Thursday, August 31, 2017

Farm to Brewery, the Centennial's Trip from Silverton to Portland

Last week we showed you the trip we took down to Goschie Farms with Pyramid/Portland Brewing to experience the hop harvest. The trip was a dual function in that we brought back with us 200lbs of fresh-from-the-vine Centennial hops.

Five bags, filled straight from the conveyor belt that shuttled the hop cones onto the drying floor, were tied up and packed into the van along with the human cargo. A little tighter fit than on our way down to be sure but the trade off was being surrounded by the heady aroma the Centennials gave off. Those hops were some of the best car mates any of us had ridden with.

The brewers that joined us on the trip, head brewer Ryan Pappe and brewer Brian McGovern, enjoyed the visit but it was clear that they were eager to get back to the brew house and get those hops into their brewing kettle. Upon our arrival they headed off with the bags of green goodness while the rest of us took a brief respite, consuming some of their previous efforts, before rejoining them in the brewery.

The Centennials had been loaded into laundry bags (apparently Bed, Bath & Beyond's are the bags of choice) and were being tied up with fishing line, efforts to keep them from going too far into the tank of Outburst Imperial IPA.

One may recognize that beer as a standard in the brewery's lineup however this will be the first time that it has been aged on fresh hops. Going by the name of Fresh Hop Outburst, Ryan chose to use Centennials in part because they’re a favorite of his and in part because they are already used in the beer. He said by doing this “we will get a chance to see the difference between the way we normally use those hops compared to the nuances that the fresh hops bring to the beer.”

In the past they have made a fresh hop version of another standard, Mac's Amber, but this year Ryan wanted to try something different. "Fresh hop beers are always experimental, because unless you are repeating a beer you have previously produced, you don’t know what is going to come out on the other side. You can’t brew a test batch, because you can only brew while the fresh hops are available."

The 55bbl batch was kegged late last week and is currently on tap both here in Portland and at the Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle. It will also be making an appearance at the Portland Fresh Hop Festival taking place September 29 & 30 at Oaks Park. He's eager for feedback, "I would love to hear what people think about our Fresh Hop version of Outburst!" so if you get a chance to try it leave a comment here and we'll pass on your thoughts to him.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: August 21 - 27

Over the weekend we had friends over to help us break in our new digs and being that our friends tend to be beer geeks, generous beer geeks, many of them showed up with bottles of very delicious, often rare beers. Some of them have yet to be opened but others we enjoyed that night and as expected they were fantastic.

Dionysus Currantly Noir with Vanilla #02 - The first beer we've had from this two year old Bakersfield, CA brewery was an incredible introduction to them. A golden sour ale aged six months in Pinot Noir French oak barrels with black currants and vanilla, it has just the exact right amount of sourness for us. 

The Commons Fishing With Hallet - Listed as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, on the surface it wouldn't appear to be a beer that would trip our trigger. However, being brewed by The Commons increases the chance that we'll like it and sealing the deal is that the amount of sour character is sufficient to subdue any Belgian characteristics that in other instances might turn us off.

Bruery Terreux Frucht: Lemon & Cherry - The level of sour, especially from the lemon zest, may be a bit much for some but we really enjoyed the combination of lemon and tart cherries in this Berliner Weisse-style sour. Apparently it is the first beer in their Frucht series and we'll be looking forward to seeing what this subsidiary of The Bruery turns out in the future.

Firestone Walker Krieky Bones - Picked up by Mag, it starts with a tart cherry aroma and follows with the best tart cherry cobbler flavor we've ever run across. It was brewed to celebrate David Walker's 50th birthday and is a Flanders Red style beer that was aged for eight months in a French oak foeder with sour cherries that allowed for a secondary fermentation. We suspect that the Vienna malt used is what gave us the feeling of cobbler.

Image courtesy of Founders since ours didn't properly show the awesome can.
The lone beer to make this week's list that was not consumed at our party was enjoyed earlier in the week at The BeerMongers. Cans of Founders Green Zebra sport fun, bright artwork and inside is a take on a gose.

This one won't be for everyone but we enjoyed the heck out of the flavor that is reminiscent of watermelon Jolly Ranchers with just a touch of salt, a primary component setting this style of sour beer apart from others. Considering how many bad (like REALLY bad) watermelon beers we've had this is yet a further achievement. A "limited" beer, according to their website, it's definitely worth grabbing a can before summer transitions into fall. As a bonus, the beer was brewed to benefit ArtPrize, a non-profit international art competition in Grand Rapids, MI. Drink good, do good.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Visiting Goschie Farms for the Hop Harvest

Over the past few years we'd been invited on various trips during the hop harvest, something we were eager to experience, but the timing never ended up working out. This year the stars aligned and we were able to take advantage of the opportunity, hopping into a van driven by Pyramid/Portland Brewing brand manager Bruce Kehe last week. Along with other members of the Portland beer community we made our way to Silverton and back, taking in the harvest of Centennial hops at Goschie Farms.

When we arrived owner Gayle Goschie informed us that the harvest had begun earlier in the morning (in fact we ran into 54 40's Bolt on our way in, his van already loaded up with a batch of fresh hops). Making our way over to one of the farm's buildings we were greeted with a view of the hop bines being lifted out of the harvesting trucks and attached to the mechanical system. The noise level made conversation impossible but there was no need to speak, only to breathe in the dizzying aroma of fresh hops and watch in fascination as the bines made their way through the processing machinery.

Mechanical harvesting of hops began in the 1940's, a system that is based on hops being round and leaves/stems being flat. Once stripped off, all of the material makes its way through a series of belts that separates the usable hop cones from the discarded material. The final set of belts, called dribble belts, are where the hops fall/roll/dribble down for collection while the leaves and stems are carried on. Since hops vary not only in the profiles they impart to beer, but also in overall shape, there is some variation in the efficiency in which the mechanical system pulls them off the bines. Regardless of variety, non-hop cone material making it through with the hop cones is less than 1%, a dramatic decrease from the 12% that was common when hand harvesting was the norm.

Once the hop cones have been isolated it's time for them to head to the drying house. Entering at nearly 80% moisture, the hops are spread out to a depth of 24 inches where 130 degree heat is pumped through, drying them to around 8% over the course of about seven hours. This part of the process has remained largely the same over the last 100 years even though computers assist in monitoring kiln operations and growers have instruments to help gauge when the hops are dry. Ultimately however, Gayle still uses the age-old process of rubbing the cones between her fingers to judge dryness, just as her father and grandfather did.

The dried, yet still warm, hops are then moved to a cooling room for about 12 hours. During that time gentle, non-heated air is blown through the mountain of hops before they are compressed into 200lb bales. Mini/mobile "sewing machines" are used to seal the bags around the bales, with the final stitches on the ends being done by hand. At Goschie it is tradition that at the end of the hop harvest, when the last hop bale has been made, Gayle herself sews the final bag shut.

This year the weather has been nearly perfect for hops, meaning that soon, especially the fresh hops that went straight from the dribble belts into large bags picked up by brewers like Pyramid/Portland Brewing head brewer Ryan Pappe, will be make an appearance in our glasses as fresh hop beers begin to hit taps around town. The rest, in dried form, will make their way from Goschie and other hop farms to supply brewers throughout the coming year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: August 14 - 20

There were a considerable amount of mixed feelings as we reviewed our drinking and rating of the beers from last week. Why? Well, because in a rare turn of events, every beer that made the list is a beer that we've had a least once before (if not multiple times).

The internal dialogue went something like this:
"Really? We just had things (or at least good things) that we'd had before?!?."
"Are we really so fickle, so set on trying and finding new and great beers that we can't just enjoy and be happy with having had some past favorites?"
"It's ok to enjoy the same beers we had in the past because we DID quite enjoy them."

Perhaps some of you reading this understand the conversation we had with ourselves. Others may be questioning our judgment. Either way, here's what we had (again) and enjoyed.

Uinta Hop Nosh - Uinta's flagship IPA, the first time we had it (nearly six years if anyone's counting), we were impressed by its grapefruit and stank qualities. Since then we've relegated it to an any day or first beer of the day. Perhaps it's our taste buds. Perhaps the recipe has changed a bit.

Fort George 3-Way IPA - Far and away the highest rated of this week's list, pictured here at Church, we can't say enough good things about this fruit-forward, hazy IPA collaboration with Great Notion and Reuben's. We thought that the supply was nearly gone but have hear that another batch may be on its way this week. Please, please, pretty please let this be true!!

Georgetown Johnny Utah - Pale ales generally have a hard time competing with IPAs for us however this one, likely because of its pronounced grapefruit and pine flavors and minimal amount of maltiness, is a great go to.

Fire on the Mountain Wonderin' Rye - Four years ago this beer first graced our lips and since then we've always had it AT Fire on The Mountain (Burnside). It's basically our default beer when enjoying The Best Wings in Portland.

Culmination Choco Mountain Milk Stout - This sweet/milk stout rides the perfect balance between sweet and dry. Combined with its easy drinking 5.6% this is a stout for any time of the year and is a great adult chocolate milk beer, especially when it's served on nitro.

If there are any beers above that you haven't had, we definitely recommend trying them. For the most part they won't be too hard to track down and if you order one and don't like it, just give us a buzz and we'll come finish your pint for you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: August 7 - 13

This week's list starts off fruity and light, with four of the offerings from the 1st Annual Portland Radler Festival that was held at StormBreaker Brewing last Saturday. With generally low ABVs one could enjoy these all day (but be careful if you're prone to sugar overload).

54 40 Ginger Lemonade - Their Kascadia Kolsch was taken to the next level (in our humble opinion) with the addition of organic lemonade and freshly grated ginger. It's so well crafted that the 3.2% ABV completely disappears.

The Commons Lemon Urban Farmhouse - We thought Urban Farmhouse was pretty close to perfect to begin with and have to admit we were a bit worried by altering it to be their festival entry it wouldn't be up to snuff. Silly us!!! The lemon works perfectly with the beer and we'd love to see it offered every summer in the taproom.

Great Notion Blueberry Muffin Radler - This radler version of their Blueberry Muffin kettle soured beer, it is a tad more tart than the non-radler version and just as good (maybe better?).

Wild Ride Thorny Bushwacker - A 50/50 blend of Wild Ride's Tarty to the Party apricot sour and blackberry soda, they nailed balance between fruit tartness (apricot sour) and fruit depth (blackberry soda). An added bonus is the mouthfeel that apricots naturally impart.

The rest of the list is a mixed bag of yum, all of which are as easy drinking as the radlers (with a lighter sugar bill).

Prairie Artisan Prairie Flare - Office Space fans will appreciate the name and super fun can. A citrus fruit-added gose, it displays great tartness, staying mild on the coriander with enough salt is present to qualify as gose in our book.

Ex Novo His Name is Robert Paulson - The darkest (but not highest ABV) beer on this week's list, it gets an enticing coffee aroma from the Columbian coffee used which combines with the Ecuadorian cocoa nibs and honey "dry hopping" for a coffee-chocolate milk flavor that we would will drink all day, any day.

Smog City Brix Layer (2017) - A wonderfully complex, balanced beer (great choice, Mag!) it starts with a barrel-sour aroma and is an easy drinking 8.8% wine barrel-aged sour blonde with Reisling.

As you gear up to hunker down or party it up for next Monday's eclipse make sure to have plenty of delicious beer, perhaps some of these, on hand.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: July 31 - August 6

Fruit, haze, coffee and an imperial stout, this week's list runs all over the beer style spectrum. Whether your palate enjoys similar diversity or you prefer a tighter flavor profile something on here should find its way into your glass because they are all stellar.

Urban Family Aprium Dream - Huge thanks to Chris for sharing this foeder-fermented American Wild Ale (and for snapping a great pic!). Starting with a sweet tart aroma that follows through the to the flavor, it finishes fruity and clean. In case you were wondering, apriums are a real fruit, a hybrid of apricots and plums that Urban Family sourced from Collins Family Orchards and introduced to their house Brett-Saison culture. What a wonderful match!

Block 15 Fluffhead - This hazy IPA smells juicy and has a flavor that follows. Balancing the beer is a slight hop bite from the late addition hopping with Mosaic, Chinook and Azacca hops.

North Jetty Discover Coast Coffee Stout - We've had this beer before but not on nitro and that is most certainly the way is should be served. Starting with a nummy, nutty aroma that is followed by a chocolate milkshake flavor with just the right amount of sweetness, it finishes with a slight bitterness.

Alesong Mocha Rhino Suit - An incredibly smooth 12% beer that is a blend of imperial stouts aged over 10 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels and finished on Eugene's Coffee Plant Roasters' Costa Rican coffee beans and Chocolate Alchemy's Honduran cocoa nibs, don't let the slightly sharp aroma faze you.  It's adult beer candy that isn't overly sweet and if you can get your hands on this, don't hesitate to do it.

Both the North Jetty and Alesong were enjoyed at a the new Imperial Bottle Shop and Taproom on NE Alberta. If you haven't been, put it on your list to check out. Alex and Shaun have created a worthy sister location to the original on SE Division.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Radler Festival This Saturday

Radlers have a long history in German speaking regions and often make a splash in the summer with their 50/50 mix of beer and lemonade or soda. This Saturday the refreshing, low ABV drink will debut as the focus of the 1st Annual Portland Radler Festival at StormBreaker Brewing.

19 breweries and three cideries will be pouring blends that include the traditional lemonade as well as ones using sodas and juices. We had a chance to try some of the radlers earlier this week and they ranged from those that are already commercially available and canned to those that were the result of in-house blending and will be unique to the festival.

One of the ones at the preview we enjoyed most was Hopworks Totally Radler, a beer that we were introduced to at NAOBF a few years ago, and is now available in 16oz cans. It has a pleasant, real lemon juice bite from the organic lemon juice that is blended perfectly with organic HUB Pilsner. (Those who prefer grapefruit to lemon should keep their eyes out as Hopworks will soon be debuting that version in 16oz cans). Just as delicious was the passion fruit flavor of Hi Five Cider Rosemancing the Radler. It's a blend of passion fruit and pink guava cider and rose cordial soda from Portland Soda Works.

Tea lovers should be particularly fond of Oregon Mead and Cider's Lime Ginger Trinity Mead Radler. The name is a mouthful and so is the complex blend of their Trinity mead and the Pearl Soda Company lime ginger soda. Owner Brooks enjoyed the process of creating the radler so much that he's already planning to offer three or four radlers next summer.

Those who prefer a sweeter radler should make a beeline to Zoiglhaus Orange Creamsicle Gose Radler. The blend of brewer Alan Taylor's traditional Gose and orange cream soda smells and tastes exactly like an orange creamsicle that has melted.

Stiegl, one of the event sponsors along with StormBreaker and Hotlips, will have both their Grapefruit and Zitron Radlers at the festival. We've had both multiple times but it was still fun to have them side-by-side, confirming our slight preference for the grapefruit version. As a side note, Portland is the #1 market for it, recently dethroning Chicago.

1st Annual Portland Radler Festival
Saturday, August 12th 12-8pm
StormBreaker Brewing, 832 N Beech St.
Advance tickets $15, at the door $20 (both include tasting mug and 8 tickets)
Full radler lineup

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Best Things We Drank: July 24 - 30

Last week was The Big Show aka the 30th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival and some of the best beers we drank were consumed on our two visits to it. The other portion were had at our Cheers aka The BeerMongers.

Boundary Bay Raspberry Radler - One of the first beers consumed at this year's OBF, it was as delicious as it was gorgeous. A radler in name, this beer is a combination of raspberry puree and kettle soured beer fermented with an ale strain and house bacteria and dry hopped with Citra. It was bursting with fruit flavor and just the right amount of fruit tartness.

Baerlic Dropping Acid Psychedelic Sour IPA - The kettle souring with lactobacillus provides a sour-in-a-good-way aroma with a pleasant hop stank flavor from the El Dorado, Comet and Amarillo hops used. At 5% one could drink many of these.

Upright Heirloom Saison - Complex beers are Upright's thing and this blended beer starts with delicious wood on the nose (from the Saison part that spent 18+ months in barrels) and offers a bright, slightly sharp but refreshing flavor contributed by the black lime wheat component.

New Holland Dragon's Milk Reserve: Thai Curry - The biggest beer at the festival, an 11.7% imperial stout, was arguably the best beer of the festival as well. It's a meal (or at least dessert) in a glass with a coconut, mild spice and cocoa-y flavor. The elements combine to create a dangerously drinkable combo.

At TheBeerMongers
Bellwoods Farmageddon  - A true treat and a reason why generous beer people are so cool - they are happy to share great stuff with those that will appreciate it. Our buddy Chris recently visited Vancouver, B.C. and brought this back. Perfectly tart and delicious, this is a special edition of their classic Farmhouse Saison which is a blend of young and old barrels ranging from 6 months to 1.5 years. If you should see a bottle DO NOT hesitate to buy it. We guarantee it will be worth the price.

Off Color Hell Broth - Listed as a "Danish style American Wild Ale" and is a collaboration with Amager Bryghus, it possesses the aroma of cider with a light, drinkable beer flavor.

Schilling Cider Road Trip Peach Citra - It's coincidental but appropriate that the next beer on our list is in fact a cider. Whereas Schilling's grapefruit cider is just a fruity cider, here they've bridged the beer gap by finding the sweet spot between the fruitiness of peaches and the bitterness of hops.

If you attended OBF we'd love to hear what you thought topped the taps. If you didn't what has recently filled your glass with delight?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Take a Look at Imperial's Second Location

Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom, one of the best in town despite it tender young age of four, now has a sister location on NE Alberta Street and we had the distinct pleasure of getting an early look at it last night.

Similar in size and overall feel to the original space, Imperial North (at least that's what you'll check into on Untappd), manages to feel like a sibling instead of a twin. Occupying a center space instead of a corner one, wood plays a prominent role from a double set of beams in the high ceilings to the bar stools, chairs, booths and tables (some of which were made from barrel tops acquired from Ruse Brewing) to the floor. Slate black walls on the bar side of the space, under which rests a gorgeous copper bar top, sit in contrast to the opposite walls that feature large mirrors and a work-in-progress mural (Sasquatch has already found his way there). The large storefront window looks back toward the brick wall that was opened up and behind which the shelves and coolers filled with bottles are found.

With nearly 30 taps, including two nitro taps and a cask engine, that's double the beer and cider availability of the SE Division location so be prepared for an even tougher decision on what to order. We were so enamored with the opening tap list we have to admit that we didn't get around to perusing the bottle selection (but we trust it's as good).

For those who've made a habit of combining a visit to Imperial on Division with a stop at Bollywood Theater or Salt & Straw, you're in luck! Both have locations just across the street, in addition to a Bunk Sandwiches, and a multitude of other options are available within a short meander. As with the Division location, you're welcome to bring food in and will find the restrooms through the back of the shop in a shared space.

The harshest criticism we have to offer is that it can get a bit loud but if it hasn't bothered you at the original location, it won't bother you here. Huge congrats to Alex and Shawn for all the hard work that has gone into getting the space open in such a short time. It is a beautiful space that will surely be filled with many happy beer lovers, especially those who now have an Imperial closer to them.

2006 NE Alberta St
Open daily at 12pm