Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Coincidence

Friday, the end of the week/start of the weekend, was a good one for multiple reasons, one of them being a completely unplanned opportunity to try a beer I’d read about earlier in the day but had written off due to previous plans.

In a double beer tweet, Amnesia proclaimed, “Tappin’ it! Dopacetic, our double version of Copacetic IPA, goes on tap today along with Plum Founded, beer made with Italian plums!” Now I know you might not believe me, the hop head, when I say this but I was actually much more drawn to the latter offering. As intrigued as I was I figured a visit wasn’t in the cards for Friday night, maybe not for the whole weekend, so it would likely be gone before I got up there. Oh well, another beer I’d have to just wonder about.

But then, the afternoon took a turn with the combination of getting all my stuff done early for the evening and finding out some friends were meeting at Amnesia for beers. There wasn’t a huge window in my schedule, but enough I figured for a beer or two so I gathered up my goods, packed the cooler and hit the road. It wasn’t until I got to Amnesia, said a quick hello to the group and was perusing the beer menu did I realize I was going to get to try Plum Founded. Joy!

In all fairness I have to admit that if I didn’t know there were plums in the beer there would be a good chance I couldn’t properly identify the flavor. It’s a good flavor, don’t get me wrong, and it works very well with the Alt base, it’s just that plums don’t have an assertive flavor. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure this is the first plum beer I’ve ever had.

I assume this is a seasonal beer, maybe even a one off beer, but it’s one I’d love to see being brewed with regularity. Maybe it’ll make a return appearance at next year’s Fruit Beer Fest. In the meantime, any other chances that present themselves for me to drink it I’ll happily take.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who Drinks More?

Beer drinkers, bear with me. I know the start of this post will come off very food-centric but I promise I’ll get around to talking about beer.

Today I was checking in on some of the food blogs I enjoy and once again marveling at the freewheeling use of cream (which could be replaced with butter/cheese/fat-of-any-sort-that-is-oh-so-delicious) in a recipe. Reading it I was thinking, “How do these people do it without becoming blimps, as I would?” Then it occurred to me that maybe they just use their calories differently, for example towards cream where I happily allocate them towards beer.

Many of said blogs are based back in Minnesota, where recycling is different than here in Portland. Where we lived in Eagan we had a huge, lidded bin where all the recyclables got comingled. In Portland, comingling is allowed, with the exception of glass, which generally is put in those plastic, slightly-larger-than-a-ream-of-paper sized boxes and set out on the curb with the rest of the containers. In this manner, as I’ve been walking the dog in the morning on trash days, I’ve noticed what seems to be quite a lot of alcohol bottles. Not hard alcohol, mind you, but beer and wine. In fact, had I kept count I think the number of wine bottles would far outweigh the beer bottles, even taking into consideration their generally larger size.

So here’s what I wonder: Do people out here really drink that much more than back in Minnesota? Or is it the case that the “evidence” is just more obvious here? While I don’t expect to find an answer I would be interested to know what you think.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Can, Can: Can I Get a Can?

It was by no means planned but last night’s drinking ended up consisting entirely of canned beer.

The first one was an unusual choice for me as well as for the beautiful, sunny, warm afternoon that was yesterday. The can of Monk’s Blood from 21st Amendment caught my eye while I was at Saraveza purchasing my Illegal Beer Bus ticket. It’s an unusual choice in that I pretty much feel the same way about 21st Amendment as I do about New Belgium. Hell or High Watermelon receives the same hype and adoration as does Fat Tire. Granted, this comes from people who find it important to be drinking “cool” beer. Nevertheless it tends to turn me off from their products in general.

It’s been a while since I had my last Monk’s Blood and after giving it another try, I will have to try to ignore the fact that 21st Amendment makes it. Instead I need to remember that it’s a solid beer, albeit probably more suited to a cool day, and like New Belgium, 21st Amendment can make a good beer.

The next one, Flyin’ HI.P.Hay from Maui Brewing, was also a bit of a second chance selection. I wasn’t thrilled with this beer the last (and first) time I had it. Part of it was that when I cracked it open I was in the mood for a nice, hoppy IPA and this beer is not that. This time around I knew I was getting an IPA with some characteristics of a red. With the resetting of my expectations I quite enjoyed this beer. As a bonus it went nicely with my cigar.

To end out the can session I went for a beer I knew, and knew would hit my hop spot – Caldera IPA. It’s a solid, straightforward IPA. Weighing in at 94 IBUs this is a sure winner for me any day.

I love that so many breweries are using the can as their method of getting their beer into my house. But being the equal opportunity drinker I am, put it in a can, put it in a bottle, just make a good beer and I’ll put it in my fridge.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Yesterday was the first ever Portland Fruit Beer Festival, the brainchild of Ezra, who seems to have his fingers in darn near everything related to craft beer in Portland. While his full bio and exactly how he got his great gig are things I don’t know, what I do know is that his experience and connections means he can put on one heck of a festival.

I won’t go into all the details, you can find that on their Facebook page or at Burnside Brewing’s website (the fest was held in their parking lot), the bones of it are that there were about 15 “regular” beers and an additional 15 that were considered “special”, with two on tap at a time, being replaced with another one as the keg blew.

Before I get into the beers themselves, you should know that this was a fruit beer fest, not a girly beer fest. Sure, the more beer-timid drinker was probably able to find enough approachable beers to say they enjoyed their time. However, to be able to fully appreciate and enjoy the offerings, you’ll need to be going further afield than Leine’s Berry Weiss or Sam Adam’s Cherry Wheat as many of these beers had sour or Belgian characteristics.

Enough chatter, let’s get to the part you care about, the beer. Of the 15 regular beers I had all but one, Dogfish Head Festina Peche, not because I wasn’t interested, but rather because it’s a beer I really like but know I can get just about anytime I want it. As for the special beers, there were only three available during the time we were there and I tried all three.

  • New Belgium Ooh La La – It’s hard for me to say it, being that I think New Belgium is a bit over rated in general, but this just goes to show that they can make a really exceptional beer. Raspberries were used here and it was the beer that had the most fruit flavor, almost like drinking a glass of perfectly ripe raspberries, except there’s the added fun of 8.5% ABV.
  • Beetje Zure Kreten – One of Portland’s nano-breweries, this beer was just about the polar opposite of Ooh La La. Instead of the fruit (currants) standing out, the beer exuded the cheese stank I love.
  • Burnside Gooseberry Berliner-Weisse AND Marionberry Berliner-Weisse – The former was part of the regular beer selection and extremely refreshing, something that would hit the spot on a hot, humid day. The latter was one of the special beers and extremely fruity, with fruit particles floating in it, giving it the look of a glass of freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.
This is a two-day festival so there is the opportunity for us to make a return visit today, to try some of the special beers that are available and have some of our favorite regular beers (unless the kegs have blown, in which case there may be some replacement beers that weren’t available yesterday). I don’t know if we’ll make it or not but if we do, I expect another knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark experience.

Thanks to Michael for the pic!

*Update: We did go back for round two on Sunday, but there weren't any beers that eclipsed what I tasted on Saturday and for the most part I kept going back to the well of two "runner up" beers: Block 15 Psidium and Widmer Himbeere Gose.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Single Hop Fest

Amnesia, one of the breweries that have stood out in my mind since my first visit to Portland, put on an 11 beer mini-festival on what ended up being a supremely gorgeous day. Having previewed the line up at The New School in advance I was particularly interested in Amnesia’s Cream of the Crop variation, Cream of the Hop, that would be run through their Hopperator, Migration’s Black IPA and Double Mountain’s Clusterf#%k.

Of the three the only disappointment was Cream of the Hop. Maybe it was the style, Cream, maybe it was the hops, Crystal, maybe it was the Hopperator. Whatever it was, it just didn’t do much for me and as my first beer of the fest is wasn’t the way I was hoping to start things off. Thankfully things looked up considerably from there on out.
Being partial to Black IPAs or CDAs, I was eager to see how Migration’s Black Hearted Black IPA turned out. Beautiful dark brown/black in color with a creamy head, this beer was as good as I was hoping for (maybe better even) although it did require a bit of patience to allow it to warm up from the chilly temperature it was served at. I’d love to see this go into the regular rotation at Migration, but if nothing else it should most certainly go into their seasonal rotation.

I was able to hold off trying Double Mountain’s Clusterf#%k until I was nearly half way through the offerings. Not only was it the best named beer, I really enjoyed the flavor and will now be on the lookout for others that use Cluster hops.

Overall it was a great, small fest. You’ve heard me rant about all the festivals out here using tickets instead of a single entrance fee and although tickets were once again in play at this fest, there were a couple of big differences that helped diminish that inconvenience.
1)      With only 11 beers to try getting through all of them was doable and instead of committing a full day it was something that could be done in just a couple of hours.
2)     For once the pourers were not stingy on the pours, which I’m especially appreciative of when each sample is $2.
3)     There were detailed, laminated descriptions of each beer atop the cooler it was being poured out of well as a jar of the hop variety each beer was brewed with. It was an added touch that allowed a side-by-side sniff comparison of a raw ingredient and the finished product. For some the aroma of the beer mirrored the aroma of the hops while with others it was less clear.
Hopefully the fest was successful enough so that it’ll be held next year so that if you didn’t make it this time around, you’ll have another opportunity. You can bet I’ll be there.