Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beer & Taxes

"Taxes" is such a dirty word and this time of year it's a particularly dreadful word. No one likes giving their hard earned money to The Man but it's a necessary evil (or so they tell us). Let's see if we can make the talk of taxes just a tad more interesting, like a look at the vast differences in beer excise tax rates from state to state.

For the visually dominated minds here's the story in picture form.

Image courtesy of the Tax Foundation
If that was enough, just know that the blue area in the southeast U.S. indicates the states with the highest excise taxes. That, among other reasons, is why you won't find me there.

It probably doesn't surprise you that those blue-hued states don't exactly have a big craft brewing history. On the other hand the two states with the lowest beer excise tax don't either - Wyoming and Missouri. Then we get to the third lowest - Wisconsin - and finally we're in a land that has been embracing beer for years. Colorado, another big beer state, ties with Pennsylvania, less of a beer state although it is home to America's oldest brewery, for next lowest. Then comes Oregon with the fifth lowest beer excise tax in the U.S., part of the reason we can drink ridiculously good beer at ridiculously low prices.

As the article points out there is little consistency on beer taxation with the variables of wholesale taxes, distributor taxes, sales taxes and a bunch of other taxes whose intricacies would put most of us to sleep thrown in. So what's the moral of this story? Oregon rocks. We make great beer. Keep drinking it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Drinking a Rose, Avoiding the Thorns

As a super beer geek I'm always on the lookout for what's new on the shelves or the taps. I won't deny that there are certain styles I gravitate toward but if someone gives me something to try that I haven't had before, regardless of style, I'm willing to give it a go. Sometimes I'm right in finding that I did not like the Belgian Quad that my drinking companion let me try. Sometimes I find myself pleasantly surprised by the Rauchbier whose initial smell was intimidating turned out to taste pretty good. 

Such was the case with the Portland Brewing Rose Hip Gold that I was gifted. Being a Belgian-Style Ale, based on its style alone I would have been hard pressed to order it. However from the start, pouring it out of the bottle, I was surprised. With "gold" in the name I expected something a color along the lines of a blonde ale, not this rich golden/amber color that filled my glass. The aroma continued to surprise, subtle and atypical to what I expect from a Belgian. Then to the flavor, again a subtleness instead of an overpowering, disagreeable, banana-clove bomb.

I'm not suggesting that this beer made me, or will make you, a Belgian beer convert but I would suggest giving it a try. Rose hips are an interesting ingredient, one I know I haven't had a beer containing it before, and I appreciate Portland Brewing working to remain relevant in the craft beer market. Just like Summit and Schell's (MN breweries) that are part of the old guard, resting on their laurels is dangerous. I don't like every new thing they are trying out but the effort is appreciated. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Zwickelmania Eve

Some people will call today Valentine's Day, which we all know is a made up holiday from the purveyors of jewelry, chocolates and flower arrangements. You my dear craft beer lovers likely have another name for it: Zwickelmania Eve. Less than 24 hours from now locations across the state will be flinging open their doors. I'll be staying in Portland and while I haven't quite decided my plan of attack for the day, here are some places that after going through the official Zwickelmania page, have caught my eye.

13 Virtues Brewing - 5 oz tasters of their beer will be available for purchase starting at $1.25.
Breakside Brewery - Draft release of five beers, including the Suburban Farmhouse I told you about earlier this week.
Coalition Brewing - To go beer specials and the release of their coffee IPA, Night Cap, which if you weren't able to make it to the NW Coffee Beer Invitational, is a tasty beer.
Ecliptic Brewing - Their new CDA, Coalsack, will be available.
Occidental Brewing - A canning demonstration by Craft Canning.
Portland Brewing - Free appetizers and bottle openers, plus a blind beer tasting.

(The above notes are in addition to the facility tours and sampling that are staples of the day.)

Another one that I feel compelled to mention is Kells Brew Pub. While they are listed on the Zwickelmania page, they didn't include that they will be pouring samples of their ISL (India Session Lager). Earlier this month I had a chance to try it and I'd recommend you do the same.

Brewed with lager yeast, it was warm-fermented and then dry-hopped with Mosiac hops. Although cloudy, the color is bright and it has a great citrusy aroma that carries through to the flavor. At a mere 4.2% ABV you'll be able to enjoy multiple pints.

Shuttles provided by Kells, Rogue and BREWVANA will be running throughout town making getting to multiple locations easier. Whatever your plans are, enjoy Oregon's statewide beer open house!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

No Cease & Desist Needed Here

I was intrigued by Breakside Brewery's Suburban Farmhouse Ale from the moment I heard about it and saw the label mock up. Touted by Willamette Week as a "tribute/spoof" to The Commons' flagship beer, Urban Farmhouse, I had to wonder:
A) Was this all an early April Fool's Joke? 
B) If not, what did  The Commons know/think about it?
Luckily I had been invited to a preview event for the beer and I aimed to get more details.

As it turns out, Breakside had acquired some Saison yeast (3711 for all you brewer types), something they don't generally use and brewed up a draft only seasonal beer. When the name Suburban Farmhouse was proposed Brewmaster Ben Edmunds got in touch with Mike Wright, owner of The Commons, and got the go ahead. The story is much more interesting to hear Ben tell it himself, which you can do by listening to the YouTube audio.

With the full story known next it was time to try the beer. From the cloudy appearance to the distinct hop presence resulting from being dry hopped with Topaz, this is an entirely different beer from Urban Farmhouse. Not one to rely on my sometimes faulty memory, I thought the only way to be sure however was to do a side-by-side tasting, which Ben graciously sprung for. Both are enjoyable beers, it's just a matter of what you're in the mood for.

Suburban Farmhouse (pint glass) & Urban Farmhouse

If you're interested in trying out Suburban Farmhouse for yourself, keep your eyes open for kegs of it being tapped as it is draft only and there is a limited supply. Breakside will be hanging on to 16 kegs for their own use and distributing the other 44 kegs to: Portland (16), Seattle (16), greater Oregon (4) and British Columbia (8).

Cheers to craft brewers playing in the sandbox nicely and having a sense of humor!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Zwickelmania?

It's only Tuesday and things have just barely started to return to normal after Portland Snowpocalypse 2014 however it's time to start focusing on what's important. This Saturday is Zwickelmania, Oregon's largest brewery open house and if you don't have other plans (like Ft. George's Festival of the Dark Arts), there is no reason not to start thinking about which breweries you'll be visiting.

Statewide over 100 locations will be swinging open their doors, with half of those located in the Portland metro area. That's a lot of ground to cover during the five-hour event and to help you do that both safely and efficiently there will be multiple shuttles running in Portland. BREWVANA and Kells Brew Pub will both be offering free shuttles and Rogue will be utilizing a larger fleet to cover three different routes, with a $5 charge that will cover rides all day on any of their shuttles.

Five shuttle routes, 51 breweries, where's the beer lover to begin? Maybe you'll aim for places you've never been to. Maybe you'll focus on a specific area of town. Either way perhaps you'll find my Zwickelmania Google map helpful.

I'm still working on my list of places to visit; look for a post with the ones I'm most anticipating later this week if you're so inclined.

Saturday, February 15th
11 am - 4 pm

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Growlers Hawthorne: Fill & Go

Yesterday Growlers Hawthorne officially opened their doors for business. Bottle shops, taprooms and growler filling locations have been popping up even more quickly than new breweries are being opened, which is saying a lot. The model of GH is one that is new to me but one that the owners put much thought into.

One can have their growler filled at a multitude of locations and often also buy some bottles or cans to go, sit down for a pint, or even have a bite to eat. Owners Lucy Park and Jim Hillman opted for a streamlined model for their shop, located on foot traffic heavy SE Hawthorne at 33rd Avenue. They have 40 tap lines and while you are welcome to sample as many of the beers as you would like, in miniature 1-oz compostable cups, their license allows for to-go beer only. On top of that they wanted to focus just on filling growlers, or 32-oz growlettes, so you won't find any coolers stocked with bottles or cans.

This is an interesting model in my mind and one that I'll be keeping an eye on. Generally I like to enjoy a pint while getting a growler filled however the key to their success could be in this distinction. There are a multitude of businesses along Hawthorne where you CAN have a pint AND get a growler filled. If getting your growler filled is one item on a long to-do list you might prefer a quick in and out. In addition, minors and dogs are both welcome, as are bikes. So whether you're solo or have all three in tow, you can spend a few minutes sampling and deciding what to take home and then be on your way.

Speaking of deciding on what beer to take home, GH went with an electronic tap list from Digital Pour that displays an image (brewery logo or beer label), beer and brewery name, beer style, IBUs, price and shows the approximate level of the keg. If you've been to Bailey's Taproom downtown you'll be familiar with the Digital Pour display.

Having met Lucy and Jim on a couple of occasions I wish them all the best. They are nice folks who seem sincere in wanting to provide a variety of great beer (oh yes, also cider, mead, gluten-free and kombucha) for the to-go crowd.