Thursday, June 28, 2018

Picks for Cider Summit 2018

The 2018 Cider Summit kicks off Friday at 3pm (2pm if you spring for the VIP entry) at The Fields Park. With over 200 ciders from more than 60 cideries some hard choice are going to be made because even if you attend the full 10 hours of the festival spanning Friday and Saturday afternoons, in order to try all of the ciders you'd have to maintain a pace of one sample every three minutes. That doesn't even leave time for bathroom breaks or eating! 

We've compiled a short list of ciders we're most excited about, some of which we were introduced to for the first time last week. Some of those made our short list and overall we're giving preference to Oregon cideries even though the Washington, California, New Hampshire, New York, Canada, England, France and Spain cideries that will be there will likely have some things we would love. Tough choices. 

The top eight cideries we'll scouring the festival grounds for:
^5 Cider - 4 ciders and although most of what we've tried from them has gone a little overboard with the sour/tartness they made a cider for the Fruit Cider Challenge called Pineapple & Oak that sounds tasty and interesting.
Apple Outlaw - 4 ciders, including one in the Fruit Cider Challenge. We have very little experience with this cidery but the Pura Vida Pineapple has gotten pretty good ratings on Untappd and we do enjoy pineapples in our cider. Since the Challenge cider wasn't listed in advance that might be a game time decision.
Baird & Dewar - 4 ciders, including Peach Fuzz as their Fruit Cider Challenge entry. Having had three of their ciders before, including a previous version of Constitution and a peach/apricot blend, we were pleased to find leather or barnyard funk in all of them. That bodes well for these four and we might have to try all of them.
Blue Mountain - 3 ciders, all "Limely." We've only had one of theirs to date but were impressed by the fruit profile in the raspberry so we'll have to try at least one of these.
Bull Run - 4 ciders, of which we have had the Bramble Berry, and including Pineapple Perry for the Fruit Cider Challenge. The Bramble along with the Cranberry Perry we had both exhibited the barnyardy characteristic that never fails to hook us. Perhaps we'll have to do a back-to-back-to-back with their pineapple, ^5 and Apple Outlaw.
New West (the cider arm of Sasquatch Brewery) - 4 ciders, including a cherry one in the Fruit Cider Challenge. Of the four they are pouring we've had two, one we loved, one that was meh. It's likely we'll have at least one of the other two.
WildCraft - 3 ciders, one of which we had at the preview and two others, one barrel-aged and one a farmhouse. Yep, we'll be giving those a try!
Bandon Rain - 3 ciders, of which Don't Burn Grose sounds intriguing. Read on to see why.

Although we tried all of the 1859 Cider Co. from Salem at the preview, they were delicious and we HIGHLY encourage you to try them, too.

Perhaps we'll see you there tomorrow (and say hi if you see us first!).

2018 Cider Summit
The Fields Park, 1099 NW Overton
3 - 8pm Friday, 12 - 5pm Saturday
$35 general admission tickets at the door include tasting glass and 12 tickets, additional tasting tickets $2 each

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Oregon Cider Week 2018

The door has barely closed on PDX Beer Week and now it's time for Oregon Cider Week. Kicking off today, June 21st, and running through Sunday, July 1st the the number and variety of official events is as impressive as Beer Week. We know we won't be able to make it to them all, nor preview them all, but what we can do is give you our take on some of the ciders and cideries.

Earlier this week we were given a preview of 20 of the cideries that will be taking part in Oregon Cider Week. Some, like Finnriver and Cider Riot!, were familiar while others, like 1859 Cider Co. and Art+Science, we hadn't even heard of before. It kind of took us back to the days when we were discovering craft breweries, somewhat overwhelming but in a wonderful, exciting way.

Before we talk about the ciders that hit the highest notes for us at the preview, we have to tell you about the special Oregon Cider Week donut that Blue Star has created. The brioche donut is frosted with a beautiful and delicious combination of Finnriver Lavender Black Currant cider, black currant puree and Bee Local Hot Honey. Available for the duration of Oregon Cider week at all of their locations, it is worth seeking out, whether it's enjoyed on its own or enjoyed with Finnriver's cider.

As we back away from the donuts, it's time to talk about the ciders that most impressed us.

Finnriver Lavender Black Currant - Staring out with a spectacular color and wine-like aroma, the berry/floral flavor is followed by a pleasant wine aftertaste.

1859 Strawberry - Both the aroma and flavor of this cider are exactly like that of fresh strawberries, with no alcohol flavor at all.

Alter Ego Guardian Angel - This combination of blueberries and pomegranates are juice, juice, all juice baby.

WildCraft Elderberry Perry - Oregon elderberries are fermented whole in a red Bartlett perry and aged for three months, resulting in a juicy brew with mild alcohol flavor. 

WildCraft Trinity Pome Blend - Lovely, funky tastiness!

1859 Green Dragon - This represents the perfect balance of sweet and dry. As a bonus, it pairs wonderfully with prosciutto.

While we would be happy to belly up at one location and drink any kegs of the above ciders dry, to fully experience Oregon ciders, we recommend checking out one of the festivals or other events that feature multiple ciders and cideries. Here's a brief list with the full event list and details found here.
June 23
Oregon Cider Week Saturday Sampling
Tasting event featuring Baird & Dewar, Carlton Cyderworks and WildCraft Ciderworks
2 - 4 pm
McMenamins 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop 2290 NW Thurman Street, Portland

June 23
Happy Cider Day
11 ciders, including the 1859 Strawberry we are so enamored with
6 - 9 pm
The Westside Taphouse & Growler Fill 1594 Edgewater Street NW, SALEM

June 23 & 24 
3rd Annual Fruit Cider Invitational
24 Oregon-made fruit ciders from Cider Riot! and others
2 - 8 pm
Cider Riot! 807 NE Couch Street, Portland

June 24
Dog wash at Bushwacker Cider
Charity dog wash benefitting Clackamas County Dog Control with 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Seattle Cider Co. and Bushwacker Cider, 21+
12 - 3 pm
Bushwacker Cider, 1212-D SE Powell Blvd, Portland

June 25
PDX Cideries Nite
Event features cideries located in the city of Portland
6 - 10 pm
Portland Cider House, 3638 SE Hawthorne, Portland

June 26
Oregon Cider Celebration
Draft and bottled offerings from Oregon cider companies
4 - 7 pm
Tin Bucket 3520 N Williams Avenue, Portland

June 27
OMSI After Dark: Ciderfest
Featuring 17 cideries, this 21+ event includes science demonstrations, $30 tickets 
7 - 10 pm
OMSI 1945 SE Water Avenue, Portland

June 29 & June 30
Cider Summit Portland
Nearly 200 ciders from across the nation, general admission tickets $30 in advance, $35 at the door
3 - 8 pm Friday, 12 - 5 pm Saturday
The Fields 1099 NW Overton, Portland

July 1
Cider + Donuts
Donuts from Blue Star, NOLA and Delicious paired with NW ciders
11 am - 10 pm
Portland Cider House 3638 SE Hawthorne, Portland

July 1
Oregon Cider Week Pairing Menu
Curated 3-course menu pairing Baird & Dewar, WildCraft and OR/WA Cider Co-Op ciders with food, $45
5 - 9:30 pm
Ned Ludd 3925 NE MLK Jr., Portland 

In addition to places to drink cider, there are a couple of retailers offering discounts on packaged ciders. To start off the week, New Seasons Market will offer 20% off all hard ciders June 22 - 24 (Friday - Sunday). Picking up the discounts a couple days later is People's Food Co-Op, with 10% off the purchase of any six ciders June 26 - July 1 (Tuesday - Sunday).

For those looking to get some education along with their cider check out:
June 21 
Cider Appreciation Class
Explore 20+ ciders, many of Nat's favorite cideries from around the world and the history of the craft, $50 tickets 
7 - 9:30 pm
Rev. Nat's Cidery & Taproom 1813 NE 2nd Avenue, Portland

June 25 
History & Science of Cider
Enjoy 9 ciders from around the world with cider makers from Cider Riot! and Portland Cider company leading an educational class, $25 tickets 
7 -10 pm
Cider Riot! 807 NE Couch, Portland

*Please note that we did not try all of the ciders at the preview, nor does this represent all of the ciders that will be at Oregon Cider Week Events. We do what we can but even we have our limits.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Random Asian Salty Snacks & Beer Pairing

Have you ever been into an Asian grocery store and been intrigued by packages of things you have little to no idea of what they are? We make periodic trips to our favorite, Hong Phat out on SE 82nd, to stock up on pantry staples and are drawn to the salty snacks aisle where some bags' contents are understandable through pictures and/or English labels while others remain a mystery. After our recent pairing with coffee creamers, grabbing some random salty snacks from Hong Phat didn't seem too odd.

Pool of Snacks

  • Lay's 2-in-1 Prawn & Salsa
  • Boy Bawang Cornick Salt & Vinegar
  • Oishi Prawn Crackers
  • Powers for Easy Life Rice Crackers with Tomato
  • Want Want Natori Snack

As we were inspecting the bags more closely before opening we noticed that we had ended up with an unintentional geographical assortment - two from China, two from the Philippines and one from Thailand.

We haven't seen Lay's 2-in-1 in this country but upon opening discovered that the two seasoning flavors, prawn and salsa, weren't combined onto each chip. Instead the larger, redish chips were prawn flavored and the smaller, greenish chips were salsa (verde) flavored. The prawn flavor being very pronounced was off putting for a couple of those in our group but made for an interesting combination with the flavors and carbonation in Saison Dupont and helped to balance the overt maltiness of Old Speckled Hen. The salsa flavored chips were easier to pair, going well with Heretic Lager for a mild Mexican-ish pairing. When eaten with Culmination Sour Flower the green onion of the chip came out a la onion ramen.

Boy Bawang Cornick Salt & Vinegar appeared from the picture on the label to be similar to corn nuts and indeed they were. Their flavor profile was strong enough to stand up to the hops in Breakside Wanderlust and made for solid bar snacking material. They were similarly good with AleSmith Nut Brown and like the Lay's 2-in-1, were able to balance the maltiness in this beer.

Oishi Prawn Crackers were not nearly as prawn-powerful as the red chips in the Lay's bag and found partners in lighter drinking options including coffee, Heretic Lager and Cascadia Granny Smith cider. The cider made the prawn flavor more pronounced but even the prawn-averse in our group enjoyed the light, easy pairing.

Powers for Easy Life Rice Crackers with Tomato easily had the best name of the group although the contents of the bag were probably the least enjoyable. We settled on a description of a salty version of breakfast cereal, either Corn Pops or a mild version of Capt'n Crunch. Although we have paired beer with cereal, this salty hybrid had a hard time finding a partner. Saison Dupont seemed to be the "best" by making the snack less cereal tasting. All of the other beers as well as the cider accentuated the sweetness, resulting in flavors ranging from chocolate Sugar Pops to Apple Jacks.

Want Want Natori Snack ---> had the second best name but definitely the best illustration on the back of the bag, giving us hopes that these were going to be The Snack. What we found upon opening the bag were sticks that looked like battered french fries but had a very mild flavor reminiscent of those crunchy chow mein noodles we've all had atop a Chinese-ish dish. Not surprising, both the mild Saison Dupont and the Cascadia Granny Smith made for appropriate pairings. 

Thanks again to Chris, Mag, Paul, beertender David and others who were willing to go along with our wacky pairings once again!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Previewing the Portland Fruit Beer Festival

Now in its 8th year, the Portland Fruit Beer Festival returns to its original home at Burnside Brewing on the east side after a one-year excursion across the river. Pouring more than 50 interpretations of fruit beer/cider, the offerings will span a variety of styles from sours and lagers to IPAs and stouts, utilizing all manner of fruits from commonplace to obscure. We recently had the opportunity to try a sampling of the beers/ciders that will be poured at the festival and were impressed both by the brewers' creativity and their skills.

Cider Riot! Everyday Passionfruit - A back-sweetened, semi-dry cider, it is a less tart version than last year's and displays the mild flavor of passionfruit in an easy-drinking 6% cider.
Claim 52 Skrrrrrt - Using a mild Gose base, one could easily mistake this 4.2% pineapple and passionfruit beer for a glass of juice. A very tasty glass of juice.
Finnriver Berry & Bard - Combining heirloom, organic Washington apples with Olympic Peninsula rhubarb and aronia berries grown at Finnriver Farm the result is a fruity yet tanic/dry cider.
Hopworks Strawberry Milkshake IPA - Light-handed use of strawberries and lactose meld with berry-forward Australian hops and tropical Pacific NW hops in this 7.4% fruited IPA.
Reverend Nat's Blood Orange Viva La Pineapple - Taking things to another level, Nat put his festival-exclusive version of blended apple and pineapple juice into a slushy machine. So drinkable and fun, beware of a brain freeze!
Von Ebert Starcloud - Starting with their Sector 7 IPA made with Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Galaxy hops, tropical starfruit was added, resulting in a smooth and lovely 7.1% hazy IPA.

Hint of Fruit
Buoy Saison de Gewurtz - The buckwheat Saison base beer spent five months in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir barrels with house Brettanomyces cultures spiked with Oregon-grown Gewurztraminer juice. For the first mixed culture project released, Buoy is starting off with a bang. Make sure to have this delicate 4.9% offering early on.
Gigantic Brewing Gigantic & Juice - An updated version of the G&J made last year, the lightly juiced beer contains balanced amounts of pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit.
Widmer Strawbarbaric IRA - One doesn't see many India Red Ales in general and this version brings together strawberries and rhubarb with "red fruit nuanced hops" - Hull Melon, Mandarina Bavaria and more. 

2 Towns Easy Peasy - The first citrus cider from 2 Towns, it's a limited release offering that drinks like adult raspberry lemonade with a tartness coming from the Meyer lemons and Lactobacillus culture.
Allegory Sunshine Slammer - This POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) was crafted with a session outdoors in mind, deriving its sourness from a Lactobacillus pitch. One of the more [deliciously] sour offerings we tried!
Great Notion Blueberry Muffin - Known for their kettle-soured Berliner Weisses, it has a bright, blueberry tartness that if one has the chance, pairs well with an actual blueberry muffin.

Lompoc/Fruit Beer Fest/Repurposed Pod collaboration Cacao Cream Ale - Cacao pods are generally thought of as the starting point for chocolate but using the juice from the fleshy portion of the fruit and the cacao nibs from the seed portion this beer is a mind-expanding creation. Hazy apricot in color with an aroma that hints mildly of chocolate, this cream ale is perfectly fruity and drinkable. Representatives from Repurposed Pod were involved in the blending process and Lompoc is only the second brewery in the U.S. to use their Cacao Juice (Tired Hands in PA being the other). 
Migration Manhattan Transfer - If you're looking for a cocktail, Manhattan Transfer is the beer to have. The 7.9% cocktail beer was fermented on freshly emptied rye whiskey barrels with "heaps" of cherries and vermouth-infused oak and botanicals.

The festival starts on Friday with a five-hour preview session (20-ish beers/ciders) and goes into full festival mode Saturday and Sunday spanning Burnside Brewing's parking lot, a portion of NE 7th Street and the parking lot adjacent on the west side of the street. 30 core beers and ciders will be pouring throughout with three to four rotating rare and special tappings. Pours will range from one to three tickets in cost with additional tickets available for purchase.

Portland Fruit Beer Festival
Friday, June 8th 4 - 9pm
Saturday, June 9th 11am - 9pm
Sunday, June 10th 11am - 6pm
Tickets on sale in advance and at the door, $20 (BPA-free, non-breakable Govino branded plastic cup + 12 tickets) or $25 (collectible branded glass + 12 tickets)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cheers to Belgian Beers 2018: What's Grabbed Our Attention

The 2018 Cheers to Belgian Beers festival will feature 75 breweries, all of which were subject to a dart throw to determine if their beer would need to adhere to "dark or light in color" and "low or high in alcohol content." Dart masters, the ones who hit a bulls eye during the throw were rewarded with selecting their own color and strength. The majority of the beers will be using this year's chosen yeast strain, Precious, as their primary yeast strain. It's a classic Belgian yeast that features a very mild phenolic character balanced with moderate fruitiness. 

This year the festival also gave brewers the option to add a secondary aging strain - Suburban Brett. As fans of Brett yeast, we're especially excited to try those beers that utilized this option. Those include: 

  • Base Camp Danny's Special, a barrel-feremented imperial golden ale
  • Immersion Mighty Madi Belgian-style Tripel (named for their mountain dog Madi)
  • Logsdon Suburban Kriek, a sour red ale with two varieties of cherries, aged in Pinot Noir and Bourbon barrels that previously held an imperial stout
  • McMenamins Crystal Abbot's Habit Belgian Tripel
  • pFriem Oud Bruin
  • Stickmen Raison D'un Petit Verre, a Belgian Dark Strong aged in Rex Hill Pinot Noir barrels
  • Wolf Tree The Full Truck, a Belgian-style Golden Strong
  • Yachats Bullseye, a dank and hazy fruited Brett IPA

Since we know we won't be able to try all 77 beers, here are a few others that caught our eye and are strong contenders to make it in our glass:

  • Ground Breaker D'oh! Flanders Red - We're not gluten-free but we're interested to see what a gluten-free version of one of our favorite styles is like.
  • Mad Cow Off the Griddle and Into the Mash - If nothing else, we gotta give them credit for using Belgian waffles in the mash and real maple syrup in the finish.
  • Occidental Kunstgreep - "Brewed using a mysterious process"? Yeah, that's a good tease.
  • Solera Lotion In The Basket - You had us at "feremented with several strains of Lactobacilli."
  • StormBreaker Van Damme That's Good - We do like chocolate in our beer and our curiosity is peaked with the use of cocoa powder in the kettle and liquid cacao in the bright tank.
  • The Ram Brewery Rare Commodity - Apricots are one of our favorite fruits used in making a beer as they tend to impart both a fruity flavor as well as a lovely, smooth mouthfeel.
  • Vagabond Little James & The Giant Peach - Peaches are a close second to apricots so it would be fun to try these two back to back.
  • Widmer Raspberry Quintuple - Raspberries and chocolate clocking in at 15%? It will either be amazing or amazingly bad and there's only one way to find out.

Now in its 12th year, the festival returns to The North Warehouse and will once again feature an outside tented area with food to be had from Urban German Grill and Monk's Deli. Entry to the 21+ event is free but in order to imbibe tickets are $20 and include beer goblet and 8 tasting tickets, available at the door. And as per usual with festivals around here, additional tasting tickets will be available for $1 each.

Cheers to Belgian Beers
Friday, June 1st 1pm - 9pm and Saturday, June 2nd 12pm - 8pm
The North Warehouse
723 N. Tillamook Street