Blogs will save us.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hair of the Dog Dock Sale

Hair of the Dog will be celebrating their 13th Anniversary on Saturday, November 11 from 10 am to 4 pm. Says Brewer Alan Sprints: "I will be releasing 2006 Doggie Claws and some Fred from the wood from this years bottling. Hope to see you here."

Be there or be without beer.

Hair of the Dog
509 SE 23rd Avenue
Directions here (if you haven't been to the brewery, you'll need 'em)

Monday, October 30, 2006

On Tap Around Town

Whenever we go out to eat, I look for unusual beers, and recently I encountered a couple to recommend. The first is Caldera IPA, which is on tap at Taqueria Nueve, just North of Burnside on 28th. The restaurant is haute Mexican, with smallish portions and biggish prices. It's a great restaurant and worth the price, but if you're used to spending three bucks fitty on two-pound burrito, it can be a little disorienting. Bolster yourself with the Caldera. It's a magnificent beer.

The second offering is just around the corner, the Screen Door on Burnside and 24th. Unlike Taqueria Nueve, there's almost no chance you'll walk out hungry. The food is Southern, which means deep-fried or butter-soaked. Mighty tasty, but don't wander in when you're only peckish. The beer menu includes Roots Red--always recommended--and Turbodog, from New Orleans' Abita Brewery. Consulting the webpage, I see it's actually an ale, but it tastes more like a dark lager. Cryptically, Abita writes of its yeast: "We culture our own yeast from strains developed by German brewers." So maybe it's an alt strain. In any case, it's a malty beer with a slightly strange, unidentifiable flavor that really complements heavy, fried foods. Not unlike Negra Modelo, but tastier. Go have yourself some red beans and rice and a pint of the 'Dog.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Winter Ales

Continuing along with our exploration of winter ales, here are three more home-grown offerings.

Golden Valley Tannen Bomb

When I first encountered Tannen Bomb in 1998, Golden Valley was having a little trouble with its yeast. Something in the process produced excess diacetyl, which actually made for quite a beer. It was ultra silky and butterscotchy, and you could gobble down a pint without recognizing it was 8% alcohol ... and thus did you get (Tannen) bombed. The brewery has gotten things under control, and now Tannen Bomb is a more complex ale and not nearly so stealthy (probably good).

It is about the color of maple syrup, and only just slightly less thick. The main aromatic note is alcohol--it smells big. Golden Valley calls it a strong ale, but it also tastes big, with the body and alcohol of a barleywine. It could do with a month or two of age, when the roasted malts, alcohol, and hops blend more fluidly together. But even at this stage, it's quite nice. Sally keeps sneaking over for sly sips as I write this.

Hops: Chinook, Liberty, Fuggles, alcohol:8.0% abv, bitterness units: 50, Rating: Good.


Full Sail Wassail
Full Sail's venerable winter ale has been brewed since 1988, and--full disclosure--it's long been my favorite. It's another one of the beers that is released too early, and which I buy too early, with delight. As evidence of how things have changed, it appears the recipe is now fixed (Full Sail gives very little data about what's in their beers, though they used to give all the details.) Until a few years ago, however, they would mix it up every year, using different hops, slightly differing malts--just to shake things up. I guess we've come to a "mature" phase where that kind of variability is no longer considered good business.

Wassail is a deep brown, almost tending toward porter dark. It has a pronounced roasted aroma, a bit like fresh toast. The flavor is a deep, resonant mixture, the dark malts blending with the hops for a dark, satisfying winter warmer. It also has a sweet quality somewhat akin to Cola or chocolate, drawn out by the very dry, bitter finish. In fact, that's not a bad comparison--it's liquid version of very dark, artisinal chocolate. Rich and decadent. The version on shelves now is, like Jubel, a little green, and I'll have to do a fuller review in a couple months. Another incomplete.


Rogue Santa's Private Reserve
This is a beautiful red ale, and it packs a potent citrus candy aroma. I've been brewing with Chinook hops lately, and it has a particular quality of citrus that I recognized instantly in this beer. I imagine a lot of people will love this beer, and it reminds me of Sierra Nevada Celebration--a reddish ale (more copperish) made with Centennial and Chinooks, like Santa's PR. And, for the same reason I don't like Celebration, I can't fall for Santy. It's too thin, and the hops, even at 44 IBUs, overwhelm it. I also don't feel the warming glow I like from a nice winter ale. It's an icy, sharp beer. If you like Celebration, you'll probably like this beer. I don't.

Malt: two-row Harrington, Klages, Munich, Hops: Chinook, Centennial and a "mystery hop", original gravity: 13° Plato, bitterness units: 44, Rating: average.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Craft Bud

Recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned that the major breweries were flatlining on sales and actually losing market share to micros? Well, turns out Bud doesn't like losing share to pissant micros. So now they're goin' micro themselves:
Mule Kick Oatmeal Stout, Confluence Amber Wheat and Pilot House Imperial Pilsner sound like good, localized names for craft beers.

But these beers aren't produced by some microbrewery at a local pub. They're brought to you by the nation's largest brewer. In its effort to tap into the popular and growing craft beer category, Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. is going regional - even local.

By combining flavor and marketing cues from craft brewers with Anheuser-Busch's purchasing power, marketing expertise and distribution network, brewery President August Busch IV and his team could soon pose a significant new challenge to smaller craft brewers with specialty beers of their own, analysts said.
I can't imagine that this will work--it seems to me that one of the reasons we drink local beer is, well, because it's local. This seems like one of those good ideas in the corporate board room, not so much in the marketplace. But maybe I'm wrong--maybe the rest of the country isn't as parochial as Oregon.

Hat tip: Dave D.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Henry Weinhard Documentary

Sometime in the 80s or 90s, the Blitz Weinhard Brewery put out a cool documentary that details the history of the brewery. I can't remember if it was actually part of the pre-tour video they showed when you visited the brewery or not, but it is a stand-alone, in any case. I had to break it up into three, roughly 2 1/2-minute chunks to get it on Youtube. The good news is that I found a transfer format that keeps the video quality far higher than in some of my past postings. Enjoy--

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Flurry of Winter Ales

Never mind the 65 degree weather, 'tis the season ... for winter ales. In fairness, global warming may be to blamed for the cognitive dissonance--isn't late October generally at least chilly? In any case, I have a few mini-reviews here. Two of the four deserve revisiting later, once they've had a chance to age and mellow. As is the case every year, the first bottles of Jubelale are a little green. (Wassail is generally also, though I failed to buy a sixer at the single grocery store I saw it--downtown Safeway, I think--and haven't seen it since.)

The Style
There is no actual, or sole, "winter warmer" style. Breweries have wide latitude this one season each year to create a truly unique beer. Broadly speaking, these beers should be strong and robust, providing enough flavor and alcohol to warm your core. But whether that's a doppelbock, a strong ale, a stout, or something without category--that's the brewery's choice. We've had an ongoing discussion on Beervana about the characteristics of the "Northwest style," and I think you can see it clearly around this time of year. Oregon (and Washington) breweries tend to go to dark malts and rich complexity. Although hops are celebrated, almost without exception these beers resist the label of "out of balance" or "overly hoppy." In many ways, I think they represent the truest passions of the brewers who make them.

Alaskan Winter Ale
This beer is aiming for something greater than it actually achieves. Brewed in the style of an old ale, Alaskan adds the tips of Sitka Spruce for character. It is amber, rather on the pale side, with a very light (and quickly-evaporating head). I got a sweet caramel nose that may have had a note of diacetyl and also may have had a bit of spruce, but both were rather shadowy. The flavor of the beer is likewise subdued--mellow and sweet, with a butterscotch candy palate and a mild pineyness that may have come from the spruce. I also thought I detected a mint quality which I retrospectively identify as spruce. The sum is not quite the promise of the parts. I'd like a little more of everything--maltiness, hops, and spruce. Call it an interesting experiment that needs to be taken an iteration further.

Malts: pale, wheat, Munich and caramelized malts, hops: Saaz, alcohol:6.4% abv, original gravity: 1.066; bitterness units: 27. Rating: Average.


Deschutes Jubelale
Here's an interesting factoid: Jubel was the first beer Deschutes ever bottled, a fact about which I was until recently ignorant. Despite this, the brewery seems inevitably to always brew it late and/or release it early, so when I buy my first early-October bottle, it's green and not indicative of the beer will become. And again, as constant as the seasons, the pattern repeated--the beer's too green, but I'm still buying it in October.

What I can tell you is that it's a beautiful chestnut, full of roasty malt aroma and garlanded with a delicious peppery hop. The hops and alcohol currently overwhelm the smoothness of the malt, but give it time. This is typically one of the creamiest and smoothest of the big winter ales, so let's give it an incomplete.

Alcohol:6.7% abv, bitterness units: 60.

BridgePort Ebenezer
Tawny amber, very bright--looks a lot like an Oktoberfest. Comforting fresh-bread aroma, with a touch of black pepper and cola-like sweetness. I recall this being a slightly harsh, thin-bodied beer, but the 2006 incarnation is neither. It's a mellow, creamy, candyish ale with a slightly piney, spicy hopping. Some winter ales are a little like a brandy, with a sharper alcohol edge, while others are like hot toddies. Put Ebenezer in that last category. As with the Alaskan, I'd like a little more oomph, but Ebenezer has its charms.

Alcohol: 6.4% abv, original gravity: 16° Plato; Bitterness Units: 40. Rating: Good.

Redhook Winterhook
Extremely aromatic, rich with green, citrusy Cascades. No mention by the brewery that it's dry-hopped, but I wouldn't bet against it. This incarnation of Winterhook is a strangely summery beer, with a bright, layered hopping that comes off fruity and mild. It must be a new recipe--I recall an older version of Winterhook (it was actually one of the first winter warmers) that was darker and more vibrant.

A recurrent criticism I have with Redhook is similar to Portland Brewing--their beers are far too safe. This is a pleasant and polite beer, the kind you'd take home to someone's mother. But it isn't a hearty ale that could beat back the frost. Even the stats tell the tale--5.5% abv/28 IBUs. I definitely wouldn't turn one down--a beer with this kind of hop aroma is a keeper--but I'd hate to be stuck at a December Seahawks game with nothing more than Winterhook to protect me from the elements.

Malts
: English caramel and Munich, hops: Cascade, Northern Brewer, alcohol:5.5% abv, original gravity: 1.053; Bitterness Units: 28, Rating: Good.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The New York Times Takes on Porters

There is a bizarre article (hat tip: DF) on porters in the Times today. The writer, Eric Asimov, is the times drinks writer, and I suspect his palate is attuned to wine or liquor. With beers, it seems, he could do with a little remedial education. He starts out with a great historical introduction, but when he gets to the actual beers, I find I distrust his judgment:
Our No. 2 beer, Smoked Porter from Captain Lawrence, sounds like one of those brewing experiments, but the company, in Pleasantville, N.Y., insists that it is not.
Brewing experiment? And:
In the blind tasting, I was sure our No. 3 beer was American because of its powerful, assertive flavors of coffee, licorice and chocolate, but it turned out to be from Fuller’s, one of Britain’s leading breweries.
And I don't even know what to make of this:
By contrast, Mocha Porter from Rogue Ales in Newport, Ore., did not make the top 10 because the hop aromas drowned out everything else.
The Times offers ratings for beers, from 1-4, but none of the beers they tasted did better than a three-star ratiing. Geary's, their fave (and a fantastic beer), got three. It begs the question: what does it take to get a four-star rating? Being a nice chardonnay?

Makes me think I need to do a porter tasting right quick.

Yamhill Brewing, RIP

From a Craigslist posting:
10,000sf warehouse space - dividable. Was used as brewery and tasting room. Has refrigerated area and freezer space. Whole brewing system set up and available as is a small kitchen/bar area. Prices starting at 50cents/sf/month NNN. Many possible uses. Zoned IG 1. Occupancy 58 people in approx 3000sf area. Drive by then call Ron at 503-750-1254 or Dwight 503-232-7673.

SE 9th Ave at Yamhill
It includes several pictures, including this identifying exterior shot:



It struggled for many years, and I'd even heard recently that it was back in forward motion. Apparently not.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Winter Beers - Widmer Snow Plow (Milk Stout)

Stout is a beer that lends itself to additives. With its roasty creaminess, it instantly suggests coffee and chocolate--common enhancements to draw out the flavor. This isn't new. In Victorian England, brewers went on a strange little marketing tear wherein they promoted their stouts as "nutritional," adding oatmeal, oysters (!), and milk. (Dickens mentions Cockneys drinking stout with their oysters; apparently some brewers decided to cut out the extra step.)

Roger Protz, in his nice book on stouts, has a couple of great quotes to demonstrate how early milk stouts were marketed.
"Make Stout More Nourishing! That was the aime of Mackeson & Co. when after a long period of exhaustive research in conjunction with one of the leading analytical food chemists, they were to produce a beverage containing nature's best food, scientificially and carefully introduced."
The "nutritional stout" phase continued for decades, but ultimately began to marginalize stouts as a medicinal drink. They became associated with grandmothers who offered them to stave off the winter flu. Mackeson survived, but mostly milk stouts died off.

The Style
Milk stouts don't actually employ milk, but rather lactose. Unlike most sugars, however, lactose can't be broken down by beer yeast, and remains unfermented, as calories and carbohydrates. It gives the beer a unique sweetness and silkiness on the tongue that does in fact suggest milk. It's not so much a flavor as a quality. Cream ales, the light summer alternative, often also employ lactose (and never cream).

Widmer's milk stout has a fascinating story behind it. Nearly ten years ago, the brewery embarked on a program with local homebrewers to produce little known-beer styles. The Brothers work with the homebrewers to come up with a style, and then the homebrewers have a competition to find the best example. It's brewed at the brewery and sold on tap at area pubs. The very first Collaborator beer was this milk stout, and it remains, to my knowledge, the only style to have made it into the bottle.

Tasting notes
Although it looks black in the glass, if you tilt the beer and hold it up to light, you see that Snow Plow is not opaque, like many stouts. Lactose is reputed to make heads thick and long-lasting, but I kept getting a rather meager mocha skiff--though it was very dense and creamy.

It's interesting that this style has slipped off the radar because it's a real crowd-pleaser. It's completely likeable--I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this beer. The palate is largely sweet and creamy, bordering on decadant, but there are hints of roasty malt and a breath of hop at the end. It isn't a burly stout, but it has enough body to satisfy big-stout lovers; on the other hand, it's modest alcohol content makes it a great winter session.

Oregon is rightly famous for our hoppy beers, but dark beers are an unheralded fave. Perhaps it's the rainy skies, but a lot of people love stouts and porters--some drink them exclusively, even through the summer heat waves. Brewers oblige this preference, and we have a number of great dark beers. But for milk stouts, you have to go to Widmer.

Stats
Malts: Pale, caramel, wheat, oats, carapils, roasted barley
Hops: bittering: alchemy, aroma: Willamette
Alcohol by volume: 5.5%
Original Gravity: 17° Plato
Bitterness Units: 28
Other: 2004 GABF gold medal winner
Available: Throughout the Northwest

Rating
A Northwest classic.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Henry's Ad: The Airplane

I've had a hard time getting to a few reviews I have planned (the new wither beers are here, the new winter beers are here!) , and so in the meantime, here's another Hank's ad. I think the days of taking a suitcase full of beer on a plane are done. How many casualties of 9/11 will there be?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blitz Weinhard Commercial from the 60s

There are an interesting series of commercials from the 60s featuring the jingle on this commercial--one of the more involved, lyrically, of any made. In the one I'm posting here, they've gone for the theme of the river, and the ad shows the mighty Willamette and recalls a time when you could walk across it on the floating Douglas firs. Other ads feature a farmer, a logger, and a fisherman, rounding out the great extractive industries on which the state was built.

This commercial shows how Portland, unlike other cities that are the centers of wealth in their respective states, was the focus of the state's wealth--it's commercial and shipping hub. I'd show the others, but the VHS they came from had degraded and they're in bad shape. This one's got a couple of rough patches, but it's the best. Enjoy--



Got the sun in the mornin' to get me out of bed,
Got an old hat to cover my head,
Got me a river runnin' by my door,
Got everything here, don't need no more.

Don't make a lot of money, but the livin's free,
I work when I want, break when I please,
Some folks say I gotta do more,
Guess I could ... don't know what for.

[announcer: In Blitz Country the river is still the road, and for 120 years, Blitz Weinhard has been the one premium-quality beer found wherever you stop along that road. Blitz country, where people enjoy the best of living, and along with it, the best of beer.]

Got a snow-capped mountain outside my door,
Got a beer called Blitz, don't need no more,
Got two good reasons for livin' here:
The best country in the country and the country's best beer.

Review - Broadway Grill and Brewery

A couple of weeks ago, my eagle-eyed spouse pointed out that there was a new resident at the corner of NE 18th and Broadway--the Broadway Grill and Brewery.* Its provenance was obscure, but the "brewery" in the title was enough to lure us in. Turns out it is actually an Eastside branch of The Old Market Pub and Brewery, which has resided in Multnomah Village for a dozen or more years.

There will apparently be an on-site brewery at Broadway sometime, but for now the beer comes from Old Market. The menu is also much the same. However, given that the Willamette essentially divides two cities, for many in the neighborhood, it is a new experience. (I visited the Old Market once, back when I wrote about beer for the Willamette Week, in the late '90s.)

The space is quite comfortable--and had already attracted a pretty good crowd when we visited a little over a week ago. The front of the pub curls around a groovy bar, and there are open spaces in the back festooned with large, flat-screen TVs (tuned to a Bears game when I was there). They both suit the sports fan but remain comfortably out of the way for non-fans. At the end of the review, I'll copy in a minute of footage I shot at the pub so you can get a sense of the space.

Food
While I'll appreciate further reports (and learn more on further visits), the food seems like good, if somewhat predictable, fare. I had a honey mustard chicken sandwich that was perfectly cooked, moist, and tender. Sally had pizza, which turned out to be thick crust--not to my personal taste. However, it is hand made and seemed like it might have been made with beer and is pretty tasty, particularly loaded, as it was, with tasty veggies.

Beer
The pub offers a sampler plate with nine 4-ounce glasses of beer for $9--a great value. I won't go for it every time, but I might do it every now and again, as the seasonals rotate through. On the whole, it was an impressive selection. Except for a diacetyl note in a couple of the beers that I think was intentional, none had any off-flavors. Only a couple were so-so, and three were worth going out of your way for. Definitely an above-average range.

Below are my notes.

  • Pilsner. Bavarian style. Crisp, fresh. Could use a hop or two more, but quite nice. (Good)
  • Wild Red. The brewery's flagship, but not, I suspect destined to be the fave on Broadway. A diacetyl (butterscotch) note that is fairly nice. However, the hops are a bit soapy and the crystal malts impart too much tannin. (Average)
  • Golden. Hops are wonderfully spicy and floral and turn this throwaway style into something special. Rich without bitterness; great session. (Excellent)
  • ESB. A lot in common with the red--diacetyl and tannins, but a little less so. Slightly maltier, slightly sweeter, but again with the soap. (Average)
  • Porter. A nice change-up. It has an almost sour quality that recalls Guinness. Made with wheat. Quite distinctive. (Excellent)
  • Pale. Traditional West Coast pale. Citrus bittering, sweet malt. Pretty agressive and akin to--though not quite as complex as--BridgePort IPA. (Good)
  • British IPA. The brewery's most popular beer. Hopping is a little spicier than in usual NW versions--English hops? (Good)
  • IPA. Also not the usual NW hopping, again spicy. Great aroma--dry hopped? (Good)
  • Stout (nitro). Dense, creamy, and chocolaty, finished with a pronounced smoky and slightly roasty note. A touch of coffee. (Excellent)

The Broadway area has always been a little light on the brewpubs--just a McMenamins a few blocks down--so I think this will become a regular watering hole for locals. Please use the comments to let me know what you thought of the place.


___________
*I'll get contact info soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Weinhard Commercial: Schludwiller

At long last, I have digitized copies of a bunch of archival Henry Weinhard material--including commercials, documentaries, and random errata. There's so much of it that I won't be able to post it all, but I'll give you a sample. This is one of the more famous ads from the 1970s, about the fictitious Schludwiller brewery from California.

It has extra resonance for Oregonians, because it was during a time when the state was particularly agressive toward California immigration. Oregon's most famous and beloved Governor, Tom McCall, exhorted non-Oregonians to visit but "please don't stay." Bumper stickers read "Don't Californicate Oregon." Webfeet have always distrusted Golden Staters, but this was the most fervent period.

Schludwiller never made it in. ("Earl, wanna try Idaho?")


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Beer and Politics

For those of you with an interest in the business of beer, The Oregonian has an article describing the politics of lobbyist Paul Romain and the clout of distributorships in the state. Romain got a little unwanted press last week when the O reported on a Hawaiian luau Romain threw for a number of Oregon legislators--in Maui--which went unreported by the pork-fed pols. It doesn't tell the whole story--and particularly not the role of smaller craft brewers in the state--but there are some good bits of context.

For instance, the clout of the distributors' lobby:
The Hawaii trips are just part of the group's influence strategy. Since 2002, the distributors have showered $1.2 million on lawmakers through lobbying and campaign giving, The Oregonian found, with much of the latter going to legislative leaders and committee chairmen who have the power to pass or kill bills.
Distributors, which have a unique, protected niche in American business, have maximized their power through consolidation:
Distributors have consolidated in recent years. Among the Oregon association's 19 members are some of the largest wholesalers. They owe their commercial niche to post-Prohibition reforms that split the alcohol trade into three tiers -- producers, distributors and retailers -- so gangsters could no longer infiltrate the entire supply chain.

In 1981, lawmakers also gave distributors exclusive rights to sell individual beer brands in their delivery territory. A tavern in a given area of Southeast Portland can buy Pabst only from Mt. Hood Beverage, for example, and Coors and Corona only from another distributor.

Romain cemented his influence in 1989, when he negotiated with big brewers to write the law that governs Oregon's beer trade -- the statute that, among other things, makes it difficult for producers to dismiss a distributor. He takes credit for getting many of the contractual terms between distributors and suppliers enshrined in the law.

And, although the article doesn't mention it, law prevents small brewers from self-distributing, but in many cases, they're too small to attract the attention of distributors. Hair of the Dog, notably, was stymied early in their existence because their small volume was ignored by local distributors. And in other parts of the state, distributors may have a monopoly, so small breweries have no alternatives for distribution.

Much could be writ, but perhaps we'll just watch the story and see how it develops.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ninkasi Interview

The Belmont Station blog has a very cool interview with Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge of the newly-founded Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene. Before Ninkasi, Nikos was a NY stock broker, and Jamie was the award-winning brewer at Steelhead. I've been wanting a little more info about Ninkasi, and the interview has lots of good stuff:
The name Ninkasi is that of the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer who is believed by many to have created the original recipe for beer some 4,000 years ago....

Currently leasing and brewing from the space at Sofia’s restaurant in Springfield’s Gateway district, the group plans on relocating in the not so distant future to downtown Eugene on Van Buren Street in the Vos Plumbing building....

[Floyd] I wanted to offer something different like our Lady of Avalon Münchner Dunkel and our Helles Lager, not just the standard American-styled beers—though that is also a big part of what we do. Taking risks and being different is important. I knew that I wanted to be more independent. I have believed in longterm dedication to the community and wanted to be “Eugene’s brewery”; something people of my town could feel proud of and identify with as their own. There are a lot of breweries in Portland, but not so much in Eugene.
Go read the full interview there. And by the way, anyone know where Ninkasi is pouring?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Okay, "Screwed" Was Hyperbole

About the time I noticed that my post about the GABF had attracted as many comments as my average daily traffic, I knew I'd hit a nerve. An anonymous commenter leveled a common charge at Oregon--"Oregon brewers brew what the masses want to drink" (ie, out of balance hoppy beers)--and I responded and ... we were off to the races.

To clarify: the Northwest (but principally Oregon) has developed a regional character. Beers here highlight hops. Not just bitterness, but a layered hopping that enhances the aroma and imparts delightful hoppy flavor throughout each sip. We tend to like styles slightly stronger than usual--an Oregon "mild" is 5%, but not excessively so, as best sellers Black Butte Porter, BridgePort IPA, Full Sail Session, and Widmer Hefeweizen demonstrate. Like Nortwest coffee, we just like flavor--strong, stiff, robust flavor. A recent trend has featured use of more exotic yeasts and styles as Oregonians continue to grow mor sophisticated.

Oregonians, being the most beer-friendly drinkers in the country, don't balk at a style they haven't tried--put a dubbel, Baltic porter, or old ale on the menu, and people will give it a shot. At Pix Patisserie in Portland, you can order a beer float (hat tip to Fred Eckhardt). I once sat in the Lucky Lab when a batch of of 8-year-olds invaded for a birthday party. Give those kids a decade and a half, and they'll be booking the Edgefield for August weddings. Having traveled around the country and sat in bars and brewpubs, I've seen from the overwhelming pale straw beers others drink that the penetration of beer into the culture just isn't there.

When I howled about the GABF's bias, I should have mentioned that that bias is, as I see it, toward lighter, less agressive beers. A friend of mine, who just returned to Oregon from a 6-year stint in Denver, guessed that this resulted from Coloradans' outdoor ethos: they're on the move and don't want to get weighed down like cloud-bound, pub-dwelling Stumptowners. (I saw this verified by a recent report that identified Colorado as the leanest state.) Colorado, because it is home to Charlie Papazian, the national Brewers Guild, the GABF, and assorted beer-related institutions, has reified the Colorado palate as the American standard.

Beer styles always allow for a range, but it is my opinion--based on the results I've seen in watching the GABF for years--that judges favor lighter beers and punish more robust beers even within accepted standards. And because Oregon brewers tend toward virtuosity, deviations from this narrow definition are also punished. It doesn't have to be this way. Lew Bryson recently addressed it on his site (hat tip Suds Sister):
"Any style of beer can be made stronger than the classic style guidelines. The goal should be to reach a balance between the style’s character and the additional alcohol. The brewer must provide the base style that is being created stronger and/or appropriately identify the style created (for example: double alt, triple fest, imperial porter or quadruple Pilsener)."

That’s what Garrett Oliver read to our judging panel at the Great American Beer Festival just two days ago....

I’m not against up-throttling beers. Doublebock came along over a century ago, and has proven itself in the marketplace and on my own happy tongue. More recently, double IPAs and double red ales have proved popular enough to have been granted their own categories. This category is kind of the proving ground for super-sizing beers.
He goes on to explain how just super-sizing a beer doesn't make it great, and we agree there. But I don't think Oregon breweries bloat their beers inexpertly--far from it. But their beers have historically not been recognized in Colorado (throw Washington beer into everything I've said here), and as a shameless partisan, I chafe at that.

How's that for being clearer?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Catastrophic Hop Fire

This seems ... not good:

YAKIMA, Washington (AP) -- Federal investigators were set Tuesday to begin an investigation into a fire that ruined about 4 percent of America's yield of hops, used as flavoring in the brewing of beer and ale.

The fire started shortly before noon Monday in a 40,000-square-foot (3,600-square-meter) warehouse operated by S.S. Steiner Inc., one of the four largest hop buyers in the Yakima Valley of central Washington. By mid-afternoon flames engulfed most of the building, sending up plumes of smoke and a pungent aroma....

The United States produces 24 percent of the world's hops, and about three-fourths of the U.S. crop comes from the Yakima Valley. Hops were a $77 million crop in Washington state in 2004. More than 40 families grow hops in the valley, which is dotted with orchards, vineyards and farms.

The fire destroyed or ruined about 10,000 bales, each weighing about 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and likely worth $1.75 to $2 a pound, Ann George, administrator of the Washington Hops Commission in nearby Moxee, told the Herald-Republic.

Four comments:
  1. I wonder if it smelled like ganja in Seattle.
  2. "Flavoring in beer and ale"--oy!
  3. I think I could get by on two or three bales this year, in a pinch.
  4. Maybe the crop was mainly for use in macropilsners--how could you tell if they used fewer hops in Bud Light anyway?
Rest in peace, wee hops--we never tasted ye.

GABF - Oregon Screwed Again!

As I mentioned last week, Oregon tends not to do so well at the Great American Beer Festival, despite the fact that we empirically brew the best beer. And so has the 2006 festival confirmed. Among all states, Oregon finished fourth, just a nose in front of famously beery Illinois, with only half the medals of Colorado and a third of Cali's. Behold the horror of the medal count:
39 - California
28 - Colorado
18 - Wisconsin
14 - Oregon
12 - Illinois
19 - Washington
Yeah, Oregon and Washington together have less world-class beers than Colorado. And George W. Bush is one of the great presidents of American history.

However, due props to those that did manage to get beyond the obviously untutored palates of the "judging" staff--you must stand in the stead of the rest of Oregon's great brewers!

Gold
  • Barley Brown's Brew Pub, Tumble Off Pale Ale (American-Style Pale Ale category)
  • Bend Brewing Co., HopHead Imperial IPA (American-Style India Pale Ale)
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co., Organic Deranger (Imperial or Double Red Ale)
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery, Doryman's Dark Ale (American-Style Brown Ale)
  • Pelican, Tsunami Stout (Foreign [Export]-Style Stout)
  • Pelican, Kiwanda Cream Ale (Golden or Blonde Ale)
  • Widmer Brothers, Hefeweizen (American-Style Hefeweizen)
Silver
  • Alameda Brewhouse, Black Bear XX Stout (Foreign (Export)-Style Stout)
  • Full Sail, Black Gold Imperial Stout (Wood- and Barrel-aged Strong Beer)
  • Pelican, MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale (Scottish-Style Ale)
  • Pelican, Stormwatcher's Winterfest (Barley Wine-Style Ale)
  • Widmer, Brewmasters' Pale (American-Style Pale Ale)
Bronze
  • BJ's Restaurant & Brewery, Lasto's Oatmeal Stout (Oatmeal Stout)
  • Widmer, Export Lager (European-Style Pilsener)
Oregon should have its own awards: the Beervana awards for transcendent ales. Now that would be a mighty honor.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Broadway Brewery and Grill

I went to the newly-opened Broadway Brewery and Grill last night. It's a satellite of Old Market Pub and Brewery in Multnomah Village--but far handier to access for Eastsiders at its 18th and NE Broadway locale. I will get to a review at some point, but here's a little video in the meantime. And anyway, can't you tell, just by looking, whether a beer's good or not?