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)

Culmination Brewing

On Thursday evening the Oregon Brew Crew held a meeting at one of Portland’s newest breweries, Culmination Brewing. The OBC occasionally has “out” meetings at breweries who are gracious enough to host us and let us trample all over the place”oooh”ing and “aaaah”ing at all the shiny metal tanks.  So many of the places here in Portland are a story of “homebrewer turned pro” that it’s great for the pro guys to turn around and look down the ladder at the next group potentially heading up and give them a hand.

Culmination is so new, they actually haven’t started brewing on site yet.  The brewery/taproom has been open for a few months and they have two beers on tap that they brewed in collaboration with other breweries here in town. Owner/Head Brewer Tomas Sluiter who spoke to the crowd at the meeting says they hope to start the first in house batch sometime next week.  The first batch through the system will be their “4 and 20 Imperial Black IPA” which they brewed first as a collaboration with Lucky Labrador.  They actually ran out of this beer the night we were there. So you were indeed lucky if you got to try it before the keg blew. They also have a couple of guest taps that they are pouring right now, and for a place that only had 5 things on tap, they are ready to expand in a big way since they had to have had at least 25 taps behind the bar including at least three on nitro.

Tomas described the system to us, which is really interesting, as he put it a seriously custom “Frankenstein” system.  It’s a 5 barrel system with 5 vessels, so he has the flexibility to create 5 different smaller batches, one giant 25 barrel batch or anything in between.  Not only does he want variety but he wants the beer to be fresh.  He mentioned previous work on a 15 barrel, 2 vessel system that limited creativity and create a huge stock of beer that sat for a long time. He went out of his way to avoid that situation at his new venture.

The other beer of theirs on tap is the one I got to try, which is the Reynard Belgium Style IPA.  I had a few sips of the 4 and 20, but not enough to do a serious evaluation, but I made some notes on the Reynard. This was a collaboration with Brannon Brewpub.

Reynard Belgium Style IPA – Culmination Brewing: 6.0% ABV

Nice golden color with a white head.  Some floral hop aroma along with a very slight Belgian funk.  The flavor hits with nice floral hops and only a tiny bit of the traditional Belgian flavor.  The finish is clean and crisp and the bitterness lingers, but it’s not extremely strong.  The IBUs aren’t listed but it’s not a huge hop bomb.

So, since it is a blend of styles it’s hard to judge it by styles, but it comes up just a little short on both fronts.  It’s an enjoyable and supremely drinkable beer, but it doesn’t quite have the pop of a normal NW IPA, and on the other hand it doesn’t have enough of that earthy, spicy Belgian character that, personally, I really enjoy.  Interesting enough, not two styles I would imagine blended together.

Rating: 3.5 (of 5) stars

Culmination brewing is located in NE Portland, just off Sandy Blvd at 21st and Oregon Street.