Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 17 - 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 10 - 16

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: April 3 - 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: CA Vacay Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 20 - 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 13-19

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beer & Girl Scout Cookies Pairing Year IV, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bomb Shelter Beer

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: March 6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beer & Girl Scout Cookies Pairing Year IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

3rd Annual Baker's Dozen This Saturday

Coffee and doughnuts are delicious. Coffee BEERS and doughnuts are more delicious. This Saturday 13 coffee beers, made with coffee from independent local roasters, and 13 doughnuts from local shops will be available in a mix 'n match format at Culmination Brewing for the 3rd Annual Baker's Dozen. Due to the popularity of the event this year their will be two sessions, the first from 10am to 1pm and the second 2pm to 5pm, with 350 tickets available per session.

We had a chance to try a few of the offerings (a full list of the beers, including a honey mead from Oregon Mead & Cider, and the doughnuts is below) earlier this week and what we had was outstanding! Block 15 makes amazing beer, often amazing hoppy beer, but their Cosmic Cold Brew is no less amazing. This complex beer drinks like a creamy, coffee milk stout and paired exceptionally with the equally complex Bourbon Bacon Breakfast Fritter from Blue Star. No fluffy doughnut, it has a hearty backbone from the shredded Yukon potatoes and just-right mix of flavors from the sage, black pepper, bacon and bourbon maple glaze. We also tried A Beer Called Death, which if this is what death is like we're happy to skip to the front of the line. Prominent local beer guru John Lovegrove teamed up with McMenamins Thompson Brewery in Salem to make an imperial stout that uses 7 cups of Kenyan single origin cold brew per 1/2bbl keg. It's good enough to drive to Salem for but why when you can have it at this event WITH doughnuts?

Tickets are $27 (plus fees) online/$30 at the door (IF they haven't sold out) and include samples of each beer and doughnut. In order to be able to power through and not go into a diabetic coma, most of the doughnuts will be quartered. The Culmination kitchen, led by chef CJ Mueller, will be cooking up savory breakfast proteins for purchase.

Alameda "Coffee & Donutella" pale ale with Kainos Coffee
Block 15 "Cosmic Cold Brew: Double Ristretto" stout with Bespoken coffee
The Commons "Coffee Schwarzbier" black lager with Stumptown Coffee
Culmination "Velvet Elvis" nitro stout with Ole Latte Coffee
Georgetown "Gusto Crema" cream ale with Caffe Umbria
Gigantic "Mons Meg" coffee Scotch ale with Coava Coffee
Great Notion "Blueberry Pancakes" stout with Clutch Coffee
Kona "Pipeline Porter Reserve" porter
Labrewatory "Dirty Hippie" milk stout with Ristretto Roasters
McMenamins/John Lovegrove "A Beer Called Death" imperial stout with McMenamins Roasters
Modern Times "Bourbon-aged Monster Park with Coffee" imperial porter with Modern Times Coffee
Montavilla Brew Works "Bipartisan Porter" porter with Water Avenue Coffee and Bipartisan Cafe
Oregon Mead & Cider TBD

Annie's, Devi's Foodcake
Blue Star, Bourbon Bacon Breakfast Fritter
Bowery, Apricot Hamantaschen ("Kosher as f*#$" in honor of Saturday being Purim)
Coco Donuts, Vermont-style cider
Churros Locos, churros (making them fresh, onsite during the festival)
Delicious Donuts, TBD
Donut Byte Labs, Whiskey Creme Brulee
Joe's Donuts, cherry fritter
Namu, malasada (Hawaiian-style)
NOLA, apple fritter
Rocking Frog Café, cinnamon cake
Stacatto, Prince of Darkness (triple chocolate donut hole with Coalition Loving Cup maple cream filling & Vietnamese iced coffee glaze)
Tonalli's, powdered

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Goodbye February, Hello March

After a couple weeks with a ton of amazing beers last week was more typical (and honestly a refreshing change) where most of the beers we had were simply, solidly good. The theme that ran through the best of these beers was "events." Early in the week we attended a fundraiser for the Friends of the Library at McMenamins Market Street Pub, a media preview at the new Slabtown location of Breakside in NW that we talked about yesterday and then on the weekend the SheBrew Beer Festival (also a fundraiser).

Mexican Coffee Stout - middle, Something Wicked to the left,
Tropical Gose behind the stout
Not surprisingly two of the hits were IPAs...
McMenamins Hops in Harmony - This IPA utilizes some of our favorite hops - Mosaic, Simcoe and Perle - so it's not surprising that it was a hit. And for those who want to poo-poo McMenamins, this beer solidly beat down the guest IPA.

Breakside Something Wicked - One of those NE-style IPAs that are hitting taps heavily and loaded with Mosaic and Citra hops it was glass of hazy, citrusy-juicy yum.

But there were also two tasty darker beers...
McMenamins Nightswimming Baltic Porter - Dark and delicious without being heavy even at 8.5% ABV.

Breakside Mexican Coffee Stout - An entirely different version of dark, the roasty aroma alone was a joy to take in. That was followed by a bittersweet chocolate sweetness with just a touch of cinnamon and was easy drinking as well.

And the remaining three...
Finn River Sparkling Black Currant Cider - We enjoy ciders, but not a much as beer in general so it takes a pretty special one to make the list. This one did it with its wine-like aroma, great color and deep berry flavor.

Breakside Tropical Gose - We like our goses to prominently feature salt and this one fit the bill starting with it in the aroma, following through the flavor and into the aftertaste. The components were well balanced and bonus points noted for the velvety mouthfeel.

Breakside Wilsner - If there can be a NE-style IPA, why not a West Coast Pilsner? This beer makes a solid case for it by being a drink-all-day beer that combines a creamy mouthfeel and pleasant Pilsner aftertaste.

So while we might generally be predictable, you just never know when something like Wilsner is going to please us. Has anything unexpected pleased you lately?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Breakside's Newest Location Opens in Happening Slabtown Area

Owner Scott Lawrence and brewer Ben Edmunds talk about the new space.
Last week we got a preview of Breakside's third location, in the very happening part of NW known as Slabtown, that opened to the public yesterday. It takes up residence in the same block as New Seasons and Besaws, which is bordered by NW 21st and 22nd, Quimby and Raleigh. As with the other two locations, it houses a brewery, this one a 10bbl JVNW system that will produce hop-focused beers. While beers brewed on the system have yet to hit the taps, six Slabtown-specific recipes have been developed and are on tap (brewed at the other locations to begin) along with 10 other beers, plus two wine taps. We had an opportunity to try those six beers, sample some appetizer items and take a look around the space.

Since the beers are obviously the most important thing that's where we'll start.
Wilsner - A West Coast Pilsner, it is lemony yellow in color with a creamy mouthfeel and a moderate Pilsner aftertaste. Quite pleasant, this is a drink-all-day beer that was awesome with the cheesy chorizo jalapeno poppers.

Oro - A blonde that appears somewhat hazy, it is sweeter than one might expect for the style. In our opinion could use more hops to balance that sweetness and increase the drinkability but we're hop heads so take that with a grain of salt.

Tropical Gose - A take on their plum gose, it starts with an incredible salty aroma which follows through the flavor and into the aftertaste. At first the coriander popped out heavily but with subsequent sips the many flavors of the beer become more balanced. The velvety mouthfeel adds to the overall loveliness of it.

Ginormous tator tots and jalapeno poppers
Mexican Coffee Stout - Starting with a roasty/burnt toasty aroma that brought an immediate smile, the flavor comes in with more bittersweet chocolate notes and a touch of cinnamon. Its smooth drinking is reminiscent of their Salted Caramel Stout but with greater heartiness. On any but hottest of days this could be enjoyed pint after pint. It also is a great pairing with the ginormous tator tots that contain pork belly, brie and Swiss.

Something Wicked - This NE style IPA presents hazy as expected with a bold, citrusy-juicy aroma. While the Mosaic and Citra hops are pronounced they are also nicely balanced by the malt profile. A part of Breakside's Seeker series, this is another great pairing with the poppers.

Precious Snowflake DIPA - A bit of restrained aroma for a DIPA, albeit one on the lower end of the ABV range for the style at 8%, the flavor is spot on with obvious sweetness but enough hop bitterness late on the palate and into the finish to make one want to keep drinking it.

A couple of the appetizers sampled have already been mentioned above with the beers they nicely complimented. The other two - nachos and hummus plate - are brewpub standards, each here shining due to particular components. The nachos start with fresh fried corn tortillas and come topped, in part, with really good guacamole. We're pretty harsh on any guacamole that doesn't come out of our own kitchen so this if a big compliment. The hummus, with pitas and roasted vegetables, gets a boost from the just-right-salty tapenade it's topped with.

Moving on to the space itself, there's two levels of indoor seating (including a private room with floor to ceiling windows on the second floor above the brewery), rooftop seating and a street level patio which combine to accommodate 350 people. The brewery, while appearing larger than just 10bbls, takes up every last inch of space that was allocated for it. That tightness, however, allows the brewer to control it all from the brewing deck (which is accessed by ladder-like steps). Production capacity is 2,000bbls and although there are no barrels to age beer on at this facility, it isn't out of the question that some of it will be brewed and kegged here, destined to find a woody home at the Milwaukie location.

Finally, you may have noticed that Breakside has started rolling out a new logo. It is slowly replacing the "cost us $300 logo from" they started with when money was much tighter. Designed by local brand agency Sockeye, a year long market research study was done in preparation and it is meant to represent the desire to seek and, food, vacations, So get on over to NW and seek out what Breakside has created for you to enjoy.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

SheBrew - a Beer Festival for All

This Saturday, March 4th the SheBrew Beer Festival takes place for the third year and in doing so expands on what they built the previous two years. The all ages, all genders festival is a co-production of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Oregon Brew Crew and has added an AHA-sanctioned home brew competition and offers beer and cider from 20 local breweries.

The home brew entries from women locally and nationally were judged last weekend at Zoiglhaus and some of the entered beers will be available for sampling at the festival. A list of the winners...perhaps a name or two will be familiar to you...selected by the judges is available and attendees will have the opportunity to vote for a People's Choice winner during the event. The Best of Show winner, who will have the opportunity to brew with Natalie Baldwin at Breakside Brewery, will also be revealed.

Things kick off at noon and go until 8pm, plenty of time to stop in after Saturday chores, between other Saturday happenings or as a place to park it for the day and enjoy all the beer/cider, food and entertainment the festival has to offer.

12pm Festival opens
12-3pm Homebrews available for sampling and voting
12-4pm Musical acts
4-8pm Comedians
8pm Festival ends ( don't have to go home but you can't stay here...)

Tickets are currently available for those 21+ with the $20 including a tasting glass (the commemorative one to the right for the first 250 attendees) and 10 tasting tickets. Per the usual run of festivals in these parts, additional tasting tickets will be available for $1 each. And per the inclusive nature of the festival, non-drinkers and those under 21 are welcome to attend.

SheBrew Beer Festival
Saturday, March 4 12-8pm
Buckman Coffee Factory
1105 SE Main St, Portland

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Those Below a Four Need Not Apply

The beer bar was definitely raised this week as none of the following beers scored less than a 4 out of 5. And we don't give out 4s lightly.

Les Trois Mousquetaries (LTM) Dixieme - Shared by one of the many generous patrons of Mongers, this imperial black kriek had a beautiful, tart, dark fruit aroma with a less tart, infinitely delicious flavor that was a combination of chocolate and a touch of fruit. According to the kind patron that shared it, when he had a bottle a few months ago, there was more fruit flavor present. Either way, delicious and 10%, really?!? No way does it taste like it.

Founders Brewing Porter - Seeing this in the cooler I was shocked to see that at least according to Untappd I'd never had it before. Rectifying that I found a beer with a beautiful chocolate colored head and an even better chocolately flavor. Nice job, Michigan.

Founders Brewing Azacca IPA - Although I'd had this beer before I was determined for a re-test after hearing from a couple people that it didn't hit high notes for them. For me, it was as good as I remember and Azacca hops are definitely my hops.

Logsdon ZuurPruim - This beer is a mouthful of delicious sour fruit flavor and a fantastic, soft mouthfeel likely coming from the four months it spent on Yummy Beaut plums in Cabernet Sauvignon 

Three Magnets 2nd Anniversary Ale - The aroma of this wine barrel-aged sour red ale makes us happy and the flavor - tart but not sour, fruity but not sweet - even happier.

Three Magnets Chef's Choice No. 1 Rye Porter - Undoubtedly a most bizarre set of ingredients to combine - a rye porter with vanilla and black garlic - it turned out to be incredible and reminiscent of a complex chocolate porter.

Firestone Walker Firestone 20 (XX) Anniversary Ale - Big thanks go out to Chris for sharing this Strong Ale from FW's vintage barrel program (and the pic)! Clocking in at 13.5% one might think a few ounces would be plenty. One would be wrong. Perhaps a few bottles and then we'd reach the "plenty" level.

Thanks for your patience. We're well aware that the list got a little out of hand this week but there was no way to exclude any of these amazing beers. Should the Logsdon or Three Magnets beers intrigue you, head on over to Beer Belly where you might be lucky enough to still find them on tap (and if you go 3-6pm you'd be super lucky as HH prices are $3). While the supply of Founder's is dwindling, Tuesday afternoon both were available in the McMenamin's 23rd Ave Bottle Shop coolers. The Firestone Walker and the LTM? Well, those are going to take some harder searching but if you find them, you'll be a good beer buddy and share with us, right?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Library Fundraiser at McMenamins

In case you didn't know we do in fact do other things over here at Beer Musings besides drink beer - including reading and volunteering. Mag is on the board for the Friends of the Multnomah County Library and proving what a smart organization they are, their next fundraiser involves beer (as have past ones). This one will be taking place at McMenamins Market Street Pub located downtown adjacent to the PSU campus.

50% of the total sales during Friends & Family Night, taking place Tuesday, February 28th 5pm - 1am, will be donated to the organization. If you can get there at the beginning of the event, as we're planning to, you'll have an hour to take advantage of a Happy Hour (until 6pm) that features discounts on pints, pitchers and flights as well as bites to go along with them. Want something more substantial (and to make a greater contribution to the night's total sales)? There's a Krakatoa Burger that will only be available until the end of the month (that'd be today) and sounds delicious - spiced beef patty, pineapple sambal, peanut sauce, pickled daikon & carrot slaw, Sriracha mayo, jalapeño, onion and cilantro.

So whether you can come for one pint or more, consider stopping by to drink (and eat) for a good cause!

Friends & Family Night
February 28th 5pm - 1am
McMenamins Market Street Pub
1526 SW 10th Ave, Portland

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2 Days, 10 Events (at least)

We have a busy beer weekend coming up with at least 10 beer events taking place, all of which we'd be at if we could clone ourselves. Alas, science still has a long way to go in that area. Thankfully the science of brewing fantastic beer is well developed so make your plans and enjoy!

Cascade Brewing Sour Fruit Fest - This festival actually kicked off on Wednesday and will run through Sunday, at both the SE Belmont location and the SW Raccoon Lodge. There will be 50 exclusive Cascade fruit sour beers rotating through the festival, 25 daily at Belmont and 10 daily at the Raccoon Lodge. Noon - close daily through Sunday.

Roscoe's Stout Summit - As with all their summits, this one will start Friday and run through the weekend or until the kegs blow. A full tap list is pending but the preliminary list includes some that were at last weekend's Festival of the Dark Arts and others that weren't. Taster trays available. 2pm - Sunday 8pm.

Montavilla Brew Works beer release - Conveniently located just blocks from Roscoe's, the folks at Montavilla are combining the release of their Dark Cherry Porter with the 28th anniversary of Johnny Cash's San Quentin Prison performance. Beer at 3pm, concert showing at 5:30pm.

Three Magnets/Logsdon Tap Takeover at Beer Belly - We'll be honest, we were involved in setting up this event and we want to have great turn out. Beyond that Three Magnets and Logsdon make great beer and this is an opportunity to try over a dozen of beers, many which are difficult to find elsewhere. 4pm - close.

Hillsdale Brewfest (aka Battle for the Belt) - This long running festival, now in its 24th year, has been a great time every time we've attended. Yes, it's a McMenamins-only beer festival but this is where you'll see the best of what the brewers at each of the 22 McMenamins locations that are participating can turn out. It's a sample-style format, available by the tray (each tray containing 11 beers) and not only does the winner get bragging rights but also the championship belt. 11am - close.

Zwicklemania beyond Portland - The zwickling continues this weekend, the first time for the Oregon Brewers Guild to have expanded the open house-style event to two weekends. Breweries outside of the Portland metro will be open so if you're in the mood to hop in the car there are plenty of options to choose from. Pick a direction and go. 11am - 4pm

StormBreaker 3rd Annual Brewstillery Festival - We talked about this in detail on Tuesday and you can read that here but the short of it is that there will be 21 beer + spirit pairings. Noon - 8pm (VIP entry at 11am).

Lompoc Black Out Beer Festival - In the 5th edition of this event there will be 25 dark beers - porters, stouts, coffee beers and black IPAs - inside Sidebar and in the heated tent in the adjacent parking lot of Fifth Quadrant. Noon - 10pm.

Triple IPA Fest at N.W.I.P.A. - If big, hoppy beers are your thing, this is the place to be. And if trying all of them is your thing, you're in luck. Beers will be poured in 2oz sizes, up to six at a time. 2pm - midnight.

PDX Bottle Share - Open to anyone, this rotating-location bottle share takes place this time at John's Marketplace in Multnomah Village. The standard "entry fee" is one bottle (typically a 22oz/750ml) and it's a great opportunity to try a variety of beers the generous folks in the beer community have acquired. 2pm