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.

That shit’s made in New York City!

So we just returned from our trip to New York City (including a day trip down to Philadelphia) and let me tell you that was indeed an “experience”.

The first thing we realized quickly is NYC is MASSIVE. I’m not sure you can absorb the scope of how big the city is until you’re in it. We had originally set out a plan to try to make it out to all 5 boroughs and realized that was a logistical nightmare. Thanks to some gracious friends, we were staying in Midtown, a block away from Times Square, in the middle of everything! However, that meant that getting out of Manhattan was a CHORE.  We made it out to Brooklyn because there were a couple things out there high on our list, but any plans to visit the other boroughs fell to the wayside quickly.  Even knowing in advance that it’s a 1.5-2 hour subway ride from Midtown to the Bronx, it doesn’t sink in until you’re at the place where you have to decide to leave where you’re at currently and take a long trek across town just to see something else for an hour or two and then come back. We decided it could wait for (hopefully) future visits. Being winter and the sun setting at 4:30 PM didn’t help either.  It’s hard to want to go out to look at a botanical garden or park when it’s dark and cold outside.

The second thing we realized, and again this is a thing you can “know” in advance and it still smacks you in the face, is that everything in NYC is really expensive. We knew it was going to be spendy, but for whatever reason the beer stuck out worse to me as being out of proportion with everything else. Maybe it’s because beer is so cheap in Portland (trust me, $5 pints don’t exist ANYWHERE else) or maybe it’s because I was paying attention to it. Even the wine and mixed drinks didn’t seem that bad.  For whatever reason, a $10 pint of beer vs a $14 glass of wine vs an $18 cocktail, the cocktail actually seemed like the best “deal”. Prices also varied wildly depending on the location.  Some places had $7 pints, which seemed almost “normal” while some places had $12 short pours (10-12oz). I know taxes are high in NY on things like alcohol and tobacco, but that didn’t explain all of the pricing.

So with all that said, we only made it to three actually breweries, two in Brooklyn and one in Philly, but at the bars and restaurants we did our best to order something local.

Since we were staying with friends who had a kitchen, we went to the store to pick up some things to make breakfasts and bag lunches so we weren’t eating out every single meal.  This also gave us an opportunity to get some beer for the house.  Over the course of the week we picked up two six packs.  The first was Brooklyn Brewing’s Black Chocolate Stout. This Russian Imperial Stout was super smooth and creamy but also packed a wallop at 10% alcohol.  Very tasty.

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The other sixpack we bought was Sixpoint’s The Crisper.  This was a pilsner which paired very nicely with homemade sushi.  Sixpoint is also based out of Brooklyn.  Turns out that’s where a lot of the NYC breweries are.

Speaking of Brooklyn, about halfway through our trip we took a day and spent the majority of the day in Brooklyn.  We took the train down to Coney Island, the far southern edge of the Borough and worked our way back up. The Coney Island boardwalk was deserted since it’s off season and was below freezing that day, but still cool to see. Attached to the baseball stadium, a block of the boardwalk is Coney Island Brewing Co. They had a nice taproom with a glassed in brewhouse and it was pretty much deserted when we got there (they had just opened). We both got flights so we tried 8 of the 10 beers they had on, so mostly everything.  We tried their flagship Merman IPA, Mermaid Pilsner and Cinnamon Toast Kolsch (which was interesting), they also had a dark lager, a barrel aged rye barleywine, a light lager called “Killer Rye Life”, a blond stout appropriately called “The Illusionist” and lastly a citrus sour that wasn’t too abrasively sour.  All in all they were all solid beers.  My favorite was the barrel aged barleywine, but the dark lager and KRL were both really good.

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The next brewery we stopped at, also in Brooklyn, was Other Half Brewing.  Other Half is one of the more “well known” NY breweries. They are one of the breweries that has special can releases that are much sought out and the Yelp reviews warned it might be very busy, line out the door type busy.  It was crowded when we got there, but thankfully it wasn’t too slammed.  Other Half is a very different type of brewery from Coney Island. Nearly everything on the menu was a high alcohol double IPA or strong stout. They were also more expensive, which I kind of expected. $7-8 for a 12oz pour, rather than the 6-7$ pints at Coney Island. We got one of their Double Dry Hop series IPA’s and then three stouts.  It was cold that day and not really a good IPA day.  One of the stouts was made with coffee and coconut, while one was made with Mounds and Almond Joys and one was aged on Vanilla.  They were all good, but the coffee coconut one was the best.  I was hoping to visit the Brooklyn Brewery while we were down there, especially after having the Black Chocolate Stout, but they weren’t open the day we were there and we didn’t make it back down that way when they were open. Oh well, maybe next time!

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The next day, while we were exploring Hell’s Kitchen and the Chelsea Market area, we found a local beer bar called Beer Culture.  They had a huge beer selection both in draft and bottles/cans from all over the place, but mostly focused on local.  Tried 4 beers there, two were from NY and one was localish.  Down by Law by Iconyc Brewing (Long Island City) and Lace em Up by Torch and Crown (Manhattan) were the two local ones, while the hazy IPA from Tired Hands was close-ish (Pennsylvania).  The fourth one was from Pipeworks, which sounded familiar but is from Chicago. Ironically enough, while we were there I noticed there was a Portland Timbers scarf hanging behind the bar. Talking to the guy behind the bar he mentioned he had a friend who lived in Beaverton (small world) and someone had left the scarf and he hung it up and forgot about it. Said it had been up there for 2 years or so.

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The next day we took a bus down to Philly to visit friends there and see the sights.  Hit up several of the big tourist spots, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church, etc.  While we were waiting for the Edgar Allen Poe house to open, we hit up Yards Brewing which was a couple blocks away. They have a really cool space, with an open high ceiling dining area with long picnic tables and windows looking into the brewery space. Very German beer garden/festhaus kind of feel to it with flags and banners hanging down.  Between the three of us, we got all three flights they offered, which covered a good chunk of the menu.  The Historical Flight included beers based on recipes from Washington, Jefferson and Ben Franklin. The Signature flight included their flagships, Loyal Lager, Brawler (English Mild), Philly Pale ale and Signature IPA.  And the hop harvest flight included their Hazy IPA, Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA, “The Answer” Session IPA and a IPA with Spruce that benefited the Make the World Better foundation, started by former Philadelphia Eagles player, Conner Barwin.

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Before we left Philly, we stopped at the Reading Terminal Market, which was close to the bus terminal to take us back to NYC. Had to get a cheesesteak before we left! We found a place in the Market called Molly Malloy’s that had cheesesteak as well as local beers. Tried three beers while we were there, all IPAs ironically enough, one from Tröegs Brewing (Hershey, PA), Sterling Pig Brewery (Media, PA) and Stoudts Brewing (Adamstown, PA).

Of course, it wouldn’t be NYC without the melting pot of nearly every culture on Earth. While we were there, we ate Thai food, Korean food, Italian, Japanese, classic Soul Food (Afro-Caribbean), Israeli, and probably a couple others I’m forgetting.  This gave me the opportunity to try a few international beers that I might not have otherwise had the chance to try. The first was at a Korean Chicken joint in Hell’s Kitchen, named Hell’s Chicken. They had Hite Lager, which is a South Korean beer. Ironically labelled in Untappd as an American Style Lager, it’s a clean crisp easy drinking lager.  It was quite tasty and my first beer ever from South Korea. Also, the Korean Fried Chicken was amazing! Imagine fried chicken drumsticks tossed in a sweet/spicy Asian sauce sprinkled with crushed cashews. The second one I got to try was at a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, the Beerlao Dark Lager, which was my first beer from Laos. It was a little sweet for the style, but still very nice. It was a brown lager, in the style of a Vienna or dark Mexican lager (Modelo Negra) which is a style I’ve recently discovered that I really like.

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The last was not a new beer, but presented in a new style. One of our last nights there we went to a Mexican restaurant that had a drink called a Bulldog. It’s a margarita with a beer upended in it. In this case, a Corona.  Not only was it fun, but the flavors worked remarkably well! One of our friends who can’t have gluten ordered the French Bulldog, which was the same thing, but with a small bottle of Champagne instead of the beer, which was also really tasty!

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Well, that pretty much wraps up our adventures in NYC. At least the beer part! Similar to the Denver trip, 38 unique beers from 10-12 different breweries just barely scratches the surface of the beer scene in NY.  Ironically, there are no breweries at all in Manhattan, they are all out in the outer boroughs.  Torch and Crown is opening a taproom that was supposed to be open by the time we got there, but it isn’t yet.  That makes it harder to make it out to places, at least if you are staying in Midtown.

Until next time, Cheers!

The hits keep comin’ and they don’t stop comin’…

I haven’t posted on here in a long while and it’s a little bit sad that this is the post that I come back to.

It’s been a rough couple weeks, nay, months in Beervana.

It started in September, when Cider Riot announced that it was up for sale due to some upcoming debt payments and investors getting antsy about losing money.  They have now announced that they’ve run out of time and will close Nov 9th.  Cider Riot was known for being a stickler for “real” cider. Dry, English and Irish style ciders made with European apple varieties that opposed the sweet fruit ciders of things like Angry Orchard and others. Unfortunately, being to tight in a niche can be very risky.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet Abram and he’s a stand-up dude and it’s only fitting that he was going to stay true to his vision to the bitter end and not try to make products for the sole purpose of making money. He didn’t “sell out” so to speak.

This was followed by the closures of two (or more) meaderies.  Nectar Creek closed it’s pub and production facility on Oct 5th. It’s an unfortunate reality that mead is a very expensive product to make. Honey is not cheap.  It’s also unfortunate that they had just recently moved into a larger facility.  I’ve seen this trend happen too many times to count, hot sales, maxed out production, expand and then die. Whether it’s from taking on debt, or sales suddenly dry up or any other multitude of reasons it seems to happen fairly often that right as a brewery takes that next big step the reward for that is a big fall.  I was very fond of their “Nectarade”, a lemon-lime mead that was super refreshing.

I had heard a rumor that Honeywood Winery, which makes traditional high alcohol mead/honey wine, had closed but now I can’t find anything about it. So maybe the rumors of their death has been greatly exaggerated.

I found out through a Facebook post (as these things happen these days) that Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wine was closing.  They are having a Funeral Party, appropriately tomorrow on Diá de los Muertos, to celebrate the end and serve up as much as they have left before they close on November 9th. They made light sessionable cider like “wine” from citrus juice. Very unique product and will be missed.

Then some of the big names started dropping.  23 year old Portland stalwart Lompoc announced it was closing.  Sadly, in this case, this was a “not surprised, just disappointed” kind of announcement.  They closed the Hedge House 2 years ago (which reopened as Little Beast) and then a year ago they got pushed out of their NW 23rd location in favor of apartments.  This seemed like an “only a matter of time” situation but they tried to tough it out. Another one of the Portland “legacy” breweries that’s struggling following the closing of Bridgeport Brewing.  The Oaks Bottom Pub in Sellwood will remain open and sell out the rest of what is left of the Lompoc beer and then transition to a neighborhood pub selling local beer from other places.  I’ve been to Oaks Bottom three times, the first two times were great and the third was unfortunately awful.  I’d be willing to go back but I don’t live on that side of town anymore.  I won’t rule it out if I’m in the neighborhood.

Speaking of Sellwood, Laurelwood brewing got bought by the company known as Legacy Breweries (which is partially owned by, or whose first brewery purchase was Ninkasi) and they are closing the Sellwood Taproom.  Laurelwood brewery will still exist, just not in Southeast anymore.  That neighborhood is taking a beating as far as breweries go.

Within a few days of the Lompoc announcement, Rock Bottom announced that is was closing it’s Portland pub in Downtown.  Rock Bottom is a national chain, and so for some people this might not be a “big loss”, but it can still act as the canary in the coal mine, so to speak.  The back and forth story goes that Rock Bottom claimed the building owner “didn’t renew the lease” while the building owner claims that Rock Bottom “chose not to renew” and honestly both of those can be true.  If the rent got jacked way up (double or more) which seems to be happening a lot here recently, certainly Rock Bottom could have “choosen” to not renew the lease, but also feel like they weren’t given a choice and are being forced out.  It’s a both/and kind of situation.  Whether people “miss” it or not, it’s still a dark portent for the Portland beer scene as a whole.

And then just yesterday, of all days, Coalition Brewing went off into the dark night with just a whisper. Coalition was one of the first, if not THE first, to get approved for adding non-pyschoactive CBD to beer.  Dubbed “two flowers” in reference to hops and hemp/marijuana, they’ve been selling it for years while others were trying to figure out to enter the space. They were CBD before CBD was cool. They were also known for their super hoppy IPA, Space Dust.  The Coalition location will re-open as Gorges Brewing, so it’s not all quite doom and gloom.

You’ll have to forgive me if later tonight there’s a tear in my beer as I go through my “Breweries Visited” list marking several more with the *Now Closed marker.