Wednesday, May 30, 2018

We Paired Beer With What?!?!

If you've been following our beer adventures for a while you might have figured out we have a thing for pairing beer with some unlikely subjects (like Halloween or Easter candy). Well, hold on to your hats because things are about to get REAL weird.

Resulting out of some beer consumed with a last bit of ice cream, you know, the melt-y stuff at the bottom of your bowl/pint/quart, we rounded up seven varieties of coffee creamer (you heard that right). There were some "regular" flavors - French Vanilla, Hazelnut and Vanilla Caramel - and others that started going further afield - Almond Roca, Bailey's Irish Cream, Peppermint Mocha and Bailey's Mudslide. As is pretty easy to surmise, stouts were the most suitable for pairing.

- Fremont Dark Star imperial oatmeal stout had its 8% ABV mellowed by the Darigold Almond Roca and its roastiness kept the creamer from being too sweet.
- Ten FIDY, the big 10.5% double stout from Oskar Blues, made for a nice sipper with the CoffeeMate Peppermint Mocha.
- StormBreaker Opacus oatmeal stout, clocking in at a sessionable 5%, was the most mixable of the beers, combining nicely with Darigold Vanilla Caramel, Darigold Hazelnut and CoffeeMate Peppermint Mocha. In fact, if you'll be having guests around Christmastime, grab some of that Peppermint Mocha either for use in your glass with some Opacus or in your great aunt's coffee. You won't regret it.
- Pelican Tsunami Stout, of the foreign/export variety, was the most coffee-like and combined with Bailey's Irish Cream for something we'd be delighted to find in our mug on a lazy weekend morning.
- Ale Smith Nut Brown's nutty profile found pairings with both of the nut-flavored creamers - Darigold Almond Roca and Darigold Hazelnut. 

Even more successful than the dark beers, especially if you're looking for something lighter, were three fruit beer/ciders with Darigold French Vanilla. Stiegl Radler was the crowd favorite that when blended with the creamer came out tasting like an orange creamsicle. Why a grapefruit beer should combine with a vanilla milky substance to produce orange is beyond us. This however was a delicious, super low ABV creation.

A close second was Cider Riot! Berry cider, for a "berrysicle" and then interestingly, Lindeman's Peche. Instead of the sourness of the beer clashing, it pleasantly offset the creaminess. Another "you wouldn't think so" combination was the Cider Riot Berry with Darigold Hazelnut. Not assertive enough to be labeled as a pb&j flavor profile, it's the closest thing we can liken it to.

If you've been keeping track you may have noticed that we haven't mentioned what beer went with the Bailey's Mudslide. That's because there weren't any. We found there to be a strange, chemical taste and while we can't confirm the same would be true if it were put in a cup of coffee it seems prudent to simply avoid it. We chalked it up to "you can't know until you try" and the spirit of exploration that we went into this little experiment with.

Thanks to those brave souls that tried these combos out with us - Chris, Sean, Nicole, Caren, Zach and Mike, to name a few!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Day Trippin': McMinnville & Newberg

Last weekend we hopped in the car with a couple of friends who had suggested taking a day trip to the McMinnville-Newberg area. They took on the task of putting together a list of places with the necessary information in advance so all we had to do was arrive at the specified time/place and off we went.

Upon entering McMinnville city limits we decided our first stop would be Allegory, the year old brewery where Charlie Van Meter (formerly of Sasquatch and Logsdon) has landed. Situated along the railroad tracks its outdoor space was perfect for the blue sky day that was upon us. Umbrelled picnic tables were placed closest to the building with a take out-style ordering window in the side of the building. Nearby sat cornhole games waiting for some competitive folks looking for a game, a raised area (presumably a stage) occupied one corner of the parking lot with ample space in between for food trucks, more seating and plenty of thirsty souls.

Prior to visiting we'd had some Allegory offerings and we've been fans of Charlie for some time but what we had at the brewery was really outstanding. From the grape-and-barrel-aged All the Free Time to the fruited sour Soursop Summer Hop to their hoppy offerings, there wasn't a beer in the bunch that we would hesitate about ordering again. While this stop alone would have been worth the trip, especially since we had the pleasure of chatting with Charlie and his wife Jenna briefly, we had to pull ourselves away to continue on.

Next up we put our sights on Grain Station but before we put the car into gear we realized it was with easy walking distance. Locking back up we meandered down the quiet side streets, coming upon Grain Station from their patio side. As it was around lunchtime on a beautiful weekend day, the patio (and even inside) was hopping. Making a quick decision to reroute, we continued another few blocks toward Heater Allen with plans to stop back afterward.

Housed in a nondescript red building, Heater Allen was opened in 2007 by Rick Allen, a former investment banker set on making "the best Bohemian-style Pilsner possible." Daughter Lisa joined the brewery at the end of 2009 after starting her career in the wine industry. Last year she took over the role of head brewer and earlier this year they completed a remodel of their patio, a compact area that spills out from the indoor bar and seating area. 

Pils is their signature beer in a lineup of German and Czech style lagers and when we visited they also had a NW version of it - Galaxy Pils. The hopped Pilsner was delicious and a great choice for our hop-loving palates. The remainder of the tap list was filled in with other traditional styles - Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Zwickelbier and Bock. After enjoying our beer on the quiet patio we decided it was time to get something more substantial than the snack we were munching on, perfect timing for visiting Grain Station. 

We didn't have much information on Grain Station, no experience with their beer so we'd set quite low for them. Upon arriving we were quickly seated in a comfortable booth and set to running through the beer list. What popped out to us was that Grain Station seemed to have a thing for barrel-aged beers. That was fine by us so in went our order and out came some beers which quite exceeded our expectations including:
- Saison Vermouth was brewed with rye and spent vermouth botanicals, with 2/3rds of the final blend being aged in sparkling wine barrels, the other 1/3rd in vermouth barrels. The result is a slightly sweet Saison with tasty vermouth notes.
- Oak Zymology followed a similar path, a gin barrel-fermented Saison, with great aroma and funky, delicious barrel notes. 
- Other barrel-aged beers included gin barrel-aged Rose Marie and whiskey barrel-aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Fate of the Gods.

Our next stop could be categorized under, "we're nearby, why not?" Evasion is a gluten-free brewery and although none of us (clearly) have gluten issues, visiting seemed the prudent thing to do. Sporting a surprising 10 beer taplist, their two Pinot Noir barrel-aged farmhouse beers hit the highest notes for us. Ripe? was fermented with Pinot Noir juice while Commit to the Funk built on that with the addition of Brettanomyces and a secondary fermentation with Pinot juice. On the hoppy side Hophoria IPA, with Mosaic and Citra hops, is worth ordering. 

While we enjoyed the experience we had to keep moving, heading on to adjacent Newberg and Deception Brewing. We'd visited their comfortable indoor/outdoor space before and were looking forward to enjoying their offerings again. Barrel-aged beers seemed to be a theme of the day that continued here with the gin barreled Old Tom Gin IPA getting the highest ratings from us. Also tasty was Ragged Rocks, a solid CDA that offered a well balanced combination of hops and malt.

The final stop of the day, as evening was creeping in, was Chehalem Valley Brewing Company. Choosing a seat on the spacious patio, we found the beer menu to be typical of many brewpubs. It covered the usual spectrum of beers, light to dark, less hoppy to presumably more hoppy. After making our selections we were split to as what we enjoyed most. Their flagship Chehalem Valley IPA hit some of our taste buds just right while the others found enjoyment in the roasty Bald Peak Black Ale. Where Deception's CDA was appropriately hoppy, Bald Peak skewed more toward a Black Ale with its [deliciously] roasty notes.

With a great day behind us and the sun setting, it was time to wrap it up and head home. Our adventure certainly wasn't a comprehensive look at breweries in the area but if you're looking for a day trippin' idea perhaps our stops will help guide your adventure.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Boilermakers with Bulleit

We've been cheating a bit on beer lately, exploring the wide varieties of whisky/whiskey. For the most part we haven't had them together but we recently played around to see if we could find some pleasant pairings, better known as boilermakers. Armed with boilermaker suggestions from Ninkasi Brewing Company using Bulleit Frontier Whiskey and supplied with a couple of fifths, we were eager to try our own hands at it.

Bulleit Bourbon
Ninkasi selected their flagship Total Domination IPA to pair with this "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" and we agree that an IPA (even a hazy IPA) is the way to go with this one. We didn't happen to have any Total Domination on hand however we did have cans of their new-ish Prismatic Juicy IPA that created a far more complex pairing than we anticipated. Another local IPA, this time from Culmination in the form of their Phaedrus, made for a pairing that we'd be happy to enjoy for a significant session. Going further afield, the result of recent beer mail, we appreciated the fruity/juicy hops in Track 7 Brewing's Sukahop New England-style IPA as a compliment to this whiskey. Going even more intensely hoppy we also found Pelican's Beak Breaker DIPA to be a pleasant pairing with its combination of Mosaic, Citra and Centennial hops.

Diverting from hoppy beers were two others that to our surprise were also great pairs with the Bourbon. First up was a very interesting collaboration between Rogue and Brew Dr. Kombucha called Kulture Clash. Labeled as an "imperial blonde ale blended with kombucha tea" the 6.9% beer was a bit sweet on its own with a fruitiness that may have come from the beer or may have come from the kombucha. Either way the fruitiness was enhanced quite pleasantly by the Bourbon.

Going to a truly big beer, we cracked open a bottle of Brewery Ommegang Game of Thrones - Hand of the Queen. Billed as a barleywine with a hefty 11% ABV it drank far lighter and fruitier than any barleywine that has ever passed our lips. Putting the surprise on the beer aside, one half of our tasting panel loved the way it created a smooth, boozy pairing that might be further enhanced with a cigar, a lovely evening and plenty of time to enjoy the trio.

Bulleit 95 Rye
A fan of the aroma of the rye whiskey, the flavor takes a backseat to the Bourbon for us and made us more skeptical about being able to select beers that would make suitable boilermakers. Ninkasi chose their Yours Truly Easy-Drinking Ale, a beer with "a sweetly-toasted malt profile and delicate hop bouquet" to pair and we were happily surprised to find Stickmen's lightly flavored The Bee's Knees a winner. Using Pilsner malt, a sweetly flavored,  lightly colored malt, and floral Tettnanger hops this beer likely works due to similarities to Yours Truly. 

In thinking about other beer styles that might work, we reflected on rye-containing beers we've had in the past. Often the lighter based varieties allowed more of the spiciness of the rye to come out more than we would prefer whereas those with a darker base have tended to taste more balanced and "right" to our palate, even some that leaned malty. While overtly malty beers, like Pelican Sea 'N Red Irish Red Ale don't generally make our hop-loving taste buds sing we happened to have some on hand we figured we should at least give it a try. Indeed, when paired with 95 Rye the beer found redemption in our eyes. Here the maltiness of the beer made a fine companion to the rye of the whiskey.  

Many thanks to the hearty souls who went on this adventure with us. Many thanks to the faithful readers who didn't pass over this post because there was something besides beer in it. We're always open to experiences that expand our minds and palates and hope you enjoy learning along with us.