Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: December 18 - 24

This week's list is a bit longer than we've seen for the last few weeks. It is however the holidays, when special beers tend to get pulled out and like a kid on Christmas we're thrilled to have shared these gifts-in-a-glass with our Beer Santa friends.

The first two, both 2015 vintages of the FiftyFifty Eclipse series, were shared at a Festivus gathering.
Eclipse Coffee - A wonderfully complex version of this 11.9% imperial stout starts off full of coffee, then transitions the barrel characteristics making themselves known, finally finishing with cocoa-y goodness. 

Eclipse Grand Cru - This version was heavy on the cocoa throughout in the most wonderful, smooth way and was the crowd favorite of the variations opened that night. Even with the high ABV it was very drinkable, to the point that it was tempting to steal off to a corner with the bottle. 

The next set of beers on this week's list were shared at our local which is perennially filled with generous souls.
McMenamins Longest Night of the Year 2017 - Enjoyed, appropriately, on the longest night of the year, this barrel-aged English Barleywine was incredibly smooth. Not hot in anyway, even at nearly 11%, it was good enough that we'd encourage you, even those of you that aren't barleywine fans generally, to grab a bottle if you can find one. Like many of the other one-offs from the McMenamins' stable, it showcases the talent and skill their brewers possess. 

Beachwood Blendery Earthbound Misfit - Switching gears to the lighter side, this fruit lambic didn't appear to display much flavor from the kumquats but was nonetheless delicious. Primarily tart in aroma and flavor with a fun effervescence, the use of rye in the brew and time in oak barrels balanced the sourness. 

Jester King Omniscience & Proselytism (Blend 2) - Continuing on the sour path, this oak-aged beer that also spent time in a foudre with hundreds of pounds of Oregon strawberries tastes like summer. The wild yeast and bacteria allowed for refermentation, producing a dry, tart beer. 

This next beer wasn't new to us by any means but stands out for the fact that it was consumed twice, days apart, at different venues.
Boneyard Incredible Pulp - As much as we enjoy RPM, we hope that this mimosa-like beer will gain an even greater following. Unlike some beers, each time we've had it we enjoy it just as much as the last time. 

The final beer on this week's list comes from a gathering at a pizza connoisseur's place. The crowd may have come for the pizza but being primarily beer geeks as well, didn't show up empty-handed. Instead many delicious bottles were shared including...
Reuben's Breakfast Stout - A very tasty milk/sweet stout with coffee, even at 8.4% it would be easy to imagine drinking this in the morning. 

As we head into what may be the longest night for many of us, we hope that however you choose to ring in the new year you are surrounded by friends, family and fabulous libations. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: December 11 - 17

This week's best were a split decision between cider and beer, with all of the makers being relatively new to us. 

Starting off on the beer side we had two more beers from Revision Brewing Company out of Sparks, NV. The first beer we had from them was a triple IPA and made The List in early November.
Planet Lovetron - The label artwork has a fun (albeit perhaps sexist) pink/lilac theme that jives with the slightly hazy, mildly fruity New England style IPA contained inside. The combination of Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra hops and "pillowy bed of malted goodness" hit our taste buds just right, in line with its 4+ rating on Untappd.

The Bruff - Once again featuring one of our favorite combination of hops (Citra and Mosaic), this 8% New England style IPA is fantastically balanced. 

Heretic El Diablito - This was a beer that we were far more enamored with than our drinking buddies were. The 9% came across to us as pleasantly sweet (instead of cloying) and drinking dangerously crushable. As with their 12% Ecstasy barleywine, they seem to have the skill of "hiding" big ABVs in delicious drinkable packages. 

Now for the cider side of the list, starting with Bauman's Cider Company located in Gervais, OR (yeah, we had to look at a map, too, to find that it is about halfway between Wilsonville and Salem). These two ciders were a great introduction to them.
Loganberry - Light berry in flavor with a beautiful color, it is effervescent and temporarily transports one to the warmer days of summer. Loganberries are one typically one of the first berries to ripen with the trade off that due to their delicate softness, they must be hand picked. We applaud Bauman's for using them despite that and hope to find more of this cider in our glass in the future.

Clyde's Dry - Named for the cider maker's grandpa, this is a blend of 20 varieties of apples. What could have been a muddled, middling cider is in fact wonderfully complex and slightly funky. 

Carlton Cyderworks Summer Set - Located just down the road from Bauman's is Carlton Cyderworks in McMinnville. This is the third offering we've had from them, the others being a perry and their 2017 Willamette Week Pro/Am offering. A straightforward 50/50 blend of Dolgo Crab apples from Sunnyside, WA and Gravenstein apples from Wheatland Ferry, OR, it features a slightly funky aroma with a pleasantly tart flavor.

We have been keeping our eyes open, and starting to do some stocking up, of beverages for the holidays in anticipation of the gatherings we'll be attending and hosting. It's a bonus that all the beers and ciders on this week's list are available in packaged/portable form. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: December 4 - 10

This week's best beers take us from breakfast to the beach.

Fort George City of Dreams - Technically a pale ale, this 5.5% hazy beer makes a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee (trust us, that's how we started football Sunday). What it makes up for in visual appeal in the glass it more than makes up for in citrusy flavor, with an eye-catching label on the 12oz cans to boot. 

If a glass of hop juice is a little to much to start your day with, then this next beer is a great alternative.

StormBreaker Mocabe Lo Sabe - A coffee cream ale made in collaboration with Groundwork Coffee it is smooth and creamy, thanks to the flaked oats. Also clocking in at a morning-appropriate 5.5%, coffee beer lovers should seek this out before it's gone.

Breakfast behind us, grab a towel and let's head to the beach.

Urban Family Island Crusher - A dry-hopped sour with pineapple and Amarillo hops, it starts with the aroma of freshly slathered on cocoa butter and the flavor follows with a pineapple/hop bite. Between the green and yellow of the label and the beer inside we dare you not to imagine being transported to the tropics.

As we approach Christmas and the day drinking it likely entails, consider picking up at least one of these for yourself or to share. Remember, Santa sees all.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 27 - December 3

The last month of the year, the holidays, things are getting busy on this end so this week's Best Things is a short but sweet two-beer list. 

Baerlic Woodworker Thunderbolt Bourbon & Pinot (2015) - Enjoyed while browsing the handiwork of local craftsmen and women, it would have been quite easy to sit down and enjoy a whole bottle of this 7.9% oatmeal porter aged in bourbon and Pinot Noir barrels. The bourbon characteristics were restrained, supporting the oatmeal porter base, with the Pinot barrels giving it a most lovely, slightly tart flavor.

Mother Earth Hop Diggity - Clocking in at just a slightly higher ABV than the Woodworker, this is apparently Mother Earth's most popular Double IPA and we can see why. Starting out with a pleasant fruity-stanky aroma the flavor is just a hair lighter, making for a super easy drinking beer. Look for it in easily portable, highly visible 12-ounce yellow cans the next time you're peering in the door of the beer cooler at your favorite joint.

Now, get moving. Get all those little errands done whenever you can and for gods' sake, get those cards and packages in the mail sooner than later! Because once it's done you can really settle in to enjoy some delicious beverages.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Dream Beerfest

As part of a great beer writing/blogging community we were invited (challenged actually) to design our own dream beerfest. The challenge stemmed from the fact that there are SO MANY beer festivals, a seemingly endless stream of them, each with a different focus. As an attendee at more beer festivals than we can count there are some we loved and some we didn't. In putting together our festival we're pulling in the things we personally enjoyed most from each festival, which may or may not be your cup of tea. But this is our dream beerfest, kind of like the adult beer blogger version of a wish list we used to send to Santa.

Name: You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning
We're early birds by nature, almost always one of the first few in line at any festival we attend and quite honestly, if we *happen* to get too deep into our cups we'd prefer to do that early in the day so as not to infringe on the next day's activities.

Theme: This will be a beer and food pairing festival but we are leaving the interpretation of that up to the participating breweries and restaurants/food carts. Cinnamon rolls and stout? Sure. Leftover pizza and IPA? Absolutely. Bacon and a barrel-aged beer? Of course. We expect that some breweries will brew a beer just for this event and wouldn't be surprised if some of our local beer-loving chefs reach out to their favorite brewers to drive a pairing.

Time: True to the festival's name and theme, it will begin in the morning. 9 AM to be precise. The festival will conclude at 3 PM.

Date: Monday, January 21, 2019
A beer festival on a Monday?!?! Yes, and this is in part due to the fact that the location is closed on Monday. Huzzah! The other part is that we know plenty of folks work on the weekends and miss out on festivals and other events. Besides, even if you usually work on Mondays this festival will be taking place deep in January when the shine of the holidays has worn away to reveal their effects and the cold, grey skies are dripping down. You need something to look forward to and this is it. Just take the day off. Or call in sick. 

Location: OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) located in the central east side of Portland, OR. 
We've attended beer events at OMSI and while a museum, albeit a science museum, might not seem ideal but we feel it is actually a good venue. There is a handy drive up/drop off area at the front doors and ample (free with your ticket) parking. We're also currently working with OMSI on some festival-specific labs and special exhibits.

Tickets: Tickets for this festival will be limited to 420 (because this is Portland) with unlimited pours and bites. Once you are in the doors there will be none of that wondering which pocket you put the drink tickets/tokens in. We've consulted with OMSI about past events and feel confident that with the layout we're planning the festival will not feel crowded. 
Each all-inclusive ticket will be priced at $50 and will be sold via an online lottery-style system. Ticket sales will open Monday, October 1, 2018 and close Friday, October 12, 2018. A link will be posted on the festival website that will take you to a form where you will enter your information, including payment field (credit card, PayPal). You'll be assigned a number and at the close of ticket sales 420 numbers will randomly be drawn. Lucky number holders will have their form of payment charged immediately and be notified by Wednesday, October 17, 2018. Limit 2 tickets per person and are transferable. 

Additional Details:
Water stations - As seasoned imbibers we know the importance of hydration and will provide an abundance of water stations throughout the festival both to keep attendees hydrated and glasses rinsed.
Glasses - We don't believe that great beer should be consumed out of plastic "glassware," and each attendee will receive a 4-ounce glass mug with handle (for easy carrying by one's pinkie or attaching to one's belt if that's how you want to roll).
Outside food/water - While this is a festival where food is included in the ticket price and water stations will be abundant, we believe that you know what works best for you. So bring in that bag of chips if you want. Bring in your favorite water bottle or strap on a Camelback.
Bean bag stations - Having a place to meet up with the group you're hanging out with, to chill and chat is great. Having a place to sit down and comfortably relax is better. Tucked into the nooks and crannies throughout the festival will be groupings of bean bags with low tables. Need to catch a couple zzzzzz? Lean back and relax, we've arranged it so no Alcohol Monitor will kick you out.

We hope you like our idea but if you don't we don't mind. It's unlikely, at least with the current state of regulations in Portland (and Oregon as a whole) that this festival could become a reality. Both our requirement of glass glassware and a drink-all-you-want set up seem to run against what is often possible. But like that pony/Barbie Dream Mansion/Atari that used to regularly grace the list for Santa, we can always dream, right?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 20 - 26

This week's list is all over the style spectrum but solidly in the land of Get Your Hands on These Beers If You Can.

Montavilla Hunter of Shadows CDA - Getting your hands on this one might be beyond the realm of possibility as only one keg of this beer that was dry-hopped with Cryo Citra hops, Idaho 7, Magnum and a 'mystery hop' was produced and was tapped last Thursday. That being said even limited beers have a way of popping up unexpectedly and if was as well received by the rest of the people that drank it as it was by us then Michael and the crew need to make more. Roasty and dark without being bitter and clocking in at a moderate 6.5% this would be one we'd like to enjoy throughout the dark months ahead.

The next two beers, both from The Commons, graced our lips thanks to generous beer friends who not only invited us to join their Thanksgiving feasting but broke out multiple beers from their cellar.

Photo credit: Untappd user Rico S.
Good Problems - When this bottle was pulled out we couldn't help but think about foreshadowing as it is a collaboration with Modern Times that was produced at the end of 2015. A Saison with brettanomyces strains from both breweries and nebbilo grapes (an Italian red wine variety) from the Columbia River Gorge, all of the components of the beer were present and as would be expected from both of these breweries, perfectly balanced.

Bourbon Little Brother (2014) - On paper a Belgian Strong Dark Ale wouldn't catch our eye however when it's been produced by The Commons it's a different story. We first enjoyed this Heaven Hill bourbon barrel-aged beer nearly six years ago, the first year it was produced and it was good then. This three year old vintage has held up well and is tasting wonderful, amazingly easy drinking for 10%.

New Holland Incorrigible Reserve White Sour Ale with Mango & Pineapple - The lightest of the list at 4.5% it is packed to the max with tropical aromas and flavor, balanced by just the right amount of sour bite. We enjoyed it at Imperial Bottle Shop on SE Division and as of this posting, it's still on tap. As good as it is, however, it probably won't be around for long so find an excuse* to pop in for some of this sunshine get away in a glass. 

Cheers to not just surviving, but hopefully enjoying, this holiday season we find ourselves smack in the middle of.

*We're good at excuses, for example:
- some holiday shopping that needs to be done at one of the many nearby shops
- a hungry belly that needs to be filled at one of our favorite places, Bollywood Theater
- you just need to sit down to escape the crush of the holidays.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 13 - 19

This week's list focuses on our recent trip to the coast, Oceanside and surrounding, for a long weekend getaway. 

Starting out with a newer, and completely new-to-us, brewery is Public Coast in Cannon Beach. Last time we were there in town they weren't yet open, but in the interim we've heard great things about them.
Black Stack Stout - Named after a "very big rock" just off Cannon Beach, the beer presents with a great roasty aroma and a chocolate/slightly chalky flavor. Served as we prefer, on nitro, it is a creamy, drink-all-day beer. 

Checking out a place not far from our Oceanside rental in Netarts we found The Schooner to have a disappointing beer selection overall BUT they were serving the next beer just the way we like it.
Deschutes Obsidian Nitro - This is only the second time we've found this beer on nitro (not that we have been actively searching), the first being earlier this year in Bend. Since that first try, we're convinced that's the only way it should be served and therefore find it nearly impossible to pass it up. 

A second close-to-our-rental joint was the Upstairs Bar & Grill. This place was far superior in many ways to The Schooner and had we been in town longer we would likely have gone back.
Crux Cast Out - The stanky BO aroma and lovely hop flavor from the Galaxy hops make this a solid IPA choice. Add to that a creamier-than-most-IPAs mouthfeel and we could enjoy plenty of these. Fun side note: The name Cast Out comes from the Galaxy hops from Australia, a country once populated by English cast outs/outlaws.

This next place was the find of our trip! Black Squid Beer House was opened just a few months ago by a couple that moved to the coast from the west metro. Located on Hwy 101 in Lincoln City where a surf shop formerly resided, owners Sara and Andy have created a friendly and inviting feel for this bottle shop and taproom. They've also curated a very nice tap list and cooler selection.
Mother Earth Say When - We haven't had a ton of Mother Earth beer but this foray will encourage us to try more. Melony and yum, we love the flavor and would love to see a hazy version that would impart more body. 

Finally, a return visit to the Tillamook outpost of Pelican Brewing. Having stopped in a few years back, shortly after they opened, we were happy to be in the area for more of their beer.
Bad Santa - We know we've seen this beer around often but surprisingly hadn't tried it previously. More chocolately-roasty than bitter-roasty we enjoyed this CDA as is but really would have like to have been able to try it on nitro, too. 

The short getaway was just what we needed to recharge our batteries, both with relaxing views of the beach from the hot tub at our rental and the enjoyment of checking out new places and beers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cranberries for the Holiday Table

'Tis the season for cranberries to lend their festival color to holiday spreads. Beyond their vibrant color, their late fall harvest lends reason to see these berries popping up this time of year. So tart, these are one of the few berries that are not suitable for eating fresh, on their own. Instead they make their way into juices, baked goods and jellies/compotes/sauces. Ingrained in our mind is the hand-ground cranberry-orange compote Grandma always used to make for Thanksgiving dinner. Also ingrained is memory of how bitter it was to a child's palate. But palates change and our experience with cranberries has greatly expanded.

This year, starting with the great pairing we found during our recent cheese and beer pairing, and continuing with additional cranberry beer, cider and cheese coming across our radar we felt compelled to round up some of these festive-looking goods. By no means is this a comprehensive cranberry round up, even in the realm of cheese, beer and cider, however all of these should be relatively easy to find should something here catch your eye.

The Goods
- Portland Cider Company Cranberry
- Lompoc Barrel-Aged Cranberry Saison
- North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince
- Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberry
- Trader Joe's White Stilton with Cranberries
- Cinnamon sugar won tons*

For those that read our beer and cheese pairing post, you already know that we were enamored with the combination of North Coast Cranberry-Quince and Long Clawson cheese. The addition of the cinnamon sugar won tons gave the pairing an added boost and provided an edible vehicle for the cheese. The white Stilton wasn't a complete bust with the beer and may appeal to those who prefer a more savory flavor profile.

We recently had a chance to try Lompoc's Cranberry Saison along with a specially created slider, a pairing we enjoyed but a much easier to recreate pairing would be picking up a bottle of it and a hunk of white Stilton. The pairing, like with the Berliner Weisse, leans savory and is also nice with cinnamon sugar won tons, especially considering the crumbly nature of the cheese (which we think would be great on a salad or as a component of an apple pie crust).

Finally, Portland Cider Company Cranberry, a cider that was brought to our attention by the company was certainly the most vibrantly colored drink of the three. With an aroma reminiscent of Kool-Aid and a flavor we found to fall between juice and Kool-Aid, this is a gateway cider. We preferred it with the white Stilton, which helped to balance the sweetness, but have a hunch that it would be really good with apple pie. Why is there never an apple pie around when you need one?

So whether you're hosting a gathering or attending one this holiday season, making a festive contribution is as easy as grabbing a bottle and a hunk of cheese. Simple can be delicious.

*Cinnamon sugar won ton chips
1 package square won ton wrappers (found in the produce section of Fred Meyer or elsewhere)
4 Tbsp butter, melted
cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar + 3/4 tsp cinnamon)

Cut won tons in half, corner to corn, transforming the squares into triangles.
Brush one side with butter, flip over and brush the second side with butter. Fold in half and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 3-4 minutes, or until the edges start to become golden. Turn over, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for another 3-4 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: November 6 - 12

This week's edition is dedicated to The Commons. As anyone living in Portland knows, last Saturday was the last hurrah for the current incarnation of The Commons. We say that because we firmly believe that we will see them again in the future, especially if Mike's recent collaborations are any indication. We showed up at opening Saturday and during the course of our time there were fortunate to be able to say a "see you later" to Mike in person. In addition, Travis' familiar face was to be found behind the bar, a face we hope to see popping up somewhere else around town after the transition is complete.

We enjoyed all of the beers that found their way from the menu board to our glass, but these four in particular.
Eidolon (R) - We first enjoyed this sour, barrel aged amber farmhouse five years ago. Noting at that time that it was a "great approachable sour" we agree with that first impression. The beer was matured on two strains of Brettanomyces in wine barrels but the Brett holds a supporting roll. The shining star is the super fun combo of Meyer Lemon peel, jasmine green tea, jasmine flowers and New Zealand Hallertau hops.

Anderlecht (L) - Our favorite of the day we were so stunned with its flavor that we can't express just how delicious it was other than to say it is simply an outstanding wood aged lambic. If we could have gotten growler fills of it, we would have rounded up all the growlers we had and happily handed over how much ever they were asking for it.

Galaxy Myrtle (L) - We've been quite pleased with the few hopped sour beers we had, with this one continuing the trend. Here the bright Myrtle tart farmhouse base found a great partner with the Galaxy hops used. Starting with a definite hop aroma, the flavor is a melding of the two.

Fresh Hop Myrtle (R) - More lightly hopped than the Galaxy non-fresh hop version, this beer features Meridian hops. Effervescent and easy drinking, we enjoyed this as much as we did when we first had it in 2013.

Now on to two other great beers we enjoyed to finish out our list.
Revision Dr. Lupulin 3x - We've just started seeing Revision's beers hit this market and so far we've been impressed with the offerings from this, hold on to your shorts...Sparks, Nevada brewery. Before we get to the beer, a bit about the brewery. Sparks is essentially a suburb of Reno, sitting on the Western edge of Nevada, and less than a day's full drive from Auburn, CA. That's relevant because Auburn is the location of Knee Deep Brewery, the brewery Revision's founder Jeremy Warren founded seven years ago. The full backstory is on Revision's website but the short of it is that Jeremy left, taking with him the first brewer he hired at Knee Deep, Jeb Taylor. Officially open just eight months ago, if this triple IPA is any indication of what is to come, we are totally on board because to make an 11.3% beer with massive IBUs this smooth is an incredible feat. 

Crux Tough Love [BANISHED] 2015 - Our favorite of the three vintages offered at The BeerMongers during their Tough Love event the big, Russian Imperial Stout offered a licorice aroma and flavor that was smooth with a tannic finish that makes one want to keep drinking it. 

This time next week we may all be waking up with a hangover (of the food variety). Before then, however, we'll be taking a look at some cranberry offerings that have recently come across our radar. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Look at Lompoc's Holiday Seasonals

This holiday season Lompoc will be offering seven seasonal beers plus Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison, the latter of which will be available starting this Friday, November 17th. Since that will be the first beer available, we'll start there. 

Available on draft and in 500ml bottles, Lompoc's Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison is a "Belgian style ale brewed with fresh cranberries and aged one year in port barrels that infused the beer with a drinkable tart and spicy flavor and subtle notes of port and oak. Pale and wheat malts keep it light, while the peppery yeast and noble hops lead to a tangy finish." 

Starting off with a beautiful, peachy color and slight barrel/funk aroma we found it to be nicely balanced between Saison characteristics and the contribution to the flavor from the cranberries. The very drinkable 5% beer it would be a great starter to any meal and a beautiful addition to a holiday spread. Friday's release will be accompanied by the Sage Derby Turkey Sliders chef Mark Otey created to pair with the beer. $3.50 each they are on the substantial end of the slider spectrum and combine many flavors of the Thanksgiving table into a sandwich.

Moving on to the holiday seasonals, we were able to try out five of the seven at a preview earlier this week (Blitzen and Brewdolph were still in the stable getting ready for their debut at the Holiday Beer Extravaganza on the 27th). Ranging from the 7% Top Shelf, Old Sport to two, 9.4% versions of Old Tavern Rat this year's beers offer a variety of flavor profiles.

Top Shelf, Old Sport is a Belgian style dubbel that we found to exude an aroma that was almost winey and attributable to the eight months the beer spent in Maryhill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The flavor profile is of an old library combined with a smoking room and the warmer it gets, the more complex and delicious it becomes.

Lump of Coal may be an imperial porter but we got a strong CDA aroma and initial flavor to match. As it warmed the flavor of the 200 lbs of  sour cherries the 1/6bbl batch of beer was aged on started to show itself.

Switching over to the most hoppy offering was C-Sons Greetings Double IPA. The 8% beer is quite similar to last year's version with plenty of bitterness from the seven "C" hops used. This is the only other seasonal beer that will be available in bottles, this in 22oz format.

Finally, the two versions of 2016 Old Tavern Rat, a barleywine that has been aging for a year. One version spent eight months in Maryhill Winery Port barrels and thus offers an aroma that is part barleywine and part port. Tasting to us slightly less boozy (they're both 9.4%) than the non-port barrel version it got our slight favor in a head-to-head tasting. The caveat is that the non-port version was outstanding paired with Moonstruck milk chocolate with sea salt and toffee that was thoughtfully brought and shared by one of the other attendees.

Barrel Aged Cranberry Saison Release
Friday, November 17

Holiday Beer Extravaganza
Wednesday, November 27

Both events take place at LompocSidebar ~ 3901 N Williams.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Second 2017 Beer & Cheese Pairing Party

We think beer and cheese is one of the most perfect pairings to be found and recently our small group got together once again to play with pairing. At least the fourth time we've done it, we gathered as usual at our favorite watering hole, each toting cheese, eager to grab beers and dig in. After a quick round of sampling all of the cheeses on their on that's just what we did. Here are the highlights.

Taleggio from Italy (Market of Choice), suggested as a replacement for the Limburger that was currently sold out, it was one of the most versatile of the cheeses. The only caveat was that it took far longer than the standard two hours at room temperature to come into its creamy, slightly funky own.
- Not surprisingly its funkiness paired well with the assertive Mexican hot chocolate flavors found in Stone's imperial milk stout, Xocoveza.
- With Anchorage Nelson Sauvin Saison with Brett the cheese brought out the hop bitterness of the beer, which depending on one's personal preference might be a bit too much, but we enjoyed it.
- Paired with the relatively mild North Coast Berliner Weisse Cranberry-Quince it surprisingly did not overpower the beer but instead they took turns complimenting one another with the beer allowing the funk of the cheese to come through and the cheese returning the favor, allowing the bright, tart cranberry to come in at the end.
- Somewhat similarly to the North Coast pairing, when enjoyed with Ballast Point Sour Wench the cheese allowed the fruitiness of the beer to really shine.

Rivaling the Taleggio for versatility was the Creamy Toscano dusted with cinnamon (Trader Joe's).
- No one in the group is much of a fan of pumpkin beers but the temptation of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking was too much to pass up as we know that dark beers tend to work particularly well with cheese. In this instance the cheese allowed the pumpkin to come out and rival the barrel-aged flavors of the beer nicely.
- With the Stone Xocoveza the cinnamon in the beer and the cinnamon in the cheese played wonderfully off one another, neither overpowering the other.
- In a surprising pairing, at least on the surface, the cinnamon in the cheese and the cranberries in the North Coast Berliner Weisse worked together. Thinking on it further and savoring the pair, it was similar to the way cinnamon and fruit work together in a pie or crisp.
- The gathering also included slices of Crimson Crisp apples (a relative of Honeycrisp) which combined with the cheese and the Stone Xocoveza for a triumvirate of tastiness.

Beecher's Flagship Cheddar (Fred Meyer) was quite possibly the overall favorite cheese of the day on its own and it found a singular perfect partner in Ruse Clock Keeper Saison/Farmhouse. The recommendation came from David, the beertender on duty, and it was spot on with the beer nicely lightening the luscious, flavorful cheddar.

Another cheese superstar with our group was Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog (Fred Meyer). Great on its creamy own, it brought a pleasant (at least to us) sharpness out in the rich Stone Xocoveza.

The gooey-est cheese of the day, Triple Cream Brie with Wild Mushrooms (Trader Joe's), was another crowd favorite even for those who don't typically dig on gooey cheeses. As with the Taleggio it found delicious partners with multiple beers.
- Block 15 Azaccasicle IPA, with its blend of tropical and citrusy hops and touch of milk sugar, made fast friends with the earthiness of the cheese.
- The depth of Pints Chocolate Nut Brown, brewed with UK Phoenix hops that in fact taste like chocolate, found a partner in the mushrooms.
- Once again the North Coast Cranberry-Quince mixed and mingled with the cheese. Here the tartness from the cranberries and the Berliner Weisse base balanced the richness of the cheese while the mushrooms took the tart edge off the beer.
- A final pairing but not a beer one, that we found deliciousness in was pairing this with Ilchester Smoked Applewood Cheddar. We thought the smokiness of the cheddar, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the brie would make an outstanding grilled cheese (further exploration is impending).

Not as gooey as a brie but silky soft once it warmed was Mitica Drunken Goat (Fred Meyer).
- The sweetness of Southern Tier's rum barrel-aged Pumking balanced and was balanced by the saltiness of this soft but not oozy cheese.
- Reuben's Home From Home, a beer no one had a particular affinity for perhaps due to its super bitter-hoppiness (and this is coming from hop-loving folks), managed to become more balanced and drinkable when accompanied by the cheese.

Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberries (Fred Meyer)
- Pairing a fruit cheese with a stout is a bit of a no-brainer yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to find how delicious this cheese was with the Stone Xocoveza. The complexity of the beer had the potential to clash with the tartness the cranberries brought to this pairing but happily they worked harmoniously.
- With the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the cranberry-on-cranberry pairing worked nicely, being anything but one dimensional.

Stilton (Fred Meyer) is one of the more strongly flavored varieties in the blue cheese families and as such it did overpower some beers we tried it with.
- Surprisingly its powerful flavor mingled well with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince. Here the beer brought out additional, lovely funkiness in the cheese while still allowing the fruit in the beer to sparkle.
- The most decadent pairing of the day was here with the Stone Xocoveza. This is what post-dinner cheese course dreams are made of.

Face Rock Smoky Cheddar (Fred Meyer) is one of the creamiest cheddars we've had with a pleasant but not overpowering smokiness.
- A fun pairing with the North Coast Cranberry-Quince the saltiness of the cheese came out, followed by the sweetness of the beer.
- Finding its backbone it stood up to the Stone Xocoveza, bringing the cinnamon in the beer to the forefront.

If you haven't tried your own beer and cheese pairing we hope this post encourages you to give it a go. As we move into the holiday season you'll likely have more opportunities at gatherings you host or attend. They won't all be winners but if you go into it with an open, exploratory mind, we bet it will be fun. And if you discover some great ones make sure to let us know!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Oct 30 - Nov 5

This week's list is composed mostly by California breweries, although if you consider that Modern Times will have a brewing location in Portland in 2018, our list is equally split between California and Oregon beers. The bonus this week is that they were all enjoyed in packaged form meaning if you look around you, too, should be able to grab them, for enjoyment now or soon.

We start off with two beers from Beachwood Blendery, the offshoot small batch beer producer established in 2014 by the same folks behind Beachwood Brewing. The Blendery focuses on Lambic style beers from Belgian using ingredients, equipment and brewing methods steeped in tradition but with an admittedly modern twist.
Strawberry Provence - Made with strawberries and Herbs de Provence, this is the most amazing strawberry aroma we've ever experienced in a beer, like peak-ripe strawberries. From there the flavor takes a deliciously tart turn for a complex, enjoyable experience. 

Dia De Los Mangos - According to the local distributor of Beachwood Blendery (who shared the Strawberry Provence with us), this beer uses the same base as that one. We would have never guessed as it is completely different and so complex. A blend of one year old barrels aged on mango and tamarind for eight weeks and infused with Ancho, Aleppo, Aji Amarillo, Guajillo and Green Serrano chili peppers the beer displays pleasant chili characteristics without being a spicy bomb.

Moving to the currently-California-brewery-but-soon-to-be-in-Portland-brewery is Modern Times who you may recall that we've been quite enamored with even before the announcement that they would be filling the vacancy that The Commons will leave when they vacate their inner SE Portland location.
Spaceship Earth - Described as an "outrageously tasty pale ale," we couldn't agree more. Juicy in aroma and flavor, hazy in appearance we think both pale ale and IPA fans will enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of tropical fruit and citrus found here. 

The final beer making this week's list is Little Beast Animal Family. It is one of the two recent foeder-aged bottle releases from Little Beast. There are quite a bit of winy qualities found in this beer which may strike some odd (including us initially), but we found the oddness very appealing. Thanks to Chris for once again sharing an outstanding beer with us! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: Halloween Edition

With the exception of one, all of the beers making this week's list reflect the turn in the weather and daylight, taking us down the path of darkness. The majority were dragged up from various cellars and enjoyed at fall's celebration of darkness that was filled with beer lovers.

Book ending our rundown are the non-Halloween beers and we'll start off with the lone light beer, Bend Peach Offering, before descending into darkness. The 100lbs of Oregon peaches made themselves known in both the great peach aroma and flavor with the whole chamomile flowers contributing soft fruit flavors and delicate floral notes and Lactobacillus providing that lovely, bright tartness that we so enjoy. A mere 4.5% its light and refreshing qualities would make it a great start to any holiday gathering.

And now for the adult goodies shared at that Halloween party...
Surly Darkness 2014 - The only recent year vintage that we don't have in our beer cellar, we counted ourselves lucky to have been around when a bottle of this delicious chocolate-licorice goodness was cracked open. The other vintages we've had lately also seem to be doing well, making it tempting to break into all of them however they also show that they are holding up well as they age. Oh, the conundrum.

Block 15 2011 Imagine Barrel Aged (bourbon) - The only Imagine we've tried, save for the delicious Cherry Imagine two years ago, the 15% barrel-aged Belgian imperial stout started with a fruity-molasses aroma. The flavor feels perfect for the holiday season, a beer we can imagine sipping as we relax in the warmth and comfort of friends and family. 

Kane Sunday Brunch - A beer we first became acquainted with last year at GABF, it was a treat to enjoy it again. The imperial milk porter with coffee, cinnamon and maple syrup drank like Mexican hot chocolate without being overly sweet. The only two times we've had beer from this New Jersey brewery we hope to find ourselves in the company of others in the future that have obtained some of their Belgian-influenced ales.

The Commons Brotherly Love - The party's host shared this beer that felt particularly special in light of their impending closure. The craftsmanship of this 10% barrel-aged Belgian dark strong ale matured with tart cherries and roasted cocoa nibs was both clear and bittersweet. While we savored it, just as we will savor the remaining days of The Commons, we also jealously wanted to steal away to down the whole bottle.

Finishing off the list with the other non-Halloween-enjoyed beer is Cascade Tidal Bore. Ordered a bit by accident due to a too quick perusal of the menu upon arriving tardy to a gathering, this was a very happy accident. The imperial stout started off with an amazing aroma and drank incredibly smooth for 10+%, yet there was enough booze presence to remind us to slow down, savor and share.

As we enter the often hectic holiday season we are going to try to slow down and savor many things, perhaps with a glass of something delicious in our hands, and hope you'll be able to do the same.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Impact of 2017 Oregon Brewers Festival & Changes for 2018

Image courtesy of the Oregon Brewers Festival
It's an annual tradition that a study of the economic impact of the Oregon Brewers Festival is done, the legwork and analysis by Jeff Dense, professor of political science and craft beer studies at Eastern Oregon University and his team of students. They interviewed over 900 festival attendees to come up with their estimates. It's a bit geeky, unless of course you're one of the festival organizers or perhaps one of the tourism-related businesses that benefits from the total $23.9 million impact the 2017 festival had on Multnomah County.

Those who lean geeky, especially numbers geeky, may be interested in the one-page executive summary. The rest may be satisfied knowing:
- 48.7% of attendees were out-of-town visitors, 30% of which stayed with friends or family, leading to a 38% decline in lodging expenditures
- 44.2% of attendees were women, who Dense says "are the key to the future of the craft beer industry"
- 47.2% of attendees were attending the festival for the first or second time, a number that speaks to the vitality of the festival in its ability to attract new visitors
- 28.3% of attendees were 50 years of age or older, a population segment that is highly desirable due to their high level of disposable income

Now about those changes for the 2018 festival:
- The festival will revert to a four-day event, taking place Thursday, July 26 - Sunday, July 29, 2018.
- The tent that in recent years has featured specialty or international beers will go away.
- Replacing the departing tent will be two ciders and some wine offerings, designed to address those with celiac issues as well as to be more inclusive of equal opportunity and non-beer drinkers.
- There will continue to be a map of the festival grounds but no longer the extensive, multi-page printed program. An electronic listing will be made available.

Whatever your personal thoughts on the changes it's important to note that change, for anyone, for anything is essential. It would be foolish to think that a festival looking down the barrel of their 31st year could have lasted this long without making changes along the way. We congratulate the festival on the 30 years under their belt and raise a glass to another 30.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Second Profession Brewing Gives Second Life to Former BTU Space

Whether you drive the stretch of NE Sandy Blvd often or not, you've likely heard that BTU Brasserie was for sale and has been acquired. Sporting a new paint job outside and in, founder and brewer Charlie Goman has established Second Profession Brewing

Charlie has no commercial brewing experience and is drawing on a combination of his homebrewing experience, mentoring by Tomas Sluiter of Culmination and assistance from Marc Martin of Northwest Brewery Advisors. Working on the nearly new Portland Kettle Works system that was part of the acquisition, Charlie plans to brew beers that are heavily Northwest-influenced, spanning a variety of styles. At a recent media preview we tried two of their beers (others this close to being ready were finishing in the fermenters). Professional Pale Ale, an English-style pale with NW influence from the Cascade and Mt Hood hops, drinks true to its description. Their Rye IPA is most certainly spicy with more rye spiciness coming through than many other examples of the style we've tried. Both beers, in addition to being enjoyable on their own for those looking to drop in for a pint, are also good companions to the food menu.

That menu, described as "German comfort food" is made up of dishes from Charlie's home of Milwaukee, WI and are executed by their chef who comes from the now closed Der Rheinlander. Sausages sourced from Zenner's, in full in-bun format as well as sliced in sampler platter format for easy sharing, are the focal point of the menu and entirely too delicious. Sides include warm German-style potato salad, soups, green salads and the winner in our book, garlic fries. The fries are very good on their own but what is even better is the sage aioli they're served with (incidentally, in the cutest mini-buckets). One could probably dip slices of drywall in this aioli and eat through a sheet, it is that good.

As for the name, one component of it is fairly obvious in that the decision to open a brewery is a second profession for Charlie. He previously sold copiers, something he didn't find fulfilling, and churned through lots of ideas about what he would do instead before settling on taking his love of homebrewing to the next level. Another part of the decision to settle on the name of Second Profession came from a conversation with a buddy who commented that "brewing is the second oldest profession." Finally, Charlie feels many of his customers will identify with their second profession as being what they choose to do during their time outside the office. The logo, created by Room Service Creative, illustrates a second profession for many Oregonians - enjoyment of the abundance of outdoor activities available - while perhaps for others our second profession would be described as enjoying the abundance of craft beer available.

A few additional components of the new venture to note:
- The brewery, with the exception of the seats at the actual bar, is family friendly and the menu will include a couple of kid-focused items. 
- The menu, although in its soft-opening format succinct state is sausage-heavy, will also offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Thank goodness, because even if kids weren't allowed no restaurant will survive here without allowing (wait, inviting) vegetarians and vegans.
- The drink menu includes a section of beer cocktails Charlie hopes will bridge the gap between beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers.
- They hold a full liquor license and will stock a supply of basic liquors.

Second Profession Brewing
5846 NE Sandy Blvd
Open Wednesday - Sunday 4 - 10pm
Grand opening October 27 - 29 (more details)