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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Change of Plans

Our plans for Saturday looked like this.

In case you don't recognize it, that's the front gate of the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire. Living in Minnesota previously we were supremely spoiled by what is likely one of the best renaissance festivals in the country. That version runs for approximately six weeks at a site where there are permanent buildings, stages, etc. The Shrewsbury version is a two-day affair on what they hope is the driest weekend of the year. While it was good to scratch that itch and check it out, we were ready to leave after a couple hours and therefore had to formulate Plan B.
So our plans changed to this.

Being so close to Corvallis we couldn't pass up checking out Flat Tail Brewing. I've been very pleasantly surprised with the sour beers they've been making, most recently enjoying Cool Hand Cuke, a cucumber Berliner Weiss, at Bailey's. Fortune (or maybe Fate, as apparently it was Sour Beer Day) shown on me as during our visit Flat Tail had that one and another sour, Vallee Blanche, available. Like Cool Hand Cuke this was a great, light sour and the epitome of why Flat Tail has become a favorite of mine. I also really enjoyed their White Heat Wit, a wit made with pink and white peppercorns. For those who aren't into spicy beers, not to worry. The pepper profile is most certainly there but not in a hot, spicy way. Rather the peppercorns work with the wheat base to give it a very distinct yet drinkable flavor.

It would have been nice to saunter down to Block 15 for a few pints but it seemed to make sense to hit the road before Beavers fans streamed out of the stadium. Guess we'll just have to make another trip soon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Little Woody Festival

I had the chance to make my first visit to Bend for the Little Woody Barrel-Aged Festival with Brewvana over the holiday weekend. While I was technically working, I still had the opportunity to see Bend - beautiful from my brief peek at it - and see the Little Woody in action.

For those that haven't been, this is a small festival by most, especially Portland, standards. There were less than two dozen breweries represented but what they brought was pretty special. Basically anything that was poured at the festival was a one-off and would be hard if not impossible to find anywhere else. That by itself is enough reason for many serious beer geeks like me to go. Add to that a festival with a very relaxed feel in a beautiful setting and you've got more than enough reasons to make the drive.

I did have a chance to sample a handful of beers while I was there. All were good however it was the first beer that passed my lips that was my favorite - Framboise White by Block 15, a sour beer that spent 12 months in Chardonnay barrels with golden raspberries. This beer, among a few others, were lighter offerings that provided a refreshing change from the heavier, more typical barrel-aged beers in attendance.

I saw quite a few familiar Portland beer geeks at the festival and met a fair number more Portlandians that came by the Brewvana booth. Did you make it to this year's event or have you been in the past? Got any tips you'd like to share for when I plan my visit? 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of its Parts?

Roscoe's held another of their summits on Friday, this time a collaboration summit, showcasing collaboratively made beers. There were 14 to choose from and since I was flying solo I had to be brutal with my decision about who would get cut and who would make it on my sampler tray. I was able to narrow it down to five, what I hoped to be outstanding, beers.

Rosconian Cream Ale - The first of two collaborations involving Roscoe's, this was brewed by Flat Tail. The flavor was delicate and pleasant as one would expect from a cream ale but it was the mouthfeel that really hooked me. Although probably deviating from style the wasabi, Kaffir lime and ginger worked well together and I would enjoy seeing this on from time to time at Roscoe's.
Roscoeweizen - The other Roscoe's collaboration paired them with Rock Bottom to produce a hoppy wheat beer. The wheat characteristics came out more as the beer warmed but they were subtle and offered a great backdrop for the Amarillo hops this beer was brewed with.
Sobrehumano - This was the choice I was least sure about, coming from Maui and Jolly Pumpkin, but I couldn't resist the fact that it was made with Michigan cherries. Those cherries were strongly evident in the delicious aroma although didn't carry through to create the beautiful, crisp, red appearance I had hoped for. Setting aside the visual aspect the cherries made a reappearance in the flavor leaving a very pleasant lingering flavor in the mouth.

Astoria on the Rock - I had high hopes for this one, a collaboration between Fort George and Dunedin, which if you remember put in a showing at OBF. Being an imperial IPA, a style I readily enjoy, I was surprised to find that from the very first sip all the way through finishing the taster, that I really didn't enjoy it. Although I couldn't put my finger on what turned me off about it I suspect it may have been the hop variety/varieties that were used.
Flanders Fred - I purposely saved this one for last. In addition to being made in part by Hair of the Dog, it was one of the higher alcohol offerings. Starting with the aroma, lambic no doubt!, and continuing through to the flavor this beer was too good for words. It was so good that I strongly considered ordering another sampler or possibly even a goblet of it. If you can't get it on tap I believe it may be available in bottles. Surely it'll be on the more expensive side but trust me, it's worth it.

It wouldn't be a trip to Roscoe's without eating and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the awesome food I had. Starting off I couldn't pass up the special - two soft shell crab sliders for $5.25. Then from the the sushi menu, the Ricky's special and finally for dessert, my favorite sushi house offering - salmon roe with quail eggs.

Seeing as how the summit was just two days ago I think there's a good chance there are still some, maybe even many, of the collaboration beers left. So if you didn't make it to Roscoe's yet now is the time to go. Because really, today is a second Saturday for most of us so go make the most of it!
(Beer menu photo courtesy of Jeremy Lewis.)