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.