Monday, May 13, 2019

Beer Cocktails: Tequila Edition

Our first three forays into creating beer cocktails found us testing our hand with whiskey, vodka and rum. This time around we went for a slightly more challenging spirit - tequila. While not our spirit of choice in general we have enjoyed some professionally made tequila-based cocktails. Gathering up some traditional cocktail recipes to use as our basis of inspiration we met up at Gateway Brewing with an assortment of fruit juices and other mix-ins, bitters, rimming ingredients and a few other select beers to round out our tequila cocktail-making bar. 

Joel and Karen Sheley, owners of Gateway, not only fully opened their brewery up to us but also their inviting and perfect-for-entertaining back yard on what turned out to be a gorgeous early May evening. That full access allowed us to sample and select from Gateway Pilsner, Exit 7 IPA, Wood Hill Stout, Jet Coffee Stout, Ventura Red Ale and Mahogany Dark Lager to match with the Reposado (oak aged) and Silver tequilas. Here are the best of this session's creations.

Gateway Mule
- Reposado tequila
- Gateway Ventura Red Ale
- Cock'n Bull ginger beer
- Jalapeno simple syrup
- Lime juice

As fans of the ginger beer based "mule" we couldn't resist creating our own version, using the Ventura to provide a more complex backbone.

Spicy Pineapple Margarita
- Silver tequila
Gateway Pilsner
- Pineapple juice
- Jalapeno simple syrup
- Lemon wedge
- Salt rim

We are not fans of the overly sugary versions of a margarita that one might find at a national chain restaurant and in making our beer cocktail version we opted for just a splash of fruit juice.

Nice & Easy
- Silver tequila
- Baerlic Nice & Easy
- Triple Sec
- Salt rim

Just like the Baerlic gose we used for this beer cocktail, the name seemed fitting for this easy to drink cocktail.

Night Falls
- Silver tequila
- Homemade Kahlua
Prairie Artisan Bomb (imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans and ancho chile peppers)

Transitioning from a sunny day of patio drinking to gathering around a fire, this three ingredient cocktail was inspired by the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate.

Muffin Maiden
- Great Notion Blueberry Muffin
- Silver tequila
- Limeade
- Lemon sugar rim
- Lime wedge

Great Notion Brewing's beers can be polarizing - either you like them or you don't. We happen to appreciate their unique contribution to the Portland beer scene and found that one of their beers made a very nice contribution to our cocktail creating.

Huge thanks go out to our hosts, Joel and Karen, along with our merry band of taste testers! 

Follow our adventures in picture form on our newly created Instagram account just for our cocktails, Craft Beer Concoctions.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Opening Day at Assembly Brewing

Today marks the official opening of the latest addition to the Portland Brewing scene, Assembly Brewing. Located on busy SE Foster in what had been a grocery store since 1948, the new charcoal and orange paint job makes it hard to miss from any direction. With plans to be open from 11am - 2am daily making time to stop in to check them out shouldn't be too hard.

We had a chance to check out the beer and food earlier this week and hear from owners Adam Dixon and George Johnson. The beer, according to George, is intended to be "flavorful, balanced and drinkable" with the goal that one can have a few pints and remain upright. The beers will be brewed in the 5.5% - 6.5% range and from the ones that we sampled, we agree that they do hearken back to the days before hop bombs and aggressive ABV beers became so common. The SMaSH, using 2 Row malt and Ekuanot hops, hit a high note for us with its bright, light hoppiness and easy drinking quality. In addition to their seven beers, they're also offering two Cider Riot! ciders and a handful of cocktails.

On the food side, the focus of the menu is on their Detroit style pizza which George makes from a proprietary dough recipe. Apparently the style started in a speakeasy and as one may have noticed, has been growing in popularity in recent years. Ex Novo, Ranch and East Glisan all offer their own versions of the square pies, with Assembly's sticking to similar parameters but putting their own touch on it, including the ability to order a veggie or vegan pie. If one isn't in the mood for pizza, they also offer sandwiches, salads and a handful of appetizers.

The space itself is big enough for a crowd, offering a mixture of high top and standard tables. An extensive mural dominates two of the walls and is worth taking the time to fully appreciate. There is also outdoor seating between the building and the 12-space parking lot. With spring just around the corner it will no doubt see plenty of use. As pinball fans we were thrilled to spy three machines - Ghost Busters, Hurricane and Theatre of Magic - that will need some of our attention next time we're in.

Adam, on the right, said that they hope "Assembly Brewing will become a cornerstone of the Foster-Powell neighborhood." It's a neighborhood that is changing and one that had been devoid of a brewery, with the closest ones being Hopworks west on Powell, Double Mountain south in Woodstock and Zoiglhaus to the east.

The grand opening, next Saturday, March 29th, will include live entertainment and some of the local artists that contributed to the aesthetics. Check out all of the details on their Facebook event.

Assembly Brewing   
6112 SE Foster Rd
Open 11am - 2am daily

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Portland Passport on Tap

A few weeks ago we were contacted by the folks over at Portland Passport on Tap about the app that they describe as “Portland’s first self-guided beer & cider tasting experience.” Initially launched in Montreal, Portland is their second market and there are plans to add Vancouver, BC and Seattle later this year. Basically it is a discounted way to experience pints or taster trays at local breweries and cideries. For $40 one selects 12 locations from the 21 currently available, conveniently listed in the app by geographical location. At each location the Passport user will receive either a pint or a three-glass taster set. 

The first location we visited after installing the app was Coalition Brewing. It’s a favorite of ours and we were pleased to find that when we ordered, the beertender was very familiar with the app. After we clicked to use Coalition and selected the beer (Circus Hour fruited CBD sour), we handed our phone to the beertender and she signed off on it. Easy-peasy. The app provided a welcome reminder that a tip was not included and after taking care of that we sat down and thoroughly enjoyed our beer.

The second location we visited with the app was Ex Novo. This beertender seemed a little less sure about the process but knew the basics and once again we were able to use it with absolute ease. The app notes that locations may place restrictions on what can be ordered, however as with the our visit to Coalition, no restrictions were conveyed when we ordered a Stereophonic hazy IPA at Ex Novo.

From the date of purchase users have one year to drink through the 12 locations they select. We appreciate that one does not have to select all 12 locations immediately and even once selected, they can be removed if they have yet to be used. Most of the 21 locations available are ones that we like and are happy to have yet another reason to visit (so many good places in Portland, so little time, right?). Also appreciated is that there is an online chat option within the app should any questions arise. Our inquiry was answered right away and as an extra bit of follow up we found a transcript of the chat in our inbox.

One caveat with this app is that it can only be used once at each location. Of course this is part of the goal of the app - to get users to make their way to multiple locations to taste [at least part] of what the Portland brewing scene has to offer. Whether it is more useful for locals or visitors is up for debate however what isn’t debatable is that it is a straightforward and user friendly addition to the encouragements-to-drink app market. Plus, at $40 for 12 pints, that's less than $3.50 a pint (+ tip).

We’ll be interested to see if they take off in this market, how often new locations in Portland are added and what other cities they pop up in. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Personalized Beer Mugs & More

We were recently contacted by Joe Debicella, Right Hand Man, at Groovy Guy Gifts with the offer to test out one of their products. To benefit the greater good we took him up on the offer, selecting the Gunmetal Glugger from their offerings and shortly thereafter it arrived at our door.

Before we get to the Glugger, a bit about GGG. The company was started to be “a site offering several unique personalized gifts for men” and while guys might be their target market our perusal of the items they offer - all with the ability to be personalized - would be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of what’s in their pants. The four person GGG team also has one female on the staff who “adds a woman's touch to a site run by and for men.” Now onto the mug.

The Gunmetal Glugger appears at first glance to be made of metal but is in fact a heavy duty glass mug (think in terms of the glass mug a bartender would heft out of the cooler to fill with a macro lager). Since we’re not big fans of drinking out of metal this suits us just fine, especially when one considers the cool see through bottom (see ----------->>>>).

Like all of the gifts on the GGG site, the mug can be personalized. There is space for up to 15 characters on each of two lines with an additional option of adding "best man", "groom", "groomsman", or "usher" to the banner below it. If none of these are fitting for the person you're buying it for, it can be kept plain.

Even if a mug doesn’t seem to be “the thing” for the person you have in mind, GGG has plenty of other options: travel bags, coolers, flasks, knives, cuff links, watches, wallets, decanters, bottle openers and lighters. Turn around time is pretty quick, as soon as 3-4 business days if you pay for the “Super Fast Shipping.” If you’ve planned ahead and don't need to rush it Standard Shipping is free for orders over $50.

Whether your looking for a gift for a sibling, spouse, parent or friend wander over to Groovy Guy Gifts and at least scroll through what they offer. Maybe you'll find the perfect thing for that person...or yourself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Girl Scout Cookies & Beer - Year Six

It’s that time of year again and if you haven’t seen them hawking their sugary treats around town or been asked by a friend or relative to buy them then clearly you’ve been living under a rock. Since Chris’ niece was once again selling them, he was once again buying a box of each variety available. Apparently the beer gods looked favorably upon us because we were able to sit down for our annual pairing foray less than a week after the cookies arrived. 

In advance of gathering at our local we perused past years’ pairing posts to see what beers had worked with what cookies, keeping a particular eye out for the unexpected pairs like Do-Si-Dos (peanut butter sandwich cookies) and Bell’s Winter White (Belgian style) or Samoas (coconuty) with Baerlic What the Fluff (hazy IPA). Referencing that information aided some of our decision making while the rest was left to our palates’ preferences and what shiny new things were available this year.

Block 15 Breakfast with Woodford
Our friend Paul brought this treat from his collection and overall the big, boozy stout brewed with maple syrup was a hit both on its own and with many of the cookies. With Toffee-tastic, the gluten free cookie that we were quite happy to see return this year, the pairing took on the flavor profile of French toast. The cookie provided a brioche-like base with its toffee bits playing off the maple syrup notes in the beer. Not surprisingly the rich coconuty Samoas made for a very decadent pairing. Thin Mints, for all of their perceived easy pairing with big, dark beers, have often not been as compatible as we had hoped however here the beer brought the mint to the forefront, making it pop in a deliciously sharp way.

Stone Xocoveza 
A favorite beer of Caren’s, this imperial stout was brewed to have a flavor profile similar to that of Mexican hot chocolate - deep with a balanced spiciness. As with the Block 15, it worked well with many of the cookies but particularly well with S’mores. This sandwich cookie not only does a great job of smelling like a s’more but also tasting like it and when paired with this beer the marshmallow flavor became enhanced to the point of almost reaching coconut.

Trap Door Mango Lassi
We’ve been impressed with Trap Door’s beers in general however none of us were particularly enamored by this sour/gose, that is until we had some cookie in our mouth at the same time. A tropical take on the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich resulted from pairing it with the Do-Si-Dos and the bright fruit helped to lighten up the chocolate covered peanut butter goodness of the Tagalongs. That light fruitiness also worked well to balance the overt sweetness of the S’mores cookie.

Tieton Cider Works Apricot
While we have primarily stuck to beer pairings, we have occasionally cracked open a cider and often found a compatible cookie for it. This year we tried out an apricot cider, agreeing that it was enjoyable on its own, and found its best mate in the tried and true Trefoils (aka Shortbread). The cookie’s butteriness held strong with a pleasant contribution of bright fruit from the cider. For a lighter pairing, the Savannah Smiles lemon cookie hit the mark.

Great Divide Orabelle
This Belgian-style ale “with spices” is in the same family as the Bell’s Winter White we mentioned previously. Similar to it, it’s not a beer we find particularly enjoyable on its own but we did find a pairing that redeemed the beer - the super sweet Samoas. The beer did its part to balance the cookie’s sweetness while the cookie transformed the beer into something that we quite enjoyed. 

Ex Novo Wooden Teeth
Another big, dark beer, this 13.4% ABV whiskey barrel-aged wee heavy ale also found a friend in the Samoas, here being decadent instead of being lightened. For being a "controversial" cookie (depending on your feeling about coconut) this year it turned out to be one of the most versatile and successfully paired cookies.

Thanks to all the friends that joined us, our local and the beertender on staff for making this another fun and palate-informing outing! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

5th Annual Brewstillery Festival

Brewstillery, the beer and spirits pairing festival from StormBreaker Brewing, kicks off its fifth year this Saturday, February 23 offering 22 beer and spirits pairings to attendees. The festival is something founders Dan and Rob had in mind from the beginning with Dan saying that they wanted to provide “an opportunity for people to try things they wouldn’t usually try.” We’ve certainly found that to be true every time we have attended and again recently when we had a chance to preview some of the pairings.

Both the beer and spirits lineups are diverse and wide ranging. From sours to IPAs to porters on the beer side and rums to whiskeys to liqueurs on the spirits side, it’s likely that even the most seasoned drinkers will come away from the festival having tried something new to their palate.

We don’t want to give away all the festival’s secrets but here are a few of the pairings that hit the mark with us.

Amigos e Amigas (Pono Three Amigos + Engenho Bruiti Dona Branca)
Three Amigos is a Mexican-style Lager made with a touch of agave to bring out the slight sweetness in this cane spirit from Brazil. We loved the overall light, simplicity of this pairing and highly recommend it as one of, if not the first, pairing festival goers try.

The Filbert in the Rye (Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar + Rogue Oregon Rye Malt Whiskey)
Back in the day Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown was one of our favorite beers. Since then our palates have matured and we are generally far less enamored with it than in the past. In this pairing, with Rogue’s spirit arm of the company providing Rye Malt Whiskey, the beer returns to some of its old glory.

Brewstillatron (StormBreaker Peter Hazel-rial Brewstillery 5 IPA + Rose City Citrus Vodka)
It’s no secret that we’re fans of IPAs and their sub-group hazy IPAs. While we enjoyed this beer on its own, the vodka trumped it in terms of citrus goodness. Together the two play off one another with the combination being slightly botanical and definitely delicious.

Wild Basin (Wild Ride Laughing Face Imperial Coconut Porter + New Basin Light Strong Whiskey)
This pairing is best described as “vacation in a glass” and not surprisingly with the use of an imperial coconut porter, is dessert-like. One of the few pairings we preferred boilermaker-style, save this until towards the end of the festival to sip upon and savor.

In addition to offering imbibers a unique pairing experience, the event benefits Dollar For Portland, an organization that assists those with financial burdens due to medical and hospital debt, and Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA, with StormBreaker’s one-of-a-kind Westward Whiskey barrel-aged version.

Tickets for the one-day event are available online until 10 am the day of the festival and for you, dear readers, at a price of $20 when you use the code “beerandwhiskey5” for general admission; $40 for VIP when you use the code “brewstileryVIP5”.

General admission: festival beer tasting glass and 10 tickets with Noon entry
VIP: festival beer tasting glass, festival whiskey snifter, 15 tickets and 11 am entry to mingle with brewers/distillers

5th Annual Brewstillery Festival
Saturday, February 23 Noon - 8pm

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Cheesy Start to February

We kicked off the "month of love" feeding our love of cheese with another installment of pairing it with beer, assisted by numerous, like-minded friends. Our usual crew picked up cheeses from Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer and Grocery Outlet (we’d heard they often have some good deals on good cheese), trying to select ones we hadn’t used in previous pairings. One friend, with family in Wisconsin, brought back three blocks of dairy goodness from his holiday visit. Other friends contributed their pairing skills helping to select beer and cider. From this fine time we found the following eleven pairings, in no particular order, to be our favorites.

Westminster Aged Cheddar with Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Helles Marzen
At 12 months old this cheese remains creamy, balancing the thin sharpness of this smoky beer.

Trader Joe’s Ghost Pepper Cheddar and Heretic Make America Juicy Again IPA
The cheese wasn’t overly spicy but did have a late palate heat that when combined with the juicy IPA was reminiscent of Burnside Brewing’s Sweet Heat. Since that beer is unlikely to be available again, if it’s something you enjoy, try out this beer and cheese pairing.

Trader Joe’s Ghost Pepper Cheddar with La Chouffe Blond
Going in a completely different route with this beer, the effervescence of the Belgian Strong Golden Ale complimented the cheese’s heat nicely. 

Roth Surchoix Grand Cru Alpine-Style Cheese with 2 Towns Riverwood Cider
Somehow this nutty cheese from Monroe, WI managed display both soft and hard characteristics at the same time, becoming more earthy when paired with the effervescent cider

Guinness Cheddar with Deschutes The Dissident with Marionberries
The oddest looking cheese of this installment, it looks and even tastes a bit like root a good way. When eaten with this tanic beer it goes from root beer to chocolate. Hard to describe but trust us on this one.

Guinness Cheddar with Sam Smith’s Nut Brown
Less decadent than the previous pairing with The Dissident, it still goes the dessert route, reminding us of eating chocolate cake.

Mullins 12 Year Super Sharp White Cheddar with Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
The sharpness of the Mosinee, WI cheese was brought out by this coffee beer and in return the cheese pulled the coffee flavor forward out of the sweetness of the beer. After a few bite, sip, bite, sip back and forths the combination was rich and dessert-like.

Murray’s Stilton with Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
As with other stout/blue cheese pairings we've tested out before, this one was a hit. A hunk of this delicious blue cheese and a bottle of this stout and bye, bye we’ll go off in a corner by ourselves, stopping only when the both of them have vanished.

Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Gruyere Melange Cheese with Fremont 2018 B-Bomb
The intensely flavorful beer combined with the first-time-we’ve-seen-it blended cheese to create a deliciously unexpected chocolate bar flavor profile.

Murray’s Stilton with Deschutes The Dissident with Marionberries
Along the same vein of the pairing with Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, the creamy blue cheese found a fast friend in this Flanders Oud Bruin that was aged for nine months on Oregon Marionberry puree.

Castello Vintage Havarti with Saison Dupont 
A big selling point on this 24 month aged cheese was the crystalline texture. The crunchy bits found in some aged cheeses are the result from the unraveling of protein chains, adding what we believe to be a very desirable texture to the cheese. Saison Dupont has proven to be a very pair-able beer for us in the past and in this pairing it amplified the flavor of the aged cheese further still, much to our delight.

Big thanks to everyone that joined in the fun with us! The more palates and minds we have contributing, the better as far as we're concerned. And even bigger thanks to The BeerMongers for indulging our pairing forays.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Pairing with Pringles

Photo courtesy of John Foyston
At some point, probably while perusing the chip aisle, we realized that there were a multitude of Pringles flavors. Obviously pairing them with beer was a task we should undertake, for the greater good.

Through the combined efforts of our group we assembled 16 flavors* of Pringles and while we may have jumped the shark with our latest [hair-brained] pairing idea, what is done is done. Therefore we present to you, dear readers, our findings.

Lesson #1
A moderate amount of Pringles is acceptable. Consuming large quantities of Pringles is a recipe for a salt hangover. Heed this warning should you choose to replicate such an endeavor.

Lesson #2
Just because a group comes to a consensus, such as “the Honey Mustard Pringles are unpleasant,” doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to find some beers that actually pair quite well with them. One such beer is Coalition King Kitty Red and another is Breakside Kids These Hazy IPA. Very different beers but each managed to mitigate whatever flavor components of Honey Mustard we disliked, transforming them into something that with the right liquid partner, we wouldn't object to snacking on.

Lesson #3
A German smoked beer lager worked really well with quite a few Pringles flavors. On its own, Brauerei Heller Bamberg Helles Lagerbier not something we would enjoy drinking more than a few ounces of but like Lesson #2, we quite enjoyed it with multiple Pringles flavors, including Jalapeno, Flame Grilled Steak, Cheddar Cheese and Loud Salsa Fiesta. For those who have not had the beer, perhaps a description that came out of our group will help: beer jerky.

As we undertake our next pairing, in which we return to cheese, lovely cheese, this beer will be making a return to our pairing table. Check back soon to read about that!

*16 flavors of Pringles: Loud Salsa Fiesta, Honey Mustard, Cheddar Cheese, Salt & Vinegar, Extra Hot Chili & Lime, Cheddar & Sour Cream, Sour Cream & Onion, Ranch, Jalapeno, Loaded Baked Potato, BBQ, Buffalo Ranch, Flame Grilled Steak, Ketchup and Dill Pickle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

6th NW Coffee Beer Invivational

Last Saturday saw the sixth installment of the NW Coffee Beer Invitational beer festival take place at Goose Hollow Inn in SW Portland. Once again festival organizers Dave and Jean Fleming were blessed with a dry January Saturday, although as thoughtful stewards they provided a fully tented and heated space for beer lovers to enjoy creations of 20 breweries.

With the exception of Kiitos Brewing, all of the participating breweries hailed from Oregon and southern Washington. "What’s the deal with Kiitos then?", one might ask. The answer is that they took home gold at GABF in 2018 in the Coffee Beer category with their Coffee Cream Ale. Had Bend Brewing not been at this festival with their Coffee N Cream Coffee Blonde, Kiitos would have gotten our nod for “best light coffee beer.” As it was, Bend Brewing offered a beer that had a great coffee cream aroma and a perfectly balanced, mild flavor and was more to our liking.

Two of the beers at the festival spoke to this imbiber saying, "I'm meant to be drank with food." The first was Von Ebert’s Hegel Sipped Coffee in Bamberg, a Roggenbier (smoked beer) with beech and cherry wood smoked malts. The smokiness of the malts came through and although a bit more body might be nice, what would be really nice would be to have this with Von Ebert’s delicious wings. 

The second food beer in our mind was from Fire on the Mountain Brewing. While we didn’t find much coffee character in the beer, the flavor spot-on matched its name: Mole Stout. The fact that they committed to the assertive flavor profile is to be commended and we think that although FotM is known for their wings, this might be mighty tasty with tacos. Or perhaps a taco pizza special at their Fremont location.

The remaining three beers that we particularly enjoyed were all on the darker end of the spectrum.
Sunriver Brewing His Dudness - Inspired by The Dude and his love of White Russians, this was the embodiment of a beer White Russian.
Wild Ride Brew Co. Nutty Joe Jr. Porter - Hazelnut isn’t a flavor we often see in beer (or at least used well in beer) but we still have a soft spot in our heart for it that goes back to our early craft beer explorations and Rogue Hazelnut. That beer and this beer likely taste nothing alike but Joe Jr. reminds us of the feeling we got back then drinking Rogue’s beer.
Ruse Brewing The Stages of Dawn - For having the highest ABV of the beers at the festival, 9.4%, it most certainly did not drink like it. The creamy imperial oatmeal breakfast stout came close to feeling as though it was being served on nitro, enough so that we would really hope to find it being poured that way in the future.

Thanks to all the breweries and coffee roasters that participated in this festival! It's one of our favorite and a great way to start a new year of beer festivals.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Behind the Scenes of the Oregon Beer Awards

We have been fortunate enough to participate in the judging panels for various beer competitions but it wasn’t until we got involved with the Oregon Beer Awards (for the first time in 2018) that we acquired an even deeper appreciation for all that goes into competitions. Last year we replied to a last minute call for volunteers, assisting wherever we could during the two-day judging. We thought we had gotten a good “look behind the curtains” then but it wasn’t until this year, when we returned in a greater capacity that we realized there were even MORE steps leading up to what will ultimately be a happy day when the awards are presented.

The Willamette Week Oregon Beer Awards is now in its fourth year and was co-founded by Breakside Brewery owner Ben Edmunds. Ben is the competition director, being hands on during all stages of it, something that is hard to comprehend especially when one understands the scope - 133 Oregon breweries entered a combined total of 1,080 beers. Each single entry consists of four to six bottles/cans of the beer being entered (depending on whether it is a 12 ounce bottle, 32 ounce crowler or something in between). That translates, on the low end, to over 4,000 containers of beer that are received by Breakside’s Milwaukie facility to be sorted into the 25 categories. We participated in one of three sorting sessions this year, opening boxes from the breweries, putting them into new boxes corresponding to their assigned judging session (Saturday AM, Saturday PM, Sunday AM or Sunday PM) and then packaging those palates back up for eventual delivery to the judging location - Maletis Beverage.

A week later we arrived at Maletis for training where the overall flow of the judging process was fully explained and details on the three steward categories (sorting, pouring and serving) duties laid out. The sorting stewards follow a reverse process similar to the intake sorting that we participated in at Breakside. From there the beers are transported to the pouring area where the pouring stewards fill glasses that are marked by a number (i.e. 2807) that corresponds to the number on the bottle it is being poured from. Those glasses, along with glasses of other entries in the same category, are then presented by the serving stewards to the judges in tasting flights. In total 165 flights were be poured and presented to 89 judges.

As a serving steward during two of the four judging sessions we were able to observe the judging process. The judges, in small groups, were presented with descriptions of the beers, each evaluated the entries individually, then discussed the entries as a group, deciding which beers got moved on to the next round. In addition to recording their discussion digitally, a comment sheet was filled out for each beer, both providing a paper trail for the judging itself and, post-competition, are sent to the brewers. Particularly for those beers that did not advance on and receive a medal, these comment sheets can be very useful in making adjustments to the beer in the future. Maybe the beer was solid but the category it was entered into wasn’t appropriate (ever had a beer being touted as an IPA but presents more as a pale ale? Or a “stout” that was more like a porter?). Maybe there were aspects of the beer that fell within guidelines (most competitions use BJCP guidelines) but weren’t as solid as other beers it was competing against. Maybe there were outright flaws in the beer (off flavor, inappropriate mouthfeel).

In addition to all of the official duties, each group of stewards is in continual clean up mode of their area. For sorters, that means moving empty boxes to the appropriate area and compiling the extra bottles of beer that were submitted but not needed, in another area for “dispensing” after the judging concludes. For pourers there’s the clean up of extra beer that is poured or extra glasses that are labeled and the laying out of new trays and glasses to be filled. For servers, once the judges they are serving are done with a flight of beer, the comment sheets and recorders are collected, the table cleared of glasses, the dump buckets emptied and the requisite water pitchers and oyster cracker supply refilled. It’s a circular process for each group, a rhythm that becomes more steady as time goes on until the end is in sight and the final clean up process can begin.

All in all, it takes a village of committed, mostly volunteer beer folks to pull off a beer competition. We are grateful to be part of this village and eagerly anticipate awards ceremony on February 26 at Revolution Hall.

Oregon Beer Awards
Tuesday, February 26 6pm
Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark
Tickets: $18 on sale now

Monday, January 7, 2019

What We're Looking Forward to in 2019

With the first week of the new year under our belts and a more normal rhythm resuming we figured it was a good time to share some of the things that we are most looking forward to in 2019.

Beer Festivals
No matter how many beer festivals we've been to or the abundance of them we are fortunate to have in this area, there are still some that get us excited about what will be poured and we make a point to attend. Here are three that take place in the first quarter of the year that fit that description.

- NW Coffee Beer Invitational - This will be the sixth year of the festival and with the exception of 2017, we have been at every one. Dave Fleming's festival has grown in prominence among beer drinkers but has remained true to its original location - Goose Hollow Inn. This year 20 brewers will be showing off their collaborations made with locally roasted coffee on Saturday, January 26. It has historically been the literal bright spot in one of the darkest times of the year and with any luck, that day will be another sunny one.

- Festival of the Dark Arts - For us this festival is about more than just what one finds in their glass. It's the whole experience of getting out of Portland and making an always overdue trip to Astoria for a long weekend. Besides the festival, and staying at our favorite B&B, we do our best to hit old favorites in Astoria and along the way, as well as anything new that may have popped up since the previous year. The mid-February festival is sold out and overnight accommodations are likely in short supply but there always seems to be a few last minute tickets available for those who look hard. 

- Brewstillery - Just a year younger than Coffee Beer and taking place two weeks after Dark Arts, this festival is hosted by StormBreaker Brewing and showcases the delicious flavor combinations that can occur when beer and spirits get together. When we first attended we had little experience with spirits but it has been part of the process that has opened our eyes to a world that we are coming to realize is as vast and complex at beer. 

Beer Cocktails 
Dovetailing on our anticipation of Brewstillery, we are excited to continue the adventure we started last year creating beer cocktails. So far we've experimented with vodka and rum and we've found ourselves paying more attention to cocktail menus, looking for new sources of inspiration. The year end crush of the holidays threw off our plans for December but we've got a late January date on the calendar to start up anew.

Beer and Food Pairings
Whether attending formal pairings put together by professionals or the happy-go-lucky pairings we dream up (Easter candy, Doritos, Kettle Chips, Girl Scout cookies, even coffee creamers) finding what goes together is a source of delight. Even the missteps we make are palate-educating and we are all on board with learning. 

Beyond what we are looking forward to finding in our glass this year is those we will be sharing the experiences with. The craft beer community - from brewers to consumers - is overall incredible. The generosity, the creativity, the willingness to explore is unique and we are thrilled to be part of it. 

In addition to reading what we spew out here (thank you!) check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cheers to 2019!