Blogs will save us.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Upright Brewing Company

A coupla days ago, the Mercury blog brought my attention to a most promising new brewery slated to open in the Leftbank Project, Upright Brewing Company. The Leftbank project is along North Broadway, just as it starts to bend toward the Broadway Bridge (map). The owner/brewer is Alex Ganum, who writes this about his vision:
So, what kind of beer will we be crafting? That’s a difficult question to answer, but imagine combining the spirit and methods of rustic French and Belgian style farmhouse brewing with the positive energy and downright beautiful ingredients the Pacific Northwest offers us. These are beers inspired by historical records and the dedicated few who have kept traditions alive, drawing from our city and region for resources and raw materials. In addition to the year-round brands expect to see several unusual special releases including barrel-aged beers, sour beers, fruit beers, smoked beers, and many other distinct brews. Upright Brewing Company will always be a hands-on, local producer of honest craft beer.
Patrick Coleman, who wrote the Merc post, called Ganum up and got more detail:

I recently called Ganum to get some more information. He told me he plans on crafting beer in the rustic, French and Belgian "farmhouse style." He'll be using two open fermentation tanks and a distinct house yeast. Ganum's strain of French yeast—with possible Belgian origins—is expected to produce beer with "a nice mix of spicey flavors and earthiness and mustiness."

Ganum blanches at the idea that his products will be straight-up, Belgian style brews. "The beers in the brewery are going to be atypical of Portland and America itself," he explains. He doesn't seem too concerned about the difficulty of producing beer through open fermentation (there are only a couple breweries in Oregon doing it) having learned the methods with Brewery Ommegang in Copperstown, New York.

Along with the openly fermented rustic brews, Ganum will also have a conical, closed fermentation tank for special batches of smoked and fruit beers.

I will try to grack Ganum down, too, because this isn't particularly clear. I'm not sure what he means by "straight-up Belgian style" beer. Belgians are a lot like Oregonians--they have a hard time brewing anything to style. Even breweries famous for a particular beer tend to screw around with seasonals. They're brewing very hoppy beers in Belgium now, apparently in homage to West Coast beers (borrowing styles and bending them at right angles is a specialty of Belgian brewing). It sounds like the beer will be brewed using Belgian methods and with Belgian yeasts (note that it's open fermentation, not spontaneous)--to me, this signals pretty straight-up Belgian style. All of which suggests that there's more to learn.

But in any case, this seems like Very Good news indeed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's Brewing for the DNC

I got to see an old friend at the Brewers Fest--David Zuckerman from Boulder Beer (long, long ago, he got his start in Portland at BridgePort). As it happens, I'll be blogging from the Democratic National Convention next month, and I have been anticipating the prospect of trying out a few beers. David mentioned that Denver's pub culture isn't very good, but did offer to show me around his brewery if I got the chance. I doubt I'll be able to resolve finally that Denver is Portland's inferior--not enough time for pub-hopping. But I do want to make a few inroads.

Per Charlie Papazian, it looks like Denver is getting ready for us:
While both Barrack Obama and John McCain jockey for positions just right and left of center, there’s nothing centrist about the beers being brewed up in Denver for conventioneers. Denver area brewers have been planning and preparing for the onslaught of thirsty beer drinkers seeking diversity, character, complexity and a flavor they can savor.
But are they really ready for the Oregon delegation? Early signs are not particularly hopeful.
  • Great Divide is making "liberally hopped American pale ale." I suspect, however, that the liberal in the title refers to the blue hue of the drinkers, not the actual octane of the brew (Great Divide's a good brewery, but no hop haven).
  • Wynkoop has a maibock called, stylishly, the Obamanator. But with the "-ator" suffix, shouldn't this be a doppel? Maybe they don't know better in Denver.
  • Rock Bottom has a very pale beer called "Political ale" about which no more is reported. (I observe parenthetically that it should have been called Politic Ale, though. Duh.)
  • Avery is making "Ale to the Chief"--again, a pun with no details.
Charlie concludes by citing Denver as the Napa of beer, a label that recently chafed folks on the Brew Crew listserv. Said one commenter: "Yeah, but we're the Portland of Beer." True that. And when we hit the Mile High city, we will bring our extremely sophisticated palates. I hope they've put as much thought into the beers as they have into the beers' names.

More to come--

[Note: I slightly expanded this post, realizing that the bit at the start about David Zuckerman omitted the reason I brought him up in the first place.]

[Update 2: See below. Heh.]

Bailey's One-Year Anniversary

Bailey's Taproom, perhaps the best place in the city to get a beer, is celebrating its first anniversary with a barrel-aged beer party this Saturday. Details below:
Bailey's Barrel-Aged Celebration
213 SW Broadway
August 2, 2008, 4pm to Midnight

Some of the beers on tap:
$10 Admission includes: a souvenir glass and five tickets ($1 Tickets/samples)
Hat tip to Suds Sister.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vote Best in Show at OBF

Inspired by a comment below, here's a poll for best-in-show at the OBF. I've made it multiple choice so that we can see the range of beers getting love (and not). I also added an "other" category, so fill that in if I missed your fave.

Whew.

Are you a little beered out? I am. Two fests in two weekends, dozens of events around the state, new releases--quite a month. I transferred a batch of cream ale into a secondary fermenter (it's a low-flocculation yeast, and is currently cloudier than Widmer Hef), which may be the only beer I pay any attention to for the next couple days.

Your comments have been great over the past couple weeks, and if you have anything newsy or wise to convey, consider this an open invite/request.

Cheers--

Monday, July 28, 2008

OBF 2008 - The Final Roundup

I have been meaning to link to some of the commentary around the blogosphere a little earlier than a day after the event, but follow the links anyway--the edify nonetheless.

Reviews:
Rooftop Brew liked Boundary Bay and Hop Stoopid. Angelo has a nice review of the event, including beer reviews and pictures. Matt Dolman, a San Diegan, offers the out-of-towner perspective. Bill has two posts, a first look and a fuller review; he likes the Full Nelson, proving that you have to try the beers rather than trusting bloggers. Suds Sister, whose fine preview I failed to link, reminds me that I like Matilda from Goose Island a lot, too (her review's in the comments).

Something of a consensus is emerging on a few beers: Hop Stoopid, Boundary Bay, New Holland (Dragon's Milk), Rogue Glen, and of course, Pliny. A surprising amount of love was also given to the strange beers of Roots (Calypso) and Rock Bottom (Congo Queen), and I concur. (Suds Sister dissents on Roots.) Risky and successful experiments.

Pictures
John has a few nice ones, including a dandy of John Harris. Looks like he has a better camera these days, too. Also, Lighthouse Photo Art has 428 (!) pics, should you wish to get a full sense of the event.

Other Odds and Ends
I went back on Sunday for another dram of Dragon's Milk--I wanted a fresh taste--having both the mug and six tokens. I got there at noon, and there was a line of 30 people. I don't know the official word on "buzz beers," but that's gotta be in the conversation.

Also, I meant to say that I noticed one brewery had two beers at the fest, and I consider this an outrage: MacTarnahan's and Pyramid. I know that Mac's (nee Portland Brewing) was one of the founders, but it's unconscionable to give up two taps to a single brewery with two brands. I doubt it will change, and it is almost certain to worsen, as Widhook will probably get two taps next year. Nevertheless, my advice: cut it out, OBF.

My Pics
I'll download some of my pics today and post them here. I tried to do crowd shots at regular intervals to demonstrate the Friday crowd. We'll see how well they turned out.

Here they are (clear evidence only that it was super busy from midafternoon onward):


2 pm


4 pm



5:30 pm



7 pm

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beer Ascendant

America has put down the pinot and picked up the pale. Well, Americans under 50, anyway. This just in from Gallup:
Beer has regained a comfortable margin over wine when U.S. drinkers are asked to name which alcoholic beverage they most often drink. In recent years, wine had narrowed the gap, including pulling slightly ahead in 2005 (though not by a significant margin), but for the first time since 2002, beer enjoys a better-than-double-digit advantage over wine.
However, trends are down for alcohol, so the swing won't necessarily translate into continued strong sales for beer: "The average drinker reports having consumed 3.8 alcoholic drinks in the past week. This is the first time the average has dropped below 4 drinks since 2001. It had been as high as 5.1 in 2003."

Also of note:
  • Sixty-two percent of Americans say they drink alcohol, a percentage that has varied little in the last 10 years.
  • "Daily drinking" is more common among Americans of higher socioeconomic status. Over the past four years, an average of 42% of college graduates report having had a drink in the last 24 hours, compared with 32% of those who have not graduated from college.
  • Men are more likely than women to have had a drink during the previous day, 43% to 28%.
  • Older drinkers are more likely than younger drinkers to have consumed alcohol in the previous 24 hours -- 39% of those aged 50 and older say they drank in the last 24 hours, compared with 35% of those aged 30 to 49 and just 28% of those below 30.
(This post is more or less a palate-cleanser after the OBF. Carry on.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

OBF - Saturday Edition

I am feeling a little more spry this morning than I expected. Apparently two decades of beer fests has taught me a thing or two about avoiding the worst ravages. [My technique: a fair amount of Gatorade on the morning of the fest to fully hydrate, a large meal of meat beforehand (I hop off the vegetarian wagon to save my body), water throughout the fest, stopping drinking relatively early (seven is ideal), more Gatorade in the evening, and Ibuprofen at bedtime.]

I took some photos which I'll post later, but a couple of comments for those of you heading out today:
  • Get to the Pliny early. It was blown by 3 yesterday.
  • Try the New Holland Dragon's Milk, a creamy, vanilla-y bourbon-cask aged strong ale from Michigan. A big winner, and it blew early, too.
  • Eugene (aka Rogue) City 100 Meter Ale is wedged in awkwardly behind a part of the southernmost section of the north tent, and when those lines start getting very long, you can sneak in there quickly. It's not the best beer at the fest, but it's solid, and very hoppy for those of you with dull palates.
  • Beers I liked in addition to those I mentioned yesterday included Goose Island Matilda (a tasty, zesty Belgian), Kona Mac Nut Brown (not at all sweet, but nutty and satisfying), Boundary Bay Crystal Pale, Laughing Dog Rocket Dog (an approachable rye), and Wild River Kolsch (a nice example of style).
Rants

It is getting busier every year. Things were super packed by three and only picked up steam. The population did, however, plateau at about six.

Water is hard to come buy. There are infrequently-placed mug-washing stations that dribble out (apparently potable, for I drank from them all afternoon) water.

Dust dust dust. Cough.

Raves

They have a new superstructure in place of the old north tent that better shields the sun. It's a tent, I guess, but it is like an airplane hangar.

On the north side, the volunteers used to bake in the sun, but this year, they've put up awnings for the folks to stand under.

As always, I invite you to continue to ad your thoughts. There's a bunch of chatter in the blogosphere, and I'll link to posts later today. Off to catch some breakfast now--

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Reax to the OBF

The good folks at the OBF invited the media for a tasting this afternoon (lax standards, allowing me in as "media," but generous!). Noel Blake, the scholar and gentleman from the Oregon Brew Crew guided us through a selection of--I'm not making this up--18 beers. (!) I cleverly left my notes at work, so I'll be offering truncated half memories here. The nuances will be lost, but especially those that were very good, weird, or bad, I do recall.

Make sure to try these:
  • Bell's Porter. I was excited to see Bell's was coming, but slightly disappointed that they sent a pedestrian selection like this. Familiar style, true, but perfectly executed--roasty, creamy, delicious. When you crave a good porter, this is the beer you're thinking of.
  • Roots Calypso. This beer is inspired by the cuisine of the caribbean, and it is a perfect evocation. It smells dangerously peppery, but the heat is subdued, and marries beautifully with the sweetness of the apricot. Won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a tour de force of high-concept brewing.
  • Rock Bottom Congo Queen. This is a great beer to have after your mouth is feeling coated and you want a light palate cleanser. There are many herbs in the beer, but principally subtle use of juniper berries, which give it a minty-fresh flavor. Since that's not what people normally look for in beer, I'll add that it was tasty and welcome.
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. I just kept taking hits off the aroma before I tried this beer--it was like someone had plunked a pinecone in my cup. The beer is surprisingly gentle and the hops are not biting. It's a piney experience, and almost made me feel transported to the forest. I could recommend this to nearly everyone and know they'd thank me. (The previous two are ... riskier recommendations.)
Your choice:
  • Flying Fish Dubbel. A gentle beer that was made with cherries--a fact I had missed. They are subtle, but add a nice layer of interest.
  • Golden Valley Cote d'Or. This is another fermentation away from perfect. It was wonderful at the start--spicy, zesty, slightly sweet, and heady, but it finished with a cloying final note. If it could ferment out some more, it would dry and become delicious.
  • Rogue Glen. Like Hop Stoopid, this was a surprisingly approachable big beer. Totally in balance, creamy and very tasty. Definitely consider short-listing it.
  • Caldera Ginger Ale. I admired this beer but considered it ultimately a noble failure. Ginger can overwhelm a beer, but Caldera got it just right. Unfortunately, the rest of the beer was a little underdeveloped and finished with a hollow note. Fred Eckhardt, sitting across the table, suggested it could have used dry hopping. Good suggestion.
  • BridgePort Hop Czar. This was the second-to-last beer of the 18, and I found it slightly muddy, but overall tasty. I don't deny that the muddiness could have been from my side, not the beer's.
  • Surly Coffee Bender. This one got appreciative nods and smiles, but I found it tasted like carbonated coffee. Good coffee--mighty good coffee, but not really like beer.
  • Fifty Fifty White. This was one of those beers I wanted to like but found I couldn't. It was almost mediciney in its herbal intensity.
  • Collaborator Rye. (Not sure what the actual name is.) This is a good beer to sample if you're unsure what rye tastes like. That very sharp, dry note--that's it. To my palate, this beer was a bit too much of everything. Still, once you try it, you'll never mistake rye again.
  • Cascade Raspberry Wheat. More interesting than I expected, but I expected it to be terrible. You'll know by the name if it's for you or not.
Maybe not:
  • Widmer Full Nelson. Now I know what New Zealand's Nelson hops taste like. Sort of a cross between oranges and cat pee. Mmmm, no.
  • Hopworks Pilsner. I've had this at the brewery and it was fine, if uninspired. Our batch had a problem though--the cabbagy, cooked vegetable quality of DMS. Maybe just a bad keg?
  • McMenamins Madman Jack's Insane. I have to say I have only once ever smelled a beer worse than this, and it was a spoiled batch of homebrew I made early on. Smells like ... like .... Well, I don't know, but I never want to smell it again. The flavor might be tolerable, but I couldn't get past the nose.
That's sixteen, so I missed one (Pliny was the other, see below). But it's a good place to start. I should also mention that after the first 13, Noel did a Double IPA taste-off with Madman Jack's, Hop Czar, Full Nelson, Hop Stoopid, and Pliny. It was a crazy way to finish a tasting, and the winner was a foregone conclusion. When Noel had people raise their hands for their faves, Hop Stoopid got a few hands, and Widmer and BridgePort got a couple. Pliny got not only 80% of the hands, but a rousing cheer as well. So all my Pliny boosterism was vindicated by this august panel of tasters.

What have you been trying? What's good? What's to be avoided? Tomorrow's my big day, and on Saturday I'll post more thoughts. Keep the chatter up!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oregon Brewers Fest Preview

Today begins the 21st installment of the Oregon Brewers Fest. Our fairest celebration of good beer has passed through adolescence and is now ready for her first legal IPA. Good beer is so firmly established in Oregon that we forget how much has changed in such a short time. When Widmer, BridgePort, and Portland Brewing (now MacTarnahan's/Pyramid) threw the first OBF--essentially a kegger to promote craft beer--we were in the tail end of the Reagan administration. There were only 124 craft breweries nationwide (there are nearly as many in Oregon today). The fest featured 16 beers from 13 breweries, and was a hit from the start. There are many reasons Oregon is now known as Beervana, but the OBF is among the most important.

When Art Larrance and his cohorts first put the fest on one score and one ago, they were trying to promote craft beer; they did better than that--they helped jump start Beervana. This is the weekend of our annual suds sabbath, and if you are feeling oppressed by the noise, chaos, throngs, and long lines, remember what this fest has wrought, and raise your cheap plastic mug (another oppression to sensitive palates) to this event. Under the tents of the Fest, we find our cathedral; the OBF is the beer geek's Notre Dame. So Cheers! Prost! Sláinte! L'Chaim! Happy 21st, OBF!

Now, to the beers....

Ten to Try

Recommending beers you've never tasted poses a challenge to the previewer. One could safely fall back on those one knows and recommend with calm assurance--for example, Pliny and Ninkasi Total Domination. But we don't go to the Fest to enjoy beers we love, we go there to try the new and exciting. Later this afternoon I'll have a chance to go to the media guided tour (updates thereafter), but for now I will rely on my sometimes spotty wiles, read between the lines of the descriptions, and come up with my best bets for interesting beers to try. As always, reader beware. For the sake of amusement, I'll go in reverse alphabetical order.


Widmer Full Nelson IPA (Portland, Oregon)
Description: A huge IPA with a rare New Zealand hop (Nelson Sauvin--hence the beer's name). The Widmers always brew something special, and this is the 2008 edition.
Who will like it: Hopheads and hop connoisseurs interested in trying a new variety.
Stats: 1.088 OG, 10% abv, 70 IBUs.


Surly Coffee Bender (Brooklyn Center, Minnesota)
Description: Bender is a regular beer at Surly made with five malts and oatmeal. To this they have added estate Guatemalan coffee to the beer after fermentation. Guatemalan coffee is known for its gentle character, so it should complement a brown nicely.
Who will like it: Fans of malty beers and those who, like me, will be needing a caffeine fix roundabout midafternoon.
Stats: 1.058 OG, 5.6% abv, 40 IBUs.


Roots Calypso (Portland, Oregon)
Description: Okay, sure, you could literally walk across the bridge and try this, but it's too exotic to ignore. A wheat beer made with apricots and scotch bonnet peppers--the extremely spicy relatives of the habenero used to spice Caribbean dishes. Not clear if it will be sweet or spicy or a little bit of both.
Who will like it: Fans of experimental beers. Really experimental beers.
Stats: 1.044 OG, 4.4% abv, 14 IBUs.


Laughing Dog Rocket Dog (Ponderay, ID)
Description: I am playing a hunch on this one. It's a red rye ale that promises layered hopping.
Who will like it: Everyone, if my hunch pans out, but mostly hopheads and fans of the dry, spicy quality of rye beers.
Stats: 1.062 OG, 6.9% abv, 67 IBUs


Green Flash Hop Head Red (Vista, CA)
Description: A crowd-pleasing hoppy red that should be nicely balanced and tasty.
Who will like it: Based on the stats and the reputation of the brewery, this may be as close to a universal beer as you'll find at the fest.
Stats: 1.062 OG, 6.3% abv, 45 IBUs


Goose Island Matilda (Chicago, Illinois)
Description: The more I read the description, the more I wonder if this isn't an Orval-inspired Belgian. In any case, the yeast contains some of the dangerous Brettanomyces, which is enough to lure me in.
Who will like it: Anyone tired of hops and looking for something new and interesting. And fans of native son Barack Obama.
Stats: 1.062 OG, 7% abv, 32 IBUs


Fifty Fifty Foggy Goggle White (Truckee, California)
Description: Of all the Belgian wits here this year, I am most intrigued by Fifty Fifty's. It is made not only with a unique stew of spices (orange peel, lemon peel, chamomile, coriander, rose hips), but the brewers employed a sour mash, a mixture of yeast strains, and a little lactic acid for tartness.
Who will like it: This may be a step beyond for casual drinkers. I'm guessing the beer geeks will love to try to sort out which flavor characteristics are contributed by which processes and ingredients. An easter-egg hunt in a beer.
Stats: 1.062 OG, 6% abv, 21 IBUs


Caldera Ginger Ale (Ashland, Oregon)
Description: Caldera is one of Oregon's premier breweries, but this offering is something different--a pale ale spiced mainly with ginger.
Who will like it: Truthfully?--people who don't like their beer too "beery." But those who like offbeat beers with adjuncts (like me!) may also appreciate it as a contrast.
Stats: 1.042 OG, 4.7% abv, 10 IBUs


BridgePort Hop Czar (Portland, Oregon)
Description: BridgePort's latest "Big Brew," with lots and lots and lots of Nugget, Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade hops. It should be a quintessential Northwest hop bomb.
Who will like it: Hopheads.
Stats: 1.071 OG, 8% abv, 100 IBUs


Boundary Bay Dry-Hopped Crystal Pale (Bellingham, Washington)
Description: A single-hopped pale made for the OBF. Boundary Bay is one of those small breweries with exceptional beers and an outsized reputation. I have no doubt that this beer will add to the mystique.
Who will like it: Fans of well-made, classically Northwest ales (ie, everyone).
Stats: 1.056 OG, 6% abv, 45 IBUs



Wild Cards

Rogue Glen (Newport, Oregon)
Never discount a Rogue. Like Widmer, the boys from Newport often send a "buzz" beer to the fest. Glen is made in honor of Glen Falconer, late brewer of Eugene's Wild Duck. Perhaps John Maier is honoring Glen's most famous brew, Sasquatch Strong with this one, which weighs in at 8.7% and 74 IBUs.

Rock Bottom Congo Queen (Portland, Oregon)
Rock Bottom's interesting entrant is a Sorghum-based beer made with ginger, coriander, juniper berries, grains of paradise, lime zest and lime juice and fermented with the yeast strain from this year's Cheers to Belgian Beers (LaChouffe).

Kona Macadamia Nut Brown (Kona, Big Island, Hawaii)
A new beer from Kona. A brown ale made with macadamia nut honey. Dunno if the honey contributes nut flavor, but I was impressed enough by Kona beers when I was there in January that I'm willing to take a shot. A good beer to try early.

Golden Valley Cote d'Or (McMinnville, Oregon)
The brewery translates Cote d'Or as "golden slope," but I like the one I found on the internet--"golden hillside." It is a more poetic nod to the brewery's name and to the rolling hills and valleys of Yamhill County. This beer is a strong Belgian golden aged in oak barrels, a growing specialty of the brewery.

Flying Fish Dubbel (Cherry Hill, NJ)
This is a much-anticipated abbey ale from a well-regarded brewery, but I'll confess that last year's bourbon-aged variant left me cold. Still, I'll give this one a shot, so much do I love Belgium and New Jersey.


Others
Standing Stone Almond Brown Ale is made with almond flour and could be transcendent ... or weird. Old Market sends a kitchen-sink beer, Hopcask Triple Tripel, a Belgian with lots of hops (Saaz, Tettnanger) and aged in a bourbon barrel. From the Hillsdale McMenamins comes Madman Jack's Insane, winner of the Hillsdale Brewfest and a burly 8% beer with a shocking 113 IBUs. You have probably had it already, but Allagash White is one of the first witbeers brewed in the US and the flagship of this most interesting Portland, Maine brewery. Bison Chocolate Organic Stout is a tasty fan fave and a nice, sweet alternative to some of the hop bombs.

OBF Beers by Style

I made a .pdf of the beers at this year's OBF arranged by style. I actually sorted the beers a bit, since many of the "styles" listed online aren't actual beer styles but descriptions. It may or may not be useful, but I'm fooling around with new technologies. So enjoy.

Read this document on Scribd: OBF by Style

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oregon Brewers Fest By the Numbers

The first of many OBF-related posts continues with this numerical breakdown of the fest. I may add purty graph(s) later. Or a PDF of the beers by category. Or ... ? Well, we'll see how busy I get.

Total beers: 72
Total breweries: 72
States represented: 17
Percent Oregon: 40%
Percent California: 21%
Percent Upper Midwest: 10%
Percent Washington: 10%

Number of styles: 24
IPAs: 9 (13%)
Pale ales: 7 (10%)
Total wheat ales: 11 (15%)
Belgian witbiers: 6 (8%)
Fruit wheats: 4 (6%)
Beers with adjuncts: 17 (24%)
Minimum number of years in a row 21st Amendment brewery has brought Watermelon Wheat: 7


Breakdown of styles and the number of beers in each:
Amber ale/alt: 5
American lager: 1
Belgian ale: 5
Belgian witbier: 6
Bitter: 1
Bock: 2
Brown ale: 2
Coffee-flavored ale: 1
Cream ale: 1
Double IPA: 4
ESB: 1
Extra pale ale: 4
IPA: 9
Kolsch: 3
Pale ale: 7
Pilsner (German and Czech): 4
Porter: 1
Red ale: 2
Rye ale: 1
Spiced beer (excluding wit): 2
Stout: 2
Strong ale: 2
Wheat: 1
Fruit wheat: 2
Compared to past years, this is nice style diversity. Last year there were 15 IPAs and another six Double IPAs. There were also only 14 states, so we've increased our diversity a bit there, too (although fully 71% are from the West Coast.)

Three Creeks Opens in Sisters

If Portland is Beervana,* then is the greater Bend area Little Beervana? With the new McBrothers, Bend Brewing, Cascade Lakes, and Deschutes, it was already well-breweried for such a modest population. Not well-breweried enough, it seems. Via Foyston, I see that Three Creeks is up and brewing--and earlier than expected:

We just finished construction of our old west livery stable to house our operations, with a comfortable, warm and rustic atmosphere that everyone will enjoy. The 6000 square foot facility provides a full restaurant, 10 barrel brewing system, an expansive yet comfortable bar area complete with large-screen TVs and two pool tables, and an outdoor patio for the enjoyment of our hand crafted ales.

At Three Creeks, we utilize only the finest ingredients available for all of our food and brewing activities, while striving to impress even the most sensitive of palates. Our menu of excellent yet casual and unpretentious pub food is served in a family friendly, smoke free environment that all patrons will enjoy....

Today on tap: Knotty Blonde,Old Prospector Pale, and 8 Second IBA. No, that's not a typo. Our brewer has created an India Black Ale by taking what was a big IPA, blending in some roasted malt and adding almost 2 pounds of hops per barrel to give this HUGE beer it's rich dark color.

You may know more about this beer than you think, too: the head brewer is Dave Fleming, formerly of the Lucky Lab. I don't have an address yet, but perhaps someone in Central Oregon (Jon?) can track that down.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Allagash Lambic

Doing a bit of research on the beers of the OBF, I came across an absolutely astounding story. Portland, Maine's Allagash, one of the first nouveau-Belgian breweries in America, has begun to make traditional lambics. As in, no yeast addition, waiting for funky nature to have her way with cooling wort.
After boiling, rather than cooling the beer in a sterile environment and adding a brewer’s yeast culture, the hot wort is pumped to a cool ship in a special room designed specifically to make these beers. The cool ship is a commonly used tool in Belgium, but is rarely seen beyond Belgium’s borders, if at all. It is a large, open tray that is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Once in the cool ship the hot wort spends the night cooling from near boiling temperatures to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To facilitate the cooling process, windows in the cool ship room are left open overnight. The cool Maine air, containing natural bacteria and wild yeast, drifts in and cools the wort. As soon as the wort is cool enough, the natural airborne yeasts and bacteria are able to survive in what will eventually be the spontaneously fermented beer (it is these natural yeasts and bacteria which will ferment the beer, rather than a yeast added by the brewer). Next, the wort is pumped back into a brewery tank, where it will spend one further day before it is pumped into special French oak barrels. Within one to three weeks, spontaneous fermentation begins in the oak and will continue for over one year. After the yearlong fermentation this traditional beer will age in French oak for at least one more year, sometimes with the addition of fruits, before it is finally bottled.
I've been waiting fifteen years to see if a brewery would actually invest the money, time, and equipment to this radical experiment. I bow in obeisance to Allagash's courage. It's absolutely amazing and cool. As a super bonus treat, there's video:

Oregon Brewers Festival: Pliny Ho

I just took my first gander at the beer list for the OBF (yes, at this late date; been one of those kinds of summers). There are some beers and/or breweries of definite interest (the much-celebrated Bell's from Michigan, BridgePort Hop Czar, Kona Macadamia Nut Brown, etc.), but mine eyes looked to see the glory of the coming of the Pliny. And there, under the "R's" (Russian River) did I behold it. Oh, hosanna!*

With the meat of Pliny assured, all else is but gravy.


Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing
From my 2006 description: Years ago, Eugene's now-defunct Wild Duck Brewery made a strong ale called Sasquatch. It was my favorite big beer, a fantastic way to end a brewfest once my tongue could no longer distinguish subtle flavors. Each year, at the end of the OBF, I greatly missed its passing (as well as the man who brewed it, Glen Falconer, who died in 2002). While I will always miss Glen, I finally found a beer to rival Sasquatch: Pliny the Elder from Russian River. Named for the Roman who gave the name to hops ("lupus Salictarius," or "wolf among scrubs"), it fills a long-vacant need. Whatever you do, save a token for Pliny. You might even offer a toast for the Sasquatch of your choice.

____________
*Please forgive my petty blasphemies, certain beers make a sinner out of me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Best of Portland International Beer Fest

I am lately overly busy, and unlike past years, PIB and the OBF are running on consecutive weekends--which means I don't even have the time to stop and breathe after one fest before I should be looking to the next. So I'm sorry this is a scanty review.

I had a number of wonderful beers, some of which were old standards, some that were new head-turners. Of those I loved, though, I loved two the most. Put these at the back of your mind and if you see them at a beer store, consider them must-buys.

They're both beers I had identified earlier--the Baird Temple Garden Yuzu and Harviestoun's Ola Dubh ("Engine Oil"), aged in barrels of the 12-year Highland Park Scotch whisky. The Baird beer was fascinating. The base beer seemed something like a kolsch--mild and crisp. It was the addition of Japanese yuzu ("citron, a terrifically aromatic and tart citrus fruit") that made this a totally unique beer. It smelled familiarly (and misleadingly) citrusy, as if hopped with Northwest strains. But the flavor was absent citrus or hop; rather, it had a very earthy, peppery quality. You could tell it didn't come from spices or pepper, but something like a vegetable--but citrus fruit seemed out of the question. Something new, and tasty, under the sun.

Haviestoun sent two batches of their Ola Dubh. One had been aged in 12-year old scotch barrels, the other in 30-year-old barrels (!). The latter appeared only briefly on Saturday and then vanished, and it took me about a half hour of waiting in a long line to get my pour. Plenty of time, it turned out, to savor the 12-year version. The 30-year was intensely scotch-y; it was the predominant flavor. Some folks preferred this. Although I love scotch, I found it out of balance. So much liquor had seeped into the brew that the beer was the accompaniment; it was a lighter-bodied brew and not particularly creamy.

The 12-year version was exceptional. The base beer is extremely rich and creamy. The "oil" of the name is apt; it has a viscosity rarely achieved in beers. In this beer, though, the Scotch is a complimentary, minor note. Certain elements were accentuated--vanilla, wood, pipe tobacco. With very strong beers, it's sometimes difficult to bring the beer to a point of pleasant intensity. The 12-year hit this mark perfectly. You didn't want to swallow, but instead let the mouthful swish around so you could continue to search for other flavors in the rich brew. It was one of the better beers I've ever tasted, and by far the best beer aged in a whisky barrel.

(Incidentally, the 12-year was served from the bottle, the 30-year from a keg. This means that there are bottles out there identical to what I sampled--even more reason to pass along the recommendation. I don't know how bottled 30-year would differ.)

Pics from PIB 2008

Ola Dubh 12 Year, not the coveted 30-year, was this year's brightest jewel.



A volunteer smiles while pouring Dupont Foret. Wouldn't you?



At 1:30 on Saturday, people started lining up for the special beers.



The wee cask of JW Lee's barleywine blew long before I got to the front of the line.



These beautiful little goblets ran out by about 3 pm on Saturday.




Festgoers (and friends).



When you start seeing gnomes, it's time to go home.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Double Mountain Kriek

I made it back to Belmont Station for another round of Puckerfest last night, and although I don't have time to offer much in the way of reviews, I do want to mention Double Mountain's kriek. Fantastic. It was appropriately sour and had a wonderfully rich (Hood River?) cherry flavor---not cloying, but not hidden or overwhelmed by the sour. These kinds of beers are extremely difficult to pull off, and now that more and more breweries in the US are trying them, I'm aware of the pitfalls. This was a good kriek by international standards, though, not by my usual lowered-bar standards for American newbies trying to master the old art. Charlie and Matt have really distinguished themselves as two of the most innovative and accomplished brewers in the state. It's gotten to the point that whenever I see "Double Mountain" on the menu, it's the first beer I order.

Good work, men--

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Complete Guide to the Portland International Beer Festival

Portland International Beer Fest, July 18-20
North Park Blocks, Portland
Friday 4pm-10pm
Saturday 12pm-10pm
Sunday 12pm-7pm

Beer drinkers pay $20 for 10 beer tickets and official PIB glass. More tickets available for $1 each. All beers are 4 oz. servings. Each beer costs 1 to 4 tickets depending on "swank factor." Usually at least half are just 1 ticket.

The Great Beers

For the beer fan who wants to increase her knowledge of world beer styles, there are few opportunities that offer so many landmark classics as the Portland International Beerfest. Most of the beers brewed in Oregon can trace their lineage backward to Europe and a traditional, local style. Knowing what the originals taste like is useful not only in undertanding the style, but in appreciating the innovation or original flourish you find in a local beer based on that style.

I don't often refer to these in my previews because so much has already been written. That's probably short-sighted, though. Few will have tried all these (including me), and it's worth mentioning something about the style why the beer's important. So here we go.

Rochefort 6 (Belgium)
There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world, and they brew what are loosely refered to as Abbey ales. The adjective "Trappist" is specific--the brewery must be overseen by actual Cistercian monks. Breweries that brew abbey ales or are resident in former abbeys cannot legally call themselves "Trappist." Brewing at the monastery dates back to 1595, and the monks of Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy still brew their beer, in three styles, 6 (red cap), 8 (green cap), and 10 (blue cap). The ten is the most commonly exported, and the 6 the least, just 1% of production--so this is a rare opportunity. The 6 is a reddish dubbel, lighter than the 8 or 10. I've yet to try it.

Click to expand the post and continue reading...


PIB 2008: The Best of the Rest

In the last of my posts on the Portland International Beer Festival, which opens this afternoon at four, I will bat clean-up. There are a number of beers that didn't fit into earlier categories, but which deserve mention. Since there hasn't been a lot of chatter one these posts, let me throw it open to you: which beers are you looking forward to?

Cantillon Cognac-Barrel Gueuze (Belgium)
Cantillon acquired some oak barrels that had aged cognac for 15 years. They added their gueuze for another two. Wow.

La Choulette Framboise (France)
This is actually a bière de garde (France's only extant indigenous beer style) that has been brewed with raspberry juice. It is described as dry rather than sweet, and the raspberry is purported to be a relatively minor note. Intriguing...

De Molen Rasputin Imperial Stout (Holland)
I'm a sucker for gimmicks, and the gimmick here is that De Molen is brewed just once a year--this particular vintage on March 17th 2007. It was later bottled on April 27th. That means it will arrive a little over a year old, which means it ought to be ready for sampling.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30 Yr (Scotland)
Ola Dubh means engine oil, a name Harviestoun gives to a beer that's somewhere between a stout and old ale. It has been aged in Highland Park malt whisky barrels. This one aged in a barrels of 30-year-old whisky. It will be tapped at 2 pm Saturday, and will probably run out quickly.

Cheers to all. Hope to see you there--

Thursday, July 17, 2008

PIB: The New World Beers

It is appropriate that the list of American beers is growing. I love the Portland International Beer Festival because it allows me to (relatively) cheaply taste beers that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to assemble and sample. But it's now the case that American beers are as good, as rare, and as costly as their international counterparts. They should proudly share the stage--they are international standards, even if they are domestic or local. You will certainly find ones you like, but here's the list of those that are catching my eye.

Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti
There's an old trick Charlie Papazian suggests for homebrewers to get the flavor benefits of oak without having to buy the barrel: toast a few oak chips and dump them in during fermentation. Great Divide borrows the technique for their otherwise unaltered imperial stout. 9.5% abv.

Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza
Jolly Pumpkin has gotten more press than any brewery in recent memory. Well, let's see if a Michigan joint deserves such adolation. This is their version of a biere de garde which they describe as "spicy and peppery with a gentle hop bouquet and the beguiling influence of wild yeast." I believe Oro de Calabaza means "Golden Pumpkin." 8.0% abv.

Allagash Black
You know, there are a lot of stouts at this fest. This is another one, but with a twist. Allagash has long been a leader in pushing the Belgian envelope, so it's not suprising that they've used a Belgian yeast strain and bottle fermented in the methode champenoise. 7.5% abv.

Cascade Quadrupel
Ron Gansberg sends two of his experiments to PIB, and the truth is, I'll try them both. I chose to highlight the Quad (the other is his Grand Cru), which I dimly recall from my visit to the Raccoon Lodge (it was one of the later beers I tried) as fantastic. I would like to verify. For those who haven't had Gansberg's Belgian-inspired beers, get on the stick--they're some of the most interesting beers in all of Beervana. 11% abv.

North Coast Brother Thelonius
A huge double from the folks who brought us Old Rasputin. It has what is easily the coolest label this side of ... well, Old Rasputin. I have heard murmurs that it may hold the rare artistic genius of Crepuscule with Nellie (that link, by the way, is worth following).

Deschutes XX Black Butte
You have already heard something about this beer, and perhaps you have had it. It is nothing like Black Butte, weighing in at 11% alcohol and including cocoa nibs, 100 pounds roasted coffee as "dry hopping," and then aging in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels.

I'll try to wrap all of this up with a final post today or tomorrow. As an FYI:

Portland International Beer Fest, July 18-20
North Park Blocks, Portland
Friday 4pm-10pm
Saturday 12pm-10pm
Sunday 12pm-7pm
Beer drinkers pay $20 for 10 beer tickets and official PIB glass. More tickets available for $1 each. All beers are 4 oz. servings

Each beer costs 1 to 4 tickets depending on "swank factor." Usually at least half are just 1 ticket.

Verhaeghe Echte Kriek, Cantillon Vigneronne

There's something exhilarating about spending $12.50 on 17 ounces of beer. That's what I spent on Verhaeghe Echte Kriek and Cantillon Vigneronne last night at Belmont Station for Puckerfest (that's 74 cents an ounce for those of you calculating at home). Not including tip. I reminded myself that these beers are made over 5,000 miles away, in a time-intensive process in a manner that cannot be easily replicated anywhere else on the planet. Pinot noirs grown right here in our back yard sell for $30 and up, so twelve fifty actually seems like a small price to pay for all the effort.

To the beer.

Cantillon's Vigneronne is a fruit lambic made with grapes--a variant I've never tried. Perhaps that's due to the difficulty of making the beer, which the brewery describes:
In spite of its success, the Vigneronne represents less than 5% of the total production of the Cantillon brewery. In order to obtain grapes which are as mature as possible, we buy them at the end of the season. Every year, 1000 kilos of white italian grapes are delivered at the Cantillon brewery in the beginning of October.
Among the lambics, Cantillon's are the driest to my tongue. This makes them both admirable and less approachable. The sourness is intense, and there's very little residual sugar to balance the palate, so the sensation is of having the moisture sucked from your mouth; as the beer slides down your throat, there's the sensation that your puckered mouth isn't far behind. The addition of grapes, if anything, exacerbate the effect. You don't pick up much grapiness. Where I detect it is in a kind of astringency or tannic bitterness I've tasted in wines. The beer is even drier than the plain lambic. I would call it an experience of appreciation more than pleasure.

There was another beer listed which hadn't seeped into my brain, but I went for it anyway. Listed as Echte Kriek, I assumed it was from the brewery Echte, one of those many Belgians I'd never heard of. As I drank the beer, I was composing this post in my head, prepared to admit that to my tongue, it tasted a great deal like a Flanders Red, more like Rodenbach than Verhaeghe's Duchesse de Bourgogne, but not like a kriek lambic. It's okay to get beers wrong--they taste like what they taste like--and after all, we just don't have so many of these sour beers handy to learn from.

Well, turns out I was closer to the mark than I knew. The brewery's not Echte, but Verhaeghe--maker of the Duchesse. Properly speaking, it's Verhaeghe Echte Kriek, or "true kriek." The beer isn't a kriek lambic, but rather the Flanders red recipe with cherries ("kriek") added. D'oh! In the kriek I found many of the flavors present in the Duchesse--chocolatey rich, sweet, with a sour twist. The kriek was more intensely sour, less sweet, but the chocolate was there still. I will confess that the cherries were only a suggestion to me--had you handed me a glass of this beer unidentified, I would have missed it. They seem more like a flavor note, as when we say there's "plum" in a porter. Unlike the Cantillon, I both appreciated and greatly enjoyed the Echte Kriek.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PIB 2008: The New Beers

It's not only the US which has a micro revolution. New breweries are popping up all over the globe, and as with the young American breweries, a lot these have energy and a nice measure of irreverence. Some may be world classics in a few decades, so you can get in on the ground floor now. I have tried only one of these, so I'm running blind here. Caveat Beeror.

Ølfabrikken - Porter (Denmark)
You know what they say, Denmark's the new Portland. Okay, they don't say that, but they could, because this Scandanavian country now has several breweries with serious international juice. Ølfabrikken, which I haven't a clue how to pronounce, is Danish for "The Beer Factory," and it was founded just three years ago. Nevertheless, they have produced dozens of beers. This is their main export, a big Baltic (7.5%) and a delight to those who have tried it.

Mikkeller - Black Hole (Denmark)
You know the story: homebrewers turn pro, found a brewery, start winning awards, and pretty soon they set Copenhagen ablaze. Okay, you know a variant of the story. What's remarkable about this brewery is that it appears to have taken its cues from the US, with beers named Jackie Brown and Santa's Little Helper. That means that our beers, inspired by Europe, are now impressive enough to be inspiring a whole new generation of brewers ... in Europe. In any case, Mikkeller has a vibe that certainly would not be out of place on North Mississippi or SE Belmont. This imperial stout was brewed with flaked oats, dark cassanade, honey, coffee, and vanilla. The brewers describe it (with a nod to Stone?) as "vulgar and extreme." Sounds like my kind of beer.

The Bogedal - No.103 (Denmark)
Our final entrant into my Denmark picks (there are other Danish beers, if you want to keep working on the theme) comes from the country's only all-gravity brewery. That's old-school ... like medieval old. As the brewer puts it, the "beer runs from cask to cask by help of pulleys and level differentiation… without the use of pumps." I don't really know what this beer's going to be like because the translation is a bit iffy. It may something like a Oud Bruin, or maybe not. The brewery says it goes well with venison, however, so you got that goin for you.

De La Senne - Taras Boulba ("Smeirlap!") (Belgium)
I reviewed this beer recently, but it bears mentioning again. A wonderfully complex and surprisingly low-alcohol beer (4.5%--a friend to you at this high-alcohol event). Full review here.

Picobrouwerij Alvinne - Melchior (Belgium)
This is an 11% barleywine made with mustard seeds. I need no further invitation, but in case you do, I offer this description from their webpage, run through the Google translator: " The Melchior is the heaviest descendant of our brewery. This Barley wine is one to be cautious taste. It is a complex beer with a spicy nose, malty and heavy gehopt. It has a solid body and is a bitter aftertaste." One thing I do like is a heavy gehopt. Founded in 2004.

Baird - Temple Garden Yuzu Ale (Japan)
Bryan Baird is an American who founded his brewpub in Numazu, Japan, exporting a little bit of Beervana-style brewing east. Turns out he was living in Japan and decided he'd like to open a brewery there, so he came back to the US, learned to brew at Redhook, and then opened Baird's in 2000. His model? "The brewery-pub outfit that I admire most, though, unquestionably is McMenamins." This particular beer is a little hard to resist: it's brewed with Japanese lemons (yuzu) harvested from the garden of a nearby Buddhist temple. It's a wheat beer and the "aromatics stem entirely from late kettle additions of Yuzu peels." Wow.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! - Peche Mortel (Canada)
Don't be fooled, as I was, by the "peche" in the title--it doesn't mean "peach." Péché Mortel means "mortal sin," and this is a cult favorite that may one day become a world standard. Dieu du Ciel started as a brewpubin Montrèal ten years ago, and has only recently started bottling. The untrained brewer, Jean-François, has also achieved a kind of fame that reminds me of Craig Nicholls'. This is their flagship beer, an imperial stout. (Dieu du Ciel, incidentally, means God in heaven!--an exclamation of pubgoers, one imagines, after they've committed themselves to a Mortal Sin.)

Are you getting excited for this fest?--man, I am.