Monday, December 23, 2019

The Latest Installment of Beer & Cheese Pairing

Our periodic beer and cheese pairing adventure resurfaced this fall with some returning favorites showing up on the cheese front along with new ones and of course, new beers.

Cheddar, as a broad category of cheese, always makes an appearance at our pairings. This time around we had a smoked cheddar from Beecher's and a peppercorn cheddar from Face Rock that both went quite nicely with Gun Hill Rise Up Rye. The beer, brewed in The Bronx NY, was a gift from a friend out east and while we didn't love its rye-ness on its own, pairing it with these cheddars - one smoky and deep, the other slightly spicy from the peppercorns - brought out its best qualities.

Another return contender was the mushroom Brie from Trader Joe's, invited again due to its incredible versatility to pair with beers ranging from hoppy IPAs to hefty stouts and more. Falling into the "more" category this time was Drake's Quint, a barrel-aged Belgian-style quintuple. A beer like this is usually a little too much for us, both with its 14.5% ABV and the intense coriander, orange zest, honey and cherry flavor profile. Pairing it with the earthy cheese balanced the overt sweetness of the beer.

It came as a bit of a surprise to find that this big, sweet beer actually paired quite well with Murray's Blueberry Stilton. Fruited Stiltons in one form or another (apricot, cranberry) often make an appearance and fall into the dessert category of cheeses. On the surface it may seem counter intuitive to pair a sweet cheese with a sweet, boozy beer but the cheese managed somehow to tame the excessive sweet, booze flavor of the beer. 

Continuing further down the dessert path, the Blueberry Stilton was a hit with Fremont 2017 BB Dark Star Spice Wars that happened to be on tap. The beer offered heavy cinnamon flavors and when combined with the cheese was reminiscent of a blueberry muffin. Breakfast anyone?

Like cheddars, IPAs are a constant in our pairing quests. Two familiar ones - Melvin IPA and Baerlic Cut the Fluff hazy IPA - both worked will with Alisios, a semi-soft cow/goat cheese from Spain. The cheese's inherent nuttiness complimented the hop profiles of the beer and was enhanced when adding some roasted pistachios we happened to have on hand, into the mix.

As always we are incredibly grateful to The BeerMongers for letting us indulge in our pairing adventures and pleased that so many of our friends are willing to join in the fun.

Monday, December 16, 2019

KEX Comes to Portland

Oli, Kiddie, Carsten & Brandon (High Road Distribution)
In Icelandic "kex" means biscuit. In Portland, "KEX" is the new hostel/bar/restaurant/brewery that has moved into the beautifully renovated building on the northeast corner of NE MLK and Couch.

Co-owners Kristinn "Kiddie" Vilbergsson and Olafur "Oli" Augustsson brought their concept from Reykjavik to Portland, saying at a recent media event that Portland is similar to Reykjavik in that it is home to good food and beer and close to nature. Embracing Portland as a home for their second KEX (the first having opened in 2011 in a former biscuit factory) they hope to appeal to a mixture of locals and travelers. 

KEX beers are being brewed by Carsten Haney at his closed-to-the-public Ross Island Brewing space. We tasted five beers - Kolski Kolsch, Forbidden Fruit Kettle Sour, Steroids to Heaven IPA, Coffee + Cream Porter and Gretta sour mash pale ale. We found the Hull Melon-hopped Kolsch (not a style that we usually seek out) to be quite to our liking as well as the Coffee + Cream and Gretta, both more typical of beers that appeal to our palate. The Coffee + Cream porter combines Stumptown cold brew concentrate, lactose and roasty malts to produce one of the more memorable coffee porters we've tasted. Enjoyed on CO2, we were told that it is even better on nitro.

Gretta is a collaboration with Mikkeller, who opened just a hop, skip and jump away in the building that formerly housed Burnside Brewing. Originally intended to utilize fresh hops, a delay in brewing caused Carsten to rework his plans and instead the sour mash pale ale was heavily dry hopped. The name Gretta may translate in Icelandic to the pucker face one makes when drinking a sour, you'll find only smiles if you see us drinking this beer. Available on a limited basis in bottles, this is one we hope will be brewed again.

The beer is just one component of KEX, which also has an open and spacious bar/restaurant on street level, above which private and shared accommodations are available. The accommodations range from hostel-style bunks in multi-bunk shared rooms to private rooms that have shared bathroom facilities to standard hotel-style private rooms with en suite bathrooms. All rooms include access to the on-site sauna and use of a guest kitchen facility, both in the lower level of the building. 

We haven't yet had the opportunity to fully experience Dรณttir bar and restaurant but were treated to a sampling of menu items alongside the beer, of which we adored the pate (a combination of duck, pork and foie gras) and the brightly colored Skyr (yogurt) ailoi and parsley oil dipping sauce that accompanied the thick cut salt and vinegar fries. The restaurant opens at 7am for breakfast and cycles through lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night happy hour.

In an area dominated by newly sprouted, behemoth apartment buildings it is refreshing to see an existing building remodeled and re-imagined. Hopefully a bit more exterior signage will appear to draw attention to this new venture.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen: Cachaca

To start, you might be asking, "What's Cachaca?" A few weeks ago we wouldn't have known the answer and one of us would have had to consult Google to find out. Now we know that it is the oldest distilled spirit in South America and made from sugar cane. Sugar cane was cultivated on the continent's coast for the purpose of being harvested and shipped to Portugal back in the day. The plant's inclination to grow like a weed also meant it was a ready raw ingredient to ferment.

How we came to be interested in it was by meeting local Cachaca distributor Bob Nathanson of 3G Spirits. A cousin-of-sorts to rum from the standpoint that rum can be made from sugar cane (although most is distilled from molasses), Cachaca's flavor profile is wide-ranging. For the purposes of the our Test Kitchen we utilized four varieties of the spirit. Three came from Famosinha (via 3G Spirits), two of which were cask aged, and one from Avua. To become more familiar with their flavor profiles before we started the mixology, we sampled each on its own, an experience that was a further education of our palates.

In general we have found that our most successful craft beer cocktails have skewed fruity (but not overly sweet) and summery. This spirit from South America seemed well suited to our crafting and the following are three of our best creations.

I Love You Like a Mango
- Avua Silver Cachaca
- Founders Mas Agave
- Mango juice
- Lime marmalade syrup
- Fresh lime wedge & lemon wheel for garnish

We counted ourselves lucky to find a bottle of Founders Mas Agave on the shelves of Hollywood Beverage as this is both a delicious beer and one that we found to work well in many, many cocktails. Here it is complimented by delicate sweetness from the mango juice and lime marmalade syrup and boosted by the Cachaca.

White Oak Holiday 
- Oak-aged Famoshinha Cachaca
- The Bruery Orxata
- Walnut bitters
- The Barreled Bee honey
- Cinnamon
- Orange peel garnish

This lightly sweet cocktail uses a horchata-inspired beer from The Brewery and one of the two cask-aged Cachacas. By some mixology magic the ingredients combined to become an adults-only orange creamsicle.

Jalapeno Invader
- Famoshinha Cherry Cask Cachaca
- Great Notion Pineapple Juice Invader IPA
- Spicy pineapple syrup
- Tajin dusted pineapple slice
- Candied jalapeno slice

Using the spicy-sweet pairing of pineapple and jalapeno as the basis for this beer cocktail, the Cachaca added a slightly woody backbone and complimentary flavor to the other ingredients. For those that haven't used tajin, it is a chili/lime seasoning from Mexico that has vast applications, including use on fruit, vegetables, cocktail glass rims, etc.

Huge thanks to Bob and wife, Sarah for joining us at this Test Kitchen. They are a wealth of knowledge about Cachaca and generous sharers of the product. Also thanks to our small, but faithful group of Test Kitchen guinea pigs that continue to join us on our adventure. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Jam Session - Craft Beer Concoction's Latest Test Kitchen

Have you ever read a recipe or had a craving for a cocktail that involves muddling summer fresh berries in the dead of winter? Even though you know you can probably find the correct ingredients in the produce or freezer section of your local grocery store you also know it won't be the same. So you tuck that recipe away until those luscious, local berries return.

That was the train of thought behind our idea to use jams and jellies in place of fresh fruit in the latest Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen. A stunning variety of jams/jellies are commercially available but we managed to limit ourselves to a handful and supplemented those by whipping up a few in our own kitchen. Here are a few of our favorite concoctions using jam.

"I'd Pay For That"
We admit that not all the cocktails we create are great so when one of our tasting panel sipped this one, we had to name it after the words that came out of his mouth, "I'd pay for that!" A fairly simple combination of five ingredients, we'll be making plenty of these in the future.
Bak's Bison Grass Vodka
Great Notion Pineapple Juice Invader (hazy IPA with Galaxy hops and fresh pineapple)
Rose City Pepperheads Rage 'N Red jalapeno jam
- Kroger pink grapefruit seltzer water
- Candied poppy seed rim
- Lime garnish

"Lara's Strawberry Witch"
All of us at this Test Kitchen were familiar with those wrapped candies often found at Grandma's house, the hard strawberry candy in the twisted-top foil wrapper printed to look like a strawberry. We bet you know what we're talking about, too, and if you like those you'll like this cocktail. Named for the liqueur Lara brought, this cocktail has its sweetness balanced by citrus.
- Homemade strawberry liqueur*
- Great Notion Strawberry Taffy (milkshake IPA with strawberries and vanilla beans)
- Homemade strawberry jam
- Lemon juice

"Butterscotch Lemon Drop"
One can find a version of a lemon drop on nearly any cocktail menu. Ours combines a straight forward vodka, a shandy beer and lemon curd, dolled up in a fancy crystal wedding flute (thank goodness those glasses are finally getting put to use!).
Eastside Distilling Portland Potato Vodka
Coalition Brewing Harvest Shandy (CBD lemon shandy with Goschie Farms hops)
Bonne Maman lemon curd
- Lemon slice garnish

All in all, this was one of our most successful test kitchens and we'll certainly be looking to our pantry/fridge in the future when we want to whip up a cocktail with a fruity component. If you haven't tried it yourself, we challenge you to grab whatever jam you have on hand and mix one up.

*If you've been inspired and want to make your own fruit liqueur, check this out for directions. Perhaps that's what you'll be handing out over the holidays to lucky folks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Terp Fest NW - Inaugural Beer & Cider Festival

A first ever of its kind beer and cider festival debuts at Cider Riot! this Saturday, September 21. Terp Fest NW will feature eight different beers and ciders infused with non-cannabinoid based terpenes from local company True Terpenes. 

Although the prevalence of commercially produced terpenes has risen with the full legalization of cannabis, one of the goals of this festival is awareness, normalization and education about these compounds. For those wondering A) what terpenes are and B) how are they related, or not related, to cannabis the short answer is that terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds produced by a variety of plants (including cannabis), that give each flower, herb and fruit its own unique scent and flavor. For a longer explanation, check out True Terpenes' terpology pageBIG NOTE: None of the beers or ciders presented at this festival contain any amount of CBD or THC.

Recently we were able to preview some of the festival's offerings. Take a gander.
Cider Riot! Sage and Savory - The first whiff of this cider is solidly savory while the flavor rides the line between a semi-dry cider and a savory creation that seems screams out to be paired with food. The 6% cider is a combination of the cidery's Everyday cider, sage-infused cider brandy and Cherry Pie terpenes. 

West Coast Grocery Co. Sonic Cherry Lime Blast - Inspired by the Sonic restaurant chain's cherry limeade, it sports an amber-red color and uses Black Lime terpenes blended with their key lime and cherry lacto IPA. A complex beer popping with flavor, it is reminiscent of a well-crafted cocktail where the sum is far greater than its parts.

Xylem Cider Works Trans-dimensional Cowboy - Xylem is the originator of terpene ciders even though according to Co-Founder Nick Fillis they don't want to be known for just that. Be that as it may, this semi-dry cider is a work of drinkable art. Starting off with a swoon-worthy horse blanket aroma, the flavor brings together blueberries and Jack Herer terpenes, finishing with a crisp citrus-ness.

We will leave it at for that for now because we wouldn't want to give away all the fest has to offer. Plus you know you want to experience it first hand! So come and learn how terpenes can be used to enhance the craft beverages we love.

Terp Fest NW
Saturday, September 21st 12-8pm
Cider Riot!
807 NE Couch Street
Tickets in advance or at the door: 
$15 - Terp Fest NW festival glass + 4 tasting tickets
$25 - Terp Fest NW festival glass + 8 tasting tickets

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The BeerMongers Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Nine years ago this summer we arrived in Portland, after a multi-day drive from our former home in the Midwest. As we settled in to our new surroundings in SE PDX we naturally gravitated to places with good beer and The BeerMongers was one of the first we stumbled upon. At the time they had been open just over a year and from the start we were warmly welcomed. Today we count many of our friends as people we met there and are thankful to be part of “The Mongers Community.”

Thursday, September 5 marks the 10th anniversary of The BeerMongers' opening and their 3,652nd consecutive day open. Owner Sean Campbell said, “We never planned on being open every day, it just happened organically. The community that has developed around that idea has been inspirational, allowing The BeerMongers to host community potlucks annually on major holidays when most establishments aren’t open. We all felt like our community needed a place to gather on holidays.”

To mark the milestone they have collaborated with some of their brewery friends to create 11 unique and creative beers, all on draft with some being canned/bottled as well, for the September 5 main celebration. In addition, daily events will take place September 1 - 8 highlighting the The BeerMongers’ greater role as a beer-loving community space.

The Beers
Barley Brown’s Cascadian Dark Pilsner (Draft)
Trap Door & Stormbreaker “Flip Ya For Real” Hazy DIPA (Draft/Cans)
Block 15 “The Pitch” Oregon Amber Lager Conditioned in Pitched Barrels (Draft/Bottles)
Wayfinder & Breakside American Pale Ale (Draft)
Von Ebert Kumquat Farmhouse (Draft)
Alesong The BeerMongers Biscotti (Draft/Bottles)
Upright & Danodan Extra Special Herbs (Draft/Bottles)
Alvarado Street West Coast IPA (Draft)
Ex Novo & Level Rustic English Old Ale (Draft)
Modern Times & Baerlic Coffee Vienna Lager (Draft/Can)
Ruse & Indie Hops Fresh Hop IPA (Draft)

The Events
Sunday, September 1 - Cellar Sale, featuring carefully-chosen aged beers from The BeerMongers’ extensive cellar stock
Monday, September 2 - Labor Day Cookout & Potluck, where friends and family (21+) are encouraged to bring a dish to share and gather for food, fun, and festivities
Tuesday, September 3 - High Stakes Cribbage Tournament at 6pm, plus 1st Annual Russell Awards in memory of Russell Riebesehl
Wednesday, September 4 - G.O.A.T. Bottle Share (Greatest of All Time), starting at 6pm
Thursday, September 5 - The Big Day! 3,652 Days in a Row! 11 Beers for 10 Years!
Friday, September 6 - Trappist Beer Appreciation Day (Cheese too!)
Saturday, September 7 & Sunday, September 8 - Outdoor Beer Garden and Games
(more details on all events here)

The Big Day: 10th Anniversary
Thursday, September 5th 11am - 11pm
1125 SE Division

See you there!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Coasters: Cool or Kitschy?

Are drink coasters fuddy-duddy? We don't think so but if "yes" was what first thing that popped into your mind, just remember that glass rings and pizza box-induced heat damage are why we can't have nice things. 

Seriously though, coasters can be cool and the modern looking Great Ace Coasters from Groovy Groomsmen Gifts most certainly are not your grandma's coasters (or if they are, please, introduce us to her. We'd like to invite her to hang out with us because she sounds cool). 

The 4-pack of coasters and optional, handy wooden storage box, can be personalized with up to three letters. We're simple folk so for the sample we accepted we requested a single letter. Maybe the two or three letter version jives better with your personal aesthetic; to each their own.

The box, if you choose to order it, can be used as intended or for the storage of an incalculable number of small items measuring less than four inches while the coasters hang out in the (included) stainless steel holder awaiting use. Either way, when it's time to step into the adult world where we can have nice things, consider ordering these for yourself or that friend who just acquired a table that really ties the room together.

Groovy Groomsmen Gifts
Great Ace Coasters
 $34.99 base price/$39.99 with box

Beer Musings PDX was supplied with a sample product for review.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I Scream, You Scream for Ice Cream (and Beer?)

Do you remember the first time you had a root beer float? Cool, creamy ice cream bathed in effervescent sugary liquid...the collision of two things you could probably never get enough of. We rarely drink soda/pop/root beer these days, instead preferring a pint of hop soda but decided to make a compromise, keeping the hop soda and adding ice cream. Could we be successful in balancing our inner child and our adult preferences?

The first order of business was to browse through the store freezers, which turned out to be packed with a lot more flavors than they were back when we were kids, and pick up some flavor standards as well as other things that just sounded good. Gathering at our favorite haunt, filled with plenty of beers to select from, we sat down for a sticky good time of pairing. While some pairings were no-brainers - stouts, light or heavy, with both chocolate and vanilla ice cream - we also came up with some more creative and interesting pairings that we quite enjoyed. Take a gander.

The two most successful "ice creams" were actually sorbets - Open Nature lemon and raspberry - with the raspberry slightly edging out the lemon as Best Pairing with Beer. From the light Saison Dupont to the hoppy Georgetown Lucille IPA to the big, boozy Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) Bourbon Barrel Aged Chocolate Coffee Stout, these sorbets were a hit with the widest spectrum of beers. 

Talenti Sicilian Pistachio Gelato 
Pistachio ice cream surely existed when we were kids although it doesn't stand out as a top pick. Gelato is similar to ice cream and in this case the creaminess is complimented by the texture the pistachios. Whether the solid bits at the bottom of the glass are a bonus or a detraction is a personal matter. Intrigued by the possibility that this would be a flavor that wouldn't work well with any beer we found that in fact its nuttiness meshed well the hop profile of Georgetown Lucille IPA. So, too, did Culmination's take on a KBS-style beer, MCS (Multnomah County Stout).

Haagen-Dazs White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
As the name implies, this is a rich, very sweet ice cream. Both Saison Dupont, a beer that we'd found to be a great pairing with Girl Scout cookies, and Wild Ride Tarty to the Party Peach Raspberry Sour helped to balance that sweetness. In addition, the subtle lemon in the Saison Dupont was enhanced when paired with the ice cream.

Tillamook Marionberry Cheesecake
Wild Ride Tarty to the Party Peach Raspberry Sour also paired well with this ice cream, with its tartness coming out at the beginning, the cream mellowing it mid-palate and the graham cracker crust bits adding a buttery finish to the experience. Founders big, bold KBS was our optimal dark beer with this ice cream.

Colombian Cold Brew Caramel
An intensely coffee flavored ice cream, it paired nicely with Pelican Tsunami Export Stout. The 7% stout is not of the sweet variety, instead being roasty. Paired with this ice cream, a slight, pleasant saltiness presents itself on the finish.

This type of pairing might not be for everyone but if you're feeling a bit adventurous, grab a pint from the freezer and a pint from the fridge, find a warm sunny place and indulge.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Crushable, Light and Fruity - Two Beers for Summer

We were recently gifted two beers to try, one a lager and one a fruited wheat beer, and we're pleased to say that we'd be happy to stock our fridge with either or find them as we dig into a cooler at a summer gathering. If that's all you need to seek some out yourself, great! Head out and grab some Zoiglhaus/Zupan's Farm-to-Market German-style Lager and Public Coast Farm Stand Series Blueberry Wheat Ale. Want a few more details first? Read on.

Zoiglhaus/Zupan's Farm-to-Market German-style Lager
This lager is the ninth beer in Zupan's Farm-to-Market series, one that began in 2015 and has produced collaborations with Coalition Brewing, Buoy Beer Company, Hopworks Urban Brewery, pFriem Family Brewers, The Commons Brewery and now Zoiglhaus takes its turn. This is the first beer in the series that has been presented in can format - 12oz cans for sale at all Zupan's Markets in 6-packs for $10.50.

Those familiar with Zoiglhaus won't be surprised to see that this beer is solidly in their German-style beer wheelhouse. Nor should one be surprised that it is very well done. Crisp and clear in appearance with a characteristic Pilsner aroma it drinks easy and finishes clean. At 4.7% ABV it goes down as gently as a summer breeze. In addition to being enjoyed on its own, we feel it would pair very nicely with a wide variety of foods.

Public Coast Farm Blueberry Wheat Ale
Our first visit to Public Coast Brewery in Cannon Beach was two and a half years ago and since then we were able to enjoy their Black Jack Bumbleberry Sour Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts in February. Having found that one to our liking, it was not surprising to find this beer to be equally well made. Pouring a stunning berry shade with the slightest hint of haze that adds to the depth of color, there is a slight acidic fruitiness up front. The mild blueberry flavor carries through, without being sweet, and a moderate level of carbonation enhances the flavor.

The beer features blueberries from Public Coast Farm, situated on 40 acres in Banks, OR. This is the first foray between the brewery and the farm but both parties are hoping that it will be the start of something ongoing. If the fat, fresh, beautiful berries that came along with the beer sample we received are any indication, things are off to a great start.

We give both of these beers two thumbs up for appealing to a broad range of palates and being packed with flavor while remaining low in ABV. Dare you to disagree. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Beer Cocktails: Gin Edition

"I love Gin
Ginny Ginny Gin
mmmmm Gin
I love Gin"
- Ron Burgundy, Anchorman

We agree with Ron that Gin is a lovely thing. It is also one of the staples of any liquor cabinet or cocktail list and the varieties range from subtle to highly botanical. For infusions, like the ones we made for this Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen, we chose subtle New Amsterdam to allow the flavor we were infusing to take center stage. 

Here are our most successful concoctions, ones that we'll likely be refining in the future.

Gin & Jam
Laurelwood Lost in Happy Mountain Saison
Lavender infused Gin
Rhubarb lemonade
Marionberry jam
The beer is a collaboration between Laurelwood Brewing and Happy Mountain Kombucha and caught our eye while we were shopping for beer for this installment of the Test Kitchen. Not something we'd normally pick up to drink on its own, the subtle flavors of the beer were accentuated by the infused Gin, the lemonade added a touch of tartness and the jam gave it just the right amount of sweetness, leading us to comment, "that just goes down easy."

Arnold Gin & Juice Bomb
Matchless Brewing Juice Bomb Units
Hendrick's Gin
Rhubarb lemonade
Pearl Soda Company Blue Mountain Sunshine bitters
This alcoholic take on an Arnold Palmer gets its lemonade flavor components from both the Matchless Brewing hazy IPA and the lemonade while the Pearl bitters contributed a tea-like quality that gave the cocktail added depth.

Rosemary's Baby Mama
Wild Ride Tarty to the Party Sugar Plum
Lavender infused Gin
Rosemary sprig
A simple cocktail, the fruity sourness of the beer (yet another in Wild Ride's great Tarty to the Party series), the floral-boosted gin and a savory balance contributed by the rosemary played remarkably well with one another.

Peachy Gin Fizz
Tieton Cider Works Bourbon Barrel Peach Cider
Rolling River Gin
Luxardo Marschino Liqueur
Torani Amaretto syrup
Egg white
Pearl Soda Company Blue Mountain Sunshine Bitters
Our first try at this cocktail was sans the egg white and while it doesn't contribute any flavor to the sour and sweet flavor profile, it did give the cocktail the missing body component. Besides a frothy top makes for an eye pleasing drink.

Mas Nap
Founders Brewing Mas Agave Gose
Prairie Artisan Ales Lil Nap 
Ginger infused Gin
Luxardo Maraschino Liquor
Squeeze of lime
Gose style beers are usually low on the ABV meter, however this version from Founders went well out of the typical ballpark clocking in at a robust 10%. Instead, Lil Nap, a blackberry and lime sour, filled the low ABV slot while being highly flavorful. Looking at the other components of this cocktail one might think there is a little too much going on but thankfully we were able to find the right ratios to create a cohesive, summery, pre-nap cocktail.

The Crooked Cucumber
Crooked Stave Sour Rose
Cucumber infused Gin
Marionberry jam
Inspired by the refreshing flavor of cucumber water, we infused Gin with cucumbers and here, paired it with the effervescent and slightly fruity wild ale from Crooked Stave. The jam added a touch more sweetness and helped amplify the pink color from the beer for a cocktail worthy of a fluted glass.

Tea Cream Shandy (aka Sweet Creams Are Made of These)
Great Notion Brewing Orange Creamsicle IPA
Jasmine tea infused Gin
Sparkling water
The Bitter Housewife orange bitters
Orange squeeze
Equal parts of orange and tea flavors keep this lower ABV cocktail light in flavor, light enough that we decided it should be served in a pint glass. If it makes the cut to be refined we may look at getting some shaved ice to serve it with for a playful cocktail.

With each Test Kitchen we're learning more about the basic components we'd want to have in our beer cocktail kit. Some things are nice to have and fun to play with while some are quickly becoming essential. 

Thanks again for sticking with us as we explore beer-related pursuits. If we've inspired you to venture out on some of your own, or have suggestions for the future, leave us a comment.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Oregon Cider Week 2019

Oregon Cider Week starts today, and just as Portland Beer Week was, this "week" is an 11-day long celebration that encompasses two weekends. We were fortunate to be able to attend a preview event earlier this week that featured 20 local cidermakers and over 60 ciders. Try as we might, we didn't make it through all of them but of the ones that we had those that rose to the top of the barrel were:

Tieton Cider Works Single Varietal Harrison - Tieton cans some of their cider but the Single Varietal series is in bottles. Speaking to them we learned that they grow all of their own fruit in Yakima and that the Harrison apple was a variety that nearly went extinct shortly after Prohibition. Not an eating apple as much as what one would consider a baking apple, it hit the mark for us as a cider apple.

Square Mile Cider Hopped Cider - First off, yes, Square Mile is a Widmer Brothers "sibling" - make of it what you will. As for this Galaxy dry-hopped cider what really impressed us was that not only did the dry-hopping impart a beer-like aroma, it provided plenty of beer-like flavor to the still-a-cider base. It's certainly not for some people but should we run across someone who was gluten-free and craving hoppiness, we'd recommend checking this cider out.

2 Towns Ciderhouse Camp Clementine - We've been impressed by 2 Towns ciders again and again so it wasn't a surprise that this passionfruit and clementine cider was one of our favorites. Passionfruit can sometimes be a bit too sweet but the clementines nicely restrained the sweetness here. Bonus points for a "sunny" and thoroughly summer looking label.

WildCraft Cider Works Willamette Heritage - There are a ton of American ciders we love but the key to our heart really is a funky, barnyard French cider and this offering from WildCraft is one of the closest we've had to something from across the ocean. If you like a bit of barnyard in your cider, too, seek this out.

AVID Cider Dragonfruit - While the aroma was a bit muddled, the flavor combination from the dragonfruit and raspberries used was quite nicely tart. The can sports an eye-catching label and we also loved it paired with the Blue Star donut* featured at the event. 

AVID Cider Watermelon Rhubarb - Would you expect a cider that smells like a Jolly Rancher to actually taste good? Of course not. You'd expect it to be gimmicky and over the top sweet. Not so in this case. Yes, it smells like a watermelon Jolly Rancher but the actual flavor is far less sweet and somehow the rhubarb manages to provide a rind-like flavor to the cider. It might possibly be black magic.

We won't re-list the information about all the Week's events here, but direct you to their website and Facebook page. One event, however, that we enjoyed last year and if we were able to attend again would be the Oregon Cider Summit. It takes place at The Fields Park Friday and Saturday and like the preview we attended, is a great way to try many ciders in one place. If you buy your ticket online today it is $30 (+ $2.85 fees) for a glass and 12 tasting tickets. At the door, if tickets remain, they will be $35.

*Vanilla cake donut with a glaze made from Bauman's Loganberry Cider, fresh raspberries and juicy blackberries. Topped with a salted crumble made with olive oil and lemon, vegan to boot. Available at all Blue Star locations throughout the Week.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Beer Cocktails: Tequila Edition

Our first three forays into creating beer cocktails found us testing our hand with whiskey, vodka and rum. This time around we went for a slightly more challenging spirit - tequila. While not our spirit of choice in general we have enjoyed some professionally made tequila-based cocktails. Gathering up some traditional cocktail recipes to use as our basis of inspiration we met up at Gateway Brewing with an assortment of fruit juices and other mix-ins, bitters, rimming ingredients and a few other select beers to round out our tequila cocktail-making bar. 

Joel and Karen Sheley, owners of Gateway, not only fully opened their brewery up to us but also their inviting and perfect-for-entertaining back yard on what turned out to be a gorgeous early May evening. That full access allowed us to sample and select from Gateway Pilsner, Exit 7 IPA, Wood Hill Stout, Jet Coffee Stout, Ventura Red Ale and Mahogany Dark Lager to match with the Reposado (oak aged) and Silver tequilas. Here are the best of this session's creations.

Gateway Mule
- Reposado tequila
- Gateway Ventura Red Ale
- Cock'n Bull ginger beer
- Jalapeno simple syrup
- Lime juice

As fans of the ginger beer based "mule" we couldn't resist creating our own version, using the Ventura to provide a more complex backbone.

Spicy Pineapple Margarita
- Silver tequila
Gateway Pilsner
- Pineapple juice
- Jalapeno simple syrup
- Lemon wedge
- Salt rim

We are not fans of the overly sugary versions of a margarita that one might find at a national chain restaurant and in making our beer cocktail version we opted for just a splash of fruit juice.

Nice & Easy
- Silver tequila
- Baerlic Nice & Easy
- Triple Sec
- Salt rim

Just like the Baerlic gose we used for this beer cocktail, the name seemed fitting for this easy to drink cocktail.

Night Falls
- Silver tequila
- Homemade Kahlua
Prairie Artisan Bomb (imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans and ancho chile peppers)

Transitioning from a sunny day of patio drinking to gathering around a fire, this three ingredient cocktail was inspired by the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate.

Muffin Maiden
- Great Notion Blueberry Muffin
- Silver tequila
- Limeade
- Lemon sugar rim
- Lime wedge

Great Notion Brewing's beers can be polarizing - either you like them or you don't. We happen to appreciate their unique contribution to the Portland beer scene and found that one of their beers made a very nice contribution to our cocktail creating.

Huge thanks go out to our hosts, Joel and Karen, along with our merry band of taste testers! 

Follow our adventures in picture form on our newly created Instagram account just for our cocktails, Craft Beer Concoctions.