Saturday, November 29, 2014

McMenamin's Kris Kringle Meets Gingerbread

Perhaps it was my recent (and very successful) foray making brownies with and subsequently eating alongside Portland Brewing BlackWatch Porter but when I received beer mail containing McMenamin's Kris Kringle I was immediately preoccupied with what I would like to make and then drink it with. For whatever reason gingerbread sprang to the forefront of my mind and upon locating my go-to recipe for it I forged ahead.

Before embarking on the baking however I wanted to sample Kris Kringle on its own. Poured into a glass the dark amber color again made me think of gingerbread. Inhaling the aroma, I found it to be sweeter than expected. That sweetness didn't carry through to the flavor however; it seemed more that of an amber or a nut brown with a more assertive hop presence.

Setting the beer aside I began making the gingerbread, opting to bake up mini-muffin bites instead of using a standard baking pan. Partway through I returned to the beer and found as the beer warmed the hops became more prevalent from start to finish and ultimately overtaking the sweetness.

Mixing up the batter and baking the mini-muffins went by quickly and soon I ready to see if my experiment would pay off. As it turned out not only did the bites turn out delicious on their own, their mild sweetness meshed well with the hoppiness of the beer. In turn the beer served to help make the ginger and cinnamon pop.

If you're looking for something new to leave out for St. Nick I'd highly recommend a plate of these gingerbread bites and a bottle of Kris Kringle. No matter how bad you've been all year he's likely to overlook those lapses as he enjoys this pairing, finding someone else's stocking to leave your lumps of coal in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Sours & Other Tasty News From Breakside

Ever since expanding to Milwaukie Breakside Brewery has been putting more effort into their sour program, much to my delight. Last night I had the opportunity to get a first taste of a couple of I'm sure my fellow sour fans will want to get their hands on.

The first was Country Blonde, a Belgian Blonde that sat on grapes and utilizes Brett. It is a very drinkable beer, one that I see appealing to both sour beer lovers and those just coming to appreciate it. Be careful though, at 7.8% plowing through a couple of bottles could knock you back on your heels before you know it. Only a small batch of this bottle conditioned beer was made with 30 cases being available for sale on Friday, December 5th exclusively at their Dekum pub and Milwaukie production facility.

The second was La Torenta, a dry hopped sour ale, which is Breakside's final bottled beer release for 2014. The beer was brewed as a tribute to their senior brewer, Sam, who will be leaving this month to explore lobbyist work. The beer was brewed in 100% stainless, using lacto and Equinox hops, the latter giving it a resinous/tangerine character. It has a little bit of that funk I so enjoy and played nicely with the Arpeada Vache cow cheese from France that Steve selected.

The third beer of the tasting broke stride being both non-sour and one that is a draft-only offering. Simply called Imperial Red, this is a one-off, hop-forward beer has enough body to be balanced and deceptively drinkable at 8%. It was paired with L'Amuse Gouda, a cow's milk cheese from Holland, that had a dry sharpness similar to a parmesan and the combination was great. Keep your ears open for locations that put this on tap and then swing by Cheese Bar to get some of this gouda to enjoy with it.

In addition to tasting these three new beers, brewmaster Ben Edmunds shared other tasty news.
- The Milwaukie tasting room will now have four dedicated sour taps.
- Also at Milwaukie, they're starting "library" or "vintage" flights, in which they'll be cracking open bottles on the weekend, pouring them until they're gone. Then you'll have to sit tight until next weekend to see what they've rounded up.
- They are bringing a new R&D brewer on, Michael Brady from Boneyard.
- They have five collaboration beers for CBC 2015, which will be held in Portland, the first of which is being brewed today with brewmaster Mitch Steele from Stone.

Tonight, November 19th, is the first of two La Tormenta release parties and will take place 5:00 - 7:00 pm at ABV Public House in Hillsboro. If you can't make that one, or you're an eastsider like me, make plans to visit The BeerMongers for the second release party on Thursday, November 20th starting at 5:00 pm. And if you happen to be reading this from the Seattle area, rejoice in the fact that Breakside will be doing a third release party at Bottleworks on Friday, December 5th.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Portland Brewing BlackWatch Cream Porter...With Brownies

When a recent box of beer mail arrived on my doorstep containing Portland Brewing BlackWatch Cream Porter I enjoyed one bottle as soon as I could get it chilled. Porters are a style I tend to pass over in favor of stouts, which are typically more robust and more to my liking; BlackWatch however has the perfect amount of body and roast to make it a solid choice for a chilly night.

A few days later I decided it was time to restock the freezer with some cookies or brownies, for those times when my sweet tooth screams too loud to be ignored. In the process of figuring out which to make I realized there was still more porter in my fridge and I set out to find a brownie recipe that would utilize it. As it turned out all I could find were ones that called for a stout so I moved on to some tried and true brownie recipes. The closest one called for Bailey's Irish Cream but I was game. Turns out, with that substitution and a couple of others, I made a pretty tasty pan of brownies that went exceptionally well with BlackWatch.

So next time you have a hankering for brownies, I'd encourage you to give this (super easy) recipe a try. The hardest part will be waiting long enough for them to cool, or perhaps not eating the entire pan as you alternate bites of the moist, chocolately goodness with sips of the slightly dry BlackWatch.

BlackWatch Brownies
(adapted from  a Cooking Light recipe)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Portland Brewing BlackWatch Cream Porter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking spray
Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a sauce pan. Heat over low, stirring occasionally, until melted and combined. Stir in sugar and remove from heat. Add egg, porter and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Fold in the flour mixture, stirring until just moist.

Spread batter into a 9-inch square or 11 x 7-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Sprinkle with coarse salt and cool completely on a wire rack.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coalition Brewing Holds Pumpkin Beer Festival

Bucking the trend of releasing "seasonal" beers far earlier than the season they're actually to coincide with, this past Saturday Coalition Brewing held Liquid Pumpkin Patch. The just-the-right-size festival featured eight house-brewed pumpkin beers that ranged from variations on their Loving Cup Maple Porter to beers using smoked pumpkin to a first ever gluten free offering.

I arrived not long after the festival began and was pleased to see the place already hopping. It certainly didn't hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous day and Coalition had done a great job of promotion, encouraging people to arrive early as there was only a limited amount of each of the beers available. I made my way into the tasting room and selected Smokin' Gourd as my first sample, then headed back out into the November sunshine, along the way running into a friend.

He had been there right when they opened and shared his impressions of what he'd already tried, helping me make my decision about what would be next. Throughout the next couple of hours, adding another friend to our small group, I tasted my way through all eight. I'll go through my impressions and provide the brewery descriptions of each beer below but I know some of you just want me to cut to the chase. You want to know what my favorite was and I'll indulge you; it was Stingy Jack, a pumpkin barley wine.

Congrats to Elan and Mike on making eight very distinctive, imaginative beers. I hope this is a trend that will continue, one in which the energies they once had to devote to the pub are allowed to be put into fun one-offs like this.

Smokin' Gourd - Smoked Pumpkin Ale 5.5% 20 IBUs
A beer that has over 10 pounds of smoked pumpkins that were smoked by our neighbors at The Blue Goose. A very smoky and spicy balanced beer that brings smoke and spice in one sip.
I definitely got the smoke but it wasn't overpowering and was well complimented by the spices used.

Gourder Crosser - New Mexican Pumpkin Ale 7.2% 28 IBUs
A pumpkin ale with some New Mexican roots...pumpkin spices, cumin, chipotle chili and roasted hatch chilies that were smoked by our neighbor The Blue Goose, give this beer its unique kick.
I got the spice from the chilies but it wasn't of the heartburn-inducing variety. Rather it provided a pleasant heat that meshed well with the other components of this balanced beer.

P.I.M.P. - Pumpkin In Maple Porter 7% 32 IBUs
Our "Loving Cup" Maple Porter just packed on 12 pounds of roasted pumpkin and additional spices to really "pimp" this porter out.
Drinking this, I really wanted a slice of pumpkin pie. Restrained on sweetness, this would pair well with the traditional Thanksgiving dessert.

Lil' BO P.I.M.P. - Bourbon Oaked P.I.M.P. 7.2% 32 IBUs
What's a P.I.M.P. without some bourbon and oak to really enjoy an outing at the pumpkin patch? Buffalo Trace and American oak teamed up in this beer to take it to the next level and even get your tail wagging.
The aroma was out of this world and the spices really popped in this version. It was my favorite of the first four. UPDATE: Coalition announced Monday evening that this was the crowd favorite and will be their production pumpkin beer in 2015.

All Gourd, No Gluten - Gluten Free Iperial Pumpkin Ale 8% 10 IBUs
A sorghum-based pumpkin ale with pumpkin, spices and a lot of pop. Can you tell that it is gluten free?
The aroma, no doubt from the sorghum, was almost sour, with the flavor changing as it warmed from more heavily sorghum-forward with that fading back as it warmed further.

Thai Yi Yi - Thai Pumpkin Curry Ale 7.4% 14 IBUs
This beer was made in collaboration with PaaDee and Langbaan as a take on a traditional Thai curry dish. Made with lemongrass, Thai green chili, kaffir lime leaf, Thai ginger, holy basil and fresh gourds!
My friend had built this one up as a favorite in the bunch and I was not disappointed. There was a lot going on, with the lemongrass, lime leaf and basil popping out for me, in the best way possible. A very refreshing beer, I'd love to see this make a reappearance in the summer.

12:01 - Sour Pumpkin Ale 8.4% 17.6 IBUs
This sour ale was a minute late coming home after midnight and ended up turning into a pumpkin. It was kettle soured for 40 hours with Lactobacillus which delivers acidity to intermingle pumpkin sweetness.
Although I enjoyed this beer, I'm a huge sour fan and would have liked the sour notes to be even more pronounced. That being said, it was my second favorite with only one beer left to try.

Stingy Jack - Pumpkin Barley Wine 9.3% 60 IBUs
A heavy barley wine balanced with the sweetness of pumpkin and spice, this beer pays homage to the Irish tale of Stingy Jack himself.
Wow! One sip in and this was my favorite by far. The aroma was that of pumpkin pie just pulled out of the oven and somehow Coalition managed to get the entire flavor of pumpkin pie, the filling and the crust, into this beer. If you can find any, you'd better order it. I predict this will be the people's choice winner (to be announced this week).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Checking Out Fat Head's PDX

Earlier this week we gave into the buzz going around and checked out Fat Head's Brewery in the Pearl District. I had been "warned" that the place was big but I don't think I was properly prepared for the cavernousness of it, loosely portioned off into bar, bar seating and restaurant sections.

We grabbed a high top in the bar seating area and dove into the beer menu. At the time they had six of their own beers on tap as well as a fairly extensive, and well-curated, guest tap list composed primarily of Portland craft beers. Knowing we would have to try them all we ordered a five-beer sampler, waiting to taste our way through those before ordering the pale ale.

Bumbleberry Honey Blueberry Ale - With a slight blueberry aroma and flavor, it reminded me of Sea Dog's blueberry beer, and was much tastier than many establishments' "I don't drink craft beer" offering.
Boogaloo Belgian Blonde - It smelled and tasted exactly like it should, just not a favorite style of mine.
Zoobomb Dortmunder - Nicely mild German beer that Mag described as "a bit rank," leading me to wonder what hops were used.
Ultra Pils - While true pilsner lovers might be underwhelmed, it was mild enough for me to enjoy it.
Oompa Loompa Chocolate Cream Stout - A roasty, slightly sweet stout, this was a favorite for both of us.
Pack-A-Wallop Pale Ale  - Really stanky for a pale ale, with a citrus hop punch up front. This avowed hop head loved it and wouldn't have had any problem if it had been labeled an IPA. (Multiple pints were ordered by our group.)

The food menu is as extensive, if not more so, than the beer menu. If you can't find something on it that doesn't sound good then you just aren't trying. We started off with an order of fries with our beer and were shocked by the nearly Easter sized basket of fries that came along with your choice of sauce. Giant in size and good enough in flavor, this is an easy pick to share with a group. One friend ordered the perogies, which he raved about, and after trying one, I have to agree. The pulled pork chili I ordered and the burger with chips (again huge) Mag got were fine but nothing special.

So, would I recommend trying them out? Sure. Go for the beer (a little high priced for PDX but not outrageous) and if you happen to need some food you'll find the portions generous even if the quality isn't on par with that of the beer. And you probably should go sooner rather than later because even though they were busy enough for a Tuesday evening, the space is huge and I'm sure the rent is, too. I wish them well, and look forward to trying more of their beers, but I suspect they face much fiercer competition here than most of their other locations.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Big News, Sad News Out of Bend

Wednesday beer geeks (especially those in Oregon) received what I don't feel shy in claiming was a stunning announcement by 10 Barrel Brewery. The Bend, Ore.-based brewery, with a production facility in Boise, Idaho and soon-to-be-open Portland pub and brewery, announced that they had been bought by AB.

Let that sink in for a minute.

My first thought was, "Dang, no more German Sparkle Party for me." My second thought was, "I wonder if Whitney Burnside (who was just named the brewer that will be heading up the aforementioned Portland location) was told about that before she accepted?" My third thought was, "I wonder how long will 10 Barrel's award winning Tonya Cornett will stay on?"

While I wish 10 Barrel the best and understand some people will continue to enjoy their products, which as the owners say in the video announcement, will not change, they won't get any more of my money. It's the principle of the matter and one my better half summed up best by saying that it's not about the beer. It's about the simple fact that AB is only interested in craft beer and breweries in two regards. #1 - They will do everything they can to crush it. #2 - They will take every opportunity to benefit from craft beer, including absorbing breweries (like Goose Island) that they can purchase. I'm not disputing that the breweries they acquire will continue to make good beer (at least in the short term); in fact I hope they do and it would benefit AB most if they retain the consumer base they have worked so hard to build. I'm merely saying that I'll be voting in another direction with my beer drinking dollars.

That covers my first thought. My second thought is somewhat more concerning to me. I would be quite surprised to learn that either Whitney Burnside or Tonya Cornett was informed about the purchase much more in advance than the rest of us. I'd wager that meetings were called this morning in which everyone outside of the founding triumvirate was notified; AB would have likely required the hush-hush until the ink was dry.

And finally, my question about Tonya, is another wager I'd make. She is an incredibly talented brewer who I suspect will soon depart (in less than three months says my money) to either take a position with an incredibly lucky existing brewery or, as one of my Twitter beer friends suggested, start her own brewery.

On the heels of this announcement I also heard a rumor that Oskar Blues may be acquired. Maybe the rumor mill is wrong. Maybe this is going to be one hell of a week for beer news. Either way, it's time for a beer, don't you think?

Sorry for the all text, no pictures post...just really too stunned by the news.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Beer & Coffee Preferences: Are There Any Correlations?

For some time now I've been curious to know if there is any correlation between beer preference and coffee preference. I prefer both boldly flavored - IPAs and sours are my favorite beer styles and my coffee, a dark roast with no added cream or sugar, please.

Looking at the full version of this infographic* finally prompted me to whip up a quick post and short survey to see what your preferences are.

So if you wouldn't mind, take a couple minutes to fill out my six-question survey. Then check back next week to see what others had to say about their preferences. Or don't.
*The infographic is less about beer and coffee than how their ingredients, alcohol and caffeine, effect the brain. That being said, it's one of the better infographics I've seen.