoa-bitter flavor is balanced with just a touch of sweetness making for a very drinkable 10%.

Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Formerly called Viva La Beaver and Living La Beaver Loca, the aroma is predominately peanut butter with the flavor speaking more to the chocolate/cocoa part of the name with just the slightest bit of heat. It's no surprise that it is Belching Beaver's highest rated beer and that it has been awarded numerous gold and silver medals. 

Allegory Fresh Pints!!! - This 4.2% fresh hopped sour ale starts with a great sour aroma, followed by a pleasant, drinkable sour flavor with just a touch of the characteristics from the fresh hops coming in at the end. A refreshing beer and a refreshing take on a fresh hop beer at a time when so many places default to an IPA, pale ale or red ale base. 

O'so Tuppen's Demise - Shared by another Chris (who also goes by Tappan, not to be confused with the name of this beer), it's an outstanding blended barrel aged tart beer that's lightly effervescent and displays a gorgeous rosey color from the Michigan blueberries in it.

Flat Tail Dam Wild Raspberry and Lime - Flat Tail continues to impress us with their sour beers, this one full of berry flavor tempered every so slightly by a splash of lime. Clocking in at a surprising 7.5%, it's easy drinking and perfect for Indian Summer days.

Urban Family Zested - A newer beer from another brewery that excels at sour beers, the best way we can describe this is as the love child of lemon curd and beer. If you dig on bright and lemony, you should dig on this. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: September 11 - 17

An interesting combination of beers made this week's list. On one end two sour beers, on the other end two darker beers. Each pair also contained one low-to-moderate ABV beer and one on the high end of the booze spectrum.

Bruery Terreux Confession - One of the beers gifted to us at our recent housewarming party, the Riesling characteristics of this variation on their sour blonde ale came out splendidly. Even at nearly 10% ABV this was quite easy drinking and we recommend sour beer lovers seek this out.

Grimm Artisanal Ales Living Daylights - Hailing from New York, Grimm has recently come to the Portland market and this one was shared by a friend who loves sours. A Citra dry-hopped imperial Berliner Weisse (yet only 5.8%), it is also "aggressively dosed" with Mosaic and Simcoe lupulin powders. This may be the first lupulin powder beer we've had and we'll be keeping our eyes open to see what other breweries start experimenting with it, hopefully as successfully as this bottle of goodness. 

Fish Brewing Fish Tale Organic Porter - Bought primarily because it was Thursday (so we wouldn't be negligent on New Brew Thursday ticks) this was a surprisingly rich canned porter with an unassuming label. 5.5% with a medium body it has just the right combination of rich and bittersweet chocolate notes, finishing pleasantly dry.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Maple Shake - Mikkeller tends to be hit or miss with our palate but this one hit the right notes with its motor oil look and molasses flavor. If only there had been some sticky buns around to accompany it and perhaps help soak up some of the 13% ABV. Oh well, maybe next time...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: September 4 - 10

Hops ruled our week however in this season of fresh hop beers, only one of those made the list. We've found we've become less enamored with fresh hop beers on the whole in the last couple of years but it's still a joy to find ones that hit us just right.

Fremont Field to Ferment Centennial - Field to Ferment is a series of fresh hop beers used with a pale ale base. Being that Centennials are the first that are ready to be harvested, thus they are the feature of the first batch. Yummy, yummy Centennials.

Firestone Walker Propagator Generation 1 - An unfiltered IPA, it runs the line between those popular-right-now NE style IPAs and the typical West Coast IPAs. Whatever the style or un-style, when it comes to hoppy beers Firestone Walker is rock solid.

Three Magnets Big Juice Smoothie - The biggest of the beers this week at 8.5%, it starts with a grapefruit aroma that follows through to the flavor and is accompanied by a bit of lactose to round the edges, all contained within a handy to-go 16oz can.

The last beverage on this week's list is a cider and a simply amazing cider at that. Made by our favorite cidery, Reverend Nat's, and shared by one of our favorite (and generous) beer buddies, Chris, this cider is the result of Revelation Newtown Pippin, fortified with dark Muscovado sugar, being refermented in Elijah Craig bourbon barrels. 17% sounds daunting until one finds it in their glass and must resist the urge to grab the bottle and run. So. Very. Good.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weekend To-Do: BenFest & DIY Invitational

It's hard to believe that we are actually turning the corner from summer into fall but in addition to cooler weather (which will hopefully stick around) there are only two beer festivals on our radar for this weekend. One is a two-day event even, meaning no hard decisions about what to attend and what to skip or how to manage a marathon day of multiple events!

This year marks the eighth year of the festival, a festival that was inspired by a photo snapped at the Cheers to Belgian Beers dart throw featuring four brewers named Ben. What started as a joke became a festival that rotates venues and increases more Ben brewers and beers each year.

This year there will be nearly 20 beers and ciders available with the proceeds of the event benefitting Ben Flerchinger's memorial fund. One of the original BenFest Bens, he passed away unexpectedly and suddenly earlier this year, leaving a hole in this beer community. In addition to the standard line-up there will be special tappings of cellared beers at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm (4oz pours will be three or four tickets each).

Saturday, September 9 1 - 8pm
Gigantic Brewing Company (Back Lot)
5224 SE 26th Ave
Advance tickets: $30 (entry + 10 drink tickets), additional tickets $1

Growler's Taproom DIY Invitational
Those familiar with the area of 33rd and SE Hawthorne may have noticed that changes have been taking place at the former growler fill station, Growlers Hawthorne. Bihn Pham and Joe Rodgers purchased the business earlier this year, transforming it from a fill-only location (no consumption on premises allowed) to a more common model which allows for drinking on site or fills to go. Their grand opening celebration was the last weekend of July and this Saturday and Sunday they'll host their first beer festival.

The festival is the brainchild of local favorite bartender (and employee) Jim Parker and it will fill their 35+ taps with beer, cider, mead, kombucha and soda by breweries that are self-distributed. Self-distribution, available to breweries producing up to 7,500 barrels/year, costs breweries more in time and manpower to sell and distribute their product with the trade-off being that they retain the full purchase price of the kegs sold. Breweries who contract with a distributor commonly split the profit, retaining 70%.

September 9 & 10 11am - 11pm
3343 SE Hawthorne
No entry fee or tickets
Purchase beverages in 4oz, 12oz and 16oz sizes

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Farm to Brewery, the Centennial's Trip from Silverton to Portland

Last week we showed you the trip we took down to Goschie Farms with Pyramid/Portland Brewing to experience the hop harvest. The trip was a dual function in that we brought back with us 200lbs of fresh-from-the-vine Centennial hops.

Five bags, filled straight from the conveyor belt that shuttled the hop cones onto the drying floor, were tied up and packed into the van along with the human cargo. A little tighter fit than on our way down to be sure but the trade off was being surrounded by the heady aroma the Centennials gave off. Those hops were some of the best car mates any of us had ridden with.

The brewers that joined us on the trip, head brewer Ryan Pappe and brewer Brian McGovern, enjoyed the visit but it was clear that they were eager to get back to the brew house and get those hops into their brewing kettle. Upon our arrival they headed off with the bags of green goodness while the rest of us took a brief respite, consuming some of their previous efforts, before rejoining them in the brewery.

The Centennials had been loaded into laundry bags (apparently Bed, Bath & Beyond's are the bags of choice) and were being tied up with fishing line, efforts to keep them from going too far into the tank of Outburst Imperial IPA.

One may recognize that beer as a standard in the brewery's lineup however this will be the first time that it has been aged on fresh hops. Going by the name of Fresh Hop Outburst, Ryan chose to use Centennials in part because they’re a favorite of his and in part because they are already used in the beer. He said by doing this “we will get a chance to see the difference between the way we normally use those hops compared to the nuances that the fresh hops bring to the beer.”

In the past they have made a fresh hop version of another standard, Mac's Amber, but this year Ryan wanted to try something different. "Fresh hop beers are always experimental, because unless you are repeating a beer you have previously produced, you don’t know what is going to come out on the other side. You can’t brew a test batch, because you can only brew while the fresh hops are available."

The 55bbl batch was kegged late last week and is currently on tap both here in Portland and at the Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle. It will also be making an appearance at the Portland Fresh Hop Festival taking place September 29 & 30 at Oaks Park. He's eager for feedback, "I would love to hear what people think about our Fresh Hop version of Outburst!" so if you get a chance to try it leave a comment here and we'll pass on your thoughts to him.