Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Beer, Texas Style

For those who have visited Texas and gone in search of good beer you know what a difficult search that can be. Now they're nowhere near as bad off as the southern states to the east but when you come from a beer rich environment like Portland, or even Minneapolis-St. Paul for that matter, the difference is immediately noticeable.

That isn't to say that there isn't good beer to be found, it's just much harder to find. It is, however, reassuring to see some old favorites - Summit Brewing (St. Paul, MN) is available as is Deschutes - and then there are some other well known breweries like Ska and Harpoon. While I didn't find a wealth of beer, there was enough to make it through the short, three-night visit over Christmas, including a thoughtfully purchased six pack sampler of Shiner my dad picked up in advance of our arrival.

An unintended "experiment" also yielded good results. Upon opening the extra fridge to store the beer we had just purchased we ran across two bottles of Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA and two cans of Ska Modus Hoperandi. While they might have been better a year ago when I first purchased them, time hadn't treated them too badly and they were still quite tasty.

Hopefully wherever your holidays were spent, be it beer rich Portland or beer poor areas of the country, you were able to find something tasty to accompany your celebrations.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sharing is Caring

'Tis the season of giving and being thankful for what we have. One of the many things I'm thankful for are my beer friends. I've said it many times that I firmly believe beer people - connoisseurs, brewers, owners - are some of the best people on the planet. I have countless stories of brewers and owners going above and beyond - opening up because we mistakenly showed up on a day they were closed for example - or having conversations with what were previously strangers at a festival or bellied up to the bar.

One of the ways I have had the distinct pleasure of spending time with beer people - friends, acquaintances and strangers - is through bottle shares. And I've already been part of two in the first half of December. The first was a kind of pre-anniversary party at The Commons wherein they opened up their taproom and invited one and all for a bottle share and potluck. Then just this past weekend Jeremy, the owner of one of the great beer bars in town, opened his usually-closed-on-Sundays second establishment to a group of us to partake in beer and snacks all afternoon.

So thank you, beer people, for all of the sharing you do.
To the brewers who make amazing, creative beers.
To the brewery/brewpub/bottle shop/bar owners who employ great people, open your space to us and donate beer to our events.
To the beer geeks who acquire beers from across the country, cellar beers for years on end and then happily share those beers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Ale Festival 2012: A Recap

The 17th Annual Holiday Ale Festival was put to bed Sunday night and off came the wristband that had been my constant companion for the last five days. If you wanted to go, I hope you had a chance to. I was fortunate enough to be able to go both Wednesday and Friday, arriving shortly after the gates opened and therefore having very minimal crowds to deal with. There was however a notable difference between the two days with Friday's crowd building faster. Thanks to a friend who was a real trooper, showing up all five days of the festival, we had a table to drink and chat at even as the space filled up.

If you recall from my preview post, I had 13 beers on my must drink list. I was able to try all but one - Full Sail 2011 Black Gold - as well as a handful of additional beers. Those that made the festival worth attending were Cascade Brewing Diesel #2, The Commons Boysen, Widmer Brrrbon Vanilla, Crux Fermentation Project Snow Cave and two of Wednesday's special release, 2 ticket beers - 2005 Samichlaus and 2008 Ten Fiddy. Both of those beers were well worth the extra tickets and although I know I'll have to live on the memory of those alone I do hope to find some of the other beers around. It sure would help ease the chill of winter to sip and savor their deliciousness.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gearing up for the Holiday Ale Festival

Like many I traveled to see relatives for Thanksgiving and I put the flight time to good use, pouring over the Holiday Ale Festival program in more depth than I probably ever have. While there's a chance I'll go more than once over the course of the five-day festival, there will still be more beers than I can drink. Therefore prioritizing my drinking, well..., takes priority.

Sorting through the list there were beers that went in the "don't need to drink" category including those styles that I generally don't enjoy and those I can find outside of the festival. Then there were those that went into the middle/maybe category. Finally, there were the ones that I would be remiss if I missed including Cocoa Brett Stout - a blending of Bison Brewing and Logsdon Farmhouse beers containing my favorite yeast, Brett, and conditioned with pear juice - and Wild Merkin - another blending, this time with Firestone Walker and Barrelworks beers. Not only does it have a great name but wild/sour beers are a favorite style of mine.

My final, "must have" list totaled a mere 13 beers in length. Brief is however somewhat misleading in this context where nearly half of them exceed 10% AVB. In addition I'm sure there will be others that catch my eye or have a short line and if I make it through 20 samples it might be an early to bed kind of day.

Not included on my list, as I'm still figuring out when I'll be there, are beers from the Limited Tappings beer list. Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus and 2008 Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy, both which happen to be tapping at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, are intriguing so that might be my target time to go.

If you're planning go to and want to plan out your visit in advance the full list of beers is available here. You can also purchase your tickets in advance through Tuesday night. Happy festing!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Visiting Base Camp

Base Camp Brewing opened their doors two weeks ago but being out of town I missed their big splash onto the scene. In an effort to rectify that, I happily took the opportunity to have a meeting there earlier this week.

From the outside the building is nondescript, unless you look in the large roll up doors to see brewing equipment. The taproom, quite a large space, keeps it simple with concrete walls and roughhewn tables. The bar is the most striking part with an overturned canoe suspended above it and backlit outdoors photos behind the taps. On nicer days than when I visited I suspect their outdoor space, outfitted with picnic style tables and long, rectangular fire pits, will be a great space to enjoy their beer.

Speaking of beers, there were four of their six available when I rolled in. Of them I had tried the IPL - India Pale Lager - previously out of the bottle. Wanting the full experience as well as to have the IPL on tap I ordered up all four and settled in. Shortly the bartender arrived with a log sampler tray.

I selected the Paolshenbier as the first to try, expecting it to be the most mild in flavor and hop character. While mild, it was full of citrus flavor and a very drinkable 5.8% ABV beer. Comparing it to the memory of the IPL I'd had previously, my opinion was that it outshined its hoppier sibling.

Next up was the Out-of-Bounds Brown, which was nearly indistinguishable in color from the IPL. Like the Paolschenbier, it's an approachable and drinkable beer, perhaps far too drinkable for 6.2% ABV.

Finally it was time to have my second taste of In-Tents IPL. I was pleased to find I enjoyed it much more than my first experience with it. Was it the context? Was it the fact that it was poured out of a tap instead of a bottle? I don't know. All I know is I was happy that I gave this beer, a 6.8% ABV lager, a second chance.

The final beer, S'more Stout, had the most "curb appeal." The sample glass was garnished with a toasted mini-marshmallow and the beer inside didn't disappoint. A full-bodied and full-flavored stout, it avoided being overly heavy while weighing in at 7.7% ABV.

The other two beers, Ripstop Rye Pils and Northwest Fest, were to be released a few days after my visit. As of yet I haven't made it back to try them but look forward to doing so. If you haven't paid them a visit yet, I encourage you to make time to do so. If you've been, what was your impression of the beers?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lompoc Holiday Beers Preview

Last night I had a chance to taste Lompoc Brewing's holiday beers and hear from owner Jerry Fechter, head brewer Bryan Keilty and brewer Josh Merrick. As the tasting kicked off Jerry addressed the unspoken, yet probably most asked question these days: How are things coming with the NW 23rd location? The answer was that construction is moving along and Lompoc hopes to get into their space shortly after the New Year with an anticipated opening in May or June. That facility will not house any brewing operations but they plan to add a couple more tanks at the Fifth Quadrant location. And for those who remember and love some of the quirky aspects of the old Old Lompoc, look for "the toilet" to make an appearance in the new space.

Back to the matter at hand - the holiday beers! If you recall from last year Lompoc presented a staggering 10 holiday beers for drinking enjoyment. That begged the question of whether they would continue to up the ante and go for a full 12 beers to coincide with the well-known 12 days of Christmas. Alas, that's a pretty big order, one that even St. Nick might struggle to fill. Instead we tasted our way through six of seven holiday beers for 2012.

Jolly Bock - 7.3% ABV - While the beer is technically a lager the color, a deep amber, the aroma, that of a red ale, and the maltiness from the generous amount of Munich malt used to brew this beer might lead you to believe otherwise.

8 Malty Nights - 6.5% ABV - This is the third year this chocolate rye has been made. 90 cases of it were bottled last Friday with 2/3 of it going to Maletis so look for it in stores in the next 7 - 10 days.

Franc'ly Brewdolph - 7.6% ABV - Over a year in the making, this Belgian style red ale was brewed in October 2011 with Ardennes yeast and then aged in Cabernet Franc barrels. It will be available at this year's Holiday Ale Fest.

C-sons Greetings - 8% ABV - A holiday beer for Lompoc for 10 years, this hoppy brew, loaded with pine and citrus, was my favorite of the bunch. While I'd love to see it a year round beer, Jerry commented from a pub owner perspective that having an "8% beer available all the time makes no sense." Fair enough.

Old Tavern Rat - 9.4% ABV - Named for moniker of the late Don Younger, this is a barley wine that aged for nearly a year before being released. Last year a bourbon barrel aged version was released and there is already some of this version in barrels for release next holiday season.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Wee Heavy - 7.5% ABV - A collaboration brew with LOLA, the Ladies of Lagers and Ales, it spent nine months in Heaven Hill barrels. Margaret Lut was on hand to talk about the beer, which gives off a huge bourbon aroma and is one you'll want to let warm up to fully appreciate.

The seventh beer, Blitzen, wasn't available for tasting as it was still in the fermenter. It is a spiced golden ale and should weigh in at 4.6% ABV.

Some of the beers are starting to hit shelves so grab and drink your annual favorites as you see them. For the official kick off mark your calendars for Lompoc's Holiday Release Party on Tuesday, November 27 (which is also Holiday Ale Fest Eve). And for anyone trying to squeeze out every last bit of fresh hop season, get to Sidebar soon for the last of their Fresh Hopped Harvest Man Red - it's delicious!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

California Cup at Concordia

With no plans for Saturday we decided to head up to Concordia Ale House for their California Cup to sample 10 California-brewed IPAs. We'd enjoyed the Fresh Hop-a-Palooza in October (regardless of some of the offerings not truly being fresh hop brews) and looked forward to another "drinking game."

We opted to share one 10-beer sampling tray figuring it would free us up to order pints of our favorite(s) after making it through the tasting and identifying the ones that spoke to us the most. Mag ran the tray backwards, starting with #10 and working his way down, while I went with the traditional route starting with #1 and working my way up. Halfway through the tray I suspected he might have done it "right," either that or there was a tray full of beers of which none would be of the variety of IPA I like best.

Thankfully the second half of the tray was much better. There we both found our favorites. #9, full of grapefruity goodness, took top honors from me with #7, offering up stank in both the aroma and flavor, my runner up. Mag chose #8 as his favorite (not hoppy enough for me) with #10 (boozy sweet but drinkable to my palate) his runner up.

The results will be emailed out from Concordia Monday and I hope they'll also include the names of the beers. I'll be interested to see how my blind tasting palate compares to my previous, "eyes wide open" opinions of the beers have been. Four of the beers tasted familiar but only my favorite would I hazard a guess as to what it might be (Hop Stoopid from Lagunitas). If you went to the California Cup, what was your favorite? Any guesses on naming any of the beers?

Results Update: While I am clearly no good at guessing the name of my favorite, I did vote for the crowd favorite. It turned out to be Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA which I have had, and enjoyed plenty, in the past. My runner up was another favorite frequent flyer - Stone IPA.

Neither of my favorites surprised me but what did was that I did not enjoy #5 which was revealed to be Green Flash West Coast IPA. I usually LOVE that beer so I wonder why not this time. Anyone else agree with me? Any ideas on why?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reuben's Brews

After building them up I hope I'm able to express what a great find Reuben's Brews was. Even if I can't, the next time you're in Seattle I highly encourage you to pay them a visit. Here's why.

Reuben's was not on our radar in any way until we ran across the sandwich board sign along our path. Even then we couldn't be sure that it was a brewery as opposed to a beer bar but we figured we'd take our chances. As soon as we saw the exterior we knew we'd stumbled upon a brewery and were excited about what might be waiting inside.

The compact brewery and taproom boasted a list of 12 beers available and we wasted no time ordering up a sampler to ensure we were able to try all of them. In the process of making our way through the beers we were able to chat with owner/brewer Adam Robbings and found out the likely reason why we hadn't heard of them - they'd only been open since August.

Of the 12 beers on tap not one was a stinker and although my favorite was, predictably, the Imperial IPA, there were a number I quite enjoyed. Mag's favorite was one of the two beers on nitro, the Dry Stout. The other nitro offering was the Imperial IPA and while I preferred the non-nitro version it was interesting to compare the two side-by-side. My take was that the nitro version not only provided smoothness in texture but also tempered the hop bite and therefore became less appealing to this hop head.

In talking to Adam we learned that the breadth of the brews offered was intentional. He is more interested in offering a lot of different styles rather than offering a greater quantity of a fewer number of beers. For an operation of this size that's always a factor that must be considered and in most cases I think a brewery would do better to start off with a small number of offerings and increase as they grew their market. After tasting Reuben's beers, however, I think he's made the right decision. He's making good beer across the board and as beer geeks know, we're always looking for "the next thing." We're a fickle bunch that will have core favorites we return to but trying something new is always of interest.

As we drank and talked we noticed two barrels and inquired about them. We found out that they came from Hair of the Dog and contained part of a batch of Russian Imperial Stout. The non-barrel-aged RIS will be released toward the end of 2012 with the barrel-aged version hanging out for a few more months, possibly being released in the first quarter of 2013.

Toward the end of our visit a group of 30+ home brewers filed in, filling the small space. They were on a quarterly club outing and we decided to hang out for a bit, getting in on additional information about the brewery as Adam gave a short talk. Here's a bit of that.

I suspect it will be quite some time before Reuben's Brews make their way south to Portland. In the meantime, if you're in Seattle check them out and if you're so inclined you could even bring back a growler for me. If you're interested in my thoughts on their beers, keep reading.

Balsch - A Kolsch-style beer, this is a light, easy drinker.
California Lager - With a surprising caramel color and light woody flavor, this is one of the few lagers I can say I have enjoyed, primarily because the typical lager characteristics that turn me off were too subtle to be off putting.
Roggenbier - The aroma is that of a rauchbier with pronounced clove and banana flavor that is somewhat tempered by the rye spice. This was my least favorite due to the clove and banana.
Belgian Pale Ale - Although there were banana flavors in this offering as well, I found this to be more enjoyable. There was none of the smokiness of the Roggenbier and it was lighter and fruitier.
Red - With a nutty aroma and flavor the maltiness was kept in check so as not to weigh it down past my tolerance for a malty brew.
American Brown - A brown to be sure, but dryer that most and with more hop aroma than one would typically expect from a brown.
Robust Porter - Porters vary widely and this is one that is roasty and full-bodied, just the way I like a porter to be.
Pumpkin Rye - Pumpkin beers vary widely as well and again this is a nicely made beer. The aroma is wonderfully pumpkin spice while the flavor is less intense, not the over-the-top spice sometimes found in pumpkin beers, making it enjoyable.
Roasted Rye PA - The 100+ IBUs touted aren't present in the flavor or aroma and instead I found a roasty and smooth rye brew.
Dry Stout on Nitro - While this was Mag's favorite, I found it to be thinner in body than I prefer my stouts to be. It would have been interesting to try a non-nitro version of it.
Imperial IPA - As mentioned above, this was my favorite hands down. The grapefruit on the nose and in the flavor is bold and delicious.
Imperial IPA on Nitro - The nitro predictably gave the beer smoothness, tempering the hop bite. Additionally, the aroma had more stank than the non-nitro version.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Seattle:TOTGA & Disappointments

Our next beer outing took us further afield, taking a cab north over the canal between Salmon Bay and Lake Union into the Ballard/Fremont area. This is where, due to the lack of diligent planning that usually accompanies our trips, we chalked up two TOTGA - aka The Ones That Got Away. The first was Hilliard's, our intended destination, and the second, NW Peaks Brewery, we ran across on the other side of the block. We were disappointed but knowing there was little we could do about it we adjusted and set about to a new destination.

Along the way we ran across another sandwich board, this one proclaiming, "Reuben's Brews ---->." Following the sign had served us well before so we decided to detour from our intended course to see what we would stumble upon. What we found turned out to be great, so great that I'm going to leave you hanging until tomorrow for a post just about Reuben's Brews.

Departing Reuben's with smiles on our faces we went about resuming our intended path and making our way to Maritime Pacific. In order to keep it short and less painful than our time there, let me suffice it to say that if you are ever in Seattle, please don't go there. The beer was nothing worth noting and even worse, the bartender was the worst I've ever encountered at a brewery/brewpub/beer bar.

Leaving that mess behind we forged onward to Hale's Ales. Like Elysian, we'd had some Hale's in the past and looked forward to some great finds. While the beer and the experience were better than at Maritime none of the beers were outstanding and after a long afternoon of drinking we decided to make this our final beer stop. We'd missed out on a couple places, probably could have done without visiting a couple others but were thrilled with the find of Reuben's. Check back tomorrow for more on that. In the meantime, have you had similar experiences at these places and/or visited our TOTGA locations?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Seattle: An Overdue Return

Our recent four-day trip to Seattle was long overdue. Not only hadn't we been there since moving to Portland over two years ago but we hadn't been there since our honeymoon, almost 10 years ago. It's not that we hadn't talked about going, we'd done plenty of that, but it was a matter of finally making plans and going. When a happy collision of scoring a free two-night stay at Hotel Monaco and realizing that the Vikings were playing at Seattle in early November occurred we decided to jump on it.

It wasn't designed to be a beer trip 100%, there was the football game to attend and the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center to see, but it wouldn't be a vacation for us without including beer, especially in a beer city like Seattle. It was the least planned trip we'd taken meaning there were some places we missed visiting because we hadn't taken into account their open hours but there was one very, very happy surprise we probably would have missed had we been on a completely planned out trip.

We kicked things off right away, walking just a couple blocks from the Amtrak train station over to Elysian. As is usually the case with beer brands we're familiar with there were their standard beers available as well as those limited, found-only-at-the-pub-or-nearby beers. All five we tried were excellent - Krokus, Omen, Humdinger, Maelstrom and Dark 'O The Moon.

After dropping our belongings off it was off to Georgetown Brewing. We made it within the last half an hour they were open and the place was hopping with people picking up growlers. We weren't interested in growlers but trying everything they had on tap which numbered nine. Lucille, the hoppiest of the bunch was the grapefruit hoppy that makes me most happy and DH369, made with last year's experimental hops now called Mosaic, was both fruity and stanky and very, very good. The biggest surprise of our time there came at the end when we tried to pay for the samples. Apparently samples, even all 10 of them, were free.

Venturing back out into the rain we made our way over to Schooner Exact, guided in at the end by the sandwich boards on the street reading, "BEER ----->." (As an aside, whenever you see these signs, follow them!) Bellying up to one of the shared tables we set about to another sampler tray. Again the hoppy one, Hop Vine, most tickled my fancy while Mag favored King Street Brown Ale, which I have to admit is probably the best brown ale I've had, due in large part to the hazelnut aspects.

That brings us to the end of our first of two beer focused outings in Seattle. Check back tomorrow to see what else we drank.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Day Late, A Beer Short

Make that two beers actually. But this is no tale of woe. Oh no, this little story has a happy ending.

If you recall, I was quite excited about the lineup of wild beers The Commons was offering to kick off their Thursday night taproom hours. Turns out I let pizza and football deter me from my plans and I didn't make it over there. I knew I was taking a chance and it turned out that two of the beers - Nectarine Berliner Weiss and Sour Gin Bruin - had been polished off Thursday night. There were others left however hearing that two of them were "on fumes" I knew if I was to have them I'd better show up first thing Friday.

Arriving I quickly ordered a sample tray that included Lambicus Amber, Walnut and Wild Walnut.
Lambicus Amber - Amber ale fermented 100% with Brettanomyces Lambicus - I'm typically not a fan of ambers as I find them too malty and sweet or unremarkable. Not this one. It was crisp and as it warmed the Brett aroma pleasantly came forward.
Walnut - Belgian porter - While not a sour beer it displayed the delicious nuttiness implied by the name that played well with the porter base.
Wild Walnut - Belgian porter fermented 100% with Brettanomyces Lambicus and finished with fresh lime juice - Yes, fresh lime juice! Hang on, I know that if you were to hear a beer has an aroma and flavor heavily influenced by lime juice you would unconsciously make an icky face. But no, it was unbelievably delicious and refreshing, "A dark beer you could drink on a summer day," commented a fellow visitor to the taproom. He hit it right on the money.

There were only five gallons of the Wild Walnut made and although I was kicking myself for not coming out on Thursday night this beer single-handedly made up for it. I am sorry to say that if you haven't had it, you won't get it, at least not this batch. There was probably less than two pints worth of it Friday and the keg blew minutes after I got mine. Hopefully The Commons crew will make more of this one and other wild beers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get Wild at The Commons

Open to the public for nearly a year now on Friday and Saturday nights, The Commons has built sufficient momentum to add Thursday night tasting room hours to their regular schedule. As an added incentive to come visit them they're offering a seven-beer line up of the wild variety tonight.

Mike, Sean and Josh were in attendance at the Sean/Shawn/Shaun Killer Beer Week event at The BeerMongers last night, bringing with them two of the seven. An avowed fan of wild/sour beers as well as The Commons I had to have both Seani Tibi (aka Bene Tibi) and Plum Bretta. Tibi is a 100% Brettanomyces Lambicus fermentation with sour cherries and fresh apple cider that was aptly described by a fellow beer drinker as a cidery Saison. It's very tasty but it was the Plum Bretta, a farmhouse ale aged in a Pinot Noir barrel with Brettanomyces, finished with 80 lbs of hand-cut Italian plums, really knocked my socks off. Boasting a beautiful color, a tart aroma that made me too happy before the first sip and flavor that made it hard for me to order any other beer after this was a beer everyone I talked to thoroughly enjoyed.

Even before last night's two-beer preview I was excited about the line up. After? All I can say is that 5:00 pm seems like ages away and my face is puckering in anticipation.

All of the beers will be available in 12 oz glasses and sample sizes. Expect glasses to run $4 - $5 each. Photo courtesy of The Commons.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Killer Beer Week Kicks Off

Killer Beer Week, curated by Brewpublic founder Angelo De Ieso II, officially kicked off Sunday night at Roscoe's. Showing up right as the festivities were getting underway meant a bit of a wait as the efficient staff got everyone squared away with their first round. It also gave me time to peruse the beer list and narrow it down to my (first) four pours.

Courtesy of Roscoe's
When it was my turn I placed my order, got my set of beers back quickly and set about reviewing my order to figure out which to have first. About that time I felt something was amiss. The sample on the left didn't look like what I expected it would and a sideways glance at the menu I had borrowed from a fellow bar mate gave me pause. It turns out he had an early version of the menu and the beers had been reordered. Amazingly there was actually one of the four that I meant to order sitting in front of me. Giving it up to the "oh well, I was going to order more anyways" I set about investigating what was in front of me. Forgoing a long, blow-by-blow description, suffice it to say the one I meant to order was my least favorite of the four. And one I probably would have passed up ended up being one of the favorites of the night.

I tried less than half of the beers being offered but my two favorites were so good I can't resist sharing them. The first, the one I probably wouldn't have ordered was a one-off fresh hopped keg from Deschutes cleverly named Open Mike Night IPA (for Mike Foy). The aroma could be called off putting, but that's only if you don't like a "litter box" smell (which I recently realized I DO). The flavor was completely different - a very bright, grapefruity IPA.

My other favorite shouldn't come as a surprise as it's a second favorite style of mine and the beer is a GABF Silver Medal winner. That would be none other than German Sparkle Party, a tart German wheat beer, from 10 Barrel. Great name and an even better beer, it's one I hope to find more of around town.

Speaking of around town, Killer Beer Week offers up events each night. Here's the down and dirty:
Monday - Killer Pumpkin Fest at Green Dragon
Tuesday - Washington Killer Beer Night at Salmon Creek
Wednesday - Sean/Shawn/Shaun Fest at The BeerMongers
Thursday - Bend Killer Brewers Night at The BeerMongers
Friday - Brewpublic's 4th Brewniversary at Saraveza
Saturday - Killer Beer Fest at Bailey's Taproom
Sunday - Yetta's Recovery Beerunch at The Hop & Vine
For full details, check out Brewpublic's event calendar.

Besides great beer it was great to see so many familiar faces, chat and enjoy the evening as I suspect Angelo intended all of us thirsty folks to do. Perhaps we'll see each other at one of these events. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

$2 Pints: You Know You Want 'Em

Regular readers know most posts here focus on what we've been drinking and where we've been drinking. Today we're putting a spin on that and spread the word about a promotion from one of our favorite Portland breweries. Keep reading if you'd like to be drinking $2 pints of King Kitty, Two Dogs and more for the next six weeks.

Coalition Brewing, on SE 27th and Ankeny, just one block south of Burnside was one of the first places we found after moving to Portland. It instantly became a favorite watering hole for both the great beer and the great people serving that beer. Since opening they've hosted Mighty Mites, a festival showcasing lower alcohol beers from a variety of breweries and participated in Sunday Parkways where we enjoyed an afternoon of pouring beer for thirsty cyclists. They've also supported local home brewers, inviting them to brew on the brewery's equipment and serving those beers (some truly inspired, delicious beers) at the pub with their Coalator program.

Starting today and running through December 1st they're offering you the opportunity to drink $2 pints anytime, any day. All you need to do is to bring in a new package of white athletic socks (any size) or package of men's or women's underwear (sizes M-XL). For each package brought in you'll receive a pint of their beer for the discounted price of $2. Besides a killer price on beer you'll be helping local non-profit Outside In whose mission is to help homeless youth and other marginalized people move towards improved health and self-sufficency. Help Coalition's effort to collect a sizeable donation for the organization and help yourself to delicious $2 pints. Do it today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fresh Hop-a-Palooza

It was a whole new take on fresh hop beers Concordia Ale House offered last week. Instead of choosing your selection of fresh hop beers off a list, for $12 a tray of 10 unmarked beers was presented. In this way there was no opportunity to be influenced by the name of the brewery or whatever you may have heard about a specific beer. It was just your taste buds and the beer.

Of the 10 beers provided the clear favorite in my book was #5 with #8 coming in second. Mag preferred #7 with #1 being his runner up. Although I couldn't be for certain I was pretty sure that none of the 10 tasted familiar. Going on the last day of the Palooza meant that I only had to wait about 12 hours to find the results waiting in my inbox, a timeframe when the beers were still quite fresh in my mind.

F->A->S->T-> F->O->R->W->A->R->D->

My favorite also turned out to be the crowd favorite, Ninkasi Total Crystalation, a fresh hop version of Total Domination. New Belgium Hop Trip X took 2nd, Rogue Oregasmic took 3rd and Mag's favorite, Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere came in 4th. Reviewing the full list I think my initial impression that I hadn't had any of them previously was correct. With any luck, even though fresh hop season is winding down, I do hope to get a few more pints of Ninkasi's deliciousness!

If you attended Fresh Hop-a-Palooza how did your favorite stack up? Was is something you'd had before?

Note: Concordia included a couple of corrections along with the results visual. #10 was actually New Belgium Trip X, not VII and Ninkasi's beer name is correctly spelled Crystalation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fresh Hop Summit

Roscoe's Fresh Hop Summit, starting Friday afternoon and presumably running until the kegs have been drained, provided a nice follow up to last week's Fresh Hop Fest at Oaks Park. Smaller in scale but with the added bonus of beers being delivered to my waiting hands by the friendly, efficient servers Roscoe's offered up 14 fresh hop beers plus more in reserve once the first kegs up had blown.

Not surprisingly there were some beers that had made an appearance at Oaks Park. However a couple of those I didn't have last week and took the opportunity to at Roscoe's. One was a hit - Ninkasi's Smells Like Purple - and one was a miss - Logsdon's Fresh Hop Saison. I purposely didn't get the Saison at Oaks Park as they were asking for three tickets ($3) for the sample. Whatever fresh hop flavor may have been in there was overpowered by the Saison characteristics and even Roscoe's more reasonable $2.50/5 oz was expensive for a beer I found to be a disappointment.

Smells Like Purple, a beer that intrigued me with its name but one I didn't get to before the lines at Oaks Park got long, was a surprisingly good brew. Slightly sweet in both aroma and flavor from the Meridian hops I can't disagree that this might be what purple, or at least violet, might smell like. It competed with Amnesia's Mother Plucker, one I had enjoyed last year, as one of the two that tied for my second favorite of the Summit.
The one that stole my heart though was a repeat from last week. After being enamored with it at Oaks Park I had to order it just to see if it was as good as I remembered. I was thrilled to find it just as delicious as I had remembered and so The Commons' Fresh Hop Farmhouse retains the honor of "favorite fresh hop" in my book this year. The season isn't over quite yet, however and with Concordia Ale House doing their own version of a fresh hop tap takeover there's still a chance (slim as it may be) I'll find another that tops it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2012 Portland Fresh Hop Fest

I couldn't make it to the Fresh Hop Fest in Hood River last week and for whatever reason I wasn't that excited about the Fresh Hop Fest at Oaks Park this week. In fact I was pretty sure I'd skip it. Then Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and with no other competing plans I had a change of heart.

As per our usual plan we got there early, about half an hour into the fest and there was an expectedly light crowd. It took longer to decide what beer to get than it did to actually get it. As often happens we ran into some beer drinking friends and settled into a routine of chatting, wandering off for more beer and rejoining the group.

Then, suddenly it seemed, the tent started filling up at a very swift pace. According to a tweet from the Oregon Brewers Guild, "We had as many people by 3pm as we did last year at this years Fresh Hop Fest - sorry about running out of beers." Thankfully by the time the lines were getting longer than I wanted to wait in I had made it through the beers I was most interested in trying and I didn't feel bad switching over to a full pour to finish off the afternoon. Another stroke of luck that my favorite beer of the fest, Fresh Hop Farmhouse from The Commons Brewery, wasn't one of the kegs that had blown.

Beyond The Commons' offering I enjoyed Sasquatch Fresh Hopped Healy Heights, Deschutes King Cone and Pelican Elemental Ale. A surprising number I found to be only OK, ones I would have been disappointed to have ordered a full pint of and there were a few stinkers in the lot. Overall though it was a very enjoyable afternoon of drinking beers with friends and even making a new friend with a beer traveler from New Jersey.

After note: Although we went early and didn't experience the full extent of the problem of blown kegs I found it very unsettling that friends who showed up later did. Beyond that, it sounds as though the festival organizers were not informing people about the substantial lack of beer, leaving this unpleasant discovery once they had purchased their glasses and tickets and went in search of beer. Hopefully they'll make better contingent plans for the future.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Powell Estate IPA

Mid-September I spent a few hours surrounded by other beer-loving volunteers harvesting hops at Hopworks.

After our crew of 24 got done with our work the HUB brewers went to work on their end. The fruits of our labor, 82 lbs of fresh, grown-out-back hops were added to Hopworks' standard IPA.

The result, released two weeks from the day the cones were plucked off the bines, is Powell Estate IPA. Billed as being a softer version of the original, loaded with aromatics provided by the combination of Willamettes and Cascades, it is exactly that. The aroma screams "fresh hop" and compared side by side to the standard IPA there is a subtle difference in flavor that smooths out the IPA bite. Both are delicious although being one of the pickers I'd have to say the fresh hop version is better. If you get a chance, visit Hopworks soon and decide for yourself.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Beer Hunting

Tonight I go beer hunting. I have three specific targets and I know their habitat well. It's going to take discipline and structure to be successful in my hunt. There's no room for sloppiness or lolly-gagging around if I hope to be victorious.

Two of them are fresh, green if you will, and new to me. I only have the reputation of their siblings and the masters that brewed them to go on. The third, a delightful red-hued tart, is familiar prey.

Perhaps you'll be out hunting tonight as well. Maybe you've already bagged one of these. If so, tell me what you think. 

Oh, wait, you don't know what I speak of? Silly me, I got all excited about the impending hunt I forgot to share that information. Here you go: Gigantic Brewing The Most Interesting Beer in the World (fresh hop), Coalition Brewing Green Pig and 10 Barrel Raspberry Crush.

May whatever you're hunting this weekend be as mouth-watering as you hope for.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beer & Burgers at OMSI

OMSI's After Dark series of events which involve food and booze AND are children-free are a great concept. After hearing about them yet never making it to one last night's was too much of a temptation to pass up as they touted beer and burgers.

Burgers & Brew. Enough Said.
We get serious about warm buns, frosty mugs, and hot, dripping patties. Discern the difference between grain- vs. grass-fed beef, delve into the science of skunky beer, and experience the magical action of yeast. Drink up with beer samples from local breweries while learning how the beer is made.
Seventeen breweries are participating in the second annual brewfest. Brewfest tasting packages include event admission, souvenir pint glass, and 10 tokens for samples.
Science nerds unite for childfree, brain-building science fun at OMSI After Dark!

Not knowing how many tickets would be available and being type A in general I purchased tickets in advance and anticipated the event.

Unfortunately what was a great concept was exceuted very poorly. This was particularly surprising to me as OMSI is a well-respected museum. I'll give a beer festival, especially a new one, a bit of a pass when things aren't well executed but I can't understand why OMSI would make so many amateur mistakes.
1) First of all, they weren't ready at 6:00 when the event was supposed to start. Some of the areas were still closed off and most of the food vendors were still in prep mode.
2) There was zero signage so for someone like me who has never been to OMSI all I had to rely on was a confusing museum map.
3) The breweries were not provided with rinse water and I only saw one water station set up. Bad for beer tasting, bad for beer drinking (hydration).

4) There were only four "burger" vendors. Stock & Barrel was the only one I observed that was ready and actually offering sliders, very tasty quail egg topped sliders. The vendor making water buffalo burgers wasn't nearly ready at 6:00 and although there was a line, I never saw a table of samples. Apparently there was someone on the patio grilling but the line was so long I never braved it. SortaSausage, while offering a surprisingly tasty HempBurger, only provided 1" square samples in condiment cups. Rheinlander, who was at least 30 minutes tardy offered beer cheese soup/dip with rye bread. Delicious for sure but not a burger and before the event was over they had run out of cups.

While the food portion of the event was a complete fail the beer portion was somewhat better even though I'd had 90% of the beers available previously. My favorite of the evening was one new to me, Silverspot IPA from Pelican. Besides a portion of the proceeds benefiting butterfly conservation efforts, it was a very sessionable, bright, citrusy hop beer. A close runner up for favorite was Fort George Working Girl Porter. Summer has been fun but I'm ready for some cooler weather brews and their porter was just the way to start down that path.

I can now say that I've done OMSI After Dark. I can also say that as far as I am concerned it is an overpriced, overcrowded and poorly executed event. But now I know and knowing's half the battle.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sam Adams Barrel Room Collection

Long ago in a faraway galaxy there existed a time where the notion of "craft beer" was something I had yet to explore and Samuel Adams was high end and exotic. As I drew away from the dark side and began to see the light their beers became a reliable staple. However as time progressed and my tastes matured Sam Adams became pedestrian and while I'd order it if there were few other choices it was certainly not something I sought out.

A period of time went by and they came out with their Longshot Homebrew Contest which reignited my interest in at least a small percentage of their offerings. Besides bringing some different styles of beer to the thirsty masses it was a good marketing ploy to reengage some drinkers, like myself, that might have drifted away. Now they've done it again.

Brought to my attention by Mag's coworker, Sam Adams has recently introduced their Barrel Room Collection. This set of four beers includes American Kriek, New World, Stony Brook Red and Thirteenth Hour. According to their website, "Although inspired by Belgian brewing traditions, each of these beers is a truly unique taste experience due to their ingredients, process, and of course the character of the yeast. From deep cherry, to floral, to rich and earthy, there are layers of complex flavors to discover and enjoy in each."

We found the latter two, Stony Brook Red and Thirteenth Hour, at The Beermongers and had to give them a try. First up was the Red which is a mildly sour beer using both Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. Now before you sour lovers out there get too excited this is by no means a Casacade-quality sour. It is most certainly a gateway sour, yet there's enough bite to make it enjoyable and at 9% ABV the $8.50 price tag is easier to swallow.

The Thirteenth Hour is an entirely different beer in which they've, "combined the roasted chocolate and coffee flavors of a stout with the spicy character of a Belgian ale aged in oak." This one drinks much more heavy, readily reflecting its 9% ABV. It is tasty, still falling on the drinkable side for one who isn't in to malty brews or anything screaming Belgian.

On the strength of the first two beers in this collection I'm inclined not only to try but perhaps even to seek out the other two, American Kriek and New World. I don't expect anything mind blowing but I am interested to see if the other half of the collection will live up to the positive experience I had with the first two.

Have you tried any of the beers in this collection yet? If so I'd be interested to hear your take on them and if not, think about looking for them the next time you're beer shopping.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pairing: Beer & Cheese

These are two of my favorite things. Having both, it doesn't get much better than that. Really the only way to make them better is to have them paired, releasing the magic that happens when the flavors combine.

The ability to make that kind of magic happen is one of the reasons cheese monger Steve Jones rocks. Back in June Steve curated the first Beer and Cheese Festival, hosted by The Commons Brewery, during PDX Beer Week that was over the top delicious. Last night he once again worked his magic, albeit on a smaller scale, at Lompoc's cozy venue, Side Bar.

Offered up were four cherry-based Lompoc beers paired with four very different cheeses.
2011 Cherry Christmas & Samish Bay Fresh Ladysmith
The beer all on its own was music in my mouth, a well-engineered blend of four different beers, two of which were fermented with sour cherries and two of which were sour beers. The cheese, an organic cow out of Washington, was soft and salty, reminiscent of feta. The pairing ended up being my least favorite of the four but only because it seemed that the cheese took away some of the cherry notes from the beer. That being said put a wheel of the cheese and a pitcher of the beer in front of me and you won't find any left.
Cherry Bomb & Uniekaas Vintage Grand Ewe
As much as I loved Cherry Christmas, Cherry Bomb came as a bit of a letdown but only because I'm such a sucker for sours. On its own, it's a nice red that has had any trace of maltiness muted by the addition of cherries and the time spent in the barrel. Uniekaas as you might guess is an imported cheese, made from sheep milk out of Holland, and is very strongly flavored much in the manner that a sharp cheddar is. The difference is that instead of being hard, this cheese is firm but creamy. The sharpness of the cheese brought out the oakiness of the beer in a delightful way.
Red Raisin & Baley Hazen Jasper Hill
This beer showed off yet another take on cherries, drinking far more boozy than its 6.2% ABV would lead you to believe. Coming on so strong it needed a powerful cheese to stand up to it and that's just what this Vermont cow's milk blue cheese offered. The two made for the most decadent pairing.
Cherry Porter & Ferns Edge Mt. Zion
While higher in alcohol, 7.5% ABV, than Red Raisin, this beer was more subtle and very drinkable. Correspondingly the cheese, a raw goat cheese made here in Oregon, was less aggressive. Close in texture to a parmesan, it made for yet another delicious pairing.

If you didn't make it to Side Bar last night you might be SOL. On the other hand you can always visit Steve's home base, Cheese Bar on SE Belmont, to eat and drink to your heart's content.