Oregon Beer News, 02/27/2015

Oregon BeerTGIF! Here’s hoping everyone will have a good final February weekend, and here’s the news in Oregon beer for said weekend. 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.

Tomorrow (Saturday) the Portland Mercury’s annual Malt Ball, pairing up bands with breweries for a great event: “What happens when you put together the two best things in the world: delicious beer and rocking bands? You get the fourth annual Malt Ball, a day long fest that celebrates the staggering abundance of terrific music in our city AND the finest craft breweries that the Portland area has to offer. Your pals at the Mercury have partnered with the Oregon Brewers Guild to bring you the best-sounding beer festival in town, or the best-tasting music fest — whichever way you want to look at it.” Tickets are $25 and you can get them online here.

StormBreaker Brewing (Portland) is hosting their Brewstillery Festival all day on Saturday, beer paired with spirits: “Breweries and Distilleries teaming up to create the perfect pairings. Advance tix on sale now on our website for $20, $25 day of the event, which includes tasting glass and 10 tickets.” Tickets can be purchased on their website here. With 18 breweries and 12 distilleries, it should make for an interesting event!

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Oregon Beer News, 02/26/2015

Oregon BeerHere’s to the penultimate day of the (work) week—Thursday! Here’s the Oregon beer news for February 26 (also winding down the month!) 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.

Big congrats to Portland’s The BeerMongers for their 2000th day open in a row! That is quite a feat! “Today marks the 2000th day in a row that The BeerMongers has been open. We never imagined we would be open everyday but it has been so much fun and we do it for the people. We will have some great beers on draft, some special bottles to share and to sell and snacks too. Thanks for all the support over the past 5 years and help us get to 3000!” They have some great beers listed for the day, make sure to stop by and help them celebrate!

McMenamins Highland Pub & Brewery (Gresham) has a special beer tasting and meet the brewer today starting at 5pm, featuring Pirate’s Heaven, a Golden Ale with Rum-Infused American Oak Spirals. No particular description on the page but they did post to Facebook this: “join us for the same brew this Thursday at the Highland and our brewer will be more than happy to sling some samples and pints your way from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. These are 7.5 gallon kegs and when they’re gone they’re gone forever.” So get down there.

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Over a Pint: Pat “Patio” Shea of GoodLife Brewing

Here’s a new monthly feature I sort-of stumbled into this month: Over a Pint. The idea behind this comes from beer writer Brian Yaeger, who kicked it off last month; here’s Brian’s premise and description:

“Over a pint.” Sort of in the vein of The Session kicked off by Stan Hiernymous exactly 8 years ago in 2007 and still going strong. The Session entails a different blogger each month conceiving a disparate topic related to beer wherein everyone aims for that target and then said blogger hosts the discussion on his or her web-log. Since The Session claims First Friday of the month, how’s about Last Monday for Over a Pint?! I’ll link to everyone’s “OaP” left in the comments or tagged on Twitter. I’m envisioning just two instructions.

  1. Head out with someone who brews for a living and talk to them over a pint (or more) without recording it or taking any notes. Just chat. About stuff.
  2. Don’t do it at the brewery’s pub or tasting room.

So to be honest, I pretty much spaced out on this even though last month when I saw Brian’s original post I said I’d be in. Fortunately, on Sunday we had a fortuitous bar run-in (the good kind) with GoodLife brewer Pat “Patio” Shea—a guy who’s been around the Bend brewing scene for ages and brewing in general for nearly two decades. So, without further ado…

Name: Pat “Patio” Shea

Brewery: GoodLife Brewing

Professional brewing experience: Started at Rock Bottom in Portland, then Anderson Valley Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Three Creeks Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project, 10 Barrel Brewing, and GoodLife. (Maybe more?)

Pat "Patio" Shea and the GoodLife/Terminal Gravity crew

Patio on the left

Sunday, the 22nd, was National Margarita Day, and my wife and I had decided to head over to La Rosa on Bend’s west side (one of the best Mexican restaurants in town) and, being without kids, decided to sit at the bar. Fortuitous that we did, because within minutes of sitting down, Patio and his wife showed up out of the blue and decided to sit with us—affording the perfect (unplanned) opportunity to sit and chat quite literally over a pint. Well, at least a pint on my part; I drank Pacifico (gasp! not craft!!), while everyone else partook in National Margarita Day. (Not that I’m anti-margarita, I enjoy them, but I find I tend to drink them too fast, at least as compared to drinking beer; it’s a self-moderation thing.)

Patio’s a good brewer, and he might equally be known as that guy who’s worked nearly everywhere. What’s perhaps lesser known is that he’s the one who came up with the idea of The Little Woody (one of Bend’s best beer festivals), and more recently helped come up with the relatively new Central Oregon Winter Beer Fest.

Conversation ranged informally across range of topics, from the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference to homebrewing to St. Patrick’s Day to margaritas (of course). A story that stands out is that Patio is old school friends with Christopher Bowen, a homebrewer and beer enthusiast with an unusual link to Allsopp’s Arctic Ale. (And yes, I chose that particular link for Martyn Cornell because it actually features… Chris Bowen. Small world!)

The story, according to Patio, is that he was visiting his home state of Pennsylvania on vacation when a chance encounter hooked him back up with an old school friend whom he hadn’t seen in decades: Bowen. As it turned out, Bowen in essence had his own brewery and English-style pub with a mug club and everything—as a hardcore homebrewer, wherein the local homebrew club members could use the “brewery” and drink at the pub (for free). While visiting this pub, Patio noticed a map of the Canadian Arctic on the dartboard, and upon inquiring, Bowen produced a picture of two very old beers that were sitting on his bar: Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, and another one almost as old (Patio didn’t remember what the second one was).

Bowen had in fact become obsessed with the story of Arctic Ale, to the point that he organized a motorcycle roadtrip with other diehard homebrewers to Hudson Bay, where the ship containing the lost bottles of Arctic Ale was found, to brew a recreation recipe on that very beach.

Oh, and he apparently owns a bottle of Arctic Ale that he had purchased online as well. Patio noted it was the oldest bottled beer in existence (plausibly).

The trip to the arctic was (mostly) successful, and Bowen is planning to turn it into a documentary film named “Arctic Alchemy”—and even launched a Kickstarter to help back it. (Which was successfully funded.) An interesting corollary to the story is that the wood from the ship the bottle was recovered from was apparently repurposed into ornate desks—which now belong to the Oval Office of White House and the Queen of England, respectively. Bowen’s goal is to get pictures of his bottles (the Allsopp and the other one not quite as old) on each of those desks, to match the photo he has of them sitting on his bar. Nobody’s really sure yet how he’ll manage that feat.

That was certainly one of the more memorable stories of an enjoyable, impromptu evening. It was fun, the Pacifico tasted good, and we now have some plans for St. Patrick’s Day.

Oregon Beer News, 02/25/2015

Oregon BeerHappy hump day Wednesday! Make it through the day, pour yourself a beer, and you’re over halfway through the week. Here’s the news in Oregon beer for the 25th 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.

Cascade Brewing (Portland): Their Tart Fruit Fest returns for 2015, starting today, and runs through Monday, March 2nd—6 days of sour fruit beer! “We will be featuring past live barrels that contain fruit, vintage blends, and some unique one-off projects… Many fruit fest beers are only 2-3 gallons and will go fast, but we will keep an ever changing list of great beers throughout the fest; we will post to Twitter & Facebook when taps change out.” Their teaser list alone is great, including the likes of Noyaux, Date Vlad, Blueberry Bourbonic, Candied Cantelope, and much more. This one is not to be missed.

McMenamins Old St. Francis School (Bend) has their monthly O’Kane’s Cask Series Release today, featuring a firkin keg of Star Trip IPA which goes on tap at 5pm at the O’Kane’s bar at the back of the property: “Take a trip to the stars with this IPA! Starting off with a tropical fruit like aroma you then trek to a mellow malt body. Journey your way again with some citrus and herbal hop flavor. The Galaxy hops are showcased across the board on this vessel. The last voyage is the lingering bitter that reminds your taste buds of floral pines. For our special firkin keg release we have added even more hops to the conditioning vessel! A hop trip that will definitely take you to the stars and back! Enjoy a delicious pint of this easy drinking IPA from our firkin keg!”

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Tuesday Tastings: Zarabanda, Topcutter IPA, Bu Weisse

I haven’t really been writing beer reviews on the site lately, and I have a backlog of them, so I thought I’d institute a new weekly feature—Tuesday Tastings. Each Tuesday I’ll post reviews of three or so beers—as simple a that! For this inaugural post I’m writing about beers from Deschutes Brewery, Bale Breaker Brewing, and De Garde Brewing.

Deschutes Brewery ZarabandaDeschutes Brewery Zarabanda

This collaboration beer is culinarily-influenced, a Spanish-style saison with spices. The Brewery says:

We looked to acclaimed Chef José Andrés to help us create a Spanish take on the farmhouse-style saison. The addition of lemon verbena, pink peppercorn, sumac, and dried lime infuse the Chef’s distinctive flavors into the brew – an ale purposefully crafted to complement all your culinary endeavors. Or to be savored all by itself.

It’s certainly a festive story and bottle, and the Brewery had sent one to me to sample. It comes in at 6.5% abv. My notes:

Appearance: Gold in color, nicely effervescent but a gentle pour into a Pilsner glass yielded a minimum head.

Smell: Nice herbal phenolics with a Belgian candi sugar and farmhouse spiciness that reminds me of coriander, peppercorns, grassy hay, and tart(ish) fruits or berries. Hint of funk.

Taste: Herbal, a bit on the sweet side. Not sure I can pick out unique ingredients, but I’d guess the fruity and slightly tart character is the lemon verbana (or possibly the dried lime). That sweetness comes from a bit more attenuation than you’d expect for a traditional Saison, and the flavors tend to go more in that direction than dry and funky.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with an herbal(ish), almost perfumey finish.

Overall: It’s a well-brewed, drinkable beer—but if I’m being honest, I was hoping for a drier Saison so the sweeter character is not what I’d been expecting or looking for. I’ve since had it on draft and it paired fine with Thai food.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Bale Breaker Topcutter IPABale Breaker Brewing Topcutter IPA

Bale Breaker just opened in 2013, located literally in the middle of Yakima hop country—their brewery is surrounded on three sides by Cascade hop fields—it doesn’t get any fresher than that for hoppy beers!. Of their flagship ale, Topcutter IPA, they say:

Our flagship IPA is a well-balanced yet aggressive West Coast IPA that showcases Yakima Valley hops at their finest. Late additions of Simcoe®, Citra®, Ahtanum™, and Mosaic™ give this beer its complex citrus, fruity, and floral aroma and flavor. Named for a unique piece of farm equipment that removes hop vines from the trellis during the annual hop harvest, Topcutter IPA delivers loads of hoppiness all year long.

I picked up some cans of this when visiting Walla Walla, Washington last year. Topcutter is 6.8% abv and 70 IBUs. Notes:

Appearance: Honey amber-orange with a thick, fine-laced head. Golden highlights.

Smell: Resiny, sticky hops with a hint of cattiness overlaying some tropical fruits (mango, pineapple). Some sweet candy malts back the hops nicely.

Taste: Hoppy, resiny, with a nice caramel malt body that’s sweet but not overpowering and balances really well with the hop profile. The malt is a great support but the hops are definitely the star here, rightly so; they’re fresh and green and herbal a pack a nicely bitter punch. Very drinkable.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, a bit sticky-sweet yet paradoxically has a nice light presence on the tongue.

Overall: Very well done, very good IPA. Grab it up when you see it.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

De Garde Bu WeisseDe Garde Brewing Bu Weisse

De Garde is located in Tillamook, Oregon, and focuses on true spontaneous fermentation, relying on the wild fauna found on this section of the Oregon Coast to inoculate and ferment their beers. Bu Weisse is their defacto flagship, a soured wheat beer inspired by the German Berliner Weisse tradition and it only comes in at 2.3% abv(!). This is the base version, now more readily available in Oregon, which I picked up in Portland; they also do runs of varietals, blending with fruit and such.

Appearance: Slightly hazy, corn-yellow with an orange or perhaps more pinkish tint to it. It’s fizzy but there’s no real head.

Smell: Mellow, lacto-tart with hints of funk and corn grits. A lemongrass or perhaps lemon verbana herbal note to it. I do like that lactic acid character.

Taste: Hints of apple cider vinegar, what is basically an acetic acid note. Bready, like yeasty bread dough. Pretty tart and lactic but drinkable. That yeasty note persists as it warms. Pretty interesting actually.

Mouthfeel: Light, puckeringly tart, gets you right at the back of the tongue.

Overall: Interesting base beer for their various blends; it’s mellow but tart and I can see how it’s a good base for fruit.

Corollary—I confess wasn’t terribly predisposed to liking this beer much, based on the first bottle of De Garde that I had earlier in the year—their Spears, a wild American pale ale. Here’s mostly why:

De Garde Spears gusher

Yep, it was a gusher, which in this case “wild” definitely meant “infected,” and it was weird—funky, earthy, minty, and herbal with nettles or dandelion greens. Not a good representative beer to start with, so I’m happy to say Bu Weisse was much better.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer