Proper Pint Taproom

It seems you can’t blink in this town without a new brewery/restaurant/taproom opening.  Most of it goes unnoticed because we just can’t keep up with it all.  Proper Pint was different.  My wife and I drive by the location everyday and have been watching the progress since before we even knew it was going to be a taproom.  When the signs went up for Proper Pint we were excited to have another beer bar in the area that would be walking distance from our house (Only 7 blocks).

Last Saturday, we drove by the location (52nd and Woodstock) and saw people inside.  They looked open.  We already had plans for that day, but we decided we would swing by on Sunday.  While I was searching the internet for a website with online tap listings and hours of operation, I didn’t find it, but I did run across this great article from New School Beer  which gives a little bit of history of the owner Sean Hiatt, formerly of the Civic Taproom.  The article also has some great pictures of the interior, which I neglected to take because I was more interested in the beer.

So we stopped in on Sunday, and as fate would have it, ended up sitting next to Sean at the bar.  He looked nervous, but in that excited energy kind of way.  Turns out they had opened the day before, when we saw people inside, so this was only their second day open.  We chit chatted with Sean and with Gary behind the bar while we ordered a couple beers and enjoyed the space.  Sean said they hoped to have a “grand opening” celebration in a couple weeks.  He said the target was Saturday August 5th, but that sounded up in the air, so don’t quote me on that.

One of the things I discovered in the article, and then spoke to Sean about on Sunday, was that he built the bar. Literally.  He is an accomplished wood worker and he built the tables, stools, shelves, bar, barback etc.  Anything made of wood in that bar, he made it.  He said it took him about four months to make all the chairs and tables.  Talk about a labor of love!

I would certainly call last weekend a “soft opening”, there are still some kinks to work out, like tap handles that don’t fit quite right and figuring out how to best utilize the flow control taps, but I feel confident they will get those worked out quickly.

Another thing that I observed, which was both a kink to work out and a great example of customer service, was when a patron ordered the de Garde Bu Weisse, and then she came back a few minutes later and told Gary that she thought this was the Zitrus Weizen and not the Weisse.  The two taps were side by side.  Gary poured a small amount from both taps, looked, smelled and tasted them (which is allowed now by OLCC regulations) and told the customer she was absolutely right.  Poured her a new glass and then went to the back to see what had gone wrong and discovered the two draft lines were swapped.  The way he handled that situation was very well done.  Obviously with being newly opened, things like this will happen, but to handle them with class and grace is a tribute to the team there at Proper Pint.

When we were there they had a good mix of beers on tap, which has probably changed by now, including the requisite IPAs and Double IPAs, but also a handful of lighter beers like Kolsch and Weizen and Farmhouse beers.  They also have a couple of ciders on tap and two nitro taps.  One was Left Hand Milk Stout on Nitro, the other was a Nitro IPA from Loowit.  While I loved the hop profile of the IPA, the Nitro made it seem flat and overly sweet.  It was missing that bite from the carbonation.

If you live in SE Portland (or maybe if you don’t) I’d highly recommend you swing by.  I know my wife and I will be back fairly often.

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Proper Pint Taproom is located at the Intersection of 52nd Street and Woodstock Blvd. They are open from noon to about midnight, 7 days a week (official hours not yet posted).  For more information check out their Facebook Page.

Into the Woods Part 3

The warm weather has majorly slowed down the consumption of high alcohol, dark, barrel aged beers, but there’s been a handful here and there.  I don’t know how many “parts” to this post there will be since I have several more barrel aged beers waiting in the wings, so this may just become a regular ongoing feature.

2016 Two Beers Overhang Porter – This was a bottle that I brought home from judging the Best of Craft Beer awards and happened to be the last one we cracked open.  This beer had an aroma of dark dry fruit and faint vanilla, the flavor was also heavy on dark dry fruit and slight oak.  I remarked it was not bad, but I felt it was slightly past it’s prime. Interestingly, I tasted this at the competition and gave it 2.75 stars on Untappd and said it was a huge diacetyl bomb.  I obviously forgot this fact when I got a bottle to bring home.  The bottle we had at home though was much better.  I gave that one 4 stars. (4 stars).

2016 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine.  Ironically enough we ended up drinking this one a couple of days before the summer solstice.  (Also interesting, mine is still the most recent check in on Untappd, so apparently no one else had the willpower to hold on to a bottle that long.)  This one had dark fruit, brown sugar and whiskey in the aroma coupled with sweet dark fruit, vanilla and whisky in the flavor.  Clear red color, highly carbonated (surprising for a BA Barleywine) very boozy with a lot of warming.  Not a normal summer drink, but it was still very nice.  (4.75 stars).

2016 Ex Novo Kill the Sun – Bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.  I got to try this one over the weekend at the Ex Novo 3rd Anniversary party and man was it good.  This one had a ton of dark dry fruit in the aroma and flavor, basically tasted like raisins.  Good whiskey character, pretty boozy.  Should continue to improve with age.  I wish I had a couple bottles of this to stash away.  (4.75 stars)

Culmination Pinot Evil II – Barrel aged Tripel with wine grapes.  I love Belgian style beers, so the last time I was at Culmination I had to try this. They don’t specify the barrel used, but with wine grapes added I’m assuming it was also aged in a wine barrel.  It didn’t give off any major whiskey notes.  Wine barrel aging of beer is becoming more popular.  This beer started out with a sharp tang of acidity that I would assume was from the grapes, and then it finished with that traditional bubblegum sweetness of a Belgian beer.  It wasn’t sour, but it had just a little bit of a bite to it.  (4.75 stars)

Oregon Mead and Cider Co. Free Press Pinot Gris Barrel Aged Frankencyser – Say that three times fast… So this was a really interesting sample on my taster flight at Oregon Mead and Cider (Formerly Stung Fermented).  Cyser is a blend of cider and mead, and this one was a blend of whatever was left in the bottom of the tanks after a bottling run of their standard Free Press Cider and Worker Mead.  This was blended (ratio unknown, maybe half and half?) and then aged in a Pinot Gris barrel.  I didn’t write down detailed tasting notes but I remember it being very fruity and refreshing and it picked up a lot of white wine character from the barrel.  It almost just tasted like wine.  But a little sweeter, since most Oregon Gris is pretty dry. (4.5 stars)

The war rages on…

Last week was a roller coaster in the beer world.  The Brewers Association announced a special logo, recognizing independently owned breweries.  You can read the release and see the logo HERE. To me, this just further emphasizes the point that the only important part of the “Craft” designation from the BA is ownership.  Based on the BA’s definition of craft, “small” is 6 million barrels of beer a year.  The largest craft brewery is Yuengling at a reported 2.9 million BBLs of production (2012) so there’s still a lot of room to grow and still be considered craft.  The limit was increased last year or the year before, specifically to bring Yuengling into the fold.  Sam Adams (Boston Beer), the 2nd largest “craft” brewer (4 million BBLs/2016) is distributed nationwide.  I can walk into a grocery store in tiny Canby, Oregon and find Boston Lager, Rebel IPA, Grapefruit IPA, 3 flavors of Angry Orchard (a Boston Beer wholly owned subsidiary) and now the new Truly Alcoholic Sparkling Water (another BB subsidiary).  I find it hard to swallow that they aren’t pushing other beer off the shelf, which is exactly what we accuse ABInBev of, but it’s OK because Sam Adams is “craft”.

The other problem I have with the logo comes from a strictly food labeling standpoint.  Even though the logo is not designed as any sort of designator of product quality, that is how it will eventually be perceived.  The BA is trying to assert that local and independent beer is “better”.  That “better” can be interpreted millions of ways, but for the average consumer that will equate to better quality or “tastes better”.  Earlier this morning I responded to a post on the American Homebrewers Forum about how the logo will be adapted into a quality statement.  I was already thinking about this post when I formulated this reply, so I will just copy it here in it’s entirety.  Click the link above to scroll through the entire post.

“This is all well and good for those of us who are deep into the industry, but as always these moves are made for the “rest of the world” who don’t care as much where the stuff in the can comes from.

As with most things that go on a label, and which several people have mentioned above, there will be an implied quality statement with the logo.  That’s just how food labels work.  I’m a food scientist and there’s a lot of stuff that goes on food labels and of course if it goes on a label it must be important right? That’s how people’s brains work.  The FDA doesn’t regulate beer labels yet, but it’s coming very soon.  We’re already having to work on calories and nutrition facts labels.

There’s a lot of stuff out there that has nothing to do with quality, but crafty advertisers or just human intellect of “this must be different and special” turns into quality statements.  For example, if I say the words Black Angus, what do you think? Most people are going to think about a fancy downtown steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris. Black Angus is a breed of cattle.  Not a quality designation.  There are three grades of meat, Select, Choice and Prime.  Choice is what you get in the grocery store, Prime is what you get in Ruth’s Chris, but they are both still Black Angus.  When Hardees/Carl’s Jr is advertising Angus Burgers they are banking on most people equating that with expensive steak.  Are they using Prime beef? Hell no, they are using Choice (or even Select) but people equate Angus with Prime.

The BA’s selling point is “local and independent is better”.. better how? Better for the economy, better business practices, better for your community etc etc.  Over time most people will turn that into “better quality” or “tastes better”.  Is the BA trying to intentionally mislead people? No, I don’t think so, but they are certainly taking advantage of how human emotions work to push their message.  In essence that’s how all advertising works.  Is it meant as a quality statement? No, but in 5 years that’s not what people will remember about it.  People automatically assume “better quality” and pay a premium for things like “Natural”, “No Corn Syrup”, “Free Range”, “Dolphin Safe” “GMO Free” etc etc, all of which are unregulated and mostly meaningless statements (Organic is the only one certified by the government) and don’t always (or sometimes ever) equate to product quality.  It’s a shell game.. and it always has been.”

Of course, the other side of this coin is the immediate and comical reaction from ABInBev’s High End. This is the branch of the company that owns the 10 Barrel’s and Wicked Weed’s in their portfolio.

You can watch the video HERE from Draft Magazine.  It’s… well.  It’s something.  It’s ridiculous and it’s a video that doesn’t need to exist.  I may or may not agree with the labeling, but there was absolutely no reason for InBev to respond to it.  Just let it go.  They aren’t helping themselves with this at all.  They come across as whiny and judgmental even though they are the ones controlling the market.  They have a huge chunk of market share, but some new label comes along and they are all up in arms about how it’s “not fair!”.  Wow.  This is greed and capitalism 101, big companies only like something if it’s *their* rules.  The whole “we need to gang up on wine and spirits” is complete bullshit.  The market doesn’t work that way, at least not at the distributor level.  It may look that way in the high up offices of a multi trillion dollar international conglomerate who has to worry about the Diago’s and Robert Mondavi’s of the world, but on the boots on the ground level, at your local pub, it’s beer vs beer.  Mr Small Local Brewer wheels a keg into a bar, the bar man say’s sorry, we don’t have any open taps because some distributor went in and brought 12 kegs instead of one.  What looks like a decent selection of Budwieser, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Goose Island, Breckenridge and Wicked Weed is not much of a variety at all when they all come from the same company.

I’m all for fighting against illegal business practices.  I don’t think a large brewing concern like ABInBev should own distributors.  In some states that’s legal, in some it’s not.  To me that pushes the boundaries.

However, I don’t think the BA is going about it the right way.  You can’t beat the behemoth at their own game.  It won’t work.

Oregon Mead and Cider

Yesterday, I was meeting my wife and some friends at Culmination Brewing, but I ended up getting there way early (I work 6AM-2:30PM).  I remembered that Stung Meadery was in the same building and so I figured I’d check them out and do a tasting while I waited for everyone else.  When I got there, I discovered they had also begun making cider and had changed their name to The Oregon Mead & Cider Co.  You can check out their website HERE.

I was planning to just get a glass of something while I waited and after some initial confusion found out they don’t pour pints/full pours.  They have a taster flight you can try, or just a handful of small tasters, and for take home they have bottle sales and growler fills.  So I ended up doing the full flight.  8 samples which included six of their bottled products and then two choices from the draft only menu.

First the ciders:  The first one I had was the Cherry Vanilla Cider.  This was the first one I picked and was planning to get the full pour of when I discovered I could only get tasters.  It was good, but I’m glad it wasn’t the only thing I had because some of the stuff that came later was really delicious. Next from the draft list was the Pinot Gris Barrel aged FrankenCyser.  The server (who’s name I didn’t catch.. of course.. my bad) explained to me that Cyser is a blend of Cider and Mead and this Frankencyser was the leftovers from the bottom of the tanks after bottling the standard mead and cider and it was blended together and put into a wine barrel.  This was delicious and picked up a lot of the white wine character.  Next were their two bottled ciders.  The Free Press Cider and the Free Press Hopped Cider.  The base cider is very clean, very lightly flavored.  It was good but very basic.  The hopped cider was very nice.  The hops added a fruity/floral component to the cider.  They don’t boil anything, so no bitterness was added, just “dry hopped” so to speak with the hops.

The interesting thing about these ciders is that they are very dry.  I have a tendency to like my ciders sweet, and I think part of the reason is a lot of dry ciders, especially English ciders, tend to be harsh and tannic and astringent.  These ciders aren’t that at all.  They are dry… but just dry enough.  Like a white wine, rather than a steeped tea.  They aren’t bitter or astringent.

Next the meads: The first mead I tried was their standard base mead Drink Mate Die, AKA Worker Standard Sparkling Mead.  So, the first thing in that name that jumps out is sparkling.  These are carbonated meads.  The standard mead uses ginger and Cascade hops.  I’m not usually a fan of ginger, but it’s very easy going here.  They use a light touch, it’s very subtle.  Quite tasty and quite drinkable.  The other mead I tried was a Mosaic Sparkling Mead which had the addition of Mosiac hops, which are very fruity.  A very nice compliment to the honey.  These two meads, and all of the Worker series, are pretty low alcohol (by mead standards) at around 6.5% A lot of meads and honeywines clock in at 10-15% like standard grape wines.  Fear not, OM&CCo has a few of those as well.

The last two meads are from the Queen Series.  These are the showstoppers.  Single varietal honeys and specific areas to showcase the flavor of the honey.  These also clock in at around 16% alcohol.  The two that I got to try were the Blackberry Blossom and the High Desert.  The blackberry blossom is exactly what it sounds like, honey from bees that only eat from the flowers of blackberry vines.  It’s very fruity with notes of the berries themselves.  It’s amazing that flavor passes through just from the nectar.  The blueberry is very boozy and has a good bit of burn to it.  Not sure if aging would help that, or letting it stand like a wine.  The High Desert honey is harvested from out near Bend where the bees eat from sage. rabbit brush, and other desert wildflowers.  This mead has a really interesting herbal quality to it.  The sage really shines through.  It was really quite interesting.  Similar alcohol to the blackberry but this one was much, much smoother.  Dangerously so.  This would be quite drinkable on a hot day, so watch out.

Much like the ciders, the meads are also bone dry.  They use champagne yeast to get a complete and clean fermentation.  Some meads can be cloying sweet and heavy in mouthfeel that makes it difficult to drink.

If you’ve never had mead, this would be a great place to do a flight and try several different kinds.  If you love mead but haven’t been here yet you should put it on your list.  I would highly recommend it for fans of cider and mead.  It’s different than most of what I’ve ever had and I would assume that would apply to others as well.

Cheers!

Best Beers in America (?)

Everyone loves lists.  Everyone hates list.  Top Ten and “Best of” lists are always the worst.  Hotly debated, whether it’s the Best rides at Disneyland, Top Ten Ballpark Hotdogs or the Best IPAs in America, someone is gonna be disappointed.  In today’s social media society, those people get to express that dissatisfaction.

When Buzzfeed or whoever do a Top Ten or Best of list of beers it’s almost universally panned by the beer community.  There’s so much beer out in the world to try to whittle it down to 10 is impossible, but someone will always complain.  All ten are from the Northeast/Northwest/California, X brewery has three of the top ten, all ten are IPA’s, all ten are barrel aged stouts 10%ABV and higher.  The list goes on ad nauseum.  Most complain that they are just popularity contests, best selling, most name recognition, most sought in trade etc.  Most of them are right.  Sales focused lists do have “hard data” to back it up.. but come on… we all know what’s #1 on that list. Budweiser.  And it ain’t about taste.. it’s called 9$ for an 18 pack suitcase so you can get lit up like the fourth of July (and it will take all 18….)

Zymurgy (The magazine of the American Homebrewers Association) publishes a list once a year that is absolutely a popularity contest.  They urge readers (AHA members) to “vote” (read: create a list) for up to 20 of what they think are the best beers in the US. (read: personal favorites). Beers with “cult followings” have held the top ten for years and everyone complains but it never changes.  Russian River’s Pliny the Elder had the #1 spot for 5 or 6 years, it dropped to #2 this year being barely edged out by Bell’s Two Hearted.  Pliny is barely available outside San Diego, so I have a hard time believing that many people have had it to list it as a favorite, I wonder if it’s just the mystique of the “best beer in the world” type status.  Tied for 6th is Alchemist’s Heady Topper, which is another one of those cult beers that everyone seems to love, but no one seems to be able to get.

Did I vote in this? Of course I did.  Did I game the system? Of course I did! They encourage it.  I don’t remember what all beers I voted for, but I used my votes mostly for beers that I feel don’t get the recognition they deserve.  Is Foothill’s Jade IPA ever going to make this list? Probably not, but I’ll keep trying. I think Deschutes Abyss is possibly the only one I voted for that made the list.  And that’s OK.

I don’t totally remember the “requirements” for the list, but the main one is “Commercially available in the US”.  I don’t know if they specify “readily available” or not.  One beer that snuck on the list that should not be on there is Westvleteren 12.  As much as it’s touted as the “best beer in the World” it’s not sold in the US.  In fact it’s not sold anywhere besides the brewery at the monastery.  Yes, some people resell it, but that’s technically against the law, both in Belgium and the US. You also sign an agreement with the monks that you won’t re-sell, and do you really want to piss off a bunch of monks who make the best beer in the world? Westy 12 is on the “Best imports” list which is not part of the top 50, but it still shouldn’t be on there.

My personal opinion, which I’m sure others will disagree with, is that draft only, brewery only, beers that sell out in one day and people camp out for, shouldn’t be on the list, because you can’t just go out to a store, or even visit the brewery and buy that beer across the counter.  Obviously, the whole camp out and sell out in a day deal is a testament to how good these beers are, but they aren’t what I would refer to as “readily available”.  Do I have to go to Wisconsin to get New Glarus Spotted Cow? Yeah, but it’s available year round.  Do I have to go to Texas to get Jester King? Sure.  Some of the stuff on the list like Founders KBS and RR Pliny the Younger maybe don’t belong on the list. I’m sure I’m the only one who thinks that because now people will seek out these hard to get beers.  They do suffer a little though from availability.  Pliny the Younger is all the way down tied for 27th.  It’s supposed to be “better” than Elder, yet Elder is #2.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on it. Your mileage my vary. Relax don’t worry have a (home)brew.

Dick’s Brewing Variety Pack

The standard 12 pack variety pack contains either four bottles each of three types of beer, or three bottles each of four types of beer.  Makes logical sense.  However, the variety pack from Dick’s Brewing out of Centralia, Washington, boasts no less than eight varieties.

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This was intriguing since it was a chance to try even more stuff in one go.  I expected a complete random assortment, some one bottle, some three bottles etc.  Turns out it wasn’t quite as random, which made sense from a production standpoint.  The box was arranged with eight of the bottles in four sets of two, and then four singles.  So by minimum of eight, it usually means exactly eight.  This box contained two IPA, two Mountain Amber, two Cream Stout and two Golden Ale.  The four singles were Irish Red, Best Bitter, Grand Cru (Belgian) and Dick Danger (Cascadian Dark/Black IPA).

The first one we opened was the Dick Danger Ale, which they list as their “Flagship” and also as a Cascadian Dark Ale, or Black IPA. Upon opening it was obvious there was a problem.  The beer was light brown, see through, very fizzy but like soda, huge bubbles clinging to the side of the glass and no head retention.  It tasted flat and caramelish.  No hops, no bitterness.

Next we had the Cream Stout and the Mountain Amber.  These two weren’t too bad.  The Stout was roasty enough to be almost smoky, the Amber was oxidized but not as offensive as the CDA.  The last one we tried the first night was the IPA and it was not good.  Hoppy beers just don’t age well at all.  At this point I’m realizing that all of these beers are just old.  Dicks does not print package dates or best by dates on their bottles or the cases and it shows.  Who knows how long these have been sitting in the store.

The next night I tried the Golden Ale and it wasn’t too bad.  Less hops to go bad, and a milder flavor profile to begin with.  The last one I tried was the Grand Cru Belgian, figuring out of any of the styles that one could hold up the most to age.  It was OK, but it was still obviously oxidized and it was very sharp and alcoholic.  I would wager it may have been higher than the label claim of 10% ABV.

The last two I haven’t tried yet are the Irish Red and the Best Bitter.  They are in the fridge right now, but I’m not holding out much hope.

It’s sad really that this could have been a really great variety pack, but just ravaged by time.  I don’t think a lot of people realize just how perishable beer is.  Just like any food product it has an “expiration” date.  Granted, it won’t “spoil”, meaning it won’t go rotten and make you sick, but it can lose a lot of it’s flavor and aroma and just end up not tasting very good.

If we’re ever in Centralia and get a chance to try some fresh, maybe it will be better, but likely not going to take a chance on the variety pack again.

2017 Portland Fruit Beer Fest

I haven’t blogged in a while (apologies) but festival season is upon us! This past weekend was the Portland Fruit Beerfest, which due to other obligations and just life in general, was the first Fest my wife and I attended this year. We missed Spring Beer and Wine and Nanofest which was unfortunate, since those are a couple of our favorites, but there’s always next year.

My wife and I like to volunteer to pour beer at these festivals, which is you haven’t done it before, it’s the best way to do a fest.  You “work” for 3-4 hours, pouring samples and taking tickets/tokens and then you are released from your shift and given a cup, tokens and wristband to go enjoy the festival, for free! One of our friends from the homebrew club is the volunteer coordinator for a couple of fests in town, including this one, so of course we signed up. Sometimes it can be boring, sometimes it can be hectic, usually it’s a combo of both.  A sudden burst of activity followed by a lull, rinse, repeat. A few festival require you to have an OLCC Servers Permit (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) but most don’t.  Usually they just have a pamphlet that tells you how to determine if someone has been overserved and then you sign on the dotted line that you solemnly swear you’re up to no good.

They moved the Fruit Beer Fest this year, back to Burnside Brewing, compared to the last couple of years at the North Park Blocks, and I get the reasons why (cost, access to water, electricity etc) but it did make for a smaller, more crowded venue.  That’s typical beer fest, but it still stinks.  The good news is it gave me an opportunity to visit Burnside Brewing after I shockingly realized I’d never been there.

Fruit Beer Fest can be interesting.  Most of the beers are small, one off batches made specifically for the fest with some wild flavor combos.  I tried 13 unique beers at the festival, counting my samples, my wife’s samples and one last one that we split.

In no particular order, we had:

Blueberry Lemonade – HiWheel Fizzy Wine
Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus – Modern Times
Pineapple POG – Portland Cider Company
Key Lime Pie – 10 Barrel Brewing
Hop Berry IPA – Culmination Brewing
Clown Pie, Banana Cream Ale – Portland Brewing (I poured this one)
There will be Blood (Blood Orange IPA) – Fort George
Kumquat Farmhouse Ale – pFriem
Biere Royale – The Commons
Tiki Club IWA – Sunriver Brewing
Orange Crusher – Cascade Brewing (one of the best of the day!)
Cherry Pilsner – Reubens Brews
Benny Appleseed – Lompoc Brewing

Quite the assortment yeah? Some are better than others, welcome to beerfests, but they are all interesting and unique.

Next June I would highly recommend it.