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.