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?