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Thursday, August 20, 2009


Again, the blog grind and the no time means inadequate (and probably inadequately-worded) posting. However, inadequate is better than nothing.

Item 1: Lip Stinger Saison
Thanks to Bulls and Brew, I was alerted to a recently-released MacTarnahan saison. Yes, shocking as that sounds, a MacTarnahan saison. (Foyston mentioned it, too, but I missed that. I've been missing a lot lately. Inadequate, didn't I tell you?) You have to go back to the era when Brett Porter was manning the kettle to find a bold release from the then-Portland Brewing. (It was just Portland/Norwester/Saxer, the uncomplicated days before Pyramid/McTarnahan's.) Says Cidermaster of Bulls and Brew:
It is a farmhouse style ale brewed with peppercorns. The taste, and interest, was far beyond the 4.8% ABV that the label suggests. It is funky enough to stand proudly in line with other farmhouse style ales, even (gasp) the most excellent Upright Brewing.
Says MacTarnahan's, which styles the beer a "farmhouse ale"( the one thing it's not):
Malts: 2 Row, Pilsen, Wheat
Hops: Mt. Hood, Saaz
Spice: Malaysian and Indian 4 pepper blend
Bitterness: 32 IBU
Alcohol By Volume: 4.8%
This is a brewery famous for filtering every beer to within a molecule of pure water, so the idea that it's now producing "farmhouse ales" is a bit rich. But at 4.8% and 32 IBU, I will buy "saison," and one not wholly dissimilar from the one I am in the process of brewing. Says I: intriguing.

Item Two, World Beer Awards
Via Stan, results from the World Beer Awards. The World Beer Awards, you say? Yes, and Stan explains:
This is the competition organized by Beers of The World, the UK publication that recently ceased its print edition. Obviously a well conceived way to judge the beers with excellent judges (Roger Protz headed it up), but of course the winners are really “World’s Best [Fill In The Category] That Paid To Enter Our Contest.”
The judging took place over five months and three separate tasting rounds, and the organizers were not slavish to style. ("No letters, please, about ale yeasts being used in cold fermentation, or about why this standard pale ale is stronger than this strong pale ale.") They just wanted to identify this year's best beers ("they're constantly changing" and "it's like trying to catch smoke in a net.") And the results? Well, have a look for yourself. Mostly this British-held competition admired British-brewed beers. But not always.

The "World's Best Pale" is Rogue Dry-Hopped Red. (I've never had it fresh, but I've heard it spoken of in hushed tones from visitors returning from Newport.) It's also the world's best red. The Dissident (Deschutes) is the world's best Oud Bruin. Rogue Smoke is the best smoked ale. It appears that only Rogue and Deschutes entered beers, but they were cited a number of times for beers that were "highly recommended" (and beat out some amazing world standards).

There are some who yawn at our old standards, hyperactively hoping for something novel. Not, apparently, these judges. It's a good reminder; we should periodically loop back and remind ourselves of just how good some of our standards are.


  1. "(It was just Portland/Norwester/Saxer, the uncomplicated days before Pyramid/McTarnahan's.)"

    Portland/Norwester/Saxer/Pyramid/Thomas Kemper/Magic Hat might be closer?

    McTarnahan's was a PORTLAND BREWING Product not a brewery per se, or visa versa. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong... ;-}

    Someone was saying the Saison was inspired/inspired by Magic Hat's "Odd Notion Belgian Blond" which we've sampled and was pretty damn tasty.

    We still do not have access to any Magic Hat products here in he NW? I'm sure they will be coming per an email we received from Magic Hat. Supposedly Pyramid products are just hanging on by a thread? Not sure how true that rumor is.

    What will the next incarnation be... InBev NW? ;-}

    Anybody remember this beer?


  2. Rogues Dry-Hopped Red a Pale? That's news to me....

    It's also known as "Santas Private Reserve Ale". And I will say.. it's a damn fine beer.. one of the best from Rogue in my opinion.

    Saisons and Farmhouse Ale's have become over-brewed and or played.. when it used to be quite the opposite... ones I had from DuPont, Lost Abbey etc were excellent... but now every brewer and their homebrewing mother are making them... and they really aren't that good!

  3. Yes, I remember those old labels, I remember Uncle Otto's being quite good.

  4. Seem to remember the Woodstock IPA had a nice oaky background. Yep, Portland Brewing had a few tasty brews.

  5. I believe at one point they made a Tripel and an Old Ale, oh, and there was a barrel aged Blackwatch.

    Dosir, I agree that a lot of people are making poor "Saisons", although when done right they are one of my favorite styles.

  6. "McTarnahan's was a PORTLAND BREWING Product not a brewery per se, or visa versa. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong... ;-}"

    To keep PBCO operating, the MacTarnahans propped up the plant financially, and in doing so the official name became MacTarnahan's Brewing. The beers remained the same, but the labels and packaging were changed to reflect those who kept the plant running. This was a bit before the Pyramid merger in 2004.

  7. @Ex-PBCO Bottler

    Thanks for the clarification.

  8. @DA

    We agree with the Saison statement! Great style, when done right or at least close! ;-}

    Same with Strong Belgian Blonds, Dubbels and Enckels.... Every see an Enkle done in the US? :-O

    Tripels get a little tiresome when not fermented out properly... To many US ones to name!

  9. I like the Lip Stinger. It does have a tad more residual sugar than a "traditional" saison, but kudos to them for making a 4.8% beer and not following the "double imperial" route of so many other breweries. Then again they call it a farmhouse style and not saison, so that should keep the style nazis at bay. I think one of the driving forces behind this beer may have been Vasili Gletsos, who's the new head brewer at Pyramid. He's done a lot of adventourous brews in the past (including some awesome homebrewed farmhouse beers) and I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was his baby. And in a world of ever increasing prices for domestic saisons, this is reasonably priced. It sturck me as a very good food beer, both because of its flavors and also it's lower alcohol.

  10. K, just gotta say Lip Stinger isn't my favorite. It just tastes blandish to me. Most of the saisons I've had this year have been great. They usully are dry, with some tartness, and some flavor. This one fell short of my expectations though. Not even the warming the claimed would be there showed up.