Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wading in Hop-less Waters

I'm a beer drinker. It's what I most enjoy, it's what I'm most familiar with and I know how to drink it (I'm looking at you, hard alcohol, you throw me for a loop most times we meet). That being said I'm particularly open to trying wine when I can do so to learn what I like. Mostly this happens at a friends' houses when someone else is drinking it as I'm not committed enough to shell out for a bottle (or even a glass) for something that I might not like. Then there are times like Monday night, The Solo Club's grand opening party, when I get invited to sample an establishment's wares gratis. 

Located in the ever growing restaurant and bar scene in NW Portland, I've driven by their location, next to Besaw's (a sister restaurant) countless times in the course of work and have been watching as the space progressed. Last Friday and Saturday they offered soft opening dinners that a few friends attended, reporting back about the beautiful space and tasty morsels. Having been their now myself I can confirm both and while I was somewhat hesitant to check out a place that has only 1 beer tap I figured it never hurts to keep an open mind, it would help my wine education and besides, I don't have to have beer everywhere...right?

We'll start with the food, because it's never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach.

Mini, open-faced tamales

Fried chicken biscuit sliders

Umami brown butter popcorn, tea brined egg,
salmon jerky, kimchi, pickles, seaside potato chips
Without exception all of the food I tried was delicious, so good that I'm granting them a pass in my book for not having more beer.

So if there isn't beer, what did I drink? Two cocktails - one containing coconut bourbon (fun but boozy) and the other with mezcala (super smoky aroma but less so in the flavor, thankfully, that would be great with a big plate of meat), two wines - a rose and Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verdi (which clearly impressed me enough to snap a picture of the label) and Portland Cider with bitters (of which their were three - Woodland, grapefruit and Orleans).

It's not going to be my new go-to place, in part because the NW location isn't particularly convenient and in part because I really do prefer beer. But I'm definitely keeping this on my radar to suggest to friends who are equal opportunity drinkers and/or love tasty food. In a town (and an area of town at that) that is known for vast beer selections The Solo Club is setting themselves apart by focus on other libations and great food. I wish them the best and look forward to visiting again and starting today you can check them out, too.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Picks from Day One of the Organic Beer Fest

Day one of the Organic Beer Fest is behind us, a scorcher at that, with another warm day on tap before we come into perfect beer festival weather this weekend. Before we get into the beers let me just say that if you have the time and can bear the heat, go today. Yesterday the festival was sparsely populated and I expect today's heat will keep those with lesser constitutions away until the weekend, meaning a beer festival that feels like it's for you, not you and hundreds (or thousands) of friends.

Enough about the heat, let's talk beer! Of my list of 17 beers I had planned to try there were a few hiccups in the plan - two didn't arrive (Dogwood Brewing Organic IPA and Wandering Aengus Golden Russet), two were more expensive than I was willing to pay (Pinkus-Muller Organic Munster Alt and Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry, two and three tokens respectively, and being poured out of bottles) and a fifth that I was on the fence about that a friend confirmed was fairly true to style and I was pretty sure wouldn't be my cup of tea (Coin Toss Half Penny). What that meant, however, was that I was able to slide in one that I had considered, Loowit Guenhwyvar Session Ale, and get through my list in one day.

I'm pleased to say that there were no stinkers in the bunch that I tasted. The ones I liked least were based on my palate and style preferences and I noted on at least one of them that while I didn't love it, I'd guess that there will be plenty of people who will enjoy it. So no "avoid this" beers this time around, just the top three that tickled me.

Two Kilts Manbun IPA
I'll admit that the name and that it's an IPA, one of my favorite styles, were the reasons this was on my list. Plus the Two Kilts guys are cool. This 6.9% beer is easy drinking with a man-stanky aroma that fits the name and makes me smile. If you like your IPAs stanky as well make sure to try it.

Laht Neppur Strawberry Cream Ale
This brewery has been hit or miss with me and while I don't like to be a girl ordering a "girly" beer I'm always interested in fruit beers. This is possibly the most well made strawberry beer I've had, lacking the "farty" quality as Mag refers to it that seems to be prevalent when strawberries are involved. The aroma is of fresh, not quite fully ripe strawberries, but of those that have the promise of being delicious very soon. The flavor follows with a refreshing quality perfect for the summer and might entice me to sit down with an entire pitcher for myself. At 5.5% that wouldn't even be overkill.

McMenamins Crystal Brewery Rose City 'Til I Rye
I admit that I tend to give McMenamins on the whole a bit of a short stick when I think about their beers which is unfair because certain brewers are turning out some great stuff. A fan of rye beers in general, this one is a great use of the ingredient in a very sessionable 4.4% beer.

Keep in mind that I tasted only 25% of the beers that are available at the festival. There are likely some other great ones being poured and of course, your palate may be much different than mine, case in point being Old Town Cardamum's the Word. My friend, who has BJCP certification, really enjoyed this beer. Me, who has an aversion to cardamom, had a sip and that was more than enough for me. So go, have fun and try what sounds good to YOU. Because it's all about you...ok it's all about the beer but whateves. Cheers!

Organic Beer Fest
Overlook Park
Friday & Saturday 12-9pm
Sunday 12-5pm
Tasting mug $7, drink tokens $1 each

Monday, August 22, 2016

Short List for the Organic Beer Fest

Summer is flying by, a bit to my dismay but it also means that the Organic Beer Fest, now in its 12th year is just days away (formerly called the North American Organic Beer Festival). Of the bigger beer festivals in town it is my favorite for both the great location at Overlook Park and the number of interesting beers that show up year after year.
After a perusal of the 55 beers that will be on tap during the four-day event I've come up with a reasonable 16 that I'd like to try for various reasons.

There are those from breweries I have a particular affinity for:
54°40’ Brewing Chaga-lug Chaga-lug (mushroom porter with vanilla and maple syrup)
Yachats Brewing Cetacea (a Saison with Szechuan peppercorns)
Montavilla Brew Works Organic Warp Session Ale

There are those that I've never had beer from:
Dogwood Brewing Organic IPA
Fortside Brewing Co. Ripple Effect

There are those whose style, name or ingredients have caught my eye:
Two Kilts Manbun IPA
Golden Valley Buzzed Barista (coffee infused blonde ale)
Hopworks Urban Brewery IPX Azacca (a newer hop I've found I enjoy)
Vagabond Brewing Into the Wild IPA

Then there are those that I'd like to try but will be come optional if I run out of time or steam:
Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale
Lahat Neppur Strawberry Cream Ale (might be a fun back-to-back tasting with Samuel Smith's)
Kells Brew Pub Blood Orange Summer Wheat
Wandering Aengus Golden Russet (a 9.3% cider that I suspect will be smooth as heck)
Pinkus-Muller Organic Munster Alt (not many alts being made and this one is from Germany)
McMenamins Edgefield 2016 Hogshead Whiskey Pavol (barrel-aged Baltic Porter)
McMenamins Crystal Rose City 'Til I Rye
Coin Toss Brewing Half Penny (rice lager)

Next up will be to create my notes sheet that I'll use at the festival (on 8.5 x 11 card stock for easier table-less writing) and adding these beers to my Untappd wish list. Then it's game on!

Organic Beer Festival
Thursday, August 25 - Sunday, August 28
12-9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday
12-5pm Sunday
Overlook Park
Tasting mugs $7, drink tokens $1 each