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!

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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!

Oregon City Brewing Company – Oregon City, OR

The first place I wanted to write about was the most recent place we had discovered.  The wife and I literally stumbled upon it as we were headed somewhere else in Oregon City.  Tucked away on Washington Street a couple blocks back off of 99E is the Oregon City Brewing Company. One of, if not the first brewery in Oregon City since 1895 and Henry Weinhard.

In an unassuming cinderblock building that looks like it used to be an oil change place sits OCB.  It’s not a huge place, seating maybe 45-50 on a busy night, but they have a massive selection.  44 rotating taps including four of their own, and then a plethora of other local options of beer, cider and even wine.  The current tap list includes three beers from Washington State, two from New York State, one from Vermont (a cider), and then all the rest are from Oregon with local favorites like Deschutes, Lompoc, Coalition, Rogue, Crux, Gilgamesh and on and on.

The current 4 house beers according to the online taplist are Elevator IPA, Scottish Ale, Hank’s Marionberry Blonde, and the Chocolate Pale Ale (CPA).  When we visited it was an Irish Red instead of the Scottish but the other three were the same.  They are all solid beers, but the Chocolate Pale Ale blew us both away.  I can’t remember how much chocolate they told us they add to it, but it has a distinctive chocolate flavor and aroma and it darkens the beer but not as dark as a Stout or Porter would be.

OCB does not serve food, but they do host food carts a couple nights a week, and that’s where things get interesting.  OCB has locked horns with the city council on Oregon City’s ban on mobile food vendors.  This article from the Oregonian explains what’s going on and includes a link to an online petition to get the zoning changed.  As part of the fight OCB lost their brewery/brewpub license and had it replaced with a brewery license, which meant that they could no longer allow minors anywhere on the property.  This flies in the face of the owners desire for a “living room for the community”.  Normally when companies oppose local government and try to change laws and zonings it’s for jealous and greedy reasons but to me this feels like “fighting the good fight”.  Supporting a community atmosphere and supporting other small local businesses in these food carts is a lot of what is a backbone to the Portland area and things we and others feel are important, so hopefully they get the changes they are looking for.

What can you do to help? Sign the petition if you like, or just head down to OCB and have a pint.  It’s really that easy.

Pirate Republic Brewing Co – Nassau, Bahamas

There is “local beer” that is close to you, and “local beer” that is local to the region you’re in.  The second one is the case of another place the wife and I literally stumbled upon.  Pirate Republic Brewing Company in Nassau, Bahamas.  We were on our honeymoon cruise and we were walking down the main drag (Woodes Rodgers Walk) to get back to the boat and saw a couple ladies sitting outside a storefront with a couple bottles of beer and small sample cups.  Being Portlanders of course we had to stop and try it.  Turns out we had discovered the first and only craft brewery in the Bahamas.

Right now they have three beer styles: Island Pale Ale (IPA), Gold and Haze of Piracy (Belgian White/Wit) and Long John Pilsner (Pilsner).  The two they were sampling that day were the IPA and the Belgian.  I happen to really like the unique funky flavors of Belgian style beers, while my wife doesn’t so she tried the IPA.  They were both well done, the IPA was crisp and hoppy and the Belgian was suitably funky.  We picked up a couple 12oz bottles to take back to the ship with us.

It was a really interesting experience to discover a place that is tied to the local culture, but also brand new.  I just saw on the Facebook page the Pilsner was not even available until Jan 9th which was about 2 days after we were there.  I thought I remembered seeing it, but it was probably just the tshirts and things.

I also have an affinity for Pirates, both fictional (Pirate of the Caribbean ride at Disney and the movies) and real life (Blackbeard was sunk and killed on the coast of North Carolina).  So, needless to say, I love the name and the logo.

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