Blogs will save us.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pssst ... Deschutes Pearl is Open

So I just called over to the new Deschutes Pub and learned that it's open. The Grand Opening on Friday is apparently not the actual opening. So if you want a sneak peak, now's the time. I am stopping by this afternoon and will have pics/news tomorrow.
210 NW 11th Ave
(503) 296-4906
Don't everybody rush down there, now. I want to get a pint. Go at, say, six pm. I oughta be out of there by then--

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pyramid/MacTarnahans Merging AGAIN?!

Poor, poor Portland Brewing. Has any brewery seen so many misguided mergers in its short life? Now a Vermont brewery (a decent but not great one, based on my samplings in Burlington) comes a'courtin:
SEATTLE & SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pyramid Breweries Inc. (NASDAQ: PMID) (Pyramid) and Magic Hat Brewing Company & Performing Arts Center, Inc. (Magic Hat) today announced the execution of a Letter of Intent (Letter of Intent), which contemplates a transaction by which Magic Hat will acquire Pyramid, through an agreed all-cash tender offer and subsequent merger, at $2.75 per share of Pyramid common stock on a fully-diluted basis....

The board of directors of Pyramid has approved the transactions contemplated by the Letter of Intent.

The combination of these two well established, high profile craft breweries will be very complementary given our respective brand portfolios and the geographies in which we predominantly operate. Additionally, there will be a number of important benefits for Pyramid to be part of a private company versus continuing to operate as a stand alone public entity. This consolidation makes both good strategic and financial sense and is well timed, particularly as the beer industrys competitive dynamics continue to intensify, said Pyramid CEO Scott Barnum. The Company will continue to have offices in Seattle, its historical home, and will seek opportunities to capitalize on the enhanced assets and capabilities of the new combined entity, he added.

Martin Kelly, CEO of Magic Hat said, We have a great deal of respect for Pyramids brand heritage, award-winning beers and its dedicated employees, and look forward to consummating this transaction, which provides both strategic and financial benefits both to Pyramids and Magic Hats stakeholders.

The domino effect began when Saxer over-extended and bought NorWester. Then Portland Brewing bought Saxer. Then Portland, faltering, was propped up by the MacTarnahans, who shifted the name to the flagship amber. Then Pyramid bought MacTarnahans. And now Magic Hat will buy Pyramid.

Fred Bowman's little brewery may not be dead an buried yet, but I fear it just went on life support.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review: Hopworks Urban Brewery

2944 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
503 / 232-HOPS
Website

Hours: Sun - Thu: 11a - 11p, Fri - Sat: 11a - midnight.
Happy hour: M-T, Sun: 3-6pm; 10-close Fri, Sat.

Prices: 16-ounce pints: $425, pitchers $12, sampler tray (8): $6.50
Food: Sandwiches, burgers and pizza. [menu]
Other info: Seaso
nal outdoor seating; kids allowed until 9; no smoking.
Beers: A range of NW-style ales with an emphasis on hops, seasonal lagers and Belgians.
Brewers: Christian Ettinger and Ben Love [Bios].
Hopworks has been one of the most anticipated brewery opening in recent years, due perhaps to the very long renovation period. That brewer Christian Ettinger started releasing beers almost a year before the pub opened only heightened interest. It's been open a month now, and the interest has not waned--on weekdays, lines still start forming just after five. Sally and I snuck in last Thursday just before five and there was already a waiting list for the restaurant; we found the last free table in the bar.

Ambiance
Christian Ettinger had two assets most first-time brewpub owners lack: $2 million and an architect father. The result is a striking and intentional space that will thrill most webfeet, but probably alienate a minority. The building is the old Sunset Fuel building some will recall seeing on Powell Blvd; it's set into an industrial space that's still surrounded by light industry (to get to the parking lot in the back, you have to dodge workers and trucks). Inside, the space is a mixture of motifs. The rafters supporting a curved roof have been exposed, giving the space a grandeur and height, but the space still feels industrial. Powell, with four lanes of roaring traffic visible through large front windows, does not allay the effect.

More interesting are the architectural features, like a curved bar surmounted by a scultpture of 42 bike frames,
looking something like the skeleton of a giant snake. In the bathroom, two banana seats from 70s bikes have been mounted above the urinals. Not all the elements work. The northwest corner features a huge, round window--the first thing you see, actually, when you're heading east on Powell--that also harkens back to the 70s, and not in a good way.

But perhaps the best metaphor for the way Ettinger designed the bu
ildings is outside: pony kegs have been cut in half lengthways to create planters. Kegs are objects of modernity, of industry--steel and sleek and wholly non-natural. The space outside the pub is similarly gritty, so the appearance of fragile blooms in this context is slightly disorienting. Ettinger's brewery, which is a recycled, eco-wonder in a super-urban setting, is much the same. It's pure Portland, and that's probably why it's so popular.

Beer
After stints at three breweries and brewing school, Ettinger honed his style at Laurelwood. Much like his pub, the beer appeals to most and alienates a few. Hops come first, and not delicately--though he does seem to favor porters and stouts as well. But what characterizes his style most is a very dry palate. This accentuates a husk quality of the malt and draws out the long hoppy finishes. I'll confess to finding it prickly. At Laurelwood, there were only a couple of beers to which I really gravitated. I wasn't surprised to find that was the case at Hopworks. Of course, its this very quality that has earned Ettinger such a loyal following, so adjust for your tastes accordingly. Here are capsule reviews of the beer currently on tap (April 2008):
Doppelbock (seasonal) - Fruity-nutty aroma. Looks like dark maple syrup. Thick and chewy body. Surprising fruitiness, as of an ale and also some bubblegum-and-spice phenolics. Although it's thick, I found it not particularly complex of malt. (Rating: C+)

Organic Lager [5.1%/11.5° Plato/32 IBU] - Brewed with Saaz and pilsner malt, it is a lovely golden color. A bit slight on the tongue, and bearing an unmistakeable honey note, it deviates from the pilsner style. Hops do add crispness and it refreshes. The finish is astringent. (Rating: B)

Velvet ESB [5.2%/13.5° P/30 IBU] - Deep amber, wonderful head. Toasty sweet first note gives way to the house astringency and an extremely dry finish. I'd like a bit more body and a sweeter terminal note. (Rating: B-)

Porter (Seasonal) - Wonderful smoky, roasted-coffee aroma. Smoky palate; smooth and creamy. Middle supported by a dark-fruit malting. Flavor lingers after a swallow. Very nice beer. (Rating: B+)

El Diablo (seasonal, brewed with Ardenne yeast) - Gorgeous beer, with an aroma of singed rubber. Sweet palate with notes of licorice, banana, and lemon candy. Funky and Belgian.

Crosstown Pale [5.3%/12.5° P/45 IBU] - An intense, slightly catty hop aroma. In the mouth, not quite as intense as you anticipate. Floral and volatile hopping. Malt sweetness balances the beer and offsets the house astringency. Delicate and refined beer. (Rating: B+)

Deluxe Organic aka "DOA" [1.9%/16.8° P/ 55 IBU] - I wonder if this beer was an answer to Rogue Dead Guy--it is similar, but an improvement. Call it comfort beer for the mouth. It is thick and hearty, slightly sweet, but with enough hopping to add interest. The malt is meaty, like a meal, even slightly savory and carmelized. It's a mouth-pleaser, and my favorite. (Rating: A-)

Survival Stout [5.3%/15° P/35 IBU] - Includes seven malts (and nicknamed "7-Grain Stout")--barley, wheat, oats, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, and kamut, and Egyptian grain. Unfortunately, it also includes a healthy dose of Stumptown coffee, which overwhelms the subtlety you might find in the quinoa, say. It's a bit sour, dark and roasty, and includes that astringent finish. I would love to try a decaf version of the beer. (Rating: C+)

IPA [6.6%/15° P/ 75 IBU] - The beer that most exemplifies the hops and astringency of the brewery, and I think the most popular. I have reviewed it in the past: "Ettinger made a minor specialty of beers with Amarillo and/or Ahtanum hops--both of which appear in this IPA. Hops react differently on the tongues of different tasters, and on mine, these have a slightly harsh, chemical signature." Still my view, but yours may well differ.
Food
I will update this post when I have tried the food. As it was, we had a happy hour salad and thick-cut steak fries, both of which were tasty, but don't provide any real insight into the kitchen. A pdf of the regular menu is here, the happy hour menu is here, and the kids menu is here. (It's probably good I didn't try the food--early reviews are not positive. I'll give them some time to get their mojo working. Sometimes it takes pubs a little longer with food, their attention being so firmly on beer.)

[Note: post updated 4/29]

Papazian's New Blog

Charlie Papazian, pied piper of homebrewing, has a blog. I've been watching it for a couple weeks to see if he actually keeps it current, and so far he has. And, while there's plenty of Beertown-related* content, there's also a fair amount that looks like standard blogging--idiosnycratic posts about things that interest the blogger. In fact, he even says that's his goal.
Some people think that whenever I write about beer and brewers I put on a hat and preach on behalf of small, craft and homebrewers. Let me assure you I do not wear a hat when I write.

What I write is what I feel and I’m not writing to wave any banners. There is no group of individuals I have encountered that is as community bound, quality minded and convivial as those who make beer. My regard for most brewers is heartfelt.
Charlie's strengths have never expressed themselves in beautiful prose. But he does have as much history and experience with American craft brewing and homebrewing as anyone, so his insights may be worth watching. I'll link him in my blogroll, so check in from time to time.


___________
*Beertown is the internet hub of Papazian's universe, including the Homebrewers and Brewers Associations and their related activities (Zymurgy, GABF, etc.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beervana Expands by Eight Percent

Yesterday afternoon, Oregon Brewers Guild Director Brian Butenschoen put out a press release filled with wonderful news:
Figures released today by the Oregon Brewers Guild show 2007 was a banner year for Oregon’s craft brewing industry as production across the state grew at a rate of 8.1 percent. Total beer production for the state was approximately 860,000 barrels, or 285 million bottles of beer. That is an increase of more than 64,000 barrels, up from 796,000 barrels in 2006.
Oregon's brewing industry has been in a remarkable period of growth--over 60% since 2003, when the total barrelage was just 537,000. The numbers speak for themselves:
  • Of the beer brewed in-state, more than 11.4 percent, or 308,000 barrels, were purchased and consumed in Oregon.
  • Oregon breweries producing 42 percent of all draft beer consumed in the state. This is the highest percentage of local craft draft beer consumption in the country.
  • 2007 marks the first year that Oregon brewers have sold more than 300,000 barrels in state.
  • According to the Beer Institute, Oregon produces more beer than any state without a national brewery.
  • Widmer Brewing produced 283,000 barrels (8.8 million gallons) in 2007, the most of any brewery in the state.
Of course, we have no way of knowing what the effect of the hop shortage will be on breweries in 2008. Even more importantly, we only have production numbers, not revenues--which may take the biggest hit thanks to the hop and barley price spikes.

But the takeaway is unmistakeable. Oregon entered the new century as the pace-setter for American craft brewing, and the state's breweries have only picked up steam. While a good part of this is brewery's success in the national market, it's clear that the real advantage our brewers enjoy is the home market. Our capacity to drink good beer continues to grow, which means each year a new cohort of good-beer drinkers is added to the ranks . This, more than the fickle national trends, will continue to bouy the market even when an inevitable downturn does arrive.

Congrats and cheers to the men and women who make Beervana Beervana--

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Visuals to Distract You From the Lack of Words

I've been pretty slammed lately, which explains the lame blogging. It continues. Still, I meant to post pics. First up, Widmer expansion:




Next, a reminder that Spring once visited Portland. These are from exactly one month ago:









Down at Waterfront Park, obviously. That's the Steel Bridge you see.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Passive Drinking?

This seems totally misguided to me, but then again, I'm a beer blogger:
The campaigns to combat the effects of ‘passive smoking’ are widely credited for Europe’s growing number of smoking bans. Now alcohol is in the sights of the public health lobbyists, and they have invented the concept of ‘passive drinking’ as their killer argument....

‘EU experts agreed that the strategy needed to show more clearly the facts concerning harm on third parties (both social and health), including children and other family members of persons with alcohol-related problems. Experts said that there, for information and pedagogic reasons, was a need for a good phrase to explain what we mean by third-party harm in the alcohol field – reference was made to the phrase “passive smoking”.’
The intention--beyond "pedagogic" ones--have to do with a calculation related to "social harms."
The draft report doesn’t mince its words when it comes to estimating the social harms of alcohol. ‘The total tangible cost of alcohol to EU society in 2003 was estimated to be €125bn (€79bn-€220bn), equivalent to 1.3 per cent GDP, and which is roughly the same value as that found recently for tobacco.’ (2) The report further highlights the broader social cost of drinking, with the proviso that ‘these estimates are subject to a wide margin of error, [and] they are likely to be an underestimate of the true gross social cost of alcohol’.

‘The intangible costs show the value people place on pain, suffering and lost life that occurs due to the criminal, social and health harms caused by alcohol’, says the report. ‘In 2003 these were estimated to be €270bn, with other ways of valuing the same harms producing estimates between €150bn and €760bn.’

I try not to do politics here, but this seems like a backwards solution to an ill-defined problem.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Candidates and Beer

We turn now to our man in Pennsylvania, who has a nice post about the candidates and their beer drinking. (Finally, an issue we can actually use to make a decision.) Since I have no personal insight, I'm turning everything over to Lew:
See the great picture above (from today's Philadelphia Inquirer's, taken by Sarah J. Glover) of Obama at Bethlehem Brew Works, teeing up for a beer with Peg Fegley -- looks like maybe he's got an ESB? (Yes, that's what it was, according to an e-mail from BBW, and the Senator's reaction was "Now that's a good beer. I like that. That's good stuff.") Hillary had a photo op boilermaker in Indiana -- appropriate, in Purdue-land -- and is reported in today's Inky as being fond of Blue Moon with an orange slice (oh my, a Democrat, drinking a Coors product, that's made in Canada? Oh, the humanity!).

Kidding aside, folks, this is good. Everything that puts beer or whiskey (anyone know what whiskey Hillary drank in Indiana? Ruch, I'm not posting any comments from you...) in the mainstream, as part of a normal person's life -- which it is -- is good. Showing national figures drinking one drink without going on a mad binge is good.

And, well, Obama in a brewpub...that's freakin' gold, people.
Advantage: Obama.

Bonus pic:


Sneak Preview: Widmer Brrr!

Here's an interesting question to which I do not know the answer: has any beer ever been released without vowels in its name? I ask because over the weekend I got a chance to try Widmer's '08 winter seasonal, the vowelless Brrr.

The Widmers unveiled the beer at a private event that served as a thank you to the Widmer extended family (a big family--500?) to celebrate the opening of their new expansion. (I have pictures that I'll post later today--John has some, too.) That expansion includes a new "52,000-square-foot, three-level brewery addition that features new fermentation facilities," (explains Foyston from his recap), "the relocation of keg washing and filling, new cold keg and bottle storage, an additional shipping dock and expanded lab and office space." The keg-washing line includes two impressive robot arms to tote kegs. The new facilities bump up capacity to over a half-million barrels. (Widmer's the 11th-largest brewery in the country and Oregon's biggest.)

The Brrr is actually not a new beer, but a repackaged version of their W '06 Hoppy Red Ale. You may recall this as one of the first NW Big Reds, a variant of strong ales that has emerged as a recognizeable style. Here's what I wrote about it two years ago, a critique I'd level at this very green version of Brrr:
I found the beer to be the ale equivalent of Starbucks--a strong, I'd call it harsh bitterness, but thin and out of balance. The flavors are all strong: a clear hop bitterness (no funky NW hopping); a strong alcohol bite; a soapy maltiness; and a resinous finish that coats the mouth.
This is characteristic of the style--short on malt, long on hops. The style is a tip of the hat to those who have a distilled sense of what they like in beer: green, glorious, bitter hopping. I am hopeful that Brrr will transcend the style a bit, or perhaps inform it. The sense of being out of balance might be mitigated somewhat by a little age. I'm hoping the Widmers will be using some of their expanded capacity to put the beer aside for six months so that when winter rolls around, it will

Monday, April 21, 2008

Full Sail Gets Green "BEST" Award

Further evidence that breweries are at the very vangard of green business. Following the Lucky Lab's new solar array and Hopworks' new green building, Full Sail has announced that the Portland Office of Sustainable Development has awarded it a "BEST" Award. That's the Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow award, offered to Full Sail for “demonstrating excellence in business practices that promote economic growth and environmental benefits.”

Full Sail's eco-efforts:
Efficient brewhouse: The brewery is as sustainable and efficient as possible, starting with the parts of the building that were reclaimed and recycled when the brewery first opened in the old Diamond Fruit cannery. The company utilizes energy measures such as energy-efficient lighting and air compressors, and compresses the work week into four very productive days, which helps reduce water and energy consumption by 20 percent.

Sustainable brew process: While average breweries consume six to eight gallons of water for every gallon of beer produced, Full Sail has reduced its consumption to a mere 3.45 gallons, and operates its own on-site wastewater treatment facility.

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: Full Sail uses 100% recycled paperboard on all its packaging (and was one of the first in the industry to commit to long-term purchasing of recycled paper products). Everything from office paper to glass to stretch wrap to wooden pallets is recycled. Even dairy cows are beneficiaries of brewery waste: 4,160 tons of spent grain and 1,248 tons of spent yeast are sent back to farmers every year to use as feed for cows.

Community-wide practices: Full Sail purchases 140 blocks of Pacific Power Blue Sky renewable energy per month. This practice results in the reduction of 168 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of planting 33,000 trees. Full Sail also supports over 300 events and charities each year, with a focus on those in the Hood River area.... Full Sail was a founding member of the Hood River Chamber of Commerce’s Green Smart program, an initiative that helps businesses and organizations within the Hood River watershed increase their productivity and profitability by improving resource efficiency and by reducing waste and pollution.
Congrats to the 47 owners out there in Hood River.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Deschutes' Portland Pub

T-minus 13 days and counting until Deschutes' western outpost in the Pearl opens. They popped for a $5 million joint, and John's got the pictures (18 in all). Of interest: the space-age brewing system, salvaged-timer bar, and the massive urinals. (Yes, urinals.) Foyston describes it as "not snooty," which is reassuring. Go have a look.

(Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the VIP invitation to the opening bash. Just, you know, in case anyone's reading.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Best Town for Beer? Bad Question

When Stan Hieronymus posted his defense of Portland, it precipitated a little debate about whether Portland was the best beer city in the US. Portland was definitely ahead in the popular vote:
Portland wins, hands down in my opinion. There are, what, 30 breweries/brewpubs in Portland? Throw in all the strip clubs and it’s no contest whatsoever.
--Eddie Glick

Plus, don’t sheer numbers work in P’land’s favor? It’s got more breweries per capita than any city in the world, right? So if you want a brew tour, well, logistically, P’land oughta be the place to go.
--Maureen

Portland Wins, I haven’t done due diligence on exploring the Portland beer scene, but I am soon to correct that oversight.
--Thomas
And so on. But what caught my attention were the dissenters:
Denver!? Portland!? Weren’t you paying attention when Philadelphia declared itself the best beer city? 8^P
--Mallace

I’m going to make my regional claim for Sonoma County. Napa can have the wine, we make the best beer in the country. Bear Republic, Lagunitas, Russian River and Moonlight highlight the breweries in the county with Marin Brewing just south of the county line and Anderson Valley to the north among others in Mendocino county.
--Mario
I don't doubt that Portland can credibly defend its claim as the best city for beer. By any standard, we win (sorry Mario). We have the most breweries and the most good-beer pubs; we drink the most beer; we have the most good beer; and most importantly, we have the largest number of educated, knowledgeable beer drinkers. (Best beer? Of course--but that's a subjective statement, so I'll just leave it here in the safety of parentheses.)

Then again, so what? Enumerating these facts amounts to cataloguing answers to other questions. But Best beer town? It's misses the point. A town becomes a good beer town when it can support a local brewing scene that is organic, lively, and unique. I went to grad school in Madison, and that was becoming a good beer town when I lived there 15 years ago. But it was a different kind of beer town. With the long history of German immigration, Badgers were much more interested in the beers of their ancestors. As a result, Capital, Sprecher, and New Glarus all specialized in or heavily featured lagers. It is in the heart of America's breadbasket, so no surprise that malt-first beers are a fave.

My (wholly uninformed) sense of Denver brewing is that it is aimed at a population who's famously sporty: they take their beer with them, and they don't want it to be too heavy or alcoholic to slow them down. So Colorado beers are lighter, less hoppy, and less alcoholic.

The Philly thing? No idea, but maybe someone can describe its unique qualities.

In Portland, we drink in pubs. It's because the weather is grim half the year. Not cold enough to keep us from going out, but a pretty constant state of 45-degree grayness. So we go for a little liquid warmth, gathering in pubs with friends. (We also go to a lot of movies.) The northwest has developed a palate that appreciates intense flavors, so it's not surprising that we like the beer to be fairly green from hops. (Not to mention that this is where they're grown, and we tend to like fresh, organic things.)

It's actually pretty depressing to visit towns that haven't yet grown into their beer scene yet. Due to the McMenamins and the overall success Portland has had with beer, often you see a pale facsimile in other towns. So I like to visit places where the vibe and beer styles are different. If Denver had the same kind of beer and was like a Southeastern version of Portland, we'd lose something.

My fantasy for the US is that regions begin to develop their own character so that when I travel around, it's like moving from Dublin to London to Brussels to Munich. Wouldn't that be cool?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

FredFest '08

I rarely post press releases verbatim, but this announcement of FredFest '08 warrants it because of time-sensitivity. There are but 200 tickets available, and they're on sale now. (Incidentally, organizers set the ticket price high so that they would be able to make a nice donation to Parkinson's Resources of Oregon. [Most] Everything's been donated, including volunteer time and beer, so the full $10k goes to charity. [See below.*]) Here goes, with bolding added to highlight the details I find especially juicy:
What started as a surprise 80th birthday party for world-renowned beer writer Fred Eckhardt is coming back around in its third year as a fundraiser in the memory of fellow beer scribe, Michael Jackson, also known as the Beer Hunter.

More than 15 rare and unique beers created by some of Oregon 's most celebrated breweries will be on tap at FredFest 2008. The event will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 10 -- the actual date of Eckhardt's 82nd birthday -- at Hair of the Dog Brewing, 4509 SE 23rd Avenue in Portland .

The beer menu is still being firmed up, but brewers are promising to pony up something special for the event. The number of beers for FredFest will increase from last year, according to co-organizer and chief beer wrangler Preston Weesner. Some of the breweries that already have committed to the event include: Hair of the Dog (with a special keg of Jim 07), BridgePort , Deschutes , Widmer, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Rogue and Firestone Walker.

Attendees will be treated not only to a rare assortment of hand-selected beers, but also light fare including pastrami cured with Hair of the Dog Fred ale and a birthday cake -- complete with a round of "Happy Birthday" -- for Eckhardt. Cheeses, chocolate, candy and even cereal will be offered in abundance so attendees can experience some of Eckhardt's famed beer-and-food pairings.

Cost for the event is $50 in advance and includes a souvenir glass, free ticket for a raffle of bottled specialty beers and four hours' of sampling, sipping and story-telling with Eckhardt. Admission is limited to 200 attendees. Judging from previous years, the event is expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are available through Pay-Pal. E-mail fredfest@comcast.net to purchase tickets.

Additionally, this year, a silent auction featuring bottles of rare beers running in conjunction with FredFest, allowing Fred fans across the country to be a part of Eckhardt's birthday and the FredFest celebration and fundraiser.

As always, proceeds from FredFest and the related online auction will go to a charity of Eckhardt's choice. This year, Eckhardt named Parkinson's Resources of Oregon, the local affiliate chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation, as the featured charity in memory of his longtime friend and fellow beer writer Michael Jackson, who died in 2007 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
In case you've forgotten, it was Jim '07 that almost started riots at the Holiday Ale Fest.

____________________
Clarification from the Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison: "Unfortunately, not EVERYTHING is dontated. We have to pay for some items such as the port-a-potty, food, water, utensils, etc. That's why we upped the price this year -- so we could make sure the donation was substantial even after paying off everything we need to."

"We do hope that with the raffle and the silent auction, we will be able to give Parkinson's Resources of Oregon a check for at least $10,000! They are hoping to hire a case worker to further help the families and suffers of Parkinsons this summer. It would be great if FredFest and our beer community helped make that happen!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More on Stumptown Tart

Apparently everyone got invited to BridgePort to taste Stumptown Tart but me. We've got three reports out from Ken Kane, Angelo De Ieso, John Foyston. Given my level of interest in this beer (high) and my personal knowledge (low), I therefore pass it along. Still no info on exactly how brewer Karl Ockert got it sour, but Angelo describes the inspiration:
“I’ve always been impressed with a good friend of mine in New Glarus, Wisconsin named Dan Carey who makes something called the New Glarus Red” explains Ockert. “It’s a really great Belgian cherry red ale with a really delicious little tart, sour finish to it. So I wanted to do something like that. So, I emailed him to ask him how to do that. And he promptly emailed back and said, ‘I’ll tell you about anything else in the brewery, but I won’t tell you how I make New Glarus Belgian reds.’ So I kind of came up with this one on my own.”
Carey, who spent time in Portland--the link eludes me now, damn bad memory--famously pioneered sour ales back in the 90s. He has been hectored for well over a decade to reveal his secret, but no dice:
New Glarus owner and brewer Dan Carey happened to pass through Belgium after finishing brewing school in Germany. At the Lindeman brewery, he fell in love with kriek, a lambic brewed with cherries. For six years, he perfected his own version, beginning long before he and his wife opened their brewery in 1992. The biggest hurdle for anyone trying lambics is approximating the yeast character, a puckery tartness, which in Belgium is achieved through spontaneous (meaning au naturel, without adding yeast) fermentation. (Later, when he adds the Wisconsin Door County cherries, Carey also adds ale yeast.)

[That's actually from a column I wrote a decade ago.]
So Ockert had to figure it out himself. On to Foyston, who notes this detail:
The beer is called a Belgian style, but it uses BridgePort's house yeast and not the Belgian yeast used in the brewery's short-lived Supris golden ale of a couple of years ago.
And Kane elaborates:
Ockert began with a strong golden ale with very little hops (8 percent ABV but only 8 IBUs). “This is one Northwest ale that doesn’t feature Northwest hops,” he said. But it does feature a ton of Oregon marionberries … literally 2,000 pounds, which works out to more than a pound per gallon. Two-thirds of the original golden ale was refermented with the berries. The other third was aged in French oak casks which had previously held pinor noir from Carlton Wine Studio. After several months of aging, the two radically different beers were blended at the beginning of April.
And everyone mentions that it's probably a one-of-a-kind beer that the brewery may never brew again, and there are only 1,800 cases of 22-ounce bottles (21,600 bottles, 29,700 pints). So when it comes out on the 24th, best make haste. I plan to--

Good Beer Guide to the West Coast

Dave wants you to to buy a new book: the Good Beer Guide to the West Coast.
All the topics I envisioned are covered extremely well, even including a note about the Urban Growth Boundary, specs on the Aerial Tram, and a good overview of the McMenamin brothers burgeoning empire. The just-published book is by-and-large very up-to-date, with reviews of the just-opened Hopworks (they tried the IPA at OBF), Laurelwood’s Sandy location, the excellent Bailey’s Taproom, and many more.
Go read his review, or if you're feeling plucky, just buy the book.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beervana Responds

Joel Stein has an article in Time Magazine that lauds Denver as the "best place for brewery-touring." By all accounts, Denver's a good beer town. As are Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Normally, I could overlook an article putting Denver on top--what's a quibble between cities. But the Stein has to go and say something like this:
Sure, Portland, Ore., has more microbrew outlets, but many of its 46 brewhouses are brewpubs, which produce beer only for their own bars, and part of the fun of a beer tour is seeing where bottles you can buy at home are manufactured.
He qualifies what he thinks of as "best" this way:
The best place for brewery-touring is Denver, partly because of its water, partly because it's the home of Coors and partly because skier, mountain-biker and hiker dudes love them some beer.... [D]enver, dubbed the Napa of Beer, is the most tourist-friendly. It has 74 breweries within 100 miles (160 km) of downtown, restaurants that often offer beer-vs.-wine pairings, the yearly Great American Beer Festival and the country's first chief beer officer.
It's one thing to cite Denver as the best, and it might even be permissible to slag Portland in doing so (at least it demonstrates you realize what the competition is), but to go on and give Denver the nod because it is the home to Coors and is also the Napa of Beer--well, that's going too far. Stein has officially identified himself as a bonehead.

Normally, I would take the wood to him myself, but instead, I turn over the floor to Brian Butenschoen, Director of the Oregon Brewer's Guild, who quickly put out the stats (compressed slightly and re-formatted). Denver's the best beer town? You be the judge.
Within 120 miles from Portland you have:
  • 68 breweries producing about 660,000 BBL's of beer.
  • The largest all craft beer festival, attendance wise, in the U.S. at 60,000 people in Portland.
  • Portland currently has 32 breweries if you still count BJ's, and Deschutes - which opens May 2nd.
  • Portland has the Horse Brass.
  • Portland is the largest craft beer market in the United States.
  • Oregon breweries supply about 40% of the beer sold on draft in Oregon.
Denver has 10 breweries - could be less or more:
  • Craft breweries in Colorado lag about 100 to 200,000 BBL's behind Oregon in production.
  • Denver has the GABF, the North American beer fest with the most beers to try.
  • Denver has the Falling Rock.
  • Coloradoans cannot buy craft beer in the supermarket.
  • Colorado has probably 15-16 packaging breweries I've had out of the bottle.
Oregon has a very strong and very unique relationship to craft beer on draft. Craft beer by volume made in the US was 3.8% in 2007. In Oregon, about 40% of the draft beer sold in Oregon is made in Oregon.

I think it's pretty interesting that if Denver is the Napa Valley of beer that the author only names going to two Denver breweries, Wynkoop and Bull and Bush while in Denver.
A pretty fair rebuttal.

[Update: the estimable New Mexican Stan Hieronymus puts his vote in for the Rose City. ]

Beervana Bests - The Pubs and Alehouses

Beer fans visiting Portland are confronted with a quandry: how do you get a sense of Beervana's diversity without having to visit every brewpub in town? My suggestion is this: visit a brewpub or three (by all means!), but then go to one of the pubs listed below. They all feature a wide range of great beer from across the state, obviating the need to pub-crawl.

I did a poll of readers' favorite pubs, and unsurprisingly, the famous Horse Brass came out on top. It is certainly in my list below, but I'll buck convention and start off my descriptions with my favorite, Bailey's Taproom.

Bailey's Taproom
213 SW Broadway [map]
(503) 295-1004
Mon-Sat 4p - Midnight
Website
  • Ambiance: Austere and clean. With its spaciousness and exposed brick, iit has a coffee-house feel--Brussels more than Starbucks. It has two walls that are mostly windows, so whatever light the clouds allow are available inside. Although it looks a little upscale when you walk in, it's unpretentious and draws a wide variety of clientele, from construction workers to businesspeople.
  • Beer List: The twenty best-selected taps in town in constant rotation. Bailey's features few or no international selections, and 75% or more are Oregon and Washington beers. They are selected for their range and innovation, and I've never failed to find something rare and unique there. Beers come from all over Oregon and Washington, not just Portland (handy if you're not traveling around the state).
  • Food: Just cheese and chocolate--no meals or appertisers. Again, the coffeehouse feel.
  • Pros: Imperial pints, free wi-fi, a small, good wines also available, no smoking.
  • Cons: No food makes for shorter sessions.


Horse Brass Pub
4534 SE Belmont [map]
Mon-Fri: 11a -2:30a, Sat-Sun: 9a - 2:30a
(503) 232-2202
Website
  • Background/Ambiance: The venerable Horse Brass dates back to the pre-micro period in Portland pubs. And, while it's ostensibly an English-style pub, a lot about it reminds me of an earlier time when Portland was a downscale, working-class city. It is warm and cozy and generally cloudier inside than it is out on the sidewalk. Although the building sprawls, there are cubbies and niches, making it feel snug. (There are also long, party-accommodating tables.) Have a beer at the bar, and you're likely to encounter amiable drinkers who can tell you the stats of their favorite beers, along with a few exaggerations and rumors about its origins. If you want to thank someone for the amazing pub culture we have in Beervana, look for the skinny, smoking, long-haired guy at the bar. That's Don Younger, who founded the Horse Brass, and his version of convivial, pleasant drinking and good beer created the blueprint for others to follow.
  • Beer List: 52 taps, with a wide variety of beers from Oregon. Younger has a long relationship with many brewers, so you'll often find beers at the Horse Brass that are pouring nowhere else in the city. Also, look to see what cask ales are available--at least a couple will be on tap.
  • Food: Hardy, well-made English fare, if "well-made" can ever be used to describe scotch eggs and bangers. I kid--it's good stuff, especially for a pub. (Menu here.)
  • Pros: Imperial pints, darts.
  • Cons: Smoky, loud.

Green Dragon Pub
928 SE 9th Ave [map]
(503) 517-0606
Sun - Wed: 11a - 11p; Thur-Sat: 11a - 1a
  • Ambiance: The Green Dragon was originally planned as a brewpub and is in the warehouse formerly occupied by the long-struggling Yamhill Brewing. When you walk in, it looks a little like the "bistro" of the title (the official name is Green Dragon Bistro and Brewpub), but if you veer left and walk through the door, you'll find a bar in a vast, drafty open space. Looking through the windows, you can see the moorish-looking pot still of Integrity Spirits, which occupies the adjacent space and makes absinthe (among other things).
  • Beer List: The Green Dragon has 20 taps well-selected taps, representing the best of West Coast brewing, plus some international selections. It's not the best place to find a broad selection of Oregon beer, but the taps they have will be excellent choices. Nearly every Tuesday, they host a local brewer who brings and discusses his beer (7 pm).
  • Food: Exceptional food for a beer-focused pub. The intention was to look toward Belgium and offer cafe-style food. The mussels are especially good, but I've never had anything bad there. Light fare and a good happy hour menu (4-6p).
  • Pros: Fantastic food, non-smoking.
  • Cons: Could be more Oregon taps; pints of dubious ounces.

Henry's Tavern
10 NW 12th Ave [map]
(503) 227-5320
Sun-Thur: 11a -11p, Fri-Sat: 11a - midnight
website
  • Background/Ambiance: Henry's is located in what was, until 1998, the Henry Weinhard brewery--the 150-year-old anchor of downtown. Many of us therefore regard the soulless, corporate creation that now inhabits it with scorn. It looks like any of the modern corporate restaurants in the neighboring Pearl--vaguely urban, industrial, upscale, and generic. But after you get past all that, go sit at the bar, smile ruefully at the silly ice strip on the bar (what real beer geek wants his beer frozen?), and look at the beer menu. Then you'll understand why it gets a mention.
  • Beer List: There are around 100 taps at the Henry, and the majority come from Oregon. It's the one place I know that carries Caldera, Walking Man, Ninkasi, Double Mountain, and Hair of the Dog beers as standards. Add a dozen or so seasonals (for example, as I write this, they're pouring Deschutes' The Abyss), and it's hard to beat for one-stop Beervana delights. Put a Blue Dot in your hand, and everything looks good.
  • Food: Somewhat pro-forma hodgepodge of upscale salads, burgers, Chinese, midrange seafood, and pasta. The food alone is no reason to visit.
  • Pros: No smoking, amazingly broad beer list, happy hour 3-6p.
  • Cons: Shaker pints, overpriced, atmosphere is dreary, massive TVs are intrusive (except during Blazer games).
Other good options
Produce Row is a bit of Portland history: it was originally owned and operated by the McMenamins before they went into the brewpub business. It's got a very old-school Portland vibe, and the beer list is generally pretty broad (204 SE Oak St). Concordia Ale House, just south of Kennedy School, has a dozen plus taps and good food and feels like a brewpub (3276 NE Killingsworth St). Higgins Restaurant is one of the best in the city, and can be credited with starting the good-food revolution in Portland. They also have an amazing beer list, though the emphasis is foreign (especially Belgian) beers, mostly in bottles. There are a dozen or so taps, and about half will feature Oregon beer (1239 SW Broadway). The Moon and Sixpence is similar to the Horse Brass, but with less character and fewer taps (15 +/-)--but all the smoke! (2014 NE 42nd Ave). On the West Side is the venerable Dublin Pub, which played a role in the microbrew movement. It was here that the Widmers first launched their strange (at the time), cloudy beers with a lime wedge on the side. Soon, everyone in Portland wanted a Hefeweizen. It still features 80+ taps and a great Oregon selection (6821 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy). Finally, in my old neighborhood is the County Cork, a nice non-smoking Irish pub with 20 taps that is family-friendly and wonderfully laid-back. Nice patio outside, and good fish n' chips (1329 NE Fremont St).

[Note: post was updated to include more information on 4/16]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Changes at the McMenamins

A couple of nights ago, Sally and I tried to go to Hopworks. We arrived at about six-thirty, and there was a 40-minute wait (unless the HUBsters catastrophically mis-budgeted, that's got to be great news). So we zipped over to the Barley Mill instead.

As you walk in now, there is a little station immediately to your left that looks like a maitre'd's, with a wee little podium surmounted by a glowing flat panel computer. There's another one in the adjacent room. As we learned from our (extremely gracious) waiter, these are brand-new, and they have the potential to noticeably alter your experience. For the past 20 years, the process went like this: waiters manned the restaurant, and then at the end of the evening, everyone split the tips, including some (all?) of the kitchen staff. (In the very distant past--and maybe this was the case through last week--staff rotated jobs, working in the kitchen some days, and as waiters some days. So sharing made obvious sense.)

No more. Now, as in a more traditional restaurant, your waiter is your's alone. The tips you offer go to her and her alone. In fact, while it may evolve, our waiter said there's no provision now for the lucre to migrate back to the kitchen. What this means is that the bolshevik attitude has given way to a more steely-eyed capitalist mode, where in waiters can boost their take by speed and grace. Our waiter said his tips doubled, which was no surprise to me--he was one of the best I've seen in two decades of McMenamin-going.

I'll be watching and looking to see if this affects service, which has at times been ... lax. You can report back on your experiences as well.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stumptown Tart

A coupla years back, BridgePort made a fairly respectable foray into Belgian style brewing with its golden Supris. However, though it was a nice beer, I think it must have been a flop. They tried to do some astroturf-y viral advertising, and promoted it heavily, but it may have been a little ahead of its time, flavor-wise. It vanished, never to be spoken of again.

I was therefore rather surprised to see John Foyston's short piece on their newest release, apparently a fruit-lambic style ale. Apparently they weren't too badly singed by the Supris experiment. I don't have any info, save what's available (in hyper capitalized syntax) on the website:
Stumptown Tart is more than just a pretty face. She's a strong beer with a pink hue who packs a tart kick... beauty has never been more potent. This Oregon Marion Berry Infused Belgian Style Ale is lightly hopped and aged in French Oak Pinot Noir Barrels. So, pucker up, there's a new lady in town.
Will it be a true lambic? Will it be sour enough to please the Cantillonistas? Will it crack Beervana open for Belgian-style ales? We'll have to wait until April 24 to find out. You can visit the brewery then at five for free samples (1313 NW Marshall).

(Incidentally, hat tip to Foyston, who wrote about this in Beer Notes. The Oregonian's webpage is now hopelessly impossible to navigate--or search. You might be able to read his column there, and good luck to you.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hop Talk

John Foyston has posted an article (not exactly clear who wrote it) about the movement to plant new acres of hops in response to the hop shortage--and concomitant rise in prices.

Washington, Oregon and Idaho grew hops on 30,911 acres last year, according to industry figures.

Growers are feverishly reconditioning yards and adding new land at an unheard-of pace. Growers are receiving multiple-year contracts with prices front-loaded to help them shoulder the estimated $6,000-per-acre cost to plant yards and also upgrade equipment....

Northwest hop acreage, which expanded by about 2,000 acres last year as the lack of supply became apparent, could grow by another 5,000 acres this year.

Ralph Olson, general manager of grower-owned HopUnion of Yakima, a buyer who deals primarily with smaller craft brewers, thinks the figure may be closer to 8,000 acres by the time all is said and done. That would be a jump of nearly 25 percent in acreage in one year.

"The expansion is being driven by demand," Olson said. "Part of it stems from this being an international market. You have a lot of Eastern Europeans who have the Euro, a strong currency now. They are short and have a huge demand for hops from anywhere. They will pay whatever.

Foyston also sent out an email about the article, and two brewers responded. Since they weren't commenting for attribution, I'll leave the names off, but the content is interesting. Brewer A began with some sober caveats to the news:
I want to remind folks that hops take two years to produce substantial amounts of hops. Also, there were many low alpha crops pulled to plant higher alpha hops, which means next year could be even shorter in supply. Those new hops won't produce this year. I am not trying to destroy hope, and there should at least be a little more out there, but I am being asked to contract hops forward until 2012, which is totally nuts. I should not have to commit to pricing that far in advance.

One last thing to consider is that world beer production is on the rise. The Chinese have made huge growth in their new economic situation and people are drinking beer. Problem is they need hops too. The good news is that in the future there will be more hops, just maybe not this summer.
Point taken. But then Brewer B decided to kindle hope a little more. Said he:
Yakima grown hops produce a small crop the first year.
So take from it what you will.

I do want to add one more piece, though. To elaborate on Brewer A's comment, the total acreage of hops doesn't tell the whole story. The industrial brewers don't add hops for flavor, but to balance the (albeit paltry) malt--at levels below detection. Their interest is in the highest-alpha hops available (that is, the most bitter), because these require the smallest amount to do the trick.

Craft brewers, on the other hand, rely on hops to flavor the beer. As you well know, the difference between varieties is broad, and craft brewers rely mainly on middle- to high-middle hop varieties.

The next thing we need to learn is which hop varieties the growers are planting. Because, if they've ripped out all the Cascades and are replacing them with ultra-high alpha hops, we could all be worse off. So, tentative signs that things are improving, but we should regard them with caution.

WW Kvetches

The meme with steam:
Cheater pints : Ever notice how your beer seems to run out too fast? That’s not just your alcoholism talking—bars all over Portland are shorting patrons who order “pints.” Instead of pouring the standard 16 ounces, pound-foolish pubs such as Lucky’s and hipster darling the Sandy Hut serve scaled-down glasses with thicker walls that hold just 14 ounces. To all but the veteran drunk, these cheater pints can be hard to spot without a regulation glass for comparison. So if you’re suspicious, order a tallboy and ask for a glass. If you fill your “pint” without completely draining the can, you’re in a den of cheap assholes. To understand just how cheap, let’s do the math: Even the most expensive microbrew kegs cost only about $120 wholesale, while a keg of PBR runs more like $65. A keg holds 124 pints, which means even top-shelf beer costs bars less than a dollar a pint, or about 6 cents an ounce. That drops to 3 cents an ounce for the cheap stuff. It’s not that cheater pint-serving bars think your goodwill isn’t worth a dime, they just don’t think it’s worth 12 cents.
(Willamette Week's annual "Kvetch fest.")

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You Loves the Horse Brass

Big surprise.

I have now closed the poll, and with 105 votes in, the Horse Brass is the big winner. But the rest of the findings were less predictable. The next two pubs, which had only slightly less support, have opened in the past year or so. Some of the old standards didn't stack up as well. Below are the final results:
Pub___________________Votes____%
Horse Brass
_____________30____29%
Bailey's Taproom
________25____24%
Green Dragon
____________23____22%
Concordia Ale House
_____11____10%
Moon and Sixpence
________5_____5%
Higgins
__________________4_____4%
Pilsner Room
_____________3_____3%
Produce Row
______________2_____2%
The Henry
________________2_____2%
I guess I thought Produce Row would attract a little more attention, and possibly the Henry (though its upscale vibe and density of Pearlies puts it at odds culturally with the Lucky Lab types whom I assume occupy a large percent of this blog's readership). I'll reflect on my view of our best pubs at least by Saturday. I've been meaning to do it as a part of this series.

Thanks to all who voted--

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cheers to Belgian Beers Winner Announced

This just in from Brian Butenschoen, Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild (bold mine):
We had 289 votes.

In first place was the Lucky Labrador Brewing's Malt Bomb Belgian. In second place was the Laurelwood Brewing's Saison du Arduinna and in third place was the Alameda Brewhouse Lucky Devil.

The first place winner gets to host and name the charity for next year.
I have to say I'm a little shocked by the winner and the absence of any of my faves in the list. Perhaps the collective palate of Beervana has yet to attune itself to Belgian styles. Rarely do I feel so out of step...

Anyway, Congrats to the Lucky Lab!

Your Favorite Portland Pub

I'm going to keep voting open until I get 100 responses (I'm at 75 now). So please vote if you haven't already:
It's nearly a three-way tie so far:
28% Horse Brass
25% Bailey's Taproom
21% Green Dragon
So get your vote in before I close the poll down.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Video: Cheers to Belgian Beers

And here's the vid--super short for easy viewing. (Yes, I realize Edith Piaf is French, not Belgian, but I'm in the ballpark.)


Review: Cheers to Belgian Beers

What an odd scene: at noon, beeristas starting showing up at Roots for the much advertised (including here) noon start for the Cheers to Belgian Beers tasting. Early folks, like me, were sent packing: sorry, it doesn't start til noon. But within a short time, the brewery had shifted gears to accommodate the hordes. By three--the later start time--all the commemorative glassware was gone. No worries, the brewery scrounged up an assortment of wee snifters, asked for a $2 donation, and everyone was happy. This improvisational quality had a retro, 1988 feel, and so did the widespread good cheer with which everyone greeted it.

And then it was on to the beers.

How the Yeast Behaved
By the time I finally arrived (at six, after watching Memphis club UCLA), some of the beers were running out. In the end, I managed to try13 of the 16 pouring. The great value of an experiment like this is that you have a large enough sample size to begin to see the elements and range of the yeast. The Ardennes (La Chouffe) strain used this year didn't produce a particularly strong character to most beers, unlike many Belgian varieties. It's fairly clean and neutral. However, it leaves a lot of unfermentable sugars in the beer.

At least half the beers I tried were overly sweet--and the use of candi sugar by some breweries didn't help matters. My guess is that, given another opportunity, breweries would make adjustments to recipes or allow a longer period of fermentation. But so goes the process of experimentation, right? Another characteristic that cropped up in three or four of the beers was a vegetable quality--like squash or boiled vegetables. Normally one might suspect DMS, but I don't here--I think it's some kinda funky that the yeast kicks off under certain conditions.

Oh, and as a final note, I was surprised that none of the breweries tried a hop monster. Most everyone stuck to fairly traditional interpretations of strong ales and abbeys, and nothing was more than about 30 IBUs (which is to say not at all bitter in these sweet, 6-9% beers). Next time I hope to see breweries take the yeast and get crazy--with adjuncts, unpredictable style selection, and use of hopping rates. So many of the beers on offer were sweet, golden-hued ales that it was a little hard to distinguish them past a certain point.

The Beers
The cream of this particular crop were four beers: Laurelwood Saison de Arfuinna and Roots Farmouse Bruin were fine beers, and the Full Sail Dubbel and Widmer Golden were fantastic. I have heard rumors that the FS didn't actually use the Ardennes yeast, which is both confusing and weird (and, if it wins, will be all the weirder still). I voted for the FS Dubbel, so I'll start with it--but for the moment, let's put an asterisk beside it.

Full Sail Dubbel (7.3%) - a wonderful, rich aroma, the best in the bunch--redolent of freshly-cut wood. I generally think of dubbels as a throwaway style; a beer to drink in the daylight when the tripel is too big. But this was sumptuous--floral yet earthy, malty without being the least sweet (perhaps evidence a different yeast was used), chocolatey and even a bit smoky. It finishes cleanly and very dryly. It has neither the heaviness nor bite of a beer of this size--I would have guessed 5%. If this were available in the bottle, I'd buy it by the case. (It's available at the Pilsner Room)

Widmer Belgian Golden (6.1%) - A beautiful beer, clear and perfectly golden--like Duvel, if that calls anything to mind. A spicy Belgian nose. The palate was the most accutely "Belgian" of all the beers we tried--I doubt Jackson himself could have detected the Yankee inside. The Brothers managed to wring all the residual sugars out of the beer, revealing the capacity of the yeast, which produced a marvelously spicy palate. It was slightly phenolic, adding to the overal complexity. Not at all cloying or sweet in the aftertaste.

The next two were good beers; I tried them early and for a long time thought one would get my vote. Both are availiable at their respective breweries.

Roots Farmhouse Bruin (6.0%) - The lightest of the beers here. The title may suggest a Flanders Brown, but this is more like a rustic, uncategorized ale. The dark malts mellow the sweetness, and brewer Jason McAdam managed to pull a little funk from the strain--sherrylike more than sour.

Laurelwood Saison de Arduinna (6.4%) - I'll admit to some skeptisim of this beer, with its 15 IBUs. However, Chad Kennedy managed to balance the malts with orange and lemon additions (Peel? Which orange? Dunno.)--the result was a very creamy, almost breakfasty beer. Again, he managed keep the beer from cloying, despite adding candi sugar.

Other notes: BJ's Redrum (red ale) tasted more like a dubbel, and like the dubbels I recognize--adequate but without a lot of character. Van Havig experimented with spice for his amber Rock Bottom Floreal Deux, a beer that might eventually balance out but which is a bit strongly spiced at this point. Raccoon Lodge's C'est Dangue had a lot going on, including a funkiness, but also needed more time in the cask. Max's Fanno Creek's Reverend's Daughter was cloying, phenolic, and heavy. Alameda's Lucky Devil was also cloying, and like the R's daughter, had that squash note. Hopwork's El Diablo was a kick in the teeth--very, very strong and sharp. I think Christian Ettinger must have used a fair amount of candi sugar, for it was overly sweet. Could become a masterpiece with age. I had but a sip of Philedelphia's Flemish Brown, which was (intentionally, I'm pretty sure) sour and chocolatey. I'd like to have had more. The McMenamins' Gulden Tijger was more like a tripel than a strong golden, and was heavy and sweet. Finally, the Lucky Lab Malt Bomb seemed to hail from Glasgow rather than Ghent--it was a lovely malty beer that also had the squash character.

I didn't try the Lompoc beers (Mon Cheri and La Diablesse) because they had blown, nor the McMenamin's Blind Abbot, which was one beer more than I was willing to try.

I don't know who won the competition or what next year's yeast will be. As always, details when I receive them.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Future of the Honest Pint Project (No Shaker Pints!)

Well, this little effort of mine is starting to attract attention--and trouble. Some of you may have caught the very nice piece in today's Oregonian by Laura Gunderson (reliably and predictably, it's not online--I mean, why would you post an article about a blog on your website?). She contacted me last week to discuss the project, and then asked for some leads to cheater pint establishments so she could track down some offenders. As you know, I've avoided fingering the scofflaws, preferring instead to reward good behavior. But she had a hard time verifying my findings.

More disturbingly, I have unwittingly wandered into a dispute with Kevin King, owner of the Amnesia. Gunderson began her piece with the event that started off my crusade, which I wrote about here:
I mentioned this to the table of friends when we are at the Amnesia, and they were shocked. So shocked, in fact, that they didn't believe me. So much did one of my friends disbelieve me that she brought the waiter over to set me straight. I stuck to my guns, and so he went to fetch a measuring bowl. Sure enough, 13 ounces and change. All were mollified, mystified, and mortified. The waiter apologized and said he couldn't believe they were shorting folks.
But in Gunderson's piece today, there's this:
Hogwash, says Amnesia owner Kevin King.

I'm the owner, brewer, janitor, everything," he says, "and we've been serving 16 ounces since Day One."
The problem is that with shaker pints, it's impossible to track things. Without measuring every glass, you can't know--they look identical. My version of events is absolutely accurate (why would I make this story up?--my review of the pub is uniformly glowing), but I have no way of verifying whether the brewery uses both types, has switched, or still uses 14-ouncers.

This effort has been a little quixotic from the start. I don't have the time or money (or staff!) to do comprehensive testing of the city's glassware. I don't even go out for beers that often because my life is just way too busy. I thought it would be a useful way of promoting good behavior without having to become a beer cop. And, since I consider myself one of the city's great beer boosters (as this site attests), sliding unintentionally into it--when I don't have the resources to do it properly--is not where I want to be.

(KOIN TV may do a short piece on this at some point next month, too--and that may further insert me into the cop mode.)

So I think it's time to make some changes to the design of the Honest Pint Project. From now on, I'm going to leave all shaker-pint-using establishments off the list. They're too difficult to police, too easy to abuse, and for customers, way too confusing. Instead, I'll measure and cite those establishments that use imperial pints or other glassware that is easy to recognize and distinguish. I will have a separate list of places that use shaker pints--and for places on that list, it's caveat emptor.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Portland's Best Pubs

So, realizing that my noon-3pm slot would no longer be occupied by the Cheers to Belgian Beers event (which, contrary to reports, starts at three along with the UCLA-Memphis game), I went grocery shopping. Saturday afternoon's a bad time to go grocery shopping, so I had a chance to study Portland Monthly's Best Bars article. Of 50 places, they devoted a total of four to pubs specializing in beer: Horse Brass (no-brainer), Higgins, Green Dragon, and the Henry. In a town famous for beer, it's instructive that the self-appointed city mag devotes only 8% of its top fifty to suds.

So let's use those as a base and expand it a bit. What's your fave pub? I'll leave this up for a few days and post my list of best alehouse/taprooms in town next week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

La Chouffe

Tomorrow's Cheers for Belgian Beers event (read about it here) all hinges on the use of the Ardennes strain of yeast, purported to be that used by Brasserie d'Achouffe (or Brouwerij Achouffe, if you prefer the Flemish). So, since all the breweries will essentially be working with La Chouffe as the context for their own variations, it seemed wise to pick up a bottle in preparation.

The brewery makes two main beers, a golden ale and McChouffe, a beer inspired by Scottish ales (there are others, including N'Ice Chouffe, a winter ale). I picked up the golden, imagining it would express the yeast character more cleanly. Here's what I learned.

Tasting Notes
As I was carefully trying to pry of the amusing gnome-decorated cap (chouffe is Walloon for "gnome"), the beer came bubbling out. I made haste, but discovered that it's not exactly explosive, just vigorously efferevescent. It is honey-colored, and the active bead feeds the thinnish head (at 8% alcohol, it takes a lot of feeding to keep the head afloat). The nose is subdued--a faint sugary aroma that I took to be honey, perhaps unduly influenced by the beer's appearance.

The palate is strongly influenced by coriander, which was a bit much for my taste. I have found references to no other spices, but I thought I detected something that tasted like cardomom or star anise. It is a soft beer, made simultaneously more robust and sweeter by candi sugar. Easy to drink though not particularly complex.

The yeast. As I mentioned, it's a lively strain, and would do well with saisons, abbeys, and strong golden ales. The character was not assertive or sour; it was dry and crisp (despite the sugar and spice) and produced a sherry-like quality. As we were drinking it, I mentioned to Sally that I expected to taste beers that were better than La Chouffe at the event. It's the kind of strain that could handle lots of hopping and still stay dry and elegant, or stand alone in a a beer unadorned by bells and whistles. It's a good choice for an event like this because while it will add a fair amount of character with its effervescence and dryness, it will still behave mostly like a blank slate, allowing the brewers to follow their bliss (unlike one of the more profoundly sour strains, for example).

I look forward to see what they've come up with.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Drinking from the Fireplug

In other words, life's coming a little fast, so no chance for posting before tomorrow. However, I did pick up a bottle of La Chouffe as a baseline for the weekend's Cheers to Belgian Beers. Available at Belmont Station and perhaps other places, should you similarly like to situate your palate.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Laurelwood's Entry: Saison d'Arduinna

In the Cheers to Belgian Beers competition, we have info on at least one entry, Laurelwood's Saison d'Adruinna. (Makes me feel prescient to have seen the possibilities of a saison in this yeast strain.) Brewer Chad Kennedy gives the lowdown:
Named for the goddess of the Ardennes forest in Belgian, this Belgian-style is our way of welcoming Spring. To create this unique beer we used Organic malted barley, white wheat malt, oats, maize and Belgian candy sugar. Subtle notes of citrus are added by the use of orange and lemon. Most of the character of this beer is thanks to the yeast, a strain from the Ardennes region of Belgium.

6.4 % ABV
15 IBUs
O.G. 14 º Plato
Any other brewers wish to tip your hand?