Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Battle For The Belt

Last year we missed it - or skipped it - I don't remember. This year when friends said they were heading to Hillsdale to sample the beers at The Battle For The Belt we decided we'd join in the fun.

As I understand it the reason this fateful festival is still held at a relatively small McMenamins property has to do with its order in the life of the McMenamins empire. It was the first McMenamins brewery and therefore it holds onto the prestige of being the venue where, per the people's choice, the single beer that will represent McMenamins at the Oregon Brewers Festival is selected. This year there were 22 beers vying for the honor, divided into two tasting trays - yellow and blue.

For no reason that I can remember we randomly chose to start with the yellow tray consisting of:
Steam Punk - Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Brewery, Hillsboro, OR
Green Eyeshades Special Bitter - West Linn Brewery, West Linn, OR
Mexicali Rose Wheat - McMenamins on Monroe Brewery, Corvallis, OR
Hop Loops - Mill Creek Brewery, Mill Creek, WA
Four Winds Amber Ale - McMenamins on the Columbia Brewery, Vancouver, WA
Intemperate Disposition IPA - McMenamins Queen Anne Brewery, Seattle, WA
Mad Hatter Imperial IPA - Old Church Brewery, Wilsonville, OR
Parson Brown - Old St. Francis Brewery, Bend, OR
Darth Weizen - Oak Hills Brewery, Portland, OR
Black Pearl Imperial Stout - Lighthouse Brewery, Lincoln City, OR
Mon Cherry Porter - High Street Brewery, Eugene, OR

Based on the size of the samples we estimated each tray to consist of one to one and a half beers so we'd be far from blotto sampling all of the beers. In fact, we might even have room and time to circle back for a full pour of our favorite(s).

As we sampled our way through the yellow tray a server came around with cake - chocolate raspberry cake - and a little bit later a festive gentleman offering samples of White Owl Whiskey, one of the products coming out of McMenamins distilleries. For not being a consumer of hard alcohol I found the White Owl to be surprisingly smooth.

Our friends started trickling in, we finished the yellow tray and ordered the blue tray.
4K Lager - Concordia Brewery, Portland, OR
Southern Sun Wheat - East Vancouver Brewery, Vancouver, WA
Girl Next Door Belgian Blond - Six Arms Brewery, Seattle, WA
Portlandia Pale Ale - Highland Brewery, Gresham, OR
The Reformation - Edgefield Brewery, Troutdale, OR
Treme Northwest Amber - Thompson Brewery, Salem, OR
Freewill IPA - John Barleycorns Brewery, Tigard, OR
Obamanator Doppelbock - Crystal Brewery, Portland, OR
Umber Waves of Grain - Roseburg Station Brewery, Roseburg, OR
Black 'Ops - Fulton Brewery, Portland, OR
Mojo's Mocha Porter - Hillsdale Brewery, Portland, OR

While we agreed that the yellow tray had better quality beers overall, we didn't agree on our favorite three beers. In fact each put three different three beers on our ballots. Mine is, of course, the one on the left, naming Hop Loops, a delightfully stanky, single hop (Citra) Pale Ale as the best beer. Mag went with the Multigrain Stout, named Umber Waves of Grain, from brewer Tom Johnson.

Now the question is, did either of us agree with the majority and pick the winner?

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