Blast from the Past

While we were rearranging the lab offices at work and preparing to move into new offices, I came across this gem on the bookshelf with our technical manuals.

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The Great Beer Trek by Stephen Morris.  Published in 1984, this “Revised and Updated” version was published in 1990. For reference, in 1990 I was 10 years old. Still well away from my drinking years.

Eventually, I’d like to flip through the whole thing, but of course I turned immediately to the section on Oregon to see what was represented there.  The book lists 12 breweries for Oregon.  I’m not sure if this is every brewery that was in business in 1990, but California has 4 pages worth, so there doesn’t seem to be a numerical limit to the lists.  Surprisingly, all but one of them are still in business.  If you’re curious who were the beginning of the craft beer revolution in Oregon, this is them.

Ashland Ale’s Brewery and Public House, Ashland OR: Brewers of Ashland Ale and Rogue Golden Ale.  This was the first location for what is now known as Rogue Brewing Company.  Expanded first to Newport, OR and then Portland, Rogue now has several breweries and pubs scattered across the state as well as a distillery, a cooperage and a farm.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House, Bend OR: The first pub for Deschutes in Bend is still there, in it’s original location.  There is now a huge production brewery across town that I highly recommend visiting, as well as a pub and small pilot brewery in Portland.  Deschutes is one of the biggest breweries in the state now.

Oregon Trail Brewery, Corvallis OR: I honestly don’t know a lot about this brewery, but it’s still around.  Opened in 1987, with an ownership change in 1993, but it’s still kicking.

Eugene City Brewing Co., Eugene OR: This brewery closed in the early 90’s, and a new brewery opened in 1996 with the rights to this name but otherwise unaffiliated with the original.  This is the only one presented in the book that no longer exists. The new Eugene City Brewery eventually became a Rogue pub, but closed in 2014.

McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro), Lighthouse Pub (Lincoln City) and Hillsdale Pub and Brewery (Portland): Hillsdale was the very first McMenamins property.  Apparently, they had expanded to three at the time of publication.  The McMenamins “empire” as they jokingly refer to it, now stretches from Bothell, Washington (north of Seattle) down to Roseburg, Oregon (damn near the California state line) and now includes concert venues, movie theaters, golf courses, a winery and two distilleries. They are more known for quirky decorations and tater tots than they are beer, but their Ruby Raspberry Wheat Ale is a “gateway” beer for a lot of people.

Hood River Brewing Co, Hood River, OR: Brewers of Full Sale Golden Ale.  I haven’t found the reasoning for the “sale” spelling in the Golden Ale name, but this brewery is still around and still in Hood River.  Although, now they go by the name Full SAIL.  They fashioned themselves as an “adventure” brewery, with all the wind surfing and kite boarding that happens in the gorge.  Their Session brand of light quaffable beers is quite popular.

Blitz-Weinhard Brewing, Portland, OR: While this brewery technically still exists, it does so in name only and is no longer in Portland.  First owned by Stroh’s and then eventually Miller Coors, the Portland brewery shut down in 1999.  The name exists still in the Miller Portfolio as Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve and the line of Henry’s Hard Sodas. At first, I thought Mr. Weinhard must be spinning in his grave to have his name on neon orange and grape alco-pops, but reading The Beer Bible I discovered that Weinhard actually kept his brewery in business selling sodas during Prohibition, so maybe it’s actually fitting.

Bridgeport Brewing Co, Portland, OR: One of the “big three” in Portland, it’s still around, although the last couple of years it’s fallen on hard times.  Bought and then seemingly ignored by the Gambrinus Co (Shiner Bock in Texas), they started to fade away.  A recent brand refresh and new product offerings has given some life to the old brewery and hopefully it can make a comeback.  I’d hate to lose one of the originals.

Portland Brewing Co, Portland OR: The brewery that I work for, although no longer on NW Flanders Street as indicated in the book.  Moved into a larger facility in the NW Industrial area and in 2004 merged with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle (more below). Now part of a conglomerate that includes Magic Hat in Vermont and Genessee in New York.  Started in 1986, so between the first publication of the book and the update.

Widmer Brewing Co, Portland OR: The last of the big three (including Bridgeport and Portland Brewing) makers of the ubiquitous Widmer Hefewiezen.  The classic example of American Style Hefe.  Distributed mostly nationally thanks to a 30% partial ownership from AB-InBev, Widmer also formed a small craft conglomerate called the Craft Brewers Alliance that includes Redhook Brewing in Seattle and Kona Brewing in Hawai’i.

Other notes:

On the page facing the Oregon page, one of the Washington listings is Hart Brewing in Kalama, Washington.  Makers of Pyramid Pale Ale and Pyramid Snow Cap Ale.  This brewery would later move to Seattle and become Pyramid Breweries, which would then merge with Portland Brewing Co.

Under the section called “Kindred Spirits” following the brewery listing is a list of three homebrew clubs.  Heart of the Valley in Corvallis, which still exists, Cascade Brewers Society in Eugene, which is also still around, and the Oregon Brew Crew in Portland, of which I am a member.

North Carolina is listed in the section called “The Wastelands” and only lists 4 breweries.  One of which is a branch plant for Stroh’s in Winston Salem, which as far as I know has been closed for a long time, and one is a Miller plant in Eden, which closed about 10 years ago.  It’s still sitting vacant to this day because it’s much too large for anyone other than Bud/Miller/Coors to use.  Even larger breweries that have since opened in North Carolina like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium would struggle to fill that capacity.  The other two breweries listed I have never heard of; Dilworth Brewing Co in Charlotte, which apparently closed in 1998 and Weeping Radish Brewing in Manteo, a German style brewery that still exists and still strictly adheres to the Reinheitsgebot purity law from 1516.

South Carolina lists zero breweries.

Into the Woods – Part 7; Summer Edition

It was a brutally hot summer here in Portland.  Record breaking numbers of days at 90°+.  Certainly not barrel aged beer weather, but with several waves of friends and family coming into town to visit there were opportunities to break out a few nice things from the cellar.

Deschutes 2017 Abyss: This beer was strange.  Opened it with a group and we all seemed to get the same things off it.  It had a very strong Umami/soy sauce aroma.  Also had some molasses, cherry and stone fruit in the aroma.  Very heavy molasses flavor with light cherry and stone fruit.  Some light chocolate and vanilla on warming.  Ordinarily,  I would think this beer year’s beer wasn’t that good, but I had it on draft in Austin and it was amazing.  Perhaps my storage? I’m not sure.  I’ll be interested to see how it compares with the 2013 bottle we picked up at Brews for New Avenues. (4.5 stars for draft, bottle version unrated)

St Arnold Bishop’s Barrel 21 – Barrel aged Quad with Cherries: This is a bottle I brought home from Houston.  St Arnold was closed the day we were there, but found this at a local bottle shop.  Dark brown/red highlights.  Heavy cherry aroma, whiskey highlight.  Very sweet cherry flavor, whiskey, oak and wood aftertaste.  This mouthfeel, effervescent carbonation.  Sticky on the lips but not cloying.  (3.75 stars)

Ecliptic Oort BBA Imperial Stout – Batch 3 (2018): This was a bring home from Best of Craft Beer in January.  About 8 months of bottle time when we opened this one.  Strong whiskey aroma, slight umami/soy.  Whiskey flavor, vanilla and coconut from the barrel.  Whiskey lingers long on the palate.  Thick mouthfeel/viscous.  Super smooth, alcohol hidden.  Sneaky at 12%.  (5 stars)

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout: This bottle was a birthday present (May) so it took a while to make it’s way out.  Brown sugar and whiskey aroma.  Vanilla and coconut barrel flavor.  Light cola and coffee flavors.  Thin, low carbonation.  I gave this beer 5 stars back in 2014, and while I don’t think I liked it quite that much this time around, I didn’t rate it a second time.  (5 stars – 2014)

Now that the weather has turned cooler and we’ve started getting some rain, pretty soon it will be the heart of dark beer season.  Stay tuned!

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!

2016 Beer in Review

2016 was a very good year for beer travel and beer education, so I thought I’d take a look back.

My wife and I rang in New Years 2016 in Savannah Georgia, which included a trip to Moon River Brewing.  Right on the main drag, the building is reportedly haunted in typical Old South fashion.  The third floor is vacant which otherwise would be primo Savannah real estate so even if you don’t believe, enough people do that they refuse to go up there.  This concluded an East coast trip that included trips to several breweries in North Carolina and Georgia.  The original post is HERE is you want to revisit it.

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After we returned from vacation I jumped into my role on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Brew Crew, our homebrew club.  I served as Festival Coordinator, which involved recruiting volunteers to work the OBC info booth at beer festivals, coordinating with festival organizers about when and where we could set up, actually setting up the booth and making sure it stayed occupied (which included myself at the booth for an entire day at one festival).  It was fun and rewarding, but also very taxing.  It took me well out of my comfort zone as far as being a leader and working with large groups of people.  I learned a lot about myself and about group leadership and while it was very healthy for me to push and expand my boundaries, I’m very excited to step away and rejoin the club as just an average member.

In March was a very exciting event, the first annual Pacific Northwest Homebrewers Conference (PNWHC).  Held in Vancouver Washington the conference was meant to emulate the National Homebrewer Conference, but focusing in on the PacNW.  This years NHC was out on the East coast and a lot of us couldn’t make the trip, so perfect timing for something local.  The conference was set up pretty much exactly the same as the national one.  There were lots of seminars on every imaginable topic, an expo with equipment and ingredient vendors, a lot of whom are already based in this area anyway, a pro night banquet of all the local breweries and a club night banquet for all the local homebrew clubs.  Members and clubs came mostly from Oregon and Washington, but there were representatives from Montana, Idaho, Northern California and even Canada.  My wife volunteered to help run the conference since (at the time) she wasn’t brewing and not as interested in the seminars as I was and now is helping plan the 2017 PNWHC which should be even better!

In April, my wife graduated with her Masters degree and we went to Disneyland to celebrate.  We only visited one brewery while we were there, but it was a pretty cool one.  The Anaheim Brewery was in the Anaheim Packing District which is full of old citrus warehouses close to the historic downtown area.  It was neat to walk around a quieter section of Anaheim, even though it wasn’t really that far from Disney and the Convention Center area.

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June brought about perhaps the most exciting beer related event of the year as I started my new job as a Quality Analyst at Portland Brewing! One of the original Portland microbreweries along with Widmer and Bridgeport, PBCo has grown and partnered with Pyramid Breweries out of Seattle into a fairly large regional brewery.  I’ve learned a lot in the last 6 months and continue to learn daily, but the coolest thing is I get to make beer for a living! I don’t do any of the actual brewing, but I work daily with the brewers and monitor the fermentations from brew day to bottling day to make sure everything turns out as it should.  It’s amazing to see the difference between homebrewing and commercial brewing, especially large scale commercial brewing.

In July we celebrated my wife’s birthday with a trip out to Bend, which is a great beer town if you haven’t been.  We visited two breweries while we were out there, one small and one very large.  The small one was Cascade Lakes brewing, which we discovered by accident while we were out riding bikes, the large one was Deschutes.  We took the tour at Deschutes which was really cool and left there with a super nice growler full of beer, compliments of a friend who works there as a birthday present for my wife.

In September I had the opportunity to meet Jamil Zainasheff, who came to speak at one of our homebrew club meetings.  Jamil is pretty much a rockstar in the homebrew community.  Long time homebrewer with many gold medals in the National Homebrew Competition and several homebrewer of the year awards, went on to found Heretic Brewing, where true to the name he pretty much does whatever the Hell he wants.  I got two of Jamil’s books (and had him sign them) and got to speak to him briefly.  I hope to learn from him and it was a super cool experience.

In October we traveled to San Francisco on a very non-beer related trip (friends wedding) but I managed to sneak a couple places in.  While a large group went off of to be pampered at the spa, I took a stroll through the SoMa neighborhood headed towards AT&T Park.  I stopped at 21st Amendment on the way, which was much smaller than I was predicting it to be.  They obviously have a production brewery somewhere else for all those cans that make it as far as the East coast because the SanFran pub was small.  Not a bad thing, just a little shocked when I got there.  They didn’t have Back in Black on draft, although my coaster said otherwise.  I got the Brew Free or Die! IPA and it was quite nice.  As we were leaving San Fran (since it was near the airport) we stopped at Armstrong Brewing Co in South San Francisco, which is a brewery run by an NC State classmate of mine.  We took several of our food science and bioprocessing classes together.  I didn’t get a chance to see him, but it was super cool to stop by his place.

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Also in October, my wife brewed her first batch of homebrew and joined the American Homebrewers Association, so that was exciting.  She just brewed her second batch and is slowly dialing in a recipe for a Chocolate Orange Stout.  It’s already good and just going to get better.

In November, I started a small beer cellar and taking some detailed tasting notes on beers that I want to drink now, and then drink again a few years from now and see how they evolve.  This is a pretty drawn out, long term project, but the results will eventually make their way here on the blog.

2017 already has some pretty epic stuff lined up, so stay tuned!

Holiday Spirits

As I get older and get less and less enticed by material possessions, the holidays become more and more a time to spend with friends and family.  We hang with a pretty beer-centric crowd these days, so parties and friend gatherings tend to showcase some pretty good beers.  Some of these beers are seasonal and holiday specific, some are just a little something nice to pull out on a special occasion.  Between these parties and pulling a few things out of my own cellar I’ve tried some pretty interesting beers in the last couple weeks.  Presented in no particular order:

Abraxas (2015) – Perennial Ales, St Louis – Labeled as an imperial stout with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa nibs and ancho chiles, this beer certainly has a lot going on.  I don’t recall getting any spice on it, but super dark and thick with deeply complex flavor.  This was a reward for making it out into the snowpacolypse the week before Christmas. (4.5 of 5)

The Abyss, Cognac (2015) – Deschutes, Bend – A cognac barrel aged variant of the annual barrel aged stout release from Deschutes, this beer is pretty remarkable.  I get a lot of dark fruit from the barrel and also a slight smokiness.  I’m guessing the smoke is from the barrel since it wasn’t an unpleasant phenol type smoke, but more mild and faint.  Still a little rough around the edges, drinkable now, but probably would be really good in another year or two.  (4.5 of 5)

Angel’s Share (2008) – The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA – This brandy/bourbon barrel aged Strong Ale was just on the edge of it’s useful life, starting to succumb to oxidation.  Unfortunately I happen to be very sensitive to some of these flavors.  Still not a terrible beer but would have been better fresh.  I’ll strive to find a fresher bottle and give it another go.  It should be delicious.  Still rated a 4.25 of 5.

Noyaux (2011) – Cascade Barrel House, Portland – I had to look up what Noyaux was, turns out it’s a crème liquor which is almond flavored (but uses apricot and peach pits to get that flavoring from, similar to Amaretto).  This is a sour blond ale aged with fresh raspberries and the Noyaux.  Sour ales are starting to grow on me and this one is phenomenal.  It took my breath away.  Slightly tart, slightly sweet, good fruit character even in a 5 year old bottle.  This beer is holding up very, very well.  (4.5 of 5)

16 Barrels (2010) – 10 Barrel Brewing, Bend –  So this bottle was a pull off the mystery wall at Brews for New Avenues and is a one off from 6 years ago (pre-InBev).  When I first opened it it had a whiff of wet paper oxidation but that blew off pretty quickly which has never happened before.  A golden ale aged in Pinot barrels and the wine character shows through right away.  This beer is super fruity and ever so slightly tart.  Not full on sour, but a definite pucker to it.  At 10% it tastes more like 20%, super boozy.  Probably getting close to the end of it’s run, but wouldn’t say no to it if you found a bottle.  (4.5 of 5)

Christmas Ale (2016) – Brouwerij St Bernardus, Watou, Belgium –  Bought this bottle specifically for Christmas and opened it on the 26th.  This beer is labeled a belgian quad and clocks in at 10% ABV, similar to the Abt 12.  This beer punches you right in the face, strong belgian character lots of fruit and banana esters, lots of dark fruit from the dark sugars and really boozy.  It’s really good, but it has a metallic type sensation to it, somewhat harsh.  I’m thinking that this beer is actually too fresh.  A big Belgian beer like this could probably use a year or two in the bottle.  If I happen to run across it again at a bottle shop I will grab a couple bottles to lay down for next year or two years from now.  Still good, but needs to mellow a bit.  (4.5 of 5).

The holidays aren’t quite over yet, planning a quiet New Years at home, but will probably still pull a few nice things out of the cellar to make it festive.  Stay tuned!

Into the Woods

Barrel aging of beer goes back a long way.  Go far enough back and ALL beer was barrel aged, but for the purpose of modern craft beer (and this post) barrel aging usually refers to aging beer in a barrel that previously held some other form of spirit.  Bourbon/Whiskey are the most popular style of barrel for beer aging, but other spirits such as Rum and Tequila aged beers are starting to show up.  Wine barrels, commonly used in production of sour beers, are also starting to show up in non-sour applications.  Red wine barrels seem to be the most prevalent.

Goose Island proclaims to be the originator of Bourbon Barrel aged beers, starting in about 1994.  Interestingly, while I was prepping this post, an article was published by Jeff Alworth about the beginnings of Goose Island Bourbon County, which you can read HERE.

I currently have a couple of oak spirals soaking in spiced rum for a Rum “Barrel” Tropical Stout that I’m working on, so I’ve had barrel aged beers on the brain, plus it’s the season for them.  Several have been released in the last week or so.  Barrel aged beers tend to be darker and higher alcohol which is perfect for the cold weather season.  Presented here, in no particular order, are some barrel aged beers that have recently really impressed me. Ratings are out of 5 stars and match how I rated them on Untappd.

2016 Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine – Starting with the aforementioned original.  I haven’t opened my personal bottle yet, but I tasted it on release day and it is phenomenal! I think this years Barleywine might actually be better than the stout. (4.75)

Ordanance Blackfisky (Whiskey barrel aged Blackfisk Stout) – My only comment on this one is “Wooooooow…” so you can imagine what that’s like.  Incredibly smooth this one really blew me away.  9.5% ABV, so strong but not obscene.  (5.0)

Collage 2 – Deschutes/Hair of the Dog – Another one that took my breath away, almost literally.  My Untapped comment reads “Holy fuck. Yup.”  This one is a tongue bender.  A blend of all 100% barrel aged beers, a combination of Abyss Imperial Stout and Stoic Belgian Quad both 100% Pinot Barrel Aged from Deschutes, with Doggie Claws 100% cognac barrel aged and Fred from the Wood (virgin american oak and rye whiskey) from Hair of the Dog this beer has a lot going on.  Clocking in at 14.3% it packs a wallop as well. (5.0)

Old Montavillan Barrel Aged Old Ale – Montavilla Brew Werks – This one is only available on draft at the MBW taproom, and also pouring at the Portland Holiday Ale Fest which opens today.  Super smooth, with very subtle bourbon notes.  Not quite as strong at 9% but still a nice “warmer”.  (4.75)

Muy Bonita (Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale) – Funky Buddha – Apple cinnamon brown ale aged in apple brandy barrels.  Really interesting, this one had a really unique flavor profile both from the beer style and the different barrels.  (4.75)

Black Butte³ – Deschutes – I’m not sure if you can still find this one, but this is a inception style beer within a whiskey within a beer.  Deschutes brewed a batch of Black Butte, which Bend Distillery distilled into Black Butte Whiskey, and then another batch of Black Butte was aged in the barrels the Black Butte Whiskey came out of.  (Hence the cubed).  I remember this being really good, so I don’t remember why now I rated it only a 4.25.  I know I can get really shy on super high rating sometimes.  I rarely give a 5 and yet two of them are on this list.

Pinot Barrel Aged Black Panther Imperial Stout – Golden Valley – I think this was one of the first beers I came across as a dark beer aged in a red wine barrel.  It was incredibly fruit forward in the nose and beginning flavor before the dark roast kicked in.  Really well done and a great price point if I remember correctly.  (4.5)

Hopefully this will inspire you to go out and try some barrel aged beers.  There’s a lot of them out now! Cheers!

The Beer Collector

Most beer, the grand majority in fact, is designed to be drunk fresh.  Some beer, like fresh hop beers are best when they are literally just a few days old.  The moment a beer leaves the brite tank it starts to age.  Oxidation, hop aroma fades, malt flavors morph.  Some aging is good, yeast still in suspension continue to eat up compounds that make off flavors like diacetyl and DMS.  Most beer I would guess is probably at its peak after packaging about 2 weeks to a month and then it starts to go downhill.

Some beer however, does benefit from some age.  People debate and argue about what beers are good to age and which aren’t but a few common themes do emerge.  Dark malts tend to hold up better, so stouts, porters, barleywines tend to age well.  Also lower hopped beers, since the hop flavor and aroma tend to leave pretty quickly and you’re left with just bitterness.  IPAs do NOT age well.  Trust me.  Higher alcohol beers also tend to hold up to age.  In fact, a little oxidation can take away some of that rough burn from that 14.5% Russian Imperial Stout.  These beers almost NEED age to even be drinkable.  Bottle conditioned beers (like Belgians and Trappists) with yeast still in the bottle hold up well to age since the yeast will continue to scrub out the oxygen in the bottle and prevent oxidation.  Sour beers with non yeast cultures in them will do the same thing.  Aging will also mellow some of the harsh acidity of some sours.

Through mostly good fortune, I’ve begun to amass a very small (emphasis on small with our tiny apartment) beer cellar.  Most of the bottles have been gifts, judge prizes, raffle prizes etc but a few were purchased.  Some I set away to age on purpose, some I actually forgot about and recently discovered but they all have a few things in common.  Most all of them are barrel aged.  They already have some oxidation from the barrel, so they aren’t really going to get “worse” in the bottle.  Most of them are stouts or barleywines.  Most of them are high alcohol.  So they hit all of the criteria I mentioned above.  Will they all age well? Who knows.  I guess that’s part of the risk/reward circuit of it.

One beer that I do not have in my cellar but I would highly recommend is any vintage of the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout.  Yeah, I know, they are Evil Empire now, but all the more reason to find one of the older vintages if you can.  I’ve had the good fortune, through friends, to taste both the 2006 and the 2009 vintages.  The 2006 I don’t recall being overly fantastic.  I’m sure it was still good, just not mindblowing.  The 2009 on the other hand blew me away.  It tasted just like a fresh 2014 I had at a release party 2 years ago despite being 7 years old.  Black Friday (BCS Release day) is coming up next week and I’m hoping I can get my hands on a bottle (or two? dare to dream) but I’m not holding my breath. (UPDATE: I went out on Black Friday and was able to procure some BCBS Stout.  I was able to get 2 bottles of the base stout, one bottle of barleywine and one bottle of coffee stout.  Stay tuned for reviews/tasting notes on those).

If at all possible, one of the recommendations I’ve heard the most is to buy two bottles of something you intend to age.  Drink one fresh, drink one a year from now.  See how it does, how it changes.  Of course the trick is remembering how it was a year ago.  You can take notes, but I’m not sure that would convey all of the sensory characteristics.  I’m excited to actually try this with a beer my wife and I both received as a judge prize at a competition.  The Ecliptic Belmont Station 19th Anniversary Barrel Aged Barleywine.  Since we got two bottles of it, I put one in the fridge and hid one in the closet.  One to drink now and one to hold.  Released on March 20th of 2016 this beer already has a good six months under its belt.

Another reason I’ve been holding on to some of these beers is because they are fairly special and I want to wait for the “right time” to break them out.  Of course, there’s not going to be some magic time that all of a sudden my brain is like “Hey let’s break out the Deschutes Black Butte XXVIII”.  I’ve realized with a few of them that the moment we break them open it becomes a special occasion.

Some of the beers I’m currently holding onto include:

2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Mirken (Barrel aged Oatmeal Stout)
Deschutes Black Butte XXVIII (2016)
Deschutes Collage II (2016)
Sound Brewery Old Scoundrel Barleywine (I think from 2014?)
Ruse Multibeast Brett Saison (2016)
10 Barrel 16 Barrels Pinot Barrel Aged Golden Ale (2013, pre InBev)
Cigar City Puppies Breath Porter (2014)

Quite a few of these were gifted/purchased already with some age on them, so I probably won’t hold them for much longer and I don’t have any fresh to compare to, but that’s partly the inspiration to beginning to build up the cellar.  Now that I have some aged beers in my collection I can try my hand on aging myself in the future.  There’s quite a few releases this time of year that I hope to get my hands on a couple bottles, again one for now, one for later.

I’ll do my best to take good notes and post some reviews on here when some of these special beers get uncorked.  I’m gonna start making up “special occasions”.

Cheers!