Friday, November 17, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 6 - 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Look at Lompoc's Holiday Seasonals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison Release
Friday, November 17
4-11pm

Holiday Beer Extravaganza
Wednesday, November 27
4-11pm

Both events take place at LompocSidebar ~ 3901 N Williams.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Second 2017 Beer & Cheese Pairing Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Oct 30 - Nov 5

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


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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Halloween Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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