Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Double Edition of The Best Things We Drank

We were out of town a good chunk of last week getting a little R&R on a family fishing trip in northern Minnesota but now we're back and ready to catch up with a double edition of Best Things. Grab a beverage and settle in!

June 19 - 25
Being back in the Midwest we couldn't help but seek out some old favorites but also took the opportunity to try beer from some of the newer places that have sprung up since we left seven years ago. The former was rewarding, the latter was hit and miss.
Bell's Kalamazoo Stout - Bell's, which has seen some exposure in the Portland market, is extremely skilled when it comes to stouts and this beer is a Bell's classic. Roasty and smooth, this 6% stout is one that can be enjoyed year round.

Summit Saga IPA - Summit is similar to Widmer in that it has been around since the early days of craft beer in its respective state and like Widmer, has its standard lineup but has also managed to remain relevant with new offerings. Saga is newer (in the last five years) and is hoppy enough for NW IPA lovers to enjoy, a profile that comes from the combination of hops, both in the brewing and dry-hopping stages.

Fargo 1.21 Gigahops (2017) - This is the first beer that we've had from Fargo Brewing Company and although a bit sweet, it is appropriately so considering that it's an imperial IPA clocking in at 9.5%. The 12oz can size is just right for enjoying one. Interestingly, the founders and the brewers they hired have been influenced by the Pacific Northwest (give their history a read if you're so inclined).

Rewinding to the week before we headed out to Minnesota, it is a bit interesting to see that our top two beers actually hailed from that state. Those beers were enjoyed when we were invited to join in a bottle share with friends of a friend who were visiting Portland.

June 12 - 18
Lift Bridge Commander Bona Fide Barleywine - We've enjoyed Commander on numerous previous occasions and are proud to call the Lift Bridge guys friends. This, however, was the first time we'd had a "bone fide" version wherein the 12.5% beer is aged in Heaven Hill barrels. So smooth without any trace of heat, this is one to savor with friends.

Indeed Wooden Soul Cherry Dust - Indeed is one of the older of the newer breweries in MN and while we've had some good things from them, we haven't been 100% sold. This sour beer definitely improves our view of them and makes us hope they continue to produce sour beers. At a sessionable 5.4% the wild yeasts, tart cherries and wood aging mingle to produce a beer we'd happily drink a full 22oz bottle all on our own.

The rest of the beers that hit high notes for us that week hailed from Portland and California.

Great Notion Double Dry Hop Hop Dry Double - One of the beers at Eclicptic's Masters of IPA event during PDX Beer Week, we'd heard in advance that this was a good'en. They call it an "imperial session IPA" that is "a verbal assault on your palate." We call it juicy and drinkable. Now only if we had more of it to drink!

Montavilla I-205-PA IPA - Fans of Montavilla in general, on our most recent visit, this was the beer that really spoke to us with the combination of Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. As much as other styles try too woo us, the hops always lure us back to IPAs.

Fire on the Mountain Galena Goodnight - We go to Fire on the Mountain for their wings (the best in town we say!) and have been pleased to find that their beer has continued to improve as the brewery has come out of its infancy. Labeled as a CDA the mouthfeel is more like a porter or stout with a deliciously roasty flavor.

Modern Times Oneida - We might sound like a broken record with the consistency that Modern Times has been making the Best Things list but dang it, the hits just keep coming. A complex pale ale, the flavor shares some characteristics with Fortunate Islands, another one we quite like although it is more aggressively bitter, which speaks to our hop-loving taste buds.

Lagunitas Dark Swan (2017) - Found in the sour section of The BeerMongers cooler, this 8.5% sour ale was a steal at $2.90 for a 12oz bottle. Lightly sour, the wine-ish flavor (with gorgeous grape color to back it up) drank more like grape juice. Adult juice box anyone?

Now a few days back in the Portland saddle we're finally feeling caught up from being gone and looking forward to what July, Oregon Beer Month, will bring.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: June 5 - 11

Four of the best things we drank this week come from a PDX Beer Week event that we hadn't even planned to attend. Big thanks to Larry and Kate for inviting us to join them at Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom's 4th Annual Weird Beer Bonanza!
54ยบ 40' Vita-Beer Shandy - Who remembers Sunny-D? Yes, you can still buy it but for those of similar age to us you may remember when it came on the market. Around our house that was considered a treat so there are good memories linked to it. This beer brought back those memories right from the start with its aroma. The flavor continued to take us down memory lane, although it is lighter and less sweet than the juice drink. And while its 4.8% is a sessionable ABV it drinks like there's no alcohol in it at all and we suspect it would make great beermosa.

Baerlic Fancy Umbrella Drink - In addition to making an appearance at Imperial, this was also Baerlic's entry for the Portland Fruit Beer Festival and available in their taproom starting last weekend. With a great guava aroma and nice tartness (although minimal/no salt) it certainly lives up to its tagline: "Toes in the water, ass in the sand, a smile on your face and a Fancy Umbrella Drink in your hand."

Trinity Sour Cherry Threads - Tied with the Wolf Tree entry for highest ABV of the fest at 12% and similar in the use of cherries, this one hit much higher notes for us. Both have tons of cherry on the nose, but where that one goes down the Belgian road, this oak barrel aged lactic beer displays the lovely horse blanket funk that we love along with cherries. It was most certainly worth the additional tasting ticket!

Nectar Creek Raspberry Chocolate Mole Mead - This mead definitely lives up to its "weird" billing when one considers the gorgeous, rich berry color that the eyes behold but the disconnect as one takes in the aroma of mole. But it works. It's super fun and tasty, with the smoke and spice from the ancho and chipotle peppers being balanced by the chocolate, raspberries and wildflower honey. Being the other two ticket offering at the event, it, too was worthy.

As our time at Imperial wound down Larry and Kate mentioned that they would be heading over to The Commons as they had heard that Biere Royale was on tap. A beer we enjoyed multiple times in 2013, we were just as pleased with it now as we were back then. And the color...can't get enough of its beauty!

The remaining three to make this week's list all came our visits to The BeerMongers, shared by and with our frequent drinking buddy, Chris.
Alesong Touch of Brett: Mosaic - A dry, French-style Saison, the Brett it was fermented with is just slightly more prevelant than the Mosaic hops that provide ripe pineapple, mango and grapefruit flavors. Both components are favorites and this one masterfully blends the two.

Modern Times Monsters' Park Aged in Bourbon Barrels (Mexican Hot Chocolate 2017) - Modern Times has been a frequent flyer on our list and this 14.6% barrel-aged imperial stout is simply fabulous, especially after it sits for an hour and the full flavor profile - cinnamon, cocoa nibs, chilies and vanilla - blooms.

Fremont The Rusty Nail - Fremont makes good beers but where they really shine are with their aged, high ABV beers. This one begins with an oatmeal stout base, brewer's licorice, smoked barley and pale malt aged on cinnamon bark. That beer, called The First Nail, begins its second life after spending 15 months in 12-year old bourbon barrels, the result of which is an amazing dark, sour and smooth creation whose 13.2% is an afterthought.

PDX Beer Week continues through Sunday, offering plenty of options for great, unique beers and events. And even if one isn't attending "something special" there always seems to be special things waiting on the shelves and taps of our favorite places. Here's hoping you're finding some gems!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beer Musing's Picks for PDX Beer Week

Yesterday we looked at the official foods for PDX Beer Week. Today we look at the PDX Beer Week events we're most excited about, most of which also have a food component.

Fruit Beer Festival - Last year was the first year we missed this festival, which temporarily moved across the river. The festival returns to its original home at Burnside Brewing Friday, June 9 - Sunday, June 11 with nearly 30 fruit beers and cider. The Friday session (4-9pm) will offer 20 of those and most likely, a smaller crowd. Ticket options are $20 for a plastic cup + 12 drink tickets OR $25 for a branded glass + 14 tickets and apply to all three days of the festival.

Sweet & Sour Dessert Pop-Up - Taking place at McMenamins 23rd Ave Bottle Shop on Tuesday, June 13, the event features Culmination Peche, Edgefield Dry Hopped Sour and Ruse Noctuary Sour. The three beers will be paired with three delicious desserts from Grains of Wrath Brewing's Chef Fabiola. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase at the Bottle Shop ($16).

Culmination Brewing at the Woodsman Tavern - Also on Tuesday is a beer pairing dinner featuring the PDX Beer Week beer, Hop Berry IPA brewed by Culmination, served with the amuse of Henderson Bay Oysters, along with five other beers and food courses. Tickets are available here for $60.

Sweet & Sour encore - On Wednesday, June 14 Chef Fabiola moves over to Saraveza for a similar event, this time featuring Block 15 Love Potion #9, Fort George 3-Way IPA and Ex Novo Cactus Wins the Lottery.

StormBreaker Beer & Wings Pairing - We haven't yet gotten around to trying StormBreaker's smoked wings but this may just be the push we needed. All day on Thursday, June 15 they are offering five smoked wings, each with a different sauce, paired with five different beer tasters.

Portland Beer & Cheese Fest - We missed this event, which is returning to Culmination for a second year, last year as we were in Silverton taking in the Oregon Garden Beer Fest. In its sixth year the festival take place on Saturday, June 18 and offers 10 beer and cheese pairings carefully selected by our favorite cheesemonger, Steve Jones. In addition to beer and cheese there will be complimentary chocolate and charcuterie samples. General admission ($35) and VIP ($45) tickets here.

Now just because we're excited about these events doesn't mean we'll make it to them all. Just like that letter you sent to Santa as a kid, this is a wish list. We'll see what kind of stamina we have.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

PDX Beer Week Begins

Today is the first day of the 11-day run of PDX Beer Week and the number of events going on throughout town is staggering. Since most of us have jobs, families and other commitments you'll have to pick and choose from the too-many-to-count events. Today alone there are 16 events to choose from (some of which are multi-day) but one aspect of the Week that is more widely accessible is the food and beer tie-ins.

The official beer is Hop Berry IPA, made by Culmination Brewing and utilizing Oregon Fruit Products' marionberry puree. 15 batches of this 7.1% ABV, fruit-forward IPA were brewed on their 5bbl system which kept the brewers busy but should also ensure that there will be plenty - on tap and in bottles - to go around throughout Beer Week.

On the food side there is one of the best accompaniments to beer, an official pizza, as well as an official donut and official ice cream. We had a chance to try all of them at a preview and boy did we enjoy that!

Pizza - Hotlips Pizza has once again created a special pizza for Beer Week. We tried the beta version a month ago and it was good but it's also clear that they have refined the pizza. The result is an amplification of the kimche flavor that pairs oh so well with the Pear and Ginger Hotlips soda-glazed pork belly. Throughout beer week you'll be able to snag a slice and a pint of Hopberry IPA for $8.

Donut - Made by Blue Star, it's gorgeous to behold thanks to the dehydrated fruit used to dust the outside of the fruity, cream-filled brioche donut. As with the ice cream, this sweet treat has a restrained sweetness, which is appreciated. When eaten alongside the beer it accentuates the hoppiness of the beer. So have it anytime of day, with or without a beer sidekick.

Ice cream - Made by Salt & Straw with marionberries and hops steeped in the cream mix, the flavor is designed to be an ice cream clone of Culmination's Hop Berry IPA. The berries take center stage initially with the hops taking over on the back end. It's an interesting flavor combination but hey, that's what Salt & Straw is known for and we applaud their abilities to use non-standard ingredients. Eat it alone or have a beer float!

One item that we weren't able to preview is Lardo's Beer Week sandwich. We're huge fans of everything Lardo turns out so we have no doubt that their cold fried chicken with blue cheese, bacon, pickles and butter lettuce will be phenomenal. In addition, both Lardo locations will host "pop up pub" events with Culmination taking over the taps downtown and Melvin moving in at the SE location through the 15th.

All of these will delectable delights be available throughout PDX Beer Week at their respective retail locations (as well as at select events) for your eating enjoyment.

Check back tomorrow for a look at some of the events that have us most excited.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 29 - June 4

This week's list starts with two beers that were enjoyed at the 11th annual Cheers to Belgian Beers festival last week.
Migration Quinn and Juice - A take on "gin and juice" this Belgian Strong Pale aged in Old Tom Gin barrels starts out with the gin botanicals in the aroma and drinks very smooth, both with a surprising mouthfeel and pleasant flavor that belies the 9.2% ABV.

Baerlic Black with Two Sugars - We love coffee and coffee beers and this one is a great one for sure. From the get go the coffee is present in the aroma and follows through to a flavor that is similar to cold coffee with heavy cream and just a dash of sugar.
And while both are great on their own, should you find yourself in the presence of both, have a little fun and blend them in a one-to-one ratio.

The remaining three beers are wildly different in style but find common ground in being wildly good.
Culmination Lime Tea - Culmination's gose game is strong and this one brings in one of our favorite citrus flavors - lime. Perfectly light for summer, the flavor is of a lime sickle.

Fort George 3-Way IPA - The latest edition in Fort George's 3-Way series is a collaboration with Great Notion and Reuben's Brews out of Seattle. And it might be the best since the first couple with its juicy flavor and great mouthfeel.

Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru (2105) - This beer achieved a very rare 5 out of 5 stars in our book with so much amazing dark fruit, tart, yumness. Huge thanks to Sean for an amazing beer lineup during his birthday party at The BeerMongers, with this being just one of the gifts he gave to those that showed up.

Tomorrow begins PDX Beer Week and Portland Fruit Beer Festival runs Friday through Sunday, both of which we'll look at in greater detail in the next two posts so make sure to check back for a preview.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Recommendations for 2017 Cheers to Belgian Beers

Today is the second (and final) day of the 2017 Cheers to Belgian Beers festival at the North Warehouse. We went yesterday and while we only had 17 of the 70+ beers we're happy to share recommendations based on the things we drank.

We, along with a majority of the folks we compared notes with at the festival, easily put pFriem Abrikoos and Crux In the Pocket on the "don't leave the festival without having these" list. Abrikoos was new to us and is a fantastic Lambic-style beer that’s a very drinkable 5.5%. In the Pocket, a red wine barrel aged Saison with Brett and a beer we'd had recently (bottles of it are around town) is also very drinkable...but with nearly double the ABV at 9.9%.

Two others that hit high notes with us were Baerlic Black with Two Sugars and Migration Quinn and Juice. Coffee is our second favorite beverage and Baerlic's masterfully crafted beer drinks like a cold version of it, with a luxurious splash of heavy cream (although there isn't actually any in it) and a touch of sugar. The hook on the Migration beer for us is that on the rare occasions we drink hard liquor, gin is our go-to. This beer displays the aroma of those botanicals and is accompanied by a surprising mouthfeel to create a dangerously drinkable package weighing in at 9.2%.

We happened to be drinking with one of our friends who is supremely talented when it comes to blending beers. Yes, that may be blasphemy to some but if you're game we highly recommend blending, in a one-to-one ratio, Baerlic Black with Two Sugars and Migration Quinn and Juice. It doesn't sound like it would work but trust us here, it does.

The other blending might be a little more intuitive but it's the ratio that is important here. Start with Ex Novo Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a Saison fermented with boysenberries and black currants, and add just a splash of Gigantic The City Never Sleeps black Saison. Start with a small splash and add another if needed to get to that perfect black beer base that's complimented by the berry flavor of Afraid.

With that, get on with the drinking and cheers!

Cheers to Belgian Beers
North Warehouse, 723 N. Tillamook
Saturday, June 3 Noon - 8pm
$20 (glass + 8 tickets)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: May 22 - 28

Coalition Sour Patch
The six beers that made this week's list are particularly stellar and we have to give big thanks to Chris and Chris (just two of the Chris/Kris crew regularly found at The BeerMongers) for sharing. For something a little different this week, we'll list these in ascending rank starting with four that tied with 4 out of 5 stars.

Coalition Brewing Sour Patch - Love Sour Patch Kids candy? Then you'll love this beer. A version of Two Flowers, their CBD beer, it truly is the love child of beer and candy.

Baerlic Watch the Bridie - A true to style gose, it is salty, tart and utterly fantastic. Also true to style is its ABV - a sessionable 4.5% - which makes it easy for summer drinking.

Matchless POG - Familiar with POG? In case not, it stands for pineapple-orange-guava and that's exactly what this IPA offers to compliment the medium body and low bitterness. Juicy and infinitely drinkable, or nearly so at just a touch higher ABV of 6.2%.

Beachwood Brewing Mocha Machine - The biggest of the bunch, clocking in at 9.2% ABV, it definitely is a "well-engineered endeavor" combining British and German malts and Portola Coffee Lab roasted coffee which was then aged on cacao nibs from Ecuador. The fudginess was reminiscent of Sunriver Cocoa Cow but taken to another level with the coffee. Thanks to Chris T. for sharing!

Now for the runner up, with an impressive 4.25 out of 5 stars, New Holland Incorrigible Reserve (2017). This white sour ale with mango and pineapple was surprisingly affordable with the bang for the buck coming in the flavor as opposed to the ABV (a mere 4.5%). With the aroma of a bright, tropical fruit salad and an addition of just the right amount of tartness to the flavor this is a sour beer lovers of the style should definitely pick up.

Finally, for the best of the best this week (and probably almost any other week of the year)...Modern Times Asteroid Cowboy. First off, huge thanks to Chris (a different Chris) for sharing this! A Brett IPA dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra and Horizon, all of the components in balance, resulting in a tart and hoppy delight that is the total package of delish.

It really was one hellava week for beer. We hope even a small percentage of similar wonderfulness made it into your glass. Cheers!