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.

Untapping the World

Last week I had the opportunity to try my first beer from Hungary. It sadly wasn’t that great, but time, travel and storage have a huge effect on beer quality.  I’m sure the person sharing it did everything they could to keep it in good condition but there’s only so much you can do.

That said, the check-in brought up my Beer Connoisseur badge, which measures how many different countries I have drank a beer from.  What was interesting is that it gave me a list of the countries I’ve checked in and the number of beers I’ve had from that country. Since I’ve only traveled to Mexico and Canada (and live in the USA) most of these beers are commercially available in one of those countries.  A very slight few will be beers shared by friends who brought them back from that country.  I thought it was an interesting list to look at and it reminded me of some cool check ins.

USA – 2575 beers: Not surprising since I live in the US, this is the grand majority of my list.  About 92% in fact.
Canada – 52 beers: A good number of these were from my trip to Montreal earlier this year, but a decent number of Canadian beers are available “down south” in the States.
Belgium – 49 beers: I really like Belgian beers, and thankfully a lot of them are available in the States, particularly the beers from Trappist monasteries.
Germany – 28 beers: Again, not shocking, a lot of German beers are available in the States. Several of these are from my BJCP classes and the Mt Angel Oktoberfest.
England – 15 beers: A lot of Fullers and Samuel Smith beers that are available in the US as well as ciders like Strongbow.
Mexico – 12 beers: Almost all of these are from my Mexico trip.
Scotland – 8 beers: Shares from friends who travel to Scotland frequently, and the Scottish pub we went to in Seattle.
Denmark – 8 beers: Mikkeller and To Øl, probably the only two available in the US. 4 of each interestingly enough.
Poland – 6 beers: A handful of Polish beers are available in the US. My wife has traveled to Poland and someday I hope to go as well.
Netherlands – 6 beers: Almost all of these are from the International Tent at the Oregon Beer Festival.  They bring over some interesting stuff.
Ireland – 4 beers: Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Pub beer.
Japan – 4 beers: One random craft beer I found here in Portland (Yo-Ho Brewing) the others Kirin and Sapporo.
The Bahamas – 2 beers: Pirate Republic beers from our honeymoon cruise. At the time these were the only two they had.  Only brewery in the Bahamas.
Colombia – 2 beers: Interesting story with these Bogatá Brewing beers.  They got sent up to the Best of Craft Beer competition, but otherwise I don’t think they are sold in the States.
China – 2 beers: Tsingtao and Lucky Buddha, both from restaurants.
France – 1 beer: France isn’t really known for it’s beer scene.  3 Monts Biere de Garde is really good though.
Australia – 1 beer: Coopers Pale Ale. Probably from a BJCP class.
Czech Republic – 1 beer: Pilsner Urquell. Classic style, from a BJCP class.
Switzerland – 1 beer: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a Swiss Trappist brewery.
Italy – 1 beer: Brewfist Grappa barrel aged RIS.  From Festival of Dark Arts.
India – 1 beer: Haywards 5000 Super Strong.  From a Greek Restaurant ironically.
Vietnam – 1 beer: 33 Export.  From a Thai restaurant.
Phillippines – 1 beer: Red Horse Beer.  Had this on the Portland Spirit (Christmas party).
Lithuania – 1 beer: Dragon Lady Doppelbock. From a BJCP exam.
Jamaica – 1 beer: Red Stripe mon…
Hungary – 1 beer: Feher Nyul Oatmeal Stout.

So there we have it, a very interesting list and a neat trip down memory lane looking up where I had some of these beers.

Cheers!

Montréal Trip Recap

Last Friday I returned from my nearly two week trip to Montréal, Quebec.  This was my first time in Montréal and first time in Canada.  Following the trip to Mexico in January, all of a sudden I feel like a world traveler.

Education:

Of course, the reason I was there was to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.  The course was held at the Lallemand Yeast labs at the National Research Council of Canada’s Montreal Facility.  The course consisted of a 3 hour lecture in the morning and then after lunch a 4 hour (sometimes longer) practical lab session.  We covered nearly everything from how to make media and pour plates, to streaking and inoculating all different kinds of media with known organisms and then finally, classifying and identifying unknown organisms.  All useful skills if you have an infection problem in your brewery.  We also spent a good amount of time talking about yeast physiology and yeast handling techniques.  No yeast means no beer.  Unhealthy yeast means bad beer. The course was really intense.  They covered a lot of material in a very short time period.  The first day I felt like I knew what we were talking about, reviewing stuff I already knew.  The second day they shoved the funnels down our throats and started pouring it in and I was quickly overwhelmed.  I managed to keep pace and stay above water but it felt like treading water at times.  I made a 89 on my final exam, so some of it stuck!

Breweries:

Surely a place that has a yeast research lab has to have a thriving beer scene yeah? Montréal does in fact have a bustling beer scene.  I managed to make it to seven breweries while I was in town.  5 on my own, 2 were with the group on the last day of the class.
First was Brasserie Harricana, a pretty hip spot with a decent crowd for a Monday night.  Something I noticed with them, and several other places in town, they served different style beers at different temperatures.  Light beers and lagers colder, dark beers and Belgians warmer. I think this is common in Europe, but extremely rare in the US.  American beer drinkers are conditioned to “the colder the better”.  Craft places may serve a little warmer than “ice cold Miller Lite”, but still all the same no matter the style. The next night I made my way out to Le Saint Bock, in the trendy University of Quebec-Montreal neighborhood.  I only got one beer here, but it was a Black IPA (aka Cascadian Dark Ale) which is my wife’s favorite style.  I ran across several in Montréal, actually.  Saint Bock also had several varieties of poutine.  The one I got had pulled pork and a BBQ sauce made with Orval beer.  All the poutines had a beer sauce.
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I took a couple days off from exploring at this point, both to rest and the weather had turned a little sour.  On Friday night I made it out to Dieu du Ciel, a brewery whose beer I’ve actually had here in the States.  It was mobbed and I had to wait a while for a table, but that was OK.  Two beers here, a double IPA that was quite nice and another Black IPA, this one more chocolaty than Saint Bock’s but it was still very tasty.
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After Dieu du Ciel, I headed over to the Montréal taproom of Quebec City brewery Pit Caribou.  This doesn’t count in my “breweries visited” list, but one of my classmates was from this brewery and so I wanted to try it out.  It was very good.  He also brought some bottled beers for us to taste on the last day of class (his was the closest brewery to Montréal) that were outstanding.  I hightly recommend looking up Pit Caribou if you’re in Quebec.  On Saturday, I went to a couple museums and wandered around the old Historical part of Montréal.  There I ran across the Rue St. Paul outpost of Les 3 Brasseurs.  Originally from France, 3 Brasseurs is a chain of brewpubs with several locations in both Quebec and Ontario.  Similar to a Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch or RAM Brewery chain here in the states, each place brews three or four company standards and then rotating local beers for each unique location. The beer was serviceable and the food was good.
Tuesday of the second week I made the last two stops of the breweries I wanted to see on my own.  First was EtOH Brasserie which had good beer and good food.  The third Black IPA I found was here.  It was chocolate-heavy like the one from Deiu du Ciel, but it was quite nice.  After that I made my way to Le Cheval Blanc, which was the first microbrewery in Montréal.  Good beer here as well, but almost got myself in trouble.  Went to pay and the barkeep told me they only took cash or debit drawn on a Canadian bank, no credit cards.  I had enough cash to cover it, but only just barely.
The last two places I visited were part of the group tour at the end of the class.  After we had taken and graded our exams, they took us across the river to Chambly.  A bit of a cherry on top to round out the course.  The first place we stopped was a tiny brewpub Bedondaine & Bedon Ronds.
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Working on nearly a homebrew scale with an 18 gallon capacity and using 5 gallon Corny kegs, everything they brewed was consumed on site.  No bottling, no outside draft sales, not even growler fills.  The owner was a funny and humble man who made good beer and had a ridiculous breweriana collection.  The walls and ceilings were covered in bottles, cans, posters, coasters, serving trays, tin signs, anything you can imagine, dating back to the 1920’s or earlier.  Final stop was at Unibroue.
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Unibroue makes some of my favorite Belgian style beers so I am very familiar with them and their products.  I have to say, they rolled out the red carpet for us.  Our tour was led by none other than Brewmaster Jerry Vietz himself.  After the tour he led us through a beer and cheese pairing that finished with chocolate truffles made by him and his wife.  We tasted through 9 beers at Unibroue, including both the Canadian release and US release of the 25th Anniversary series, which were different.  He also sent us home with a cookbook and a bottle of the lastest in the Éphémère series, Strawberry Rhubarb.  I’m normally not a rhubarb fan, but this beer was great, and has a strong strawberry flavor which is hard to keep in a beer.  It’s so light and subtle it tends to fade quickly.
I also bought some bottled and canned beer from stores while I was in town but sadly, most of the packaged beer was in rough shape compared to fresh draft.  Several old cans (as old as November of last year) and oxidized bottles.  Check for dates, or stick with draft.
I started the trip 2418 unique check-ins on Untappd.  I finished the trip with 2461.  A total of 43 beers.  I had one in the Washington DC airport on the way and one in the San Francisco airport on the way home.  The other 41 were all Canadian beers.  Most from Quebec, but in some of the bottled beers from other provinces.

Culture:

The class was an all day thing, and since I was travelling for work with obligations to meet it was difficult to fully “relax” but I managed to get out and about.  The brewery trips listed above were mostly weekday evenings trips out for dinner.  I had a free weekend in the middle and made the most of it on Saturday.  My first stop was Parc Jean-Drapeau which consists of two islands in the middle of the river, accessible by the Metro.  The main reason I wanted to head out there was a feature called the Biosphere.  It’s a geodesic sphere, designed and built by Buckminster Fuller. Home of the US Pavilion of Expo67 in Montréal, it now houses a nature and environmental museum.  Also on the island was Musée Stewart.  An old British stronghold turned history museum, focusing on history of the fort itself, and the island it’s on.  Brief history of the founding of Montréal as well.  After this, I headed back across the river to the old historic part of downtown.  I had been forewarned that it’s mostly full of cheesy tourist shops, and it is, but it also has some interesting buildings and amazing architecture.  Walking through this part of town made me feel like I was in Paris, despite the fact I’ve never been to Paris, it just had that old school European vibe to it.
30708850_10214488632664149_5171834068328775680_n The second museum I visited was the Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire.  I didn’t know what to expect when I went in, but quickly discovered this museum is quite literally built on top of an archaeological dig site, the former location of the first building in Montréal, and later a bank building that was a city landmark.  The tour takes you downstairs into the foundation of the old building.  You traverse through an old granite brick sewer tunnel (now clean and dry of course) to get from one building to the other, they are connected underground.  One part of the building had a thick glass floor where you could see the dig as it had been left and a note that one day a fresh batch of archaeologists with newer tools and techniques would resume the dig and likely discover even more.  It was hands down one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been in.
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French is an official language in all of Canada,  but the majority of French speaking Canadians are in Quebec.  I took French in high school and I’ve been working on learning more, but it’s slow going.  Reading written words (like the signs on the museums) I can do pretty good with, but hearing someone speak I can’t comprehend much at all.  It ended up being pretty frustrating as I tried to use what little French I knew (Hello, goodbye, thank you, please etc) to be polite and then having people assume I spoke French.  Nearly everyone there is bilingual French/English but even sometimes the English was hard to understand.  One funny account though from the archaeology museum, the man at the ticket counter said “Hello” as I walked up, and I replied “Hello” and he began describing the layout of the museum in English, but I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so with my brain in French mode I said “Pardon ?” and he started speaking French, perhaps assuming then that I didn’t understand his English. I apologized and said “No no, sorry, en Anglais?” He effortlessly switched back to English and then we had no more trouble.  Montréal is a pretty easy city to get around in, but when you get lost and your phone doesn’t work (mine didn’t) and you can’t easily ask someone for help, it tends to get a little panic inducing.

All in all, it was a rewarding trip, if not always smooth running.  Parts of it were extremely stressful, but the experience will come in handy, both in future work and future travel.

Salut !

Trip to Montréal

I just booked my flight to beautiful, sunny errr… snowy(?) Montréal, Quebec, Canada.  I will be travelling there for two weeks in April to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.

I’m excited both for the learning opportunity and another chance to travel internationally.  Before the start of this year, the extent of my international travel was 6 hours on Grand Nassau in the Bahamas on a cruise ship stopover.  That almost doesn’t count (I didn’t even need my passport…).  In January, my wife and I spent a week in Mexico, deeply embedded in the local culture, and now I’ll have nearly two weeks in Montréal.  Of course, I’m there for the education, but my evenings are free and there’s a free weekend in the middle, so I’ll get to do a little bit of exploring.

Unlike Baja California Sur, Montréal is teeming with craft breweries.  I hope to make it to a handful on my own, and the last day of class the Siebel folks take us on a “brewery tour”.  I don’t know what the stops are, but anywhere we go will be new to me unless it’s one of the ones I happen to run across on my own.

My hotel is walking distance from the class location and there’s a subway station a block away, so I’ll be spending a good amount of time on foot and aboard mass transit.  In my experience, after learning the ropes in Portland and then branching out to cities like San Francisco and San Diego, buses and trains are a great way to see the city and to get around.  As long as you can figure out where you’re going. The subway system seems to be laid out pretty well and cover most of the city.  The buses on the other hand are a little confusing.  There is a bus that goes to the school, but halfway there you have to get of one 115 bus and get on another 115 bus.  I haven’t quite figured that out.  It’s only about a mile walk.  If the weather is halfway decent I’ll just walk.

I’m very happy to work for a company that values education and is willing to send people to these kinds of trainings.  Oh yeah that’s the other great thing, this is a business trip.  There’s no way I could afford this on my own.

I fly out Sunday April 8th, the course runs from Monday, April 9 to Thursday April 19 and I fly home Friday April 20.  (And come straight back to work on Saturday the 21st. It will be a whirlwind of time zones and jet lag, but I’m excited for it.  Can’t wait!

Stay tuned for a recap when I get back!

East Coast Brewery Visits

Earlier this week my wife and I returned from a trip to the East Coast to spend the holidays with my family.  It was my first time back in North Carolina since I moved out to Portland two and a half years ago.  While beer was not the main focus of the trip, there was a lot of local stuff I wanted to try, as well as recommendations from friends and family who know I’m now a beer geek.  Rather than try to rank which ones I like best or anything like that I’ll just present them in the order we visited them in.

Over the course of the trip I tried 72 unique beers (beers I had never checked into on Untappd. Most of them I’d never had before, Foothills was the only repeat) and most of them were simply “tried”.  Several taster flights were shared amongst the group and sometimes it was just a sip of what someone else had so I could taste it.

Olde Mecklemburg Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The first brewery we visited was a recommendation from my brother, who lives in Charlotte.  We met one of our local friends there and had a few pints and took the tour.  Olde Meck focuses strictly on German beers and stick to the purity laws and don’t add any “funky” ingredients.  I wasn’t sold on their Copper, which is an altbier but I think partially because I was expecting an American Style Amber.  The Pilsner, Weiss and Baltic Porter were all very tasty.  Sadly they had run out of their seasonal Doppelbock.

Sugar Creek Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The second brewery we visited was literally across the street from Olde Meck.  I found it while I was looking up directions.  Sugar Creek specializes in Belgian style beers, which is my favorite style, but my wife’s least favorite.  Not to fear, they had a bottled Coffee Stout that was right up her alley and she enjoyed it very much.  I got a taster flight that included a Wit, Dubbel, Tripel and Saison.  The Dubbel was my favorite, but they were all phenomenal.

Birdsong Brewing (Charlotte, NC):

The third brewery we visited in Charlotte was Birdsong in the iconic NoDa neighborhood.  Unfortunately, NoDa brewing was closed the days we were in Charlotte, but this was a great alternative.  We both liked Birdsong the best out of the breweries we’d visited so far, but we realized some of that preference was simply because these beers were more like what we were used to.  We only had one each, and they were very much “Portland” beers.  I got a Brown Ale which was hoppy but with a lot of chocolate roast, and my wife got an IPA which was very piney and citrusy.  Turns out one of the brewers is from the Northwest. Very cool place with a very hip vibe.

Natty Greene’s (Greensboro, NC):

I’ve had Natty Greene’s beer before but never visited their brewpub location.  We decided to have dinner there and both the food and the beer were really good.  We tried their Red Nose Winter Ale, a Wit and an IPA.  I hated IPA when I lived here, they were too bitter and strongly flavored, but of course they’ve grown on me living in Portland.  I wasn’t sure how they would be on the East Coast but so far they’ve been really well done.

Foothills Brewing (Winston Salem, NC):

I had been to Foothills a couple times, even took my wife there when she came to visit me before I moved out to Portland, but I was excited to go back now that my tastes in beer had changed.  Foothills does several IPAs that I didn’t like 3 years ago but I figured now I’d either like them, or would think they didn’t have enough hops, rather than too much. I got the taster tray which included a set rotation.  It came with their Pilsner, Porter, Blonde Ale, One of the IPAs and two seasonals.  One was a black IPA and one was a pumpkin ale.  I knew I wouldn’t like the pumpkin beer so I took one sip and then passed that to my wife who loved it.  The blonde ale is mostly flavorless, but it’s designed to be light and easy drinking.  The pilsner was the one I didn’t much care for.  I’m discovering I’m just not a fan of that strong “canned corn” flavor that is common to most lagers.  I guess I’m an ale guy.  The porter is good, which is one of their standards.  Both the IPA and the Black IPA were really good, so I can tell my taste buds have adjusted.  They are no longer “too bitter”.

Moon River Brewing (Savannah, GA):

There’s only a handful of craft breweries in Savannah, but Moon River is right on Bay Street and located in a (reportedly) haunted building that originally served as a tavern/hotel and also got turned into a makeshift hospital/morgue during the yellow fever epidemic. We stopped in a little before closing after our walking ghost tour, so the service was a little scattered, but the beers were pretty good.  They normally offer a 10 oz or 18 oz pour, but since they were close to closing they were only pouring in 16 oz plastic “to-go” cups, a Savannah staple.  I started with Dixie Kristal, a seasonal Belgian Tripel, which was quite tasty.  We also tried the Swamp Fox IPA, Boucane Brown Ale and Captain’s Porter which we all nice.  The Porter was somewhat better than the brown ale.

Deep River Brewing Co. (Clayton, NC):

We went to visit my best friend in Raleigh and he had a couple of his favorite places he wanted to take us too.  We started at Deep River.  We split a 8 sample taster among the three of us so we could all taste a little bit of everything.   The selection included a White Winter Ale, a Stout, a Black IPA, a Rye Pale Ale, a Wit, an IPA, a Pumpkin Pie Porter and a marzen.  They were all very good, although the two that stood out the most were the Mango Tango Foxtrot IPA and the JoCo White Winter Ale.  The MTF was made with New Zealand hops that have strong flavors of tropical fruits.  It tasted like they actually put mangoes in the beer, but it was just hops.  The JoCo was a Belgian style beer, but it was made with toasted marshmallows and sweet potatoes (sweet potato casserole anyone?).  I was really hesitant on this one since I assumed it was going to be gimmicky and not very good, but I was wrong, it was amazing.  The flavors melded perfectly and nothing jumped out at me as sweet potato or marshmallow.  To be honest, this tasted exactly like Chimay Blue to me.  Cans of both the JoCo and the Mango Tango went home with us.

Draft Line Brewing (Fuquay Varina, NC):

The second place we went was a favorite haunt and my best friend knew the people working there and has become friends with the owners/brewers.  Again we grabbed two 4-sample taster trays to share between the three of us so we could try everything they had on tap.  This taster included an IPA, Pilsner, Porter, Scotch Ale, Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Winter Spice Lager and a Belgian Dark Strong.  The Belgian (of course) was my favorite, and again the Pilsner was my least favorite.  The rest were all very enjoyable.  The one that stuck out the most though was the Winter Spice Lager.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of it, and it turned out to be a gingerbread house in a glass, but it was very good.  Lots of ginger, clove, cinnamon, and sugar.  Christmas in liquid form.  A growler of the Winter Spice went home with us for us all to share later.

Fortnight Brewing (Cary, NC):

Our second day in Raleigh we made a special trip out to Fortnight Brewing.  The reason this was special was a friend of ours from our Portland homebrewing club had won a contest and brewed a beer with the guys at Fortnight and it was going to be on tap supposedly, while we were in town.  I emailed the brewery and they said it was going to be on tap on Monday, although we weren’t going to make it to Raleigh until Friday and Saturday.  Called the brewery Saturday afternoon and they said they did indeed still have it on tap so we headed out, and we got there JUST in time.  We ordered two glasses of our friends Coffee Stout and just as the second glass was almost full, the keg blew! We got the last of it! We thought it was equal parts hilarious and spooky that we traveled all that way to drink a friends beer and ended up killing the keg.  It was quite tasty!

Lonerider Brewing (Raleigh, NC):

The last brewery we visited on this trip was Lonerider.  My sister met us there since it’s close to her house and they have one of her favorite beers, the Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen.  They serve half pints which let us try all kinds of different things without getting hammered.  Between the four of us we tried the Hefe, Brown Ale, IPA, Porter, Pale Ale and a couple of interesting seasonals, a Belgian Nior (Belgian Black? Untappd labeled it a Dark Strong), a barrel aged stout with coffee and vanilla beans and a raspberry infused pale ale.  The standard beers were all quite amazing, but the seasonal and one off beers stole the show.  The raspberry pale ale tasted like Fruity Pebbles, but was still quite good, would have been awesome in warmer weather, the Belgian Noir was really quite tasty.  The Barrel aged Pistols at Dawn stole the show though.  Hints of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and rum all danced in a dark smooth base.  We got a second pint of this one to all share at the end because we all needed just a couple more sips of it, it was that good!

So there you have it, the recap of an awesome beercation!