Xicha Brewing – Salem, OR

Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to visit one of the newest breweries to open in the state, Xicha Brewing in Salem.  We were visiting friends in town and one of them was friends with the head brewer, so of course we had to check it out.  Apparently, the crew running the place are all West Salem natives and have a huge backing of community support.  They weren’t that busy when we got there on the early afternoon of Black Friday, but apparently most nights they’ve been slammed and it was hopping by the time we left.

They’ve been open less than a month so the beer selection is somewhat limited, but still very solid.  They had five beers on when we were there.  An IPA, a pale ale, an Amarillo dry-hopped pale ale, a porter and a variant of the porter with Hatch chilies.  I believe we tried all of them aside from the standard pale ale.

The beer is solid and I expect it to continue to impress, but the reason you want to go here is the FOOD.  Cooking for them is the owners of Pura Vida Cocina in McMinnville, and it’s really unique Latin and South American food.  It’s similar to Mexican but with some unique twists.  I got Sopes, which was a crispy masa cup with their guava BBQ chicken, black beans, cheese and pickled cabbage.  It was really good and very different than anything I’ve ever had.  My wife got the daily special which was Venezuelan style shrimp arepas, which are a stuffed masa dish similar to a empenada but usually served open faced rather than fully closed (at least the two times I’ve seen them).

They are tucked away in an industrial park, but it’s well worth searching out.  I’m already looking forward to going back.  I literally cannot recommend it enough.

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Seattle Beer Scene

Perhaps it’s because I live in Portland and so I’m keyed in to every small detail of the Portland beer scene, especially comparisons to other regions, but it seems to me that Seattle doesn’t get a lot of hype as a beer town.  Perhaps it does and I just miss it, but at least to me it seems like an unknown waiting to be explored.

My wife and I just returned from a short weekend trip up to Seattle.  The purpose of the trip was a college soccer game and hanging out with family, so not at all a beercation, but since we were headed up that way, I offered to ferry homebrew samples up for one of the last competitions of the year, the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  Yeah, it’s a mouthful.  I had a short list of a few places I wanted to hit while we were in town.

We started at Reuben’s Brews in Old Ballard.  A friend of ours from the PNWHC works there and we made it a point to stop by while we were in town.  Unfortunately, it was the Saturday before Halloween and they were PACKED! The dining room is small, and there’s a little bit of outdoor seating but it was pretty cramped.  We both got one beer each and found a table.  The Life on Mars IPA and Black Imperial IPA were both solid, we enjoyed them while we decided where to head to next.  One thing that really impressed me about that Ballard neighborhood was, even though we didn’t get a chance to go anywhere else, there was NW Peaks Brewing, Peddler Brewing, and Lucky Envelope Brewing all within a 4 block radius. *Update to add: There was also a Lagunitas Tap Room in the neighborhood, which I just discovered is the old location of Hillards Brewing.  We got cans of Hillards as a giveaway at the first PNWHC 2 years ago and I thought it was really good. Sad to discover they are no longer in business. Apparently, they got bought by Odin Brewing and then dissolved.

After leaving Reuben’s we decided to walk up to Ballard Way where we had seen a couple of good looking restaurants while we were trying to find Reuben’s.  We ended up at the MacLeod’s Pub.  Known for their fish and chips (which were excellent) they also had an interesting selection of Scottish beers including McEwan’s and Belhaven, plus a list of 250 scotch whiskeys.  After some google sleuthing we discovered the Belhaven was made in Dunbar, Scotland, which is where one side of my wife’s family hails from.  Needless to say we had to try them.  The Scottish Ale on Nitro was OK, but it had a strange tartness to it, and seemed overly malty bordering on oxidation. We keep trying them, but it turns out neither my wife or I are big fans of beers on Nitro. Just not our jam.  Next we tried bottled versions of the Twisted Thistle IPA, their version of an American Style IPA and the 90/ Wee Heavy.  Both of those were quite good.

Our last stop of the night was close to our Air BnB, in Kenmore, called Nine Yards Brewing.  They were much more laid back and less crowded than Reuben’s and we discovered that this was a local hangout for Washington State fans. (U of Washington is IN Seattle, so the WSU fans/alums are in enemy territory).  We decided we would hang out a while and watch most of the game.  This gave us a chance to try several beers there.  It’s nice when places offer a 6-10 ounce short pour that’s a bit more than the typical 3-4oz “taster” but not a full pint.  Most of the bars we went to in Seattle called this size a Schooner, which is ironic to me because that brings up in my mind a giant Stein.  I’m not sure why.  Wikipedia tells me in Australia and the UK a schooner is smaller than a pint, whereas in Canada a schooner is a large mug, usually two US pints (32 ounces) but I can’t imagine where I would have heard either of those two references before.

Nine Yards started out a little shaky (in my opinion) but then improved as the night went on.  I got adventurous with my first beer and ordered a Marzen, which was good, but not great.  Next, I had noticed a couple of Randalls on the wall filled with fresh cut fruit.  I found the infusions on the menu and ordered the wheat with orange and it was incredible! The aroma was like squeezing a fresh wedge of orange, and the flavor was a subtle citrusyness added to the base beer.  I followed that with a Mosiac dry hopped pale ale that was really nice and then finished with a roasty milk stout that was really good.  The game started to get a little ugly in the wrong direction so we called it a night.

The next day before we left town, we met a friend for lunch up in Snohomish at the Trails End Taphouse.  For being a random, hole in the wall joint, they had an amazing beer selection.  The taps were mostly Seattle/Washington centered, but a couple Oregon offerings and then some really unique stuff like Founders Breakfast Stout and Firestone Walker Parabola (2013).  They also had a really awesome bottle selection, both for on premise and take home.  They had a lot of pretty sought after stuff such as Firestone Walker, Almanac, Founders, Bells, Stone, way too many to list.  Two bottles in particular caught my eye and then I had to make a really tough decision.  I had to decide between Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and Fremont Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star.  They were roughly the same price, but realistically I could only get one.  Part of me thought I should get the KBS since I never really knew when I would see it again, but the other part of me said I should get the Fremont, since I was specifically hoping to find Dark Star while we were in town.  I struggled mightily over this while we ate (great food too!) and watched the Seahawks game.  When it was time to go I bit the bullet and chose the Fremont.  I hope I made the right choice, but on the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice in this aspect.

So, short trip but got to experience some local Seattle flavor.  Cheers Seattle!

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.

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)

Oregon’s Lush Coast

Portland is Beervana beyond a shadow of a doubt, but don’t overlook the Oregon Coast when it comes to good drinks.  Not only is the Oregon coast a beautiful place to visit and drive down, there’s plenty of good breweries and a handful of wineries and distilleries as well.  Starting from the north and working your way south down the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101), although I wouldn’t recommend doing it all in one day.

Astoria: Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific and separates Oregon from Washington, Astoria has a solid and small, but growing, beer scene.  Fort George and Buoy are the two big names in town, they both can their beer and it’s available in the Portland market, but you should visit their locations.  Buoy is out on a dock, completely with a glass floor to watch sea lions, while Fort George is a little further up the hill with commanding views of the town and river.  Wet Dog Cafe and Astoria Brewing Company (which are run together) are right down on the waterfront boardwalk area.  They share a brewery, but both locations are unique.  Astoria Brewing has a simple tap room and bar, while Wet Dog is a full blown restaurant. On the Wet Dog side they have several dog named beers that aren’t available on the other side.  The food is also really good.  Worth a stop. The newest game in town is Reach Break Brewing, which opened about a week before we got to stop in there before Festival of the Dark Arts.  The beer was awesome, and ambitious, starting out day one with a barrel aged stout.  These guys know what they are doing.

Gearhart: There’s not a brewery in Gearhart (that I know of) but there is the McMenamins Gearhart Hotel.  It’s a really cool historic property, and of course you can find all the standard and special McMenamins beers there.

Seaside: Seaside is a pretty cool town, albeit very touristy.  It’s about as close to what I would think of as a “beach” from the Southern US.  Wide sandy beach, arcades and taffy shops, boardwalk etc.  Very “East Coast” style beach town.  I haven’t been to Seaside Brewing yet, but I see it every time we drive through there.  Maybe next time.

Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach is one of my favorite places along the coast.  It’s the first place along the coast my wife took me after I moved out to Oregon and home to the famous Haystack Rock.  The last time we drove through there (on the way home from Cape Lookout) we noticed two new places in town that we’ll need to visit next time we’re in town.  Pelican Brewing opened a new brewery and pub in Cannon Beach.  I had heard about that but finally got to see where it was.  Also, on the north side of town was Public Coast Brewing which, to my knowledge, is very new.  We didn’t have time to stop at either as we made our way home, but we said we would go next time we were in town.  Cannon Beach is also home to the Cannon Beach Distillery.  While we were camping in Cape Lookout our friends had a couple bottles from CBD.  One was Il Keyote, which is an agave liquor that’s barrel aged.  The website says they treat it more like a brandy than a tequila, and I remember it being very smooth and very delicious.

Tillamook: Tillamook is a bit inland from the coast, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention de Garde Brewing.  World famous for their wild fermented farmhouse style beers, absolutely worth the visit.  And let’s be honest, you’re going into town for the cheese curds anyway.  US 101 passes through town, so you’re still on the coastal highway, it just tucks inland around the large Tillamook Bay.

Pacific City: Pacific City is home to the main operations of Pelican Brewing.  They have a gorgeous brewpub located, quite literally, on the beach.  Located next to one of the public parking and beach access areas with great views of the beach and Chief Kiwanda Rock (which I’ve also seen referred to as Haystack Rock.. confusing yeah?).

Lincoln City: Lincoln City is a small town, and is geared more towards grocery stores and supplies than beach rentals and kites.  Lincoln City is home to the McMenamins Lighthouse Pub which, despite being very small, has it’s own brewery and supplies beer up the coast to Gearhart.

Depoe Bay: Depoe Bay is a tiny, tiny town and home to the worlds smallest working harbor.  This is a great place to do whale watching.  Depoe Bay didn’t used to have a brewery, but they do now.  Former Three Mugs brewer and OBC Member Chris Jennings is now the head brewer at The Horn Public House and Brewery located in the former Spouting Horn Restaurant location.  Haven’t been there yet, but it’s on the list.

Devils Punchbowl: So, not a town so much as a roadside attraction, the Devils Punchbowl Natural Area is home to the Flying Dutchman Winery.  A small winery, but with award winning wine.  When we stopped in to do a tasting they told us that the wines are open fermented and barrel aged outside and they pick up some of the salty, ocean qualities.  Not sure if you can really taste the difference, but it makes for a neat story and unique selling point.  The wines were also very good.

Newport: Newport is home to Rogue, which is very divisive, some people love them, some people hate them, but they are one of the largest breweries in Oregon.  They have several locations throughout the state, but their main operation is in Newport.  It’s worth visiting to take the tour, and hear the story about the “massive red erection”.  Across the parking lot is the Rogue Distillery.  They make whiskey and gin using a lot of the same ingredient as they use for beer.  Dead Guy whiskey uses the exact same grain bill as the Dead Guy beer.  Rogue also has a farm in eastern Oregon where they grow a lot of their own grains, hops, fruits and herbs, to use in the beers, spirits and restaurants.

Yachats: Yachats is very small, but home to Yachats Brewery and Farmstore, which my wife and I recently visited on the way down to camping in Florence.  It’s a great place and totally worth the visit.  It’s a bit out of the way but trust me, it’s worth the journey.  Great beer, awesome food and great people.  Go there.

Florence and points South: There’s not really a whole lot south of Florence.  Defeat River Brewing is in Reedsport, which we planned on going to while we were in Florence, but we didn’t make it.  7 Devils Brewing is in Coos Bay, which sounds vaguely familiar.  I feel like I’ve had some of their beers before, but I never been to the location down in Coos Bay.  To my knowledge, there are no breweries south of Coos Bay, but this is Oregon so I wouldn’t be shocked to find out there was.

So there you have it, your brewery tour of the Oregon coast (with a winery and two distilleries thrown in for good measure).  Head on out to the coast and drink in the view! (Sorry, the puns just write themselves).

Yachats Brewing and Farmstore

Last weekend my wife and I went camping down in Florence, Oregon with her family.  This is an annual tradition which happened to fall on one of the hottest weeks in record in Oregon.  Thankfully, it was much cooler down on the coast.  On the way down, we stopped in the tiny coastal town of Yachats to have lunch at Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

 

I don’t write about every brewery we visit because that would be overwhelming, but if a place is unique, a special experience, or in my thoughts “unknown” or underhyped, I’ll write about it.  Yachats was all three.

Before the visit, I was only vaguely aware of Yachats Brewing.  I had a barrel aged version of their Marbled Murrelet Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was “on the way”, so we decided to stop in.

Camping is always a food-fest so we decided to split a sandwich, which was a good idea because it was HUGE! BBQ chicken, onions, peppers and cheese, it was great.  Warm polenta and fermented veggies on the side to round it out.  Highly recommend the food.

The two beers we tried were the Coastal Dark Ale (4.5 stars), their version of a CDA, my wife’s favorite style, and the Hyphyweizen (4.5 stars), their version of a German Hef.  Both beers were really good and we ended up taking a crowler of the CDA camping and I got a bottle of their Kriek (which I haven’t tried yet).

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The location was really cool.  Obviously not the original use of that building.  We sat on the side patio, which was half indoors/half outdoors and used to be a greenhouse/plant area.  You could see into the brewery with some tanks back in the back, as well as mics and speakers for live music.

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We got there shortly after they opened, so they weren’t very crowded and the staff was very friendly.  Quick to recommend a beer, ideas about food, pointed out seasonals and special items.  Overall a great experience.  If you’re on the southern Oregon coast, I highly recommend swinging by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.  They are located right on 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) about a half hour south of Newport.  It’s worth the drive.

Into the Woods Part 3

The warm weather has majorly slowed down the consumption of high alcohol, dark, barrel aged beers, but there’s been a handful here and there.  I don’t know how many “parts” to this post there will be since I have several more barrel aged beers waiting in the wings, so this may just become a regular ongoing feature.

2016 Two Beers Overhang Porter – This was a bottle that I brought home from judging the Best of Craft Beer awards and happened to be the last one we cracked open.  This beer had an aroma of dark dry fruit and faint vanilla, the flavor was also heavy on dark dry fruit and slight oak.  I remarked it was not bad, but I felt it was slightly past it’s prime. Interestingly, I tasted this at the competition and gave it 2.75 stars on Untappd and said it was a huge diacetyl bomb.  I obviously forgot this fact when I got a bottle to bring home.  The bottle we had at home though was much better.  I gave that one 4 stars. (4 stars).

2016 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine.  Ironically enough we ended up drinking this one a couple of days before the summer solstice.  (Also interesting, mine is still the most recent check in on Untappd, so apparently no one else had the willpower to hold on to a bottle that long.)  This one had dark fruit, brown sugar and whiskey in the aroma coupled with sweet dark fruit, vanilla and whisky in the flavor.  Clear red color, highly carbonated (surprising for a BA Barleywine) very boozy with a lot of warming.  Not a normal summer drink, but it was still very nice.  (4.75 stars).

2016 Ex Novo Kill the Sun – Bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.  I got to try this one over the weekend at the Ex Novo 3rd Anniversary party and man was it good.  This one had a ton of dark dry fruit in the aroma and flavor, basically tasted like raisins.  Good whiskey character, pretty boozy.  Should continue to improve with age.  I wish I had a couple bottles of this to stash away.  (4.75 stars)

Culmination Pinot Evil II – Barrel aged Tripel with wine grapes.  I love Belgian style beers, so the last time I was at Culmination I had to try this. They don’t specify the barrel used, but with wine grapes added I’m assuming it was also aged in a wine barrel.  It didn’t give off any major whiskey notes.  Wine barrel aging of beer is becoming more popular.  This beer started out with a sharp tang of acidity that I would assume was from the grapes, and then it finished with that traditional bubblegum sweetness of a Belgian beer.  It wasn’t sour, but it had just a little bit of a bite to it.  (4.75 stars)

Oregon Mead and Cider Co. Free Press Pinot Gris Barrel Aged Frankencyser – Say that three times fast… So this was a really interesting sample on my taster flight at Oregon Mead and Cider (Formerly Stung Fermented).  Cyser is a blend of cider and mead, and this one was a blend of whatever was left in the bottom of the tanks after a bottling run of their standard Free Press Cider and Worker Mead.  This was blended (ratio unknown, maybe half and half?) and then aged in a Pinot Gris barrel.  I didn’t write down detailed tasting notes but I remember it being very fruity and refreshing and it picked up a lot of white wine character from the barrel.  It almost just tasted like wine.  But a little sweeter, since most Oregon Gris is pretty dry. (4.5 stars)