When the Beer Angels sent out an email with upcoming events for July, I knew I had to attend the “Craft Beer Cocktails with Bendistillery” event last week. I am a HUGE fan of Bendistillery’s Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka.
After paying the Beer Angel’s small event fee, I was on my way to the Bendistillery’s tasting room, a short drive just outside of Bend just above the hill outside of Tumalo. I made my way into the front door of the tasting room and was warmly greeted by the Beer Angels. It was a very warm day and some ladies took advantage of arriving through the new misters on the back patio.
We were greeted by Jennah and her husband James. If our raffle ticket ended in an odd number, we were to take the tour first, but I had an even number, so tasting 4 cocktails first it was!
The first was a Pale Ginger Shandy with Crater Lake Sweet Ginger Vodka. The cocktail was refreshing at first (hot day), but then it got me with the pale ale a few more sips down and then I wonder why my palate does not like the wheaty or hoppy characters. I have tasted the Ginger Vodka on its own and it’s quite gingery and I liked it paired with something instead of just a taste on its own. It was quite refreshing on a 90+ degree day. I sipped and sipped and mostly finished before the next cocktail was served.
The next cocktail was a Beer Sangria with Crater Lake Vodka. I picked up a glass with apples instead of oranges. I’m glad I did because I really liked this one while it was very cold and was also eating the apples and grapes. As the first, it was quite refreshing with a very cold beverage on a hot day and I was surprised I liked this because yes, the wheat beer, but also because I am not a huge fan of sangrias (maybe one or two in the past). I’d make this again at home with the recipe provided and perhaps a sour that I will drink.
I figured the next cocktail, I would not like and I was right. It was explained that if you like Bloody Marys, this is right up your alley. My palate is not with spicy drinks and one sip and I was done. It was good and tasted exactly like a bloody, but very much not my palate. I tried to give my drink away at the table, but everyone was fine on their own and the next drink came quickly. Later, someone that really liked it, asked what happened to mine and would have drank it. This is the one vodka on its own I’ve never tried because I’m not a huge pepper fan.
The next drink came out quickly because the tour group was completing their tour. Pitch Dark Coffee Stout with Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka. I wasn’t sure if I would like this because of the Stout beer used, but I liked it. At first, it was quite sweet and I stirred and was quite full from drinking so many cocktails in a short time. I decided to take this on the tour with me. As the ice melted, it was less sweet (or able to be more mixed) and it was quite good.
A small bite feast from Hola was provided. Tasty pork and chicken empanadas, ceviche, chips, green and red salsa, and guacamole rounded out the small bites that were consumed under the misters of the back patio with the setting sun against the mountains as our view.
Next, we set out on our tour with James. I encourage you all to go out to Bendistillery tasting room and get a free tour and tasting. While the BA got a more behind the scenes tour, the growth that (I believe) Bend’s original distillery is experiencing is well worth the five minute drive outside of Bend. They are expanding their current four spirits to include estate spirits (a vodka, gin and rye whiskey) and also private labels. I hear there is also a special collaboration between Deschutes Brewery and the Crater Lake Brand.
I also encourage you to visit their drink recipe page as it is a vast plethora of recipes, including some with beer to make at home.
The first day of the 27th annual Oregon Brewers Festival is done (even though this is the second year they started on a Wednesday, I’m still thinking in terms of starting on Thursday… or I remember starting on a Friday even… yeah, get off my lawn), and it already looks like a great year. (You can follow along on Twitter on the main OBF account, or by the hashtag #obf27, or the Specialty Tent.) If you’re planning on attending any of the next four days, I thought I’d throw out some recommendations for beers to keep an eye out for.
One of my favorite pictures from 2012′s OBF, with one of my favorite people (Lisa Morrison) and lots of Brewfest beer.
You can find the full list of what’s pouring in the main tents here.
Fruity/Sour beers: these (along with the IPAs) make up the majority of beer “styles” this year, and some simply look too interesting to pass up. Note there are a number of other fruited beers pouring, including several fruit-infused IPAs, but these stand out to me as worth the token(s).
- 10 Barrel Cider Weisse: A blend of their Berliner Weisse with green apple cider
- Cigar City Brewing Mangosteen Florida Weisse: Another Berliner Weisse fruit blend!
- Ecliptic Brewing Perihelion Crimson Saison: A saison brewed with rhubarb
- Elysian Brewing Perfesser: American Wild Ale with plums, sounds intriguing
- Gigantic Brewing Who Ate All the Pies?: My favorite name on this year’s list, it’s a strawberry rhubarb gose—this would be my first beer to try, hands down. Plus, that’s two with rhubarb this year, if you’re counting.
- Paradise Creek Brewery Huckleberry Pucker: another Berliner Weisse
IPAs and Pale Ales: yes, the other most-represented category, and what kind of an OBF would you have if you didn’t sample some IPAs that you can’t necessarily get around here?
- Alaskan Brewing Hopothermia: A double IPA that should be solid since it’s from Alaskan.
- Ashtown Brewing Blackberry India Pale Ale: I have to admit I’m intrigued since it has my favorite berry in it. Plus I’ve not had any beers from Ashtown yet.
- Boundary Bay Double Dry Hopped Mosaic Pale Ale: They always bring a solid beer to the OBF, and Mosaic is on fire right now
- Fitger’s Brewhouse Hoppelujah IPA: From Minnesota—I don’t know anything else about them but I’m always intrigued by some Midwestern IPAs.
- Maui Brewing Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA: Yes, it has fruit, but it came all the way from Hawaii…
- Port Townsend Brewing Extra Special Hop Diggidy: How can you pass up a name like that?
Intriguing and/or Couldn’t Resist the Name: If the name or style didn’t catch my eye in either of the above list, they fall here:
- Beer Valley Heavy Sugars Honey Ale: The one and only braggot at the fest that I can see, and I enjoyed the name.
- Collaborator Czech’d Out Pils: I’ve been on the lookout for good Pilsners these days, and the Collaborator brew (Widmer + Oregon Brew Crew) would hit the mark I think.
- Deschutes Ester the Farmhouse Maiden: A saison with a great name.
- Dogfish Head Burton Olde English: Big malty sweet old ale. Dogfish Head always brings interesting beers (Raspberry Mint Imperial Stout, anyone?).
- Dunedin Brewery Moon Reflects on Hibiscus: A Belgian IPA with fruit and flowers. I’m intrigued, but I remember a few years ago the first Dunedin beer I had wasn’t terribly impressive.
- Kells Brew Pub Billy Ray Citrus: Oh good lord, a CDA version of their Miley Citrius IPL from the Oregon Garden Brewfest. I can’t help but like that name though.
- Logsdon Sraffe Drieling: A Tripel, and knowing Logsdon this should be great.
- Lucky Lab Hopperopolis: A “copper ale” with a great name.
- Old Town Brewing Yosteamite Sam: A California Common and the name? Yes.
- Rogue Dopplesticke: A double alt style, I think?
Finally, Old Standbys:
- Anderson Valley Summer Solstice
- Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
- Caldera Brewing Caldera Toasted Coconut Chocolate Porter
- Cascade Brewing Raspberry Wheat
- Full Sail Cascade Pilsner
- Ninkasi Oktoberfestbier
- Terminal Gravity IPA
- Widmer Widberry
This weeks marks the 27th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, the Ur-Fest of Oregon’s beerfests, which kicks off Wednesday the 23rd and runs through the weekend to end on Sunday, July 27. This is one of those festivals that every beer lover should attend at least once, for this final full weekend of July on the Willamette River in Portland is (in my experience) always a hot, beautiful weekend, and in addition to being immersed in Portland’s amazing beer culture you’ll see costumes, a wandering Oom-pah band, brewers, homebrewing, amazing beers that you probably won’t find anywhere else, and much, much more.
I won’t be able to attend this year, alas, but I wish I could: there are more brewers and beers than ever (88 pouring in all), the Specialty Tent will have another 100 beers pouring, and for the first time ever, brewers from outside the United States will be pouring beer! (In the Specialty Tent.)
The Oregon Brewers Festival is flying over both beer and brewers from Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Brouwerij Rodenburg, Microbrouwerij Rooie Dop, Brouwerij Maximus, Brouwerij Duits & Lauret, Brouwerij de Molen, Oedipus Brewing, Het Uiltje, Oersoep and Ramses Bier. Bierbrouwerij Emelisse is also sending beer as well, although no brewer representation.
Each brewery will serve five of their beers daily in the festival’s Specialty Tent, an area where vintage, barrel aged, blends and esoteric one-offs from participating breweries are also offered. The brewers will be available for daily meet the brewer sessions at the event. They will also be doing a special Meet & Greet and beer tasting event at Belmont Station, a local bottle shop, on July 24 from 4 to 8pm.
Dubbed NL to PDX (#NLtoPDX), the program started when festival director Art Larrance learned that Portland has a Friendship City relationship with the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Upon visiting, he discovered a growing craft brewing movement that reminded him of the Northwest craft beer industry in the 1980s; brewers who are just beginning to explore new flavors and styles.
The Brewfest is open from noon to 9pm each day except Sunday, when it closes at 7pm. Admission int the fest is free, though you’ll need to purchase the 2014 souvenir glass for $7 in order to drink beer, and the wooden tokens good for a sample cost $1 each (though I believe you have to buy them in packs). You can use tokens from previous years as they recycle them, but you’ll have to buy the glass.
This is my favorite all-around festival, and I’m sorry to be missing it this year. But I’ll still be posting more about it this week, in particular some of the beers I think you should be looking for. There are also some fun factoids sent out with the press kit that make for a fun read, and perhaps for nostalgia’s sake I’ll re-run some pictures from past years.
In the meantime, clear your calendar and get ready for Portland!
Laht Neppur Brewing, located in Waitsburg, Washington, about 21 miles northeast of Walla Walla, set up shop in 2005 and became best known outside of the region for their fruit beers, notably the Peach Hefeweizen and Strawberry Cream Ale. Within the last couple of years they also opened up the Laht Neppur Ale House in downtown Walla Walla, which my wife and I visited briefly on our trip to the town last month.
It was midafternoon, after wine tasting and before dinner, so we didn’t eat anything and I simply ordered the sampler tray for $10. This came with eight beers, though I believe they may normally have ten on most of the time.
I’ll get back to the beers in a bit. The Ale House itself is probably one of the most unassuming, unpretentious places in downtown Walla Walla (and for a wine town, Walla Walla itself is pretty unprentious). It’s a big space, grungy, with peanut shells all over the floor—Pete Dunlop, reviewing their actual brewery in Waitsburg, called the decor there “early grubby” and I suppose that applies here as well. It’s fairly spartan with minimal decorations, and I’d go so far as to call the decor and atmosphere sort of “industrial hipster”; fairly proto-hipster by Portland standards but that’s the impression I got. They have a stage for music as well, decorated with a couple of wine barrels and various Celtic knot-type paintwork.
The menu and beer list were on chalkboards above the bar, and the tap handles were on the plain side and looked scrounged together. The bar top had a cool inlaid Celtic knot-type of design.
Now, the beers. Generally speaking I thought the fruit beers were the best of the samples: Peach Hefeweizen, Spiced Peaches ‘n Cream Ale, and St. Dorothy’s Peach Cordial Ale, a big Belgian-y-styled beer around 9% or something that smelled like it might have a bit of a wild bug in it, and presenting lots of peach character. Be careful drinking this one, it’s big.
The other beers samples were the Nut Brown, Mike’s Golden, Kolsch, Oatmeal Porter, Scotch Ale, IPA, and Stout. They were average for me; there were some off-flavors that made me wonder if the lines needed cleaning or if the beers themselves had issues (I tasted earthy, malty-heavy, slightly spicy notes in several, the kind of flavors that remind me a bit of brewing with hot peppers). So it’s hard to say, without having a chance to try them again under different circumstances.
All in all, though, a nice downtown beer stop if you find yourself in the town and ready for a break from wine. Do note, however, that they are cash-only (there is an ATM on site).
Laht Neppur Ale House
53 South Spokane Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362
I’m a little behind on mentioning these, as I actually received them a week ago (last Thursday the 3rd), hand-delivered in fact (I assume they didn’t want them potentially sitting on hot truck over the long holiday weekend). Three of the latest seasonal/specialty bottle offerings from Deschutes Brewery:
In order, left to right: Doppel Dinkel Bock, AKA Conflux No. 3; Black Butte XXVI (anniversary beer); and Foray IPA, a Belgian-style IPA. I haven’t yet opened these bottles but I have sampled each of these beers and I can attest that they are tasty.
And I’m really kind of digging how the font for the Doppel Dinkel Bock label is basically the classic Star Trek TV series title font.