Bigfoot Growlers – Damascus Oregon

On Friday evening, my wife took me on a surprise date night.  She had driven past the place and with our running Yeti jokes knew it was a place she needed to take me.  So, imagine you’re leaving town and getting out into a more rural area and you come across a country store with a growler fill station.  You’d expect the place to have 4 or 5 taps of a few major local brands right?

Try 42!

Welcome to Bigfoot Growlers. The L shaped bar takes up an entire corner of Nature’s Country Store in Damascus Oregon.  Along with 33 beers, the taplist also includes 1 wine, 7 ciders and Crater Lake Root Beer.  The staff behind the bar is great at recommendations and pouring samples.  We were there when one of the kegs blew, and we got a sample of the new beer that replaced it just because we were sitting there. Turns out it was Half-Hitch IPA from Crux, which was incredible.  They also aren’t afraid to experiment with things.  My wife couldn’t decide between the Chocolate Shake Nitro stout or the Black Cherry Imperial Stout, and so they mixed it 50/50 which turned out to be pretty incredible.

Although it will likely change very often, the current taplist (link) includes:

14 taps from Oregon
8 taps from Washington
8 taps from California
1 tap from Utah (Uinta Brewing)
1 tap from Idaho (Woodland Empire)
1 tap from Missouri (Shock Top)
1 tap from Illinois (PBR)
1 tap from Texas (Shiner)
1 tap from Germany (Ayinger)
1 tap from Wisconsin (Leinenkugels)
1 tap from New York (Original Sin Cider)

They can take care of all your beer needs ranging from sampler trays, glasses, pints, howlers (32oz) and growlers (64oz).  You should check them out!

We met the owner, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, but he’s a really nice guy and he interacts with his customers the same whether they are regulars or first timers like us.

Hopwork IPX Series – Mt Hood, Hopworks Urban Brewery

I am in love with single hop IPAs at the moment.  As a homebrewer I want to learn what each individual hop contributes to flavor and aroma so that I know which hop to use when I’m trying to target a certain flavor.  I just brewed my own single hop IPA with Mosaic hops that I’m really excited about.

Hopworks IPX Mt Hood – 6.0% ABV, 60 IBU

This beer pours a nice golden color with a white head.  The label describes the hop variety as “mild” and it certainly is.  Nothing over powering in the flavor or aroma.  The aroma is grassy and earthy and a little floral.  The flavor starts with some malt sweetness and then a nice floral hop flavor.  Nothing strong, but nice and smooth.  Extremely drinkable.  The bitterness lingers in the finish, but it’s not strong or unpleasant.  Beyond that the finish is very clean.

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars – Pleasant and refreshing.  Well done IPA.

The other two in this series I’ve tried were the Ahtanum and US Fuggle, but I didn’t take detailed notes for those.  I didn’t rate the Ahtanum, but I gave the Fuggle IPA 4 stars also and noted it was “Some floral, some citrus”.

Brannon’s Deputation Imperial Red Ale – Brannon’s Brewpub

Brannon’s Brewpub is a relatively new entry into the brewpub market in the greater Portland area.  Located in Beaverton I haven’t had a chance to visit their location, but one of their beers (along with the one they collaborated with) was a guest tap at Culmination.

Deputation Imperial Red Ale – 8.0% ABV, 51 IBU

This beer pours a dark but brilliant red and is fairly clear.  The aroma has that sweet malt smell, that to me reminds me of cotton candy.  I haven’t yet figured out where this smell comes from but my best bet is from the heat treated sugars in Caramel/Crystal type malts.  The flavor starts with a little bit of malt sweetness and then quickly shifts into a strong hop bitterness of a classic Northwest style red.  The Brannon’s website says they use a lot of rye in this recipe but I don’t recall a lot of the characteristic rye spiciness, but I also wasn’t expecting it so I may have attributed it to the hops.  The beer finishes clean with some lingering bitterness.

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars – Certainly good enough to make me want to try some of their other offerings.

Culmination Brewing

On Thursday evening the Oregon Brew Crew held a meeting at one of Portland’s newest breweries, Culmination Brewing. The OBC occasionally has “out” meetings at breweries who are gracious enough to host us and let us trample all over the place”oooh”ing and “aaaah”ing at all the shiny metal tanks.  So many of the places here in Portland are a story of “homebrewer turned pro” that it’s great for the pro guys to turn around and look down the ladder at the next group potentially heading up and give them a hand.

Culmination is so new, they actually haven’t started brewing on site yet.  The brewery/taproom has been open for a few months and they have two beers on tap that they brewed in collaboration with other breweries here in town. Owner/Head Brewer Tomas Sluiter who spoke to the crowd at the meeting says they hope to start the first in house batch sometime next week.  The first batch through the system will be their “4 and 20 Imperial Black IPA” which they brewed first as a collaboration with Lucky Labrador.  They actually ran out of this beer the night we were there. So you were indeed lucky if you got to try it before the keg blew. They also have a couple of guest taps that they are pouring right now, and for a place that only had 5 things on tap, they are ready to expand in a big way since they had to have had at least 25 taps behind the bar including at least three on nitro.

Tomas described the system to us, which is really interesting, as he put it a seriously custom “Frankenstein” system.  It’s a 5 barrel system with 5 vessels, so he has the flexibility to create 5 different smaller batches, one giant 25 barrel batch or anything in between.  Not only does he want variety but he wants the beer to be fresh.  He mentioned previous work on a 15 barrel, 2 vessel system that limited creativity and create a huge stock of beer that sat for a long time. He went out of his way to avoid that situation at his new venture.

The other beer of theirs on tap is the one I got to try, which is the Reynard Belgium Style IPA.  I had a few sips of the 4 and 20, but not enough to do a serious evaluation, but I made some notes on the Reynard. This was a collaboration with Brannon Brewpub.

Reynard Belgium Style IPA – Culmination Brewing: 6.0% ABV

Nice golden color with a white head.  Some floral hop aroma along with a very slight Belgian funk.  The flavor hits with nice floral hops and only a tiny bit of the traditional Belgian flavor.  The finish is clean and crisp and the bitterness lingers, but it’s not extremely strong.  The IBUs aren’t listed but it’s not a huge hop bomb.

So, since it is a blend of styles it’s hard to judge it by styles, but it comes up just a little short on both fronts.  It’s an enjoyable and supremely drinkable beer, but it doesn’t quite have the pop of a normal NW IPA, and on the other hand it doesn’t have enough of that earthy, spicy Belgian character that, personally, I really enjoy.  Interesting enough, not two styles I would imagine blended together.

Rating: 3.5 (of 5) stars

Culmination brewing is located in NE Portland, just off Sandy Blvd at 21st and Oregon Street.

2015 AHA National Homebrewers Conference

Well, it’s official now.  I’ve paid my entry fee and booked my flight for the 2015 AHA Homebrewers Conference in San Diego.  I’ve been to a few large industry conferences before, so I have an idea of what to expect, but since this is a hobby conference I imagine it will be a bit different.  There are equipment displays and seminars that I’m really excited about but there’s also homebrew club showcases and parties and social events.

I’m really excited, it seems like it’s going to be really fun and I hope to learn a lot from the seminars and the other attendees.  Stay tuned for updates when the conference rolls around.

Gigantic Brewing – Catch 23 Experimental Pale Ale

I was cutting across town today between two homebrew shops, one to pick out ingredients and one to drop off my samples for an upcoming competition.  It turns out there was no straight shot between the two and I ended up weaving my way all over and around Inner SE Portland.  However, on the way I discovered the location of Gigantic Brewing on 26th and Steele.  I had tasted their beers at festivals but never visited the taproom.

Right now they have six of their beers on tap, plus a Cider Riot cider.  Here is a list of what they have at the moment.

The one that caught my eye was the Catch 23 Experimental Hop Pale Ale.  It doesn’t list the hop variety, but with a name like X-235 would be all but meaningless to anyone but the most serious hophead.

Catch 23 Experimental Hop Pale Ale – 5.2% ABV (IBUs not listed)

This beer actually blew me away and I’m not even sure what to say about it, which is unfortunate for a blogger, but I’ll give it my best shot.  The first thing of course is the aroma, which is all hops.  There’s a lot going on here, a blend of pine and earth and grass.  The flavor showcases the hops well and as with the aroma there’s a lot going on of citrus and pine.  The bitterness is not over the top but it lingers on the palette for a really long time.  Let’s put it this way, it was still lingering as I was driving away.  Not unpleasant in anyway but just enough to say “I’m still here!”

Appearance: A nice golden yellow color with a long lasting white head.  Nice lace in the glass.  Really great looking on the outside patio in the sun. Check it out!


Rating: 4.5 (of 5) stars – Really incredible, well made pale ale with all kinds of fun hop flavors and aromas.  I think this experimental strain will soon have a name and make it’s way into production beers.

Oregon City Brewing – Chocolate Pale Ale

I mentioned this beer in the previous post about OCB but my wife brought home a growler of it last night so now I can sit down and do a full tasting note.

OBCB – Chocolate Pale Ale – 30 IBU, 5.2% ABV

This beer pours chocolate brown, but crystal clear which is interesting for a “dark” beer, but since this is actually a pale ale, it fits.  I wish I could remember how much chocolate they said they add to the beer, but it is actually added chocolate as opposed to malt derived.  Off-White to tan head which is lasting and leaves a nice “lace” on the glass.  Aroma is mostly chocolate with some malt sweetness.  Flavor starts with malt sweetness offset with a small amount of hop bitterness.  Chocolate flavor really pops in the finish after you swallow and then that fades into a light hop bitterness that lingers quite a while.  This is honestly a really bizarre beer, and yet it’s incredibly enjoyable.  You don’t expect that flavor out of an IPA/Pale Ale style beer so it really throws you for a loop.

Rank: 4 (of 5) stars: Really unique and well made.

Ninkasi Seasonal Selection Variety Pack

I love variety packs because they give me the chance to try a lot of new things.  I’ve lived in Oregon for nearly 2 years now and I’ve rarely had the same beer twice.  Sure, I have a few favorites that I gravitate to, but mostly I like to try new things.  This variety pack includes three beers listed as “Flagship series” although only one of them, the Total Domination IPA, is the only one I’ve seen with any regularity.  The 4th is labeled as a “Special Release Series”.

*Note: The ranking system will be based on a 5 star system and will correlate with what I would, or in most cases have, ranked the beer on Untappd. Five star beers will be rare, I always like to leave myself somewhere to move upwards, exceptional beers will score 4 to 4.5 stars.

Total Domination IPA: India Pale Ale – 6.7% ABV

This beer pours a deep golden color with a light hop aroma of both pine and citrus. The flavor is all hops, as you would expect.  The bottle lists “multiple hops” but doesn’t list varieties or IBUs, but it seems to be a combination of piney (likely Cascade) along with some fruity notes (Simcoe or Mosiac?).  The bitterness lingers long after you swallow.  A tiny bit of malt sweetness, but very hop forward.

Rank: 3.5 (of 5) Stars – A solid IPA, not mind blowing but very tasty.

Dawn of the Red: India Style Red Ale – 7.0% ABV

This beer pours a nice amber color, a little darker than the IPA with a strong hop aroma, again a blend of pine and citrus.  There is also a character of malt sweetness in the aroma, that oftentimes reminds me of cotton candy. You get that malt sweetness at the forefront of the flavor before the hops kick in with the pine and citrus.  Like the IPA the bitterness lingers long into the finish. All around a well made beer with more malt to balance out the massive hop profile.

Rank: 4 (of 5) Stars – Solid example of a Northwest style Red.

The Devil Went Down to Oregon (Special Release): Imperial Dark Rye – 7.2% ABV

This is a really interesting beer, a collaboration with Devil’s Backbone Brewing in Virginia.  This beer pours a dark brown, inline with a Nut Brown or Porter, not quite Stout territory.  The aroma has hints of licorice and a “grain” type aroma. Bread? Other baked goods? Likely from the Rye.  The flavor starts with malt sweetness and then transitions into rye spiciness with a slight hop bitterness in the finish.  Not overly hopped, the malt and rye shine through.  The finish is clean and the bitterness does not linger.  Some astringent drying in the finish but not overpowering.  Overall a really unique beer.

Rank: 4 (of 5) Stars – Unique and enjoyable.

Lux: German Style Helles Lager – 5.0% ABV

This beer pours a light golden color with a light, slightly fruity aroma.  Not much in the way of hop aroma.  The flavor, as you would expect for a lager, is crisp and clean.  Some slight fruitiness and not much hop bitterness.  A slight bitterness lingers into the finish but overall everything is very light and muted.

Rank: 3.5 (of 5) Stars – Refreshing lager.

Overall a very enjoyable selection of different and unique beers.  Well done Ninkasi!