Saturday, July 22, 2017

It's Nearly Time for OBF

This time next week the 30th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival will be in full swing at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Featuring over 90 independent craft breweries from 13 states plus one from The Netherlands and a Specialty Tent (which replaces the International Tent from the last couple of years) with 80 rare, bold and experimental beers that will rotate throughout the duration of the festival.

In total, that's 170+ beers and try as we might, that's probably more than we can manage even if we camped out open 'til close all five days (which would make neither our livers nor our bosses very happy). With a mindset of pairing that incredible list down to something manageable we focused on scouring the Main Festival Beers. We'll definitely stop in to the Specialty Tent but won't be basing our festival plans around what's on tap when. Those will just be bonus.

The review of Main Festival Beer list brought to light a couple of trends, and being they are to our liking, we decided to make them the focus of our drinking plans. Beers that were also listed as "unique to the fest" garnered greater pull in our decision making. The result is a list of 31 beers that even for us feels a bit daunting. But we'll give it our best!

Trend #1 - Lime
  1. Coalition Honcho - An untraditional Kolsch made with Jacobson sea salt, fresh lime zest and fresh lime juice sounds like a perfect summer beer. Besides, Coalition knows what it's doing with zests and juices.
  2. Coin Toss Toss Tonic - Listed as an herb and spice beer this didn't initially catch our eye but then we saw "a deconstructed gin & tonic." We're looking forward to being the judge on that.
  3. Ecliptic Espacio Mexican Lager with Lime Zest - John Harris makes great beer, no question, and while there's no lime juice used, the fresh lime zest might be the perfect compliment to the base beer.
  4. Ex Novo Cal Estupido - Great name (meaning "lime stupid") and fresh lime juice and sea salt added during the lagering.
  5. Gigantic G & T - Nothing inspiring about the name but Gigantic has a way with botanicals and we'll be intersted to see how prominently they stand out against the lime.
  6. Rusty Truck Tequila Lime Lager - We're not sure if the use of tequila oak spirals added post-fermentation will overpower the delicate lager base but if so hopefully the lime juice added at the end will balance it.
  7. Sasquatch KGB - A "Kremlin Ginger Blonde" it contains fresh organic ginger, lime and lime zest. Sounds like we should bring a copper mug to drink it out of.
  8. Heathen Mojito Sour - A take on another lime-focused cocktail, mint comes into the mix in this kettle soured beer (but also runs the line with our next category).

Trend #2 - Sours/Fruit
  1. Backwoods Blueberry Sour - Kettle soured with Nancy's Yogurt (based in Eugene) and using Rock Creek water (from Stevenson, WA) that is "some of the best water in Washington."
  2. Base Camp Brett Livin' - A "true lacto soured, Brettanomyces fermented ale, with raspberry added as puree late in fermentation" and get this, NO HOPS.
  3. Boundary Bay Raspberry Radler - A German-inspired, kettle soured beer with Oregon raspberry puree and dry hopped with Citra.
  4. Deschutes Overnight Phenom - A kettle soured ale with black raspberry puree added during conditioning
  5. Druthers The Dare - We're unfamiliar with Druthers (which hails from New York) but this gose took gold at the 2014 World Beer Cup in the German style sour ale category so it seems that it should be worth a taste.
  6. Eel River Organic Tropical Blonde Ale - While neither the brewery or the base beer does much for us it's the passion fruit and kiwi concentrates that caught our eye here.
  7. Elk Horn Siberlin - We've visited Elk Horn (in Eugene) just once but quite enjoyed their beers and this kettle soured Berliner-style Weisse with lychee fruit will hopefully back our initial impression up.
  8. Ghost Runners Chasing Fluffy Pink Unicorns - What a name!!! Then there's description that it's a "lightly fruited raspberry gose." Game on.
  9. Ghostfish Dry Hopped Sour - A gluten-free, kettle soured gose? This could be the best GF beer ever...or not. We'll let you know.
  10. pFriem Guava Saison - pFriem has been hitting high notes with us lately so we'll take a chance on a base beer (not so much our thing) with guava (more of our thing).
  11. Three Creeks Dry Hopped Apricot Stonefly Session Ale - Both apricots and peaches often lend mild, smooth fruit flavors to beers and we hope that's the case with this "golden, light bodied ale."
  12. Hopworks Kiwi Sparkle & Pop - Combining both elements of this category, it's a tart wheat beer, kettle soured beer with a dose of kiwi, a fruit that is innately tart on its own.
  13. McMenamins Tropic Heat - McMenamins one-off beers tend to be great and a kettle soured ale brewed with pink guava puree, coconut and habanero peppers will hopefully find the perfect balance among its components.
  14. Goodlife Secret Stash #004 - The sour beer path takes a turn here with a kettle soured IPA. As for more details, those are secret.
  15. Baerlic Dropping Acid Psychedelic Sour IPA - Another kettle soured IPA, this one with El Dorado hops in the boil and dry hopped with Comet and Amarillo.
  16. Ordnance Raspberry SIPA - A SIPA? That would be a kettle soured, blended IPA with an infusion of raspberry flavor.

The Rest: A catch-all category of beers that caught our eye because of their ingredients and/or because of the brewery that made them.
  1. 54 40' Art AllAzaccas - We love Bolt and the 54 40' crew but rarely make it up to Washington to visit them. Plus we quite enjoy Azaccas hops, the only hop used in this 6.1% IPA.
  2. Boneyard Enzymatic IPA - Because we know we're going to need a good IPA to throw into the mix and Boneyard knows what they're doing with hops.
  3. Double Mountain A River Runs Through It - An IPA made in collaboration with Fort George with lactose added in the boil, will this be the sleeper IPA hit of the fest?
  4. Burnside Cannonball! - An 8.3% strong ale is a bit of a daunting thought for beer festing but it sounds pretty damn interesting. C'mon, a triple hop-dosed beer aged in red wine barrels with tart cherries and pineapple, how can you pass that up?
  5. Widmer Collaborator Kentucky Kolsch - Kolsches aren't a particular love of ours but they're a good summer style and we're fans of the whole Collaborator idea. Increasing our interest level is the fact that homebrewer Charles Macaluso used dehydrated strawberries at the end of the fermentation process.
  6. New Holland Dragon's Milk: Thai Curry - An 11% bourbon barrel aged stout is the exact opposite of a summer drinker but a unique-to-the-fest Michigan beer seems like a must-try.
  7. Upright Heirloom Saison - Saisons aren't our favorite but this blend of a vintage strong Saison aged in barrels for 18+ months and a carbonic chardonnay cask version of Saison Vert (a black lime wheat-based brew) will probably be fantastic based on Upright's superior blending talents.

Oregon Brewers Festival
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
July 26 - 30 open at Noon daily
$7 souvenir tasting mug, $1 wooden tokens

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: July 3 - 16

Nope, we didn't make a mistake on the date range in the title and you didn't read it wrong. This is a special, we-got-really-busy-moving-into-a-new-house double edition of Best Things. We only moved about a mile away from our previous house but whether one is moving a mile or a few thousand miles away the drill is the same and it keeps one really, really busy. So while we were still enjoying the hop juice, our writing about it got pushed to the back burner.

Fire on the Mountain Shocks of Sheba - The day we took possession of the new house we took our new house keys out to our favorite restaurant in town, Fire on the Mountain (Burnside), and celebrated the only way we know how - beer, wings and fries! This was one of the first beers Fire on the Mountain made when they started brewing and if we recall correctly, it has evolved with the current recipe now quite readily holding its own in the land of PacNW IPAs.

Culmination Obscured By Clouds - After a busy week and finally feeling more settled than not into the new place we headed out for a relaxing end to the week with beers and dinner at Culmination. Part of the current hazy IPA trend that we're fans of, this beer was citrusy and bright but also smooth. If you're a hazy IPA fan as well, make sure to try this before it's gone.

With only two beers living up to Best Things standards last week we wanted to reward you for your patience with our lapse so here's a rewind to the previous week, July 3 - 9, before we kicked into high gear on the moving front.

North Coast Passionfruit-Peach Berliner Weisse - This is the second Berliner Weisse that we've had from North Coast and while we were skeptical with the first one from a brewery that we tend to associate with stouts, we were excited to see another arrive on the shelf. This beer, with its peach Scratch 'n Sniff aroma and mildly tart but full-of-fruit flavor, solidifies their Berliner Weisse chops with us and has us looking forward to the next one.

Coalition Herbs of A Feather - The second beer in their Two Flowers Series of beers that are infused with CBD, it's lemony and super yummy. The basil is subdued and fills a supporting, complimentary role in this summery, lightly sour beer. Consume out of doors on a sunny day for maximum enjoyment.

We're big fans of Ruse Brewing, both the beers Shaun is making and Shaun himself. We're also super excited for and about the opening of their own space in SE PDX near the Max Orange Line later this year. Two of their beers conclude this week's list, one we'd had before and one that is new to us.

Papyrus Iris - Another hazy IPA that hits the mark, our friend Warren
nailed it with his description that this is a lighter, fruiter version of the current, ever-so-delicious version of Fort George's 3-Way.

Multibeast - We tried this beer for the first time over a year ago and loved its burgundy barrel-aged farmhouse, conditioned with Brett flavor from the get-go. Subsequent drinking of it has continued to confirm that they've got a solid winner in this beer.

We hope you're enjoying the summer, now at an approximate midway point, along with plenty of delicious beer. Cheers to our friends, near and far!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: June 26 - July 2

On this Independence Day we hope you have the pleasure of enjoying an extra day of independence from the regular work grind. And perhaps you'll indulge in some day (morning?) enjoyment of delicious beer. Not sure of where to start? Lucky you, we have some suggestions to make today great.

Whether you're starting off with morning drinking or looking at a long, lazy session for today, starting out on the lower end of the ABV spectrum might be the way to go (but hey, if a barley wine is calling your name first thing who are we to disagree?).
Off Color Spots - Our exploration of Off Color beers hailing from Chicago has produced very delicious results, including this great Berliner Weisse. The passion fruit flavor is balanced by the grapefruit and it has a killer label to boot. At 3.8% it's closer to juice than beer and a perfect way to being the day.

Evil Twin Tropical 'Itch - Another Berliner Weisse, found in wonderfully portable 12oz can form, starts us climbing up the ABV ladder ever so slightly. 4.5% and with a similar passion fruit profile, it showcases the great tartness and light, drinkable characteristics that make it great for morning/all day/warm weather enjoyment.

Baerlic Test Flight - Transitioning out of the realm of mild sours, because for most of us there is a limit to how much (delicious) acid we can take, the new world hops used give this beer a pleasant blend of Pacific Northwest flavor and tropical flare. A session IPA clocking in at a mere 5% helps bridge the gap to our favorite style - IPA.

Fort George 3-Way IPA - We're seriously digging this most recent iteration of 3-Way, which in case you've been living in a cave, is a collaboration with Great Notion and Reuben's Brews. At 7% (that's sessionable, right?) the combination of fruit-forward Azacca, X331, Mosaic and Citra hops drinks refreshing and easy. Supplies are dwindling but you're likely still able to find some on tap or in cans around town.

Stillwater Artisanal Wavvy Batch 1 - Technically a double IPA, it's double-hopped with Nelson, Simcoe and Centennial hops to create a beer that is juicy but still plenty hoppy. 8% won't do you in right away but remember, water is your friend (and not just the water contained within this lovely yellow and green 16oz can).

Whatever you're drinking, raise your glass to great American craft beer!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Double Edition of The Best Things We Drank

We were out of town a good chunk of last week getting a little R&R on a family fishing trip in northern Minnesota but now we're back and ready to catch up with a double edition of Best Things. Grab a beverage and settle in!

June 19 - 25
Being back in the Midwest we couldn't help but seek out some old favorites but also took the opportunity to try beer from some of the newer places that have sprung up since we left seven years ago. The former was rewarding, the latter was hit and miss.
Bell's Kalamazoo Stout - Bell's, which has seen some exposure in the Portland market, is extremely skilled when it comes to stouts and this beer is a Bell's classic. Roasty and smooth, this 6% stout is one that can be enjoyed year round.

Summit Saga IPA - Summit is similar to Widmer in that it has been around since the early days of craft beer in its respective state and like Widmer, has its standard lineup but has also managed to remain relevant with new offerings. Saga is newer (in the last five years) and is hoppy enough for NW IPA lovers to enjoy, a profile that comes from the combination of hops, both in the brewing and dry-hopping stages.

Fargo 1.21 Gigahops (2017) - This is the first beer that we've had from Fargo Brewing Company and although a bit sweet, it is appropriately so considering that it's an imperial IPA clocking in at 9.5%. The 12oz can size is just right for enjoying one. Interestingly, the founders and the brewers they hired have been influenced by the Pacific Northwest (give their history a read if you're so inclined).

Rewinding to the week before we headed out to Minnesota, it is a bit interesting to see that our top two beers actually hailed from that state. Those beers were enjoyed when we were invited to join in a bottle share with friends of a friend who were visiting Portland.

June 12 - 18
Lift Bridge Commander Bona Fide Barleywine - We've enjoyed Commander on numerous previous occasions and are proud to call the Lift Bridge guys friends. This, however, was the first time we'd had a "bone fide" version wherein the 12.5% beer is aged in Heaven Hill barrels. So smooth without any trace of heat, this is one to savor with friends.

Indeed Wooden Soul Cherry Dust - Indeed is one of the older of the newer breweries in MN and while we've had some good things from them, we haven't been 100% sold. This sour beer definitely improves our view of them and makes us hope they continue to produce sour beers. At a sessionable 5.4% the wild yeasts, tart cherries and wood aging mingle to produce a beer we'd happily drink a full 22oz bottle all on our own.

The rest of the beers that hit high notes for us that week hailed from Portland and California.

Great Notion Double Dry Hop Hop Dry Double - One of the beers at Eclicptic's Masters of IPA event during PDX Beer Week, we'd heard in advance that this was a good'en. They call it an "imperial session IPA" that is "a verbal assault on your palate." We call it juicy and drinkable. Now only if we had more of it to drink!

Montavilla I-205-PA IPA - Fans of Montavilla in general, on our most recent visit, this was the beer that really spoke to us with the combination of Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. As much as other styles try too woo us, the hops always lure us back to IPAs.

Fire on the Mountain Galena Goodnight - We go to Fire on the Mountain for their wings (the best in town we say!) and have been pleased to find that their beer has continued to improve as the brewery has come out of its infancy. Labeled as a CDA the mouthfeel is more like a porter or stout with a deliciously roasty flavor.

Modern Times Oneida - We might sound like a broken record with the consistency that Modern Times has been making the Best Things list but dang it, the hits just keep coming. A complex pale ale, the flavor shares some characteristics with Fortunate Islands, another one we quite like although it is more aggressively bitter, which speaks to our hop-loving taste buds.

Lagunitas Dark Swan (2017) - Found in the sour section of The BeerMongers cooler, this 8.5% sour ale was a steal at $2.90 for a 12oz bottle. Lightly sour, the wine-ish flavor (with gorgeous grape color to back it up) drank more like grape juice. Adult juice box anyone?

Now a few days back in the Portland saddle we're finally feeling caught up from being gone and looking forward to what July, Oregon Beer Month, will bring.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: June 5 - 11

Four of the best things we drank this week come from a PDX Beer Week event that we hadn't even planned to attend. Big thanks to Larry and Kate for inviting us to join them at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom's 4th Annual Weird Beer Bonanza!
54ยบ 40' Vita-Beer Shandy - Who remembers Sunny-D? Yes, you can still buy it but for those of similar age to us you may remember when it came on the market. Around our house that was considered a treat so there are good memories linked to it. This beer brought back those memories right from the start with its aroma. The flavor continued to take us down memory lane, although it is lighter and less sweet than the juice drink. And while its 4.8% is a sessionable ABV it drinks like there's no alcohol in it at all and we suspect it would make great beermosa.

Baerlic Fancy Umbrella Drink - In addition to making an appearance at Imperial, this was also Baerlic's entry for the Portland Fruit Beer Festival and available in their taproom starting last weekend. With a great guava aroma and nice tartness (although minimal/no salt) it certainly lives up to its tagline: "Toes in the water, ass in the sand, a smile on your face and a Fancy Umbrella Drink in your hand."

Trinity Sour Cherry Threads - Tied with the Wolf Tree entry for highest ABV of the fest at 12% and similar in the use of cherries, this one hit much higher notes for us. Both have tons of cherry on the nose, but where that one goes down the Belgian road, this oak barrel aged lactic beer displays the lovely horse blanket funk that we love along with cherries. It was most certainly worth the additional tasting ticket!

Nectar Creek Raspberry Chocolate Mole Mead - This mead definitely lives up to its "weird" billing when one considers the gorgeous, rich berry color that the eyes behold but the disconnect as one takes in the aroma of mole. But it works. It's super fun and tasty, with the smoke and spice from the ancho and chipotle peppers being balanced by the chocolate, raspberries and wildflower honey. Being the other two ticket offering at the event, it, too was worthy.

As our time at Imperial wound down Larry and Kate mentioned that they would be heading over to The Commons as they had heard that Biere Royale was on tap. A beer we enjoyed multiple times in 2013, we were just as pleased with it now as we were back then. And the color...can't get enough of its beauty!

The remaining three to make this week's list all came our visits to The BeerMongers, shared by and with our frequent drinking buddy, Chris.
Alesong Touch of Brett: Mosaic - A dry, French-style Saison, the Brett it was fermented with is just slightly more prevelant than the Mosaic hops that provide ripe pineapple, mango and grapefruit flavors. Both components are favorites and this one masterfully blends the two.

Modern Times Monsters' Park Aged in Bourbon Barrels (Mexican Hot Chocolate 2017) - Modern Times has been a frequent flyer on our list and this 14.6% barrel-aged imperial stout is simply fabulous, especially after it sits for an hour and the full flavor profile - cinnamon, cocoa nibs, chilies and vanilla - blooms.

Fremont The Rusty Nail - Fremont makes good beers but where they really shine are with their aged, high ABV beers. This one begins with an oatmeal stout base, brewer's licorice, smoked barley and pale malt aged on cinnamon bark. That beer, called The First Nail, begins its second life after spending 15 months in 12-year old bourbon barrels, the result of which is an amazing dark, sour and smooth creation whose 13.2% is an afterthought.

PDX Beer Week continues through Sunday, offering plenty of options for great, unique beers and events. And even if one isn't attending "something special" there always seems to be special things waiting on the shelves and taps of our favorite places. Here's hoping you're finding some gems!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beer Musing's Picks for PDX Beer Week

Yesterday we looked at the official foods for PDX Beer Week. Today we look at the PDX Beer Week events we're most excited about, most of which also have a food component.

Fruit Beer Festival - Last year was the first year we missed this festival, which temporarily moved across the river. The festival returns to its original home at Burnside Brewing Friday, June 9 - Sunday, June 11 with nearly 30 fruit beers and cider. The Friday session (4-9pm) will offer 20 of those and most likely, a smaller crowd. Ticket options are $20 for a plastic cup + 12 drink tickets OR $25 for a branded glass + 14 tickets and apply to all three days of the festival.

Sweet & Sour Dessert Pop-Up - Taking place at McMenamins 23rd Ave Bottle Shop on Tuesday, June 13, the event features Culmination Peche, Edgefield Dry Hopped Sour and Ruse Noctuary Sour. The three beers will be paired with three delicious desserts from Grains of Wrath Brewing's Chef Fabiola. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase at the Bottle Shop ($16).

Culmination Brewing at the Woodsman Tavern - Also on Tuesday is a beer pairing dinner featuring the PDX Beer Week beer, Hop Berry IPA brewed by Culmination, served with the amuse of Henderson Bay Oysters, along with five other beers and food courses. Tickets are available here for $60.

Sweet & Sour encore - On Wednesday, June 14 Chef Fabiola moves over to Saraveza for a similar event, this time featuring Block 15 Love Potion #9, Fort George 3-Way IPA and Ex Novo Cactus Wins the Lottery.

StormBreaker Beer & Wings Pairing - We haven't yet gotten around to trying StormBreaker's smoked wings but this may just be the push we needed. All day on Thursday, June 15 they are offering five smoked wings, each with a different sauce, paired with five different beer tasters.

Portland Beer & Cheese Fest - We missed this event, which is returning to Culmination for a second year, last year as we were in Silverton taking in the Oregon Garden Beer Fest. In its sixth year the festival take place on Saturday, June 18 and offers 10 beer and cheese pairings carefully selected by our favorite cheesemonger, Steve Jones. In addition to beer and cheese there will be complimentary chocolate and charcuterie samples. General admission ($35) and VIP ($45) tickets here.

Now just because we're excited about these events doesn't mean we'll make it to them all. Just like that letter you sent to Santa as a kid, this is a wish list. We'll see what kind of stamina we have.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

PDX Beer Week Begins

Today is the first day of the 11-day run of PDX Beer Week and the number of events going on throughout town is staggering. Since most of us have jobs, families and other commitments you'll have to pick and choose from the too-many-to-count events. Today alone there are 16 events to choose from (some of which are multi-day) but one aspect of the Week that is more widely accessible is the food and beer tie-ins.

The official beer is Hop Berry IPA, made by Culmination Brewing and utilizing Oregon Fruit Products' marionberry puree. 15 batches of this 7.1% ABV, fruit-forward IPA were brewed on their 5bbl system which kept the brewers busy but should also ensure that there will be plenty - on tap and in bottles - to go around throughout Beer Week.

On the food side there is one of the best accompaniments to beer, an official pizza, as well as an official donut and official ice cream. We had a chance to try all of them at a preview and boy did we enjoy that!

Pizza - Hotlips Pizza has once again created a special pizza for Beer Week. We tried the beta version a month ago and it was good but it's also clear that they have refined the pizza. The result is an amplification of the kimche flavor that pairs oh so well with the Pear and Ginger Hotlips soda-glazed pork belly. Throughout beer week you'll be able to snag a slice and a pint of Hopberry IPA for $8.

Donut - Made by Blue Star, it's gorgeous to behold thanks to the dehydrated fruit used to dust the outside of the fruity, cream-filled brioche donut. As with the ice cream, this sweet treat has a restrained sweetness, which is appreciated. When eaten alongside the beer it accentuates the hoppiness of the beer. So have it anytime of day, with or without a beer sidekick.

Ice cream - Made by Salt & Straw with marionberries and hops steeped in the cream mix, the flavor is designed to be an ice cream clone of Culmination's Hop Berry IPA. The berries take center stage initially with the hops taking over on the back end. It's an interesting flavor combination but hey, that's what Salt & Straw is known for and we applaud their abilities to use non-standard ingredients. Eat it alone or have a beer float!

One item that we weren't able to preview is Lardo's Beer Week sandwich. We're huge fans of everything Lardo turns out so we have no doubt that their cold fried chicken with blue cheese, bacon, pickles and butter lettuce will be phenomenal. In addition, both Lardo locations will host "pop up pub" events with Culmination taking over the taps downtown and Melvin moving in at the SE location through the 15th.

All of these will delectable delights be available throughout PDX Beer Week at their respective retail locations (as well as at select events) for your eating enjoyment.

Check back tomorrow for a look at some of the events that have us most excited.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 29 - June 4

This week's list starts with two beers that were enjoyed at the 11th annual Cheers to Belgian Beers festival last week.
Migration Quinn and Juice - A take on "gin and juice" this Belgian Strong Pale aged in Old Tom Gin barrels starts out with the gin botanicals in the aroma and drinks very smooth, both with a surprising mouthfeel and pleasant flavor that belies the 9.2% ABV.

Baerlic Black with Two Sugars - We love coffee and coffee beers and this one is a great one for sure. From the get go the coffee is present in the aroma and follows through to a flavor that is similar to cold coffee with heavy cream and just a dash of sugar.
And while both are great on their own, should you find yourself in the presence of both, have a little fun and blend them in a one-to-one ratio.

The remaining three beers are wildly different in style but find common ground in being wildly good.
Culmination Lime Tea - Culmination's gose game is strong and this one brings in one of our favorite citrus flavors - lime. Perfectly light for summer, the flavor is of a lime sickle.

Fort George 3-Way IPA - The latest edition in Fort George's 3-Way series is a collaboration with Great Notion and Reuben's Brews out of Seattle. And it might be the best since the first couple with its juicy flavor and great mouthfeel.

Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru (2105) - This beer achieved a very rare 5 out of 5 stars in our book with so much amazing dark fruit, tart, yumness. Huge thanks to Sean for an amazing beer lineup during his birthday party at The BeerMongers, with this being just one of the gifts he gave to those that showed up.

Tomorrow begins PDX Beer Week and Portland Fruit Beer Festival runs Friday through Sunday, both of which we'll look at in greater detail in the next two posts so make sure to check back for a preview.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Recommendations for 2017 Cheers to Belgian Beers

Today is the second (and final) day of the 2017 Cheers to Belgian Beers festival at the North Warehouse. We went yesterday and while we only had 17 of the 70+ beers we're happy to share recommendations based on the things we drank.

We, along with a majority of the folks we compared notes with at the festival, easily put pFriem Abrikoos and Crux In the Pocket on the "don't leave the festival without having these" list. Abrikoos was new to us and is a fantastic Lambic-style beer that’s a very drinkable 5.5%. In the Pocket, a red wine barrel aged Saison with Brett and a beer we'd had recently (bottles of it are around town) is also very drinkable...but with nearly double the ABV at 9.9%.

Two others that hit high notes with us were Baerlic Black with Two Sugars and Migration Quinn and Juice. Coffee is our second favorite beverage and Baerlic's masterfully crafted beer drinks like a cold version of it, with a luxurious splash of heavy cream (although there isn't actually any in it) and a touch of sugar. The hook on the Migration beer for us is that on the rare occasions we drink hard liquor, gin is our go-to. This beer displays the aroma of those botanicals and is accompanied by a surprising mouthfeel to create a dangerously drinkable package weighing in at 9.2%.

We happened to be drinking with one of our friends who is supremely talented when it comes to blending beers. Yes, that may be blasphemy to some but if you're game we highly recommend blending, in a one-to-one ratio, Baerlic Black with Two Sugars and Migration Quinn and Juice. It doesn't sound like it would work but trust us here, it does.

The other blending might be a little more intuitive but it's the ratio that is important here. Start with Ex Novo Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a Saison fermented with boysenberries and black currants, and add just a splash of Gigantic The City Never Sleeps black Saison. Start with a small splash and add another if needed to get to that perfect black beer base that's complimented by the berry flavor of Afraid.

With that, get on with the drinking and cheers!

Cheers to Belgian Beers
North Warehouse, 723 N. Tillamook
Saturday, June 3 Noon - 8pm
$20 (glass + 8 tickets)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 22 - 28

Coalition Sour Patch
The six beers that made this week's list are particularly stellar and we have to give big thanks to Chris and Chris (just two of the Chris/Kris crew regularly found at The BeerMongers) for sharing. For something a little different this week, we'll list these in ascending rank starting with four that tied with 4 out of 5 stars.

Coalition Brewing Sour Patch - Love Sour Patch Kids candy? Then you'll love this beer. A version of Two Flowers, their CBD beer, it truly is the love child of beer and candy.

Baerlic Watch the Bridie - A true to style gose, it is salty, tart and utterly fantastic. Also true to style is its ABV - a sessionable 4.5% - which makes it easy for summer drinking.

Matchless POG - Familiar with POG? In case not, it stands for pineapple-orange-guava and that's exactly what this IPA offers to compliment the medium body and low bitterness. Juicy and infinitely drinkable, or nearly so at just a touch higher ABV of 6.2%.

Beachwood Brewing Mocha Machine - The biggest of the bunch, clocking in at 9.2% ABV, it definitely is a "well-engineered endeavor" combining British and German malts and Portola Coffee Lab roasted coffee which was then aged on cacao nibs from Ecuador. The fudginess was reminiscent of Sunriver Cocoa Cow but taken to another level with the coffee. Thanks to Chris T. for sharing!

Now for the runner up, with an impressive 4.25 out of 5 stars, New Holland Incorrigible Reserve (2017). This white sour ale with mango and pineapple was surprisingly affordable with the bang for the buck coming in the flavor as opposed to the ABV (a mere 4.5%). With the aroma of a bright, tropical fruit salad and an addition of just the right amount of tartness to the flavor this is a sour beer lovers of the style should definitely pick up.

Finally, for the best of the best this week (and probably almost any other week of the year)...Modern Times Asteroid Cowboy. First off, huge thanks to Chris (a different Chris) for sharing this! A Brett IPA dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra and Horizon, all of the components in balance, resulting in a tart and hoppy delight that is the total package of delish.

It really was one hellava week for beer. We hope even a small percentage of similar wonderfulness made it into your glass. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Coming This Weekend: 11th Annual Cheers to Belgian Beers

This Friday and Saturday Cheers to Belgian beers takes place at the North Warehouse, 723 N Tillamook Street. For those who may have heard about the closing of Metalcraft Fabrication that used to be housed there, that closure will not effect the festival as the business and the physical facility had been separated previously. It now functions simply an event space it is once again hosting this unique festival that will feature the B45 Gnome Belgian yeast strain.

Per our usual pre-festival routine we have scoured the list of over 70 beers, identifying the ones we're most excited to try. Since Belgian beers can be hit or miss with us, our preference skews to those with fruit, those that have been soured and those that have been barrel aged. The result is a hit list of 17 beers and we'll do our best to report back on them (but feel free to cyber-stalk us on Untappd).

Yachats Blackberry Sour - A fruited sour? Right up our alley!
pFriem Abrikoos - Just reading the description, a Lambic-inspired ale with 2.7lbs of fresh apricots per gallon, has us salivating.
Thunder Island Gnome de Plum - We're looking forward to see how the use of plums and Lactobacillus influence the Belgian Dark Ale base.
Ex Novo Are You Afraid of the Dark? - A dark fruited Saison, it's fermented with boysenberries and black currants, and sounds fruity-nummy.
The Commons Blackberry Saison - With their overall farmhouse take on beers, we expect them to be on the money with this beer and its "tart, dry, bright fruit profile."
Little Beast Dutchy - This festival is right in Little Beast's strike zone and we're eager to see what brewer/owner Charles Porter's Dark Belgian ale with Montmorency cherries and cacao nibs tastes like.
Culmination Pinot Evil II - To start, that's a great name. Hopefully the 9.5% Tripel that is barrel aged with wine grapes tastes as good as the name sounds.
Back Pedal Prismatic Passion - We're a fan of the more-hoppy-than-Saisony base beer, Prism, and excited about the addition of passion fruit to it.
Migration Quinn and Juice - When we're drinking liquor instead of beer our go-to drink is a gin and tonic so it's no surprise that gin barrel aged beers tend to hit the right notes with us. We hope this Old Tom Gin barrel fermented Belgian Strong Pale follows suit.
Deschutes Death by Brunch - Absinthe is a liquor we're divided about here at Beer Musings. One says yea, one says nay. Should be interesting to see how the Absinthe botanicals and spices used in this Strong Gold fare with our collective taste buds.
Mt Hood Soundgarden Gnome - Our experience with Mt Hood beers is zero but this one has us intrigued. Why? Well, there were no hops and no fruit used but it does contain organic hibiscus flowers and five strains of Lactobacillus. If their claim of "super juicy" is true we suspect it will be a hit with us.
Sasquatch Babarella - A rhubarb Belgian? It might work or it might not but we're game to try it and weigh in.
StormBreaker Kumite IPA - IPAs are definitely in our wheelhouse and this one, described as one with tangerine citrus and tropical aromas reminiscent of pineapple, with a hint of pine sounds lovely.
Baerlic Black with Two Sugars - Another great name and featuring our second favorite beverage - coffee! This may be the first Belgian Dark Strong Ale we've had with cold-steeped roasted wheat and cold brew toddy coffee. Even though we generally take our coffee black, this might be the equivalent of our twice-a-year coffee drink we indulge in.
Three Mugs Lewd Garden Dude - Belgian Strong Dark Ales aren't necessarily in our wheelhouse but points must be given for using the phrase "cockle warming" in the description.

There are a couple beers on the list that we've had previously but one in particular that we may have to have more of at this festival. That beer is Crux In the Pocket. A red wine barrel aged Saison with Brett, it drinks so smooth and so good that you'd never guess it's 9.9%. If you haven't had it, you definitely need to.

Cheers to Belgian Beers
Friday, June 2 1-9pm
Saturday, June 3 12-8pm
North Warehouse, 732 N Tillamook
Tickets, in advance or at the door: $20 (glass + 8 drink tickets)

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!