The Session #108: Snowed In!

The SessionThis month I have the honor of hosting The Session, our beer blogging first Friday event, for which I have suggested the topic — Snowed In! which you can read about here — and which I will also be collecting all the contributions for a round-up blog post so we can see what everyone is posting about.

I gave an open-ended topic and asked everyone to write about whatever they wanted, as long as the theme is in some way, “snowed in,” being that it’s winter and all.

Here in Central Oregon, however, we don’t currently have snow, except on the mountains, and Friday evening actually ended outdoors, around the firepits at O’Kane’s bar at McMenamins Old St. Francis School, drinking beers with friends. Not “snowed in” by any means but enjoying pints of Drop In IPA around the fire with occasional puffs off a cigar—a really great winter drinking experience, actually, snow or no snow.

O'Kanes firepit at McMenamins Old St. Francis School

(That Drop In IPA, incidentally, is a lovely, very drinkable American IPA dry-hopped with Citra hops. Fruity hops, soft, bready malts, at 6.8% abv it was very easy to find my way to the bottom of a couple of pints.)

When we are snowed in, I tend to reach for the big beers, maybe dipping into the cellar stash for something special. The Barleywines, the Old Ales, the Imperial Stouts; the cold and deep snow call for malty, boozy, warming beers with rich depths of flavor.

The Session #108, Snowed in!

No surprise, really; the first time I hosted The Session, it was also February, so of course I asked everyone to write about Barleywines, and popped open a special bottle to commemorate: Deschutes Brewery’s Mirror Mirror. Back then (when I wrote that post) it was 2008, and the bottle in question was from 2005—definitely a cellar pick (back when I had my “proto” cellar):

Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror Reserve Series Barleywine

But in 2004, well before The Abyss appeared, the brewers crafted a draft-only barleywine: Mirror Mirror. The name came from (if I’m remembering the story correctly, which I may not be) the fact that they based the beer on the recipe for the Brewery’s popular Mirror Pond Pale Ale—only doubling the malt bill. It was a big hit at the pub.

When they brewed this beer again, in 2005, they aged it for four months in French Oak wine barrels before releasing it in bottles as the first of their Reserve Series.

Appearance: Thick tawny-amber, approaching brown. Creamy, wood putty-colored head.

Smell: Wonderfully sweet and fruity and complex; a touch of (charred) wood coupled with sweet alcohol heat; sour black cherry; black licorice; leather; plummy Scotch.

Taste: Sweet wash of alcohol strength and dark fruit (prunes, dates, black currants) followed by a dry oak character that blends it all together nicely. This is very, very nice… no harsh notes, it’s warming and sweet and malty with a hint of Belgian rock candy—darker sugars. A hint of toasted honey malt paired with brown sugar and molasses… there’s a bit of rum, even bourbon, here. A cognac of a beer for sure.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and smooth and chewy (but creamy), and that effect that starts syrupy sweet and finishes dry (with woody notes) is amazing.

It’s not always about drinking beer though. While I was pondering the topic for this month I kept coming back to one of the ideas I’d suggested to write about: “Alternatively, perhaps you have a hodge-podge of brewing ingredients lying around but nothing definitive—could you MacGyver up a homebrewed beer from only what you have on hand?”

Yes… yes I could, more or less. Right off the top of my head I know I have the following ingredients in the house:

  • Several pounds of chocolate malt.
  • Lots of hops (many homegrown).
  • Several packets of dried brewing yeast.

Not much, and definitely no base malt which would not only provide fermentables but the enzymes needed to mash other grains—turn the starches into sugars. But, thinking outside the box a bit (I did mention MacGyver) there are actually plenty of other ingredients present that I could brew something with:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice
  • Fruits
  • Rolled oats
  • Canned goods

Now I’m not completely sure about the grains and flour, they would need to be cooked to gelatinize them, so likely we’d be talking about one gallon batches supplemented with cane sugar and steeped with chocolate malt for flavor, color, and body… And I could fall back on one of my Apocalypse Beer posts for fermentation ideas… But all in all it would make for an interesting snow day.

That’s my snow story. Looking forward to reading all the others!

Oregon Beer News, 02/05/2016

Oregon BeerHappy Friday—and Super Bowl weekend! It’s the first Friday of February, and in addition to the Oregon beer news today I’m also hosting this month’s edition of The Session, so if you’re a blogger, social media-er, or whatever else, feel free to participate! And as usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news, so check back often. If you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that posted as well.

This weekend the Salem Winter Brewfest continues in Salem, as does Worthy Brewing‘s 3rd anniversary celebration in Bend, celebrating with their annual release of Go Time Extra Pale (GTX). Both of these run through Saturday the 6th so you’ve got a bit of time to do either if you can’t make it on Friday.

All weekend, Saturday and Sunday the 6th and 7th, Portland’s Saraveza is riffing on the Super Bowl with their Super Barrel event—pouring special barrel-aged beers! “For it’s triumphant return, the 2nd annual Super Barrel fest will be held in Saraveza during normal business hours. Unlike some of our other fests, there isn’t an entry fee, wristband, drink tickets or special glassware, just some of the best barrel-aged beers we can get our hands on. We will be offering all of the featured barrel aged beers in 5oz pours only!”

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Oregon Beer News, 02/04/2016

Oregon BeerHere’s the news in beer from around the state for Thursday, February 4. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day, so check back often. And if you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that updated as well.

The second annual Salem Winter Brewfest kicks off today, taking place in, er, Salem at the Capitol Mall right across from the Oregon State Capitol Building. It runs today through Saturday the 6th, and features over 110 beers and ciders from an impressive list of breweries and cideries.  It’ll cost you $20 for one day or $30 for all three, at the door, or $15 and $25 in advance at Gilgamesh Brewing, Santiam Brewing, Salem Ale Works, Vagabond Brewing, b2 Taphouse, Westside Taphouse, and Venti’s, all in Salem.

Worthy Brewing (Bend): Staring today and running through Saturday the 6th, Worthy is celebrating their third anniversary! “Join us for our annual release of GTX (Go Time Extra Pale), which was the first recipe we ever brewed, way back at the end of 2012. The amazing kitchen team as some delicious pairing specials and there will be commemorative glasses for sale that includes a fill!” It’s a bit of a low-key anniversary as the brewery is also undergoing an expansion and canning line install as well as the buildout of their observatory and banquet hall feature outdoors, but it’s still a great time to celebrate three years with Go Time!

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Oregon Beer News, 02/03/2016

Oregon BeerHere’s the news in Oregon beer for Hump Day, Wednesday the 3rd of February. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news, so check back often for updates. If you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that updated as well.

GoodLife Brewing (Bend): Today at Roscoe’s in Portland is the first in GoodLife’s Brewshed® Session Ale release parties: “GoodLife Brewing will be donating 1% of all sales to the Brewshed® Alliance, split between to the two nonprofits. The beer will be available February through June, so buy a beer and support conservation for those four months! We’ll be giving out Brewshed® Session Ale shirts throughout the night and raffling off other GoodLife swag, so we’ll see you there!”

The Green Dragon (Portland): Today’s Green Dragon Brew Crew release is “A Heartwarming Ale For February” — their February Ale: “February may not be the cruelest month, but it can sure feel like it. We just slogged through two months of winter and, despite what the groundhog says, have two more months to go. February is to winter what Wednesday is to the work week. This week’s release from the Green Dragon Brew Crew is the perfect antidote for the February blues. February Ale is a heart warmer of a brew, with aromas of spicy orange peel, lemon zest and caramel biscuits, as well as flavors of chocolate milk, roasted hazelnuts, and caramel wafers.” The release starts at 5pm.

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Tuesday Tastings: Straight Outta Burns – Steens Mountain beers

If you’ve been following any of the crazy news coming out of Eastern Oregon over the past month—the ranching militia takeover and occupation of Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, near Burns, Oregon—then today’s edition of Tuesday Tastings will be especially apropos, as I’m reviewing two beers from Burns-based Steens Mountain Brewing.

Back around the end of August last year, you might recall we visited Steens Moutain Brewing in Burns, where I sampled a variety of their beers and interviewed owner/brewer Richard Roy. Since then things took a turn for the bizarre for the town, with the militia people arriving in November which led to growing tension (to put it mildly) before coming to a head at the beginning of the year with the Refuge takeover.

There’s additional backstory with Roy and Steens Mountain that is for another post, but suffice to say that for the brewery business is finally getting back to (relative) normal. So I thought it was a good time to write up my notes on the two bottled beers I brought back from that late August trip. Both of these were purchased at Reid’s Country Store.

Harney Valley Ale

Steens Mountain Harney Valley AleThis beer is turning into one of their flagships, and like most of the Steens Mountain beers, is brewed exclusively with feral heirloom hops that Roy harvests from secret sources on the High Desert. (Old homesteads, ranch properties, and the like.) One thing you’ll note in both of these reviews is hop notes that tend strongly toward “grassy” which I’m pretty sure is characteristic of their feral nature.

Harney Valley Ale clocks in at 4.7% alcohol by volume.

Appearance: Golden copper color, fairly clear, with an off-white head that broke down to a skiff of foam that is still being fed by active carbonation.

Smell: Bready, sweetish malts, with a gentle, herbal and slightly grassy hop that tends towards earthy overall.

Taste: On the malty side of “pale” with a very earthy and grassy hop presence, exactly matching the aroma, though it reminds me somewhat of mellow, green, freshly-picked hops. They do go a touch vegetal on the tongue, which makes this pale read a bit more like an “amber” ale to me.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a soft, easy-drinking finish.

Overall: Nicely drinkable, not too heavy, with soft pillowy maltiness and easy hopping, what I would look for in an English-style pale or bitter.

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Lone Pine American IPA

Steens Mountain Lone Pine IPAAn “American IPA” that is influenced more by the east coast styles than the Northwest, according to Roy himself. This is about 6% abv.

Appearance: Darker amber color than you’d expect, a touch hazy, with an ample, lacy, off-white head. The color is almost brown.

Smell: Pungently grassy hops, not terribly floral, which want to go vegetal with a bit of dandelion. The malt is fairly neutral and does not contribute much.

Taste: Solid hop bitterness punctuated by arugula and dandelion notes. (Assuming this is characteristic of this feral hop?) Malts are a touch cakey and caramelly, working well as a backbone to the beer but this could easily go into big amber ale territory. “Old school” flair.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with a bitter-coating aftertaste.

Overall: This is what I would consider an “old school northwest IPA,” lots of caramel malt notes influenced by the English style, with a solid vegetal/grassy bitterness.

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