Monday, October 30, 2017

Impact of 2017 Oregon Brewers Festival & Changes for 2018

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Second Profession Brewing Gives Second Life to Former BTU Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: October 16 - 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Pro/Am Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: October 2 - 8

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Welcoming in October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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