Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Brannon's Pub & Brewery: Increasing the Suburban Beer Options

Brannon's Pub & Brewery opened in Beaverton last week and I accepted an invitation to check them out last night. Living in SE Portland I don't get to that part of the metro often and I don't have a problem admitting that if I hadn't been invited, there's a good chance it might have been quite a while before I visited. Thankfully wading through rush hour traffic to get there turned out to be worth it, revealing a couple of beers and food that hit high notes for me.

Before we get to my favorites from the brewery and kitchen, a little background for you. Kevin Brannon, and his business partner, Chris Evans, began working on the concept for the brewpub a little over a year ago and quickly assembled a team with Devin Benware heading up the brewing operations and Sean Beanblossom running the kitchen. Devin, although only in his 20's, has been honing his brewing skills for years, embarking on home brewing while still in high school in Vermont. After relocating to Portland he took a kitchen position at Old Market Pub & Brewery and made his way into the brewery the same way many do - cleaning kegs.

I tried six of Devin's beers and it was Thunderbuss, an oatmeal stout of the dry, roasty variety, and Vernepator, an Americal Pale Ale with substantial hop character, that made my taste buds light up. If you know much about my taste buds this will come as a bit of a surprise to you; it did to me. Vernepator was actually the first beer of the evening and I wasn't sure about it at first but as I continued to sip it, the citrus and pine notes of the hops built and I realized I was quite enjoying it. Thunderbuss was more of a hit with me right from the get go, hitting my stout sweet spot, one that is restrained in sweetness with a roasty body. I had expected the IPA and black IPA to be my favorites but both were maltier than I prefer.

Devin, less than since making his first batch in the 10 barrel system, made a couple of comments that belies his youth and I hope speaks to a bright brewing future for him and Brannon's. The first was in response to a question regarding plans for other beers than the current lineup, to which he replied, "The basic beers need to be perfect before we go in another direction." As a follow up to that he also commented that he wants to improve on the current recipes but he, "wants to know what Beaverton wants to drink," and work in that direction. 

Now a bit of background on the food side of the operation. Sean, another young 'en, spent most of his life in Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border. During his trek south to Portland, via Seattle and Bellingham, he obtained a degree in culinary arts and gained experience at a variety of restaurants. Kevin joked that Sean "came in the box" with the Woodstone Corp. hearth oven that was carefully selected to turn out pizzas like the Neapolitan ones he'd fallen in love with during a trip to Rome. The pizza was the highlight of the food part of the evening for me and although I'm not stuck on a certain style I know what I like, I know they're hard to find and I know the ones Sean is making go on my short list.

I'm not sure when I'll make it back to Brannon's but you can be sure that I'll be keeping my eye out for the monthly beer and food pairings that are coming down the pike in the new year. Perhaps I'll see you there.

Brannon's Pub & Brewery
3800 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton

Open weekdays at 11 am, weekends at 9:00 am

Friday, December 5, 2014

Favorites at the 2014 Holiday Ale Festival

I may have chosen the coldest, wettest, most miserable day of the five day run to attend this year's Holiday Ale Festival but there were some outstanding beers that made it worth it. With that said I encourage you to keep in mind that I only sampled about a quarter of the 50+ beers at the festival (one can only drink so many big beers in one sitting no matter how strong one's resolve is) so I may well have missed trying some great ones on my first day.

For the most part I did a good job of sticking to the pre-set order on my hit list, only skipping over the ones that were two or more tickets. Now, just in case you think I was being cheap by doing that, let me set you straight. I had you, my dear readers in mind, and I wanted to make the most of my time and tickets so I could more thoroughly report back to you. That meant I skipped over Nectar Creek Triple Brett, Feckin Top O' The Feckin' Mornin', Cascade Gingersnaps and Portland Brewing BBA Imperial Stout, beers which if I can make it back for a second visit will be high on my list.

Of the beers that I did try the two that hit the most high notes for me were Oakshire Prestidigitation and Stone New Desecrator. As I was putting my list together part of the draw for Oakshire's offering was that the description reminded me a lot of Cascade Brewing's Oblique Black & White Coffee Stout. It was the first the blonde stout I tried and it made a huge, happy impression on me. Oakshire's version, a white chocolate milk stout, had the aroma of white chocolate and the flavor was reminiscent of Oblique, but with a stronger coffee punch. It's an amazing beer and at only 7% ABV, one of the lighter beers you'll find at #HAF19. I have my fingers crossed that they made more than just what was sent to the festival and that over the next few months I'll be able to have more. If nothing else, I hope it will reappear next winter.

The other beer, Stone New Desecrator, was one that as I put it on my list I was actually a little hesitant about. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Stone's beers and hoppy beers in general, but a black barley wine, we'll, I wasn't sure how well that would work. Silly me. Not only was it visually appealing, with a huge, creamy head, but it was perfectly balanced between providing the hop character of a black IPA and the warming booziness of a barley wine.

The rest of the beers I tried ran from ones that weren't my favorite stylistically but I could appreciate them for what they were to ones nearly as good as my two favorites. Thankfully, and due in part to heeding the warnings from my beer friends, I didn't get any "drain pour" beers. If you've been, or once you go, I'd love to hear your favorites.

19th Annual Holiday Ale Festival
Through Sunday 12/7 opening at 11:00 am daily, closing at 10:00 pm everyday except for Sunday when the festival concludes at 5:00 pm
Pioneer Courthouse Square
General admission tickets: $35 includes tasting mug and 12 tasting tickets

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Ale Festival Hit List

Today is the first day of the 19th Annual Holiday Ale Festival although how we got so late into the year is beyond me. Perhaps it's due to how late Thanksgiving fell. Nonetheless, I'm staying true to my standard beer festival preparations with a perusal of the Standard Release Beers list and creation of my hit list.

Knowing I'd have to ax a fair number of them beers I ruled out ones I've had (like Kell's Boom Roaster, which is phenomenal!), beers I suspect I may be able to get elsewhere (like Lagunitas Scare City 2) or beers that are just not stylistically preferable to my palate (Belgian/Belgian Strong Ales).

As I made and reviewed my list I was surprised to find that I included some breweries I tend to pass by, but have been coming around to more lately, (like McMenamins and Portland Brewing). My initial cut yielded a mere 15 beers I definitely want to try and an additional 13 maybes for the B Side of my list. That boils down to a pretty doable amount, especially if I make it multiple days.

You're welcome to check out my full list but for those of you who prefer a Cliff Notes version my top eight are (in alphabetical order by brewery):
Burnside Brewing Co. Jingleberry - Imperial Stout with cranberries
Ex Novo Brewing Co. Moonstriker - Baltic Porter with Mexican chocolate
Feckin Brewery Top O' The Feckin' Mornin' - Imperial Espresso Milk Porter
Gigantic Brewing Red Ryder BB Gun - Saison with cranberries
McMenamins Lord of Misrule - Rum Barrel-Aged Mexican Mocha Imperial Stout
Nectar Creek Triple Brett - Barrel-Aged Session Mead
Oakshire Brewing Prestidigation - White Chocolate Milk Stout
Sixpoint Brewery Lump of Coal Porter - Robust Porter, a collaboration with "Beer Goddess" Lisa Morrison

Invariably I'll be disappointed by some I was most excited to try and conversely wowed by some I had dismissed (but was tipped off about from some of the beer friends I'll surely run into). But that's part of the fun, just like as a kid shaking the packages under the tree trying to guess what's inside.

May your #HAF19 mug run over with goodness!

19th Annual Holiday Ale Festival
Wednesday, December 3 - Sunday, December 7

Open 11:00 am daily, closing at 10:00 pm daily except for Sunday when festival concludes at 5:00 pm
Pioneer Courthouse Square
General admission tickets: $35 includes tasting mug and 14 tasting tickets

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Coming Up: Brewer's Dinner Series at Raven & Rose

Raise your hand if you'd like to eat an insane amount of delicious food paired with an equally amazing beer flight. That's what Raven & Rose is serving up this Sunday at their Brewer's Dinner Series Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Release. I was invited to preview the dinner over the weekend and if you're not into hearing me gushing about food and beer you should stop reading right now.

The meal started off with a full pour of Goose Island IPA and a basket of what appeared to be fairly standard bread, butter and crackers. "Crackers" really doesn't do these delicious buttery, salty, house made squares of goodness justice but I can tell you that I could have eaten my weight in them. The dinner then got rolling with a bitter greens salad, because one should balance all that butter with some greens, right?

After a great intro, things kicked into high gear as a four beer flight was brought out consisting of Class of '88 Belgian Style, Matilda, Madame Rose and Bourbon County Stout. Then the table proceeded to be laden with platters of Painted Hills grass fed prime rib, Columbia River King Salmon, twice-baked potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, stuffed delicata squash and pot pie. While the sides may be slightly different this Sunday the prime rib and salmon will remain. Raven & Rose sources as much of their food locally as possible meaning what looked the best last weekend went my sides but something else may look even better to create yours this weekend.

The meal was and will be served family style, a deliberate move to encourage interaction at the table. Bar Director David Shenaut explained that they want to encourage diners to mix and match, to explore pairing the beers with each dish as they see fit. For those looking for more direction, they'll have that covered, too, as Goose Island representative will be present at Sunday's dinner.

Taking the recommendation I tried each beer with each dish, finding one of my favorites to be Class of '88 with the prime rib. My least favorite beer on its own was Matilda yet it was the one I felt worked the best with the greatest number of dishes. Keep in mind that when I say "least favorite" it's only because I hold the other three in such high regard that being served just them, without any food, would be a delightful [liquid] meal. As the main portion of the meal came to a close I finished off the last of my Class of '88 and Madame Rose, restraining the urge to do the same with the Bourbon County yet also wanting to try some with dessert.

Dessert, while the most modest portion of the night, seemed as large as the rest of the meal in flavor. Black sticky gingerbread, quince sorbet, ginger tuile, poached quince and warm sweet cream was served with a pour of Bourbon County Barley Wine. The beer was outstanding alone and with the dish, which was just as good with my remaining Bourbon County Stout. The trifecta was completely decadent and more than my happily full belly needed but I was unable to stop until I'd scooped up every last crumb and downed every last drop.

If you're now drooling, pick up the phone and give Raven & Rose a call to reserve your spot for dinner taking place at 6:30 pm this Sunday, December 7.

Raven & Rose Brewer's Dinner Series
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Release
Sunday, December 7th 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Menu details
503-222-7673 or email