Blogs will save us.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Green Dragon Shindig

I'll be out of town through the weekend, but before I go, here's an event I regret to have to miss. Maybe you can check it out and report back. It sets a pretty high standard for brewing events.
Ninkasi Brewing and Pop Tomorrow Present a live concert and music video release party by local Indie band The Grokkers*and a meet-the-brewer event all in one.

Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi will be bringing a ton of special Ninkasi beers made exclusively for this show. So don't miss out on a rare opportunity to drink some unique beer and to meet the brewmaster himself.

Saturday May 31 at 8pm
Green Dragon Bistro
928 SE 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 517-0606
Added bonus: one of the Grokkers works at Belmont Station, so there are further beer connections here.

__________
*The band elucidates: The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as "to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" and "to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment." Other forms of the word include "groks" (present third person singular), "grokked" (past participle) and "grokking" (present participle).

[Post updated with the date and time. Sorry!]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Next Gen Online

When I first started writing about beer over a decade ago, I quickly discovered the fastest way to find out what was happening in Oregon's beer scene: get on the Oregon Brew Crew email listserve. It is not fully accurate to say the Brew Crew is a homebrew club, though it is that. It is the homebrew club, and if you start to track the number of brewers, brewery owners, pub owners, fest-runners, beer writers, and other assorted of the beerly connected, you'll find most have been members or affiliates of the Brew Crew. And the listserve is their rumor mill and grapevine. For well over a decade, members of the listserve have been posting up to two or three dozen emails a day.

Here's the genius of technology like this: it harness the brains of scores, a neural net that can harness the activities of members all over the globe. Add to those brains Google and you have a system that produces information in near real time (thanks to cell phones and Wi Fi, readers have seen actual real-time emails appear from drinkers at fests or in pubs).

But that's old school, dinosaur stuff.

There's a new generation in Beervana, and they inhabit places known as "wikis" or "social networking" sites. I don't actually know if they'll replace listserves, or if we'll have a generational divide, or what. But here are the latest developments.

Portland Beer Wiki

If you're reading this, you must know what a wiki is--because who among us have not visited Wikipedia. Wikis are open sites that users edit to include new and updated info. Much like the listserve harness the power of many brains, wikis do, too. Since webpages are only as good as the information they contain, having more participants is always handy. The site contains a growing collection of information. Kerry Finsand is the fellow who started the Portland Beer Wiki, but of course, he'd love to have company.

Brew Zoo
Where wikis are essentially resources, social networking sites are essentially communities. Famous versions include Facebook and MySpace. In Seattle, a bunch of twenty-somethings have started a social networking site revolving around beer. It's a little bit raw now, but I could imagine it developing into a robust community. A site of its general design will surely be the next generation of beer website, because it can contain so much more information than a single blog, but can offer communication and personality, like a tangle of blogs. (Thanks to aggregation and information design, users can personalize and sort these sites to suit their own interests, whether they tend toward Corona and clubbing or the latest sighting of The Abyss.)

Go check 'em out and give them some support.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Product Note

Real email:
Jeff,

One thing that most of us have experienced at one time or another is a Hangover.

Are you interested in Hangover Buster, a new product that your readers will find appealing? We would be happy to send samples. Hangover Buster is an effervescent tablet designed to counteract alcohol intoxication. Formulated by a team of physicians and laboratory chemists who are experts in the field, the carefully selected FDA approved ingredients are targeted at the causes of a hangover. The discomforts of a hangover are alleviated by hydrating the body in addition to restabilizing the vital vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that have been lost as a consequence of alcohol consumption.

Are you interested in introducing this product to your readers? We would be happy send samples for review.

Regards,
KZ
name@xxxpartners.com

The makers of Hangover Buster neither endorse nor encourage excessive drinking. Hangover Buster is offered as a safe, effective remedy, using healthy ingredients, to counter the ill effects that can result from overindulgence. While the usage of Hangover Buster will help to eliminate the after-effects of excessive alcohol consumption, there is no evidence to suggest that it will encourage heavier drinking. In effect, Hangover Buster replenishes the specific vital vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that have been lost as a consequence of dehydration. Using Hangover Buster is a healthy way to take care of oneself after having had alcohol.
I declined the free sample.

Odds and Ends

Random interesting tidbits from around the blogosphere.

1. Stan visited Terminal Gravity and was, of course, charmed.

2. Full Sail is releasing a new ESB, brewed originally by Barney Brennan, an assistant at the brewery. Because, you know, Full Sail doesn't have enough brewers. (This is good news--ESBs are great beers but far too rare in Oregon.)

3. Everybody's linking to this Floridian's list of "best beer names" (what's the first problem you see with that sentence?), containing in my view not very good names. (Two of his choices cause immediate suspicion about his nature: Dogfish Head Golden Shower and Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Pooh Coffee.) But as a pub game, it's pretty fun.

4. Gruff Philadelphian Lew Bryson reviews Elysian Jasmine IPA (not their best beer) and snorts about its "jasmine hippy character" and concluding "what the hell?" Hippy? Maybe it's been awhile since Lew's been west. (When the glass house in which you reside serves a beloved local speciality featuring Cheez Whiz, you best not start hucking rocks.)

Tis all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Daze in PDX

As those in the greater Beervana region know, May is no reliable time for outdoor barbecues. As I write this, it's 79 in Chicago, 76 in Boston, 75 in New York, and ... 56 and cloudy in Portland. While other northern cities bake under the lengthening days of late spring, the Pacific Northwest (west of the Cascades, anyway), enjoys that lush, rainforest air. Heavy with water, still, clouds crowding down around the tops of tall trees in a gray blanket. It hasn't rained for a few hours, but the blades of grass are beaded with water that has nowhere to go. The air is already saturated.

So there will be barbecues today, mainly on decks. A day off work is a day to be outside. The mood is different in Oregon, but the brilliance of spring no less stunning. For most of the rest of the country, that means skin brushed with the season's first heat. For Oregonians, it means marveling at the layers and hues of green. For the rest of the country, it's Boston Lager weather, or Pacifico, or Sierra Nevada Pale. For Oregon, it's still the season of bigger, heartier, darker beers.

Fire up the 'cue, gents. Anyone for a stout?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bracketology - IPA Winners

I see there's a request to report on the winners of the IPA challenge refered to in the post below. Happy to do it, though all I can do is reprint what I found on the Hops and Barley blog. Add more if you have inside info in the comments below.
Biggest First Round Upset: #31 Weinhard's IPA over #2 India Pelican Ale. Weinhard's went on to the Elite 8 after upsetting #18 Pike IPA in the second round.

Other big first round upsets:
#10 Hop Ottin' lost to #23 Mongoose IPA; #27 Fish Tale IPA over #6 Titan IPA; #26 Dick's IPA over #7 Indica IPA; #24 Broken Halo over #9 Total Domination; #29 Thunderhead IPA over #4 Hop Devil.

In the second round, top seeded Stone IPA made it past Lagunitas IPA, and Broken Halo upset Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Thunderhead's slipper no longer fit after loosing to #13 Mojo IPA, and #5 Seed Green Flash West Coast IPA cruised through a second round victory over #12 Avery IPA. As mentioned earlier, Weinhard's made it through to the Elite Eight, as did Dick's IPA.

The Final Four:
The first match-up of the Elite Eight yielded the second largest upset of the Challenge with #1 Stone IPA falling to Broken Halo! In the second match-up, Green Flash West Coast IPA had more mojo than Mojo IPA. On the other side of the bracket, Weinhard's IPA slipper fell off against Dick's IPA, and Big Sky IPA kept the momentum from their second round upset of Racer 5 by defeating Boss IPA.

And the winner is: Dick's IPA beat Big Sky, but Broken Halo ran the table with victories over Green Flash and Dick's in the final heads-up match.
I would love to see the actual brackets, but you can actually sense the drama in the write-up. Sounds like a fine time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beer Bracketology

I have been meaning to comment on a little bit of genius I discovered on the Hops and Barley blog (I have been meaning to write about and link to it, and was shocked to discover it's now five weeks old--yikes, time flies!). It is a system for blind tasting that is so astute and so obvious that the second I read about it, I couldn't believe it hasn't become the standard for taste-offs. It has several virtues of the blind flights, not the least of which is drama.

They did it with the IPA category and started out with 32 beers (!). He describes it thus:
He picked 32 IPAs available from his local grocery store, and ranked them based on ratebeer.com data and held a blind tasting (names were revealed only after beers lost) to determine round-by-round winners down to a single IPA Champion!
The way brackets generally work is that the field is divided in half or in fourths, and the low seeds are matched against high seeds. I'd probably do a version with 16 (32 seems more than I could manage), split the field so that there were twin sides, with #1 versus #8, #2 v. #7 and so on. In the first round, you'd have eight head-to-head matchups, then four, then two, then the final pairing.

The reason it's genius is because it allows tasters to make a binary decision. Blind flights with several beers can be overwhelming--especially when the beers are similar in style. But even very similar beers can be judged in a simple pairing. I got excited enough that I created a stout brackets using the Hops and Barley system based on beers I know are available in Portland as an example. The intention was to actually run the pairings, but I may never get that far. I include it here for fun. The wild card was for to accommodate availability--I saw two or three that are available sometimes. Also, you could get a growler from a local brewpub. (Click to enlarge.)

Someone should really run with this. Good stuff--

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Craft Bud

Via John, here's an interesting development--A-B is going to introduce what amounts to a fuller-flavored version of Bud:
About five months early, DRAFT recently snuck a taste of Budweiser American Ale, the darker, more craftlike Bud offering that’ll hit your corner bar this fall. Billed by brewmaster Eric Beck to be a “more robust” Budweiser, that’s exactly what American Ale is: The beer pours amber with a hefty beige head, and a nose with hints of pine and citrus. Dry-Cascade-hopped, there’s noticeable bitterness, but with an obvious malt backbone--a balance achieved by more than a year of test batches. The mouthfeel is smooth, with Budweiser’s signature quick, crisp finish. Packaged in a curvier, classier bottle than your usual Bud, this 30-IBU, 5.3%-ABV brew seems an earnest, heartier version of the brewery’s famous lager, ideal for craft newbies and beer geeks willing to see this big brewer in a new light. Watch for American Ale on shelves beginning October 6.
Now, I have no great interest in this beer. Bud has something like 8 IBUs and tastes like old dishwater. This version may have stats that seem shocking by macro-lager standards, but I doubt it could compete with Oregon pales and ambers, which are saturated with flavor, rather than "hints" of pine and citrus. (I could be wrong--dry-hopping is a sure bet for radically improving a beer.)

But whether it's good or not, this is a development to watch. Remember those horrible gimmicks beer companies rolled out every few years--dry beer, ice beer, cold-filtered beer, and on and on. Yet still, what the breweries offered were beers that had less flavor in each iteration. It was as if they were trying to come as close as possible to alcoholic spring water as possible. (Zima was a zenith of sorts, a chemically alcoholic beverage that contained no flavor you couldn't find in a soda.) The effect was to slowly destroy beer culture across America.

Craft beer may be winning one battle, then. Circa 1980, when the nascent craft movement was getting started, the macro-breweries had managed to restrict and control variability effectively enough that the war was being waged on intangible "brand" elements. After all, no one could taste the difference between Hamm's or Pabst. But now, the big companies have lost that control. The cat's out of the bag, and Americans know that "beer" doesn't refer solely to canned dishwater.

Anheuser-Busch may still be making most of the money, but it can no longer control the market. Growth is elsewhere. They may now have to compete on the basis of flavor. Who'dda thunk it?

Something Completely Different

Keep in mind that this is a Reuters story. If it passes their criteria for decency, I guess it passes mine. Now, onto the news: Belgians, bladders full of urine and heads full of biere de Trappistes, have invented a video game played in a urinal and operated by a stream of urine.

Said the inventors, Werner Dupont and Bart Geraets:
Werner: We were drinking what, while we were thinking this?
Bart: Beer.
Werner: Trappistes.
Bart: Trappistes. Bel--Belgian beer.
Werner: Very ... [gives "thumbs up" sign]
The very entertaining, and somewhat un-genteel video is here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Suitable Beer for Obama Win?

For the first time in my voting life--probably lifetime, but I haven't done the research--I have cast a ballot for the primary candidate of my choice. Thanks to Oregon's May primary, every other time, my candidate was long dead and buried before our election. There is every indication my candidate in this election will not only have my vote, but the majority of Democratic votes in the state. Which raises the really tough question--which beer to hoist in celebration?

I'm working on a short list here ...
IPA
Pro - Aggressive flavor, celebratory style
Con - "bitter"

Red Ale
Pro - red is the traditional color of left-leaning political movements
Con - red is the color of the current GOP

Light Lager
Pro - a fave of working-class whites
Con - not a fave of Oregonian working-class whites

Abbey Ale
Pro - nod to the evangelical vote
Con - Belgian

Brown Ale
Umm, let's not go there.
Well, in any case, I'll be hoisting one to my man. Cheers, Barack!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lindemans Peche

Last night, as I stood in front of the Fred Meyer beer cooler, I submitted to a foolish urge: reacting to the unseasonably warm weather, I bought a Lindemans Peche. I love lambics, perhaps more than any style, but I am a cheapskate. The Buddhists say that we are governed by twin urges of craving and desire, and this decision was wrought with equal measures of each.

I know Lindemans to be a treacly imitation of the wonderful lambics I love, but--well, it was only five bucks. The Saison Dupont, one of my top five faves in the world, was twice that. I counsidered Maudite, at $8, but ... eight percent's a lotta beer. So I palmed the peche ("peach") and decided to give it a whirl. It's been so long that I thought maybe I misrembered just how treacly Lindemans is.

I did not.

What's a fruit lambic supposed to taste like? Let's turn to Jackson:
[T]hese are beers, produced from grain, with fruit added as a further fermentable material or flavoring. The best of Belgium's artisan-made, lambic-based whole-fruit ... beers have a great complexity and delicacy, and are dry. They are the beer world's elegant response to pink champagne, and make a pretty, unusual and appetizing drink with which to welcome guests at a summer party. [itals mine]
Fruit lambics may emphasize either the dry, sherry-like aspect or the sour wild-yeast aspect, but they should never be sweet. In a good lambic, the fruit's sugars will be wholly consumed, leaving the nose and color and the flavor of the fruit, like the essence you find in unsweetened fruit seltzers. I have had lambics that smelled intensely of freshly-picked fruit but had almost no flavor. In others, the fruit comes through on the palate, but runs up against the sour before it can ever take you to sweetness. Many are dry and perfect refreshers.

Lindemans is peach soda. It is syrupy sweet, a single-noted beer that is scandalously absent of sour. There is a cola in India named Thums Up (in India, "th" is aspirated, so you say 'Tums up"), which ranks as the sweetest beverage ever made; you expect the sugar to recrystalize on your tongue as you drink it. Lindemans is sweet in a different way, like the syrup that comes in canned fruit, but no more pleasant.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson: spend not your five bones on a crappy beer lest ye waste it; instead, double down and get the transcendent Dupont. When will I learn?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Only Gathering Strength

I am in the midst of one king hell of a busy week, with busy-ness lasting through the long, hot weekend. I've scanned the web briefly for some low-hanging fruit to fake-blog about ("hey, look here, someone else wrote something interesting"), but it's a slow period of the beer year, as everyone's gearing up for festival season and summer releases. All of which is to say that I got nuthin.

Good content will resume next week. I actually have some interesting things to mention, like what the young generation of beer fans is up to. But for now, apologies. Anyway, you're probably playing hooky today and enjoying the sun. Cheers--

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FredFest

I'm way backed up in life and in blogging. So let me direct you to a nice recap of FredFest, complete with pictures. Champagne of Blogs has the story. And with a start like this, how can you resist?
The dirty white tent ruffled and snapped in the hot wind. Inside, a mystery, a holy revival waiting to be borne here upon the wild plains. All of us cowboys lined up in silence, clutching our hats and wearing dirty boots, squinting against the flying grit. All we wanted was to come inside, where for once in this cold life, perhaps a strange preacher could bathe us in the glow of the everlasting, for which we had searched so long.
Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Women and Beer

I blog in two spheres that are overwhelmingly dominated by men--beer and politics. Politics, like sports, has a strongly macho competitive element that attracts men. But with beer, it seems mainly a cultural issue. In America, anyway, men drink beer, and women drink wine. Somehow, the qualities of beer have become symbolic of manhood--it's working-class, unsophisticated, canned. Wine, with its sensual sweetness, its deep color, the curvy, feminine glass its served in--obviously feminine. (Could the fact that men drink wine support American mistrust of the French? Hmmm.) It probably doesn't hurt that until craft brewing came along, drinking beer was a kind of test of endurance.

Craft brewing abetted these stereotypes in its early years by falling for the foolsgold of "crossover beers." These were light, sometimes fruity, generally insipid beers that early brewers thought could coax drinkers away from their Hamms. The success of Widmer Hefeweizen, McMenamins Ruby Tuesday (as it was called before the lawsuit), Pyramid Apricot Ale, and Saxer Lemon Lager seemed to confirm this. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, as craft brewing was just taking root, these beers were disparaged as "chick beers." They seemed suspicious, as if harboring an innate femininity men feared. (The were also, of course, light and uninteresting, more reasons to shun them.)

You don't really hear that anymore. Go to a brewpub, and you see men and women in roughly equal proportions. A few weeks ago, I was at the Green Dragon, and two couples came in, one with their toddler, and sat at the table next to us. Dad had a light beer and mom ordered an imperial stout. Dad minded the daughter while mom--clearly the beer geek in the family--minded her stout. Two weeks ago, I sat next to two gray-haired ladies at Hopworks. They each had pints of IPA. There is no longer chick beer. There is just beer.

I don't doubt that the culture at the campus level is still beer-fueled masculinity. But in the circles I frequent, we seem to have acheived full suffrage. Among beer writers, we have Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess and Suds Sister. Morrison was one of the first women to break into the mens' club, and now she spreads the faith, teaching a course on beer appreciation for women. Two women, Megan Flynn and Annalou Vincent, are the bodies behind Beer Northwest.

Women are not nearly as well-represented in brewing, but perhaps that's changing. (Actually, the stats are still dismal; women probably represent less than 2% of all brewers in the country.) Oregon may be doing better than most. Teri Fahrendorf, an early pioneer in craft brewing, not to mention female brewing, has formed a society for women brewers called the Pink Boots Society. And yesterday I mentioned Tonya Cornett, the Bend Brewer recently cited by the World Beer Cup as "Champion Brewer." There are others working as assistants, and Abby Sherrill is moving into a leadership role now that Dave Fleming has left the Lucky Lab. The upshot is that things are changing even on the brewing side of things.

This is all very good news for Oregon brewing. In terms of numbers, it's obviously good for the market--doubling your target audience is a good thing. But it's also good for the culture that supports Oregon's scores of breweries. The more beer becomes a regular element of living, the more it becomes something native and iconic, like the "cuppa" in England, Italian espresso, or a pint of plain in Dublin. Soon, it could be that a Portland meal without a beer is akin to a Parisian meal without a glass of wine.

What, no IPA? Sacre bleu!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tonya Cornett

There's a great article in the Oregonian today (and not by Foyston -- ?) about Bend Brewing's Tonya Cornett, who recently won a brewmaster award at the World Beer Cup.
Cornett is the first woman brewer to win the award sponsored by the Brewers Association, a craft brewing industry group. The honor marks a milestone -- women's gradual but ongoing ascension in the male-dominated world of beer making.
I have some comments about women and brewing, but for now, go have a look at the article. And the next time you're enjoying a beer, raise a toast to yet another Oregon brewing first and to Tonya Cornett.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Beaverton Campaign Promise: Obama Agrees to Try the IPA

Obama is a man of substance, obviously. And locking down the IPA demo isn't a bad way to play Oregon.




Happy Friday, y'all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

FredFest - a Few Tix Left

Lisa Morrison sent out an email today with the beer list for FredFest '08. I will include it below. But first, the key fact: there are a few tickets left, so order now if you want to attend this exclusive affair. Send an email to fredfest@comcast.net to find out how to reserve your space. Tickets are $50, and the proceeds go to Parkinson's Resources of Oregon.

Okay, here's the list. Read 'em and drool:
BridgePort - Bourbon barrel-aged Old Knucklehead barleywine
Laurelwood - Bourbon barrel-aged Olde Reliable barleywine
Widmer - Altbier
Lompoc - Oak-aged Lompoc Strong Draft
Deschutes - Barrel-aged Belgian ale
Rock Bottom - Oak aged IIPA
Cascade/Raccoon Lodge - 2006 Wild Blackberry ale (Flanders red style)
Lucky Lab - Double Alt
Hopworks - 2007 Kentucky Christmas (Bourbon barrel aged IPA)
Hair of the Dog - Cask Fred from the Wood
Full Sail - Bourbon barrel aged 1998 Old Boilermaker
Rogue - Brewer Ale
Roots - 2006 Pinot Noir Oak aged Epic
Ninkasi - Dry Hopped Cask Tricerahops
Firestone Walker - surprise beer
Hair of the Dog - Jim 2007 Holiday Ale Fest
FredFest 2008
Saturday, May 10 from 2-6 p.m. at Hair of the Dog Brewing in Portland

Admission includes commemorative "What Would Fred Drink?" (WWFD?) glass, access to all beer and food, which includes Fred-inspired pairings with cheeses, chocolates, cookies, candies and cereal, plus a picnic including homemade pastrami cured in Hair of the Dog Fred ale, a raffle ticket and bottled water.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stumptown Tart - Review

Let us say here at the front that BridgePort is really workin it. A couple of years ago they came out with Supris, last year they put out Hop Harvest, and now Stumptown. Clearly a brewery that likes to experiment and take chances. I particularly appreciate the journey into Belgian-style ales, an exploration far too few breweries have taken. And Supris was a a good effort and an authentic beer.

(You sense a "but" here, don't you? Read on.)

Tasting Notes
Nowhere does Stumptown Tart advertise itself as a lambic-style ale. But how are we to conclude anything but that this was the approximation of the latest "Belgian style ale" in the brewery's Big Brews line? It contains a nod to Dan Carey's famous Raspberry Tart, a beer Carey (whom BridgePort consulted) describes as a "framboise"--a traditional style of fruit lambic.

BridgePort doesn't say how they managed the sour. In traditional Belgian versions, the sour comes from wild yeasts that float through the Zenne Valley. The quality of the sour may range from dry and puckery to fertile and almost compost-y. The addition of fruit gives the beer added depth, but hardly any sweetness. The fruit becomes an essence, turning the lambic into something very similar to a dry wine.

BridgePort's version, however, has a quality unlike any lambic I've ever tasted. Let's start with the positive--the aroma and appearance of the beer beguiled. Marionberry essence rises off the glass like fresh fruit. There's a sour note there, too, and it seems very lambic-like. My two pours produced little in the way of a head, but the beer looked like a nice fruit lambic--hazy and berry purple.

It's the palate that's strange. The sourness is wrong. I'd describe it as inorganic, like a chemical creation, rather than the interplay of yeast and sugars. Aging it in oak probably didn't help matters; although the berries add some softness and flavor, it finishes with a long, puckery dryness. I had Sally try it, and she didn't like the sour note, either (though, caveat emptor, she likes sour beers less than I do). Although I admired the berries in the beer, and liked the idea, whatever it was the brewery used to sour Stumptown Tart didn't work.

I have a couple more bottles in the cellar, so I'll see if anything changes. For now, I hate to say that I can't recommend it.

Rating: D

[Update. It did change--and for the better. See this later review from February '09.]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Brewpub - Captured by Porches

There is apparently a new brewpub slated to open in St. Johns "soon." The evocatively-titled Captured by Porches will be just south of the St. Johns Bridge on Highway 30 (5909 NW Saint Helens Road), with Forest Park on one side, and one of those industrial plants on the river side. But beyond this, I know only what they say at the Beer NW blog:
Help support one of Portland's newest (and smallest) craft breweries--Captured By Porches. This Saturday, May 10, CBP's brewer and owner, Dylan Goldsmith, will be hosting a party with local bands and a variety of CBP beer to help raise funds for his new brew pub, opening soon in St. John's (5909 NW Saint Helens Road). Enjoy the sounds of Schicky Gnarowitz, Hey Tiger, Deadpan Pariah, andMcDougall. Be there or be square.

Party is at Liberty Hall, 311 North Ivy Street, Portland. Doors 7pm, bands 8pm. $3 cover; 21 and over.
The website has no info. Anyone know anything?

(Oh, and a shout-out to Beer NW for finally getting a regular blog going. It looks to be a nice source of info, and I've linked it in the blogroll.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jamie Floyd is Staying Put

In the post below, the Eugene Register-Guard made this odd comment:
Eugene-based Ninkasi is one of the companies feeling the pinch. The brewery, which is restructuring its warehouse in preparation for a new brew master, needs to expand to remain successful, Floyd said, even in the face of rising costs.
It didn't sound right, and it wasn't. From Jamie himself:
It means they said brew master instead of brew house. They also said Nikos' last name was Brink instead of Ridge. Pretty common mistake for journalists. We are expanding our facilty and upgrading our brew house. We hope to have it up by August. I will very much be there for it all, along with the rest of our Ninkasi family. They are printing a correction tomorrow. I am just getting started friends.
Excellent.

Business Up, Profits Down

A nice article by the Eugene Register-Guard about the squeeze local brewers are finding on their profit margins, thanks to hop prices:

Eugene-based Ninkasi is one of the companies feeling the pinch. The brewery, which is restructuring its warehouse in preparation for a new brew master, needs to expand to remain successful, Floyd said, even in the face of rising costs.

Ninkasi has responded to the increase in hops prices with some short-term price increases of its own, and by reworking some of its formulas to deal with the realities of fewer available hops and higher prices. “We have subtly changed some recipes,” Floyd said.

With only a brewing operation, Floyd said he’s not able to compensate for the rising hops prices through other revenue sources, the way a restaurant can.

“We did raise our prices but our prices were not as high as other brewers to begin with,” Floyd said. “We were actually able to sell additional units because our prices are lower.”

Despite selling more kegs, Ninkasi’s profit margins are still being squeezed.

By the way, in that first paragraph I quoted, it mentions Ninkasi looking for a new brewmaster. Anyone know anything about that? Odd.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Deschutes Opening - The Final Roundup

Okay, some more content to pass along, and then I'll pipe down. Keep in mind that this is a major opening and bloggers cover minutiae. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it. Now, onto the post.

Should you need your background and story to be told in audio and moving pictures, the Oregonian obliges. Nothing new here, but who doesn't love video?







Also, there bloggers are starting to pick this up. From Rooftop Brew, a review. And there are pics of the burgers (which do indeed look tasty) and reviews at the un-secretively named "Portland Hamburgers." If I do come across any more info, I'll put it here and spare you further posts.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Deschutes Pearl - Food

I made my second trip to Deschutes' Pearl pub last night--the first tim in years and years I've been to a pub two nights in a row. The special return trip was occasioned by Sally's interest; she was unable to join me on Wednesday. We had one of their pizzas, a $12 entree that we ordered to split more as an appertiser.

Let me stipulate: I'm no foodie. I enjoy good food, but I don't know what I'm tasting, what the ingredients are, what the dish's lineage is, or how it is prepared. I generally minimize this weakness by focusing on the beer, which is what I've done with Deschutes. But based on that pizza and an anonymous comment here (take that for what it's worth), I'm wondering if the kitchen needs some focused attention, stat.

Our mushroom pizza was unimpressive: doughy, undercooked, and not particularly thrilling in terms of sauce or topping. It was also wee. I have no sense of these things, but maybe six inches across--and twelve bucks. It was billed as an entree, but I can't imagine what kind of waif would find it satisfying. The problem isn't the price or the size--people are used to spending a lot and getting a little in the Pearl--but the quality. Portland now has an abundance (or possibly over-abundance) of exceptional, innovative eateries. If you drop $5 mil and open a place in the center of the Pearl, you better offer decent food. People will come for beer, and they'll come because it's Deschutes, but they won't return for the food if it doesn't meet the standards of the neighborhood.

Of course, all of this comes with one VERY BIG caveat: they haven't even had the grand opening yet (that's tonight). I have a standard practice of giving a brewpub at least a month, and generally two or three, to get their kitchen in order. And maybe it's just the pizza that's so-so. I'm keeping an open mind. Report back if you've been there and tried the food--I'm curious to know what others have found.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Deschutes Pearl First Look

A couple of months ago, I received my regular copy of Deschutes' newsletter The Bitter Truth, and in it was a story expressing anxiety about heading to Portland:
Portland here we come! We’ll be opening our new Pub in the Pearl District in early May. The Rose City. Stumptown. Puddletown. We feel a little like the Clampett family.
I guess I always saw Deschutes through the inverse lens; they have for years been the state's top dog, the big brewery who wins all the awards. But consciousness is local, and coming from a town of 78,000 in the middle of a remote stretch of the state--well, I guess I can see how it may have felt like a country cousin crashing the big city. Especially since Gary Fish and Co. chose the urbane Pearl District--Portland's most un-Bend-like neighborhood.

I mention all of this because when I walked in yesterday, I was instantly reminded that this is a Bend company, and they're putting Bend front and center. It is not particularly evident from the outside, where the building, just next to the Armory/Gerding Theater, fits right in with the neighborhood. With it's brick facade and industrial picture windows, it also recalls the history of this patch of hallowed brewery land, where within a few square blocks Weinhard's, BridgePort, Widmer, and Portland Brewing all got their start.

In this picture to the left, you can see what I mean. Unlike so many of the buildings in the downtown core, Deschutes has not gone for an austere use of space. Although the building has soaring ceilings that stretch up 20-25 feet, they have have done two things to offset the feel of a warehouse. As you can see, they've created a series of low rafters that look and feel like pergolas. So while you can look over them and see the ceiling above, it creates a cozier atmosphere. Second, they used heavy wooden beams for the effect, which gives the feeling of a lodge.

The use of wood is a major architectural feature. Framing each row, like a trellis, are these carved arches that seem very central Oregon. They feature the kind of art I am familiar with, having grown up east of the Cascades (way east--in Boise)--rough-hewn sculptures of outdoor scenes. These are by J.Chester Armstrong, and they start with a chainsaw. In the picture below you can see owls, and eagle, and cougers. Very manly touches befitting a lodge--and quite distinct from the current Portland style. For contrast, see Hopworks' approach.


In the picture below, you can see the bar--a thick slab salvaged from a building that had been demolished for condos. Not in these pictures, but at the far end of the bar, is a stone fireplace, which adds further texture to the lodgey feel of architect Stuart Emmons' design.


Light is another major feature of the building, and in the picture below, you can see how it creates warmth on the 11th Avenue side of the building. (The network of lowered beams is just to the left of the picture, on the other side of a wall at the building's inner core.)

The brewhouse is visible when you walk in the building through a huge glass window. In the picture below, light reflects off the window, showing the street to the left. Beyond are the tanks housing Brewer Cam O'Connor's fresh beer.

In the dining room area, the copper kettles are literally framed by windows over the bar. Of all the touches in the new building, this was my favorite. Beer's art, and Deschutes is making sure you get the point. Try the cask ale, and you won't need further convincing. I began with one of my favorite beers in the world, Bachelor Bitter on cask. The peppery notes of the hops were more vivid than I recall. I moved on to cask Black Butte and was amazed at how so much of the subtlety of flavor is lost to bottles and kegs. How many Black Buttes have you had? Try a pint on cask and see if you recognize it.


Of course, two pints later, and you'll find yourself here, in front of what must be the finest pair of urinals since the salvaged tanks at BridgePort.


Dave Selden happened to make his first foray to the pub last night, too. He's got his take up, and has photos of some things I missed. Incidentally, I didn't stay for food, but the menu looks like standard pub fare--sandwiches, burgers, pizza, plus a few specialty items. Like lobster ravioli, which I'd love a report on. Have you been? What'd you think?