Into the Woods Part 9 – Quarantine Edition

Last night we did something fun, we did a Zoom teleconference “Happy Hour” with some friends.  We’re hoping to start doing this more regularly as the current crisis continues as a way to still connect with people and not feel so isolated. Yay technology! During the happy hour we popped open a couple special bottles and while I was taking some tasting notes found a few I hadn’t posted about yet. I guess I was waiting to get a few more, or just forgot. I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, honestly I haven’t posted much of anything in a while, but now I’ve got a lot of time to kill.

2017 Pelican Father of All Tsunamis – Barrel aged Stout:
Brown sugar, caramel, whiskey aroma.
Chocolate, brown sugar flavor.
Chocolate and whiskey in the finish.
I wrote “aged well” so apparently we’d had this one a while.
Thick rich mouthfeel, strong rye whiskey flavor on warming.
Logged on untappd Oct 8, 2018 – 5 stars.

Post Doc Demon Star – Barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout:
Light cinnamon aroma, light soy sauce, bourbon notes, light stone fruit.
Heavy chocolate flavor, bourbon, light cinnamon, alcohol heat.
Jet black, thick, opaque, lingering warmth.
One thing I remember about this beer is the bottle had a really thick wax layer on it and it was a pain to open. I don’t mind waxed bottles, but this was three layers thick with an embedded logo on the top. Looks cool but really over the top.
Logged on untapped Nov 1, 2018 – 4.5 stars.

2017 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Barrel aged Barleywine:
“One year in the fridge” in the notes.
Dry fruit, whiskey aroma, cola, brown sugar, apple, pear.
Heavy caramel/brown sugar flavor. Huge whiskey, apple, sweet finish.
Low carbonation, med-thin body. Whiskey lingers long on the palate.
Logged on untapped Dec 20, 2018. Apparently we accidentally aged this one in the fridge for a year and pulled it out the following solstice. – 4.5 stars.

2018 Fremont B-Bomb – Barrel Aged Stout:
Light dark fruit, heavy coconut aroma, light vanilla, heavy barrel character.
Dark fruit, cola flavor, whiskey character.
Spicy finish, alcohol warmth, lingering whiskey.
While it is difficult to remember what I think of a beer I tasted two years ago, I’ve been really impressed with all the barrel aged stuff from Fremont. It’s all been really really good.
Logged on untappd Dec 31, 2018 (New Years Beer!) – 5 stars.

Ommegang King in the North – Barrel aged Imperial Stout:
I bought this because I like Ommegang, and it was the best looking of the Game of Thrones series of beers. Purchased Jan 2019 according to the notes.
Light coffee aroma, slight sherry, not much there.
Thick mouthfeel.
Light chocolate, coffee bitterness, light coconut.
No warmth, booze hidden, not much barrel character.
“Good but expected better”. This one was kinda one dimensional which was disappointing.
Logged on untapped Sep 18, 2019 -3.75 stars.

And now we get to the two beers we opened last night.  Two variants of the 2018 version of McMenamins Longest Night of the Year. 2017 only had whiskey barrel aged, but 2018 had Whiskey, Rum and Port barrel variants. The two we had were Whiskey and Rum.

2018 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Whiskey Barrel Aged Barleywine:
Dry fruit, brown sugar, oak/vanilla aroma.
Coconut, dry fruit flavor.
Very smooth, not boozy.
I didn’t take many notes, but this was very complex and enjoyable. I really like this beer. I wonder if I can still snag a bottle of the 2019 version.
4.75 Stars.

2018 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Rum Barrel aged Barleywine:
Brown sugar, oak aroma.
Very sweet, dry fruit flavor.
Again, didn’t take many notes in the midst of the “happy hour” but this one was very one dimensional and not as complex as the whiskey version. I guess that makes sense with rum being a very one note (sugar) kind of liquor but was slightly disappointing. Still good, but might just stick to the whiskey version in the future.

So there we have it! Now we’re caught up on the Into the Woods series.  I have some more barrel aged goodies in the cellar at the moment, so more of those will probably make an appearance soon.

Tacoma Washington

Last weekend my wife and I spent the weekend in Tacoma, Washington for her birthday. Tacoma is about a 2.5 hour drive north of Portland, not quite all the way to Seattle.  The original inspiration for the trip was to visit the newly opened McMenamins Elk Lodge, which we needed to get stamps from to finish our second set of passports and become Cosmic Tripsters once again.  Following our trip to Crater Lake and The Redwoods, we decided to also drive up to Olympic National Park and continue our National Parks exploration. Despite having other plans, when you work at a brewery and write a beer blog it’s hard not to include beer tourism. We managed to visit a whopping seven breweries over the weekend. Tacoma was bigger than I expected and there was more to do there than I expected and we’ll certainly make a return trip at some point.

The first day we visited the Tacoma Museum of Glass, which was pretty cool and featured a lot of art from Tacoma native Dale Chihuly, known world wide for things like his chandelier at the Bellagio and on several cruise ships as well as large displays in Seattle and other cities.  After dinner (poké!) we hit up two breweries within walking distance of downtown Tacoma.  First was Harmon Brewing. Located right on Pacific Avenue we walked in and sat at the bar. It was hopping, but not super crowded.  My wife ordered the Double IPA “To the Dome” which is a double reference to the Tacoma Dome arena nearby and a double IPA going to your head. I ordered the GABF medal winning Puget Sound Porter.  We got served in plastic cups, which seemed to be either a bar thing or dealers choice from the servers, we couldn’t tell.  The beers were good, but it was loud and crowded and after one beer we decided to move on.

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Classy AF.

We hiked up the hill (literally) to 7 Seas Brewing and this place was really cool. It had a modern sort of hip open-warehouse vibe, but it’s built in the old Hiedelberg brewery (part of Columbia Brewing Co, who also made Olympia and Rainer before they got bought by Pabst).

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They were playing a recorded live Queen concert, for those of us who weren’t at the Queen + Adam Lambert show that night in the Tacoma Dome.  We didn’t find out about it until we were on the way up. Oh well.  The beer here was excellent! My wife really liked their CDA, which she is really picky about, and I got a seasonal limited run IPA and their year round double IPA (Ballz Deep.. yeah that’s the name) which were both solid. My wife followed up the CDA with a hibiscus brut IPA that was really floral and complex and quite tasty.

The following day we drove up to the Olympic National Park which was pretty incredible. It was partly cloudy but we got to see most of the Olympic Mountains from up on Hurricane Ridge, so we called that a win.  The Olympic Peninsula is not the easiest place to get to, but if you’re in the area I highly recommend it. Leaving the park we stopped at Barhop Brewing in Port Angeles (the town you go through to enter the park) and this one was a disappointing stop, thankfully the only one. We walked in and sat on the back side of the U shaped bar, which apparently was a mistake, even though several other patrons were on that side.  We ordered our first set of beers, the Ediz Point IPA and the Citra Sonic IPA which were both really solid and we mulled over the food menu.  We already had dinner plans, but after some mountain hiking needed a snack. We decided on what we wanted and a second round of beers and then crickets… the servers walked past us several times without acknowledging us at all. We waited… and waited.. and finished our first beers.. and waited with empty glasses. Finally, we managed to snag a server and at that point we paid our tab and left. Really a shame because the beer was good, but I guess you don’t need good service when you’re the only game in town. Our time is worth more than that.

That night for dinner we went to the RAM Restaurant and Brewery in Lakewood, near our AirBNB. RAM is a nationwide chain, but they operate in a similar manner to McMenamins. They have 2-3 core beers they brew at every location and then beyond that the local brewers are free to experiment on small batch beers.  There’s a small 5-10BBL system at each location.  We had gotten a coupon to the RAM during our visit to the Museum of Glass and the RAM had a beer on tap (a Kolsch) that the proceeds of the sales went back to the MoG. My wife ordered the Kolsch, which was nice, and I got the Big Red IPA, one of their core beers.  For round two, I ordered the hilariously named “Buttface Amber” (to which the barkeep replied “What did you call me?”) and my wife got the RAM cider (which was made for them by Locust Cider out of Woodenville). I also tried a sample of their Belgian Wit.  They had several Belgian inspired beers on the menu which makes me wonder if that’s a favorite of the local brewer. The food was also really good.

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Our final day in Tacoma we started the day up at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, where nary a drop of beer was to be found, but we knew that night we’d be having dinner and doing our stamp collecting at the McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple. This building took a long time for them to finish and several of the pictures on the wall reflect the condition they found the building in and all the work that was required. Apparently it was mostly gutted and covered in graffiti and trash on the inside. Seeing the area it’s in, that must of been an eye sore at the end of a busy shopping district.  I think it took a long time for McMenamins to be able to buy the building and get permission to revamp it, but I bet they are happy now that it’s opened.  It’s pretty amazing and shockingly I was too busy gawking I didn’t take any pictures at all.  The Elks Temple has it’s own small brewery in the basement and we tried several beers while we were there. The Wizard Cat IPA was really good, as well as a Belgian Tripel and a Belgian Pale Ale.

Bonus: It’s not beer, but the basement bar of the Elks Temple is a Tiki bar and I got a Hurricane and they served it in this ridiculously fabulous octopus glass, which was made out of clay and was actually quite heavy! This is the ONE picture I took at McMenamins.

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After dinner, we walked down the famous Spanish Steps and across the street to Pacific Malting and Brewing Co. which reopened in the same building as a pre-Prohibition brewery of the same name. There was a live band in there playing 1920s-1930s Blues which was cool, and we got a taster flight to try several of their offerings. The Summer Wheatly (Citrus Pale Ale) was probably the best, followed by the Mama Bear Milk Stout and the Grit Porter, although the porter was most “stout-like” than the stout.  The Boss Hoss IPA was decent, but the Dragonball Hazy IPA was not very good. Kinda sad, but still mostly a winner.

Just a block down from Pacific was Odd Otter Brewing Co. We popped in and sat at the bar and there was live music here as well, and we quickly realized it was open mic night. These were just normal people, patrons of the bar, who brought in a guitar and sang one to two songs and then passed the mic to someone else and they were good! I ordered a glass of the Hibiscus Rosé Saison, while my wife got a taster flight. We tried a small batch Blueberry Wheat, a dry hopped Pale Ale, an IPA, a Schwarzbier and a nut brown ale. They were all really solid except the Schwarz which was too roasty and dry to be enjoyable, which is a shame since it’s a style we’ve both recently discovered we liked. We finished with a small taste of a guest cider (Ace Cider) which was a Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry blend and it was delightful.

So that concludes our whirlwind tour of Tacoma Washington.  At some point we will go back and actually stay at the Elks Temple, which is one of the McMenamins hotel properties.

Cheers!

 

Backstage Pass to Whiskey

This is predominately a beer blog, but I also enjoy other spirits, and had a unique experience last night that I felt was worth writing about.  The McMenamins Back Stage Pass to Whiskey was a private, ticketed event with whiskeys from all around the world.  This was an amazing chance to broaden my horizons and taste a lot of different things.  We were given a glass and tokens to enjoy small tastings (1/2 oz?) of a long list of things, many rare and new to Oregon, and some that they only had a single bottle of. The beer tie-in is that my love for whiskey and love for barrel aged beers go hand in hand.  More and more we start to see wine, tequila and gin barrel aged beers, but the majority of barrel aged beers are bourbon/whiskey barrels.  I didn’t take extensive tasting notes, but a couple of things did pop out at me.

Scotch:

I’m not normally a fan of Scotch because I don’t like the smoky flavor.  I think I’m really sensitive to those phenols, and just don’t enjoy it.   A couple of the bottles they poured last night I could smell them from across the room.  Completely unintentionally, I began and ended my night with a Scotch.  The first sample I had was the Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask.  Finished for the last few months in rum barrels this whiskey was smooth and slightly sweet.  It was also not smoky at all, something I had gleaned from the online tasting notes.  The last sample of the night was the Oban Little Bay. This was was also supposedly not very smoky, and it wasn’t, but it was there.  Particularly in the finish.  It wasn’t to the point of being unpleasant, but it was noticeable.

Japanese:

McMenamins has always had a great selection of Japanese whiskys at their properties.  I only tried one last night since the Yamazaki 12yr, Yamazaki 18yr and Suntory Toki I’ve all had in the past.  I highly recommend the 18 year if you can find it.  The one I tried last night was the Nikka Coffey Grain.  I think the first time I saw this I misread it as “Coffee”, and interestingly enough, this whisky is very dark with a very slight roast note to it.  Quite tasty.

Irish:

I’m a big fan of Irish whiskey.  Bushmills is a go-to favorite of mine.  The first one I tried was the Knappogue Castle 12 Year, and it was pretty good, but I think it was a little sweet.  Tasting notes on the website list honey and marshmallow, which normally I would like but it was a bit off putting.  The other Irish I tried was Jameson Reserve Selection Black Barrel.  This one blew me away.  Very smooth, really nice easy sipper.  No one flavor dominated, very balanced. I was interested in the West Cork Limited Rum Cask, but it disappeared from the table so I think I missed my chance.  I did overhear someone say they weren’t impressed with it, but different strokes ya know?

Rye:

I’ve discovered somewhat recently that I really like Rye whiskey.  Sometimes more than their non-rye counterpart.  Buillett Bourbon is a classic, great neat or in a mixed drink, but in my opinion Buillett Rye is even better.  The first thing that caught my eye was the Whistlepig Straight Rye 15 year.  This is a brand I see online very often as trade bait and people in search of, so I had to try it.  It was pretty good, and I could get it here in Oregon, but at $85.00 a bottle, it’s not likely to find a place in my liquor cabinet anytime soon.  Next, I tried McMenamin’s newly released Billy Rye Whiskey, a rye version of their Billy Wheat Whiskey.  It was quite delicious and very heavy on oak and vanilla notes.  Super smooth, easy drinker.  Knob Creek Rye got a turn and it was solid and enjoyable.  Nothing jumped out of me but simply a “Yeah.. I like that” kind vibe.  Most Knob Creek I’ve had in the past has been good. Last was the High West Double Rye.  This was quite good, and very spicy.  It had a cinnamon-like quality to it’s spice.  Another beer tie-in, it took me a bit to realize that High West is the barrels used to make Lagunitas High Westified Imperial Coffee Stout.

Canadian:

I only tried one of the Canadian offerings, and I’m sad to say it wasn’t very good.  The Lot 40 seems to have a lot of praise online, but to me it came off very saccharin-sweet.  Artificial tasting and not a good kind of sweetness.  A friend of mine there, who happens to be an Edgefield distiller, told me Canada allows adding sweeteners to whiskey.  (Wikipedia says caramel color and flavour allowed, similar to Scotch).  Seems like a shame, it may have been pretty good otherwise.

Bourbon:

Not surprisingly, this table had the heavyweights.  I tried three from this table, starting with the Woodford Reserve Cosmic Selection, a special McMenamins exclusive blending.  It was super smooth and rich, very very nice.  More and more I’m seeing these type of special exclusive blends, or single barrel runs, where a certain bar will pick a barrel and then get every single bottle that comes from that barrel, exclusive to them.  Next was the I. W. Harper 15 yr.  I remember it being pretty solid, but not anything that blew me away.  Last was the one that stole the show.  The Bookers 25th Anniversary.  Adorned in gold wax and a red ribbon, I knew this bottle was rare when I saw it, but I didn’t actually know how rare until this morning when I looked it up.  I posted the following picture on Instagram,

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with the caption “Bookers 25yr.  I don’t want to know how much that bottle costs.”  When I looked this morning I realized I had transposed 25th Anniversary and 25 years old.  Obviously 25 year old Bourbon would be something special, but this was a one time release from 2014.  It appears to have been around $110 at release, but now the few bottles that remain are listed from $750-999 on a wine sales website.  Holy cow.  It was good, but I don’t think anything could be a Grand good.  Bookers is another brand I see often in online trades.  It seems to be popular for people how can’t normally get it.

So there we have it, a whirlwind world tour of the world of whisk(e)y!