Changing of the Seasons

Fall snuck up on us this year.  Two weeks of a 90+ degree heat wave followed by 2 weeks of 45 degrees and raining.  Welcome to Oregon.

Fall is also a fast moving time in the beer world.  Fresh hop season has come and gone.  By it’s nature, it’s very fleeting.  Blink and you miss it.  Despite the short time span, I feel like I saw a huge increase in the number of fresh hop beers this year.  Several breweries I visited had multiple fresh hop offerings, which I don’t think I’ve seen before.

The highlight of the season has to be Level Beer‘s Fresh Hop Ready Player One.  Fruity, piney hop flavors play nicely with the funky saison yeast.  They actually had two versions, one draft and one canned, with different hops.  The draft was more hop forward, the canned version more yeast funk forward.  Both were good, but I preferred the funky can version.  They also had a Fresh Hop Let’s Play pilsner that was solid, and a fresh hop Belgian Pale that went so fast I missed it.

Also, Breakside’s Fresh Hop What Rough Beast was a winner.  Very nice hazy, dank IPA.  Green Dragon Brew Crew’s Fresh Hop Sophie was nice, but interesting.  Made with Rogue’s proprietary Revolution Hop, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  I also greatly enjoyed the Pyramid Fresh Hop Outburst.

Most of the draft fresh hop is probably gone by now, but there are some bottle offerings out there.  Today at the store I saw Sierra Nevada Celebration and Double Mountain Killer Red.

Oktoberfest has come and gone as well, which is a shame.  I’m disappointed I didn’t get to try more of the Oktoberfest offerings, especially from Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi.  I think I saw the Sierra Nevada still out there, but it probably won’t be for long.  Oh well.  I did have a Sam Adams Oktoberfest while I was in Anaheim back in September, but it’s not quite the same when it’s 80 degrees and sunny.

Winter beer season exploded onto the scene this past weekend.  Just in the last three days I’ve seen Ninkasi Sleigh’r, Deschutes Jubelale, Widmer Brrr, Pyramid Snowcap, Pelican Bad Santa and Full Sail Wassail.  I grabbed a 6 pack of the Bad Santa today at Trader Joes, although I went there hoping to still find some Oktoberfest beers.  Last year was the 30th Anniversary of Snow Cap and this year is the 30th Anniversary of Jubelale, so these are some very well loved and appreciated beers that have stood the test of time.

The other good news is now it’s dark beer season again! Time to break out some of those bottles that have been hibernating in the cellar, many since last year.  There’s some Goose Island, Deschutes and Culmination in the near future.  Watch for tasting notes for those.

As it says in the Dos Equis commercials, Stay Thirsty My Friends!

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2017 GABF Winners

Apparently, I missed the 2016 awards, at least as far as the blog is concerned, but looking back at the 2015 Awards post there were 17 medals from Oregon, 8 medals from North Carolina and the distribution was 9 Gold, 8 Silver and 8 Bronze.

This year, I was able to watch/listen to the live feed of the awards ceremony and got to cheer and hear them as they were announced.  This year there was again a large number of Oregon awards and a good amount of North Carolina awards including a couple of multiple award winners.

Starting with Oregon;

Breakside Brewing – Portland, OR
Bronze Medal – American IPA (408 entries!)
Bronze Medal – Rye Beer
Bronze Medal – American Style Strong Pale Ale (182 entries)
Bronze Medal – Fruited American Style Sour Ale (105 entries)

Goodlife Brewing – Bend, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Wheat Beer

Sunriver Brewing – Sunriver, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
Gold Medal – Imperial Red Ale
Small Brewing Company of the Year

Logsden Farmhouse Ales – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal – Belgian Style Fruit Beer

Ground Breaker Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Gluten-Free Beer

Flat Tail Brewing Co – Corvallis, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Sour Ale

Alesong Brewing and Blending – Eugene, OR
Bronze Medal – Brett Beer

Full Sail Brewing Co – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal – American or International Style Pilsener

Base Camp Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Speciality Saison

Three Creeks Brewing – Sisters, OR
Bronze Medal – Session Beer

Zoiglhaus Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – German Style Pilsener

Coldfire Brewing – Eugene, OR
Silver Medal – Double Red Ale

Now for North Carolina;

Lynnwood Brewing Concern – Raleigh, NC
Gold Medal – American Belgo-style Ale
Silver Medal – American Style Pale Ale (199 entries!)

New Sarum Brewing – Salisbury, NC
Gold Medal – Herb and Spice Beer (145 entries!)

Currahee Brewing – Franklin, NC
Bronze Medal – Coffee Stout or Porter

Bond Brothers Beer Co – Cary, NC
Silver Medal – American Style Sour Ale

Sycamore Brewing and Cannery – Charlotte, NC
Bronze Medal – Light Lager
Bronze Medal – American Style Lager or Malt Liquor

Foothills Brewing – Winston Salem, NC
Bronze Medal – Bohemian-Style Pilsner (93 entries!)

Wedge Brewing Co – Asheville, NC
Gold Medal – German Style Maerzen

Lonerider Brewing – Raleigh, NC
Bronze Medal – German Style Doppelbock or Eisbock

Olde Mecklemburg Brewing – Charlotte, NC
Bronze Medal – South German Style Hefewiezen

Hillman Beers – Asheville, NC
Bronze Medal – Belgian Style Dubbel or Quadruple

BearWaters Brewing Co – Canton, NC
Bronze Medal – Belgian Style Strong Speciality Ale

Duck Rabbit Brewing – Farmville, NC
Silver Medal – Scotch Ale

What an impressive showing.  16 individual medals + Small Brewing Company of the year for Oregon and 14 individual medals for North Carolina.

The medal breakdown for Oregon is 7 Golds, 3 Silver and 6 Bronze, while North Carolina took home 3 Gold, 3 Silver and 8 Bronze.

Stone Mixed 24 Pack

Haven’t had a variety pack in a while, but was at Costco shopping for a wedding reception and happened across the Stone Mixed Pack.  Bought one for the bride and groom and one for us.  All four beers in the pack are IPAs, but they are all rather unique in some different ways.  This case had an enjoy by date in December, so super fresh as well.

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Hop Revolver #4 – Mandarina Bavaria – Distinct orange like aroma.  Very hoppy, some caramel sweetness but mostly citrusy hops.  This is very much the calling card of Mandarina Bavaria hops.  Mandarin is a type of citrus fruit very similar to an orange (often referred to as a Mandarin Orange).  Lives up to it’s billing.  (4.5 stars of 5)

Stone Delicious IPA –  This one is well, delicious.  Strong orange/citrus aroma with slight “dank” note to it.  Strong citrus flavor with backing of dank/pine.  Medium to low bitterness that hangs on for a while.  Reminiscent of candied orange peel, but in a different way than the Hop Revolver.  (4.25)

Ruination Double IPA – Bring out the big guns.  Toppling the scales at 8.5% and this one punches you in the mouth (in a good way).  Very strong piney hop aroma.  Pine and citrus hop flavor balanced by some caramel malt sweetness.  Bitterness lingers. (4.25)

Stone IPA –  The box touts it as an “Iconic West Coast Style IPA” but I might have to disagree.  That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s quite different than the other IPA’s in this box.  This one has a much more delicate flavor, the hops more floral and earthy.  West Coast, at least the Pacific Northwest is more dank, piney and citrus.  I guess it could be West Coast if you go back far enough, since it seems to be more English IPA in style.  Which isn’t  bad, but a bit startling after the other three punch you in the mouth and then one is light and gentle.  Still, quite drinkable.  (3.75)

So there you have it, a nice four pack of Stone IPA’s available (for now) at Costco, at the very least in Oregon.  Hopefully in some other places as well.  Overall a very enjoyable variety that I would recommend seeking out.  If you’re a fan of Stone, a fan of IPAs, or both, this is the pack for you.

Cheers!

Into the Woods Part 4

The hot weather has held on for way too long, but still we have managed to sneak a few barrel aged specialties into the rotation.  Helping to fight the “dark and thick” component is a few barrel aged beers that aren’t stouts.

Lobo Amarillo – Alameda Brewing (Tequila Barrel Aged DIPA) – Starting with a non-stout is this interesting offering from Alameda.  This is a tequila barrel aged version of their Yellow Wolf Double IPA.  This beer packs a punch! Very strong tequila character, hints of lime and salt that I started to wonder were added, or were just my imagination, but basically tastes almost like a margarita or just a straight tequila shot.  The hops get covered up, so it loses a lot of it’s IPA character, but it’s still enjoyable.  (4.0 of 5 stars)

Bourbon Barrel Aged Spitfire – Santiam Brewing – This one was from the Salem Mini Tour, the barrel aged version of their English Amber.  It still had a good malty character of the amber, but with hints of vanilla and coconut from the oak and good bourbon flavor.  (4.75 of 5)

Spiced Apple Porter – Oakshire Brewing – So this is another Inception style beer with many layers.  So, a cider company aged a cider in a bourbon barrel.  Then they gave that barrel to Oakshire.  So the “Cider barrel” started life as a bourbon barrel.  We have a sweet vanilla and cinnamon aroma with hints of apple and some good bourbon notes.  The flavor is slightly roasty with apple, cinnamon and oak notes.  To be perfectly honest, the base porter gets completely lost within the layers of bourbon and spiced cider, but it makes a good canvas for a delicious beer. (4.75 of 5)

Hellshire VII (BBA Russian Imperial Stout) – Oakshire Brewing –  This is a massive beer, clocking in at 13.75% alcohol.  Huge bourbon character, lots of vanilla.  Super smooth with no alcohol burn, this beer could get very dangerous.  Some dark coffee-like roast came out as it warmed.  Simply phenomenal.  (4.75 of 5)

Bomb! – Prairie Artisan Ales (Bourbon Barrel Stout) – You know you have good friends when someone decides to share a major tick like this.  My buddy broke this out on his birthday, as well he should, but also decided to pour it around.  The bottle says coffee, chocolate and ancho chiles.  I don’t get the heat (which is fine with me) but the chocolate and coffee shine through.  Rich and decadent, but also surprisingly drinkable for 13%.   A 2 oz pour was plenty, but it could be dangerous in larger quantities.  (4.75 of 5)

Helldorado – Firestone Walker Brewing –  I got to try this one at the Proper Pint grand opening.  Firestone Walker bills this as a Blond Barleywine.  I described it to my friend at the Grand Opening as a “Bourbon Barrel Aged Triple IPA”.  The logic was this; triple IPA is a nonsense style but, some people do use it for big 11-12% hoppy beers like Boneyard’s Notorious.  Once you get into 12% alcohol and 100 IBU you’re in American Barleywine territory, but with a lighter color and a focus on El Dorado hops, this one leaned more IPA to me, even in the fictional sense.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s damn tasty. (4.75 of 5)

Salem Mini Tour

On Sunday, my wife and I went to visit friends in Salem, Oregon who just happened to be the same friends we visited in Denver.  They’ve now moved back to Oregon after completing a PhD internship and we were celebrating their return. So what else would be on the docket but a brewery tour, right?

Salem is much smaller than Denver, but has a growing beer scene.  Currently, there are 5 breweries in the city, with at least one more opening soon. We made it to three of the five on our mini tour.  Three that happen to be very close together on the same side of town.  Gilgamesh, Santiam and Salem Ale Works.  Vagabond and McMenamin’s Thompson Brewery and Pub are the other two in town.

We started at Gilgamesh because our friends told us they had good food, and did they ever! It does lean heavy on pub favorites like burgers, but they were good.  We tried the stoney fries (bacon, cheese, chipotle sour cream), the mac attack (mac and cheese with bacon and pulled pork) and the happy hour sliders.  Those were all great, and had some pretty good beers to wash them down.  Hoot Attack ISA (funny story behind the name and logo), Vader Coffee CDA, and Hoppy Farmer, a barrel aged sour saison.

Next stop was Santiam Brewing, and this time instead of a pint we decided to split their large taster tray (10 samples).  My wife remarked that she was having Denver flashbacks at this point.  The beers at Santiam were solid, but not remarkable.  They didn’t really blow us away.  While they were good, they were just missing that oomph.  You could tell the beers they spent a lot of time and effort on, the raspberry pale that tasted like a bite of fresh berries, the Bourbon barrel aged version of their English Amber, and of course, the classic Pirate Stout, Rum barrel aged with coconut.  The rest didn’t seem to have had as much attention paid to them, which was a bit disappointing.  Again, not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but just middle of the road.  “Serviceable”.

The last stop was Salem Ale Works.  I had heard of this brewery through a pro-am brew that a friend did, but I haven’t had much else of their stuff.  These beers really blew us away.  We had a NE style IPA, which I’m not a huge fan of but this one was really good.  A pale ale with an interesting blend of hops in their rotating Sgnarly series, a light refreshing summer ale with the hilarious name of Frisky Marmot, and the Cast Iron CDA which was dark and slightly chocolaty with a huge hop presence.  The waitress (who turned out to be a sales rep) did an amazing job describing the beers to us, and what was in the glass matched exactly what she said, so she did a great job selling us on the beers!  We didn’t eat anything at SAW, but the food coming out of the kitchen looked great so we’ll have to try that next time we’re in town.

So a super quick trip, but hit up a couple of the Salem hotspots.  I would recommend all three, but especially Gilgamesh for great food and Salem Ale Works for great beer.

Brews for New Avenues

This past weekend was the 6th annual Brews for New Avenues.  This year was the second year my wife and I attended and it’s really a blast.  The brewfest benefits New Avenues for Youth, a nonprofit combating youth homelessness.  Youth homelessness, and homelessness in general, is something my wife deals with in her professional life, so it’s a cause near and dear to us.  A lot of homeless youth are LGBT/Gender non-comforming who have been kicked out of a home or running away from a non-supportive family structure.  It’s a very high risk population so anything we can do to help we’ll try.

BFNA is a little bit different from other brewfests as they focus a good bit on older, cellared bottles of beer donated by patrons or companies that are then auctioned in both a live and silent auction. Oh, and then there’s the beer wall.  The idea of the beer wall is you pay a 10$ donation to grab a bottle off the wall.  At first, I thought “Well if you’re not the first 10 people in line you’re not going to get anything good” assuming people would cherry pick stuff like Westy 12, Bruery Terreaux etc.  Turns out the BFNA people were smarter than I gave them credit for.  It’s a blind grab! The beers are in paper bags and you just have to pick one for them to get for you.  The first year we went the bags were numbered, this year the columns and rows were labeled with street names, so you ask for the bottle at 7th and Burnside.  This event last year is what started my cellar, as mentioned in the earlier post The Beer Collector.  The Lompoc Barrel Aged Special Draft (2009) didn’t make the post since we had already drank that one, but the Ruse Multibeast, 10 Barrel 16 Barrels (2013) and Sound Brewing Barleywine hung around for a while.  Based on the variety and the ages, I assumed most of the bottles were donated by collectors.

This years grab lacked the same variety, but it made up for it in sheer quality.

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2012 Misson Street Anniversary Ale (a Trader Joes brand, which is a little odd, but so be it) and THREE from deGarde! We ended up with Eponyme, Saison Melange #3 and Bruinette.  Since deGarde does a special beer just for the fest, I get the feeling they donated a couple cases for the wall rather than a collector, but I’m surely not complaining.  In my opinion those three are worth way more than 10$, so those were great pulls.

There’s great draft beer on of course as well, a good bit which is one-offs just for the festivals, so that’s always fun to try.  This year there was a brewery from Belgium and one from Canada, so that was cool.

The highlight of the night has to be the live auction.  Things get really crazy and stuff sells for insane amounts of money, but it’s for a good cause, so I think people are willing to be generous.  They have all kinds of super special rare bottles, like unlabeled blends from Cantillon, bottles from Hill Farmstead, giant 3 liter magnums in wooden boxes engraved with the New Avenues logo.  Several single bottles sold for over $8,000. Just with what we heard it had to be well over $100,000 total in the auction.  They posted on their Facebook Page  that they raised just under $240,000.  That’s astounding!!

My wife said she hoped one day we could be in a secure enough financial spot to go crazy and donate $2,000 to the cause for one of the auction bottles, but until then, we’ll just keep giving what we can.  Whether it’s $20 or $100… every penny counts.

On the one hand I want to encourage everyone to support this great cause, but on the other hand I don’t want next years fest to be to crowded.. sooooo…… OK, just kidding, please support it.  They do great work.

Up a Kriek

Sour beer is an acquired taste that it took me a while to acquire. Much like black coffee and hoppy beer, it takes a while to grow on you.  I was lucky enough last summer to attend a “Sour Beer Camp” with my homebrew club where we brewed a lambic-style beer outdoors and then let it wild inoculate over night in a makeshift coolship.  Needless to say, people brought a lot of beer to try.

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This is only a portion of the beer that showed up that weekend, but it was basically “forced exposure”.  I got to try 50 or so sour beers, some I liked, some I didn’t.  It gave me a basis to work out which styles I liked and which I didn’t and what I liked about the ones I liked.

Over time I’ve begun to realize that I really enjoy fruited Lambics.  When you add cherries to a Lambic, it becomes Kriek (pronounced, to the best of my knowledge, very similar to “creek”).  I’ve tried 6 or 7 different Krieks now and I wanted to share my thoughts on them.

Devil’s Kriek (2014) and Tahoma Kriek – Double Mountain Brewery: I got bottles of both of these at the same time as a thank you for judging a competition.  This was long before I got into sour beers and my first introduction to the Kriek style.  I remember them being surprisingly enjoyable.  I scored the Devil’s Kriek 4 stars on Untappd, and I gave the Tahoma 3 stars and remarked “Not as good as the Devil’s Kriek”.  I’d be interested to go back and try it again.

Cerasus (2013) – Logsden Farmhouse Ales: They describe this as a Flanders Style Red ale with cherries, as opposed to a Lambic style, but it’s an American interpretation of the Kriek style.  I had this one at the Sour Beer camp, and despite only giving it 3.5 stars on Untappd, I labeled it as “Pretty Good”.  I had some other fruited sours that weekend and that’s when I started realizing I enjoyed that style.

Kriek Boon (2012) – Brouwerij Boon (Belgium): I was able to try this one at the Abbey Bar in NW Portland which specializes in Belgian and European beers.  I had this one in a bottle, which was disappointing, but not because of the beer itself.  I ordered the Oude Kriek Boon, which was on the draft list but it turned out they had run out.  They had a bottle of the regular Kriek in the cooler so I went with that.  The Oude is 6.5%, the Kriek is 4%, yet the bottle was more expensive than the draft. Oh well.  Regardless, the beer itself was marvelous.  Great cherry flavor, slight tartness, a little bit sweet.  4.5 stars on Untappd.

Lindemans Kriek – Brouwerij Lindemans (Belgium): This beer is a grocery store staple.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this beer everywhere, dating back to before I was old enough to drink.  I really enjoyed this, amazing cherry flavor, a slight tartness and a very sweet finish.  I gave it 4.5 stars on Untappd.  Had an interesting discussion later with some people how this is back sweetened and not very traditional for lambic, but is still a very remarkable beer on it’s own merits.  Considering it’s found nationwide (to my knowledge, I’ve seen it everywhere) I imagine it’s designed to be very enjoyable to a mass market audience, perhaps even specifically a North American/US audience.

Kriek Mythology – Culmination Brewing: Labeled as a Lambic-inspired Sour American Red Ale on Cherries, this is another American interpretation of the style.  This was a limited edition bottling from Culmination and I had to try it.  It was phenomenal! Lightly tart, very balanced, great cherry flavor. 4.75 stars.

Yachats Kriek – Yachats Brewing and Farmstore: Last but certainly not least, the Kriek I had last night.  I picked this bottle up a couple weeks ago when we were down in Yachats.  They also list their Kriek as a Flanders style red ale with cherries.  This was a very nice beer, the least cherry flavored, but well balanced.  Tart but not bracing. No sweetness at all.  Surprisingly refreshing. 4.75 stars.

I was looking on Wikipedia just now to see if there was a significant difference between a Flanders Style and a Lambic style and I discovered this interesting paragraph at the bottom.

“Although fruit lambics are among the most famous Belgian fruit beers, the use of names such as kriek, framboise or frambozen, cassis, etc. does not necessarily imply that the beer is made from lambic. The fruit beers produced by the Liefmans Brewery, for example, use an oud bruin, rather than a lambic as a base.”

So, in essence, the Flanders style and American sour style cherry beers are still considered Kriek.  All Lambics with sour cherries are Kriek, but not all Krieks are Lambics.  Makes sense yeah?

The Lambic page also lists which of the breweries produce “Traditional” Lambics and which produced sweetened Lambics.  Seems to be about half and half.

So there you have it, my favorite style of sour beer, sour beers with cherries!