Saturday, April 28, 2012

Flat Tail Does Sours

You know about my love of sour beers. And if you live in, or are familiar with, Portland there's probably one brewery that springs to mind when the topic of sour beers come up: Cascade. That's a perfectly understandable association since that's what they specialize in. That doesn't mean there aren't other brewers making sours. In fact, there are others that are doing a mighty fine job at it and Flat Tail Brewing is one of them.

Thursday night head brewer Dave Marliave brought three of his beers, including one sour, to The Guild for a Meet the Brewer event with #pdxbeergeeks. Their Wild 5 Amber is a blended, 9 month old sour beer and convinced me that Dave knows what he's doing when it comes to sours. I decided right then that if I came across another sour Flat Tail creation I'd make sure to order it.

As it turned out, that opportunity came the next evening at The Beermongers. They were tapping two brews, two different ones than had been available at The Guild: Put a Bird on Wit and Jarabe Caliente! After a quick scan of the beer descriptions, I knew I wanted to try the Jarabe but it took a subsequent, closer read to realize that although the other was a wit, a style I don't particularly enjoy, it was in fact a SOUR wit. That sealed the deal and I couldn't wait for the keg to be put on.

While Put a Bird on Wit was a completely different sour, as one would expect a wit to differ from an amber, I enjoyed it as thoroughly as I had the Wild 5 Amber. I sure hope Dave will be making plenty more of both because I'll be looking for and drinking them as often as I can.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Return to The Cities - Part II

Saturday was the polar opposite of Friday in terms of the weather and a perfect day to visit another place that had found a new home over the past two years. Again the day started with a hearty breakfast - this time at The Strip Club Meat & Fish - and a little errand running - had to make sure that the Midwest beer that had been purchased would be enjoyed in Portland - we headed to the Eastern edge of Minnesota to check out the new brewery and taproom of Lift Bridge Brewing Company. Lift Bridge pre-dates Fulton by a few years and started out brewing their beers first at Flat Earth in St. Paul, then at Point in Steven's Point, WI. They took some undeserved flack over the latter since the beer was technically being brewed in WI although Lift Bridge is a MN brewery through and through. We'd known the Lift Bridge crew since the early days of the brewery and were excited to see what a place they could finally call their own looked like.

Three of their standard line up were available - Farm Girl, Crosscut and Chestnut Hill - in addition to seasonals Spring Fling, Irish Coffee Stout and a version of Irish Coffee Stout sans the cold press coffee. I'd had their standards too many times to count and enjoyed the Spring Fling the day before at BLB, so the Irish Coffee Stout was the obvious choice. It was also the absolutely delicious choice I had hoped it would be.

After The 4-Pack had acquired beers and chatted with some familiar faces, we moved outside for a few games of "bags" or as some know it, corn hole. The beauty of this game, like many other "drinking" games, is it's one-handedness, leaving the other hand free for a beer. The additional bonus is that unlike bocce or "ladder ball", it does not require the throwing of hard objects. They're just beanbags and although the surprise of being beaned by a bag might cause you to spill your beer or drop your glass, there's a very slim chance it'll result in a beer drinking break to the ER.

Before leaving we wandered inside the brewery to check it out. A standard set up, their biggest challenge at this point is getting more equipment in to meet the needs of thirsty Minnesotans and Wisconsinites. They're still working on obtaining enough fermenters but have purchased a bottling line. They had previously contracted with another company to handle the bottling but recently said company decided to bottle for a larger company due to the more lucritive aspect of the relationship. While that caused a hiccup in the availability of bottled Lift Bridge, I think in the long run they'll be happy having control over this aspect of brewing as well.

There was much more to the weekend than visiting Fulton and Lift Bridge but most of it had to do with catching up with friends. You're not interested in hearing about that. So to old and new, friends here and there, cheers!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Return to The Cities - Part I

Last weekend we had reason to be back in the Twin Cities - a wedding reception - and took full advantage of the four days to visit not just friends, but two new-since-we-moved taprooms. We knew there would be plenty more friends to see and beer to drink than we would have time for so we didn't have a set agenda. Both of the visits were of the hey-we-have-some-extra-time variety and reacquainted us with a couple of brands that used to be regulars in our pint glasses.

Friday dawned down right Portlandish, and after a Cuban breakfast at Victor's 1959 Cafe, a little bowling at Bryant Lake Bowl and "necessary" stops for beer and cigars we made our way to Fulton. Fulton was around before our move - starting in 2009 - but had primarily been putting out one beer, Sweet Child of Vine. They've done well over the last three years, introducing more beers and setting up their own brewery outfitted with a taproom. On the days the taproom is open, currently Fridays 3 - 10 pm, Saturdays 12 - 10 pm and whenever there is a Twins home baseball game - they're located just blocks away from the new stadium. Although they don't serve any food you're more than welcome to purchase food from one of the food carts you'll find outside the brewery's doors. Nate Dogs is one of the regular visitors however when we visited Hola Arepa was cooking up tasty treats.

The taproom is good sized and has recently been outfitted with a gigantic flat screen TV. They, of course, are still pouring Sweet Child of Vine, but also Lonely Blonde, The Ringer and The Libertine. I went, somewhat hesitantly, for the Sweet Child. I recalled it had been OK in the past, but not really what I was looking for in an IPA. It turns out it was a good idea to give it a second chance. This time around I thoroughly enjoyed it and while it's possible they've done some recipe tweaking, I also heard from others that it's best at the taproom. Before we departed the four of us (aka The 4-Pack) split a goblet of The Libertine. Now, this was some really good beer, but at 8.5% it was a prudent plan to have a few ounces rather than a few goblets.

It was really great to see a taproom full of people enjoying beer. It was also really cool to hear that in this fledgling but growing food cart city, an obvious match has been made. I'd love to see some of Portland's taprooms - The Commons and Upright to name two - strike up a similar relationship with a few of the mobile food carts.

Check back tomorrow to hear about the second place we checked out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring has Sprung at Lompoc

The most recent media preview of Lompoc beers at Side Bar was a stark contrast to the last one that was chock full of appropriately wintery beers. This time around the seven beer line up was full of beers that leave you begging for the sun-filled days Portland enjoyed last weekend. With nothing rising above 6.2% ABV and one even coming in at a mere 4.1% you have a range of styles to choose from, none of which will be the cause for blotto-ness.

Heaven's Helles - "Heaven's Helles is a golden straw-colored German style pale lager with a floral aroma and a clean, crisp finish. 5.3% ABV" - For those that remember this beer from last year, the grain bill and the hops are the same, however the yeast is a new Mexican lager yeast strain. Not being a German beer fan no lager yeast fan myself, it wasn't a beer for me. However comments from others who enjoy the style were complimentary so if Helles is your thing, make sure to seek it out when it goes on tap as none will be bottled.

1060 EZ Taxation Ale - "1060 EZ Taxation Ale is made with pale malt and corn, using Noble hops in the kettle. It's light straw in color, with a malty nose and a mildly sweet mid-mouthfeel provided by the corn. It has a light, dry, crisp finish. 6% ABV" - The aroma, color and flavor are all very light, making it a great gateway beer for your BMC-drinking friends. The plus is that you could enjoy it right along side them. Be careful though because even though it's only 6%, you'd be hard pressed to think you were drinking anything above a 3.2% beer. For the beer geeks who might be wondering, there is 30% corn used and only 1 1/2 lbs of hops per six barrel batch.

Cherry Bomb - "Cherry Bomb is our Proletariat Red fermented in Maryhill Winery Port barrels with 40 lbs of sour cherries. It has a big cherry aroma with a fruit forward flavor, finishing dry with a touch of oak. 6.2% ABV" - This was the biggest beer of the set and my favorite. True to the description, the tart cherry aroma jumped out of the glass to my nose. While the flavor didn't carry as much tart flavor as this sour beer lover would prefer, the tartness did build throughout the glass and I think that after a pint or two I'd enjoy it even more. If you're planning to attend the Portland Fruit Beer Fest, look for this one in the special "buzz tent" area.

Kick Axe Dry Hopped Pale Ale - "Our tribute to the Timber's Army, Kick Axe is a crisp, easy drinking pale ale that was dry hopped in the fermenter with Cascades, giving off a huge hop aroma. 5.2%" - This was the second time I'd had this beer and I enjoyed it much more than the first go 'round, possibly because of the increased amount of hops used over last year's version. It's a favorite of both Jerry, who quipped, "In my own personal alcoholism, this fits the niche," and Brian who likens it to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, his "go-to camping beer."

Valley of Hops IPA - "Valley of Hops is a classic NW style IPA with a mild body and tons of hops. Hopped with Centennial, Cascade, Cluster, Meridian, Perle and Crystal hops throughout, it has a huge hop aroma with a spicy finish. This pleasant IPA is deliciously drinkable. 5.8%." - This beer was made while Zach was still part of the Lompoc crew with the Meridian hops sourced through Indie Hops. While I had a hard time locating any aroma, there was a pleasant peppery, spicy flavor to be found in the glass.

Ryeteous Badger Belgian Style Red - "Ryeteous Badger is a very spicy, full flavored and intense Belgian style ale. The extreme spiciness comes from the addition of malted rye and a ton of hops. It is full-bodied, yet easy drinking. 5.2%" - As with the Helles, it wasn't a style I'm a fan of but again garnered compliments from others. It can be found at the Cheers to Belgian Beers festival later this month.

Stout Out Loud - "Stout Out Loud is a mix between a Dry Irish stout and an Oatmeal Stout. It is pitch black in color with slight hints of coffee, chocolate and roast flavors, and features a creamy mouthfeel. 4.1%" - This was the lowest ABV beer of the set and before tasting it I was skeptical that it was possible to successfully straddle the Dry Irish stout-Oatmeal stout fence. I was wrong. The aroma was all Dry stout to my nose but with the mouthfeel of an Oatmeal Stout. This is one I'd love to try on nitro, which I understand might be possible.

Take a listen as owner, Jerry Fechter, talks about the building that New Old Lompoc has been inhabiting for years and the new building that will rise from its ashes, better than ever.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Beer: To Health!

It makes me happy to read articles saying that the beer (and coffee) that I love and would have a hard time giving up is good for me. I'm only a sample of one, and there may be other contributing factors, but it makes me happy to compare test results from a few years back to recent ones showing improvements, however slight they may be.

Last year, being that I'm not getting any younger the doc thought it would be prudent to do a full blood work up. Seeing as how the last time was seven years prior, I was actually a bit curious to see if there had been any changes. The results: total cholesterol = 209 (up 1 point), LDL (bad) = 117 (down 10 points), HDL (good) = 79 (up 15 points) and triglycerides = 65 (down 25 points).

More recently, due to a prescription drug I've been on for many, many years that has the potential to decrease bone density, my doc referred me for a bone density scan. I'd had one of these ordered six years ago (under the same reasoning) and of any type of medical testing, this is by far the easiest being that it's completely non-invasive. Fast forward two weeks and the call came from my doc giving me the all clear. Today the actual results showed up in the mail and upon comparison, the numbers were actually slightly improved. (-1.97 to -1.9 lumbar spine and -1.24 to -.9 left femoral neck).

While none of the above results are striking by any means, my diet and exercise have been pretty consistent while my beer consumption has remained steady if not increased slightly. And according to these results, to no detriment. In fact, I'll chalk the improvements up to the silicon and other ingredients in beer and pour myself another. Cheers!