Oregon Beer News, 03/11/2015

Oregon BeerHere is the news in Oregon beer for Wednesday, the 11th of March. 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.

Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland) has a new beer out today, Replay IPA, and fittingly the launch party is taking place tonight at Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland: “Widmer Brothers is releasing a new session-style IPA, Replay IPA. Admission is free to the public (21+) after 7pm, and there will be drink specials and giveaways throughout the night. Patrons will be given game credits with every Replay IPA purchase.” As a computer geek and child of the 80s I’m having a hard time imagining a better venue for a beer release… The party runs from 7pm until closing. As for the beer itself, Replay is 4.5% abv and 40 IBUs, and will be hitting shelves the week of the 23rd.

Block 15 Brewery (Corvallis) will be in Portland tonight at The Hop and Vine for a “tap invasion” — think tap takeover turned to 11: “About once a year, we’ve been privileged to have our friends at Corvallis’ Block 15 Brewing invade our taps for an evening of fermented fun. Previously, we only had 8 taps to fill, but with the expansion of taps into our Bottleshop Bar, we can now pour more, making this year’s takeover the best & biggest yet! We’ve been patiently sitting on some of the more cellar-worthy gems from their barrel program and will be filling out the list with even more wild-fermented beers, some of B15’s award-worthy hoppy beers, and standout selections from their core lineup for variety.” They have a great lineup listed on the event page, and the fun kicks off at 5pm.

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Tasting and additional notes about Steens Mountain Brewing

Last Thursday was the High Desert Museum‘s monthly beer tasting event (which runs in conjunction with their Brewing Culture exhibit), and I was in attendance thanks to a concurrent private book signing event taking place there the same evening. I’m glad I was, because I got a chance to try two of the new Steens Mountain Brewing beers as well as meet and chat with owner/brewer Rick Roy and his daughter Carley.

Steens Mountain Brewing

They were pouring two beers that evening: Buena Vista Mexican Dark Lager and Basque Amber Ale. I had both (actually I inadvertently had two pours of the Buena Vista) and thought they were both good: the Buena Vista was malty, rich, and clean, and the Basque Amber was fuller in body but also very clean, like a lager. Very drinkable. Based on the samples I had, I would say Roy has a solid handle on the brewing process, at least on the small scale he’s brewing on right now.

Astute readers will remember I pointed to an article about Steens Mountain in our daily newspaper back in January; in particular, these details caught my eye and greatly piqued my interest:

Rick Roy always kept the hops in the back of his mind.

An avid hunter and fisherman — and a bit of a beer connoisseur — Roy occasionally found wild patches of the plant, a key flavoring ingredient for many beers, in remote parts of Harney County after he and his family moved to Burns 16 years ago when he took a job with the Bureau of Land Management.

“In my travels, I’d run into hops growing out there at these old homesteads,” says Roy, 54, who spent several years brewing his own beer when he lived in Colorado. “I kept those locations in the back of my mind, just in case.”

And of course there’s the hops. Roy uses his secret stash of wild Harney County hops in as many of his beers as possible. After a story ran in the Burns paper about his brewery and his desire to use local produce, people started calling Roy and telling him about even more hops.

“Now I’ve got about five, six, seven different places, all in Harney County where I go get hops,” says Roy, who has also started a hop garden adjacent to Steens Mountain Brewing. “What variety (the wild hops) are, I have no idea. I talked to some of the guys at the hop farms and they told me not to waste my time figuring out what they are. Just call them whatever you want and see what works.”

Naturally having just written a book about Central Oregon’s beer history (and having been fascinated by the homesteading era in our local history for some time), as well as having an interest in foraging for ingredients, this “feral homestead hops” detail is a great angle to approach Steens Mountain. Roy’s theory is that the homesteaders brought the hops with them and brewed their own beer; homesteads in eastern Oregon were isolated enough that planting and brewing their own beer was the most economical option if they wanted to drink it. Once the hops had established themselves at the homestead, they persisted; there’s no way of knowing, however, what the varieties might be (likely short of DNA sequencing, if that would even reveal the provenance).

And no, these are not wild hops native to the area: anyone familiar with the High Desert region of eastern Oregon would realize they would be introduced species. Once introduced, however, and receiving enough moisture (some homesteads were established at springs, for instance) they would definitely thrive.

They are low in alpha acid content; Roy assumes in the neighborhood of 4 to 4.5%. They won’t produce high-alpha hop bombs but he has brewed with them, including them in a Porter and other styles, and says the add a nice character to the beer. (If I go into speculation mode, the two varieties that spring to mind as progenitors given the timeframe and availability at the time are Cluster and Fuggles. So I would approach them as such and brew accordingly.) Of course it’s possible (and maybe likely?) that enough environmental and genetic changes over the years has even altered some of them to effectively be an entirely new variety.

But I digress. Roy is brewing tasty beers based on the two I sampled, and the business is a family affair: Carley Roy was helping pour that evening, and she’s the one who designed the logo and graphics artwork for the brewery, as well as creates the tap handles:

Carley Roy of Steens Mountain Brewing

Those tap handles, by the way, are crafted from native wood that have been gnawed on by beavers (all of their tap handles are). In this case I believe Roy said they were alder, and I got a closeup picture of the tooth marks:

Steens Mountain beaver-chewed tap handles

Steens Mountain Brewing has a great story, and I’m planning on making a trip over to Burns (two hours from Bend) sometime soon to interview Roy, check out his brewery and taste more beers. The evening at the Museum was a great introduction and I’m looking forward to learning (and writing about) much more. Steens Mountain is not only the smallest brewing operation in Oregon I believe (on a half-barrel, or 15 gallon, system), but also one of the most remote and isolated. And it’s high time someone opened a brewery in southeastern Oregon.

Tuesday Tastings: Peanut Butter Milk Stout, Cali Creamin’, Born Yesterday

The third installment in my weekly Tuesday Tastings series, this week I’m going “California” with three Golden State beers (the actual state, not the (home)brewery).

Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk StoutI picked this beer up in California when attending the Beer Bloggers Conference (found it at Costco, actually) and coincidentally Belching Beaver Brewing was also at the BBC pouring samples. (If it matters I’m not a fan of the brewery name.) The beers they were pouring, this one included, were tasty. Here’s their description:

ABV: 5.3%, IBU: 30
Our Peanut Butter Milk Stout is simply irresistible. It’s like dark chocolate Reese’s in a glass! Rolled oats and Lactose add to the creamy body of this beer while heavenly aromas of roasted buttery peanuts and chocolate greet you with every sip. Try this out with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a real treat!

Appearance: Dark brown, coffee colored and opaque, with a dark(ish) brown head that looks chocolatey and fell to a skiff of fine bubbles shortly after pouring.

Smell: Malted milk chocolate and peanut butter—a peanut butter cup if I’ve ever smelled one. Very decadent and dessert-y. Very much sweet chocolate, peanuts, this candy/dessert character pretty much overwhelms any other aromas.

Taste: Peanut shells, kind of earthy, like boiled peanuts; drier than the rich aromas would suggest, the chocolate is a bit more cocoa-y with sweetly roasted maltiness, cocoa nibs and some hints of coffee.

Mouthfeel: On the thin end of the spectrum for a milk stout, with a deceptively dry finish.

Overall: Definitely an interesting beer with pure “dessert” aroma, it doesn’t taste or feel artificial which is always what I worry about with a “peanut butter” beer.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Mother Earth Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale

Mother Earth Cali Creamin' Vanilla Cream AleAnother California Costco score, also when in San Diego for the BBC. I always enjoy a good example of the cream ale style, and I thought it was interesting that I was able to pick up a peanut butter-flavored beer and a vanilla-flavored beer at the same stop. This one is 5.2%, and 21 IBUs; their notes:

One of our most popular beers ever, this light cream ale has a malty backbone thanks to some flaked corn and honey malt. A medium bodied cult classic, it is sure to woo the ladies, but also flavorful enough to satisfy the dudes. You’ll swear you were drinking a cream soda…but tricks are for kids.

Appearance: Clear, golden honey color, with an off-white head that’s creamy and fine.

Smell: Vanilla cream, like the soda, with vanilla bean and touches of sweet malt.

Taste: Vanilla-infused grainy malt-forward flavors. Pretty much exactly what it says, with a bit more grainy bitterness than vanilla. Definitely taste the corn, which is not a bad thing.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with a vanilla-sweet finish.

Overall. Did I say “vanilla”? A decent cream ale, delivering on what the label says.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Lagunitas Born Yesterday

Lagunitas Born Yesterday

Yes, I’m behind on posting this one and almost didn’t. My friend Ryan had arranged for the bottle as a sample from Lagunitas, which they sent to me and we split the bottle to try it together. Since my other two beers above were acquired during the trip to the Beer Bloggers Conference, I should note that Born Yesterday was a “big reveal” at the same conference, Lagunitas giving beer bloggers first crack at the news. The premise behind the beer is that it was fresh hopped and then shipped out to be on shelves within 24 hours of bottling directly off the hops. Here’s their blurb:

What good is using ridiculously fresh, un-kilned, we hops in brewing if you don’t get to drink the resulting beer when it’s ridiculously fresh? Born Yesterday is a newborn version of our reborn Pale, New DogTown Pale, with a fresh addition: Virgin hops from the trellised lands of the verdant Yakima Valley. Unkilned for an immaculate receiption. Then deliver the resulting lil’ brew within 24 hours.

This was 7.5% abv and I know they released several “editions” based on the fresh hop availability; I don’t know what hops when into this one.

Appearance: Straw colored, golden and clear, with a nice head.

Smell: Smells great—very bright and fresh, almost sweaty in a good way (reminds me of Nelson Sauvin hops). Super pungent, they’ve captured the fresh hop aroma really well.

Taste: Crisp malt up front but falls off at the back—kind of “empty malt” at the end. Hops are nice and clean and bright. It still does have that “Lagunitas house character” that turns me off (something in the yeast, I think). Hops have a touch of menthol, and are very green with hints of fresh greens spiciness (think arugula, dandelion).

Mouthfeel: A bit light of medium-bodied. Finish is similar to what I taste—it falls down at the end (collapses?).

Overall: The aroma was great, the flavor didn’t deliver on that promise for me.

Untappd, BeerAdvocate, RateBeer

Oregon Beer News, 03/10/2015

Oregon BeerHappy Tuesday! We are exactly one week away from St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m sure many folks are already cementing their beer plans for the day. I’ll start posting the various St. Paddy’s events as they come up. In the meantime, here’s today’s news in Oregon beer; as usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day, so check back often for the latest news. And if you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that posted as well.

Oregon City is getting a new brewery, Coin Toss Brewing, and I just got the press release this morning for it; they are targeting an early June opening. “The brewery is the vision of local radio personality Tim Hohl, who, like so many pioneering craft brewers before him, is taking his passion for homebrewing to the next level. The 1,400 sq. ft. facility will house a brand new 10-barrel brewhouse, including four 10-barrel fermenters, all fabricated by Practical Fusion, stainless steel tank fabrication experts based in Portland. The brewery will eventually include a taproom, slated to open in July, that will serve the brewery’s flagship Black Hole CDA (Hohl’s most popular homebrew), as well as an IPA, a Golden Ale and a Stout. Perhaps most interesting will be Coin Toss’ rotating “Heritage Series” that will feature a regular selection of beers brewed using historical recipes. Hohl recently brewed a small beer based on a recipe found in a journal entry belonging to George Washington, using ingredients that closely resembled those of our founding father.” Coin Toss joins Feckin Brewing and Oregon City Brewing in the OC.

Buoy Beer (Astoria): Tonight they have their monthly brew pairing dinner taking place at their pub: “2nd Tuesday every month, the chefs and brewers of Buoy Beer Company will present a unique menu, a pairing of dishes of local fare and Buoy Beer brews. This ticketed event will include a special menu of 5 courses with talks by our chefs and brewers. Tickets can be purchased online or at the taproom.” (Note, online link isn’t working as of this writing.) Cost is $65 per person, or $60 each for 2 or more, and the menu looks pretty tasty. Dining on the water with great beer, doesn’t get much better than that!

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