Tis the Season

I haven’t done a beer review/recommendation post recently, but a couple of things have really lit my fire in the last couple weeks and they are mostly seasonal, so pretty time sensitive if you want to enjoy them as well.   Rating system is based on 5 stars and mirrors what I rate the beer on Untappd.

Citra Fresh Hop Phaedrus – Culmination Brewing (4.75 stars): Holy Cow! If you like citrus hops (like I do) this is the beer for you.  Super strong flavors of orange and grapefruit from the Citra, not overly bitter, very smooth and easy drinking.  Get this one while you can! (6.9% ABV, 65 IBU)

Fresh Hop Fresh Prince of Ales – Gilgamesh Brewing (4.25 stars): Really good fresh hop beer.  Bursting with aroma and strong hop flavor without being overly bitter.  (6.3% ABV, 88 IBU).

Mosaic Me Crazy – Two Kilts Brewing (4.5 stars): Another citrus bomb, if that’s what you’re into.  Sometimes hops can come across as “orange” or “grapefruit” or “lemon”, and sometimes just generic “citrus”, but that’s still OK.  It’s probably a blend of everything so it doesn’t stick out as one specifically but you know it’s citrus when you get it.  (9.6% ABV, 90 IBU).

Grand Mimosa – Ciderboys Cider (Wisconsin) (4.75 stars): Ok, so this is a really unique and interesting cider.  This is a blend of tart red apples and orange juice.  It’s fairly sweet (for a cider) and it legit tastes like a mimosa.  Essentially, fizzy alcoholic orange juice, but it’s really good.  I’d imagine this is pretty hard to find in the PNW, but it’s currently on tap (or was) at Valley Growlers in Happy Valley.  (5.0% ABV)

2009 Bourbon County Stout – Goose Island Brewing (4.75 stars): Yes, this is cheating.  This is less seasonal and more “if you can find it” It helps to have friends who love to share even when that means popping open something really rare.  What I would say about this, is if you can get a hold of any year I would do it.  Yeah, yeah I know they are owned by the big boys now.  This 2009 was as good as the fresh 2014 I tasted on tap at the release party last year. This beer holds up and ages well.  You can stash this one away for a special occasion and it won’t dissapoint.  (13% ABV, 60 IBU).

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen – Privatbrauerei Ayinger, Germany (4.5 stars): It’s that time of year, Oktoberfest! If you can get this beer fresh I would highly recommend it.  It’s a crisp, malty lager in traditional German style.  I had it on draft at the Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel, Oregon and it was really nice.  In fact, all the German beer I had there was on point. This is just the one I would recommend to others.  (5.8% ABV, 25 IBU)

My last recommendation is actually for a book.  and a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis.  My wife bought it for me since I love rum and it looked interesting and it’s a really good read.  He basically traces rum through the path of North American history, starting with the Spanish Conquistadors and the Pirates all the way up to modern day, using rum and rum cocktails that were popular at those time periods as the centerpieces.  It doesn’t get too in depth with the history stuff but dips it’s toe in just enough for a history buff like me.  He doesn’t shy away from “hard”
topics like slavery and war and how those shaped thirsts and appetites of those time periods.  From Pirates to Tiki Bars to Mojitos, this book covers it all and it tells a really good story.  This book made me want rum (bought a bottle of Bacardi Gold) and also the fixings for a good bar like bitters, mixers etc.  It also makes me really interested to delve into the world of the super premium rums which are aged for 20+ years intended to be sipped neat like whiskey.  Dare to dream.  I’m sure they are out of my price range, but the book is not a bad place to start!

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Expectations vs Reality

I haven’t posted here in a while because I’ve not been brewing lately, but I’ve still been very immersed in the local beer scene.  It’s been a busy summer as Festival Coordinator for the Oregon Brew Crew and I’m about 2 months into my new job as a Quality Analyst at Portland Brewing/Pyramid Breweries.  So I’m now actually a member of the industry!

The QA lab at Portland Brewing gives me access to a wide array of equipment and I’m learning a lot about brewing and beer chemistry.  One of the perks is that I’m allowed (heck, encouraged) to bring in my own homebrew to run tests on.  The results have been very interesting and I thought they might be worth sharing with the rest of my homebrewing friends.

I brought in three of my beers to test and I was hoping to discern some patterns or trends, but it looks like I can only paint in very broad strokes.  Not surprising that there is a lot of batch to batch variations in doing stove top small batch homebrews.

*One major caveat to these tests is that the samples I brought in were all fairly old and no longer drinkable so I didn’t feel bad dumping a couple bottles to do the tests.  I don’t believe it should affect data like IBUs and color but I could be wrong.  Along with oxidation there could be some evaporation of alcohol, but the ABVs on all three were higher than I expected to begin with, more on that later.

The first result is that my measured IBUs are way lower than the BeerSmith estimate.  That’s not a complete surprised since calculated IBUs is just an estimate based on X% alpha acid hop in the boil for X amount of time, but the amounts they dropped were a bit shocking.  My experimental hop IPA was estimated at 81 IBU and measured at 30.5 IBU, a drop of 62%.  My porter was estimated at 31 IBU and measured at 18.5, a drop of 40% and lastly my california common was estimated at 35 IBU and measured at 17.5 a drop of 50%.  I’m not sure those are close enough to derive a trend from, but the average is about half.  Another thing I’ve learned at the brewery is that IBUs in the wort (which I assume the BeerSmith estimate is, immediately after the boil) will drop during fermentation since the yeast will eat up some of the alpha and beta acids from the hops.  I didn’t know that.  Even in our commercial beers we see the IBUs drop.

The ABV (alcohol by volume) on the other hand, has been higher than expected, and by a pretty large margin.  I realized that I was making a mistake checking my final gravity by not letting the CO2 out of solution before I measure, which lowers the density of the solution and floats the hydrometer a bit more, so I know my FG readings are off, but these are old samples so there’s nothing to be done about it now.  My experimental IPA was estimated at 5.8% and measured at 6.68%, a whopping 15% increase.  My porter was estimated at 4.7% and measured at 6.0%, a 27% increase.  My california common was estimated at 4.6% and measured at 5.4%, an increase of 17%.  If I change the measured final gravity in BeerSmith to what I measured, then the measured ABV jumps up to 5.4 on the Common, so the estimate in BeerSmith is dead on, I was simply measuring the final gravity incorrectly, so that solves that mystery.

The SRM (color) for all three beers was also darker than the estimate.  This is somewhat expected, since I’ve read and been told that beers brewed with extract will be darker than their all grain counterparts.

So there we have it.  Some interesting numbers from doing actual wet chemistry testing on beer rather than relying on estimates and formulas.  Of course, the downside is you can only test after the fact, so you have to adjust your recipe for the next batch rather than the one you’re currently working on.

 

East Coast Brewery Visits

Earlier this week my wife and I returned from a trip to the East Coast to spend the holidays with my family.  It was my first time back in North Carolina since I moved out to Portland two and a half years ago.  While beer was not the main focus of the trip, there was a lot of local stuff I wanted to try, as well as recommendations from friends and family who know I’m now a beer geek.  Rather than try to rank which ones I like best or anything like that I’ll just present them in the order we visited them in.

Over the course of the trip I tried 72 unique beers (beers I had never checked into on Untappd. Most of them I’d never had before, Foothills was the only repeat) and most of them were simply “tried”.  Several taster flights were shared amongst the group and sometimes it was just a sip of what someone else had so I could taste it.

Olde Mecklemburg Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The first brewery we visited was a recommendation from my brother, who lives in Charlotte.  We met one of our local friends there and had a few pints and took the tour.  Olde Meck focuses strictly on German beers and stick to the purity laws and don’t add any “funky” ingredients.  I wasn’t sold on their Copper, which is an altbier but I think partially because I was expecting an American Style Amber.  The Pilsner, Weiss and Baltic Porter were all very tasty.  Sadly they had run out of their seasonal Doppelbock.

Sugar Creek Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The second brewery we visited was literally across the street from Olde Meck.  I found it while I was looking up directions.  Sugar Creek specializes in Belgian style beers, which is my favorite style, but my wife’s least favorite.  Not to fear, they had a bottled Coffee Stout that was right up her alley and she enjoyed it very much.  I got a taster flight that included a Wit, Dubbel, Tripel and Saison.  The Dubbel was my favorite, but they were all phenomenal.

Birdsong Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The third brewery we visited in Charlotte was Birdsong in the iconic NoDa neighborhood.  Unfortunately, NoDa brewing was closed the days we were in Charlotte, but this was a great alternative.  We both liked Birdsong the best out of the breweries we’d visited so far, but we realized some of that preference was simply because these beers were more like what we were used to.  We only had one each, and they were very much “Portland” beers.  I got a Brown Ale which was hoppy but with a lot of chocolate roast, and my wife got an IPA which was very piney and citrusy.  Turns out one of the brewers is from the Northwest. Very cool place with a very hip vibe.

Natty Greene’s (Greensboro, NC):

I’ve had Natty Greene’s beer before but never visited their brewpub location.  We decided to have dinner there and both the food and the beer were really good.  We tried their Red Nose Winter Ale, a Wit and an IPA.  I hated IPA when I lived here, they were too bitter and strongly flavored, but of course they’ve grown on me living in Portland.  I wasn’t sure how they would be on the East Coast but so far they’ve been really well done.

Foothills Brewing (Winston Salem, NC):

I had been to Foothills a couple times, even took my wife there when she came to visit me before I moved out to Portland, but I was excited to go back now that my tastes in beer had changed.  Foothills does several IPAs that I didn’t like 3 years ago but I figured now I’d either like them, or would think they didn’t have enough hops, rather than too much. I got the taster tray which included a set rotation.  It came with their Pilsner, Porter, Blonde Ale, One of the IPAs and two seasonals.  One was a black IPA and one was a pumpkin ale.  I knew I wouldn’t like the pumpkin beer so I took one sip and then passed that to my wife who loved it.  The blonde ale is mostly flavorless, but it’s designed to be light and easy drinking.  The pilsner was the one I didn’t much care for.  I’m discovering I’m just not a fan of that strong “canned corn” flavor that is common to most lagers.  I guess I’m an ale guy.  The porter is good, which is one of their standards.  Both the IPA and the Black IPA were really good, so I can tell my taste buds have adjusted.  They are no longer “too bitter”.

Moon River Brewing (Savannah, GA):

There’s only a handful of craft breweries in Savannah, but Moon River is right on Bay Street and located in a (reportedly) haunted building that originally served as a tavern/hotel and also got turned into a makeshift hospital/morgue during the yellow fever epidemic. We stopped in a little before closing after our walking ghost tour, so the service was a little scattered, but the beers were pretty good.  They normally offer a 10 oz or 18 oz pour, but since they were close to closing they were only pouring in 16 oz plastic “to-go” cups, a Savannah staple.  I started with Dixie Kristal, a seasonal Belgian Tripel, which was quite tasty.  We also tried the Swamp Fox IPA, Boucane Brown Ale and Captain’s Porter which we all nice.  The Porter was somewhat better than the brown ale.

Deep River Brewing Co. (Clayton, NC):

We went to visit my best friend in Raleigh and he had a couple of his favorite places he wanted to take us too.  We started at Deep River.  We split a 8 sample taster among the three of us so we could all taste a little bit of everything.   The selection included a White Winter Ale, a Stout, a Black IPA, a Rye Pale Ale, a Wit, an IPA, a Pumpkin Pie Porter and a marzen.  They were all very good, although the two that stood out the most were the Mango Tango Foxtrot IPA and the JoCo White Winter Ale.  The MTF was made with New Zealand hops that have strong flavors of tropical fruits.  It tasted like they actually put mangoes in the beer, but it was just hops.  The JoCo was a Belgian style beer, but it was made with toasted marshmallows and sweet potatoes (sweet potato casserole anyone?).  I was really hesitant on this one since I assumed it was going to be gimmicky and not very good, but I was wrong, it was amazing.  The flavors melded perfectly and nothing jumped out at me as sweet potato or marshmallow.  To be honest, this tasted exactly like Chimay Blue to me.  Cans of both the JoCo and the Mango Tango went home with us.

Draft Line Brewing (Fuquay Varina, NC):

The second place we went was a favorite haunt and my best friend knew the people working there and has become friends with the owners/brewers.  Again we grabbed two 4-sample taster trays to share between the three of us so we could try everything they had on tap.  This taster included an IPA, Pilsner, Porter, Scotch Ale, Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Winter Spice Lager and a Belgian Dark Strong.  The Belgian (of course) was my favorite, and again the Pilsner was my least favorite.  The rest were all very enjoyable.  The one that stuck out the most though was the Winter Spice Lager.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of it, and it turned out to be a gingerbread house in a glass, but it was very good.  Lots of ginger, clove, cinnamon, and sugar.  Christmas in liquid form.  A growler of the Winter Spice went home with us for us all to share later.

Fortnight Brewing (Cary, NC):

Our second day in Raleigh we made a special trip out to Fortnight Brewing.  The reason this was special was a friend of ours from our Portland homebrewing club had won a contest and brewed a beer with the guys at Fortnight and it was going to be on tap supposedly, while we were in town.  I emailed the brewery and they said it was going to be on tap on Monday, although we weren’t going to make it to Raleigh until Friday and Saturday.  Called the brewery Saturday afternoon and they said they did indeed still have it on tap so we headed out, and we got there JUST in time.  We ordered two glasses of our friends Coffee Stout and just as the second glass was almost full, the keg blew! We got the last of it! We thought it was equal parts hilarious and spooky that we traveled all that way to drink a friends beer and ended up killing the keg.  It was quite tasty!

Lonerider Brewing (Raleigh, NC):

The last brewery we visited on this trip was Lonerider.  My sister met us there since it’s close to her house and they have one of her favorite beers, the Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen.  They serve half pints which let us try all kinds of different things without getting hammered.  Between the four of us we tried the Hefe, Brown Ale, IPA, Porter, Pale Ale and a couple of interesting seasonals, a Belgian Nior (Belgian Black? Untappd labeled it a Dark Strong), a barrel aged stout with coffee and vanilla beans and a raspberry infused pale ale.  The standard beers were all quite amazing, but the seasonal and one off beers stole the show.  The raspberry pale ale tasted like Fruity Pebbles, but was still quite good, would have been awesome in warmer weather, the Belgian Noir was really quite tasty.  The Barrel aged Pistols at Dawn stole the show though.  Hints of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and rum all danced in a dark smooth base.  We got a second pint of this one to all share at the end because we all needed just a couple more sips of it, it was that good!

So there you have it, the recap of an awesome beercation!

2015 GABF Medal Winners

I was scrolling through the GABF Medals List and ran across quite a few familiar names! Pretty excited to see a lot of Oregon and North Carolina breweries on the list.  See the full list here.

Here are the winners from my former home and my new home:

Silver Medal American Amber/Red – Proletariat Red – Lompoc Brewing – Portland
Bronze Medal American Style Dark Lager – Black Diamond – Bend Brewing Co. – Bend
Silver Medal American Style Fruit Beer – Rasplendent – Mazama Brewing – Corvallis
Silver Medal American IPA – Pernicious IPA – Wicked Weed – Candler, NC
Bronze Medal American Light Lager – Southern Girl Lager – Sycamore Brewing – Charlotte
Gold Medal American Stout – Disorder Stout – Barley Browns – Baker City, OR
Gold Medal Strong Pale Ale – Ratchet Strap IPA – Barley Browns – Baker City
Bronze Medal Strong Pale Ale – 3C India Pale Ale – Triple C Brewing – Charlotte
Bronze Medal Baltic Style Porter – Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter – Duck Rabbit – Farmville, NC
Bronze Medal Belgian and French Style Ale – Petite Classique – The Commons – Portland
Gold Medal Belgian Style Lambic or Sour Ale – Turbulent Consequence, Peche – Block 15 – Corvallis
Gold Medal English Style IPA – Shanghai’d IPA – Old Town Brewing – Portland
Gold Medal English Style Summer Ale – Beaverton Blonde – Golden Valley Brewery – McMinnville, OR
Gold Medal Extra Special Bitter – The Guilty Party – Gibb’s Hundred Brewing – Greensboro, NC
Gold Medal Field Beer – Beets, Rhymes and Life – Fonta Flora Brewery – Morganton, NC
Bronze Medal German Style Marzen – Duck Rabbit Marzen – Duck Rabbit – Farmville, NC
Silver Medal German Style Pilsner – Pilsner – pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal German Style Sour Ale – Volkssekt – Bend Brewing Co – Bend, OR
Silver Medal Gluten Free Beer – IPA No 5 – Groundbreaker Brewing – Portland
Silver Medal Imperial IPA – Eazy Duz It IIPA – Laurelwood Public House – Portland
Bronze Medal Imperial Stout – The Miller’s Toll – Raleigh Brewing – Raleigh
Bronze Medal Old or Strong Ale – Massive! 2013 – Gigantic Brewing – Portland
Gold Medal Rye Beer – Blitzkrieg Bock – Fat Head’s Brewery/Portland – Portland
Gold Medal Scotch Ale – MacPelicans Wee Heavy – Pelican Brewery – Pacific City, OR
Silver Medal Specialty Ale – Hazelnut Brown Nectar – Rogue Brewery – Newport, OR

Congratulations to all the award winners!!

Fred Eckhardt – RIP August 10, 2015

I never got the opportunity to meet Fred Eckhardt but he is a legend around these parts and for good reasons.  He was an author, educator, National ranked beer judge and overall beer guru.  He was a champion of homebrewing and wrote one of the definitive beer guidebooks in his 1989 publication of Essential Beer Styles: A Catalog of Classic Beer Styles for Brewers and Beer Enthusiasts.  He is much beloved in the Portland homebrewing community.  He has a festival named after him that is on his birthday: Fred Fest and he has a beer named after him, “Fred” from Hair of the Dog.

Fred was 89 years old.  He’ll be sorely missed.

Be sure to raise a glass tonight to the “Dean of American beer writers”.

#cheerstofred

Montavilla Brew Works – Grand Opening – July 17th, 2015

Yesterday, I was excited to attend the brewery opening of Montavilla Brew Works for several reasons. First and foremost, the brewery is being opened by a member of the Oregon Brew Crew who has made the jump to pro brewer.  Second, while it’s a little too far out to be “walkable” this is the first brewery (that I know of) opening up in Outer Southeast Portland, so it’s nice to have something in “my neighborhood”.  Lastly, I just happen to go by Stark on the way home, so I stopped in after work.

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There was quite a crowd when I got there, which is a great sign but service was pretty quick.  Montavilla does not serve food, but there are several places around where you can get food and they encourage people to bring in food.  Another interesting thing I noted with their point of sale system which I’ve never seen anywhere else is the fact that you can start a tab, swipe a card and then they give you your card back rather than hold it.  That way after you have a beer, if you want to step across the street and go get some food and then come back for another beer you still have your card with you.

Their tap list includes a lot of classic beer styles as well as some rotating seasonals. They have a Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Pale Ale, Brown Ale (Seasonal), Barleywine (Seasonal), Pilsner (Seasonal) and Imperial Stout (Seasonal) listed on the website.  Yesterday they had a couple of beers also not listed on the website, a Galaxy Double IPA, a Horizon Dry Hopped IPA and a Belgian Golden Strong.  They also had a handful of local guest brews on tap, including Rogue Root Beer as a non-alcoholic option.

The two beers I tried while I was there were the double IPA and the Belgian golden strong.  The IPA was very nice with strong bitterness but also lots of dank, floral and piney hop aroma and flavor.  I’m guessing from Galaxy in the name that it’s a single hop beer with just Galaxy hops.  The Belgian Golden (pictured below) was a very nice ale with characteristic Belgian characteristics.  It was fruity with some bubblegum esters and just the right amount of “funk”.  Well done with both of those beers.

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I highly recommend checking out Montavilla Brew Works.  It’s really good beer, and nice to see something open up in Outer Southeast.

2015 Ninkasi Ground Control

I saw this beer at the store, and although I was tempted, I resisted because it was $20 for a 22oz bottle.  But after telling my wife about it when I saw it at the store again I had to pick it up before I missed my chance.  She was interested in the hazelnuts and chocolate, I was interested in beer made with yeast that had traveled to space and back.  It’s space beer!

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Ground Control – Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, OR) – Imperial Stout, 10% ABV, 80 IBU

This beer pours a dark black/brown with a thin white head that quickly dissipates.  Not uncommon for a strong beer. The aroma has notes of molasses, dark dried fruit and chocolate.  No hop aroma to speak of.  The flavor is also rich with dark dried fruits, the chocolate that was added as well as the star anise.  The licorice flavor of the anise and the chocolate played surprisingly well together.  I was afraid it would be way too overpowering, but they are both subtle and mesh nicely.  The mouthfeel of this beer is incredible, thick and velvety.  There is a small amount of alcohol warmth, but not as much as you might expect for a double digit ABV beer.  This is an incredible beer and the cool factor above and beyond just makes it even better.

Rank – 5.0 (of 5 stars): To my knowledge this is the first beer I’ve ever given 5 stars on Untappd.  This beer is really incredible and would earn a 4-4.5 star ranking on it’s own but the cool factor of the yeast from space just pushes it over the top.  Sure, that’s my geek side shining through but hey, that’s what the blog is for right? I recommend you grab a bottle of this before it’s gone.  I don’t know how much of it the made, but it has to be a pretty limited release.