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.

Untappd Update

So, I’ve still yet to hit the next milestone of 2500, but I’m getting pretty close to 1900.  The summer festival season is upon us, so I’m expecting the number to climb quickly in the next couple of months.  Case in point, I added 14 beers in one day this past weekend at the Portland Fruit Beer Fest.  4 ounce tasters are a great way to try a bunch of stuff and not stumble away (still have to be responsible though.)

Looking back at my previous post Rate of Discovery, we see that on March 8, 2017 I was sitting at 1695 beers.  As of today (June 14, 2017) I am at 1864 unique beers.  An addition of 169 beers in 99 days. (Should have waited till tomorrow I guess!).  This is a rate of 1.70(70repeating) beers per day.  Going back to day one, this is 1864 beers in 1050 days, or a rate of 1.775 beers per day.  So it looks like the rate of discovery is starting to level off, which is not a surprise.  Any statistic will be more stable over a longer time period.

So… that said.. at this rate, it will take me 358 days to reach 2500.  Almost another YEAR.  So be sure to come back and check on June 6, 2018 to see if I got there.  The next milestone after that is 5000.  That will take 1408 days. Almost 4 years! The next (and final) milestone after that is 10,000 and I don’t even want to think about that. Seems unobtainable, although knowing dedicated Untapper’s like I do, eventually they will tack one on beyond that, say 25,000. I feel confident that will happen.