Last week, I was invited to attend what turned out to be a blogger-scarce tour of four breweries who tomorrow unveil beers for Craft Beer Month. Jacob Grier (that's him on the left in the photo on the right, below) and Jason Wallace were the other lucky proles--the rest were the, ahem, real media. Before we get to the beers, let me mention the transportation. This little baby:
It goes by the unfortunate name of Double Decker PDX, and is the conceit of a couple of kids who just graduated from UO. A 1959 Bristol Lodekka outfitted with plush seats and fridges (sorry, no bar), you can rent it and go on a pub crawl or take it to wine country. Dunno if the business model pens out, but it's a sweet (if bumpy) ride. I'd probably call it Rosey or something a bit more distinctive, but hey.
Now to the beer.
Our tour began at the Pilsner Room, where an outrageous number of the group admitted they'd never been. If you are in their dubious company, do yourself a favor and head down. In any case, the beer was Full Sail Dunkopple, the latest in their Brewer's Share series. It is ostensibly a dunkel, crafted by Kristy Holsopple, a lovely lab supervisor originally from Cincinnati. Because lagers are still king in the Midwest, Kristy was reminded of this gentle, sessionable style. Alas, Kristy has been Oregonized, and the resulting beer is something like a cross between a pale ale and a dunkel. Which means, of course, that it's quite pleasant and should be a major crowd-pleaser. Traditionalists will naturally chafe. (5.2%, 30 IBU, hopped with Citra and Mt. Hood)
Next we traveled to Rock Bottom, where Van Havig rocked my world when he described his Nugget, Cascade, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial-hopped American Dream IPA this way: "It has that canned grapefruit-juice quality. Kinda metallic and harsh. I love that." He later described it as "not that bitter." I almost want to not say anything myself, but demand that everyone go down and try it first. Almost. Instead, I'll say instead that it is indeed that bitter, and the description as a harsh, tinned bitterness is right on, too. What rocks my world is that Van likes it that way. Of course, I know many IPA fans do, too. I guess you know who you are. If I travel with any of you there, I will instead order the far more subtle kolsch I mentioned earlier.
The next stop was to the warm, still-aired Lompoc Sidebar, where were were offered a snifter of Big Bang Red. A version of Proletariat Red brewed in 2009, it was aged in four different bourbon barrels with an additional part left in the tank. Everything was re-blended together. It is a massively boozy beer that seems far stronger than the stated 8.1% (trust me, not that number--it was north of ten). It picks up lots of bright flavors--bourbon, vanilla, and oak. It's a pretty tasty beer now, but brash and green. I think another year would soften it and burnish those flavors a bit.
The final stop was Widmer where we tried more gose. This goddam city is lousy with goses.* Seriously--two years ago, you couldn't have convinced me there would have been two different versions of goses brewed here. (One I might have bought.) Widmer is the third brewery to take up the style, and the two they've brewed are the sixth and seventh (!) in the last year. Doing their homework, Widmer has brewed up a Goslar-style and Leipzig-style gose. Both are wheat beers made with a lactic zing, salt, and coriander. (The river Gose flows through the town of Goslar and gives the style its name. The Goslar breweries used salty water, responsible for the unique flavor. Major production ultimately shifted 100 miles away, to Leipzig.)
Widmer Odin, the Goslar-style, is getting the major release. I somehow missed the description of why, but it is made without lactobacillus, making it much more like a Belgian wit. (Did the Goslar breweries somehow have purer strains of yeast? How did the Widmers discover this?) They also poured us their Leipzig-style, which seems quite traditional to me, and mighty tasty. Let us hope that it gets a release, too.
So thems the beers, but only the kick-off beers. Over the course of the next month, breweries are going to release sortie after sortie of new releases. Get ready, here it is: Craft Beer Month begins...
*That's a sentence I'll never have the chance to write again.