Thursday, January 28, 2016

NW Coffee Beer Invitation Preview

There is entirely too much beer goodness going on in Portland this Saturday and you'd better have a damn good reason if you won't be attending at least one of them. Not one to over commit myself where beer festivals are concerned, I'm only planning to be at one and that's the NW Coffee Beer Invitational.

This is the third year of the festival put together by Dave Fleming and the third year I'll be attending. The past two years have been blessed by unseasonably beautiful January weather (like we had earlier this week), a boon for an outdoor, albeit tented affair. Again this year there will be 16 beers available, all made with locally roasted coffee, that have the added bonus of being sessionable - 7% ABV or less.

The festival has been posting the beer line up to their Facebook page over the last couple weeks with just a few remaining to be revealed. Here's the CliffNotes version:

10 Barrel Brewing - On Sinful Grounds
54 40' Brewing (9 Bar Espresso) - Stromtrooper Schwarzbier
Buoy Beer Co - Coffee Brown Porter* made with Columbia River Coffee Roaster
Burnside Brewing - Joe Mum is So Roasty (bourbon barrel-aged wheat stout)
Cascade Brewing (Oblique Coffee) - Oblique B&W Stout
The Commons Brewery (Stumptown Coffee Roasters) - Coffee Pumpernickel Rye
Deschutes Brewery (Nossa Familia Coffee) - Augusta's Porter
Double Mountain Brewery (Heart Coffee Westside) - Space Jitters Coffee Imperial Stout
Everybody's Brewing (Stoked Blue Bird Coffee) - Cold Press Porter
Feckin Irish Brewing - Espresso Milk Porter*
Fire on the Mountain Brewing (Spella Coffee) - Caffe Corretto
Gigantic Brewing (Coava Coffee Roasters) - Koffee Brown
Lompoc Brewing (Nossa Familia Coffee) - Brazilian Blonde
Lucky Labrador Brewing - Let's Dance Lager
Pints Brewing - yet TBA
Widmer Brothers Brewing - yet TBA

*Beers exclusive to the festival

I'd love to have you join me at the festival but in case coffee beers aren't your thing or you're an overachiever who wants to hit more than one event, the other happenings on my radar:
Culmination Artisinful! Beer & Chocolate Festival 12-6pm
Baerlic 3rd Annual Stout Bout 1-6pm
Base Camp's 2nd Annual Collabofest 2-8pm
McMenamins Hammerhead 30th Anniversary (includes four variations on tap at 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop)

NW Coffee Beer Invitational
Goose Hollow Inn
$15 admission includes tasting glass + 8 tasting tickets

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ready Raise the Roost?

When the bottle of Portland Brewing Raise the Roost Belgian-Style Red Ale showed up on my door I was intrigued. As a self-described "non-Belgian" fan (with a list of Belgian-style beers that seems to grow daily and says otherwise) I wasn't expecting to love it but was curious to taste what Portland Brewing had crafted with Belgian yeast in the form of a red ale.

The aroma was most definitely Belgiany and I tried to keep an open mind as I tasted it. The flavor played true to the aroma but to my pleasant surprise the characteristics I generally dislike were muted or mitigated by the choice and usage of malts (2-Row, CaraRed, Melanoidin, C-120 and roasted barley) and hops (Liberty, Nugget and East Kent Golding). It struck me as a beer that nicely bridges the gap between the heavy, roasty beers of winter that are slowly departing and the lighter beers on the horizon that will herald the return of spring.

Will this be a beer for you? I don't know and there's only one way to find out - give it a go. I'll be interested to hear what you thought of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Peaches, Cherries and Chilies, Oh My!

At the end of last week Upright Brewing announced the upcoming release of Fantasia, one of a handful of bottles of primarily fruit-driven beers that will be released in the coming weeks. I recently spent a very enjoyable evening at Upright tasting those soon-to-be-released beers and while I'm the first to admit Upright's beers don't always make my taste buds sing, there was only one of the bunch that I wouldn't wrestle you for.

Seeing as how Fantasia, now in its fifth vintage, is just days from being released it only makes sense to start there. Peaches from Baird Family Orchards, the place Upright sources all of its fruit, are put into casks whole, with just a quick knife stab to ensure the skins are broken. Brewed in mid-2014, the beer was aged in reused casks (previously containing other Upright fruit beers) for a year before it was bottled six months ago. The result is a beer that is pale but rich in color with an aroma that in no uncertain terms lets the nose know there are peaches within. There's a mild tartness, no doubt influenced by the unique microflora of the casks, and a juiciness that intensifies as the beer warms.

Peaches and cherries, used in Hearts' Beat and Shades, are agricultural products and as such have unpredictable peak ripeness which can make planning brew days challening. It's a minor inconvenience owner Alex Ganum is willing to deal with in order to utilize the "fuck-ton of really good fruit in Oregon."

The cherries used in Hearts' Beat are a variety called Chelan which are so dark they appear nearly black and impart so much color to the beer that by the end their year in the casks the cherries themselves are very pale. While it utilizes cherries, Alex was very clear that this beer is not a Kriek, instead it brings together elements from many styles. The powerfully delicious cherry flavor has a hint of tart/sour from the Brettanomyces that was pitched as well as from Sacromyces naturally occurring on the fruit or existing in the casks.

Shades, which utilizes two lots of Rainier cherries, gives nothing away in appearance that it, too, is chock full of fruit. Rainiers are beautiful cherries in their own right but pale in color, contributing little to the color but contribute significant acidity to the beer. That combined with the three strains of Brettanomyces pitched, result in a more tart, yet equally delicious beer.

Moving from beer-typical fruits to a wine-typical fruit, Oregon Native combines skin-on estate Pinot Noir grapes of Patton Valley Vineyard with Upright's cask fermentation. In designing this beer Alex, "wanted to make a beer where you can smell it and taste it and know it's a pinot beer." Not being much of a wine drinker myself I found it to be an outstanding balance between traditional beer and wine. Alex's talent is showcased in being able to capture the pinot quality of the delicate grapes in what is distinctly a beer. As with the previously mentioned beers, aged hops (2012 Columbia stored at room temperature) were used in a purposeful plan to avoid overhopping and overpowering these fruity beers.

Going further afield to chili peppers, which are botanically fruits, is Fatali Four. Thanks to the dedication of Ritch Marvin, who has provided Upright with chili peppers every year of its production, this balanced beer should please those who are looking for a beer with a subtle but slowly growing heat. Near the end of the year-long stint this beer spends in casks (four wine and one gin) the peppers are added to give the dry, tart beer to provide additional complexity. That complexity is belied by both the aroma and the pale color, being expressed as the beer is sipped and savored.

The final beer of the tasting was the first beer Upright ever brewed, Billy the Mountain. This old ale is one that Alex describes as "a bizarre beer" and one they get a lot of shit for making. He explains, "This beer has always been really personal for me," a beer that is his take on an unforgettable beer - Gale's Prize Old Ale. The 9.5% beer is fermented with British ale yeast designed for open fermenters and is a blend of 80% "freshly brewed" (one year old) and 20% three-year-old beer. While this is not a beer that I enjoy, especially after the earlier beers that were right up my alley, I respect Alex for continuing to make it and know there are plenty of folks out there that are happy he does. Without such passion and willingness to make what they love the craft beer world would be significantly less interesting.

For details on all of the releases follow Upright on Twitter, Facebook or pop into the tasting room to enjoy any number of beers while getting the news straight from the source.