You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

So what will you be drinking tonight as you hand out bite-sized Snickers to the little ghouls and ghosts? Something warming on this dark, drizzly day? Something dark? Or perhaps you have plans to dress up as a ghoul yourself and go to an adult party, it being one of those rare Friday Halloweens. As for myself, I will be at a dinner party about which I know very little--except that it's not Halloween-themed. So in my stead, you must make merry and drink good beer.

Suggestions, in case you're making a beer run at one of the finer beer stores in town:
  • Moortgat's Duvel. Flemish for "the Devil." Alternates include other devilish beers like Lucifer or Russian River's Damnation--all in the Belgian golden vein.
  • Unibroue's Maudite. French for "the Damned." A unique spiced red ale.
  • Young's Old Nick, a barleywine with a very cool label of the debbil.
  • Wychwood's Hobgoblin (actually sort of a crappy, sugary beer if memory serves).
  • Anything by Fantome--French for "ghost."
  • And of course, local fave Dead Guy, or perhaps the new entrant BridgePort Raven Mad.
In any case--cheers.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Honest Pint Project Updates and Requests

Okay, folks, a techie friend of mine (ocassional commenter "Iggi") has taken it upon himself to launch the Honest Pint Project into a new phase of being. In the coming weeks, we'll be posting all the information at, a new url Iggi secured after the NPR spot aired. (It currently it just bounces back to here.) I hope it will serve as a national resource, because my sense is that few other states are as tuned into their beer--and beer glassware--as Oregon.

In order to get that up to speed, I have tried to cobble together some visuals using my incredibly stunted skills for such things. (Axiom: you get what you pay for.) So, at right you can see the new generic logo. I want to give a big shout-out to Deschutes Brewery, who supplied the picture of the pint glass, filled with tasty, wholesome Black Butte. An auspicious start.

An Honest Pint
A technical ambiguity that has bedeviled the project from its start: what is an "honest" pint? When I started the project, my main goal was to rid Beervana of 14-ounce cheater pints. What I didn't understand when I launched it was that 14- and 16-ounce shaker pint glasses are almost impossible to distinguish. Since the project has been designed to inform drinkers and encourage publicans from the start, I have decided to promote imperial pint glasses. Even an egregiously bad pour should give drinkers 16 fluid ounces--an amount corresponding to their assumption about what a pint is. A 16 -ounce glass meets the letter of the law, but I want to shoot for something higher. Both the Irish- (like the Deschutes) and English-style imperials glasses are iconic and instantly recognizeable, promoting transparency.

More on how that all will work when the site launches.

I am also trying to create a t-shirt, and I'd like your opinion on it. I am again hobbled by poor design instincts. Using Zazzle, which game me more options for design than Cafe Press, I created two variations. Below the jump are some crude beginnings. Have a look and tell me what you think, will you? [Full disclosure: The t-shirts will sell poorly if at all, and the proceeds will go to support the project. If the project inexplicably gets a lot of attention and the proceeds begin to exceed costs, I'll let you know. Mostly I expect this to be a sink-hole of time and money.]

Click to expand and continue reading...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is Craft Beer?

In the Bud thread below, Alison asks, "I am curious as to how you define "craft beer?" As I was writing that Bud post, I wondered briefly if I should define my terms, since I was clearly using a variant definition. There's an official designation* by the Brewers Association that craft breweries are "small, independent, and traditional." In general use, that's probably close enough.

But it that definition only describes the brewery, not the beer. The Brewer's Association is a guild of craft breweries, and they're more concerned about their membership than a subjective description of beer. I think we can make a distinction between craft-brewed beer that is concerned only with the beer, not who brews it, and that was the definition I was using in the Bud post.

My working definition of craft beer hews to a "functionalist" model of the definition of art. Monroe Beardsley offers this: "An arrangement of conditions intended to be capable of affording an experience with marked aesthetic character." Craft beer is that brewed with an intention toward its "aesthetic character." It is distinguished from macro beers, which are wholly commercial products where all the intention is toward the saleability and marketability of the beer. It's not the kind of definition that corresponds to metrics against which to judge beer, but I think it's a more honest guide because it gets at the nature of the beer in the glass rather than the brewer.

On the far edges, Adam--to take a recent example--and PBR are obvious. It's impossible to regard Adam as anything but a serious foray into aesthetic experimentation; it's equally impossible to regard PBR as anything but a commercial product. But I think it also clarifies things at the center more, too. Someone mentioned Blue Moon earlier. Leave aside who brews it--is it a beer that could credibly be judged against other white ales? It is. To me, that qualifies it as a craft beer. What about Fat Tire (to use my bête noire)? I find it so substandard, and so perniciously commercial, that I have a hard time thinking of it as craft beer. To me, it's the economic engine that allows New Belgium to brew the more interesting, niche beers in its lineup.

So for me, Bud American Ale is a craft beer. The only thing that could eliminate it from consideration is its brewer. Bud clearly went to the same effort to brew it as Oregon's breweries do when they make their craft beer. Bud's intention was to make a beer of aesthetic character. Does it matter that they've brewed it because they believe there's money in well-made craft beers? No. How could it--every brewery wants to sell their beer. Bud just happens to exceed the 2-million-barrel size limit.

*That is, they produce less than 2 million barrels a year, control more than 75% of the company, and brews all malt beers or "beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hair of the Dog Adam

This blog has its downsides. One of the biggest is that I feel duty-bound to try new beers, which, since I don't actually drink a lot of beer, means I don't drink old beers as often as I'd like. However, prompted by my post on the forthcoming cherry Adam, I decided to eschew Raven Mad, Full Sail's new doppel, and the new batch of winter seasonals and instead grabbed an Adam. It's been a year or more since my last; far too long.

Adam is HotD's first beer. When it came off the line in August, 1994, they made their first buck by selling it to Fred Eckhardt. It was inspired by a now-defunct beer style of Dortmund that Eckhardt had spoken about. What the brewery produced is an impressionistic rendering of the style (adambier), but it's pure Hair of the Dog: very strong, hoppy, and richly-layered.

Hops are used to offset malt sweetness, but in Adam's case, a pronounced smokiness in the nose and palate aid the cause. Sally commented on the hop intensity, but I found it more serene--a burnishing of the plummy malt. I don't recall the smoke being this strong. In my memory, it's more plums and chocolate with just an undercurrent of smoke. HotD now uses all-organic malt, and this may be part of the explanation. The nature of the beer is unchanged, but the emphasis has shifted.

I have only recently put a few of these in the cellar, and I regret I didn't do it years ago. This is a beer with nearly infinite aging capacity. It's only getting more expensive, so maybe I'll go buy a few more bottles for future enjoyment.

Update. Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention. When you brew espresso, it produces a skiff of foam known as "crema" (or should, if it's brewed properly). It is a very dense foam, and beguiling to the eye of this caffeine addict. As I got further and further down my glass of Adam, I noticed that a dense foam clung to it, too, looking very much like the crema of brewed espresso. Remarkable durability, given the strength of the beer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bud American Ale: the Triumph or Demise of Craft Beer?

I finally got my hands on Bud's American Ale, which seems simultaneously to be: 1) over-compensation for a company that's no longer American, 2) an acknowledgement that new products, not just new ads, are the only way to grow in the US market, and 3) a legitimate beer.

Let's start with the third point first. This is a real craft beer, not just a marketing gimmick. Bud has made a beautiful amber ale with a nice caramel malt note and a lightly citrusy hopping. They have dry-hopped it with Cascade hops (whole hops, apparently). I wouldn't call it a transcendent beer, but if you did a blind taste-test with this beer and several other craft ambers, I suspect it would finish in the middle of the pack. It is, for example, Fat Tire's superior--by quite a margin. I'm not a huge fan of ambers, but if I went to a party and this was in the fridge along with Corona, Widmer Hef, and Fat Tire, I'd be happy to grab the Bud Ale. And I'd enjoy it, too.

It's not surprising that Bud has made a good beer. I don't doubt that if Bud wished, its brewers could instantly produce a dozen excellent beers, and probably a world-class lager or six. The best, most well-trained brewers in the world work for Bud. They don't brew world-class beers because they don't wish to, not because they can't.

Three questions spring to mind: why a craft beer, why an amber, and what does it spell doom for craft breweries?

The answer to the first question seems obvious. While the macro market is flat or in decline, the micro market continues to grow and grow. The US beer market continues to grow slowly, but all the growth is in the craft segment. Bud can continue to buy up smaller breweries piecemeal to get a part of that growth, or take the plunge with their own brand and try to bring the market under the Bud name.

Okay, so why an amber? No doubt there's an easy, flip answer--the focus groups liked it best. (And actually, I bet they did. I bet Bud tried a bunch of ales and came up with this one. I would have loved loved loved to have been among the focus groups so I could see what was in the mind of the giant.) But it also makes sense. If you want to build a market for ales, you want to actually brew an ale. The craft market has proven the enduring popularity of the style, particularly as an introductory beer for new ale drinkers. It's nothing like Bud. Amber ales are especially fruity and ale-y. They exhibit a sweetness totally unlike light lagers--and which totally beguiled an early generation of Oregonians. Add a little dry-hopped Cascade citrus, and you introduce drinkers to the flavor of hops without risking turning people off with bitterness. If you want to create a market by priming the palates of for ales, this is a great way to go.

All well and good, but does it spell doom for craft breweries? If Bud makes a great (and cheaper) amber, will people quit drinking Full Sail's? I would love to hear the beer-economist reflect on this question, but my sense is that it's just the opposite: Bud can reach 100 million consumers who will never otherwise consider a craft beer. And once they've begun drinking Bud's ale, they may well enjoy Black Butte Porter or BridgePort IPA or Roots Heather. If Bud's experiment is successful, they will expand the market for craft beer--one they won't ever be able to dominate in the way they dominate the single-product macro market.

I love that Bud has made a serious beer. It looks to me like a trojan horse that millions of Americans may unwittingly invite into their refrigerators. And once dry-hopped ales get in there, they may never leave.

Update. Maureen Ogle points out an obvious analogy (one I nevertheless missed) to the scenario above: the Starbucks phenomenon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Actual Hair of the Dog News

Via Brewpublic, we're reminded that this is on the horizon:
The 15th Anniversary Sale will feature the release of a new batch of Fred from the Wood, 2008 Doggie Claws and a small amount of Cherry Adam from the Wood. Come join me and my family to celebrate another year. I will have shirts, hats, and some vintage Beers available as well.
There's not a lot of mystery about that last one--though this is the first I've heard of it. For my money, Adam is both the best of the HotD beers, and also the most overlooked. For all of Fred's strength (you could make the argument that it launched Oregon down the big-beer road) and Blue Dot's hoppy succulence, Adam remains a unique gem in the American beer world. An addition of cherry seems like a great choice, and if I weren't old and lazy, I'd make plans to get in line early to try to score some of that fine beer. But perhaps you're young and spry and should put it on your calendar.

Anniversary Dock Sale, 10a - 4p
Hair of the Dog Brewery
4509 SE 23rd Avenue

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hair of the Dog Blue Diamond

I got a tip that Hair of the Dog has a new beer coming out called "Blue Diamond." A double IPA, soon to hit shelves, apparently.

That's all I know...

[Okay, I've confirmed it's Blue Dot. Sorry all to fans of HotD who were thinking something new was in the offing. But eliciting the news about that Flanders Red in comments--no matter how long it takes--was worth my embarrassment.]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Photo Needed

I am attempting to create a logo for the Honest Pint project, and I need a photograph of an imperial pint that doesn't suck. That last part is key: I spent the afternoon photographing a pint of beer about 57 times, and none is worth a plug nickel. There are a million photos online, but I'm loath to steal one because of copyright infringement and other potential legal problems.

I'm not sure how extensive my use of this photo will be, but I'm trying to make a t-shirt and an official logo, suitable for use on websites and stickers and so on. I can promise to send a couple of t-shirts to whomever profers a clear, hi-res photo, and perhaps throw in a bottle of Dissident or something. (I suppose it doesn't have to be a photo--a cool drawing or graphic, again hi-res and clear--would also work.)


[Update. Evidence of how cool beer folk are: I instantly got some responses. Thanks to those of you who heeded my call!]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Honest Pint on NPR

Apparently some radio show did a spot on the Honest Pint Project. For those of you tuning in from around the country, welcome to Beervana (the site and the state). I recommend you check out this post, which characterizes where we are with the project.

For further reading:
And don't be shy about clicking around. You might find something else that catches your fancy.

Not for the Layman

This here is a beer blog, see, and we don't like no fancy talk from the ivory tower. Well, we do, but in our befuddled state, we must confess that it goes over our head. Thus the beerconomist's formula looks more complex than a double-decoction mash:
In this picture the demand curve for the downstream firm, or distributor, (denoted d) is given in blue. [In this case we make the simplifying assumption that both firms are simple monopolists - but any market power is enough for the analysis to follow] This is the demand for beer from retail establishments which (since they are highly competitive) closely resembles the demand for beer in the market. Since the distributor is a monopolist they make their price and quantity decision where their marginal revenue (denoted MRd) equals their marginal cost (denoted MCd). Their marginal cost is the price they have to pay the brewer. From this quantity (qu = qd ) they would charge their margin which is the difference between MCd and Pd. Thus the distributor gets a profit equal to the dark red shaded area.

So where does MCd come from? Well, note that depending on what the brewer (the upstream firm = u) charges, the quantity demanded will be read off of the downstream firm's MR curve. Thus the downstream firm's MR curve is the same as the upstream firm's demand curve, creating an upstream firm MR curve. The brewer's MC curve comes from the cost of making the beer and so they set MRu=MCu and lo and behold, the quantity demanded from the brewer is the same as a the quantity sold by the distributor, qu = qd. The brewer's profits are given by the light red shaded area. So consumers would pay pd (assuming competitive retailers) and consume qu = qd beer.
Err, right. Did I mention that this here is a beer blog? Good lord. I believe this is a subtle analysis of the relationships in a three-tiered system of brewing/distributing/retailing, but it might also be a description of stem cell research. I believe the man who named econ the "dismal science" must have understood it about as well as I.

Whew, time for a nice porter.

Tastival Reviews, continued

Two more bloggers now have reviews up from the Fresh Hop tastival over the weekend at Hopworks. Bill liked Ninkasi, Deschutes' fresh hopped Mirror Pond, and Hopworks Parsec.

DA Beers dissents
. He thought the Deschutes disappointed. But more, he was disappointed that the drinker/beer ratio was wrong--the most common complaint we heard. I also like this:
I'm an introvert and don't like crowds, I show up opening day to festivals so my agoraphobic tendencies don't get the best of me...
Amen, brother. Portland beer bloggers: Sox fans, introverts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Politics and Beer Distributorships

I stumbled across a nice article in the libertarian magazine Reason about beer distributorships. It frames the discussion in terms of Cindy McCain's family wealth, but my guess is that there are plenty of Democratic distributors as well. But the three-tiered system, which I've railed against for years, is a politically-protected racket that screws producers and consumers alike. And in this way it is political:
The wholesaling industry has thrived ever since. For decades wholesalers have quietly added 18-25 percent to every bottle of beer, glass of wine, and shot of liquor you pour down your gullet. And there's been little resistance to them, for a few reasons. First, wholesalers don’t interact with consumers. They take their markup between producer and retailer, out of the sight of the people whose money they’re ultimately taking. Second, they’re rather powerful. Alcohol wholesaling is a lucrative, concentrated industry that reaps enormous benefits from policies whose costs are spread out across the general public. Which brings up the third reason distribution laws aren’t frequently challenged: They haven’t had many obvious opponents. Until recently, the only people hurt by the three-tiered system were consumers, and again, the cost per consumer was too negligible, hidden, and entrenched for anyone to notice.

But it gets worse. Many states have placed further restrictions within this already artificial market. Some states, for example, give wholesalers exclusive rights to distribute alcohol in a particular region, effectively creating government-enforced monopolies. Other states (including Arizona) have enacted “franchise termination laws,” which make it more difficult for retailers and/or producers to switch distributors once they’ve started doing business with one. Producers and/or retailers get locked in. If they feel their existing distributor is taking too much of a markup, isn’t offering a wide enough variety, or is otherwise performing poorly, there's little they can do. The effect is to squeeze out the upstarts and the competitors. According to Whitman, the number of alcohol wholesalers nationwide has shrunk by 90 percent since the 1950s.
It's worth quoting one more paragraph by way of illustrating why the Widmers jumped on the A-B bandwagon. It was a way to navigate within a system that prevents competition:
The Hensley company provides a good example of how these laws can hurt consumers. Hensley is the fourth largest beer distributor in the country, one of the largest privately-held companies in Arizona, and holds a 60 percent market share in the parts of Arizona it serves. It also distributes Anheuser-Busch products exclusively. Beer-producing giant Busch began an incentive campaign in the late 1990s aimed at getting distributors to drop the products produced by its competitors. In those parts of the country where a given distributor has a huge, government-abetted market share, such arrangements put the squeeze on the variety of options available to consumers (Anheuser-Bush’s national market share rose five percent during the campaign, to 50 percent nationally).
Interesting and accurate article. Well worth a read.

Craft Beer and Class

I stumbled across a fascinating post on the nature of class and good beer in the UK. The blogger, Jeff Pickthall, locates his access point on real ale (aka cask ale), which CAMRA has tried to promote as "working class" beer. It is the UK equivalent of American "craft beer." But from his vantage point in the very working class town of Barrow-in-Furness, the working class don't want anything to do with expensive cask ale:
Casual perusal of town centre pubs on a Friday or Saturday night reveals the "working man" drinking smoothflow, megalager, megacider and alcopops. Sometimes, on special occasions, in the same glass with a shot of Blue Bols for added luminosity under the UV.
This is an issue that plagues the US, too. We want to think of beer as the everyman's drink, but the truth is, it's twice as expensive as canned beer and far, far less popular. Portland is a notable--remarkable--exception, but even here you find mainly urban types going for the good stuff. Go to the outer reaches and you find fewer good taps--people drink cheap beer by the pitcher. It's not so much an issue of wealth as class. He captures the sense perfectly:
Poor people – let’s avoid euphemisms – don't like to be choosy. In the culture of places like Barrow, being choosy is frowned upon. Being discriminating is being a snob – and being a snob is a very bad thing. To be choosy necessitates rejecting something on offer. In a culture defined by hard graft and low pay, rejecting something (particularly food, and including drinks) for the subjective reason of taste is very bad form. Children are brought up with the mealtime fillip "you make sure you finish that: your dad's been hard at work all week to pay for that.” Swirling and sniffing your beer is met with “get it down your neck, you ponce.” I know....

Messages such as those about craftsmanship, food miles, sustainability, wholesomeness, tradition and locality are largely lost on this demographic. Cajoling the “working man” into a reverence for heritage and tradition is to force him to look to the past, but the past is a bleak place.
Pickthall is both saddened by the unpopularity of cask ale and CAMRA's "Marxist" sales pitch to popularize it--presumably, if CAMRA positioned real ale in some other way, it would appeal more to the actual working class. I have no opinion on that point, but he hints at something that American craft breweries should recognize. If craft beer gets positioned as a luxury or connoiseur's product, it will hit a wall of market penetration and remain a niche.

So far, I don't think that's happened here in Oregon. Or rather, after it started to happen in the 80s and 90s, breweries retooled and brought street cred back to good beer. I think they partly did that through strength and aggressiveness--it's hard to describe an 80 IBU, 8% double IPA as "poncey." It also helps that we have so many breweries, too--most Portlanders have seen brewers toiling away and see it for what it is, hard, rugged work. And it further helps that the many of the good pubs around town are downscale. There just aren't that many pretentious places to sully the good beverage.

Fascinating post, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween Beer

BridgePort has another of its Big Brews out, this time a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial porter. For years and years and years, the only Halloween beer has been Dead Guy--a beer that really isn't even a Halloween beer. BridgePort is finally seizing advantage of the category. The new beer is called "Raven Mad." The label is 3-D, and if you show up at the brewery on Thursday (10/23) from 5-8, they'll give you glasses to behold the label in its full glory. They are asking folks to dress up like their favorite Hitchcock character, but you're on your own there.

Two-dollar Burger

I forgot to mention in my post on the Lupulin series that I had the happy-meal burger during that visit. Some people ask me what I mean when I describe myself as a "bad vegetarian." This is a pretty good example: when confronted with a half-pound cheeseburger and fries for two bucks, what do I do? I wouldn't order it every time, but man, is that a helluva deal or what? So I backslid on Thursday.

For those of you who are not bad vegetarians (or good ones), this is a no-brainer. It's available 3-6 every day at the Pilsner Room. Although they do alter the happy-hour menu daily, the waitress confirmed that this is pretty much always on it. The best deal in Portland.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reax to the Tastival?

Once again, I was out of town for this year's Portland installation of the fresh-hop tastivals. That makes me 0 for 5, I think. Next week it's in Eugene, but likelihood I go down is low. (When describing the probability that the Large Hadron Collider would swallow the universe, theoretical physicists describe it as "not identical to zero." Such is the probability I'll make a four-hour round trip journey to Eugene.)

Perhaps you went, though. Share your thoughts. What are the must-taste beers for those of us who didn't get a chance to go. (I'll link to blogo-reactions if they appear.)

Update, 10/20.
Angelo agrees with the commenters here--not enough beer, too many people. He has pictures and more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Lupulins

So last night, while watching the painful part of the Red Sox game, I compared the three Lupulins. They're all on tap now, so you can try them side by side and see what a profound effect a single ingredient can play.

Cascade-hopped Lupulin
John Harris was at the pub and we spoke for a few minutes. He started out with a knowing smile and said, "what'd you think of the Cascade?" It was his fave. Well, funny you should ask. It was all right, but man, does the character of the hop change when it's fresh. Cascades are a bright, happy, and sunny. They don't have a care in the world. But wet Cascades are earthy and rustic. They have a freshly organic quality, but very little of the floral/citrusy quality of dried Cascade. It had a bit of orange, but it fades to a darker, more bitter tea-like quality. There's a certain quality about some leafy green vegetables that is bitter--this beer had that.

Nugget-hopped Lupulin
Up to this point, my favorite fresh-hop beer was the Nugget/Cascade hopped Hoppopotamus by Roots. Well, solely Nugget-hopped Lupulin has now taken the top spot. Score one for Nuggets! This beer had an amazing aroma, very sweet, like the scent you might pick up in a tropical jungle. Fruit, flower? The flavor assures you that it is indeed fruit. Something tropical, but not quite mango, not quite passionfruit. Something I haven't tried yet. This initial note doesn't last, and it fades into a spicy finish. This was my favorite, by quite a distance.

I also tried the Rainier- (Mt. Rainier?) hopped version, and it was much as I reviewed earlier.

Rainier-hopped Lupulin
The aroma and flavor of this beer can be decribed in three words: piney, piney, piney. Smells piney, tastes piney. If you dig deeper, you can evoke mint, but this isn't too different from pine. Good news! There's no decomposition note. John Harris, who last year used Amarillo in his Lupulin (unavailable this year), managed a beer without the note, too. So he's two for two--impressive. I am not personally in love with the mentholated nature of the beer, but it was very well made. I can't call it sublime, but you might.

Three Other Harris-related Comments
It's worth noting that when John Harris says Cascade's the best of the three, you should listen to him, first. It also goes to show that palates differ, and in the subjective realm of beer-tasting, trust your own taste bud's, not some blogger's (or anyone else's).

He also rejected my description of the Rainier as "piney," but when he offered his descriptions, mint was right there. Not so much difference between the two, really. We were tasting the same beers. So you see, even when you agree on what a beer tastes like, you don't always agree whether it's "good." (Some people don't like chocolate.)

Finally, he talked a bit about the Amarillos he used last year. They're a proprietary strain that a Yakima grower (Virgil Gamache Farms) discovered on his land. Apparently they are only available in Yakima, to which Full Sail last year drove to retrieve them. None were available this year, so he wasn't able to score any. Stay tuned for next year.

Resurrection Red

Riddle me this: what is it about beer and the Red Sox? Or beer blogging and the Sox? At least four of us are big fans (Angelo, Dave, DA Beers, me), and no doubt we were all crying in our beers last night until the seventh. Some of us were crying in our beers all night, having left the game after it appeared hopeless. (Ahem.) Well, I'm hear to announce that if the Sox win this series, I'm making a batch of Resurrection Red with enough hops to raise the dead.

What a comeback. Go Sox!

Fresh Hops at Hopworks Tomorrow

No doubt this is on your calendar, but I repeat it to jog your memory:
Hopworks will be hosting the second of three fresh hop tastivals on Sat. October 18th, from noon - 9pm. It’s your once-a-year chance to taste what Oregon’s finest brewmasters can do with just-picked Willamette Valley hops. Sample more than 20 fresh hop beers from Oregon’s top craft brewers, large and small. Admission is free; glasses are $5, tasting tokens $1. Our tastival will include our own New York-style, thin-crust pizza, burgers, authentic German fare, dj stylings and 3 of our own fresh hop brews chock full of green, lush and earthy fresh hop flavor. The third and final event will be held at Ninkasi Brewing Co. in Eugene on the 25th. Come and indulge in the glory of the harvest like a true hop fanatic!

Hopworks Urban Brewery
2944 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
503 / 232-HOPS (4677)
Beer list (stolen from John--thanks, John!) below the jump. Go here for a printable list of the hop varieties used in these beers.

Click to expand and continue reading...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Malt Liquor Revival?

The unexpected enthusiasm with which the "more potatoes" post was greeted has inspired this quick reminisce:

Good and Bad

Bad: No time to do any posting today.

Good: Part of the reason is because I'm cutting out of work early to go to the Pilsner Room and try the range of Lupulins.

Moral: My priorities are still in order.

Report tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beeronomics: More Potatoes and Less Meat

The Dow saw it's largest second-largest single-day fall on record today, but what about beer? The good professor has our backs in his periodic beeronomics series.
Wow, sales are up 11%! One could possibly infer from this that craft beer, like macrobrews, are an inferior good (in the economics sense, not in the real sense). This means that as incomes fall, you actually consumer more. The classic example of this are the potatoes in the aforementioned meat and potatoes meal. As incomes get tight the plate becomes more potatoes and less meat (and vice versa when people are flush). Perhaps craft brew becomes a substitute for fine wine, scotch and the like. Of course it is more likely that demand just continues to rise as more and more people wake up to the fact that beer doesn't have to taste like crap (pardon me - that is an economic term of art for "Bud"). Oh and what about those macros? Sales are flat, just like the keg the day after the frat party. Anyway, read the WSJ article, as it addresses how brewers are coping with hops shortages and increasing input prices.
It's a weird paradox, isn't it? The Wall Street Journal article Patrick quotes says that craft beer is "one of the cheaper luxury items people can buy." So for those of you who were thinking your double-fermented, dry hopped, barrel aged barleywines were a little hoity toity, take heart. They're still a bargain for luxury items.

Odds and Ends

Can't sort out the various Lupulins? Try them side-by-side at the Pilsner Room. #1 is made with Mt. Rainier (alternately known as "Rainier"), #2 with Cascades, and #3 with Nuggets. This is a pretty cool opportunity to see the effect of different hops on a beer. It's a controlled experiment, with all the other moving parts held in position so that the only variation in aroma, flavor, and bitterness will be contributed by the hops. Given that there's something else happening tonight, I may have to wait until tomorrow to get down there.

I meant to point out that regular commenter DA Beers has a new blog. It's been in my blogroll for a week or so, but I wanted to draw your attention to it.

Speaking of new blogs, Angelo De Ieso II, who has written at Portland Beer Blog and Belmont Station, has launched the ambitious Brewpublic. You may recall some of his interviews with brewers like Van Havig, Jamie Floyd, and Christian Ettinger. Based on the early number of posts at Brewpublic, he may become the most prolific Oregon beer blogger in no time. He's a beer guy and a Red Sox fan. Enough said.

Geoff Kaiser writes a nice beer blog for the Seattle PI (you could call him our John Foyston), and he just came back from the GABF with thoughts and pictures. Worth a read.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fresh Hops: Laurelwood and Rogue

I am beginning to run out of adjectives to describe fresh hop beers, so I'm going to cut to the chase a bit on these two.

Rogue Independence Ale
Let us stipulate: the hop additions in Rogue's beer are mysterious. They contain either Centennial, Millennium, and Willamette (per the bottle) or Centennial and Cascade (the website) or Willamette and Centennials (Brewers Guild). Probably it's Crystal and Perle. Well, no matter, at 80 IBU, who can tell? Independence is a sticky, resinous beer that holds little evidence that it was made with fresh hops. The nose is grapefruit and ganja (seriously). It's a thick, syrupy beer, which is good, because the body holds up nicely against the gale-force hops. I found none of the "decomposition note" I've complained about, but also none of the soft herbal notes you'd like in a fresh hop. (Well, maybe way down below the bitterness, but I might have been hallucinating.) A pretty traditional Rogue offering, satisfying therefore to traditional rogues.

Interesting trivia: there's a spot of wheat malt in the grain bill. Betcha can't taste it. (The haze in the beer, easily chalked up to hoppy particulate, might be a contributor.)

Laurelwood Hop Bale
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that this Liberty-hopped ale is a pretty standard, middle-of-the-road fresh hop ale. It is brewed in the (now) traditional pale continuum, and does feature the "decomp note," albeit in a minor, non-fatal way. In this beer I get a cooked squash taste. As Sally noted with a shrug, "it's neither here nor there." Yup.

The good news is that Laurelwood also has an Oktoberfest on tap, and it's wonderful. If beer were cookies, Oktoberfests would be chocolate chip: common but surprisingly tasty and universally-loved. You want your o-fest to have an autumn-maple leaf hue, spiciness in the palate, and a rich, warming, sweetness. Laurelwood's delivers the goods.

The Emerging "Fresh Hop" Style

My tour of the fresh hop beers continued this weekend (reviews to come), and in this tour I am beginning to recognize a through-line in terms of style. Obviously, the key ingredient is freshly-harvested hop, applied liberally. Beyond that, the base beer could be just about anything. Last year I tried three or four lagers, some beers that were very light-bodied, others that were burly and dense.

But this year, most breweries have begun to settle in on a template: a pale-hued ale ranging from about 5.5% to 7% in alcohol. Sometimes they tend more toward a pale ale, others to an ESB, and others to an IPA, but the range isn't that large. For the stronger beers, the bitterness is ramped up; in the milder ones, the brewer tends toward flavor and aroma. To be sure, there are still a few outliers, like Hopworks' Oktoberfest. Some other breweries still seem to be in experimentation mode: Lompoc's got a bock, a red, and the usual pale slated. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that a brewery hits a home run on some unexpected style (Belgians in particular seem little-explored), but so far, breweries seem to be narrowing in on this range.

It makes sense. Dark malts conceal hop flavor, and so the subtle notes that characterize fresh hops would be lost. But lagers are so clean they reveal flavors that maybe brewers might like to bury. As Rogue and Double Mountain demonstrate, throwing a lot of hops in the beer also conceal the subtlety of fresh hopping; the bitterness comes out and the beers lose the very unique note they're trying to highlight. So for now, they've settled on a fairly neutral substrate.

We'll see if this changes in coming years.

Monday, October 13, 2008


So it looks like this is the first medal for Ron Gansberg at the Raccoon Lodge (Cascade Brewing), for Cascade Lakes, and possibly for Hopworks. In my continuing effort to flog the GABF horse, I offer kudos to the first-time winners.

Personally, I think Ron was robbed on his Kriek, and if he sent in that transcendent apricot ale he had earlier this year and didn't win anything, then he was seriously robbed. However, he's very much in the running for the coveted Satori Award, which is a far more selective honor. So he's got that goin' for him.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

GABF: Correction

Okay, I'm an idiot. After hitting "post" on the previous rant, it ocurred to me that the "win percentage" isn't really based on the number of breweries in the state, but the breweries who submitted beers. And guess what? There were 62 Colorado breweries at this year's GABF. That's a win percentage of 55%. Not shabby. But Oregon won 19 medals on 24 breweries.* That's a win percentage of 79%. A far better percentage. I'll update this post in a bit with some of the brewery entrants-per-medal win percentages to see how others fared.

It appears that my ranting all these years was based on poor assumptions. Whoops!

*It's actually fewer than that. They list two Full Sails, all the satellite Rogue breweries, and Redhook (now affiliated with Widmer). But for purposes of the calculation, I included all of them, since I don't know enough about Colorado breweries to do that kind of culling.

More on the GABF

A few more observations on the GABF results. First, let's start with the brewery awards. The large brewer of the year is Anheuser-Busch, and Pyramid was the mid-sized brewery of the year. Both companies had watermark rocky years--Magic Hat picked up the ever-listing Pyramid (proud owner of the also ever-listing MacTarnahan's), while Bud, casting around for new products to shore up declining growth, got snatched by Belgian InBev. Weird.

On the awards. Let us begin by noting that the awards categories are really out of control. The current tally is 76, and in total, the fest doled out 225 medals. So, while Oregon took 19 medals, it's from a huge pool. Here are a few of the major brewing states and their medals:
39: California
34: Colorado
19: Oregon
15: Wisconsin
10: Pennsylvania
7: Washington
I know I complain about this every year, but Colorado once again vastly over-performed, picking up almost as many as California. In any blind tasting, there's always going to be variability--Washington's showing this year isn't evidence of a drop-off in quality, just one of those weird years. But Colorado never has a weird year. They always over-perform. By way of demonstrating just how much they dominate, have a look at the medal-per-brewery percentage of the top states:
35%: Colorado
23%: Wisconsin
21%: Oregon
18%: California
15% Pennsylvania
8%: Washington
There are many possible explanations for this, the most obvious being that Colorado has the best beer in the nation. Since taste is subjective, there's no way to effectively refute this explanation (and I'm sure Coloradans would heartily endorse it). But leaving aside the home-state boosterism from Beervana, does anyone really believe that Colorado has twice the density of award-winning beers as California? Or four times the density of Washington?

It's another GABF and I'm chafing that Oregon hasn't completely dominated the procedings. What else is new?

[Update: read this post for a huge correction about these data.]

Saturday, October 11, 2008

GABF Winners

The GABF has announced the winners for 2008. Oregon's haul:

Deschutes, ESB - Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter
Deschutes, The Dissident - American-Style or German-Style Sour Ale
Full Sail, Pale Ale - Classic English-Style Pale Ale
Full Sail, Session - International-Style Pilsener
Laurelwood, Himmelbrau Helles - Munich-Style Helles
Pelican, Surfer's Summer Ale- English-Style Summer Ale
Rogue, Dry Hopped Red - American Style Amber/Red Ale
Widmer, Drop Top - Bitter or Pale Mild Ale

Alameda, Black Bear XX Stout - Foreign-Style Stout
Rogue, Hazelnut Brown Nectar - Specialty Beer
Widmer, Hefeweizen - American-Style Hefeweizen

Bend Brewing, Hop Head - American-Style India Pale Ale
Cascade Brewing, Cascade Kriek Ale - Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Cascade Lakes, Blonde Bombshell - Session Beer
Deschutes, Chinquapin Butte Golden Ale - Gluten-Free Beer
Hopworks, Organic IPA - American-Style Strong Pale Ale
Pelican, Le Pelican Brun - Bronze Experimental Beer
Rogue, American Amber - American-Style Amber/Red Ale

I think this is Hopworks' first win. Congrats! Also, there are a couple sour beers here and three Belgian styles. Full Sail scored a couple of golds for classic beers--a well-deserved feather in their cap. And the Dissident is in the house. Nice! More thoughts and commentary as I digest this. Seems like a better than usual showing for Oregon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

GABF is Underway

The Great American Beer Festival is now underway. Although I have my criticism of the way beers are judged, I love the idea of the GABF and recognize that the event itself is a wonderful thing.

Awards will be awarded tomorrow. Oregon breweries competing:
  • Deschutes Brewery, Bend
  • Ram Restaurant & Brewery, Salem-Clackamas
  • Cascade Brewing Co., Portland
  • Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., Redmond
  • Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River
  • BridgePort Brewing Company, Portland
  • Alameda Brewhouse, Portland
  • Barley Brown's Brew Pub, Baker City
  • Bend Brewing Co., Bend
  • Rogue Ales (Issaquah, Track Town), Portland
  • Steelhead Brewing Co., Eugene
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. (Redhook), Portland
  • Fort George Brewery and Public House, Astoria
  • Full Sail Brewing Company, Hood River
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery, Portland
  • Oakshire Brewing, Eugene
  • Klamath Basin Brewing Company, Klamath Falls
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co., Portland
  • The Mash Tun Brewpub, Portland
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City
I'll post the winners when they are available.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

From the Internets

I cannot account for the accuracy of the following, but it's amusing enough to pass along:
If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you will have $49.00 today. If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you will have $33.00 today. If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you will have $0.00 today. But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you will have received a $214.00. Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily & recycle. It is called the 401-Keg.
Moral: invest in beer!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ft. George Cohoperative and Roots Hoppopotamus

What do Roots and Astoria's Fort George have in common? Within the realm of fresh hop beers, this: they both used home-grown organic hops. Fort George used an unspecified variety, while Roots went with Nuggets and Cascades. Add this to the similarities--neither one had that "decomposition" note I find occasionally off-putting.

Fort George Cohoperative
This was a true amber color--bright and lustruous, like the stone. I got a candy-sweet aroma with the tiniest bit of hop, slightly citrus, slightly spicy. It was what I'd call a "normal" hop aroma--nothing funky or unidentifiably herbal. On the palate, the hops come through sharply, and in a standard citrus-bitter spectrum I recognized. Unfortunately, there was something a bit grinding on the tongue. I wonder if it didn't come from the tannins in the hops--sometimes if you get some stems or leaves in there, that's a problem. Or perhaps it was a husky note from crystal malt. In either case, it diminished the beer. I'd rate it between a decent outing and winner.

Roots Hoppopotamus
In the dim light of the pub, this beer looked amber-red and was slightly hazy. The aroma was a straight hop note, mostly citrus, along with the usual assortment of other weird smells--herbs, roots, flowers--that you expect in a fresh hop beer. The base beer uses a wonderful recipe and produces a round, warm malt bouyed by the lush, layered hopping--pretty close to an ESB in terms of style. It's one of the bitter fresh hop beers, but as with others I've tried, the bitterness doesn't produce a clear, bell-like note. It's swaddled in softer, herbal flavors. The minor flavor notes are hard to identify, but Sally suggests "peanut." Okay.

I have only had six of the fresh hop beers so far this year (missed the Hood River Tastival, and will likely miss Portland's too), but so far, this is the pick of the litter. Definitely a winner. Worth tracking: Nugget and Cascade hops were used in this beer. We'll see if these produce good fresh-hop ales. Laurelwood's also got a Nugget-hopped fresh hop beer.

Picture credit: Nugget hops from Laurelwood, shot by Matt at

"Official Beer" Poll (Update)

Over the weekend, I posted a poll about what you would select as Oregon's official beer, were Oregon to create such a thing. As I write this, 67 of you have voted, and the results are slightly surprising. The front-runner, IPA, is not that surprising; it's the most popular style among craft beer fans (who are in turn the kinds of people who read blogs about beer). But the second-place style is interesting: fresh hop ales. Have a look:
33 - IPA
13 - Fresh hop ale
/8 - Hefeweizen
13 - all other styles (none higher than 3)
And this is for a style that wasn't more than a rare oddity five years ago. I think we may be onto something. If you want to vote, here's the poll:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Okay, I've been reading those interviews Ben Jacklet, and there are a few nice nuggets. If you're at all interested in the industry, these are well worth a read. I'm plucking comments without context out of longer interviews that tell a great deal about the different values, strategies, and goals of the breweries. It's really quite fascinating stuff if you have the time.

Jack Joyce, Rogue:
"We don’t think the customer’s always right. That’s a stupid thing to say, how can the customer always be right? Our deal is, the customer is to be treated the way he acts. If he acts like a jerk, he is a jerk. The staff is not here to take shit from our customers so we can make money."

Also interesting: just 15% of Rogue is sold in Oregon. Rogue sells well in Georgia (!). They're in all 50 states.

Gary Fish, Deschutes:
"Well, it’s really interesting, because from my perspective the primary motivation behind those alliances with Anheuser Busch was for Widmer and Red Hook to get access to a distribution system that had been closed to them. Now that distribution system is opening up. It’s been a much publicized, at least inside the industry, jailbreak. Anheuser Busch distributors are moving away from that agreement with Anheuser Busch. We’ve been approached by a dozen or more large formerly exclusive Anheuser Busch distributors that want to carry our beer. The idea that we would have to pay Anheuser Busch a substantial over-ride for the sales that run through their system, that by the way they have the ownership over, when we don’t have to — the motivation to strike that kind of a deal is non-existent."

On the growth potential for craft beer: " How high is up? All we want to do is get to 5%. And then we’ll talk about 6. I think there’s lots of room. There’s only 96% left."

Also interesting: nearly 50% of Deschutes' beer is sold in Oregon. They only sell in 13 states.

Rob and Kurt Widmer:
Kurt: "But that said, one of the things that Rob and I get most frustrated about is that there are people out there who think we’re too big. These are the same people who will drink beer from another continent that’s a million times our size. They’re not too big. But we’re too big. It’s not that our quality has gone down or anything like that. It’s just that we’re too big. That kind of mentality fascinates me."

Also interesting: two hot spots for Widmer are DC and North Carolina.

Irene Firmat, Full Sail:
"I have a ton of respect for Kurt Widmer. The challenge is, every time you coalesce brands, you lose voice. We have a meeting with Safeway and we get an hour, and all we talk about is Full Sail. If you’re in an alliance, you may get two hours, but then you talk about totally different brands.

"You may cut some costs, but it’s very challenging and it’s not appealing to us. Widmer has made it work because they are doing very well. But it’s not for us."

Also interesting: in their first year, Full Sail produced 287 barrels of beer (this year it will be 130,000). They originally considered naming the company "Sasquatch."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Oregon Beer Business: Four Views

Over the summer, I got a call from Ben Jacklet at Oregon Business magazine to do a little deep background on an article he was working on. It's out now, and well worth a read. In it, he talks to the owners of four of the big Oregon breweries and discovers that their business models are wildly different--yet all of the companies are succeeding. I don't know what it reveals about business strategy, but it sure says a lot about the characters in the beer biz. I encourage you to go read the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:

Rogue's plan from the start was to create an identity for the beer and take it national (international, it turned out) as soon as possible. No wonder, given where the founders came from.
The 65-year-old Rogue founder [Jack Joyce] is quick to reject or contradict the typical answer to that question, or any question for that matter. But get him talking, and powerful themes emerge: the interrelated powers of instinct, creative freedom, irreverence and good ideas. Oh yeah, and then there is the fact that Joyce was deeply involved from Day One with Nike’s launch and development of the Air Jordan brand. He knows a thing or two about pricing, marketing and brand loyalty. He understands the importance of developing world-class products that are worth a premium to consumers. He respects the power of “unique thunder,” his term for the creative interplay between consumer and business at the point of sale....

Given that continued growth, any interest in taking Rogue public?

“God, no,” he laughs. “We wouldn’t pass the drug test.”
Deschutes took the opposite course--steady local growth. But the tortoise approach has worked well for owner Gary Fish.
Deschutes is not distributed as widely as Full Sail, Rogue, or the brands of the Craft Brewers Alliance, but it is No. 1 within Oregon. Two decades of steady growth have enabled Fish to ramp up production in Bend and bring brewing back to Portland’s Brewery Blocks, with a 10,000-square-foot brewpub that opened in May. And while he is not offering specifics yet, he is entertaining options to take Deschutes national.

One thing Fish is certain about: the consumer’s appetite for more craft beer will only grow. Mention market saturation to him and you’d better be ready for powerful rebuttal. “People ask me: ‘There are 90 breweries in Oregon. How many breweries can Oregon handle?’ I turn it around. There are 350 wineries in Oregon. How many wineries can Oregon handle? ... “Saturation? Are you kidding me? [Craft brewing is] 4% of the market; 1,400 companies nationally share 4% of the market. And it’s growing, and it will continue to grow. Saturation? We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Widmer [Craft Brewers Alliance]
Jacklet is clearly a great reporter--he managed to hone in on the key dynamic that has market the Widmers since they signed up with A-B in the 90s--how to retain street cred while making the moves typical of a corporate brewery.
The distribution partnership with Anheuser Busch has enabled Widmer to grow into a national brand that performs well in Northern Virginia, North Carolina and Southern California as well as the Northwest. It has also brought backlash from some beer purists who equate Anheuser-Busch with pure evil. Never mind that it has never had anything to do with how Widmer brews its beer.

The “too big to be micro” critique is clearly a sore spot for the brothers. In their view, their beer has gotten better as they have grown, due to equipment upgrades and competitive hiring for brewing specialists. “If people were saying our beer used to be good but it’s not good any more, then I would apologize for that,” says Kurt. “But it is very difficult to apologize for getting too big when the quality is better than it’s ever been.”
Full Sail
From a good but perishable company in the late 90s, Full Sail has become the very definition of street cred. They have so much, in fact, that brewing part of the Henry's portfolio--not to mention the first Oregon micro-macro--only seems to have burnished their credibility. Jacklet cites an unlikely source: the number 47.
To reinvigorate the Full Sail brand, [CEO Irene] Firmat worked with Chris Riley, a brand consultant based in Portland who has done a lot of work for Apple. In one of the interviews Riley’s team conducted, a customer said she liked Full Sail but she didn’t like to buy products from large companies. The interviewer asked the customer what she considered large, and she said 500 employees. Firmat couldn’t believe it. She had told Riley Full Sail had about 50 employees, but a recount found 47. She reported to Riley and he started laughing. “You don’t know what 47 is?” he asked. She had no clue. “It turns out there’s a cult around the number 47,” she says. “If you Google it there’s a mathematician out of Oregon State who has done all this research on it; 47 is the most randomly used number in the world.”
By the way, Jacklet cites me comparing the Oregon beer culture to the Italian Renaissance. My point was that the creativity in brewing here feeds on itself, creating brewing Bottecellis and Michelangelos, all supported by an enthusiastic, appreciative audience. It's a point I've made before on the site, but that was the origin.

Go read the whole article. Also, there are links from the online story to interviews with the Joyce, Fish, the Widmers, and Irene Firmat.

Mmmm ... Bilk!

Milk stout contains no milk, but it does have a dash of unfermentable lactose (milk sugar), which adds silkiness and sweetness. Cream ale doesn't even have lactose. But bilk? A Japanese concoction containing that wholesome bovine goodness. Seriously:

Milk consumption has been declining steadily in Japan, and Hokkaido disposed of nearly 900 tonnes of milk last March due to over-production, according to the Japan Dairy Association.

Nakahara's new brew, "Bilk" -- a combination of "milk" and "beer" -- is about 30 percent milk. It also contains hops, and the production process does not differ much from that of regular beer, he said.

His shop started selling Bilk, which apart from a slight milky scent looks and tastes like ordinary beer, on February 1 after spending about six months developing the product with a local brewer.

The news is now 18 months old, so you may be familiar with bilk. But it escaped my notice and maybe it escaped yours as well. Anyone tried it?

(I'd have called it "meer," personally, but you know the Japanese.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Offical Beer?

The unofficial offical coctail thing got me thinking--if Oregon were to designate an official beer, what would it be? (We have already lost "official beverage" status--in '97 the legislature named milk.) A few candidates spring to mind:
  • Hefeweizen. Bona fides: the Widmer Brother's best-seller has long been the beer most associated with the state, and it's probably still the best-seller.
  • Light Lager (ala Henry Weinhard's). Bona fides: it was the best-selling style of beers for over 100 years.
  • Stout. Bona fides: Oregon's craft revolution was built in substantial part by the McMenamin's, and they boldly led with Terminator--perhaps the biggest anti-Bud statement they could have made.
  • Amber Ale. Bona fides: one of the first micro-era beers to be designated a new American style, in part thanks to Full Sail's amber. MacTarnahan's added to the mix.
  • Porter. Although stouts were there early, Deschutes also gets credit for putting Black Butte on the market early and counteri-intuitively. Everyone loves a good porter.
  • Pale ale. Bona fides: pale ales highlight the unique character of Northwest hopping, particularly Cascades (Mirror Pond, Caldera, Full Sail, etc.). They are ubiquitous in American craft brewing, but they're characteristically Oregon.
  • Fresh hop ales. Bona fides: it's a little early to make the claim, but these could come to characterize Oregon like no other beer. We now appear to be way ahead of the curve on this, and given that so few places have access to fresh hops, we may hold the distinction for some time.
  • IPA. Bona fides: this style really captures the essence of Oregon tastes--strong and bitter. I wouldn't be surprised if more beer consumed in Oregon was IPA than any other.
I'll leave it up to you, though. What would you designate as the official Oregon beer if you had a vote?

Guess What Oregon's Best Coctail Contains?

Travel Oregon, the state tourism commission, held a contest to create the "unofficial official Oregon cocktail." These kinds of contests are useful for highlighting local products and trends, and with the amazing growth of micro-distilleries in recent years, it's a good way to bring some attention to the industry. But as a testament to how dominant beer is in in the Oregon imagination, the contest winner, Cheryl Meloy's "Hike, Fish, and Go Camping Punch," employs two bottles of Terminal Gravity IPA.
  • 5 ounces Pendleton Whisky
  • 4 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 4 ounces limeade concentrate
  • 4 ounces huckleberry syrup
  • mint sprigs
  • 2 bottles Terminal Gravity IPA
I suspect Terminal Gravity isn't the only brewery you could use--any version with vivid hopping would probably make the grade--but I'll let others run the experiments.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hop Cheat Sheet

On the eve of the first Fresh Hop Tastival (tomorrow, noon-9, Hood River, details here ), I thought I'd assemble* a list of most of the hops you will encounter, along with brief descriptions. How will they taste in their fresh variant? That is for you to discover.

History. Its name is derived from the area near Yakima where the first hop farm was established in 1869 by Charles Carpenter. Flavor/Aroma. A Northwest-style hop with character similar to Cascades or Amarillo. Floral, citrus, piney, sharp. (alpha acid: 5.7-6.3% / beta acid: 5.0-6.5%) Commercial Examples. Stone Brewing - Arrogant Bastard, Sierra Nevada - Celebration

History. The first commercial hop from the USDA-ARS breeding program, it was bred in 1956 but not released for cultivation until 1972. It was obtained by crossing an English Fuggle with a male plant, which originated from the Russian variety Serebrianka with a Fuggle male plant. Flavor/Aroma. The most-used Northwest hop, with a lovely mild citrus and floral quality. Commercial Examples. Deschutes - Mirror Pond, Sierra Nevada - Pale

History. Centennial is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1974 and released in 1990. The genetic composition is 3/4 Brewers Gold, 3/32 Fuggle, 1/16 East Kent Golding, 1/32 Bavarian and 1/16 unknown. Flavor/Aroma. One of the "C" hops, along with Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus. Centennial imparts a pungent, citrus-like flavor and aroma. Sometimes called the Super-Cascade. (alpha acid: 9.5-11.5% / beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)

History. Chinook hops were developed in the early 1980s in Washington state by the USDA as a variant of the Goldings Hop. Flavor/Aroma. An herbal, smoky/earthy character. (alpha acid: 12.0-14.0% / beta acid: 3.0-4.0%)

History. Crystal was released 1993, developed in Corvallis a decade earlier. Crystal is a half-sister of Mt. Hood and Liberty. Flavor/Aroma. A spicy, sharp, clean flavor. It is not complex like Cascade but offers a clear note when used with other hops. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-6.7%)

History. Another cross of the Hallertauer Mittelfrüher, with characteristics similar to those of Mt. Hood, released in the mid-80s around the time of Mt. Hoods' release. Flavor/Aroma. mild and spicy, closely akin to Mt. Hood and Hallertau. (alpha acid: 3.5-4.5% / beta acid: 3.0-3.5%)

History. A high-alpha hop released in 2000 and related to Nugget. A patented hop generally used as an extract. Flavor/Aroma. Herbal, apparently very similar to Nugget. (alpha acid: 12-15%)

Mt Hood
History. Another Corvallis product, it was developed in 1985 with the quality and aroma characteristics similar to its female parent Hallertauer Mittelfrüher. Flavor/Aroma. An aromatic variety derived from Hallertau with a refined, spicy aroma and clean bittering. A good choice for lagers. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-7.5%)

Mt Rainier
History. A new hop about which I could locate little information. From a message board comes this description: Mt. Rainier has a complex parentage, including Hallertau, Galena, Fuggles and other hops. Flavor/Aroma. Floral/spicy aroma and flavor similar to a Hallertau. Aroma is reminiscent of licorice with a hint of citrus. (alpha acid: 6%)

History. An aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1978 in Germany from Northern Brewer. Flavor/Aroma. Clean, evergreen, almost minty bitterness and pleasant aroma. (alpha acid: 7.0-9.5% / beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)

History. A cultivar of Saaz and Cascade principally. Apparently and Oregon hop released in 1998. Flavor/Aroma. Spicy, purported to be a good replacement for Saaz. (alpha acid: 4.5-5.0% / beta acid: 5.0-6.0%)

History. Released this year, with the lowest alphas of any hop and the greatest alpha/beta ratio of any hop. (Article here). Flavor/Aroma. No information. (alpha acid: 0.6 to 1.8% / beta acid: 5.4 to 13.2%)

History. The original hop from the Tettnang region of Germany, and one of the ancient "noble" hops. Flavor/Aroma. Spicy and floral. (alpha acid: 4.0-5.0% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%)

History. A seedling of the British Fuggle, developed in 1976 in (unsurprisingly) Oregon and a standard in American brewing. Flavor/Aroma. Woody, earthy, peppery. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%)

History. A proprietary, high-alpha hop from Yakima Chief. Flavor/Aroma. Neutral, clean bittering. (alpha acid: 15-17%)

*This is an assembly job. I didn't write these descriptions, but stole them from the following websites: Beer Advocate, Brew 365, Hopsteiner, Yakima Chief

Three Creeks Review

I want to direct you to Jon's comprehensive review of the newly-opened Three Creeks brewpub in Sisters. Three Creeks, to jog your memory, is erstwhile Lucky Lab brewer Dave Fleming's new place. Jon reviews the beer, food, and has ten pictures of the place. As the king blogger of Central Oregon, I've been waiting for his review. Beer upshot:
Overall, we all agreed the beer is decent and drinkable, and I think they're doing some interesting enough things (like the IBA and the Rye) to keep them noticed and fresh.
Food upshot:
The food ... was good all around. Paul kept raving about his "Chicken-bacon-tater" meal, which was essentially all those ingredients in a flatbread taco thing smothered (I think) in cheese and stuff. Decadent, you know. I ordered fish and chips, which is pretty standard for me whenever I first visit a brewpub—I figure it's a good measure of the place—and it was a solid plate.
I find it amusing that he also orders fish and chips as a standard--something I do, as well. Obviously, beer drinkers are not the most sophisticated foodies on the block. Anyway, go have a read and check out his pics--

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Review - Four Fresh Hop Beers

I have now tried two or three dozen fresh hop beers. I am therefore approaching or just over the number needed for my sample to be statistically significant. Revealed to me in this group is a unique flavor/aroma that I haven't yet found the words to express. None of these is right, but perhaps together you can begin to sense of its nature: "gassy," "cabbage," "sulfur," "grassy." Sally described it as that volatile smell you get when you turn over composting leaves. It has the quality of decomposition.

Guess what? I'm not super high on it.

Now, what I've also observed is that not every wet-hopped beer has this, nor is it as strong in every beer, nor is at as offensive once a beer has warmed up a touch (counter-intuitively). So I consider it a risk in working with fresh hops, but not essential to their nature. I recently went through the chemistry of fresh herbs and the constituents in hops, so perhaps after I've tried this year's batch of beers, I'll see if I can line up the "decomposition note" with a particular element in the hop. All of this is by way of introducing my review of four new versions of fresh hop beers. (Incidentally, I'll employ last year's specific scale for rating fresh hop ales: noble failure, decent outing, winner, and sublime.)

Hopworks Oktoberfest
By all appearances, this is a classic Oktoberfest. It is a clarion, russet hue, with a nice light head. It was hopped with Willamettes--not exactly the choice of dour-faced Germans, but with its spicy nature, well-chosen. Alas, there's the decomposition note. In this case, it tends toward buttery. As it warms, unexpected aromas emerge. Cabbage, which isn't that unexpected, but also a sweet rose-petal note. The flavor improves, exhibiting more of the underlying recipe, and the fresh hops turn herbal and almost savory (an adjective to which we will return). Rating: Decent Outing.

Ninkasi Pale
Again, we're off the grid in terms of familiar adjectives in describing the aroma. Ninkasi's pale, hopped with Mt. Hoods (an aroma hop derived from the spicy German Hallertau), smells of freshly-mown lawn, with a touch of fresh earth and spritz of citrus oil. Sally relates to the citrus as "pine," and I am sent down a philosophical reverie in which I ponder how it is that these two are related, before being pulled out, roughly, by that decomposition note. It's mild but persistent. There also seems to be a "hot" note which I took to be fusel alcohol, but which Sally, calling it "radish," made me think again. Could be another bizarre by-product of the fresh hops. My least-favorite of the four, I nevertheless can't give it a noble failure. Rating: Decent Outing (barely).

Double Mountain Killer Green IPA
I have noticed the increasing use of Perle hops in the US, and it's a house favorite for Double Mountain. Originally bred in Germany in 1978, they are now regularly (and successfully) grown in the US. Double Mountain manages to beat the decomposition note by dumping vast mounds of Perles into this beer. It is vividly hoppy, and has a standard IPA nose, sticky and resinous. The palate is of spruce, not atypcial for Perle, but also of tropical fruit. As the beer warms, that savory note I mentioned above comes out, and here it comes across as ... roast chicken. Sally suggests that it could actually be more like sage or rosemary (but probably sage) which could confuse the palate into thinking "chicken." I'm less sure, but it is odd. Fortunately, the bitterness calms all fears. It's a bold, tasty, and odd outing. Still, I like it. Rating: Winner.

Full Sail Lupulin (Mt. Rainier variant?)
Full Sail has three versions of Lupulin this year, one with the super new and obscure Mt. Rainier hops, and other versions with Cascade and Nugget. I think this was the Mt. Rainier batch, but it could be Nugget, I suppose (distinctive Cascade we can rule out). The aroma and flavor of this beer can be decribed in three words: piney, piney, piney. Smells piney, tastes piney. If you dig deeper, you can evoke mint, but this isn't too different from pine. Good news! There's no decomposition note. John Harris, who last year used Amarillo in his Lupulin (unavailable this year), managed a beer without the note, too. So he's two for two--impressive. I am not personally in love with the mentholated nature of the beer, but it was very well made. I can't call it sublime, but you might. Rating: Winner.

Have you tried any of these? What was your take?