Blogs will save us.


Monday, July 30, 2007

OBF - The Final Roundup

And now, to complete the great month of beer here in Oregon, a final post on the OBF, with odds and ends that haven't made it into the first 79 posts about the OBF. And then I'll stop. Promise.

Faves
The beers I heard most about on my visit (Friday) were Green Flash and Standing Stone, two wonderfully balanced, albeit aggressive NW IPAs. I had the Green Flash a little late in the day, and it was very nice; however, I suspect that big beers stand out in people's mind because they blast through murky palates.

I have been monitoring the Brew Crew listserv (the local homebrew club that is behind so many of the good-beer events, including the OBF), and the Flying Fish bourbon dubbel and Golden Valley Quercus seemed to excite the most interest. Pliny the Elder, Racer X, Rawkin' Bock, Butte Creek Pils, and Hopworks IPA also got mentions.

Around the 'sphere, the big winner was definitely the Golden Valey Quercus, cited by Jon, Ghost Dog, and Dave. Prometheus IPA, which I also gave high marks, was favorited by Suds Sister and Dave. Other faves were distributed evenly, with one vote each for Flying Fish (Jon), Diamond Knot Industrial IPA (Lisa), Green Flash (Lisa), and Rawkin Bock (Suds Sister). The Quercus was definitely a winner for me, as was Standing Stone and Green Flash. Pliny, in a category by itself, must also be mentioned.

Update: Beau at Die Klutzbrauerei puts in a nod for Pliny and DK Industrial (bumping it up to two). He also like the Monkey House, which I have failed to mention--it was really nice for a McMenamins. And he also joins in on the raspberry for Widmer.

[Available blog reviews: Jon at the Brew Site. Ghost Dog at Gone Ronin. Lisa at SudsPundit. Suds Sister at Portland Food and Drink. Dave at Champagne of Blogs.]

No Thanks
Give Widmer credit, they tried something interesting. Unfortunately, they get credit only for trying: to Noggin Grog, their imperial wit, I award the year's raspberry.

Woooooo!
First primal scream on Friday afternoon: 1.24pm.

Mugs
Portland is regularly identified as one of the greenest cities in the country, and brewing is one of the greenest industries. So why, then, does the OBF not only insist on using unrecyclable plastic mugs, but also that they only ever be used at one fest? A Brew Crewer suggested that you buy a mug and then get issued a sticker to put on it every year. You pay either four bucks for a sticker or a mug, but you keep the mug out of landfills by stowing it in your cupboard until the next year. (After all, we already recycle the tokens.)

What we noticed was a cottage industry in re-selling the mugs. Two hippy-ish kids with dredlocks were approaching people (including us) all day long on Friday with $3 castoffs. Of course, the sales pitch included a white lie about re-selling their own mugs--but they were clearly scavenged from just outside the Fest, where piles were gathering like empties at a cookout. And why not? For every mug the kids re-sold, there was one mug that didn't end up in the landfill. (Sanitation is another matter...)

On the way out of the Fest at about 8pm on Friday, I held up my mug and a festgoer on the way in snatched it out of my hand within seconds. My own brand of recycling.

Time to come into the 21st Century, Art--let's quit using the plastic.

Colored Mugs
Another controversy this year were cold-sensitive mugs that turned blue. A friend I was with was instantly fascinated, and we went on a trek to discover what the hell this blue beer was. Needless to say, when our journey ended at the mug sale booth, not a tap, he was incensed. Most beer geeks were, as it happened. I was neutral. Who knows, maybe they'll make their way into someone's child's hands rather than the landfill.

But overall, the platique must go!

Done
Only 360 days til' the next OBF. . .

OBF Cost Changes

I recall that when I first started going to the OBF back in the early eighties, it seemed damn expensive. I was a young post-college kid, but still, it was more expensive than a pint at a pub (which was by turns more expensive than a half rack of Rainier pounders), which meant it was a specialty event.

But I noticed this year that I spent less on beer than I did on food. Admittedly, this is because I got an eight-token boost by virtue of my much-mocked media credentials, but let's say you cruise in with a 20-spot and you get a mug of beer for four, eleven tickets for beer, and save five bucks for something to eat later. Those eleven bucks would have purchased you about four bottles of beer* Given that you had to go our of your way to find a beer below 6% abv, you would have walked out in a pretty happy mood on those four bottles, spent a few hours by the river drinking beer and had lunch--all for $20. Not bad.

If the price of tokens had increased with inflation, you'd have spent $18.80 in tokens alone. (A dollar then is now worth $1.71.) Prices will probably go up at some point, but the fest was actually a pretty good value. At the International Beer Fest, by comparison, you probably would have spent more than twice as much for 11 pours (a single pour ranged from $1 to $4).

Just a random observation...

______________
Were those 3-ounce pours or four? I split the difference in my calculation.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Notes on OBF Coverage

I plan to get a post up tomorrow about the OBF reax from around the blogosphere. Things are really starting to hop blogwise, and there's an impressive array of posts commenting on the fest. Won't happen until the afternoon, though.

Also, just a question: was this the best OBF you recall? That's really my impression, but maybe I've gone soft in the head. Even the beers that didn't quite work were impressive failures (the imperial wits, for example). It seems like breweries are finally starting to get that this is a fest to showcase their mad brewing skills, not a marketing opportunity for their latest half-assed commercial endeavor (Mac's and BridgePort take notice).

Anyway, more tomorrow. . .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

OBF Hot Tips

If you're waffling about whether to brave the crowds to go to this year's fest, waffle while you quaff: this is the best OBF I can remember. The beers are uniformly good and there's a fair number that are fantastic. I'll update my earlier report with a few more observations from yesterday.

Four to Try
Green Flash IPA (hopolicious)
Fifty Fifty Donner Party IPA (silky and rich)
Old Market Midsummers White (exceptional Belgian wit)
Elysian Prometheus IPA (I don't remember this beer exactly, save that it impressed me)

A Couple to Skip
The Bison Chocolate Stout was thin and astringent, the Stone Vertical Epic was cloying and unnuanced (it was an imperial wit, which I think is a style we should relegate to the dustbin), and BJ's C'est Bon Blonde which although not bad, was not great, either (bon?--c'est médiocre).

I had hoped to run a series of beerlebrities on phone cam, but somehow the regulars I often see (which in the past has included Charlie Papazian, Fred Bowman, John Harris, Art Larrance, Alan Sprints, David Zuckerman, and so on) were absent or cleverly avoiding my prying eyes. But I did manage one, the estimable Fred Eckhardt:



If you have still not headed down, don't miss it: go!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

OBF - Early Reviews.

I was cordially invited to the media tour at the OBF today, and I must say there was a paucity of bloggers. In fact, except for the Mercury folks (young, attractive) and Gary Corbin (not young, attractive), I was all alone. Some of the writers from bigger publications even gave me the snub.* Actually, while I'm thinking about it, follow this second footnote, wouldja?**

(Foyston, bless his heart, already has text and photos from the event.)

But anyway, I digress. To the beers!

Laurelwood PNW Pils. Strangely, Noel Blake, who was leading the media tour, and whose beer can actually be tasted at the festival (he was the author of Collaborator Rawkin' Bock), started us out with three huge hoppy ales, shattering our palates. And he knows better. This beer, which hopheads will love, was actually not pilsnery enough for me. Too sweet and fuzzy on the tongue.

Hopworks Urban Brewery. This is not the beer they had at the Organic Beer Fest. It's much more balanced, less tannic, and quite tasty. Creamy, slightly candyish malt and peppery hopping. Nice!

Standing Stone IPA. Billed as 95 IBUs, but not remotely that hoppy. Instead, a very nicely balanced IPA. My notes were already degrading at this point, and what I have to offer you is this: "Best so far."

Flying Fish Bourbon Barrel Double. Finally Noel ratcheted back off the hops. As I hoped, this malty, dark-fruit dubbel was the perfect beer to age in a bourbon cask--it pulled out the vanilla notes and produced a winey, rich ale.

Trumer Pils. Wonderfully fresh and refreshing, though not particularly hoppy. The kind of beer most festgoers will miss, but worth an (early!) taster. ["fresh and refreshing" is the kind of write-up readers must suffer through when a blogger returns from a beer fest an immediately writes up his notes. -editor.]

Rawkin' Bock. This was Noel's homebrew recipe, translated to Widmer-scale brewing. What resulted was a slightly overhopped (and therefore very pleasing) bock of 36 IBUs; it's darker and roastier than the deep Mai Bock Noel envisioned. Sadly, there are only four kegs of it, and if you don't get down there tonight, it'll probably blow.

Later. At this point, I was enjoying the company and my notes ceased. (At one point, freelancers heard a publisher say she was paying a buck a word, and we went into a frenzy. It wasn't true, but bouyed by the frenzy, things turned social.) I tried the Golden Valley Quercus, and thought it very nice. The wine comes out in a rich, sweet note, softening but at the same time acidifying the beer. Definitely a must-try.

That's my main info. I should also mention that I met the publisher/editor and art director of a new Portland-based beer mag that will debut in October. It's called Beer Northwest, and Megan and Annalou assure me it will kick ass. I, in turn, assured them that I would send all my vast traffic to their website (which is, admittedly, a bit skimpy just now--their website, not my traffic, though it too is skimpy). So go give them a hit, and look for more info--I'll link through when they're up and running.

__________________
*A lie. John Foyston is really cool. In fact, he said that comments really matter to the Oregonian, so go comment and keep him blogging.
**Back when I started writing for Willamette Week, I was aware of this grave rivalry between WW and the Oregonian. But there was never any between John and me, nor any other beer writer I've encountered. Writing about beer, which is of far lower status than actually brewing it, creates the foundation for a kind of brotherhood. So cheers to all us failed professional brewers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

OBF - Around the Blogosphere

You may wish to consult other beersters for tips and advice. Many of them are offering it. I notice these fine pieces:
  • Metroblogging has Ten Easy Steps to Enjoying the OBF. (Best tip: "Don't linger in the beer line - seriously - there is a huge amount of space in the area - it's not that hard to get back in line once your cup is finished. Don't crowd the lines while you're standing around drinking and socializing." Indeed--get outta my way!)
  • Jon at The Brew Site gives you a very detailed "what to take" list (But wet wipes? Isn't that what the grass is for?) He also gives you his beer picks.
  • Suds Sister has a guide to the Fest that rivals mine in length (which means I approve). She tapped the estimable Noel Blake for tips, and he offered this nice one, about Diamond Knot IPA, "They put Columbus hops *in the keg.*" Good enough for me.)
  • There's a beer blogger meetup at Belmont Station from 3-5pm on Sunday when "most of the OBF taps should be dry, anyway."
  • And finally, PDX Beer Blog has its picks. (All four of the preview sites agree: Flying Fish is a must try!) And despite its un-PC nature, I feel compelled to quote this passage in toto: "Horny dude alert: the best place to chill is near the taps for 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat, Kona passion fruit wheat, and Raccoon Lodge Raspbery Wheat." So true. However, if you want to find the discerning women, skip over to the Pliny tap. It will separate the girls from the women.
That's all the news that's fit to link. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oregon Brewers Festival 2007 - Preview

I have, several times in the past, given general a preview info about the OBF. If you've never been to it, look here for tips about how to approach the event. I will devote this post to the beers, of which I think there are 27 (literally) about which you ought to be aware. That's better than 72 (and also palindromic, which is somehow pleasing), but you're still going to have to exercise some discretion. For ease of use, I have divided the guide into three categories: Ones to Watch (the beers I'm most interested in), Old Reliables (beers that won't let you down), and New Arrivals (breweries new to the Fest).

Incidentally, I will have a 90-minute opportunity to sample beers on Thursday afternoon. I'll have a tip sheet based on my experiences up by Thursday evening. All right, onto the beers...

Ones to Watch
When I go to the Brewers Fest, I have a strong orientation to the new and/or exotic. This isn't everyone's situation. Some folks will never have tried Pliny the Elder (surely one of the best beers made in America), Terminal Gravity Tripel, or North Coast PranQster, and they should definitely have a taster. But in many cases, this will be my only chance to try, say, Stone Vertical Epic. So with that in mind, here are ten beers I will absolutely not miss:
  • BJ's C'est Bon Blonde. BJ's has developed a minor specialty in Belgian-style ales, and it will be interesting to see what they have whipped up for the Fest.
  • Brewery Ommegang, Hennepin. Okay, I actually know exactly what this beer tastes like--it's an amazing Saison, the only version that is in the same ballpark with Dupont. A world-class beer that I can't recommend more highly.
  • Flying Fish Bourbon Barrel Abbey Double. This New Jersey brewery regularly brews an abbey ale, but this batch has been specially aged in bourbon barrels. Bourbon doesn't always make the beer, but it should be an interesting experiment with a dubbel.
  • Golden Valley Quercus. Golden Valley started out as a winery, so things come full circle here: they've aged this ESB in a pinot barrel. A wonderful inspiration.
  • Klamath Basin Golden. Normally I wouldn't elevate a lowly golden ale to my must-try list, but this little brewpub from Klamath Falls knocked my socks off at last December's Holiday Ale Fest. They earned my interest, and so I'll be trying this offering.
  • Fax's Fanno Creek Farmer's Daughter. Max's is the new brewpub in Tualatin, run by brewer Max Tieger. It's gotten some buzz, so I'm interested to see what they can do.
  • McMenamins Monkey House. Each year, the McMenamins host their own in-house brewing competition, and this year's winner got to go to the OBF. It comes from Chris Haslett at the Fulton Pub, an IPA he called No Mas Lento in the competition.
  • Rogue Imperial Porter. A monster that was nevertheless designed as a "summer porter," it features orangey Summit hops and has an OG of 18.7 (Shakespeare Stout's is 15). Yow!
  • Stone Vertical Epic. The Arrogant Bastards do this very cool thing. Each year, they release a version of Epic Ale to be tasted in a "vertical tasting" in 2012. This year's was released on 7/7/07 and you'll be able to try it here. Dunno what kind of beer it is, but I expect it to be big, aggressive, and green.
  • Widmer Noggin Grog. Each year, the Widmer Brothers brew a beer especially for the OBF, and it is always interesting. Noggin Grog is described as an Imperial Wit, which is apparently all the rage in the brewing world.
Also of note is Bison Brewing's Organic Chocolate Stout (uses actual chocolate), Boundary Bay's Single Hop Pale (Galena hops; this is a good way to learn to accurately identify hops), Deschutes 19th Anniversary Belgian Golden (it'll be in stores soon, but people will still find it hard to resist), and Kona Passionfruit Wheat (it will be sweet and girlish, and have lots of fans--though I probably won't be among them).

Old Reliables
It's likely that a few of the above beers will be duds ([cough] Passionfruit Wheat [cough]). When I get into a run of bad experiments, I turn to the old reliables to save me. Here's a short list I'll keep handy:
  • Bear Republic Racer X. A big fan favorite: 9% abv, massive hopping--what's not to like? (Don't drink it first, though!)
  • Fearless Scottish Ale. Fearless probably brews other beers, but I don't know 'em. This is what they're known for: a malty, creamy beer that everyone loves. (It's not a hoppy palate-wrecker, either.)
  • Celis White. After Pierre Celis packed up and went back to Belgium, Miller sold off his equipment and ultimately the recipes to Michigan Brewing. And so the beer that introduced America to Belgian wits ("white") is back. If you like whites, you have to like Celis.
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder. Oh joy! Liquid strength, liquid hops. The best strong ale in America.
  • Sprecher Mai Bock. This is how they brew in Wisconsin--the German way. Try Mai Bock early and appreciate its subtlety (otherwise don't try it at all)--and see if you can identify the dry-hopping.
New Arrivals
Finally, let's welcome the newbies. These are breweries that haven't appeared at the OBF before. A surprising number of them have just recently opened--evidence of the robust craft beer market. For many of us, this will be the first opportunity to sample these new offerings.
  • Fifty Fifty Brewing, from Truckee, CA, near Reno, opened in May and is just down the road from Donner Lake. If that reference seems familiar, maybe the beer will remind you why: Donner Party Porter, a hefty 6.7% ale that sounds more like a stout. Let us hope the brewery's luck is better than the Donner Party's.
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery is Christian Ettinger's new place, and it's still not open. But the beer is flowing, and this IPA will please people who loved his hoppy Laurelwood beers.
  • Klamath Basin Brewing actually opened in 2005, but that qualifies as "new" for those of us in Portland. (See above for more.)
  • Max's Fanno Creek also opened in May, in Tualatin. (See above for more.)
There are some other breweries that are new to the fest (or back for the first time in years). Briefly: Diamond Knot Brewery from Washington arrives with an imperial IPA. Eel River, founded in 1994, is the country's first all-organic brewery ('99), and will also be pouring an IPA. Grand Teton Brewing is located in the remote town of Victor, ID (north of Jackson, WY), and they offer their GABF-winning flagship, Bitch Creek ESB. And finally, Trumer Brauerei was founded in 1601 in Salzburg, Germany, and because of the water, founded a branch in Berkeley in 2003. They debut their ancient Trumer Pils at Waterfront Park this year.

Stay hydrated, cool, and happy. And look for the balding, skinny guy with a patchy graying beard if you want to say howdy. Cheers!

OBF Week

Lots of content to come. But first, a video of last year's fest...


Monday, July 23, 2007

Oregon's Smallest Brewery?

I was in Corvallis on Friday and for the first time visited the Oregon Trail brewery. Or anyway took a gander at it from the Old World Deli. It occupies the space of a large closet (admittedly a tall one--rising two [three?] stories above its tiny footprint) in the corner of the sprawling restaurant.

The beer, though, was tasty. I had a pint of brown ale, which was a little stronger and a little hoppier than most styles you find--it was hearty and creamy and most satisfying. My friend had an IPA which I deemed delightful and in balance, but which he, after two-thrids of a pint, described as overly hoppy. I'll have to go back for another pint and do my own research.

They have several taps (five or six Oregon Trail beers were pouring) and the price is right. I was shocked to see that they have two-dollar happy hours, and I think my shaker pint was about $3.75. It's in downtown Corvallis, so stop in the next time you're passing through:
341 SW 2nd Street, Corvallis (inside the Old World Deli)
Try the brown!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Banish All Ratings!

So says Joe Sixpack, via Appellation Beer:

FURTHER EVIDENCE of the dumbing down of America is now on display on the necks of Pilsner Urquell. The bottles are adorned with a big "93," its most recent score from Chicago's Beverage Testing Institute....

But who needs a score to choose a beer?

I dunno - someone who wants to impress his friends, maybe, but doesn't have a clue about style, flavor or quality? Who is so filled with self-doubt, he can't spend a few lousy bucks without an expert holding his hand? Whose vocabulary is so limited he needs a number to describe what's in his glass?

A wee bit harsh, but overall, good analysis. Ratings are tough. I really dislike RateBeer and the Beer Advocate's rating system, and wondered if I should have them at all. I do, but uneasily.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Beerveza?

I stumbled across an ad last night for the newest in a long string of half-assed industrial beers aimed squarely at the 21-year-old set: Miller Chill. (Which is charitable; many high school parties will no doubt feature half racks of Chill.) It follows in the long line of alcohol products for people who don't like beer--wine coolers, alcopops, Zima, etc. Although the non-malt beer substitutes irritate me, not so much as when a venerable old brewery like Miller succumbs to a purely commercial faux beer like Chill. Witness the new ad:



Ad copy:
Introducing and unexpected new twist on cerveza: Miller Chill, the refreshing light beer brewed with a hint of lime and salt. Inspired by a Mexican recipe. It's beerveza, brewed for a new level of refreshment.
Uggh. What an embarrassment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

PIB 2007 Wrap-up

I will begin this post with a confession: I had intended to go back to the fest on Sunday and didn't make it. That means no video and a smallish sampling of beers for review. By my notes, I tried 13 on Friday, which amounts to a little more than 10% of the total available, and I had saved at least a half dozen in my mind to try on Sunday. So obviously, what follows is a wee smattering of all the beers on offer.

That disclaimer out of the way, here are those I did try, with my notes.

Haand Bryggeri Dark Force - A stout in the American style--thick and chalky, robust. Not intensely nuanced, but roasty and nice. [B-]

iQhilika African Birds Eye Chili Mead - Wild sensation. The base drink is a standard dry mead. As you swirl it around your mouth, you get almost none of the chili--it's just a pleasant, sweetish note. But then as the liquid starts going down the hatch, it really heats up, and the finish is all pepper. [B+]

Coniston Bluebird Bitter - Wonderful recipe, taking advantage of such few ingredients (the guide says it's a 3.5% ale). Creamy palate, mild biscuity sweetness, earthy hopping. Yeast has a characteristically English quality. [A]

De Proef Saison Imperiale - Saisons are one of the hardest styles to brew, and De Proef proves the point, delivering a treacly ale that seems more tripel than farmhouse. Creamy and fruity rather than crisp and dry. [C]

Bink Bloesem - Another abbey-style ale but without complexity. Flat palate, musty, and thin, despite the alcohol. A dud. [C-]

Pinkus Altbier - Switching gears to a nice, subtle beer. Very crisp and dry, but somehow richer than the sum of the parts would indicate. An excellent warm-weather beer. [B]

Oudbeitje - [notes as written, with added comments to follow] "Tart but not complex. Okay, as I drink it, it is--but more subtly than I first appreciated. Smoky notes, some mustiness. Very earthy. Strawberry nearly absent, but like old strawberries, decomposing almost. Sally arrives, notes 'Smells like compost!'" This beer delighted no one but me, and it did delight me, more and more as I drank it. Unlike anything I've tried--so organic tasting that it was one step beyond. But I like it out there in the ultrafunky Belgian wilderness. [A]

Rodenbach Grand Cru - People were giving me such a hard time about the Oudbeitje that I decided to get a Rodenbach to show that I knew good beer. This beer was bought out by Palm in 1998, and everyone has feared the worst. Grand Cru is aged in great oak tuns at the brewery which are decades old and contribute the unique character to the beer--perhaps my favorite in the world. Palm's intention to "modernize" the brewery had caused panic. When the brewery reintroduced Grand Cru a year ago, I have to admit I was too scared to try it. But I plucked up my courage and went for a pour. The result? Magnificent. If you've never had a Sour Flanders Red, it's difficult to describe the experience. They are sweet and sour simultaneously, but deep and resonant of palate. In my notes, I wrote "just the same." Go buy a bottle if you haven't tried it before. [A]

Monchshof Schwartzbier - Faintly chocolaty, wet, not particularly distinctive. I would like it drier, and with a crisper malt palate. Not so hot. [C]

Spezial Rauchbier - This was actually Sally's beer, and she was nonplussed. I, however, thought it was quite nice. Perfumed with a very light, subtle smokiness. Roasty and malt-forward, with smoke lingering at the edge of perception, but a light, crisp, summery beer. Strikes me as a great example of German brewing. This beer is the oldest rauchbier still made (1536), in Bamberg, where the style was born. [B+]

Haand Bryggeri Norwegian Wood - Billed as "moonshine," this is actually a traditional brewing style from Norway, with a recipe dating back to a time when all the beer was essentially homebrew. Malt is kilned by fire, and juniper berries are used in place of hops as seasoning. I didn't know this at the time, but my notes bear out the recipe: "Smoky like a rauch, slightly viscous in a way that suggests other grains might be used in the mash. Sweet, hearty brown ale." If you ever see a bottle, buy it for the experience. [B]

HW Lees Harvest Legavulin - I somehow missed that this beer, at 11.5% alcohol, only had 25 IBUs. Hoy! It was like a beer reduction, syrupy sweet and undrinkable. Sadly, none of the Scotch aging came through, except--possibly--in the nose. Or maybe I was just trying to give it some credit. [D-]

De Ranke Kriek - I actually went with four bucks over to the ticket counter for the Lees Harvest debacle, and realized I couldn't go out on such a beer. So back I went to buy three more tickets for an always-reliable kriek. This isn't my favorite example, but it is intense. The sourness shoots it into some kind of physics-bending dryness. The mouth puckers involuntarily. Cherry is mild, and there's a cellary-musty quality which inclines me to think it's been aged a bit. I picked up a hint of salt, which was unexpected but not altogether unwelcome. [B]

Thems the notes. Sorry there aren't more. Ah well, there's always next year!

OBF Stats

The PIB is done (final review later today), which means we're inside of two weeks to the Oregon Brewers Festival. Having had my first real gander at the beers, here is what I note:
20 - Years since inception
73 - Participating breweries
14 - Participating states

21 - IPAs (six imperial/double)
12 - Belgian-style ales
-9 - Wheat ales (two hefs, four wits, two fruit wheats, one weiss)
-9 - Lagers
-7 - Pale ales
-6 - Pilsners
-6 - Minimum number of years in a row that 21st Amendment Brewery has sent Watermelon Wheat
More to come . . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hidden Agendas

This letter appeared in today's Oregonian, perhaps inadvertently giving us more information than the writer--former reporter and broadcaster Pete Schulberg--intended. I'll reproduce the whole thing, but the interesting bit is bolded:
Alcohol industry wins again

What is it that the Oregon Legislature doesn't undersand about a tiny increase in teh beer tax, which hasn't been raised in 30 years ("On alcohol, Oregon's in denial," July 15)?

Once agains legislators ignored the constituents and cave in to alcohol manufacturers and their distributors. Survey after survey has shown that Oregonians would pay a few cents more for a beer if the money went driectly toward prevention and treatment.

Look at the progress that has been made in dismantling the culture of cigarette smoking in this country. That was done by major efforts in prevention and education. It's time the legislature gets as serious about Oregon's frightening increase in alcohol-related deaths and underage drinking as it is about campaign contributions from the beer industry.

Pete Schulberg
Communications Director
Oregon Partnership
There are a number of motivations and intentions in the beer tax debate, but I was surprised to see Pete (probably unintentionally) so baldly refer to "the culture of cigarette smoking." No one in the brewing industry is interested in seeing alcoholism rates, alcohol-related deaths, or underage drinking continue at high levels. But a lot of Oregonians strongly resent the overt attack on the "culture of beer drinking." It is in no way analogous to smoking. The culture is a valuable, vibrant piece of Oregon's character. Pete offered the traditional argument for a beer tax, and larded it with sanctimony to drive home the point. It's the sanctimony, however, that reveals the assumptive faults in the legislation.

You want to reduce alcoholism rates, alcohol-related deaths, or underage drinking? Fine, but put the Puritan disdain of beer drinking aside.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

PIB Interim Report

No time to do a full review on the beers I tried last night, but here's a thumbs-up/thumbs-down quickie in case you're still heading to the Fest. Most of the beers were in that middle category of average to excellent. Below are the sublime and disappointing.

Thumbs Up (Don't Miss These)
  • Coniston Pale Ale. Amazing how much flavor you can get from so few ingredients.
  • iQhilika African Birds Eye Chili Mead. In your mouth it's a sweet sensation (though quite dry for a mead) but going down the hatch, it heats up mightily. Strange sensation.
  • Rodenbach Grand Cru. Amazing as I remember. One of the best beers in the world.
  • Oudbeitje (Strawberry Lambic). This was wild stuff. Sally said, "It smells like our compost!" (It did.) It was sour, only very faintly strawberry-y, and had a rank, musky quality. I couldn't put it down.
Thumbs Down (Don't Bother)
  • JW Lees Legavulin. I missed that it had only 25 IBUs--WAY oversweet and not a hint of the Scotch cask. An expensive dud.
  • Bink Bloesem. For such a big beer, surprisingly little taste. Not horrible, but not worth a pour.
Best value: Flyer's Sick Duck. One token, and it appears to be leavened with a half-ounce of rum. Hoo boy.

Bait and switch: the printed pour prices are not the actual pour prices, so buyer beware. (You won't be surprised to learn that they are inevitably more expensive than listed in the guide.)

Further reax by the BS brew collective at Champagne of Blogs.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Definitive Guide - Portland International Beerfest

Portland International Beerfest, July 13-15
North Park Blocks
Friday 4-10pm; Sat noon-10pm; Sun noon - 7pm
$1-$4 for a 4 oz serving (four bucks is rare); $20 buy-in up front (tickets and a glass); five free tickets in the first hour of each day
NO KIDS this year
The Portland International Beerfest is simply the most interesting, most pleasant beer festival of the year. True, there are few local beers--but then, you have several other fests that highlight Beervana. This is, rather, a showcase for the world. The range of beers is enormous, and far broader than is available any other time of year at any single location. It's one of the few fests you can take your friends who "don't like beer" to--because whether it's a mead, a lambic, or a traditional Norse moonshine beer, there's going to be something for everyone. So hit the bank, have a hearty meal, and head to the Pearl.

For the sake of user-friendliness, I've tried to arrange this guide in groups that may attract different kinds of drinkers.

The Old Classics
Oregonians are, somewhat counter-intuitively, less cognizant of world styles than beer geeks elsewhere. It comes from not having to work to find good beer. Well, now's the chance to bone up. There are nearly two dozen world classics at the fest, either landmark standards of the style or well-regarded, established examples.
  • German Lagers. Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse - Only had Widmer?; try the original. Another classic is Spaten Oktoberfest, the world's first (brewed originally in 1872). Ever wondered why a lot of beers end in "-ator" (Terminator et. al.)? It's because of Ayinger Celebrator, the world's most famous doppelbock. A kin to porter, schwarzbiers are black lagers, and with their sweet/dry, faintly hoppy palate, they appeal to ale fans. You can try one of the classics, Monchshof. An interesting style of beer that inspired All of those beers are on tap.
  • British Ales. The pickins are a little thinner from the isles, but there's a nice selection of Samuel Smith's ales, brewed in Yorkshire in the traditional open slate squares. Although the brewery has changed hands, another historic ale is Le Coq Imperial Stout, the original sent to Russia.
  • Belgium. There are only seven brewing Trappist abbeys in the world, and three are at this year's fest: Rochefort (founded 1595), Westmalle (1836), and Orval (1931). The devilishly strong Duvel is the world standard Belgian strong, and Rodenbach Grand Cru, which was purchased by Palm in 1998, is the classic Flanders red.
  • Other Countries. The original pilsner, from Plzen, Czech Republic, is fairly readily available, but it's here too--Pilsner Urquell. I don't know when Poland's Browar Witnica started producing Big Boss Porter, an obscure representative of the Baltic porter style, but it's worth a taster (it was a crowd-pleaser last year).
New Classics
There are a few new beers that have become world classics in their own right and are worth seeking out: Traquair House makes a traditional Scottish Ale from the brewery in the oldest house in Scotland. It's a wonderful beer. The "Mad Brewers," microbrewers of 80s vintage, have an amazing winter beer called Stille Nacht (Still Night). Grotten Brown, a Belgian Brown designed by the illustrious Pierre Celis, was called "beer of the year" in 2003 by Michael Jackson. Try a true mild ale--and try it early--with Coniston Bluebird Bitter, a classic British bitter and champion English beer. Recall Hair of the Dog's "Jim" from last year's Winter Ale Fest? A secret ingredient was Maredsous, available this year. De Ranke's Kriek isn't a traditional, spontaneously-fermented beer, but it is regarded as a delicious example of the style (unlike, unfortunately, the commercial Lindeman's, also at this fest.) And although this isn't a classic yet, how can you miss a barleywine aged in a cask of the most famous Islay single malts? JW Lees Harvest Legavulin can't be missed.

Odd Beers
I haven't the faintest idea whether these beers will be sublime, horrible, or neither, but they stand out as unique. In no particular order: Tmsisje GUIDO, a Belgian made with honey and raisins; De La Senn Stouterik, a Belgian sweet stout (?); Eisenbahn Lust is a Brazilian beer made in the methode champonoise (it will sparkle and fizz like champagne); Hitachino, a Japanese brewery specializing in weird beers, is sending XH, a strong Belgian aged in a Shochu cask (a traditional Japanese liquor). Hanssens has mixed mead and gueuze for Mead the Gueuze, which seems like a really crazy idea, but maybe crazy enough to try. They also have a strawberry lambic called Oudbeitje. Two more of note that must be mentioned just for their names: iQhilika African Birds Eye Chili Mead (South Africa), and Haand Bryggeri Norwegian Wood, the traditional Norse Moonshine beer.

Scandinavia
There is apparently a brewing renaissance in Scandinavia, because there are (in addition to the moonshine) five Norwegian and Danish beers: Haand Bryggeri Dark Force (imperial stout), Nøgne-Ø Porter, Nøgne-Ø Imperial Stout, Ølfabrikken Porter, and Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout.

The Belgian Bigs
Although a number of Belgians have been brewed for centuries, what really characterizes the country is its love of innovation. In the past, they have been inspired by England and Scotland, and now it's the West Coast. Everything is hoppy and huge. I dunno if they'll be good, but see what Beervana has inspired in Brussels: De Proef Saison Imperiale and La Grande Blanche (imperial wit). De Proef K-O stands for knock-out, and at 10%, it will.

Cheap Drinks
Okay, I know many of you will ultimately look at the price and decide against the Bird's Eye Chili Mead (four tickets) and instead note that the Zatec Bright Lager is a buck. There's nothing wrong with this, but if money becomes your sole guide, you will inevitably miss out. Especially given some of the real jewels at two bucks. No worries: I got your back. Here's the pick of the litter:
  • One ticket ($1): Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Spaten (Ur Marzen/Oktoberfest and Optimator), Coniston Bluebird Bitter, Monchshof Schwarzbier, Black Boss Porter, Sam Smith's Taddy Porter.
  • Two tickets ($2): De Proef Saison Imperiale and Grand Blanche, Maredsous 8, Ayinger Celebrator, Grotten Brown, JW Lees Harvest Legavulin, De La Senn Stouterik, Kerkom Bink Bloesem, Nøgne-Ø Porter, Isle of Skye Wee Beast, Rodenbach Grand Cru.
Domestics
There are some pretty interesting domestics here, and I'd normally gush about them. But this may be the last time you see Hitachino XH, so choose wisely. (I recognize that this is tough to do; my beer of the year last year, Ninkasi Believer, is comin' to town. Still.)

Not counting my cheap drinks picks, that's 36 beers--too much for any single trip. I guess I'll have to go twice. I'll update you after I go tomorrow, and do the same in comments.

Cheers!

Catastrophe on I-5

I just spent over an hour stuck in traffic on I-5 between Salem and Portland. It has caused a gauzy fatigue to settle between my ears and jeopardizes my afternoon PIB preview. I'm aiming for this evening, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

PIB - Two Days Away

I hope to have a preview for the year's best event* tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a video I put together of last year's Fest.




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*Accolade now challenged by the Organic Fest, but what's two bests among friends?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oregon's Influential Ten

Over at Appellation Beer, Stan has started a mini revolt by naming the "Ten Beers That Changed America." It provoked outrage not least for failing to include a single Oregon brewery (for shame!), but also at the sheer impossibility of trying to answer such a question. But what did emerge is that while only a few beers can be said to have real national influence, there are a lot of influential beers in local markets. So then certain bloggers started naming the beers that influenced their region, and--well, I can't resist. Stan constrained himself to the modern era, and I think that's wise. So here's my chronological list of Oregon's influential ten:

Henry Weinhard Private Reserve. It was actually Henry's that set out on the "good beer" path, albeit with a baby step. Still, it primed Oregonians to think that there was such a thing as good beer, and also to think that such a thing must be brewed in Oregon to be good--two of the hallmarks of our current industry.

Cartwright. No one seems to remember what beers Chuck Coury brewed, but they were impressed that he tried at all. Dick Ponzi, Art Larrence, the Widmers, Fred Bowman--these guys had an early example that you could do such a thing. It may even be that the poor quality of Cartwright's beer was an inspiration--early brewers thought, "hell, I can do that."

Terminator Stout. The McMenamins may have been more important to Oregon brewing than any of the bottled beer brewers because they started the culture of pub-going that has become the foundation of the Oregon beer industry. I've selected Termie because it was an example of the bold nature of the early Oregon brewers; as one of their first beers (brewed, I believe, by John Harris) Terminator was the perfect opposite of macro-pilsners.

Widmer Hefeweizen. If the McMenamins went lowbrow, Widmer Hef sparked a highbrown embrace of beer. In the late 80s, one of the "it" experiences was drinking a tall, cloudy orange beer in B. Moloch's downtown (now South Park). It was also the first beer to go "mass" market (I use that term advisedly.) Unfortunately, it sent brewers down the opposite path from the McBrothers, toward the doomed "crossover beers" that were competing with Bartles and Jaymes for mouths that would never grow to love good beer. Influence isn't always benign, and Oregon brewers spent the better part of a decade in the weeds thanks to Hefeweizen.

Full Sail Amber. Another of the intro beers that brought people to good beer. Unlike Widmer Hef, however, Amber was a more robust, challenging beer and the first to introduce Oregonians to the citrus they would later come to love. It no longer seems like such a flavor-packed beer, evidence of how the market has shifted. But back in the day, it was regarded as a burly, delicious beer.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Just looking around the brewpubs, you could see that Oregon was poised to love dark ales, but it took Bend's finest to actually muster the courage to sell it in grocery stores. Surprise! Despite being black, it was sweet and approachable, and made it safe to brew dark beers. Stouts and porters are now among the state's most popular styles.

Rogue Smoke. The early period of Oregon brewing was replete with noble (and some ignoble) disasters with additives. Thanks to Ruby Tuesday at McMenamins (now just Ruby), fruit of all kind went into beers (Lemon Lager, oy!). Other types of additives overwhelmed beer and turned off a lot of customers. But Rogue Smoke, a rauchbier, was one of the experimental brews that showed what authentic brewing could be like. It was beers like this that influenced Craig Nicholls and others to experiment with more sophisticated, subtle flavors.

BridgePort IPA. When BridgePort introduced their IPA, it wasn't yet clear to me that the Oregon palate was actually drawn to bitterness. But the amazing success of this beer--it quickly became the brewery's best-seller and supplanted Blue Heron as the flagship--proved the point. I remember hearing a beer novice complain that she didn't like "bitter beers." Instead, she liked IPAs. The tide had turned.

Hair of the Dog Fred. Hair of the Dog had always been a famous brewery among the beer geeks, but the release of Fred created a mini-revolution in brewing. It was Oregon's introduction to the whole "imperial" phenomenon (though as with all HotD beers, Alan Sprints declined to name it by style). It remains the kind of beer that's spoken of in hushed voice. [Ironic fact: Sprints got his professional start at Widmer, brewing Hefeweizen, Fred's opposite.]

Your Favorite Beer. I have to leave one slot open, because I know there are great arguments to be made for beers like BridgePort's Pintail, Saxer Doppelbock, Wild Duck Sasquatch Strong, and any number of beers past and present that brought people into the fold. When I first started writing about beer, brewers would tell me of the beer that "did it" for them. Fred Bowman (co-founder of Portland Brewing) described getting off a boat in Ireland as a young man, walking to the nearest pub, and buying a pint of Guinness. A brewer was born in that moment. And so it is with beer--we all have our sentimental faves, the beers that catalyzed something in us and turned us into beer fans. Which one did it for you? Here's its slot.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beer's Golden Age

Have you ever noticed that art flourishes in cycles? Pick an art form, and you'll see periods and places where it wells up--movies in the late sixties and early seventies, literature during and immediately following the beats, music in Memphis in the 50s, Detroit in the 60s, New York in the 80s, and Seattle in the 90s. It isn't random.

Art, no matter the form, is always a communication. You have someone making it, and someone appreciating it. The two feed off each other. Art flourishes as the context deepens. The more the appreciators "get" what the artist is doing, the more opportunities the artist has to go on riffs and expand the context.

I bring all of this up because over the weekend, as I was working my way through a sample tray of Double Mountain Brewing's beers (they're that new Hood River brewery founded by Full Sail alums), I realized that the beer I was drinking was only possible because of all the beers that preceded it in the Oregon brewing rennaisance--and because at this moment in time, there are enough people out there drinking good beer to appreciate what the brewers are doing.

I'll do a full review on Double Mountain soon (probably between PIB and the OBF), but here's an example of what I mean. One of their current beers is a kolsch--a fairly standard offering in July. It's the kind of beer you might expect to be in that disposably-drinkable category--tasty after a hot day of windsurfing, but nothing to write home about. No. Double Mountain went all out on it--they used an appropriate yeast strain, giving it that distinctive tart/crisp quality that really defines the style. And then, for good measure, they over-hopped it (I think it was at something like 40 IBUs). Germans would run screaming to the hills with this kind of offense, but the brewers know what they're doing. They have selected a hop schedule that draws out the pre-existing qualities of the style, deepening the crispness and drawing out the dryness of the last note. The hops they chose complement the beer, making it simultaneously both more kolsch-y (though I wouldn't enter it at the GABF) and more appropriate for Oregon drinkers.

I have already talked about their IRA (aka "Ira," as in Glass), which is a Belgian-yeast-based IPA, but it makes an equal case. It doesn't taste radically different from a usual IPA, but there's something going on. The Belgian yeast seems to enclose the bitterness in a gentle pocket. The edges are soft and mature. IPA drinkers would notice that it's a little different, but they would recognize and enjoy it. The brewers at Double Mountain didn't have to add that complexity, but they knew that if they did, some people would appreciate the effort.

It's my guess that the average beer drinkers walking in don't actually have the nomenclature to describe what they're tasting or understand why it tastes that way. But still, they get that it's really good beer (it was five o'clock on a Saturday and there wasn't a free table). Fifteen years ago, there would have been no point to offer the little change-ups Double Mountain includes in their recipes. Who would know the difference? In fact, that contextual vacuity was responsible for the state of beer drinking 25 years ago, when most beer drinkers thought that the variety of beer styles could be expressed in the range at the supermarket--light, dry, or in rare cases, "dark."

Things will change. The market will shift, drinkers will go off to new beverages. Whether that happens in five years or fifty, it's a sure bet. (If it happened in Belgium--and it did--it will surely happen everywhere.) So this is the golden age for beer, the pinnacle of the craft. It's cool, but also a little sad.

Enjoy it while it's here (and hope it lasts fifty years!).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Moment

It is now 7/7/07 at 7:07.*

Nothing's happening.


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*Posted later; Blogger trouble.

Friday, July 06, 2007

No Clever Title Here

So part two of my Best of Portland Brewpubs is live--this one on "best experience" (see below). For me, as long as the beer is adequate (not a low bar, but manageable for most breweries), I go for the ambiance and experience. I rushed to get today's post up because it fits in with a meta-project called "the session," wherein beer bloggers reflect on a pre-selected topic. This happens to fit in, for today's is "atmosphere."

That's all--

Beervana Bests - Best Portland Brewpub Experiences

Let's establish the cred first: Portland is the most breweried city in the world. There are 28 at the moment (not including multiple facilities), and the arrival of Hopworks Urban Brewery and the Green Dragon will bump it to an even thirty by the end of the year. Take that, Munich! And, even though Portland is only the 24th-largest city in America, we consume more craft beer--total, not per capita--than any burg in the land. Take that, San Francisco!

Some visitors to our fair city are aware of this, but confronted with a dilemma: which of these 28 breweries should I visit? It's not actually as easy a question to answer as it sounds. Not all visitors want the same thing. Some want the quintessential Portland experience--the "do in Rome" thing. Others want the best beer. And others, or more likely the in laws of others, want a decent dining experience with a beer so they can say they did a Portland brewpub. The good thing is that, with over two dozen breweries, Portland can meet all needs. So, without further ado, here are my recommendations for best experience. Follow the links for posts on beer and food.


- Best Experience -
There's a reason Portland has so many brewpubs: we like to go out for a pint. And, while the beer is obviously important, the experience is arguably more so. Visit one of these places, and you begin to understand why we do our drinking in public.

Lucky Lab
Almost from the moment it opened, the Lucky Lab has felt like the pubby manifestation of Portland's soul. Portland's urban historian helped discribe this when he characterized Portland a river city instead of a coastal city like many along the West Coast. Coastal cities like Seattle and San Francisco are port towns--they look out toward the world. They are more urbane and sophisticated, more worldly. River cities, by comparison, tend to have a more regional orientation; they're parochial and working-class (think Pittsburgh and Cleveland).

Like other river cities, Portland's roots are sweaty and hardworking, and the Lucky Lab reflects this. Unlike so many restored warehouses in the Pearl, spotless and chic, the Lucky Lab, formerly a roofing and sheet metal warehouse, still feels like a warehouse. The floor is scuffed and there are none of those retro steel beams that add character, if not authenticity. But the Lab is thick with authenticity. It has a worn-in feel that invites drinkers in and keeps them coming back. Out back, on a vast patio, picnic tables are dotted with two- and four-legged patrons (true to its name, dogs are welcome outside).

Brewpubs should feel welcoming, and with its vast bar and friendly publicans, it feels like home. If I can only take people to one pub and they are after the "real Portland experience," there's only one pub to take them to. The menu is very skimpy and the beers can be uneven (ask the publican for advice--the porter and IPA are good bets, though), but that doesn't stop this from being Portland's best brewpub experience.

915 S.E. Hawthorne, Mon 11am - 10pm, Tues-Sat 11am - midnight, Sun noon - 10pm, Kids and dogs okay. No smoking except on the patio. [full Beervana review here.]

Amnesia
One of Portland's newer places, Amnesia is on the corner of Beech and Mississippi, in one of the more interesting resurgent Portland neighborhoods. Ten years ago, there were no businesses in this district, and the buildings were boarded up and derelict. But now it has new life, not so much as a gentrified area (though that is happening) but as a "found" one.

The pub reflects the character of the neighborhood in its unpretention. The building is made of corrugated metal, and except that the parking lot in front has been converted to outdoor seating--picnic tables under white tents--you might mistake it for a metal shop. In fact, once you're inside, you see an old sign on its side up near the rafters that reads "Ornamental Iron" and you might still think it's a metal shop.

More than most brewpubs, though, it has a distinctly neighborhood feel. It doesn't seem like a tourist destination, but rather a beloved local fixture. The kitchen consists mainly of an outdoor grill, but the pub gets a lot of mileage out of it. Particularly nice are the sausages. The beer is above average, and the regular ESB is a sure bet. It's a nice place to visit in the summer; you have a first row view of the neighborhood as it passes by just outside the beer garden.

832 N. Beech, Mon 4 - 11pm, Tues - Sat noon - midnight, Sun noon - 10pm; Dogs okay outside. [full Beervana review here.]


Mash Tun
You would not know it by walking in, but the Mash Tun is only a couple years old. It has been so organically incorporated into the old building it inhabits that it feels like it must have been there for decades. Much like Amnesia, it is very much a neighborhood pub, and the vibe is friendly and familiar. (Incidentally, the name comes from a piece of brewing equipment--the large vessel in which the malt steeps in hot water and begins the brewing process.)

The drinking/dining space wraps around a tiny brewery that's visible beyond the attractive bar. There's a patio out back (covered with a sheet of translucent corrugated plastic), with a big beer mural; the walls inside have local art dotting them. And, as if to highlight the ethos of the place, directly in front of the bar is a pool table.

The menu is larger than at many pubs and includes veggie and organic options. It is on the heavy side, and there's not so many fresh, raw vegetables. The beer comes in a standard slate of adequate if not exceptional Northwest ales; start with the Portside IPA and sample the specials. For such a young brewery, they've managed to get a lot right; the Mash Tun is on its way to being one of the best hang-out brewpubs in town.

2204 NE. Alberta, Mon - Fri 4pm - 11pm, Sat - Sun noon - midnight; Seasonal outdoor seating available (with awning); kids and smoking okay. [full Beervana review here.]

Also Worth Visiting
A McMenamins' joint [recommendations here], New Old Lompoc (1612 NW 23rd Portland), Rogue Portland (1339 NW Flanders Portland), Roots (1520 S.E. 7th).

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PHOTOS: Kyle G. Grieser, VJ_Pdx

Inja Belgique

I know from experience as a reader that posts about homebrewed beer are boring--you never will taste the beer being described, so who cares? But I've got an experiment going that's interesting enough to pass along. Inspired by Double Mountain Brewing's IPA, which is made with an unidentified Belgian yeast strain (rave here), I brewed up a similar type of beer. I used a Belgian Strong ale yeast, which I hope is akin to a Duvel strain--imparting not a lot of the usual funk you find in Belgians. I hopped it right good in the boil, but then finished and dry-hopped with Summits. These are a new strain of ultra-alpha hops (18%) that have a wonderful orangey aroma and flavor. My hope is that the quality from the hops will recall the orange characteristic in some Belgians--notably wits and some saisons.

I racked it into a secondary fermenter yesterday and had a wee nip along the way. It's awfully green, so I want to hedge a bit, but it seemed to have turned out like I intended and I have high hopes that it may be something special.

The takeaway is, I guess, that the Summit hops are pretty amazing. I bet we start to see these appear more commonly in commercial beers. If you want to try one that really highlights the hop, go get a sixer of Widmer '07. Okay, I'm done, thanks for the indulgence.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Oregon beers are created equally, and that they are endowed by their brewer with certain unalienable qualities, that among these are freshness, maltiness, and the unmistakeable zest of Northwest hops. That to secure these flavors, breweries are instituted throughout Beervana, deriving their just powers from the consent of the drinkers."

Amen.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ninkasi Has Landed

Last year, I labeled Ninkasi's Believer the best of the year. But for most Portlanders, it has been hard to get a pint. With luck, that will change. This, from the brewery:

Home Sweet Home

Hey there, Believers, we have finally started brewing in our own building! Last week we brewed 440 kegs worth of beer in both breweries to begin our transition. We should be in 272 Van Buren exclusively by July 7. We have beer available for the 4th of July and for Country Fair so hurry up and buy some beer so we can start paying the bills.

It has been an amazing year. We started brewing in Springfield June 20 last year. We started brewing in the new building almost exactly a year later. We brewed almost 3200 kegs of beer and were brewing at the annual rate of 4600 kegs when we maxed out our capacity in Springfield. We open in Eugene with almost three times the capacity we had there.

Look forward to the favorites you have all ready tried and get ready for new beers this Summer. We brewed Tricerahops our Double IPA last week. By late August we will release Goddess a Bavarian Helles and Lady of Avolan, a Munchner Dunkel (Dark German Lager, rich in caramel and chocolate flavor).

For the Harvest we will do a Dortmund lager for Oktoberfest, which in at least one batch will feature fresh hops from the harvest in Willamette Valley.

On that note we are proud to announce that Ninkasi will host the Fresh Hop Tastival in Eugene at our site October 20. Upwards of 25 fresh hop beers from around the state will be on tap. More info will be available soon.

We look forward to a Summer of fun and growth and we thank you for all your support to get us where we are now! Ninkasi pledges to uplift the spirit in the Whit and in Eugene as a whole.

We love Believers!
Emphasis mine. Foyston had some details about this last week, but I didn't get around to posting about it. He adds:
The move into the 14,000 square foot building had been delayed by at least three months, Floyd said, and there was beer to be brewed. "We were beyond thrilled to get permission to occupy-- we need to catch up with orders for Ninkasi Believer and Total Domination IPA, and I know that the Point Blank guys (the craft beer distributing company) are just waiting for product so they can explode into the Portland market. . . ."

The brewery doesn't yet have a tasting room, but you will be able to get a tour and legally buy a pint, though not a growler. Floyd plans to have an actual tasting room later, and he hopes to have a formal brewery- warming perhaps in August. Ninkasi Brewing, 272 Van Buren St., Eugene; 541-344-2739.
If anyone sees Believer on tap somewhere, give me a holler--

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Laurelwood

This just in:
Due to everyone's overwhelming support, we have been able to expand to a bigger, better space! Our new Pub & Brewery will be located at NE 51st and Sandy Blvd., next to the Rheinlander.

The new Laurelwood Public House & Brewery will open sometime this weekend. We can't give you a date (since we don't know) but it will be over this weekend.
I guess I didn't realize this, but apparently the plan was to shift the original into something not quite like a brewpub:
Our original Pub & Brewery at 40th and Sandy will close Tuesday night to re-open in mid-July as Laurelwood Pizza Co. We will still feature antibiotic and hormone-free meats on our pies, organic tomatoes for our sauces and try to incorporate Laurelwood beer into everything we do. Watch for us later this month!
This is good news, as far as I can tell. Although I never got around to reviewing it (I intended to!), the Laurelwood had a lot of virtues, but atmosphere was not among them. I found the current/old site to be extremely loud and chaotic no matter when I went. And there were always scads of kids there--more than most restaurants, let alone brewpubs. That's why I regard this info as welcome news:
We will continue to brew at 40th and Sandy for that pub. Our new location will be a little more adult friendly, but still feature play areas for the kids. You'll have to see the new layout and decide for yourself. Our outside deck might not be open this weekend but next week at the latest.
Maybe the kids will be located away from the table next to me. Not that I'm an old codger who likes to have a beer in relative peace, but--oh wait, I am actually an old codger who likes drinking his beer in peace. I am attracted to the idea of a family environment more than I am attracted to families. So, good.

They will have a couple new beers on tap, which is de rigueur for any new openings. I'll try to get over there sometime in the next couple weeks and do a review.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Craft Beer Month

Governor Kulongoski has declared July Craft Beer Month in Oregon (though rather quietly--aside from an insert in the Oregonian, I can find no evidence of it in the news or on the state website). In anticipation of the busiest month of the year, I'm putting out the first part of my Portland brewpubs review (see below). It's broken into three parts--best beer, best experience, best food--and the thing is just going on forever. So today it's the Best Beer section. Forthcoming sections as they're written.

Summer starts on July 1 in the Northwest, and temperatures are supposed to hit 78. A great day to fire up the grill and crack a cold one. Remember to hoist a toast to the fine brewers who make the best beer on earth. Cheers!

Beervana Bests - Best Portland Brewpubs for Beer

Let's establish the cred first: Portland is the most breweried city in the world. There are 28 at the moment (not including multiple facilities), and the arrival of Hopworks Urban Brewery and the Green Dragon will bump it to an even thirty by the end of the year. Take that, Munich! And, even though Portland is only the 24th-largest city in America, we consume more craft beer--total, not per capita--than any burg in the land. Take that, San Francisco!

Some visitors to our fair city are aware of this, but confronted with a dilemma: which of these 28 breweries should I visit? It's not actually as easy a question to answer as it sounds. Not all visitors want the same thing. Some want the quintessential Portland experience--the "do in Rome" thing. Others want the best beer. And others, or more likely the in laws of others, want a decent dining experience with a beer so they can say they did a Portland brewpub. The good thing is that, with over two dozen breweries, Portland can meet all needs. So, without further ado, here are my recommendations, broken down by category. With luck, you'll find some comments below with further advice.


- Best Beer -

It's Beervana and you want the best pint in town. Sounds reasonable. Try these three places and you won't be disappointed.

Roots Organic
The most innovative brewers in the city operate out of a nondescript space on the edge of the industrial Southeast. From the street, you may not realize that you're looking at a laboratory for some of the most original beers in the country. Inside, at any given moment, fermenters bubble with ingredients not usually found in beers--habenero chiles, heather tips, or coconuts. But don't be fooled, the true herb of choice at Roots is humulus lupulus, and you'll find it in abundance. The beers are always brewed with flair and intention--none are throwaway "goldens" or "wheats."

Co-owners Craig Nicholls and Jason McAdam founded the brewery on the kind of ethos that's fueling the fresh-food movement: organic, fresh, and sustainable. For Nicholls, these are the relatively new digs (Roots opened in 2005), but he has been brewing around the city for over a decade. Over that time, his recipes have become legendary for his use of unexpected botanicals like rose petals, heather, and desert sagebrush.

While not every experiment is successful, the brewery's batting average is freakishly high. They always have something experimental on tap, and it's always worth at least a taster. Of course, if you want a pint of more standard fare, they have that, too--brewed with flair. Regular beers include the flagship Island Red, big, burly, and hoppy, Woody IPA, a pale and ESB, and usually a stout and/or porter.

The pub is a comfy Caribbean-inspired space that's always warm and inviting, even on drizzly January nights. It can get loud during the evenings, but afternoons are tranquil. The place has no kitchen, so the menu is limited. Still, you can get a pretty decent sandwich or a personal pizza--or snacks to accompany your beer. Roots is just around the corner from the Lucky Lab, which makes for an easy two-pub crawl.

1520 S.E. 7th, Mon-Thurs 3-11:30 pm, Fri 3-12:30 am, Sat noon-1 am, Sun noon-9 pm. Kids okay. No smoking. [full Beervana review here.]


New Old Lompoc
When the Old Lompoc first opened, it was situated just slightly beyond civilization on NW 23rd, where the street starts to run into industrialization. It was a hole-in-the-wall tavern, the kind of place guys would hit after work. Actually, in its first incarnation, as a tavern, that's exactly what it was. I mention this history because it shows that with good beer, you can build an empire in Beervana. The New Old Lompoc (it took the "new" when it changed ownership in 2000) expanded in 2003 when it added the Hedge House (3412 SE Division) and again last year when it opened the Fifth Quadrant (3901-B N. Williams).

The beer (the same available at all locations) is muscular. Brewer Jerry Fechter is the John Philip Sousa of brewers--he likes his ales big and brassy (and generally hoppy). Most of his offerings are stronger than 6%, and most are green with hoppiness. But of course, in Oregon, these are part and parcel of the local character. You don't come all the way to Portland to try a wimpy kolsch. Two of the beers are really exceptional: Condor Pale Ale and Sockeye Cream Stout. A cult following exists for the Bald Guy Brown, a heterodox beer for Fechter that features malt and mild hopping. As always, sample seasonals.

Ambiance differs by site, but the food is good at all three locations (nice review here). Perhaps the best is the newest, the Fifth Quadrant, which also has the largest menu. Another cool feature: all three locations have outdoor seating.

1616 NW 23rd; Sun-Thurs 11 am -1 am, Fri-Sat 11 am-2 am; kids okay; no smoking. [full Beervana Fifth Quadrant review here.]


Widmer Gasthaus

Widmer, with its boring flagship Hefeweizen, isn't the first place to spring to mind when Oregonians think of great beer. But here's a little secret: of all the big Portland-area breweries, Widmer alone consistently produces the most funky little offbeat beers. And they're available only at the brewery. Some of these come under the Collaborator banner, others are brewed specially for fests, and still others are the products of brewers who are allowed to follow their bliss.

The pub is located in a groovy section of Portland under a tangle of freeways, just on the edge of Swan Island in the strangely haute Russell Street area. Beers rotate, so check when you arrive. One beer to note, however, is the legendary alt ale that the Brothers thought would be their calling card. It was, sadly, ahead of its time when they introduced it in 1984. If you've had a Hefeweizen and believe you understand the brewery's character, try a pint and re-evaluate.

The restaurant serves very hearty, well-made German dishes--sausage, schnitzel, sauerbraten and spaetzle. If you like German food (and after three years of grad school in Wisconsin, I do!), this is a nice bonus. The ambiance is what you imagine your dad would like--overstuffed booths, lots of wood, Teutonic, manly. Bar seating is also available if you just want to pop in for a pint.

955 N Russell St; Sun-Thurs 11 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat, 11 am-1 am; no smoking.

Also Worth Visiting
BJ's Jantzen Beach (12105 N. Center Ave), Laurelwood (1728 NE 40th Pl.), Full Sail Pilsner Room (RiverPlace - 0307 SW Montgomery), Rogue Ales (1339 NW Flanders).

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PHOTOS: Oregonian [link], VJ-pdx [link]