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.