Into the Woods – Part 7; Summer Edition

It was a brutally hot summer here in Portland.  Record breaking numbers of days at 90°+.  Certainly not barrel aged beer weather, but with several waves of friends and family coming into town to visit there were opportunities to break out a few nice things from the cellar.

Deschutes 2017 Abyss: This beer was strange.  Opened it with a group and we all seemed to get the same things off it.  It had a very strong Umami/soy sauce aroma.  Also had some molasses, cherry and stone fruit in the aroma.  Very heavy molasses flavor with light cherry and stone fruit.  Some light chocolate and vanilla on warming.  Ordinarily,  I would think this beer year’s beer wasn’t that good, but I had it on draft in Austin and it was amazing.  Perhaps my storage? I’m not sure.  I’ll be interested to see how it compares with the 2013 bottle we picked up at Brews for New Avenues. (4.5 stars for draft, bottle version unrated)

St Arnold Bishop’s Barrel 21 – Barrel aged Quad with Cherries: This is a bottle I brought home from Houston.  St Arnold was closed the day we were there, but found this at a local bottle shop.  Dark brown/red highlights.  Heavy cherry aroma, whiskey highlight.  Very sweet cherry flavor, whiskey, oak and wood aftertaste.  This mouthfeel, effervescent carbonation.  Sticky on the lips but not cloying.  (3.75 stars)

Ecliptic Oort BBA Imperial Stout – Batch 3 (2018): This was a bring home from Best of Craft Beer in January.  About 8 months of bottle time when we opened this one.  Strong whiskey aroma, slight umami/soy.  Whiskey flavor, vanilla and coconut from the barrel.  Whiskey lingers long on the palate.  Thick mouthfeel/viscous.  Super smooth, alcohol hidden.  Sneaky at 12%.  (5 stars)

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout: This bottle was a birthday present (May) so it took a while to make it’s way out.  Brown sugar and whiskey aroma.  Vanilla and coconut barrel flavor.  Light cola and coffee flavors.  Thin, low carbonation.  I gave this beer 5 stars back in 2014, and while I don’t think I liked it quite that much this time around, I didn’t rate it a second time.  (5 stars – 2014)

Now that the weather has turned cooler and we’ve started getting some rain, pretty soon it will be the heart of dark beer season.  Stay tuned!

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2018 Brews for New Avenues

This past weekend was the 7th annual Brews for New Avenues.  This unique beerfest benefits New Avenues for Youth, a non-profit fighting teen homelessness.  This was our third year attending this event.  It’s one of our favorite fests of the year.

While one of the smaller fests in town, it certainly pulls it’s weight bringing in breweries like de Garde, Cantillon and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen as sponsors and contributors.  As would be expected with the above mentioned sponsors, portions of the event lean very heavily on lambics and sours, particularly the live auction and VIP tastings.  However, the draft portion of the event has a little bit of everything for everyone.

This years event brought in some big guns.  I got a chance to try Iowa’s darling, Toppling Goliath with a tasty IPA.  IPAs from Oregon City Brewing and Ruse Brewing were also on the menu.  Sticking with the lambic/sour theme I tried several really great beers including a Sour Red from Cascade Brewing, a blended American Wild Ale from Block 15, a barrel aged “lambic-inspired” beer from pFriem, a Saison from Jester King and a fruited sour from Firestone Walker.  The two beers that (in my opinion) stole the show were both darker beers from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing out of Frenso, California.  The first was their 10th Anniversary Ale, which is a blend of barrel aged stouts, barleywines and brown ales.  This was amazing, but the second one really knocked our socks off.  The Mocha Midnight is an Imperial Stout with Brazilian coffee, Ecudorian cocoa nibs and Madagascar vanilla.  Thick, creamy, delicious and this is one of their year round beers. Wow.

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Of course, the other highlight of this event is the beer wall.  Random blind bottles for $10.  Pay your money take your chances (although, the odds are most definitely in your favor).

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Very happy with this years picks.  Crazy Mountain Cherry Lime Sour, de Garde Saison Première, Breury Terreux La Démence (a blend of sour ale and bourbon barrel aged ale with white wine grapes) and 2013 Deschutes Abyss.  Ironically, one of the expressions of Abyss I haven’t had yet, although this one may be past it’s prime. Still interested to try it though. I don’t know about the Crazy Mountain, but I know for a fact the other three bottles all retail for well over $10, so the value of the beer wall is unquestionable.  If you’re willing to take a chance you might end up with something remarkable.  We’ve already had the Crazy Mountain and it was a winner.

What’s really impressive is to take a look at the past event’s on Brews for New Avenues website.  In 2015, they raised $58,000.  In 2016 (our first year, although I’m not taking credit for the increases), they raised $150,000.  Last year, they raised $240,000.  During this year’s event they announced that in 6 years they had raised a half a million dollars, realizing that nearly half of that had come last year.  A couple days after the event they announced that this year they raised $280,000.  What an amazing growth curve.

A lot of the big money comes from the live auction, which includes rare bottles (3L bottles of Cantillon, etc) and brewery experiences.  This year’s auction had fewer items, but included three brewery experiences.  Paid airfare, private tours, tasting, etc, the whole nine yards.  One was at pFriem here in Oregon, one was at Jester King in Austin, TX and the other was at 3 Fonteinen in Belgium.  My jaw was on the floor for the Belgian one just thinking about what an awesome experience that would be.  I was very jealous of the person who got to go on that trip, although the winning bid was $12,500… so not that jealous.

In the end, the real winners are the kids.

Cheers!

Into the Woods – Part 6; Catch Up Edition

Looking through my notebook I found some notes from beers I hadn’t written about yet.

2017 Fremont Dark Star: Chocolate roast, coconut and vanilla aroma.  Pronounced barrel character.  Dark roast, cola, chocolate, vanilla flavor.  Thick mouthfeel with light carbonation.  Adds a dark coffee roast as it warms. I chose this beer in Seattle over Founders KBS and I feel like I made the right choice. (4.5 stars)

Modern Times Devils Teeth Cuvee, Rye and Rum Barrel: Heavy chocolate and vanilla flavor with a whiskey finish.  Rum character doesn’t really show through but still really good.  Had this as a 4oz taster at the new Modern Times in Portland. (4.75 stars)

Wolf Tree 7117 – Barrel aged saison with Marionberries: This was an interesting beer, a fruited saison.  Super funky with huge saison character. Good fruit character and a great color.  I’m pretty certain this was a Best of Craft Beer pick up.  (4.5 stars)

Baerlic 2017 Woodworker Harshmellow Mountain: Belgian blond ale aged in oak with Ella hops and Brett. I’m not normally a fan of Brettanomyces in beer, but this one was very restrained.  It wasn’t too funky.  The citrusy New Zealand hops played very well with a fruity Belgian yeast.  I was apprehensive to try this but it turned out to be very very good.  (4.75 stars)

Cheers!

7 Devils Brewing – Coos Bay

7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, Oregon is, to my knowledge, the southernmost brewery along the Oregon Coast.  Back in August when I wrote about my Oregon Coast Brewery Tour it was a location I had found on Google Maps but hadn’t been to yet.  This past weekend we finally made it.

Every year, my wife and I go camping down in Florence.  It was on last years trip we discovered Yachats Brewing.  This year we headed down south to Coos Bay.  A portion of the coast I had never been to and my wife hadn’t been to in a long time.  After exploring the coastline of Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks we headed back into Coos Bay to have lunch at 7 Devils.

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We tried four beers between the two of us, Chinook Redd (amber ale with Chinook hops), Endless Summer Blonde (light blonde ale), Groundswell IPA (flagship IPA) and Lighthouse Session Ale (light pale ale).  The beers were solid. The Groundswell was a typical NW style IPA and the blonde was very refreshing on a hot day.  The Chinook Redd was a bit muddy, but not bad and the Lighthouse Session was almost flavorless, but that seems to be the target.

I’m not sure what my expectations actually were, but the taproom certainly exceeded them.  Somehow I wasn’t expecting a coastal brewery to be so… hip, if that’s the right word.  Covered in local art and the music overhead was all recordings of local bands who had performed at the brewery.  They seem to be deeply entwined in the local community.

The food was also very good.  They offer a small, but well curated, food menu including a lot of local items like Face Rock Creamery cheese and Oven Springs Bread, as well as seafood caught close by.  We had a tuna melt sandwich and “The Devil’s Flock” (chicken strips) in a sweet, soy Asian sauce.  Served with local Kettle brand chips (Salem, OR).  They also highlighted the wines and spirits on the menu that were from Oregon.  Very intentional focus on “local”.  We have good stuff here, why truck it in?

It takes a bit of effort to get down there (especially from Portland/SW Washington area) but it would be worth the trip.  Plus, this is what’s waiting for you when you get down there.

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Houston and Austin, Texas

My wife and I recently returned from a nearly two week trip to Houston and Austin, Texas.  We were volunteering at a large youth conference in Houston and then spent a couple days in Austin visiting family that we don’t get to see very often.  Given the nature of the Houston part of the trip, volunteering and working with high school aged kids, we chose not to drink during that part, so we only had one day in Houston that we were “free”.  We still managed to find three places that were pretty close to where we were staying, in the Heights neighborhood, in NW Houston.

Playtpus Brewing: This was an interesting place, run by a group of Australians (much like Todo Santos brewing in Mexico) there was a blend of southern comfort and exotic Pacific rolled into one.  The beers were pretty straight forward and the food menu was mostly pub food but a few Aussie twists like meat pies and lamb skewers.  36712506_10215052596722898_1256815552316309504_n

Standout Brew: Hey Helga – Saison dry hopped with Southern Hemisphere hops.

Eureka Heights Brewing: I was excited to go here as soon as I saw the online menu.  My wife had found it on Google maps and when I looked at the beer list they had a pale ale called “Mostly Harmless” and the logo was a dolphin wrapped in a towel.  Three-layered Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference? Sign me up! Most of the other beers followed with the video game/sci-fi theme. The brewery was a wide open warehouse with long picnic tables, corn hole, pinball, other games etc.  I can imagine this place would be hopping at times.  Google told us it was “less busy than normal” and after we got there we realized why.  The space is not air conditioned and it happened to be close to, if not over, 100° that day.  The open garage doors didn’t really help much.  It was really a shame, because the beers were fantastic but it was just too uncomfortable to stay long, so we finished our taster flight quickly and then left.
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Standout Brew: Buckle Bunny Cream Ale (Recent GABF Winner, perfect for hot weather)

Town in City Brewing: The third and final Houston brewery was the Heights oldest brewery.  The name is a reference to The Heights Neighborhood which is called a “town in the big city”.  A small but cozy place with a crowded taproom and patio.  They were just finishing a round of Geeks who Drink trivia, so we missed out on that but it was fun to listen to the last couple groups of questions.  They also had a cidery on site, which is the Houston Cider Co.
Standout Brew: Dampfit Bobby! Dampfbier.  I had to ask what a Dampfbier was, and it’s a Hefewiezen but with no wheat.  Same yeast profile but made with barley.  It was darker and clearer than a traditional Hef.  Plus, who doesn’t love a King of the Hill reference?

The unfortunately theme for the Austin portion of the trip was “Why is nothing open?” We were there Monday-Thursday and it seems like a lot of Austin breweries only have weekend hours.  Some places Thurs-Sun, some just Friday-Sun, one place was open Saturday only for 3 hours only (production brewery with tours only, no taproom).  Throw in the July 4th holiday on Wednesday just to make things interesting.  We did manage to make it to two open breweries that just happened to be across the street from each other.

Oskar Blues Austin: Oskar Blues jumped onto my radar when they started building their North Carolina brewery a couple years ago.  I don’t think it had opened before I moved to Oregon, but it had been announced.  I’ve enjoyed several of their beers when I found them.  I had hoped to visit the Colorado (original) location when we were in Denver but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Nice location with an outdoor patio, live music stage and really great staff. I will definitely put this on the repeat list.
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Standout Brew: Bourbon Barrel Aged Ten-Fidy Imperial Stout

4th Tap Brewing Co-Op: Literally across the street from Oskar Blues this was a small brewery and tap room with a comic book/video game feel.  Co-op to me sounded like something where multiple different brewers were sharing space, but when I asked they told me it was all employee (“worker” as the barkeep put it) owned, which is still super cool.  The beers ran the gamut from light Berliner Weisse to heavy Russian Imperial Stout and being small obviously lends itself to being experimental.  Several of the beers included a spice, fruit or nut.
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Standout Brew: Biere de Gardeless – Biere de Garde with Vanilla and Pecans.  Sounded bizarre, but I had to try it and it worked really well!

Draft/Bottle/Cans: We did get to try some local beers at restaurants and bars since a lot of the places were closed.  I won’t list them all, but some of the highlights.

Karbach Brewing: This Houston brewery was very popular in Austin.  We tried the Hopadillo IPA and the Love Street Kolsch.  The lighter Kolsch was perfect for the hot weather and then IPA was a major hop bomb, in a good way.

Pinthouse Pizza Electric Jellyfish IPA: Sadly, I didn’t make it to one of their locations after meeting someone from the brewery in Montreal, but when I saw one on the menu I had to try it.  Hazy but not full-on milkshake, very nice modern hop flavor without being overly bitter.

Live Oak Brewing Big Bark Amber Lager: I’ve really been digging on Vienna and Vienna-style dark lagers lately, pretty much since we had super fresh Modelo Negra in Mexico.  This one was true to style and really hit the spot.
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Lone Star: Texas’s version of PBR because, well… it’s basically PBR.  Brewed by Pabst and I’m not convinced it’s not the same beer in a different can, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  “Cheap” beer has its place.  Bar hopping down 6th Street is one of those places.

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Austin Eastciders Original and Blood Orange: This local cidery makes some great products.  They have several flavors available in cans around town and the two we tried were great.

Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap: This German-style pilsner is another one that was ubiquitous around town.  You weren’t “Austin” if you didn’t have this on tap.  A clean crisp light lager that’s just perfect for hot weather.  An Austin staple.

Shiner Heat Wave Summer 6-Pack: You come to Texas you got to get Shiner right? I’ve had Shiner’s famous Bock, but that’s all we can get in Oregon.  Found this mixed sixer at the liquor store (surprisingly the best place in town to find beer, the grocery store selection was abysmal and not refrigerated).  Three light, fruity styles to beat the heat.  Shiner Prickly Pear, Hill Country Peach Wheat and Mango Kolsch.  They were all nice, the prickly pear had an interesting flavor.  The peach and mango went down way too easy.

Several of the Austin stars such as Infamous Brewing and Jester King weren’t open while we were there, so we’ll certainly have to go back. Having family in the area makes for a really good “excuse”.  We will absolutely be back to Austin in the future.  Just not in July.

Little Beast Portland Pub

On Friday evening, I had a unique opportunity to attend a soft opening for Little Beast Brewing’s new Portland Brewpub/Beer Garden.  Located at 34th and Division in the old Lompoc Hedge House location, the official opening is today.

We were invited by a friend who is friends with Owner/Brewer Charles’ wife and partner Brenda.  Interestingly enough, I judged at Best of Craft Beer with Charles and got a chance to talk to him at the opening.  Seems like things are doing well for them.  Brenda formally worked at Olympic Provisions and lends her expertise to pairing food with the beer. They had 12 or so beers on tap plus a food menu of small plate/charcuterie type things.  Mostly snacks, but some simple sandwiches as well.

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They haven’t changed a lot (the wrought iron Hedge House bike rack is still there) which is a good thing since the location as a lot of charm.  Updated bathrooms and a new back bar area but mostly similar to the way Hedge House used to be.  Very happy to see this location re-utilized and not bulldozed.  So many places are getting replaced with condo towers, especially on Division, which is what prompted Lompoc to leave the location.

If you’re a fan of farmhouse style and wild fermented beers then I would highly recommend stopping by Little Beast.  They specialize in saison-style and Brett fermented beers.  I’m not a huge fan of Brett beers, but I tried their flagship Fera which uses Brett for the whole fermentation and not just secondary aging, and it’s not as funky as most Brett beers tend to be.  It actually had a bright, citrus character and a light tartness which is insanely refreshing, especially as the weather warms up. The oak aged Flanders-style red ale was also quite delicious.

I highly recommend stopping by.

Cheers!

 

Untappd – 2500 Unique Beers!

I finally hit the next big milestone and got the badge for 2500 Unique Beers on Untappd!

According to my 2400 update, I should have hit 2500 on May 2nd.  Turns out I hit it a couple days early, but still not a bad prediction.  The trip to Canada certainly helped, with 43 check-ins.  That was nearly half of the 100 I needed.  Sunday, the day I hit the milestone, was the Nano Beerfest.  A local festival that highlights very small scale breweries (1 barrel or less per batch). There were a couple of places pouring that I hadn’t even heard of, so those are always fun to try.  My wife and I both got our glass and 10 tokens and knowing how close I was, made sure to not overlap so I’d be able to get 20 unique check-ins.  In honesty, we would do this anyway so we get to try as much as possible.  We only double up if something is really good and we both want more than just a sip of it.

I was 21 away, so we knew the 20 from the festival would leave me one short, therefore we made the plan to stop for lunch on the way home.  We were close to one of the McMenamins’ locations we needed to hit for passport stamps anyway.  Turns out a couple of the beers I had at Nano were repeats (I didn’t log them until later) so I still ended up one or two short.  We pulled out a few cans from Best of Craft Beer when we got home, knowing those would be unique.  Had to work for it, but once I was that close I had to make it happen.  In fact, my wife was cheering me on as well, saying we would make sure it happened that day.

So, overall 2500 beers in 1368 days is 1.83 beers a day.  In the time since the last milestone (1000 beers on May 31, 2016) I’ve logged 1500 beers in 698 days.  This is a rate of 2.15 beers a day.  This uptick explains hitting the milestone early.  In the time since my last blog post (2400 beers on March 9, 2018) there have been 100 beers in 51 days.  Still pretty much dead on to 2 a day.  At a rate of 2 per day, the next 2500 beers for the next milestone badge (5000) would take 1250 days, which will be August 10, 2021.  At the overall rate at 1.83 beers a day that stretches slightly to 1366 days, or December 4, 2021.

That’s a long time to hang on, but I hope you’ll stay tuned!