Thursday, June 21, 2018

Oregon Cider Week 2018

The door has barely closed on PDX Beer Week and now it's time for Oregon Cider Week. Kicking off today, June 21st, and running through Sunday, July 1st the the number and variety of official events is as impressive as Beer Week. We know we won't be able to make it to them all, nor preview them all, but what we can do is give you our take on some of the ciders and cideries.

Earlier this week we were given a preview of 20 of the cideries that will be taking part in Oregon Cider Week. Some, like Finnriver and Cider Riot!, were familiar while others, like 1859 Cider Co. and Art+Science, we hadn't even heard of before. It kind of took us back to the days when we were discovering craft breweries, somewhat overwhelming but in a wonderful, exciting way.

Before we talk about the ciders that hit the highest notes for us at the preview, we have to tell you about the special Oregon Cider Week donut that Blue Star has created. The brioche donut is frosted with a beautiful and delicious combination of Finnriver Lavender Black Currant cider, black currant puree and Bee Local Hot Honey. Available for the duration of Oregon Cider week at all of their locations, it is worth seeking out, whether it's enjoyed on its own or enjoyed with Finnriver's cider.

As we back away from the donuts, it's time to talk about the ciders that most impressed us.

Finnriver Lavender Black Currant - Staring out with a spectacular color and wine-like aroma, the berry/floral flavor is followed by a pleasant wine aftertaste.

1859 Strawberry - Both the aroma and flavor of this cider are exactly like that of fresh strawberries, with no alcohol flavor at all.

Alter Ego Guardian Angel - This combination of blueberries and pomegranates are juice, juice, all juice baby.

WildCraft Elderberry Perry - Oregon elderberries are fermented whole in a red Bartlett perry and aged for three months, resulting in a juicy brew with mild alcohol flavor. 

WildCraft Trinity Pome Blend - Lovely, funky tastiness!

1859 Green Dragon - This represents the perfect balance of sweet and dry. As a bonus, it pairs wonderfully with prosciutto.

While we would be happy to belly up at one location and drink any kegs of the above ciders dry, to fully experience Oregon ciders, we recommend checking out one of the festivals or other events that feature multiple ciders and cideries. Here's a brief list with the full event list and details found here.
June 23
Oregon Cider Week Saturday Sampling
Tasting event featuring Baird & Dewar, Carlton Cyderworks and WildCraft Ciderworks
2 - 4 pm
McMenamins 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop 2290 NW Thurman Street, Portland

June 23
Happy Cider Day
11 ciders, including the 1859 Strawberry we are so enamored with
6 - 9 pm
The Westside Taphouse & Growler Fill 1594 Edgewater Street NW, SALEM

June 23 & 24 
3rd Annual Fruit Cider Invitational
24 Oregon-made fruit ciders from Cider Riot! and others
2 - 8 pm
Cider Riot! 807 NE Couch Street, Portland

June 24
Dog wash at Bushwacker Cider
Charity dog wash benefitting Clackamas County Dog Control with 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Seattle Cider Co. and Bushwacker Cider, 21+
12 - 3 pm
Bushwacker Cider, 1212-D SE Powell Blvd, Portland

June 25
PDX Cideries Nite
Event features cideries located in the city of Portland
6 - 10 pm
Portland Cider House, 3638 SE Hawthorne, Portland

June 26
Oregon Cider Celebration
Draft and bottled offerings from Oregon cider companies
4 - 7 pm
Tin Bucket 3520 N Williams Avenue, Portland

June 27
OMSI After Dark: Ciderfest
Featuring 17 cideries, this 21+ event includes science demonstrations, $30 tickets 
7 - 10 pm
OMSI 1945 SE Water Avenue, Portland

June 29 & June 30
Cider Summit Portland
Nearly 200 ciders from across the nation, general admission tickets $30 in advance, $35 at the door
3 - 8 pm Friday, 12 - 5 pm Saturday
The Fields 1099 NW Overton, Portland

July 1
Cider + Donuts
Donuts from Blue Star, NOLA and Delicious paired with NW ciders
11 am - 10 pm
Portland Cider House 3638 SE Hawthorne, Portland

July 1
Oregon Cider Week Pairing Menu
Curated 3-course menu pairing Baird & Dewar, WildCraft and OR/WA Cider Co-Op ciders with food, $45
5 - 9:30 pm
Ned Ludd 3925 NE MLK Jr., Portland 

In addition to places to drink cider, there are a couple of retailers offering discounts on packaged ciders. To start off the week, New Seasons Market will offer 20% off all hard ciders June 22 - 24 (Friday - Sunday). Picking up the discounts a couple days later is People's Food Co-Op, with 10% off the purchase of any six ciders June 26 - July 1 (Tuesday - Sunday).

For those looking to get some education along with their cider check out:
June 21 
Cider Appreciation Class
Explore 20+ ciders, many of Nat's favorite cideries from around the world and the history of the craft, $50 tickets 
7 - 9:30 pm
Rev. Nat's Cidery & Taproom 1813 NE 2nd Avenue, Portland

June 25 
History & Science of Cider
Enjoy 9 ciders from around the world with cider makers from Cider Riot! and Portland Cider company leading an educational class, $25 tickets 
7 -10 pm
Cider Riot! 807 NE Couch, Portland

*Please note that we did not try all of the ciders at the preview, nor does this represent all of the ciders that will be at Oregon Cider Week Events. We do what we can but even we have our limits.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Random Asian Salty Snacks & Beer Pairing

Have you ever been into an Asian grocery store and been intrigued by packages of things you have little to no idea of what they are? We make periodic trips to our favorite, Hong Phat out on SE 82nd, to stock up on pantry staples and are drawn to the salty snacks aisle where some bags' contents are understandable through pictures and/or English labels while others remain a mystery. After our recent pairing with coffee creamers, grabbing some random salty snacks from Hong Phat didn't seem too odd.

Pool of Snacks

  • Lay's 2-in-1 Prawn & Salsa
  • Boy Bawang Cornick Salt & Vinegar
  • Oishi Prawn Crackers
  • Powers for Easy Life Rice Crackers with Tomato
  • Want Want Natori Snack

As we were inspecting the bags more closely before opening we noticed that we had ended up with an unintentional geographical assortment - two from China, two from the Philippines and one from Thailand.

We haven't seen Lay's 2-in-1 in this country but upon opening discovered that the two seasoning flavors, prawn and salsa, weren't combined onto each chip. Instead the larger, redish chips were prawn flavored and the smaller, greenish chips were salsa (verde) flavored. The prawn flavor being very pronounced was off putting for a couple of those in our group but made for an interesting combination with the flavors and carbonation in Saison Dupont and helped to balance the overt maltiness of Old Speckled Hen. The salsa flavored chips were easier to pair, going well with Heretic Lager for a mild Mexican-ish pairing. When eaten with Culmination Sour Flower the green onion of the chip came out a la onion ramen.

Boy Bawang Cornick Salt & Vinegar appeared from the picture on the label to be similar to corn nuts and indeed they were. Their flavor profile was strong enough to stand up to the hops in Breakside Wanderlust and made for solid bar snacking material. They were similarly good with AleSmith Nut Brown and like the Lay's 2-in-1, were able to balance the maltiness in this beer.

Oishi Prawn Crackers were not nearly as prawn-powerful as the red chips in the Lay's bag and found partners in lighter drinking options including coffee, Heretic Lager and Cascadia Granny Smith cider. The cider made the prawn flavor more pronounced but even the prawn-averse in our group enjoyed the light, easy pairing.

Powers for Easy Life Rice Crackers with Tomato easily had the best name of the group although the contents of the bag were probably the least enjoyable. We settled on a description of a salty version of breakfast cereal, either Corn Pops or a mild version of Capt'n Crunch. Although we have paired beer with cereal, this salty hybrid had a hard time finding a partner. Saison Dupont seemed to be the "best" by making the snack less cereal tasting. All of the other beers as well as the cider accentuated the sweetness, resulting in flavors ranging from chocolate Sugar Pops to Apple Jacks.

Want Want Natori Snack ---> had the second best name but definitely the best illustration on the back of the bag, giving us hopes that these were going to be The Snack. What we found upon opening the bag were sticks that looked like battered french fries but had a very mild flavor reminiscent of those crunchy chow mein noodles we've all had atop a Chinese-ish dish. Not surprising, both the mild Saison Dupont and the Cascadia Granny Smith made for appropriate pairings. 

Thanks again to Chris, Mag, Paul, beertender David and others who were willing to go along with our wacky pairings once again!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Previewing the Portland Fruit Beer Festival

Now in its 8th year, the Portland Fruit Beer Festival returns to its original home at Burnside Brewing on the east side after a one-year excursion across the river. Pouring more than 50 interpretations of fruit beer/cider, the offerings will span a variety of styles from sours and lagers to IPAs and stouts, utilizing all manner of fruits from commonplace to obscure. We recently had the opportunity to try a sampling of the beers/ciders that will be poured at the festival and were impressed both by the brewers' creativity and their skills.

Cider Riot! Everyday Passionfruit - A back-sweetened, semi-dry cider, it is a less tart version than last year's and displays the mild flavor of passionfruit in an easy-drinking 6% cider.
Claim 52 Skrrrrrt - Using a mild Gose base, one could easily mistake this 4.2% pineapple and passionfruit beer for a glass of juice. A very tasty glass of juice.
Finnriver Berry & Bard - Combining heirloom, organic Washington apples with Olympic Peninsula rhubarb and aronia berries grown at Finnriver Farm the result is a fruity yet tanic/dry cider.
Hopworks Strawberry Milkshake IPA - Light-handed use of strawberries and lactose meld with berry-forward Australian hops and tropical Pacific NW hops in this 7.4% fruited IPA.
Reverend Nat's Blood Orange Viva La Pineapple - Taking things to another level, Nat put his festival-exclusive version of blended apple and pineapple juice into a slushy machine. So drinkable and fun, beware of a brain freeze!
Von Ebert Starcloud - Starting with their Sector 7 IPA made with Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Galaxy hops, tropical starfruit was added, resulting in a smooth and lovely 7.1% hazy IPA.

Hint of Fruit
Buoy Saison de Gewurtz - The buckwheat Saison base beer spent five months in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir barrels with house Brettanomyces cultures spiked with Oregon-grown Gewurztraminer juice. For the first mixed culture project released, Buoy is starting off with a bang. Make sure to have this delicate 4.9% offering early on.
Gigantic Brewing Gigantic & Juice - An updated version of the G&J made last year, the lightly juiced beer contains balanced amounts of pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit.
Widmer Strawbarbaric IRA - One doesn't see many India Red Ales in general and this version brings together strawberries and rhubarb with "red fruit nuanced hops" - Hull Melon, Mandarina Bavaria and more. 

2 Towns Easy Peasy - The first citrus cider from 2 Towns, it's a limited release offering that drinks like adult raspberry lemonade with a tartness coming from the Meyer lemons and Lactobacillus culture.
Allegory Sunshine Slammer - This POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) was crafted with a session outdoors in mind, deriving its sourness from a Lactobacillus pitch. One of the more [deliciously] sour offerings we tried!
Great Notion Blueberry Muffin - Known for their kettle-soured Berliner Weisses, it has a bright, blueberry tartness that if one has the chance, pairs well with an actual blueberry muffin.

Lompoc/Fruit Beer Fest/Repurposed Pod collaboration Cacao Cream Ale - Cacao pods are generally thought of as the starting point for chocolate but using the juice from the fleshy portion of the fruit and the cacao nibs from the seed portion this beer is a mind-expanding creation. Hazy apricot in color with an aroma that hints mildly of chocolate, this cream ale is perfectly fruity and drinkable. Representatives from Repurposed Pod were involved in the blending process and Lompoc is only the second brewery in the U.S. to use their Cacao Juice (Tired Hands in PA being the other). 
Migration Manhattan Transfer - If you're looking for a cocktail, Manhattan Transfer is the beer to have. The 7.9% cocktail beer was fermented on freshly emptied rye whiskey barrels with "heaps" of cherries and vermouth-infused oak and botanicals.

The festival starts on Friday with a five-hour preview session (20-ish beers/ciders) and goes into full festival mode Saturday and Sunday spanning Burnside Brewing's parking lot, a portion of NE 7th Street and the parking lot adjacent on the west side of the street. 30 core beers and ciders will be pouring throughout with three to four rotating rare and special tappings. Pours will range from one to three tickets in cost with additional tickets available for purchase.

Portland Fruit Beer Festival
Friday, June 8th 4 - 9pm
Saturday, June 9th 11am - 9pm
Sunday, June 10th 11am - 6pm
Tickets on sale in advance and at the door, $20 (BPA-free, non-breakable Govino branded plastic cup + 12 tickets) or $25 (collectible branded glass + 12 tickets)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cheers to Belgian Beers 2018: What's Grabbed Our Attention

The 2018 Cheers to Belgian Beers festival will feature 75 breweries, all of which were subject to a dart throw to determine if their beer would need to adhere to "dark or light in color" and "low or high in alcohol content." Dart masters, the ones who hit a bulls eye during the throw were rewarded with selecting their own color and strength. The majority of the beers will be using this year's chosen yeast strain, Precious, as their primary yeast strain. It's a classic Belgian yeast that features a very mild phenolic character balanced with moderate fruitiness. 

This year the festival also gave brewers the option to add a secondary aging strain - Suburban Brett. As fans of Brett yeast, we're especially excited to try those beers that utilized this option. Those include: 

  • Base Camp Danny's Special, a barrel-feremented imperial golden ale
  • Immersion Mighty Madi Belgian-style Tripel (named for their mountain dog Madi)
  • Logsdon Suburban Kriek, a sour red ale with two varieties of cherries, aged in Pinot Noir and Bourbon barrels that previously held an imperial stout
  • McMenamins Crystal Abbot's Habit Belgian Tripel
  • pFriem Oud Bruin
  • Stickmen Raison D'un Petit Verre, a Belgian Dark Strong aged in Rex Hill Pinot Noir barrels
  • Wolf Tree The Full Truck, a Belgian-style Golden Strong
  • Yachats Bullseye, a dank and hazy fruited Brett IPA

Since we know we won't be able to try all 77 beers, here are a few others that caught our eye and are strong contenders to make it in our glass:

  • Ground Breaker D'oh! Flanders Red - We're not gluten-free but we're interested to see what a gluten-free version of one of our favorite styles is like.
  • Mad Cow Off the Griddle and Into the Mash - If nothing else, we gotta give them credit for using Belgian waffles in the mash and real maple syrup in the finish.
  • Occidental Kunstgreep - "Brewed using a mysterious process"? Yeah, that's a good tease.
  • Solera Lotion In The Basket - You had us at "feremented with several strains of Lactobacilli."
  • StormBreaker Van Damme That's Good - We do like chocolate in our beer and our curiosity is peaked with the use of cocoa powder in the kettle and liquid cacao in the bright tank.
  • The Ram Brewery Rare Commodity - Apricots are one of our favorite fruits used in making a beer as they tend to impart both a fruity flavor as well as a lovely, smooth mouthfeel.
  • Vagabond Little James & The Giant Peach - Peaches are a close second to apricots so it would be fun to try these two back to back.
  • Widmer Raspberry Quintuple - Raspberries and chocolate clocking in at 15%? It will either be amazing or amazingly bad and there's only one way to find out.

Now in its 12th year, the festival returns to The North Warehouse and will once again feature an outside tented area with food to be had from Urban German Grill and Monk's Deli. Entry to the 21+ event is free but in order to imbibe tickets are $20 and include beer goblet and 8 tasting tickets, available at the door. And as per usual with festivals around here, additional tasting tickets will be available for $1 each.

Cheers to Belgian Beers
Friday, June 1st 1pm - 9pm and Saturday, June 2nd 12pm - 8pm
The North Warehouse
723 N. Tillamook Street

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

We Paired Beer With What?!?!

If you've been following our beer adventures for a while you might have figured out we have a thing for pairing beer with some unlikely subjects (like Halloween or Easter candy). Well, hold on to your hats because things are about to get REAL weird.

Resulting out of some beer consumed with a last bit of ice cream, you know, the melt-y stuff at the bottom of your bowl/pint/quart, we rounded up seven varieties of coffee creamer (you heard that right). There were some "regular" flavors - French Vanilla, Hazelnut and Vanilla Caramel - and others that started going further afield - Almond Roca, Bailey's Irish Cream, Peppermint Mocha and Bailey's Mudslide. As is pretty easy to surmise, stouts were the most suitable for pairing.

- Fremont Dark Star imperial oatmeal stout had its 8% ABV mellowed by the Darigold Almond Roca and its roastiness kept the creamer from being too sweet.
- Ten FIDY, the big 10.5% double stout from Oskar Blues, made for a nice sipper with the CoffeeMate Peppermint Mocha.
- StormBreaker Opacus oatmeal stout, clocking in at a sessionable 5%, was the most mixable of the beers, combining nicely with Darigold Vanilla Caramel, Darigold Hazelnut and CoffeeMate Peppermint Mocha. In fact, if you'll be having guests around Christmastime, grab some of that Peppermint Mocha either for use in your glass with some Opacus or in your great aunt's coffee. You won't regret it.
- Pelican Tsunami Stout, of the foreign/export variety, was the most coffee-like and combined with Bailey's Irish Cream for something we'd be delighted to find in our mug on a lazy weekend morning.
- Ale Smith Nut Brown's nutty profile found pairings with both of the nut-flavored creamers - Darigold Almond Roca and Darigold Hazelnut. 

Even more successful than the dark beers, especially if you're looking for something lighter, were three fruit beer/ciders with Darigold French Vanilla. Stiegl Radler was the crowd favorite that when blended with the creamer came out tasting like an orange creamsicle. Why a grapefruit beer should combine with a vanilla milky substance to produce orange is beyond us. This however was a delicious, super low ABV creation.

A close second was Cider Riot! Berry cider, for a "berrysicle" and then interestingly, Lindeman's Peche. Instead of the sourness of the beer clashing, it pleasantly offset the creaminess. Another "you wouldn't think so" combination was the Cider Riot Berry with Darigold Hazelnut. Not assertive enough to be labeled as a pb&j flavor profile, it's the closest thing we can liken it to.

If you've been keeping track you may have noticed that we haven't mentioned what beer went with the Bailey's Mudslide. That's because there weren't any. We found there to be a strange, chemical taste and while we can't confirm the same would be true if it were put in a cup of coffee it seems prudent to simply avoid it. We chalked it up to "you can't know until you try" and the spirit of exploration that we went into this little experiment with.

Thanks to those brave souls that tried these combos out with us - Chris, Sean, Nicole, Caren, Zach and Mike, to name a few!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Day Trippin': McMinnville & Newberg

Last weekend we hopped in the car with a couple of friends who had suggested taking a day trip to the McMinnville-Newberg area. They took on the task of putting together a list of places with the necessary information in advance so all we had to do was arrive at the specified time/place and off we went.

Upon entering McMinnville city limits we decided our first stop would be Allegory, the year old brewery where Charlie Van Meter (formerly of Sasquatch and Logsdon) has landed. Situated along the railroad tracks its outdoor space was perfect for the blue sky day that was upon us. Umbrelled picnic tables were placed closest to the building with a take out-style ordering window in the side of the building. Nearby sat cornhole games waiting for some competitive folks looking for a game, a raised area (presumably a stage) occupied one corner of the parking lot with ample space in between for food trucks, more seating and plenty of thirsty souls.

Prior to visiting we'd had some Allegory offerings and we've been fans of Charlie for some time but what we had at the brewery was really outstanding. From the grape-and-barrel-aged All the Free Time to the fruited sour Soursop Summer Hop to their hoppy offerings, there wasn't a beer in the bunch that we would hesitate about ordering again. While this stop alone would have been worth the trip, especially since we had the pleasure of chatting with Charlie and his wife Jenna briefly, we had to pull ourselves away to continue on.

Next up we put our sights on Grain Station but before we put the car into gear we realized it was with easy walking distance. Locking back up we meandered down the quiet side streets, coming upon Grain Station from their patio side. As it was around lunchtime on a beautiful weekend day, the patio (and even inside) was hopping. Making a quick decision to reroute, we continued another few blocks toward Heater Allen with plans to stop back afterward.

Housed in a nondescript red building, Heater Allen was opened in 2007 by Rick Allen, a former investment banker set on making "the best Bohemian-style Pilsner possible." Daughter Lisa joined the brewery at the end of 2009 after starting her career in the wine industry. Last year she took over the role of head brewer and earlier this year they completed a remodel of their patio, a compact area that spills out from the indoor bar and seating area. 

Pils is their signature beer in a lineup of German and Czech style lagers and when we visited they also had a NW version of it - Galaxy Pils. The hopped Pilsner was delicious and a great choice for our hop-loving palates. The remainder of the tap list was filled in with other traditional styles - Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Zwickelbier and Bock. After enjoying our beer on the quiet patio we decided it was time to get something more substantial than the snack we were munching on, perfect timing for visiting Grain Station. 

We didn't have much information on Grain Station, no experience with their beer so we'd set quite low for them. Upon arriving we were quickly seated in a comfortable booth and set to running through the beer list. What popped out to us was that Grain Station seemed to have a thing for barrel-aged beers. That was fine by us so in went our order and out came some beers which quite exceeded our expectations including:
- Saison Vermouth was brewed with rye and spent vermouth botanicals, with 2/3rds of the final blend being aged in sparkling wine barrels, the other 1/3rd in vermouth barrels. The result is a slightly sweet Saison with tasty vermouth notes.
- Oak Zymology followed a similar path, a gin barrel-fermented Saison, with great aroma and funky, delicious barrel notes. 
- Other barrel-aged beers included gin barrel-aged Rose Marie and whiskey barrel-aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Fate of the Gods.

Our next stop could be categorized under, "we're nearby, why not?" Evasion is a gluten-free brewery and although none of us (clearly) have gluten issues, visiting seemed the prudent thing to do. Sporting a surprising 10 beer taplist, their two Pinot Noir barrel-aged farmhouse beers hit the highest notes for us. Ripe? was fermented with Pinot Noir juice while Commit to the Funk built on that with the addition of Brettanomyces and a secondary fermentation with Pinot juice. On the hoppy side Hophoria IPA, with Mosaic and Citra hops, is worth ordering. 

While we enjoyed the experience we had to keep moving, heading on to adjacent Newberg and Deception Brewing. We'd visited their comfortable indoor/outdoor space before and were looking forward to enjoying their offerings again. Barrel-aged beers seemed to be a theme of the day that continued here with the gin barreled Old Tom Gin IPA getting the highest ratings from us. Also tasty was Ragged Rocks, a solid CDA that offered a well balanced combination of hops and malt.

The final stop of the day, as evening was creeping in, was Chehalem Valley Brewing Company. Choosing a seat on the spacious patio, we found the beer menu to be typical of many brewpubs. It covered the usual spectrum of beers, light to dark, less hoppy to presumably more hoppy. After making our selections we were split to as what we enjoyed most. Their flagship Chehalem Valley IPA hit some of our taste buds just right while the others found enjoyment in the roasty Bald Peak Black Ale. Where Deception's CDA was appropriately hoppy, Bald Peak skewed more toward a Black Ale with its [deliciously] roasty notes.

With a great day behind us and the sun setting, it was time to wrap it up and head home. Our adventure certainly wasn't a comprehensive look at breweries in the area but if you're looking for a day trippin' idea perhaps our stops will help guide your adventure.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Boilermakers with Bulleit

We've been cheating a bit on beer lately, exploring the wide varieties of whisky/whiskey. For the most part we haven't had them together but we recently played around to see if we could find some pleasant pairings, better known as boilermakers. Armed with boilermaker suggestions from Ninkasi Brewing Company using Bulleit Frontier Whiskey and supplied with a couple of fifths, we were eager to try our own hands at it.

Bulleit Bourbon
Ninkasi selected their flagship Total Domination IPA to pair with this "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" and we agree that an IPA (even a hazy IPA) is the way to go with this one. We didn't happen to have any Total Domination on hand however we did have cans of their new-ish Prismatic Juicy IPA that created a far more complex pairing than we anticipated. Another local IPA, this time from Culmination in the form of their Phaedrus, made for a pairing that we'd be happy to enjoy for a significant session. Going further afield, the result of recent beer mail, we appreciated the fruity/juicy hops in Track 7 Brewing's Sukahop New England-style IPA as a compliment to this whiskey. Going even more intensely hoppy we also found Pelican's Beak Breaker DIPA to be a pleasant pairing with its combination of Mosaic, Citra and Centennial hops.

Diverting from hoppy beers were two others that to our surprise were also great pairs with the Bourbon. First up was a very interesting collaboration between Rogue and Brew Dr. Kombucha called Kulture Clash. Labeled as an "imperial blonde ale blended with kombucha tea" the 6.9% beer was a bit sweet on its own with a fruitiness that may have come from the beer or may have come from the kombucha. Either way the fruitiness was enhanced quite pleasantly by the Bourbon.

Going to a truly big beer, we cracked open a bottle of Brewery Ommegang Game of Thrones - Hand of the Queen. Billed as a barleywine with a hefty 11% ABV it drank far lighter and fruitier than any barleywine that has ever passed our lips. Putting the surprise on the beer aside, one half of our tasting panel loved the way it created a smooth, boozy pairing that might be further enhanced with a cigar, a lovely evening and plenty of time to enjoy the trio.

Bulleit 95 Rye
A fan of the aroma of the rye whiskey, the flavor takes a backseat to the Bourbon for us and made us more skeptical about being able to select beers that would make suitable boilermakers. Ninkasi chose their Yours Truly Easy-Drinking Ale, a beer with "a sweetly-toasted malt profile and delicate hop bouquet" to pair and we were happily surprised to find Stickmen's lightly flavored The Bee's Knees a winner. Using Pilsner malt, a sweetly flavored,  lightly colored malt, and floral Tettnanger hops this beer likely works due to similarities to Yours Truly. 

In thinking about other beer styles that might work, we reflected on rye-containing beers we've had in the past. Often the lighter based varieties allowed more of the spiciness of the rye to come out more than we would prefer whereas those with a darker base have tended to taste more balanced and "right" to our palate, even some that leaned malty. While overtly malty beers, like Pelican Sea 'N Red Irish Red Ale don't generally make our hop-loving taste buds sing we happened to have some on hand we figured we should at least give it a try. Indeed, when paired with 95 Rye the beer found redemption in our eyes. Here the maltiness of the beer made a fine companion to the rye of the whiskey.  

Many thanks to the hearty souls who went on this adventure with us. Many thanks to the faithful readers who didn't pass over this post because there was something besides beer in it. We're always open to experiences that expand our minds and palates and hope you enjoy learning along with us.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mark Your Calendar for Coalition's CBD Beer Fest Friday

"Patio weather" seems to have been in shorter supply than usual so far this year but the forecast looks more yea than nay for the rest of the week. We especially have our fingers crossed for Mother Nature to cooperate on Friday when Coalition Brewing will be hosting their Two Flowers CBD Beer Fest starting at 3 pm.

Two Flowers was the first CBD beer Coalition, and in fact any brewery in Oregon, produced. Debuting in January 2017, we have enjoyed it multiple times since then and we are looking forward to trying the other CBD beers that will be pouring at this event. Ensemble, a NW Pale Ale with OG Kush terpenes will also available; it is their latest project with True Terpenes, Portland makers of organic, food grade terpenes. 

Besides just enjoying the beer during the course of the 7-hour event there will be:
- 4:20 pm special toast 
- live music
- The Jamaica House food cart
- terpene sensory station by True Terpenes
- games
- giveaways 
- 6:00 pm panel discussion featuring a hemp lobbyist, hemp community advocate, CBD educator and hemp clothier 

Coalition's gorgeous new patio has been open since March (along with new, open daily hours) so if you haven't checked out this Friday's event is the perfect excuse to do so. 

Coalition Brewing
Two Flowers CBD Beer Fest
Friday, April 2oth 3 - 10pm
2705 SE Ankeny St

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Salty Snacks Pairing - Doritos Edition

Last July we broke off from our beer and Girl Scout Cookies pairing, venturing down a Kettle chips-guided salty road. Since then we'd been toying around with the idea of another chip pairing and last weekend we did the first, of which there may be whole series of, additional chip and/or salty snack pairings. 

Chris arrived at our local with four of the who-knows-how-many flavors of Doritos
- Sweet Spicy Chili
- Salsa Verde
- Chile Limon
- Tapatio
In addition, Dave happened upon our pairing party and contributed a bag of Lundberg Sesame Seaweed Rice Chips.

The chip that turned out to be most pair-able was Sweet Spicy Chili, working well with:
- StormBreaker Good...Not Great imperial red ale
- de Garde Imperial Peach Bu Berliner Weisse
- Culmination 4 & 20 imperial CDA
- New Holland Cabin Fever brown ale
- Anchor Porter
The sweet-spiciness of the chips married well with the maltiness of the StormBreaker, New Holland and Anchor while the darkness of the Culmination provided a nice compliment. Perhaps most surprising was how well the de Garde fruit sour worked, resulting in a sweet heat flavor reminiscent of Burnside's Sweet Heat beer.

Chile Limon, the spiciest of the chips and the one that made the most mess of one's hands with its heavily saturated dusting, was the second most pair-able, finding friends in:
- Zoiglhaus Zoigl-Pils
- Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Ale
- New Holland Cabin Fever brown ale
Not surprisingly the maltiness of the Oskar Blues and New Holland beers offset the heat of the chips. With the Old Chub the pairing took on a spicy tomato flavor and the Cabin Fever highlighted the lime flavor in the chips. Somewhat surprising was that the Pils was able to stand up to the assertive chip.

Tapatio, using one of our favorite readily available hot sauces, was best with: 
- Level Ready Player One Saison 
- New Holland Cabin Fever brown ale
- Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish ale
In the case of the Saison, the hot sauce flavor transformed the beer into more of a lager profile. With the brown ale and Scottish ale, similar to the pairing with Chile Limon, the maltiness of the beers complimented the chip's spiciness.

Salsa Verde, the most mildly flavored of the Doritos, turned out to be one of the most difficult to pair with. Level's Ready Player One dry-hopped Saison overpowered it and the peppers were unpleasantly brought to prominence with Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Ale. Only de Garde Imperial Peach Bu really worked, with the flavor combination being similar to a fruit salsa one might find on a fish taco. 

Although we weren't previously familiar with Lundberg Sesame Seaweed Rice Chips the chips on their own had a pleasant flavor and hearty feeling in the mouth. They made for a three-way tie to be second most pair-able with beers that had paired well with other chips. 
- Zoiglhaus Zoigl-Pils
- Level Ready Player One Saison
- Culmination 4 & 20 imperial CDA
The lightness of the Pils and Saison seemed obvious pairings while Culmination's imperial CDA was quite a surprise. On the surface we assumed that the beer would easily overpower the rice chips however putting more thought into it, the sesame may have been the key ingredient that made it work. Tahini, the highly flavorful paste made from ground sesame seeds, is what gives hummus its distinct flavor and may have been what allowed the chips to stand up to the CDA.

As our salt-saturated adventure wound down we pondered how to proceed. With the vastness of salty snacks available we decided there would need to be categories/installments since like Doritos, each group has many flavors available. Those might end up looking like:
- Old school potato chips (i.e. BBQ, sour cream & onion, including Cheetos)
- Fritos
- Pringles
- Triscuits
- Wheat Thins
- Veggie crisps (including Funyuns because onions are veggies)
- Croutons
- Random Asian store chip aisle
- Pringles

For now, however, we'll continue recovering from our salt hangovers. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

What's Ahead for Widmer?

Earlier this week we took part in a 52-person tasting panel at Widmer's recently remodeled pub. Alerted to it by a Facebook posting, "Become a Widmer Brothers Taste Tester!" it was billed an an opportunity to give their innovation brewmasters feedback on unreleased beers they're working on for next year. Following the link we found an application that was a bit different than we had expected. In addition to asking the reasons applicants felt they were qualified to participate, it asked which breweries applicants bought beer from and/or visited on a regular basis. Not a strange question but instead of a list there was a text box to type in the answer. While the format may have been somewhat random we thought it was an interesting approach to it; we put more thought into it than if we were simply checking the boxes next to a given list. 

Whatever they were looking for we apparently met their criteria and were notified we'd been chosen. On our way there we pondered what styles of beers we might be tasting. Would their be a hazy offering? Would we be trying things that would be broadly marketable with the intent to be bottled? Would they be pub-only offerings? 

Arriving, noticing the differences that had been made during the remodel, we grabbed seats next to a couple of familiar faces. The bones of the space have remained the same but the overall feel is more nightclub-esque with a stage and colored lights shining on the brewing tanks that are visible through glass windows. The biggest change however may be that they have ditched the kitchen. With the exception of a few snack offerings - chips and salsa and the like - patrons are invited to bring their own food in. This includes grabbing something from the food truck parked across the street, which on that night was the Chicagoland deep dish pizza truck. 

But back to the reason we were there - to try the beer. A small group of marketing and innovation brewery representatives got things rolling, introducing the first beer, a pale ale named Hashburst. The pale ales that tend to tickle our palate the most are of the hoppy variety that come closer to being IPAs. This one didn't quite get there but the presence of the hops late palate and in the aftertaste were enough that we would consider drinking this if it ended up making the cut.

Next up was actually a trio of beers that featured hibiscus and other ingredients on a Berliner Weiss base. 
Hibiscus Orange - The huge orange aroma and flavor overpowered the dry-finishing beer.
Hibiscus Grapefruit - As with the orange, the grapefruit flavor dominated the beer but then, oddly, all flavor completely fell off at the end.
Hibiscus Azacca - Finally the hibiscus got to take the lead with this beer but at the expense of a complete lack of hop character and like the grapefruit version, zero flavor in the finish. 
Our impression was that all three of these were "training wheels" sour beers, ones that might play well enough in markets that are not familiar with sour beers on the whole. In a mature market like Portland it would be difficult to imagine them doing well in their current form.

The final beers were a pair of terpene-dosed beers. Terpenes are essential oils and in this case essential oils of hops' cousin, marijuana.
Dreifecta Pilsner - Huge weed aroma with a cedar backbone, the flavor had more pilsner characteristics with the cedar continuing its presence.
Hospitality IPA - A more balanced aroma, the flavor was consistent with that of an IPA with lingering pine-grapefruit notes.
Of the two beers the aggressively-dosed Pilsner seemed least successful with its cedar flavor being something that is unlikely to be appealing to the majority of consumers. The IPA had more commercial potential but we were left wondering "why terpenes?" on the whole. Perhaps Widmer is looking to ride the wave of weed's popularity (and legality) without incurring the cost of CBD oil. Who knows, perhaps it will be the next big thing once the hazy craze loses its shine.

Overall the evening was an interesting experience and we'll be interested to see:
A. If any of these beers make it to market.
B. If Widmer does future tasting panels.
C. If we'll be invited back.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Von Ebert Brewing Opens

Today Von Ebert Brewing, which occupies the former Fat Head's brewpub in the Pearl District, opens its doors to the public. We were thrilled to be asked and able to accept an invitation to attend the soft opening over the weekend. We couldn't try all of the beer and food so this isn't an extensive review but we hope our sneak peek will encourage you to visit them for yourself. 

Closed for a mere eight days for the transition, minor aesthetic changes have been made to the original design of the large interior, a set up that maximizes the space while distinguishing three seating areas: bar seating, the table seating in the bar area and the booth-dominated seating that is more conducive to families or larger groups. Another component that appears to have been tweaked rather than overhauled is the staff. Even though we were not Fat Head's regulars we saw plenty of familiar faces on staff from our visits, something that speaks not only to the quality of the staff but also to the ownership's ability to understand the value of good employees. 

The beer and food offerings, not surprisingly, reflect the deepest changes. About half of the full line up of beers was available during the soft opening, which was still more than sufficient. Remaining IPA-heavy as had been the case with Fat Head's, fans of The Commons Brewery will feel the influence brewer Sean Burke has brought with him in Silent Acidity, a Lacto and Sacchro beer, and the Saison/farmhouse ale, Flat Nose Shovel. We loved the complexity and mouthfeel of the rye IPA (Road With No End), the tropical flavors in Spot Buy IPA and found the Pilsner and Kolsch to be well-crafted German-style beers.

The food menu offers familiar brewpub categories - appetizers, salads, pizzas, wings, sandwiches and burgers - with two noticeable changes. The first is that those delicious pierogies are no longer available. The second is the addition of three charcuterie and cheese boards, each featuring three cheeses, three cured meats and accompaniments. Cheese is one of our favorite foods, especially when it is served along with beer, and this take on it is something that would feed two people for a light meal or could be shared by many more for a starter. In fact all of the food we tried and saw delivered to nearby tables appeared to be Fat Head's sized. Instead of worrying about going hungry, the greater danger is you'll find your table laden with enough food to feed twice the number in your party. We call that a good problem to have.

We're excited for Sean and the whole Von Ebert Crew and are looking forward to returning!

Von Ebert Brewing
131 NW 13th Avenue
Open daily at 11:30 am