Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Through the Pint Glass: Drinking In 2013

As we count down the final hours of 2013 it only makes sense to review my year of drinking. Don't worry, what you find below isn't a list of my favorite beers, but rather a more broadly painted picture of my life as described through the pint glass.

Before we get started on what I've been drinking I feel obliged to put in yet another plug for Untappd, the sole reason I have this data. I'm not going to lie and say I don't get giddy about earning badges but I also find real value in this well thought out app. I can't tell you how many times I've been this close to ordering a beer, only to take a couple more seconds to look it up on Untappd and find out I'd previously given it a horrible rating. Admittedly there have also been a few times when I've skipped that step and paid the price for it. Thankfully I'm learning and now it's almost an automatic part of my decision making.

The results of my beer drinking shouldn't surprise anyone that has drunk with me or that has read a few of these posts. Four of my five Top Beers are IPAs or Imperial/Double IPAs, with the fifth being a very close cousin, the CDA. American IPAs and Imperial/Double IPAs are my two Top Styles and my Top Venue isn't my house (although it is second) but none other than my favorite watering hole The BeerMongers.

I love trying new beers and the great part about doing that when surrounded by friends is that there is someone to share the joy (or pain) in what is found. I look forward to another year of trying more new beers, logging in both the good and the bad for future reference and enjoying the camaraderie of the craft beer world.

Thank you to everyone that has shared a beer with me this year and thank you to Sean, Jim, Andrew, Matthew, Eric and anyone else who has beertended at Mongers for providing a welcoming place to enjoy a pint or four. I wish everyone a great start to 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Foursome of Portland Brewing Beers

I was recently gifted a sampler box of Portland Brewing beer containing two each of IPA, BlackWatch Cream Porter, MacTarnahan's Amber Ale and Royal Anne Cherry Stout. Earlier this year I had become reacquainted with the IPA and it has since become a go-to IPA for my fridge at home. With plenty of good hop flavor and a very reasonable price tag it's one I'm happy to find a chilled bottle of waiting for me anytime.

It was Royal Anne however that really caught my eye upon spying it in the box, for two reasons. One is very superficial (my middle name is Anne) and one is very beery - how would this stout made with Oregon-grown cherries taste? Would the roasty coffee and chocolate notes overwhelm the fruit? Would the fruit flavor come off artificial tasting? With only one way to find out I cracked a bottle of it open.

While I was pleased to find that there was no artificial cherry flavor I was also a bit disappointed that there was very little cherry flavor overall. There was definitely "something" in addition to the lingering, slightly chocolately flavor, but if I hadn't known it was cherry I'm not sure I would have been able to identify it. For a 7.8% stout it was nicely drinkable - not watery but not so heavy as to fill you up - yet I tend to enjoy fruit stouts where the fruit flavor is more prominent.

Ambers are not a style I expect much from however MacTarnahan's is a perfectly fine representation of the style. One redeeming quality in a mild beer like this is that they can serve double duty - you can enjoy drinking them and they tend to work well in cooking applications. With this in mind I whipped up a batch of mini soufflé bites. I'd made the recipe once before, as directed using milk and was pleased with the results, but was confident there were infinite other variations just waiting to be tested out. This time I used a different kind of bread, changed up the cheese and did a straight substitution of beer for the milk that was called for. And you know what? They turned out great! The beer flavor isn't overpowering but it's there and along with the other changes really makes this recipe more of an appetizer than a breakfast item. It'll be one I'll continue to play with, especially when I'm looking for a nice "something to eat while drinking beer" appetizer.

Finally I came to the porter, a style that is all over the board for me. This one I'm happy to say is the kind that is right up my alley - opaque black in color (blacker than many stouts), very roasty in back with just enough creaminess up front to keep me coming back for more. At a mere 5.3% this is a sessionable porter that roasty beer fans should check out.

Thanks to Portland Brewing and Watershed for not only their generosity but for reminding me that it's a good idea to check back in with local staples from time to time. You never know when you'll be reminded of something you'd forgotten how much you enjoy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Would You Pay $24 for 32 Ounces of Beer?

32 ounces of beer to go is often known around Portland as a grumbler or growlette, but whatever you call it, it's half of your standard 64-ounce growler. With that in mind your initial answer to that question might be, "hell no!" Without any context my reply would probably be something similar.

Today my favorite watering hole is holding their Christmas Eve Eve celebration with an amazing 10-tap lineup, with a few more special kegs waiting in the wings. During the course of my Eve Eve drinking I overheard that the bar would be willing to fill grumblers for $24. That's in line with the special beer pricing for the event, $3 per 4 ounce pour.

As good as many of these beers were I'm still not sure I'd pay that price for most of them. But there was one beer that I was severely tempted to lay down that kind of cash for. It's a 9+% barleywine from an East Coast brewery that does not distribute to this market. Besides being delicious, it's a rare find out this way and I'm not even sure what kind of favors had to be called in to get it.

In that same vein was a posting from a Minnesota brewery last week that mentioned they had what I think is probably my favorite beer of all time, a 14% old ale, available once again. While I doubt they were offering it in anything other than a glass, a pint if you're lucky, you can bet that if I could buy a 32-ounce of grumbler of it for $24 I wouldn't give it a second thought.

So what do you think? Is $24 for 32 ounces outrageous? Or are there beer(s) out there you'd be willing to fork out that kind of dough for (whether or not it would actually be possible)?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Your Beer Smells Like What?!?

At a recent bottle share talk inevitably turned geeky as we discussed aromas in beer, particularly those aromas that in name might be construed as off-putting or a criticism of the brew. Among those are horse blanket, barnyard/hay and manure, B.O. (body odor) and cat piss (catty or cat urine for the more delicate crowd).

For someone who hasn't noticed these aromas or has smelled "something" but couldn't quite identify it, a fair reaction would be for them to wonder why on earth someone would want to drink a beer with such an aroma.

I recall the first time I smelled something odd but realized that I also loved the beer. It was a firkin of Summit Oatmeal Stout at Firkin Fest 2008 and there was a distinct cheese aroma. Right away we started referring to it as "The Cheese Beer" and I kept going back for more.

Since then I've learned that I enjoy hay and manure aromas, that some of the most delightful IPAs have an impossible-to-ignore stanky B.O. aroma and that yes, even a cat piss aroma is something that won't turn me off from a beer.

Do you have a favorite "stink" that makes you smile when you lift your glass and inhale it?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Breakside Brewery Hits 100 Beer Goal

Last night's media event at Breakside's Milwaukie Brewery offered a sneak peak at some of the beers that will be available at their December 21st holiday limited-edition bottle release.

This was my third or fourth visit to the location although for others this was the first time they had ventured into the depths of the Milwaukie office park where Breakside opened their production brewery January 2013. At the opening of the facility Breakside announced that it was their goal to brew 100 beers during their first year. That's no small feat but they've achieved it and in the process turned out some great sour beers as well as some very unique beers. Not all the beers have hit it out of the park for me but the vast majority of the beers this seven person team of brewers is turning out are excellent.

For those that haven't visited yet it's worth the trek to Milwaukie, however I would recommend doing it on a Saturday or showing up early during the week (they open at 3 pm) to avoid spending quality drinking time stuck in traffic. With over 20 taps, many which you won't find elsewhere, not even at their original location, and one of the brewers always on beertender duty, it's a place to settle in and enjoy all they have to offer.

Perhaps you'll want to do just that next Saturday, December 21st when they'll have a barrel-aged braggot, a triple IPA (their beer #100) and a barrel-aged blended beer, along with other special beers to tap for a day-long celebration. That's also the first day that their Cellar Reserve Club memberships go on sale. Limited to 80 members and offering exclusive access to certain beers this might be just the thing to please the ultimate beer geek on your list. They alluded to this event earlier in the week so make sure to follow them on Twitter or Facebook for updates and additional details.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ecliptic Brewing

Ecliptic Brewing, the new venture of long-time Portland brewing icon John Harris, opened its doors at the end of October. It wasn't until the start of December that I finally made my way there to check things out.

The space, tucked out of sight but just a stone's throw from the south end of happening N Mississippi, is a large one. Walking into the restaurant area one is likely to forget that they've shown up for beer, having instead arrived at a beautifully designed eatery. Thankfully both the beer and the food are worth showing up for.

When we visited they had five of their own brews available in addition to a couple of guest taps and bottles. Figuring between the two of us we would have no problem trying all five we started off with the two most likely subjects - Procyon Pale and Arcturus IPA. What was unlikely is that not only did the both of us far prefer the pale to the IPA but in subsequent conversations with others that has been the unanimous opinion. Neither the Riegel nor the Spica were styles I'd generally order but they'll likely be enjoyed by others. The Capella Porter was delightfully roasty without being heavy.

As for the food, the menu is compact and while a $13 burger might turn some off it instantly became my new favorite burger in town. Served medium-rare (without even having to request it) it can be had during happy hour for a very fair price of $10. I've heard some good buzz about their lamb burger as well so if I can resist the temptation to order the same thing on my next visit I'll be giving it a try.

In the meantime I'm looking forward to trying out Filament, their Winter IPA that was released in bottles earlier this week.

Ecliptic Brewing
825 N Cook Street

Open at 11 am daily
Happy hour 3 - 6 pm (everyday)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snow Brawl at Concordia Ale House

With the Holiday Ale Festival going on concurrently I'll take a wild guess and say that this Brawl at Concordia Ale House is getting a lot less love than most of them. However after visiting HAF twice early in its run and being asked by a buddy to join him at Concordia yesterday I found no reason not to do just that.

For those unfamiliar with Concordia's Brawls, they are basically blind beer tastings where each tray has 10 - 12 beers and people vote for their favorite. Sometimes the beers are all one style (i.e. IPAs), sometimes the beers are specifically from physical locations (i.e. half from Oregon, half from Washington) and sometimes there is a combination of things going on. Snow Brawl, unsurprisingly, was a tray of winter beers - 10 beers representing breweries in Oregon, Washington, California and Colorado.

Overall I was unimpressed with the majority of the beers, which is a departure from most Brawls I've been to. However winter beers tend to go lighter on the hops than I'd like so there is a good chance that's the reason. That's also the reason that I chose #1 as my favorite. It was the hoppiest of the bunch and I unabashedly chose it.

Concordia is great about getting the results out, usually in the wee hours separating Sunday from Monday, and I'll be even more interested than usual to have the beer and brewery names revealed. If you haven't stopped in yet you still have all day today. As a bonus, breakfast will be available until 2:00 p.m. and football will be on the TVs.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Opening Day at Holiday Ale Festival 2013

Yesterday kicked off the 18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival at Pioneer Courthouse Square. It was an appropriately chilly day but between the bright sunshine and the heaters, it was cozy inside the tent.

I came armed with my trusty cheat sheet of beers I wanted to try and determined to drink them in the pre-thought out order that roughly started with the lowest alcohol, most mild tasting beers. Right away my resolve was put to the test as I was told by multiple people that the High West Whiskey barrel aged Cappuccino Stout from Lagunitas was amazing. It was one of the highest alcohol beers at 12% ABV and the one I had designated to be last on my list.

As I started in I did take into consideration the input of my fellow, trusted beer friends and ended up skipping a couple of beers I had intended to try due to poor reviews. I mean, heck, it wasn't like there would be any lack of beers to try. In fact, I knew that it would be surprising if I tried all of the ones that I wanted to on this first visit.

Of the 12 beers that crossed my lips my favorite, and one that I ended up getting a full glass of, was The Twerking Elf from Stickmen Brewery & Skewery. This 7.2% ABV Northwest Sour Brown was the second beer that I had and was an excellent example of the style. For every person that told me about the Lagunitas, I told them about the Stickmen.

Other beers that I enjoyed included:
- Old Town Brewing Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, a 7.5% rum barrel aged old ale. I hope that Bolt made more than the amount he sent to HAF because I'd love to have this again, served at a more appropriate, warmer temperature.
- Coalition Brewing Shenanigans, a 9.8% barleywine. The same goes for this beer, it was good at the festival but I think it would be even more enjoyable warmed up a bit.
- Lagunitas High West Whiskey barrel aged Cappuccino Stout, a 12% stout. My friends were right, the aroma was intoxicating, the flavor even more amazing. Michael hit the nail on the head when he said that it was, "the Velvet Merkin of two years ago."

There are still four more days of the festival so there's a fair chance I'll make it back. One beer that will be on my visit #2 list will be McGuinness from Nation Brewery. Mag really enjoyed this 9.2% imperial milk stout that was aged on Kahlua-soaked oak. I'll also be keeping my ears out for what you, my beery friends recommend.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beer & Cereal: The Final Installment

In this final installment of beer and cereal pairings we get to the cereals that I figured would be the most challenging. From what I learned in the first and second rounds I suspected these two would require mild beers, not something that I usually drink. However like many a beer geek, the intrigue of a beer I've never had before often outweighs the known satisfaction of a favorite brew so there was the possibility of finding new beers to enjoy.

Silver Moon Voodoo Dog ISR was my first chance beer of the night and when I found it underwhelming I turned to the Apple Jacks. The cereal was sweeter than I remembered but the overpowering sweetness was tempered by the beer. In return, something about the apple-cinnamon flavors in the cereal enhanced the hop profile of the beer, a definite improvement.

My next beer selection, Fire Mountain Cold Cold Billy, went similarly although it came as more of a surprise. Deviating from the standard look of most Fire Mountain labels, Cold Cold Billy was billed as a double IPA, something that should be right up my alley. It wasn't. I suspect that it was the variety of hops used that failed to wow me so I looked to the cereal for some assistance.

Since the Apple Jacks were already opened I started there and quickly decided it was a solid, "NO." Moving onto the Froot Loops I was pleased to find that the sweet, artificial fruity combination in the cereal managed to sharpen the focus of the beer, pushing whatever flavors were "meh-ing" me to the background, allowing me to enjoy the beer more with the cereal than on its own.

The moral of this edition of the story was that two very sugary cereals managed to improve two disappointing beers. Had I not tried both the Apple Jacks and the Froot Loops with Cold Cold Billy I would have suspected it was merely the sweetness of the cereals that worked. Instead something about the apple-cinnamon flavors worked far better with that beer while the fruit flavors spoke to the other better. Go figure.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Makin' a List: Prepping for the Holiday Ale Festival

With the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah feasting behind it's time to look ahead to the liquid feasting the 18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival will provide. Due to how late Thanksgiving fell this year that means that there are just a few short days to prepare for the five-day festival.

Angel, this year's vintage pin up girl
I recently sat down with the list of standard release beers to identify those I don't want to miss. That short list includes:
Cascade Brewing Cherry Diesel (barrel aged imperial stout) Generally I stick to their sour offerings but after being blown away by their Oblique Black & White Coffee Stout I'll give this a go.
Gigantic Brewing The Scut Farkus Affair (holiday ale) A beer made with Haribo gummy bears? I'm in!
Kells Brew Pub Fruit Cake Ale (imperial brown ale) Fruit cake can be good, fruit cake can be not good. I'll be interested to see which camp this beer inspired by it falls into.
Lagunitas Brewing Co High West Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout (stout) I'm already a fan of the standard version so I can only see a barrel aged version being even better.
McMenamins John Barleycorn Mele Kalikimaka Coconut Stout (imperial stout) Being one that enjoys Maui's Coconut Porter this heftier beer might be pretty tasty.
Oakshire Brewing Co Swiss Mrs. Alpine Alt (milk chocolate sticke alte) Mashed with toasted marshmallows along with lactose and cocoa nibs, this sounds like a perfect cold winter drink to me.
Old Town Brewing Co Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum (rum barrel aged old ale) I'm a sucker for barrel aged beers and interested to taste Bolt's creation.
Slanted Rock Brewing Co Panty Hose Porter (imperial baltic vanilla porter) This is a brewery I've never had a beer from and in fact never heard of. We'll see...
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Erotic Cake (chocolate milk stout) Similar to some of the other beers on my list, I hope the beer lives up to the description.
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery The Twerking Elf (northwest sour brown) I love sours so I've got high hopes for this one.
Stone Brewing Co Spiced Unicorn Milk (chai milk stout) Chai doesn't do much for me but Stone makes solid beers that are usually right up my alley.

In addition to the standard release beers, there will also be at least 16 limited release beers tapped the first four days of the festival (none on Sunday). As of today the 2013 list was still a work-in-progress so I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled when I am there for both the tapping times - they ranged from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. last year - and the beers.

If you're one of those that will be making your own hit list for the festival, what ones are you most looking forward to? Or will you be scoping out the beers when you arrive, opting for those with the shortest lines? Maybe you have some other beer festival plan of attack?

Holiday Ale Festival
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Wednesday, December 4 - Sunday, December 8
Gates open at noon on Wednesday, 11 a.m. daily after that

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lompoc Holiday Beer Preview

Whether you want to admit it or not, the holidays are nearly upon us. Thankfully folks like those over at Lompoc have been brewing up some delicious hop juice to help us get through the season.

Earlier this week I had a chance to try out eight beers that will be released the first week of December. They ran the gamut from lager to porter, Belgian to Imperial IPA and included two that utilized local sour pie cherries. It's no surprise that the hop-forward, piney C-Sons Greetings was a favorite. Many consider this beer to be Lompoc's flagship seasonal and it is one of only two of the holiday seasonal offerings that will be bottled.

Going to another end of the flavor spectrum, Holiday Cheer, a robust vanilla porter, was delightfully roasty with a lingering chocolate flavor. The presence of the beer in this year's holiday lineup will be good news for some and sad news for others as it means that 8 Malty Nights will be sitting out until next year. I would argue that even if you're sad about 8 Malty Nights, you should give this one a chance, especially if there's any to be found on nitro.

The tasting also offered a side-by-side comparison of Old Tavern Rat and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat. The beers, named for none other than the original tavern rat, Don Younger, are 9+% ABV barleywines. While I generally prefer BBAs, in this comparison I found the non-BBA more pleasing and if you trust my palate you'll be happy to know that this is the other one that will be available in bottles.

With the variety of seasonal offerings from Lompoc there's sure to be one that you'll enjoy as well as one your buddy, your Uncle Joe or your sister-in-law Amy will be happy to tip back. So stop in at Lompoc starting the first week in December, check out their beer at the Holiday Ale Festival and enjoy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dirty Hands Brewing Company

Yesterday took us across the border into Washington to attend a friend's bottle share. Being that we needed to be there early evening we gave ourselves plenty of time to deal with rush hour and ended up in Vancouver with plenty of time. Knowing this might happen I figured we could pop into By the Bottle for a pint or two however as we turned down W Evergreen Blvd, what did I see, but a brewery! We quickly swung around the block, easily found a parking spot and proceeded to enter Dirty Hands Brewing Company.

Although it was just after 4:00 pm, there were already a few patrons inside and we made a beeline to the bar. With five beers on tap we ordered up a sampler tray and started in. Before we got even half way through one of the owners came over and introduced himself. Phil and his business partner, Grant, are both chemists by trade and Phil previously worked for Miller in their R&D department followed by time with a winery. Phil graciously offered, and I accepted, a trip down stairs to check out the brewery. With relatively low ceiling height they may have to look at a warehouse space for much expansion in the future but for now they have plenty of room in the brewery.

Dirty Hands, a name that speaks to both the history of the building (formerly housed a newspaper) and the fact that brewing will get ones hands dirty, has been open for less than a week. The 3.5 barrel system is housed in two levels of what was most recently a bridal shop. The corner location with large windows catches the eye (that's how we found it!) and the warm glow draws one in.

As for the beers, of the five the Liberty Ship Stout was easily my favorite. It's a roasty stout with very little sweetness and at only 5.6% ABV, one I could enjoy many pints of. I also enjoyed their Redemption Brown Ale which had a milder roastiness and as Mag said, "a very sessionable brown." The other three, 320 Mule Wheat, New Deal Amber Ale and WPA (a golden ale), aren't styles I generally enjoy but there was nothing off or unpleasant about them. I'll be interested to see what direction their beers take as they grow but for now I think the stout will be a crowd pleaser for the winter months.

With all the breweries popping up in Portland,it's easy to forget that there's a similar trend just across the border. Now I wouldn't recommend making the trip during rush hour, but if you find yourself with time on a weekend, a quick run north might be a good way to spend an afternoon. We'll certainly be making it a point to visit again soon.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Might Be a Bottle Share Addict & Why Beer People Are Great

Taking a look at the past couple of weeks and the coming weeks I'm starting to think that I might be a bottle share addict. For those wondering what I'm talking about, cruise on over to this Wall Street Journal piece then come on back. For the already initiated, continue.

Photo courtesy of PDX Bottle Share
In October, after not having attended a bottle share in a while, I went to my first PDX Bottle Share at Reverend Nat's. Appropriately the theme was "ciders" and while there were plenty of ciders shared and opened there was also a nice infusion of beers throughout the share.

Then last weekend I hosted a small bottle share, un-themed, where about 10 of us opened enough bottles to have satiated 20. The "two hour" event ended up lasting closer to six hours for me - six hours of pure beer enjoyment.

Turning the calendar to next week there's an annual bottle share that a friend is hosting and another PDX Bottle Share, this time at Bridgetown Beerhouse. Things quiet down around Thanksgiving before next month where I may be hosting another small share and PDX Bottle Share will gather at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom.

Circling back to my friend's bottle share, the "5th Annual Winter Beer Fest," I have no doubt it will live up to its name. And its name brings me to what I love about these shares. They really are mini beer festivals and they include a mix of friends, beer acquaintances and sometimes people I'd not met before, just like any other beer festival. Nevertheless, the attendees are all in it for the love of beer. That's a really cool thing. What's even cooler is that this is often times beer that has been lovingly cellared, home brewed or acquired by trade. And yet, beer people are more than willing to share what they have. Beer people are great.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kells Beer Trio

Garrett McAleese & Dave Fleming in the brewery

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that case Smithwick's and Harp should be flattered while craft beer fans who can appreciate well made, local versions of the two should pay a visit to Kells Brew Pub. There head brewer Dave Fleming is working with lead brewer/pub manager Garrett McAleese on their staple three-beer line up. The lightest of the trio, Kells Irish Lager, was created to replace Harp. I'm not a fan of Harp and consider myself lager-averse yet I found it to be very drinkable and a good compliment to the Nicoise salad it was served with during a recent event.

The second "imitation" is Kells Irish Red, created to be similar to Smithwick's but livelier. I found it to be similar to the lager in that it was very drinkable and not overly malty as some reds can be. The Northwest hops are present but appropriate for the style. Paired with their wonderful Ballycastle sausage roll, "seasoned sausage baked in puff pastry with demi glace," the beer cut through the heaviness of the food, making each bite after sip a fresh taste of meaty heaven.

The third beer in their lineup is an IPA, but an Irish Pale Ale, instead of the standard India Pale Ale. While the beer has the most prominent hop profile of the three it drinks just as Dave described it, "an Imperial ISA" with plenty of aromatics and flavor while lacking bitterness. Fish and chips fans will find this beer to be a sessionable, clean-drinker that works well to offset the "friedness" of the food.

With the recent addition of two 20-bbl fermenters to their 10-barrel system Kells is looking forward to having the space that will allow them to add seasonal beers. Their first will be an Imperial Brown Ale which will be featured at the Holiday Ale Festival in December. The goal is to produce a "fruitcake brown" with an ABV in the range of 6.4%, a nice change to the many high ABV beers the Holiday Ale Festival generally pours.

If you haven't been to Kells or haven't been in a while, stop in for some bites and beers. Hearty food and clean, easy drinking beers are awaiting you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who was George Bottler?

You probably have more company if you fall into the camp that would answer that question with, "I don't know," than those who know the answer.  The short answer is that there were two George Bottlers, brothers, who were a part of the early history of brewing in Oregon. After arriving in 1856 George M. established City Brewery the following year (which later became Henry Weinhard's) and George F. started The Dalles Brewery in 1859.

Beyond knowing that you might think, "That's nice but what does that have to do with me?" The George F. died and was buried at Lone Fir Cemetery in inner SE Portland by fellow brewers while his brother was in Germany. Upon George M.'s return he had a tomb built over the grave but that tomb has seen better days. In fact using "crumbling" to describe it would be quite appropriate.

Lone Fir Cemetery estimates that it may cost up to $80,000 to restore the tomb of one of the first brewers in the state and is in the process of raising those funds. McMenamins held a fundraiser in July and most recently Art Larrance donated $10,000 on behalf of the Oregon Brewers Festival. You can make your own tax-deductible contribution to the Bottler Tomb restoration project by sending a check to Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery. (The end of the year is coming up and wouldn't you rather choose to give your money to a worthy cause and help offset what you'll be "giving" to Uncle Sam?)

For a more detailed history of the Bottler brothers and the history of the cemetery check out "Beer Tales from the Tomb" in the October issue of Oregon Beer Growler.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beer & Candy: A Primer for Adult Halloween

When I attended my first beer pairing dinner years ago I couldn't have fathomed or foreseen the type of pairings I've been up to lately - cookies, cereal and most recently, candy. My interest in this latest foray was sparked when I read an article from Cicerone Michael Agnew. With Halloween coming up 'tis the season for candy and even people who aren't big candy fans (NOT me!) will probably end up with some excess candy at home or at the office.

The pairings were a fun experiment and overall there were quite a few that worked. Those included the first and most surprising one of the evening - candy corn and ESB. While the article specifically mentioned Fuller's ESB, and it was in stock at The BeerMongers, we opted to go for a Northwest ESB. Crystal Bitter from No-Li Brewhouse is a beer we've had before and really enjoyed and just like Michael said it would, it was delicious!

Another area that went well was the chocolate category. Kit Kats bars, recommended to pair with a bourbon barrel-aged brown, we found to go very nicely with Old Schoolhouse Hooligan Stout. For the Milky Way we went for a higher alcohol beer than the porter or stout called for. Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout was a beer we'd all had before and knew to be decadent on its own. The nougat in the Milky Way helped to balance the over-the-topness of the beer nicely. What worked even better and was a crowd favorite was the pairing of Creme Brulee with Snickers. Unsurprisingly it was quite a decadent pairing.

The final chocolate candy pairing sounded a bit odd but since we were all Reese's peanut butter cups fans we were game to try it with Lindemans Framboise. According to the article it would be "like eating a PB&J on chocolate bread" and it was! If you're a Reese's fan, seriously, pick up a bottle of this and have them together (oh, and it's great with an Almond Joy, too).

To save you some disappointment in case you decide to do some beer and candy pairing, too, I'll share a couple things that we found did not work. 1) Initially I had grabbed a bottle of The Commons Bier Royale, a lovely fruit sour, to try as the "J" in the PB&J pairing. It's a great beer but it didn't have enough liquid jellyness to make the magic happen. 2) We had two sour candies - Sweet Tarts and Jolly Rancher sour bites - and with the Biere Royale the Sweet Tarts became quite fizzy in the mouth. The Jolly Ranchers worked slightly better but in the future I'd enjoy my sour candies separately from my beer.

If you find yourself having candy and beer, intentionally or unintentionally, I'd love to hear if what winners you come across.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cider Themed Bottle Share

I've participated in more bottle shares than I can count, from ones we've hosted at our house to larger ones put together by friends and #pdxbeergeeks, but yesterday was the first one I had attended by @PDXbottleshare. It was held at Reverend Nat's and was appropriately cider themed.

Arriving at the appointed hour I wasn't surprised to find there were plenty of familiar faces and bottles of cider and beer already gracing the bar. More people and bottles continued to arrive until the bottles nearly spanned the length of the bar and the taproom space was crowded with a friendly, excited group.

Nat (above) kicked things off by opening a bottle containing the first cider he brewed seven years ago. Not your standard appley cider, but a very smoky cider, a great start to lead off two hours of tasting. There was a multitude of ciders I'd never heard of, much less tasted (like Grasshop-ah), in addition to beers ranging from IPAs to barleywines.

It was a great time and I'm excited about the upcoming November and December dates, which have been announced and and put on my calendar. The nominal entry fee of one bottle of craft beer doesn't begin to speak to the great time to be had. Perhaps I'll see you there.

Huge thanks to Reverend Nat's for hosting and Hotlips for donating pizza!

Upcoming bottle shares:
November 16th 2 - 4 pm at
Bridgetown Beerhouse
December 14th 5 - 7 pm at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Glory and Goodness of Beer and Cheese

After talking about it for a few weeks, Chris, Lynn, Mag and I met up for our own amateur beer and cheese pairing last weekend. There wasn't much of a plan other than Chris would bring some homebrew, both of us would pick up a variety of cheeses and we'd commence with enjoying two of the most perfect foods out there.

This was the perfect "excuse" for me to make a run out to Cheese Bar where one of Steve's wonderful staff helped me pick out three cheeses that didn't overlap with the ones Chris had mentioned bringing. Sticking with my three-cheese limit I picked up Lou Bergier Pinchin, a raw cow milk cheese that is produced using vegetable thistle rennet, Mizotte de Vendee, also a cow milk cheese but one with a white wine washed rind, and Pecora Il Tartufo, a semi-hard cheese made from sheep and cow milk with black truffles. When we showed up for the pairing I was glad I stuck to my guns because in addition to the Stilton, sharp cheddar and fruited cheese Chris mentioned he would bring, his cooler must have at least 10 more varieties. Not that you'd ever hear me complaining about too much cheese.

Our pairing started out fast and furious, a bit overwhelmed by all the goodness in front of us sort of like kids at Christmas staring at a mound of toys wrapped for them. Chris busted out the Stilton right away and with Mag grabbing a bottle of Old Schoolhouse Hooligan Stout I let the kid in me take over and went for "dessert" first. I'd had blue cheeses paired with stouts and heavy beers in the past and found them to be decadent. This pairing was no different and although it was the first of the afternoon it was one of my favorites. Stone's Suede, an Imperial Porter, and Chris' Road Runner 3.0, a sweet-ish rye beer, also went well with the assertive cheese.

Two of Chris' homebrews - Tongue Slapper IPA and Blue Footed Booby Baltic Porter - although very different beers each went well with Pecora Il Tartufo. In the case of Tongue Slapper, an IPA with outstanding bitter hop flavor, the cheese mellowed the hop bite slightly. The change to the Baltic Porter was more substantial but also more difficult to put my finger on and properly express. Let's just say that if you find yourself with some of this cheese and a Baltic Porter, give 'em a try together.

Although I'm generally not a Saison fan I've had Grassroots Brewing Artic Saison on a couple of occasions and found that it works for me. It works even better for me when paired with Lou Bergier Pichin. The effervescent beer is well balanced by the creaminess of the cheese but if you're going to try it yourself, make sure that the cheese has had enough time to warm and develop that creaminess.

There were a ton of other pairings, some as successful as these, some less successful. Never the less, an afternoon with great beer and great cheese is a plan you can't go wrong with in my book. If you've found some great pairings I'd love to hear about them. You can also check out past posts about beer and cheese pairing events (done by professionals) I've been to in case this post has sparked you interest in doing a little matchmaking yourself.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beer and Cereal...The Pairing Journey Continues

After a successful first round of pairings I had hoped to get to the rest soon after. Like often happens, however, life got in the way.

For this second round I picked the two cereals that I thought would be the easiest to find pairings for - Kellogg's Corn Pops and Special K. I'm not sure that before this experiment I'd ever eaten Special K but Corn Pops was one of my favorites as a kid. It turns out Special K tastes a lot like Rice Krispies (NOT one of my favorites as a kid), just in a different shape.

Stillwater Artisanal Why Can't IBU?
Besides a catchy name, this 6% ABV Belgian IPA was a surprising "like." I found it to remind me a bit of a pilsner, mild enough on the Belgian characteristics with enough hops for me to enjoy. Eating Corn Pops with it brought out the Belgian characteristics a bit more.

Full Sail Cascade Pilsner
Not a fan of pilsners in general, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. If this is what most pilsners tasted like you can bet I'd be drinking a lot more of them. Special K doesn't have a whole lot going for it but at least with this pilsner it tasted less like cardboard or wood chips. The Corn Pops brought out a bit more of the pilsner bite in the beer.

Burnside Brewing Thundarr the Barvarian
Another great-named beer, the description on the bottle talking about the banana and clove flavors made me wary but being an imperial wheat redeemed it in my book. Just as the Full Sail had done, Thundarr made the Special K more enjoyable to eat. The Corn Pops seemed to contribute a honey flavor to the beer, a not all together surprising find but one that was tasty.

Brewery Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout
It has a mouthful of a name and reminded me of a sweeter version of Guinness in flavor and in thinness, which for once is not a knock against the beer. Had it been more full bodied it would have been too much. This way it makes for a nice morning beer (even though it's 7%) to enjoy with some Special K, which you won't have to worry about tasting.

In general I was disappointed with this round of pairings. I'm not sure if I just wasn't picking the right beers or if the mild flavors really are more difficult to pair well. If the latter is the case, the lesson is, "don't be a milk-toast."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Two Outta Three Ain't Bad

I recently mentioned four events on the horizon that featured a critical mass of fresh hop beers, possibly the only way to have any chance at trying a good percentage of the dizzying number available right now. While I didn't make it up to Concordia Ale House for their Hop-a-Palooza the week prior, this past weekend I hit up back-to-back fresh hop events starting with Roscoe's Fresh Hop Summit on Friday, followed by the Fresh Hop Beer Fest at Oaks Park on Saturday.

Between taster trays and tasting tickets I personally ordered about 20 beers. But since I went to both events with friends I had quite a few more tastes out of others' glasses. Reviewing the lists from those events it seems like the Pale Ale is the most used base beer this year. Being someone that prefers an IPA over a Pale Ale most days of the year one could guess that I wouldn't be blown away by most of them. One would be correct. That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy trying them, it just means that overall most of them were just OK. There were however three of them that rose to the top.

In no particular order, they were Gigantic Brewing Sodbusted Simcoe, The Commons Fresh Hop Myrtle and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Citra Fresh Hop Seizoen. All three come from breweries that generally impress me and these beers reaffirm that.

Gigantic's Sodbusted is a 6.8% ABV IPA with surprise, surprise Simcoe hops. It has an amazing aroma and being an IPA base from a brewery that excels at them, it's really a no-brainer that this one hit it out of the park for me.

Myrtle (pictured above) is a Farmhouse Ale and one of The Commons' spring seasonals. Not an obvious choice in my mind to be a base beer to brew with fresh hops, the citrus and sourness from the Lactobacillus strains work very well with the Meridian hops.

Logsdon Ales also chose a less-than-obvious beer for their fresh hop offering, Seizoen. While Citra hops were the primary ones used, eight other varieties supported the conversion of their flagship beer into an even better version of itself.

Since I know you've been drinking at least a few fresh hop beers, too, which ones have made your taste buds sing?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Beer and...Cereal

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head, likely around the time of my beer and cookie pairing experiments that I wanted to try my hand at pairing beer with cereal. I'm not talking about using beer instead of milk to pour on a bowl of cereal but munching on the cereal dry, snack mix style.

I generally don't buy much cereal so as I thought through how this would work I decided that those packages containing 10 or 12 mini boxes of cereal would be perfect. After some searching I determined that they must not make them anymore however I was able to find the single serving plastic bowls, the kind where you just tear off the top and can pour the milk right in. I picked up six and my initial plan was to do all of them at once. They've been on my shelf for a month so getting impatient, I grabbed a couple

One of the two - Frosted Flakes - has been around as long as I can remember while the other - Krave - was something I hadn't heard of until I picked it up. Without any sort of plan for the Frosted Flakes I somewhat randomly pulled it out when Mag had a bottle of Ballast Point Fathom opened. The style - India Pale Lager - isn't one I've had a ton of experience with. The aroma was that of honey, the flavor a little less so but came across as sweeter than most lagers and without the aftertaste I associate (perhaps incorrectly) with lagers. Drinking the beer between bites of the dry cereal Mag commented, "It shouldn't be good but it is." I agreed and was pleased that this latest experiment was off to a good start.

Krave - for those who aren't familiar with it - contains squares that are similar to graham crackers and filled with chocolate. This one I had a hint of what might work - something along the lines of a stout - so when a bottle of Breakside's Alan From the Wood was opened I dove into the second pairing. This one worked as I had hoped with the graham cracker part keeping the pairing from going into sweet overload. Next I opened a bottle of Founder's KBS, "an ale brewed with chocolate and coffee aged in oak bourbon barrels," and found, not surprisingly, that it also went well with Krave.

After two successful pairings I'm looking forward to the next four cereals I picked up - Special K, Fruit Loops, Corn Pops and Apple Jacks. Two at a time seems easily doable so check back for a couple more installments of this silliness.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fresh Hop Beers All Over Town

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the Hood River Hops Fest and I know plenty of people that are looking forward to it. I have yet to make the drive out to this festival, especially when there are so many fresh hop happenings going on without leaving the comfy confines of Portland.

Already in progress is Concordia Ale House's Fresh-Hop-a-Palooza where one can get a "groovy taster tray" of 10 fresh hop beers for $12. Those who have been to their events before know to expect that the beers will be presented blindly with the names of the beers revealed the Monday following the conclusion of the event (September 30) and a people's choice winner announced from the votes submitted.

Next weekend Roscoe's throws their 4th Annual Fresh Hop Summit and the Fresh Hop Fest takes place at Oaks Park. The Summit, or if you prefer "tap takeover-style event," starts Friday, October 4th and will feature 17 fresh hop beers. Since that number is greater than the number of taps they have the beers will be presented on a rotating basis throughout the weekend with taster trays available. A partial list of breweries and beers is currently available on the Facebook event page; expect more details to be announced as the Summit approaches.

Running Friday evening and Saturday Oaks Park Fresh Hops Fest will be serving up another line up of fresh hop beers. Drink packages run $15 - $40 for glasses + tickets and can be purchased in advance or at the door. I've yet to see a beer or brewery lineup released, which is generally par for the course for this festival.

The following Tuesday (October 8 for those not following along with their calendar) is White Owl Social Club's Heathens & Hops Fresh Hop Celebration. This music venue and quietly-working-on-becoming-a-beer-bar had their first beer festival last month, Lager Fest. As I understand it, the turnout was lower than optimal, due in part to some early fall weather raining on the parade. I'm pleased to see that didn't seem to deter them as they take another stab at it with a festival featuring 15 breweries, primarily from Oregon. The brewery and beers list can be found on their Facebook event page.

Besides the festivals there are of course plenty of fresh hop beers to be found at breweries and bars all around town as well. With all the choices you're sure to find a time and venue to get your fill of bright, fresh-from-the-vine hopped beers.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where Did September Go?

September has been a busy one on this end but a good kind of busy. We had multiple houseguests, starting off with our Minnesota friends Kat & Scott who are Portland pros. Excluding the fact that we now live in Portland, they've visited more times than we did before moving here. Since they're also beer lovers each visit is about showing them new or not before visited places. We had no lack of new places to go in the Portland area but we also ventured out of town to some new to us places.

Newport was our destination and on the way we stopped at Block 15 in Corvallis for lunch. While I have enjoyed plenty of Block 15 beers this was my first visit to their restaurant and brewery where I enjoyed one of the largest salads ever (Oregonzola, figs & chicken) and Framboise Rouge, one of their sour offerings. We could have easily stayed around all afternoon but with half of the drive left we hit the road after fueling up.

Arriving in Newport we dropped our bags (at the Holiday Inn instead of the Rogue B&B we'd hoped for) and hit a couple of the Rogue locations. Rogue is Rogue and with their wide distribution we didn't find anything new to drink. But all was not lost as we were tipped off about a place called Bier One.

Bier One, a bottle shop and taproom, is larger than any of the bottle shop/taprooms in Portland due to the fact that beyond beer they have two pool tables, foosball, a couple of dart boards and a small sidewalk patio. Their tap selection offered us the chance to try beers we'd never had before and while the bottle selection was contained in just a couple of coolers, a quick look at it revealed that while the quantity might be small, the quality was solid.

After a pleasant evening there we took a longer route home the next morning, heading up the coast to Pacific City and Pelican Pub & Brewery. Although it was past Labor Day and a Tuesday, the place was packed when we arrived for lunch. A brief wait, made shorter by a pint of beer and taking in the view from their deck, and we were seated. The food and the beer were good but the setting was the most stunning part. Had we had more time I would have been first in line to slide down the huge adjacent sand dune or just hang out on the patio.

Returning to Portland we had another day before seeing them off. Then it was a short turn around and a reconfiguring of the mind before showing a Portland first timer and inexperienced, yet very willing to try any beer, friend from Iowa around town. More on that next.