Holiday Spirits

As I get older and get less and less enticed by material possessions, the holidays become more and more a time to spend with friends and family.  We hang with a pretty beer-centric crowd these days, so parties and friend gatherings tend to showcase some pretty good beers.  Some of these beers are seasonal and holiday specific, some are just a little something nice to pull out on a special occasion.  Between these parties and pulling a few things out of my own cellar I’ve tried some pretty interesting beers in the last couple weeks.  Presented in no particular order:

Abraxas (2015) – Perennial Ales, St Louis – Labeled as an imperial stout with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa nibs and ancho chiles, this beer certainly has a lot going on.  I don’t recall getting any spice on it, but super dark and thick with deeply complex flavor.  This was a reward for making it out into the snowpacolypse the week before Christmas. (4.5 of 5)

The Abyss, Cognac (2015) – Deschutes, Bend – A cognac barrel aged variant of the annual barrel aged stout release from Deschutes, this beer is pretty remarkable.  I get a lot of dark fruit from the barrel and also a slight smokiness.  I’m guessing the smoke is from the barrel since it wasn’t an unpleasant phenol type smoke, but more mild and faint.  Still a little rough around the edges, drinkable now, but probably would be really good in another year or two.  (4.5 of 5)

Angel’s Share (2008) – The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA – This brandy/bourbon barrel aged Strong Ale was just on the edge of it’s useful life, starting to succumb to oxidation.  Unfortunately I happen to be very sensitive to some of these flavors.  Still not a terrible beer but would have been better fresh.  I’ll strive to find a fresher bottle and give it another go.  It should be delicious.  Still rated a 4.25 of 5.

Noyaux (2011) – Cascade Barrel House, Portland – I had to look up what Noyaux was, turns out it’s a crème liquor which is almond flavored (but uses apricot and peach pits to get that flavoring from, similar to Amaretto).  This is a sour blond ale aged with fresh raspberries and the Noyaux.  Sour ales are starting to grow on me and this one is phenomenal.  It took my breath away.  Slightly tart, slightly sweet, good fruit character even in a 5 year old bottle.  This beer is holding up very, very well.  (4.5 of 5)

16 Barrels (2010) – 10 Barrel Brewing, Bend –  So this bottle was a pull off the mystery wall at Brews for New Avenues and is a one off from 6 years ago (pre-InBev).  When I first opened it it had a whiff of wet paper oxidation but that blew off pretty quickly which has never happened before.  A golden ale aged in Pinot barrels and the wine character shows through right away.  This beer is super fruity and ever so slightly tart.  Not full on sour, but a definite pucker to it.  At 10% it tastes more like 20%, super boozy.  Probably getting close to the end of it’s run, but wouldn’t say no to it if you found a bottle.  (4.5 of 5)

Christmas Ale (2016) – Brouwerij St Bernardus, Watou, Belgium –  Bought this bottle specifically for Christmas and opened it on the 26th.  This beer is labeled a belgian quad and clocks in at 10% ABV, similar to the Abt 12.  This beer punches you right in the face, strong belgian character lots of fruit and banana esters, lots of dark fruit from the dark sugars and really boozy.  It’s really good, but it has a metallic type sensation to it, somewhat harsh.  I’m thinking that this beer is actually too fresh.  A big Belgian beer like this could probably use a year or two in the bottle.  If I happen to run across it again at a bottle shop I will grab a couple bottles to lay down for next year or two years from now.  Still good, but needs to mellow a bit.  (4.5 of 5).

The holidays aren’t quite over yet, planning a quiet New Years at home, but will probably still pull a few nice things out of the cellar to make it festive.  Stay tuned!

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Belmont Station

Portland is a beer town.  Some would argue the beer town.  Despite having the most breweries within it’s city limits of any city in the world (and always adding more), a bunch of thirsty beer geeks demand great beer from all over the world.  And they get it.  There’s a number of top notch bottleshops in town that have a great selection.  The one I’m going to recommend to you right now is Belmont Station.  It’s now on Stark Street, but it used to be on Belmont Street right next to Don Younger’s Horse Brass Pub, which is another local institution with a story for another time.

If you haven’t been to Belmont Station I highly recommend it.  They have an extremely well curated selection and friendly staff that can help you find what you’re looking for.  The bar side has 8-10 rotating taps of draft beer, but you can also grab a bottle from the bottleshop side, take it to the bar and have them open it for you to drink on site.

A couple nights ago a group of friends and I had a party there, essentially a bottle share.  We all grabbed a couple bottles to share and pass around the table.  With 10 people picking things you can imagine the variety of things that people brought to the table.  In fact, it impressed me so much that’s why I wanted to share it.  I didn’t take any tasting notes so I just wanted to list some of the different breweries that were represented, from all over the U.S. and a couple from overseas.  All of these beers were available for sale at Belmont Station, no one brought any outside stuff.

There were plenty of local favorites represented, lest we lose our Beervana cred.  Deschutes, Full Sail, Heathen (Vancouver), Ale Apocathary and Upright were represented from Oregon (and close-in Washington).

From further out in Washington, we had Sound Brewers from Poulsbo (across the Puget Sound from Seattle) and Wingman Brewery from Tacoma.

California, not surprisingly, had a good showing with Heretic from Fairfield (North of San Francisco), Lagunitas from Petaluma, Smog City Brewing from Torrance (Los Angeles area), Three Weavers from Inglewood, North Coast Brewing from Fort Bragg, Stone Brewing from Escondido, and El Segundo Brewing from El Segundo.

Now things start getting a little further afield.  From Colorado we have Avery Brewing from Boulder and Trinity Brewing from Colorado Springs.  From the Midwest we have Off Color Brewing from Chicago and from Alaska we have Anchorage Brewing.

For my East coast friends, we managed to get two breweries from Brooklyn, Other Half and Evil Twin (which almost sound like they could be two breweries separated at birth?) and from Delaware, we have Dogfish Head.

Last but not least, a couple of beers that came to us from across the pond! We have To Øl Brewing from Denmark and Brouwerij Van Steenberge from Belgium.

So there you have it.  A rather impressive list, and thankfully everyone had arranged for a safe ride home after swapping all those bottles.  If you want to take a trip around the world of beer, it doesn’t hurt to start at your local bottle shop.  Once again, if you haven’t checked out Belmont Station, you should.