Whisk(e)y Chronicle #4

Four Roses Yellow Label:

Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Produced by: Four Roses Distillery LLC
Origin: Kentucky, USA
Proof: 80 (40%)
Mashbill: (Approximation) 65% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Barley
Price: $24.95 (Oregon US)
Age: No age statement, minimum of 5 years.

Tasted Neat in a Glencairn:
Aroma: Baking spice, brown sugar, cinnamon. Light fusel alcohol.
Flavor: Upfront sweetness, light dark fruit, cinnamon/baking spice in the finish.
Lingering Heat: Very warming, strong cinnamon spice from the rye. Lingers a long time.

Tasted with a splash of water:
Aroma: Heavy cinnamon, mineral, light fusel alcohol.
Flavor: Brown sugar, cinnamon, caramel, toffee-like. Some fruity, dried fruit notes.
Lingering Heat: Quick throat burn and then calms immediately.

Verdict: 4 Stars
Extremely solid, especially at it’s price point. I had read good reviews about it and was excited to try it. The mash bill is approximate because Four Roses uses a blend of two mash bills, but who knows if it’s 50/50 and obviously is going to change from blend to blend, but I averaged it just for a quick and dirty assumption. The rye component comes through very heavily with the cinnamon and baking spice, which I very much like. One of the things I tend to not like about Bourbon is the sweetness of the corn. I typically prefer the Rye version to most Bourbons such as Buillet Rye and Woodford Reserve Rye. I don’t know if this is high enough to be considered a “Rye Whiskey” but it’s enough to cut the sweetness from the corn.

Recommendation:
Perfectly good on it’s own, but given the price point I don’t mind using it as a mixer, especially for higher end “spirit-forward” cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan which is very likely what I will make with it. This is Four Roses “base” expression, they have some higher end offerings like Single Barrel and Small Batch which I’d like to try eventually. They are also reasonably priced compared to other offerings in the marketplace.

Long awaited East Coast Trip #4

I haven’t written anything on here in quite a long time because, honestly, there hasn’t been anything to write about. With pandemic and quarantine came cancelled beer festivals, cancelled competitions and even cancelled homebrew club meetings. Also, while not 100% a Covid-casualty, in February of 2021, Portland Brewing closed it’s doors for the last time. I was out of a job, and out of the industry, so certainly didn’t have my finger on the pulse of things happening out there in beer-land, even though there was very little going on.

Last week, we finally made our trip to the East Coast to see my family. This trip had originally been planned for May of 2020. We can all imagine what happened then. Pushed to October of 2020 in the original “flatten” the curve phase, and then pushed again to nearly a year later when fall of 2020 didn’t really look any better. With widespread vaccination (especially among my family and friends) and travel seeming a bit safer, we decided to not push it again and finally head out there.

We managed to make it to five breweries on this trip. There were a couple more we had on our list but being out on the coast, in the off season, on a Monday, a couple of them were closed when we tried to go.

The one brewery we managed to make it to on the Outer Banks was the Outer Banks Brewing Station. Something that was very cool about this brewery is that it is wind powered. The Wright Brothers chose Kitty Hawk to fly their gliders, and eventually the first powered airplane, because of the windy conditions. So, a very cool way to use the natural surroundings to your benefit. However, the first day we were there, there was a gale storm blowing in with sustained winds of 25 MPH and gusts up to 50 MPH. The windmill behind the brewery sounded like a helicopter, which was a little scary. We could actually hear it from across the street at the seafood restaurant we went to eat dinner. The place was cool, and had a great atmosphere. The beer was a little hit or miss, which honestly, I kind of expect anywhere outside of Portland or other major beer meccas. The double IPA I got was extremely bitter, but sweet at the same time (the menu said it added lots of grain to support the hops.), the pale ale I got was decent enough. They also had a “decaf” porter, which tasted like it had coffee in it, but it was simply dark grains to achieve that flavor, which was very, very tasty.

The two breweries we didn’t make it to on the Outer Banks were Lost Colony Brewery (on Roanoke Island) and Weeping Radish Brewery (NC Oldest Microbrewery) that were both closed, but we were able to find cans of their products at the local grocery store and so we got to try some. We also got a bottle of Kill Devil Rum, which is produced in Kill Devil Hills and it was really, really good. Sadly, it’s not available in Oregon and we didn’t bring any home. Oh well, guess that means we have to go back!

The second brewery we made it to we didn’t even know was a brewery until we sat down. We had lunch at the Fishbone Bar and Grill in Duck, NC and turns out they make their own beer! They have a very small brewery that only makes a handful of styles, a pretty typical round up of a brown ale, IPA, amber ale, stout etc. They only had one of their own on tap that day, the amber, but it was incredibly solid and tasty. It’s labeled as an “ale” but to me, it had the characteristics of a dark lager, in the vein of a Modelo Negra, Dos Equis etc. It was very good, and a great compliment to the delicious seafood we had there. Fried flounder and calamari.

The third brewery we made it to was in Kannapolis NC, Old Armor Brewing. We were visiting a friend there and it just happened to be right next door to the place we were eating lunch. It is a 100% Veteran Owned and Operated brewery and we happened to be there on Veterans Day. There was a group cooking barbeque outside and several Vietnam-era helicopters that were on display on the sidewalk. We went inside and the place was HOPPING! Not surprising for a Veteran owned brewery on Veterans day. They had live music and several specials going on. It seemed like a really cool place to hang out. Another cool thing was that Kannapolis had designated the few blocks around it as a “social district” so we could get a beer to go and walk down the sidewalk with it. The only other places I’ve been with open containers allowed like that have been New Orleans and Savannah, GA. The beer was very solid. Definitely would go back next time we’re in town.

Thank you to all who have, and continue to, serve. Happy Veterans Day!

The fourth brewery we made it to was in Greensboro, NC, which was our home base for most of the trip. It’s where my parents live, and the emphasis of the trip was to visit with them, even though we did have the side trips to OBX and Kannapolis as well. Little Brother Brewing is in the historic downtown area of Greensboro, actually right across the street from Natty Greene’s Brewing, which we had visited on a previous trip. It’s a small little place, just a bar and a couple of tables. They have a very small scale brewery tucked in the back. I was impressed how well they used the space. As we were leaving, the brewer was there grinding grain out on the sidewalk. I wish I would have gotten a picture, but it seemed a little rude at the time, dude was just trying to work as best he could. Again, the beers were a little hit or miss, but the one really good one was a pale ale that included juice from Scuppernog grapes. Scuppernogs (also referred to as Muscadines) are the only grape that’s native to North America. They grow pretty readily up and down the east coast, but are very popular in North Carolina as a wine grape. Unlike a lot of European wine styles, the wines made with Muscadines are usually very sweet. The must (juice) added a bit of a Belgian-type funk to the beer which I very much enjoyed. They also had local cider on tap from Bull City Cidery in Durham, NC, which we also tried.

The final brewery we visited was actually on our last day there. We went to go eat at Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill with my sister. Turns out they have a small brewery on site and also make their own spirits (which we didn’t try). The interesting thing about this place was they were on the third floor of the building they are in, so that must have been interesting to get all the equipment up there. The beers were serviceable, but the food was incredible. The beer I got was a “white ale”, very much in the style of a Blue Moon or a Shock Top (even served with an orange slice) and it was decent enough, but the fried chicken sandwich I got for lunch was killer. Even for something as simple as a chicken sandwich it managed to be really stellar. We left straight from lunch and headed to the airport, so it was nice to have a full belly before our long flight home.

Horrible picture I took from our table.

Another great place we visited, which we had been to before, was the Beerded Lady Taphouse in Garner, NC, close to where my best friend lives. It’s a fun little taphouse with a lot of local beers on tap, but also a bottle shop that includes a well curated selection of beers from around the country and international. The night we went, they had a food truck outside that specialized in New England style lobster rolls, which were amazingly delicious, so that was a nice treat.

All in all, we visited 5 new breweries, and logged 20 new items in Untappd, plus the bottle of rum, so a very successful trip, especially when brewery-hopping was not the main focus of the trip, unlike our previous trip to the Asheville area.

The Whisk(e)y Chronicle #3

Evan Williams Single Barrel:

Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Produced by: Heaven Hill
Origin: Kentucky, USA
Proof: 43 (86%)
Age: NAS Technically. Age of barrels vary, this one is 8 years.
Price: $26 (Oregon, USA)

Other Information:
Barrel #407
Barreled on – 1-25-2012
Bottled on – 2-14-2020

Tasted neat in a Glencairn:

Aroma: Heavy vanilla, light brown sugar, light honey, slight alcohol burn.
Flavor: Heavy brown sugar up front, light vanilla, cherry/dried fruit on finish. Lingering heat. Oaky/wood lingers in the mouth.

Tasted with a splash of water:

Aroma: Honey, brown sugar. Alcohol burn intensified, which is unusual.
Flavor: Muted sweetness, heavy alcohol burn. Not better with water.

Verdict: 4 stars. Like the EW Cherry, this whiskey suffers from the addition of water. It’s actually much better on it’s own. This is perfectly good to drink on it’s own, but it does make a killer Old Fashioned. At this price point, this certainly could become a regular on the bar. Very good for it’s price. Pricewise it’s in line with the likes of Makers Mark and Jack Daniels Black Label, which are also good, but this is a slight step above. Makers and JD I’d be much more likely to mix, rather than drink neat.

Whisk(e)y Chronicle #2

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Evan Williams Cherry Reserve:

Style: Flavored American Whiskey (Kentucky Bourbon and Cherry Liqueur)
Produced by: Heaven Hill
Origin: Kentucky, USA
Proof: 70 (35% ABV)
Age: NAS
Price: $11.95 (Oregon, USA)

Tasted neat in a Glencairn:

Aroma: Strong cherry aroma and hot alcohol. Burns the nose slightly. Touch of oak, light brown sugar and vanilla.
Flavor: Again, cherry dominates. Brown sugar, oak in the finish. Very light vanilla/marshmallow. Sweetness lingers, as does heat.

Tasted with a splash of water:

Aroma: Sweet cherry and vanilla dominate, alcohol heat still present.
Flavor: Sickly sweet cherry, like cough syrup with alcohol. Was better neat.

Verdict: 2 stars. Solid 2 star. Good enough to drink on it’s own (but apparently not with water), but pretty much designed to mix with soda or soda water.  It’s flavored whiskey, so basically it is what it says it is. It’s cherry. Mix with Coke or 7Up for an adult Cherry Coke/Shirley Temple.  It’s sneaky at 35%. Goes down way too easy.

Whisk(e)y Chronicle #1

I’ve featured whiskey on the blog off and on as a spin-off to the In the Woods barrel aged beers feature, but I’ve been getting a little more seriously into whiskey lately, and thought it would be fun to do some tasting style reviews of whiskies. I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, with the pandemic, most of my normal topics have disappeared. I haven’t brewed since January, or judged a competition since February. Competitions, festivals and conferences have all been cancelled and I haven’t even been travelling that much to visit new breweries. At least tasting whiskey is something I can do from the safety of my own house.

I’ll use a 5 star rating system, similar to my beer reviews and Untappd. A lot of online rankings I see (such as Reddit) use a 10 star, but I don’t think I need to differentiate that much. Also, most people’s #1 is “Drain pour”. I’ve only poured out a partial bottle of liquor once, so that’s unlikely to happen again. I’ll at least mix it with coke or something to get rid of it.  So my scale will be:

1 Star – Mix with something to get rid of it.
2 Star – Solid mixer, great for quick mixes like Coke, 7up, Orange juice etc.
3 Star – Good enough to drink on it’s own. Possibly good for “fancy” cocktails, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
4 Star – Fantastic on it’s own. Could make into a high end cocktail, but not needed.
5 star – Blows you away. Don’t mix with anything. Life changing on it’s own.

Might as well start with the bottle that’s in the cabinet right now. Nothing fancy, but it’s a good enough place to start.

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McAfee’s Benchmark Old No 8:

Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Produced by: Buffalo Trace
Origin: Kentucky, USA
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
Age: At least 36 months (per label)
Price: $11.95 USD (Oregon, USA)

Tasted Neat:

Aroma: Light Brown Sugar, heavy fusel alcohols, burns the nose.
Flavor: Heavy Brown sugar, light maple, very light smoke, very hot in the mouth. Long finish, lingers.

Tasted with an ice cube:

Aroma: Heavy maple sweetness, light caramel/brown sugar, very light smoke/char.
Flavor: Light brown sugar, light maple, long finish. Very light smoke.  Very light cinnamon/rye spice very late in the finish.

Verdict: 2 stars (almost 3). Very solid bourbon for it’s price. In my opinion, it’s head and shoulders above others in that range like Evan Williams White Label, Old Crow, etc. Hence, the almost 3 star. I probably wouldn’t use it to make an Old Fashioned (although, I’ll likely try it before the bottle is empty) but it’s great on ice or mixed with coke. I picked it because I’m a big fan of the Buffalo Trace portfolio and this doesn’t disappoint.

Recommendation: Great for mixing with coke or 7UP (7 and 7 style). Remarkably high quality for a $12 bottle of bourbon.

Support Local Part 2

When I wrote the first part of this back in April, we were 3 weeks to a month into the quarantine, with no idea how long it would last.  Here we are now, on July 29th (Holy crap where did the time go?) and there’s still no end in sight.  Thanks to some overzealous states trying to rush re-opening, we’re entering a second phase of the pandemic and basically back to where we were on March 16th when the lockdown started.

We’ve also added another layer to the pandemic in true American fashion, with the unjustified murder of several people of color and the resulting civil unrest and protests that have followed.

We’ve continued our support of local businesses through take-out and online ordering. Things are starting to re-open but for now we are going to still be cautious, and it might be awhile before we sit down in a bar again. So here’s a list of places we’ve been supporting recently.

Blazin Gyro –  Oh man is this place amazing. Very traditional lamb gyro and awesome falafel. And you have to try the Greek Fries. Thick round cottage potatoes topped with shaved feta and oregano. It comes with “Blazin Sauce” which is a fry sauce, but spicy. Real spicy. Be warned.

Ezells Famous Chicken – This Seattle based chain recently opened it’s first Oregon outpost pretty close to us at Washington Square, so we decided to give it a try and it was really, really good. Traditional Southern style fried chicken with sides like Mac and Cheese, cole slaw, beans etc.  The chicken was still crispy even after sitting in the box for the 25-30 minute drive home, and was even better the second day reheated in the oven.  The family is originally from Texas, so they know their stuff! We also decided to patronize this place because it is a Black owned business. They need our support now more than ever.

The Mac – The Mac is a food truck in Tigard, specializing (as you might guess) in Mac and Cheese.  Another Black owned business we specifically chose to patronize, the truck also features fried chicken, smoked chicken and smoked potatoes, among other delicious treats.  We tried the mac and cheese with smoked chicken, a fried chicken thigh, fried pickles and some of the smoked spuds.  It was all delicious, and ironically the mac and cheese was the “worst” thing on the plate (by worst, I mean a 4.5 star in a group of 5 stars).  It was still good, but the mac and cheese overshadowed the smoked chicken, whereas the fried boneless thigh, fried pickles and smoked spuds (with cheese and bacon) were all out of this world.

Clinton Kitchen –  This one was disappointing, not because of the food, oh no, but because they were closed! A couple of weeks ago we tried to go here on a Friday, specifically for the Friday fish fry, but they were closed. I hope they aren’t closed for good. It’s still on the list of places to try.  A traditional soul food menu that features fried chicken, fried catfish, gumbo, po’ boys, collard greens and more. I hope they get to reopen!

For more Portland area Black owned businesses visit I love Black Food PDX

The Lodge At Cascade Brewing – This is where we ended up going after we discovered the Clinton Kitchen was closed.  We got food to-go, but sat down inside to have a pint while we were waiting.  That was a bit odd, considering it was empty inside (on a Friday evening), and half the tables were gone to allow spacing.  First time we’d been inside a place and had a draft beer in a long, long time. They had added a big tent to the back parking lot to serve as outdoor seating. The Chicken Bacon Guacamole sandwich was amazing, sadly the fries weren’t great. But still not bad for takeout.

McMenamins Sherwood –  This is the closest McMenamins to where we live now, and we’ve gone there twice now for take-out and growler fills. I think by now they are doing inside seating again, but at the time, they had a table blocking the front door that basically turned it into a walk-up window. Order online, go pick it up, easy peasy. Two words – Cajun Tots. We make tater tots at home in our air fryer, but of course the “real” ones are better. Nothing like some deep fried potatoes to fulfill your soul.

That’s it for now.  The way things are going, there will probably be a part 3.

Support Local

I’ve always advocated for supporting local on this blog, but in these strange times it’s even more important to find some way to support the businesses we want to see still in business when this is all over.  I wanted to make a list of the places we’ve gotten take-out or delivery from in the last couple weeks. A few of the places have told us they weren’t sure if people knew they were still open so I wanted to highlight them in whatever way I could.  Obviously, based on delivery range this will be focused on Southwest Portland and the Tualatin/Tigard area where we live, but hopefully some people will find it useful.

Hops on Tap – This taproom/growler bar has quickly become our “local” since moving to this side of town. Pat, David and Jo are amazing people and they keep a interesting and fresh rotation of beers on tap.  Focusing only on “West of the Rockies” they feature predominately Oregon and Washington beers with an occasional California, Utah or Colorado handle popping up.  They also have a fantastic selection of wine, mead, cider, seltzer and kombucha on tap.  They have light bar food (quesadillas, sandwiches, chips and salsa etc).  They are open Noon-8 daily for take-out food and growler fills.

Sanchez Taqueria y Panaderia – This place is a local institution that just celebrated 20 years in Tigard.  The food here is not only amazing, it’s the closest thing we’ve found that matches the food we ate in Mexico. Very authentic. The bakery is amazing as well. It used to be self serve with bins and tongs, I doubt that is open anymore, but I saw a job posting on their Facebook page for the bakery, so it would seem it’s still open and you can order things from it.

Roxy’s Island Grill – Hawaiian food at it’s finest! I can’t speak for the other locations but the one in Tualatin is still open.  This is one of the places that told us they were slow and weren’t sure if people knew they were still open. The food here is really good, and priced a little bit cheaper than some of the other plate lunch joints in town. For 12-14$ you can get the normal plate lunch with meat and two scoops of rice and it’s enough to have leftovers.  You can’t beat that.

Ancestry Brewing – They have closed their Sellwood and Hawthorne locations, but the main brewery in Tualatin is still open.  We got dinner and a growler from them the other night and it was great. We got the mushroom bacon burger and the teriyaki pineapple chicken sandwich and both were amazing.  They are literally around the corner from us and before this is over I’m sure we’ll order from them again.  Also, highly recommend the Jerk Lime fries. Really good, and not super spicy.

Hip Chicks Do Wine – This is an urban winery in Southeast Portland that we joined as members when we lived in Woodstock and we continue to be members.  They make really good wine that’s super affordable and not pretentious. They also support things like Pride and New Avenues for Youth and things that we support as well. They are open for curbside pick up or free delivery of 4 bottles or more. There’s a link for online ordering on the website.  I recommend the “Wine Bunny” series (Blanc, Rogue, Blush). Those are my favorites. They also do an amazing Tempranillo, which is a varietal I had never heard of before.  It’s a Spanish grape that grows really well in Southern Oregon.

WinCo Foods – Don’t get me wrong, we love Fred Meyers and shop there all the time, but let’s be honest, the Kroger Corporation is going be just fine when this is all over.  WinCo is a “local” (Northwest/West coast) chain that is Employee-Owned. In fact, WinCo stands for “W”ashington, “I”daho, “N”evada, “C”alifornia, “O”regon. Their prices tend to be a little cheaper than Freddie/Safeway and their store brand stuff is perfectly acceptable. Even at Freddie we buy mostly store brand over name brand. We’ve shifted our grocery shopping to reflect a more local community.

Grocery Outlet – We happen to have a Grocery Outlet very close to us in King City. The prices are very good, since most of what they carry is closeouts. Most of their stores, including our in King City, are independently owned and operated by a local family. So the money we spend there stays in the community. Plus, lower prices make it a good place to shop for those on fixed income (like the seniors who live in King City).

Labyrinth Forge Brewing – Our friend Dylan from the Brew Crew opened this brewery shortly before all this madness started.  He’s quickly transitioned to online ordering and delivery to continue selling his beer.  He brought us a couple growlers the other day and it was frustrating we couldn’t hang out and talk.  He’s busy of course, and then the whole social distancing thing. Basically he knocked on the door and then stepped back around the corner. We waved and yelled thank you!

Petco – Like Grocery Outlet, our local King City Petco is independently owned and operated.  We’ve met the owner and he’s friendly and passionate about serving the local community.  We could get food and litter at the grocery store, but we adopted our kitties at a Petco (through a separate agency, but we met at a Petco) and the food the kitties started on was a brand from Petco, so we continue to buy it there.

I feel like there is something I’m missing but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Make sure to get out into your community (SAFELY!!) and find out what businesses are still open and how you can support them.

Into the Woods Part 9 – Quarantine Edition

Last night we did something fun, we did a Zoom teleconference “Happy Hour” with some friends.  We’re hoping to start doing this more regularly as the current crisis continues as a way to still connect with people and not feel so isolated. Yay technology! During the happy hour we popped open a couple special bottles and while I was taking some tasting notes found a few I hadn’t posted about yet. I guess I was waiting to get a few more, or just forgot. I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, honestly I haven’t posted much of anything in a while, but now I’ve got a lot of time to kill.

2017 Pelican Father of All Tsunamis – Barrel aged Stout:
Brown sugar, caramel, whiskey aroma.
Chocolate, brown sugar flavor.
Chocolate and whiskey in the finish.
I wrote “aged well” so apparently we’d had this one a while.
Thick rich mouthfeel, strong rye whiskey flavor on warming.
Logged on untappd Oct 8, 2018 – 5 stars.

Post Doc Demon Star – Barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout:
Light cinnamon aroma, light soy sauce, bourbon notes, light stone fruit.
Heavy chocolate flavor, bourbon, light cinnamon, alcohol heat.
Jet black, thick, opaque, lingering warmth.
One thing I remember about this beer is the bottle had a really thick wax layer on it and it was a pain to open. I don’t mind waxed bottles, but this was three layers thick with an embedded logo on the top. Looks cool but really over the top.
Logged on untapped Nov 1, 2018 – 4.5 stars.

2017 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Barrel aged Barleywine:
“One year in the fridge” in the notes.
Dry fruit, whiskey aroma, cola, brown sugar, apple, pear.
Heavy caramel/brown sugar flavor. Huge whiskey, apple, sweet finish.
Low carbonation, med-thin body. Whiskey lingers long on the palate.
Logged on untapped Dec 20, 2018. Apparently we accidentally aged this one in the fridge for a year and pulled it out the following solstice. – 4.5 stars.

2018 Fremont B-Bomb – Barrel Aged Stout:
Light dark fruit, heavy coconut aroma, light vanilla, heavy barrel character.
Dark fruit, cola flavor, whiskey character.
Spicy finish, alcohol warmth, lingering whiskey.
While it is difficult to remember what I think of a beer I tasted two years ago, I’ve been really impressed with all the barrel aged stuff from Fremont. It’s all been really really good.
Logged on untappd Dec 31, 2018 (New Years Beer!) – 5 stars.

Ommegang King in the North – Barrel aged Imperial Stout:
I bought this because I like Ommegang, and it was the best looking of the Game of Thrones series of beers. Purchased Jan 2019 according to the notes.
Light coffee aroma, slight sherry, not much there.
Thick mouthfeel.
Light chocolate, coffee bitterness, light coconut.
No warmth, booze hidden, not much barrel character.
“Good but expected better”. This one was kinda one dimensional which was disappointing.
Logged on untapped Sep 18, 2019 -3.75 stars.

And now we get to the two beers we opened last night.  Two variants of the 2018 version of McMenamins Longest Night of the Year. 2017 only had whiskey barrel aged, but 2018 had Whiskey, Rum and Port barrel variants. The two we had were Whiskey and Rum.

2018 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Whiskey Barrel Aged Barleywine:
Dry fruit, brown sugar, oak/vanilla aroma.
Coconut, dry fruit flavor.
Very smooth, not boozy.
I didn’t take many notes, but this was very complex and enjoyable. I really like this beer. I wonder if I can still snag a bottle of the 2019 version.
4.75 Stars.

2018 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Rum Barrel aged Barleywine:
Brown sugar, oak aroma.
Very sweet, dry fruit flavor.
Again, didn’t take many notes in the midst of the “happy hour” but this one was very one dimensional and not as complex as the whiskey version. I guess that makes sense with rum being a very one note (sugar) kind of liquor but was slightly disappointing. Still good, but might just stick to the whiskey version in the future.

So there we have it! Now we’re caught up on the Into the Woods series.  I have some more barrel aged goodies in the cellar at the moment, so more of those will probably make an appearance soon.

Sports and Beer

Beer and sports naturally go hand in hand. But what happens when there are no sports?

The last couple of days have been an avalanche of information, and weirdness.  It started with Italy cancelling all sporting events, include their top soccer league Serie A. In the US, the Ivy League cancelled entirely it’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, while smaller conferences like the MAC and AAC played games in empty arenas with no fans. Power 5 conferences like the ACC, SEC and Pac 12 continued on as normal, but with a weather eye on the horizon.  Yesterday, the two big bombshells hit. The NCAA announced that all tournament games for winter sports, including Men’s and Women’s Basketball would be played with no fans. Limited to essential personnel and selected family members only.  A few hours later, the NBA took it a step further and suspended the season. No games will be played until further notice. This morning what followed was the expected chaos as dominos started falling.  The Power 5 conferences cancelled what remained of their conference tournaments. The NHL and MLS announced the seasons would be suspended for at least 30 days, if not more. MLB is delaying the start of the season, and NWSL probably will as well. The XFL had announced they would play in empty stadiums but at this point may delay/cancel as well.

In the grand scheme of health and safety, sports really aren’t that important, but they can be a barometer for how things are going overall.  Sporting events get cancelled when really serious shit happens. Whether it’s smoke from wild fires, flooding from hurricanes or the shock and confusion that followed 9/11. When large major public events start getting cancelled you know things are bad.

What will the ramifications of this be? I have no idea. But I’ll say this. The players and teams won’t be affected.  For the most part, the fans won’t be affected. Sure, some people will be angry (some people always are) but you’ll either get to go to the games, or you’ll get your money back. Who this will hurt is the people who work at the stadiums. Let’s be real, that person pouring your $19 beer is making minimum wage, and that is likely their 2nd (or third) job considering pouring beer at a basketball game is a two night a week job.  Those are the people that are going to get hit hardest.  And secondarily will be the vendors who supply the stadiums with food and beer.  People will also be less likely to go out to bars/restaurants, so food and beer sales there will drop as well.

Things are going to get weird, and they may not get back to normal for quite a while. Tourism has already been hit hard, food service will get hit hard too. Some places may actually go out of business.  The big guys like Sysco distribution and AB-InBev will be just fine, but what about the small local places?

I don’t have any answers, hell, I don’t even have any good suggestions, except this. Be nice to your fellow humans. This is going to be hard on all of us. Beyond getting sick and possibly dying, some people will lose their jobs, possibly even their homes. We’re going to need everyone to support each other. Lift up your communities and stick together. Obviously, the advice is to isolate ourselves to prevent the spread of the virus, but don’t just peace out and forget everyone. When we emerge from our caves and blink into the sun again we’ll have to see what we have left and rebuild.

In the end, sports are mostly meaningless, but in this instance they can serve as the canary in the coal mine. Things are getting bad and we need to get ready. I’m not intending to scaremonger or anything like that, but get ready. Things will change. Public transit will be affected, your work schedule will be affected, schools and sports are already cancelled. Shit’s going to get weird. Take care of each other. We’re all we’ve got.

2019 Beer In Review

I’m a little late on this post because I’ve been busy, which is basically the story of all of 2019. Both busy and not busy but in different ways.

Leadership:

In 2019, I served as the Competition Chair for the homebrew club, while my wife served as President. Needless to say, we were extremely busy with these responsibilities. Involved in planning every event, two meetings a month (board and general), running and planning two of the competitions plus the mid-year picnic and holiday party, it was a big deal.  The irony is that being up to my neck in homebrew club prevented me from being a homebrewer. Fewer open weekends, so I didn’t brew as much, didn’t go to as many festivals, didn’t enter as many competitions and didn’t judge as much. It was a difficult year, but I got to stretch my boundaries and everything worked out in the end.

Brewing:

This is where this year took the hardest hit. I was only able to brew three batches this year. A batch of CDA in April for our spring IPA competition, a Norwegian style farmhouse ale in August (playing around with a new yeast strain) and then another batch of CDA in September, to be ready in time for our big competition in November. That’s it.

Competitions:

Along with not brewing much, I didn’t enter many competitions this year either. The stout that I entered in Stout Bout and the Belgian Dark that I entered in NHC and Fall Classic were 2018 brews.  The CDAs and Norwegian Farmhouse got decent scores and good feedback but I didn’t win any medals this year. It felt like a bit of a letdown compared to the last two years, but of course I wasn’t entering a lot.

Travel:

2019 wasn’t quite as crazy travel-wise as 2018 was, but we still managed to squeeze in a couple small trips and one big one. We started the year with a short trip to San Francisco in January, which honestly feels so long ago I nearly forgot about it. Managed to hit up three breweries while we were there, San Francisco Brewing Co, which is right next to the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop. Primo location.  Cellarmaker Brewing, which was in SOMA near our friends apartment and Half Moon Bay Brewing which was out on the coast. Apparently, I never got around to writing a blog post about this trip. That whole busy thing. In May, we took a trip down to Southern Oregon and Northern California. We set our home base in Grants Pass Oregon which gave us access to Crater Lake and the Redwoods National Park. We found three breweries in Grant’s Pass. Wild River Brewing and Pizza, Climate City Brewing and Conner Fields Brewing. In July, we took a trip up to Tacoma, Washington to get stamps at the newest McMenamins property and finish our second set of passports.  While we were there, we also hit up Harmon Brewing, 7 Seas Brewing, Barhop Brewing (Port Angeles), Pacific Malting and Brewing, Odd Otter Brewing Co. and the McMenamin’s Elks Temple itself, which has a brewery. Lastly, our big trip in November was to New York City. We only made it to three breweries, two in NYC and one on our side trip to Philadelphia. We hit up Coney Island Brewing and Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn and then Yards Brewing Co. in Philly. We got to try a lot of the local stuff as well at bars and bottles from the store.

Looking Ahead:

We skipped it in 2019, but this year my wife and I will be returning to Bend for the Best of Craft Beer competition in early February. I’m looking forward to judging again this year. I’m also hoping to make it up to Seattle this year to judge the National Homebrew Competition regionals. I haven’t been able to make it before. I think judging something that big will be a good and useful experience, I’ve also heard it’s a blast. Judges go home with a ton of swag, or so I’ve been told. I’m not ashamed to admit my judging services can be “bought” with a nice lunch and a couple bottles to take home. That’s what’s so alluring about Best of Craft Beer. It’s also just a lot of fun.

I haven’t brewed yet this year, but I have a couple of ideas. I want to brew a Kolsch while it’s cold. I don’t have any temp controls, but the second bedroom gets down to about 62 if we close the door and don’t run the heat. Perfect for a cold fermented ale. I didn’t brew my strong Belgian this past year, but I’m thinking I’m might go for something lighter (at least in color) and brew a Belgian Golden Strong or a Tripel. I’m hoping for something that maybe doesn’t need to age as long and can be drunk fresh. I’m sure there will be at least two more batches of CDA down the line, gotta keep those coming for sure. Beyond that we’ll see how it goes. I have some ideas.