Sunday, September 30, 2018

Beer Cocktails: Oktoberfest & Vodka Edition

This year we've been getting more exposure to liquor and the experiences have opened our eyes and palates. We're not afraid to admit that the hard stuff has been intimitating, probably not too dissimilar to when we started drinking craft beer. What is actually good? What is worth the cost? What do we enjoy?

One of our partners on this exploration has been Annebelle, who has a great palate, a taste for cocktails and an eye for presentation. We came up with the idea to try our hand at making beer cocktails, getting together on a monthly basis to test out various combinations of a designated liquor and a style of beer each time. And while having more cooks in the kitchen isn't the best of plans, having another set of taste buds for our experimenting seemed prudent. Insert Lee who has a wealth of experience with tipples - being a mead maker, brewer and distiller - and is just as adventurous as we are.

Since fall is here it felt fitting to use Oktoberfests for the beer style and being our first go around, we chose one of the easier liquors to mix - vodka. What we came up with were a handful of cocktails, that may be subject to a bit more refining in the future, but we quite enjoyed and felt were worth sharing.

- Occidental Festbier
- Olde York Farm micro batch ramp vodka from Hudson, NY
- pickle brine
- lemon juice
- togarishi, salt, sugar, cayenne rim
- lemon slice and pickle garnish
All of the splashiness of a cocktail visually, this creation used a special vodka Lee hand carried back from a trip out east and a house-made version of togarishi in the rimming mixture. Reminiscent of a Bloody Mary in flavor without the heaviness from tomato juice.

Red Oktobier
- StormBreaker Stomtoberfest
- Belvedere vodka
- Apeol
- orange bitters
- lime garnish
Light and bright were the first words that came to mind upon trying this negroni-inspired beer cocktail. Using Apeol, similar to Campari but with a lower ABV, and beer made for a less bracing cocktail and the bitters filled in for Vermouth. 

Hipster Beerlini
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- peach juice
- peach slice garnish
A bellini can be a simple cocktail, just sparkling wine and peach juice or schnapps, and it's that simplistic take that we used to create our cocktail. Drawing on the beer for the carbonation sparkling wine would contribute we balanced the sweetness of the juice with just enough vodka to keep it feeling cocktail-ish. Using a perfectly ripe peach slice as garnish conjured up the aroma of being in the orchard at the height of harvest. 

Passion of the Beerlini
- StormBreaker Stormtoberfest
- New Deal vodka
- Amoretti passion fruit puree
- La Croix passionfruit
- lime
- muddled red raspberries
Taking the inspiration of a bellini further afield, we switched from peach to passion fruit for the juice component and added to the carbonation with flavored sparkling water. Muddling red raspberries gave it a rich color, with the lime providing a citrus brightness.

Although we had decided to make our concoctions with Oktoberfest beers and vodka after a few attempts with Spaten's beer we agreed whiskey was the way to go with it. Thus the final cocktail to come out of this installment uses a local whiskey and a majority local ingredients.
Go Westward, Spaten
- Spaten Oktoberfest
- House Spirits Westward whiskey
- Raft Botanicals smoked tea vanilla
- orange bitters
- The Barreled Bee whiskey barrel-aged honey rim
- orange peel

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

House Spirits Distillery - Rooted in Craft Beer

"It takes a lot of beer to make whiskey." We're not sure who first said it but up until recently we took it to mean that distillers drink a lot of beer. While we'll leave them to say yea or nay, we've also learned that it literally takes a lot of beer, albeit without hops, to distill down into whiskey. So much that House Spirits in SE Portland utilizes 15 tons of malted barley per WEEK. Read on for a look at why they feel their beer brewing roots are integral to the whiskey they make.

Christian Krogstad and John Foyston
Founder Christian Krogstad, a Seattle native who attended the Siebel Institute and said his early years were greatly influenced by Redhook, moved to Portland in 1991. Right out of the gate he signed on with McMenamins Edgefield, which had just opened its brewery onsite. He spent quite a few years in the craft brewing world before he made the decision to apply his combination of education and experience brewing beer to distilling spirits, malt whiskey in particular. Those years instilled in him a deep understanding of the innovation that started the craft brewing movement in the Northwest and it was that innovative mindset, not Scottish tradition as one might suspect, that House Spirits is based on.

The self-funded enterprise began in 2004 in a modest facility adjacent to Roots Brewing (which closed in 2010) in SE Portland. Roots was the first, followed by many other local breweries, that allowed House Spirits to use their brewing system to make the basis for their whiskey, what is know as a wash. For those unfamiliar with the whiskey making process, a wash is similar to beer but what distinguishes a wash from beer is the time it takes to make it (far shorter) and that no hops are added. As mentioned before, however, they use plenty of grain in the fermentation of the approximately 8% ABV wash, 15,000 gallons of which is produced weekly. 

Christian's brewing background led to his choice to use all Northwest 2 Row Pale Ale malt as well as his choice of yeast. Instead of a standard distiller's yeast, the House Spirits wash is made with an ale yeast that he feels imparts a better flavor in the final productIn addition to drawing on his brewing background to choose ingredients, he has also assembled a team of distillers that, save one, worked for a brewery before signing on with House Spirits. The brewing knowledge that each member of the team brings with them is part of their lineage, linking them in a very concrete way to their brewing roots.

In 2015 House Spirits moved from their original SE facility to a much more roomy facility, intentionally selected to keep them in SE. The facility boasts a 30bbl brewing system and four 100bbl fermenters and is 10x larger than the original space. While no longer bursting at the seams and having a greater need to use the brewing set ups at local breweries like when they were making washes at Roots Brewing, Christian continues to partner with local breweries. Alameda, Breakside, Fort George, Migration and Green Dragon have all worked with House Spirits. In fact when Breakside opened their Milwaukie location they wanted to get plenty of practice on their new, larger brewing system. It wasn't beer that was first made however, it was a House Spirits wash. 

Christian pulling whiskey samples from the Frankie Claus barrel
Another ongoing relationship involves Migration's Frankie Claus, an imperial Belgian chocolate stout. Initially Migration got a whiskey barrel from House spirits and aged a run of Frankie Claus in it. Once the beer was emptied out of the barrel it went back to House Spirits where they decided to fill it with three year old Westward whiskey. After sitting in the barrel for a year the whiskey was pulled out and House Spirits released a stout whiskey. With both parties deeming it successful, this cycle has continued with the same barrel, now on the fifth filling of it. 

Just as we've found ourselves entranced listening to brewers talk about their history, their beer, their projects for the future, so, too were we entranced listening to Christian talk about House Spirits. If the brief picture we've provided you from our visit has whet your whistle for more then it's time for you to experience it yourself. Tours are available daily, public classes covering a variety of different topics occur every week or two and private classes/events are available.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2nd Annual Radler Fest

Dude. It's HOT. And while we're happy to quench our heat-induced thirst with refreshing, delicious craft beer the radler line up for Saturday's 2nd Annual Radler Fest at StormBreaker Brewing sounds even better.

The event will feature radlers from 20+ breweries/cideries that range from 2.4% to 5.5%. We recently had the opportunity to try a handful of the radlers from this sessionable lineup, three featuring beer, two featuring a new canned wine and both of the offerings from Steigl, sponsors of the event. We can't count how many times we've enjoyed Steigl Grapefruit, available almost anywhere, but it's the Zitrone (lemon) that is our favorite from these folks that started it all. Now onto some new ways radlers are being imagined.

We'll start with the wine radlers - Picnic Sparkling Wine Cocktails, a new product from the owners of Bull Run Distillery. Available in 12oz cans with a chardonnay base both the Berry (acai, pomegranite, blueberry) and Citrus (pineapple, lemon, tangerine, peach) versions are a bit on the sweet side for our beer-loving palates but are worth a try, especially for non-beer lovers.

The beer radlers we sampled came from 54° 40', Pono and event host, StormBreaker. 
54° 40' Ginger Lemonade Radler - Starting off with the aroma from the kolsch base, the flavor is a great blend of lemonade and the hand grated ginger that was used.
Pono Purple Stuff - We can't overlook that this is one of the best names, embracing the rad days of years past, and offers a flavor was more complex than the aroma - think Welch's grape juice - suggested. To make their entry for the event, Pono blended Brown Bag Vintage, a beer made with wheat and chocolate rye, Division Wines' Nebbiolo Must and a late addition of Pacific Gem hops, with grape soda. 
StormBreaker Passionately Pineapple - Total ReKolsch is refreshing on its own and finds a perfect partner with passion fruit and pineapple juices for a radler that is reminiscent of a mimosa. 

If your interest has been peaked and you're up for more creative, playful creations like those we tried, put this atop your To Do list for Saturday and get your tickets now!

2nd Annual Radler Fest
Saturday, August 11th 12 - 6pm
StormBreaker Brewing
Tickets: $18 in advance (festival mug and 10 tickets) or $20 at the door (festival mug and 8 tickets)
Additional tasting tickets will be for sale at the event
Kid, dog and designated driver friendly

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Picks for OBF 2018

The 31st Annual Oregon Brewers Festival kicks off on Thursday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. For those paying close attention, you'll notice that it's one day later than in recent years. The festival has scaled back from a five-day event to a four-day event for multiple reasons but has added a couple wine and cider options. 

A perusal of the beer list shows plenty of IPAs and a fair number of fruited beers that are made with guava. It's going to be a warm OBF so those lighter beers took on a particular shine as we compiled our hit list. Taking into consideration the number of beers we anticipate being able to consume during one visit, we divided our list of 45 beers (of the total 80+) into Tier 1 and Tier 2 (and further divided them by South and North tents). Our plan is to make it through as many of the Tier 1 beers we can and count ourselves lucky if we are able to return for a second day to take on Tier 2.

Tier 1 - South Tent
Backwoods Brewing Dreamsicle Kolsch - beer debuts at OBF, oranges and vanilla, 5%
Breakside Brewery Limon Pepino - lager conditioned on lime zest and 225lbs of cucumber, 4.9%
Heathen Brewing Raspberry Rhubarb Sour Ale - the description is all in the name, 5.7%
Zoiglhaus Brewing Company Elderberry Berliner Weisse - again, the description is all in the name, 2.8%
Caldera Brewing Company Coco-Nutty Blonde - golden ale brewed with toasted coconut chips and rolled oats for body, 5.6% 
Boneyard Beer Pinot Pulp - pale ale inoculated with Brettanomyces and aged six months in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, 7%
Oregon City Brewing Company Guavador Dali IPA - NE-style IPA with pink guava, 7%
RiverBend Brewing We Found Barb in the Strawberry Field - imperial milkshake IPA with lactose, vanilla and strawberry and rhubarb purees, 8% 
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Do You Even Zest?! - limited release imperial IPA with freshly zested citrus, 7.5%
Gigantic Brewing Magnificent 527 - IPA with Experimental Hop 527 that displays pineapple, mango, lemon and subtle strawberry aromas and flavors, 6.3%
Fort George Brewery It Takes Two to Mango - NE-style mango IPA, 7.5%
Everybody's Brewing Guango Deep - imperial hazy IPA with guava, mango and fruity hop flavors, 9.3%

Tier 1 - North Tent
Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro Currantly Hip Sour - American-style kettle-soured ale with a house blend of Lactobacillus and flavor of black currants and other forest fruit, 4.9%
Freebridge Brewing Summertime Radness - kettle-soured Berliner Weisse infused with rose of Merlot grapes, 4.3%
Fremont Brewing Limeshine - Pilsner with German malts, Yakima hops and lime, 5.5%
Fortside Brewing Company The Real Slim Hazy - hazy IPA, 5.5%
Natian Brewery 1306 - milkshake IPA with citrus backbone and juicy hop profile, made specifically for OBF, 6.8%

Tier 2 - South Tent
Insurgente Juan Cordero - Baja Calfornia, Mexico brewery made Pale Ale, 5.5%
Ecliptic Brewing Flamingo Planet Guava Blonde Ale - 100% pale malt, lightly hopped Blonde brewed with guava, 4.7%
Pelican Brewing Company To Peach Their Own! - lager infused with 500lbs of Oregon peach puree, 6%
Upright Brewing Berliner Weisse - soured with Lactobacillus in the fermenter and finished with Brettanomycs, brewed in February to allow the beer to develop, 3.6%
Portland Brewing Tart Me Up! - Berliner Weisse with grapefruit, mango and pineapple purees, 4.4%
Kells Brewery Mezcal-a-Gose - fruity, salty and smoky kettle-soured Gose inspired by the Mezcal cocktail, 5.5%
Ninkasi Brewing Company Fruited Gose - traditional unfiltered wheat ale with raspberries and lime, 4.2%
Widmer Brothers Brewing Lemonic Possession - imperial IPA brewed with lemon-nuanced hops and lemon zest, 8.8%
GoodLife Brewing Company Long Acronym - dry-hopped wine barrel-aged mixed fermentation blended Brettanomyces India Pale Lager, 7.8% 
Old Market Pub & Brewery Punchy Peach - imperial wheat ale aged for seven months in French oak Pinot barrels topped off with 250lbs of Oregon tart peaches, 7.8%
Cascade Brewing Belmont Street Bramble - blended Northwest-style sour ale aged in oak wine barrels with red raspberries and tangerine peel, 6.5%

Tier 2 - North Tent
Perennial Artisan Ales Bridge of the Gods - dry-hopped Grisette, 4.7%
Rogue Ales Pinch - imperial Gose, brewed specifically for OBF, 7%
Sasquatch Brewing Company American Aquarium Drinker - Gose brewed with squid ink and seaweed, 4.5%
Agua Mala Sirena - Baja California, Mexico brewery made Pilsner, 5.2%
Great Northern Brewing Company Big Mountain Tea - Pale Ale with subtle notes of Earl Grey tea, 5.2%
Silver Falls Brewery Wisp - raspberry wheat beer with raspberries added to the end of fermentation, 5.5%
Thunder Island Brewing Company Fuzzy Wit - Wit with generous mid-fermentation additions of Oregon peaches, 5.5%
Gilgamesh Brewing CBD Pale Ale - generously hoped Pale Ale with 5mg CBDs per 12oz serving, 5.6%
Transpeninsular Cerveceria Playitas Cali Pale Ale - Baja California, Mexico brewery made "double session IPA," 5.4%
Wendlandt Cerveceria Perro del Mar - Baja California, Mexico brewery made West Coast-style IPA, 7% 
Deschutes Brewery Fruit Fight - NE-style IPA brewed with six hop varieties, 6.7%
pFriem Family Brewers Mango Milkshake IPA - hazy and juicy IPA base with lactose, vanilla beans and mango puree, 7.9%
Oproer Refuse//Resist - Netherlands brewery made fruity double IPA, 8.5%
Border Psycho Brewery Pervesa - Baja California, Mexico brewery made imperial IPA, 9.3%
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery The Jester's Nightcap - imperial stout, 9%
New Holland Brewing Company I Like Pretzel Day - stout made with soft pretzels in the mash, bourbon barrel-aged for three months and balanced with extra salt and caramel, 8%
Heretic Brewing Company Goo - imperial milk stout, 12%

For ease of checking in when we're at the festival we've created a wish list in Untappd. Following our check ins and comments there will be the quickest way to see what rings our bell. We will also try to get a quick post up here or on Facebook after our first visit. No promises though because, well, you know how attending a beer festival can reduce one's motivation. 

Oregon Brewers Festival
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Thursday, July 26 - Sunday, July 29
Opens at Noon daily, closes at 9 pm Thursday - Saturday, 7 pm Sunday

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

West Coast Grocery Company Opens

Nope, we haven't started covering the opening of new places to do your grocery shopping. West Coast Grocery Company is in fact a brewery located in the heart of inner SE across Stark Street from Beer and Meat Cheese Bread and kitty corner from Revolution Hall. The name speaks to times past when the heart of the neighborhood was the corner grocery and in fact the owners' family has a history in the Northwest wholesale grocery business dating back to 1891.

Occupying the corner space of the building, the brewery features a sunken brewing floor that is open to the main level of seating, accessed by entering from street level. The bright space is made up by a combination of tables and bar rails on the perimeter. Go up a short flight of stairs from there and one reaches the second seating area where the bar is located. In addition to more tables there is a cozy living room like seating space as well as a shuffle board table.

WCGco has brewed a handful of beers with local breweries - Laurelwood, Breakside, Level, Baerlic and Victor 23 - that they will be pouring with guest beers from their 12 taps. As it turned out we had already tried the collaboration with Level, a Norwegian take on a Grisette, while at Level. An easy drinking 4.3% and exactly what we would expect from the style, it's great for warm weather drinking or the start of any session. As good as that was, we opted to try a couple of others that we had not yet tasted, starting with the hazy IPA collaboration with Victor 23. Fuzzy Balls Hazy IPA clocks in at a moderate 6% and features a pleasant hop presence. The other IPA available during our visit was Bo-De-Ga, a collaboration with Breakside. As expected from such an IPA powerhouse, this is a solid IPA that fans of Breakside's beers should enjoy. While they were out of the Laurelwood collaboration (a pale ale) and we didn't get around to the Baerlic (a pilsner), this initial line up offers a well rounded representation of styles.

To accompany the liquid libations their kitchen offers a small but something-for-everyone menu of snacks, salads, sandwiches, wings and burgers. At the preview we attended we were able to try a slider sized version of their burger, wings (both garlic soy and sweet & spicy), fries with Portland ketchup and spicy feta dip, potato salad, won ton chips, pork cracklings and jalapeno nacho cheese. All were well made with our favorites being the burgers and anything coated with the addictive jalapeno nacho cheese.

The soft opening takes place today, July 24 5 - 10 pm, with the grand opening scheduled for Thursday, July 26. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook for the latest updates on both events.

West Coast Grocery Company
1403 SE Stark Street

Monday, July 16, 2018

Von Ebert Opens Second Location

Today is the grand opening for Von Ebert's second location, located next to the Pro Shop of the Glendoveer Golf Course at NE 140th and Glisan. The space housed the RingSide Grill up until last August and has been re-imagined by Von Ebert with lodge-style decor. The large bar dominates the main room inside, with additional seating in a second room and on two patios for a total of nearly 250 seats.

We had a chance to check it out over the weekend and even with as warm at it was, sitting on the covered patio with a view of the 10th hole the golf course was very pleasant. For those that have been to the downtown location the food menu will look very similar, with a couple of location-exclusive additions. The beer menu is currently similar as well, but will become more distinctive once brewing starts on the JVNW built 3.5bbl system this fall. The plan is to focus on German lagers, Saisons, Belgian-inspired beers and spontaneous, mixed culture and sour beers. Utilizing space that isn't available at the downtown location they will be able to have multiple foudres, wine puncheons, a coolship and barrels also.

Having enjoyed the food downtown previously, this time we made sure to choose items we hadn't tried before. In an effort not to avoid over order, we went with the sausage and peppers pizza and an order of onion rings. As it turned out we would have had plenty if we had only ordered the onion rings, a huge basket containing some of the largest onion rings we've seen. Perfectly cooked with a breading that didn't flake off, accompanied by a chipotle BBQ sauce and ranch, and in no way greasy, this is the standard all future onion rings will be judged against. The thin crust pizza popped with color from the peppers and got a hearty flavor from the sausage. Enough for two people to split, or one hungry person on their own, it makes for a great combo with the beer.

On the beer side, we also tried to order new-to-us beers although we did end up with one we'd tried before. The 12 beers available ranged from Pilsner to IPAs, all the way to an imperial barrel aged stout. Das Dom, the "repeat beer," is a Kolsch-style, session beer that starts with a bit of a sweet aroma but drinks less so and tasted particularly fine on the patio. We were split on which beer was our favorite with the tie being between Sabrage and Chapter 3. Sabrage is a Brut IPA, a style that seems to be popping up all over as a bit of a correction from the [over] abundance of hazy IPAs that have recently come into favor. The light aroma was followed by a juicy and refreshing flavor and clocked in at a moderate 6.1% ABV. Chapter 3, a West Coast IPA, showcased the deliciousness of Simcoe, Mosaic and Azacca hops, again with a moderate ABV of 6.4%. Had we not been so full from the food we may well have enjoyed an extended patio session alternating between these two.

While this new location is a bit further out, for those who tend to focus on inner Portland, the trade off is a relaxed golf course setting that can be enjoyed year round with ample, free parking. Plus, once the brewing system cranks up later this year, they'll be putting out sour and mixed culture beers. With head brewer Sean Burke's background at The Commons we expect to see some outstanding beers being produced and are excited for many return visits.

Von Ebert Brewing (East)
14021 NE Glisan
11 am - 11 pm Monday - Thursday
11 am - midnight Friday & Saturday
11 am - 1o pm Sunday
Family friendly

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Picks for Cider Summit 2018

The 2018 Cider Summit kicks off Friday at 3pm (2pm if you spring for the VIP entry) at The Fields Park. With over 200 ciders from more than 60 cideries some hard choice are going to be made because even if you attend the full 10 hours of the festival spanning Friday and Saturday afternoons, in order to try all of the ciders you'd have to maintain a pace of one sample every three minutes. That doesn't even leave time for bathroom breaks or eating! 

We've compiled a short list of ciders we're most excited about, some of which we were introduced to for the first time last week. Some of those made our short list and overall we're giving preference to Oregon cideries even though the Washington, California, New Hampshire, New York, Canada, England, France and Spain cideries that will be there will likely have some things we would love. Tough choices. 

The top eight cideries we'll scouring the festival grounds for:
^5 Cider - 4 ciders and although most of what we've tried from them has gone a little overboard with the sour/tartness they made a cider for the Fruit Cider Challenge called Pineapple & Oak that sounds tasty and interesting.
Apple Outlaw - 4 ciders, including one in the Fruit Cider Challenge. We have very little experience with this cidery but the Pura Vida Pineapple has gotten pretty good ratings on Untappd and we do enjoy pineapples in our cider. Since the Challenge cider wasn't listed in advance that might be a game time decision.
Baird & Dewar - 4 ciders, including Peach Fuzz as their Fruit Cider Challenge entry. Having had three of their ciders before, including a previous version of Constitution and a peach/apricot blend, we were pleased to find leather or barnyard funk in all of them. That bodes well for these four and we might have to try all of them.
Blue Mountain - 3 ciders, all "Limely." We've only had one of theirs to date but were impressed by the fruit profile in the raspberry so we'll have to try at least one of these.
Bull Run - 4 ciders, of which we have had the Bramble Berry, and including Pineapple Perry for the Fruit Cider Challenge. The Bramble along with the Cranberry Perry we had both exhibited the barnyardy characteristic that never fails to hook us. Perhaps we'll have to do a back-to-back-to-back with their pineapple, ^5 and Apple Outlaw.
New West (the cider arm of Sasquatch Brewery) - 4 ciders, including a cherry one in the Fruit Cider Challenge. Of the four they are pouring we've had two, one we loved, one that was meh. It's likely we'll have at least one of the other two.
WildCraft - 3 ciders, one of which we had at the preview and two others, one barrel-aged and one a farmhouse. Yep, we'll be giving those a try!
Bandon Rain - 3 ciders, of which Don't Burn Grose sounds intriguing. Read on to see why.

Although we tried all of the 1859 Cider Co. from Salem at the preview, they were delicious and we HIGHLY encourage you to try them, too.

Perhaps we'll see you there tomorrow (and say hi if you see us first!).

2018 Cider Summit
The Fields Park, 1099 NW Overton
3 - 8pm Friday, 12 - 5pm Saturday
$35 general admission tickets at the door include tasting glass and 12 tickets, additional tasting tickets $2 each

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)