San Juan Brewing is a brewery not many will ever go to, or have a chance to try their beer. Besides the $50 ferry ride (car plus one passenger), San Juan Brewing only serves from their brew pub located in Friday Harbor. We happened to go during my trip up north, and decided to spend one night in Friday Harbor. If first impressions are anything, I should have jumped into the water and swam back to the mainland. The brewery area, easy to see for anyone walking by, was either where they made the beer, or a scale model of what would happen to a brewery after a bomb attack. It was disgusting beyond belief, and I find it hard to make good beer from a dirty brewery. I do not know if it was in the middle of a renovation, but it appeared to have not been cleaned or used in a very long time.
We enter. What I did like, and wish more brew pubs would learn from, is their beer menu. It included the brew date, batch number, ABV, IBU’s, and original gravity. Great. And, it stayed at the table and was not whisked away by an over caffeinated waitress. Unfortunately a few of their beers were unavailable. My guess? Rat stuck in hose. I started with the Oktoberfest Lager. It was very grape-fruity on the mouth, and finished with a mix of lemon ice tea and dishwater. It was thin, and lightly carbonated. It was anti any other Oktoberfest I have ever had. I know it is a broad category, but this was like a bad IPA with an identity crisis. The other beer we did not care for was the Starboard Porter. Clever name aside, the porter was puny, and tasted of cheap chocolate. The nose gave nothing, and at 4.2%, it was something that couldn't even keep a fire warm on a winter’s day. We have only up to go from here. A beer that was truly pleasant was their Raging Man Ale. It was their big winter ale. It had a complex taste that hinted at brown sugar, cherry, and a bit of grapefruit. It was not thin, was 6.6%, and something I could easily of had more of. If more of their beer had the quality of this one, it would be an amazing little brewery. SJB is located very close to the ferry terminal, and other great restaurants. They also have a full bar, and offer a few of their beers for take home in 22oz bottles. The waitress we had was very pleasant, helpful, and I have no complaints about her at all. All in all, if you find yourself in Friday Harbor, what the hell, stop by and see what you think. I was just hoping the beer would match the amazing views and natural beauty of the island. It didn't. But hey, that is some stiff competition that would be hard to beat.
Chuckanut Brewery marks the return of a Kemper making brew to the state of Washington. Will Kemper has returned, not to Poulsbo, the original home of the Thomas Kemper brewery, but to Bellingham. During Will’s time away he has traveled throughout Europe, and been a brewing consultant across the US. Now, his 10-barrel house is thriving, and giving northern Washington some very tasty beer. Currently they do not bottle but do have growlers for sale, and of course fill whatever you bring. During my time up in Mt. Vernon I drove the 20 or so miles north and had a good time. My visit was on a Tuesday night, which meant I was treated to the special of $1.50 Kolsch’s. The beer was very light, crisp, and when served in the 250ml glasses resembling test tubes, looked almost like a urine sample. That is the appearance anyway, the taste was nice, mellow, and delivered a sweet finish. At only 5%, you could easily put a few of these away. The second beer up was a style I had never heard up before, it was a Marzen. But, from what I can understand, it is really another name for an Oktoberfest. They describe it as a mahogany lager, which makes sense once you drink it. It has a very toasty taste, grassy and bitter are other notes I wrote down. It is also pretty malty, but after saying all of that, it was also light, and easy to drink. A very good beer, and one of the best Oktoberfests I have had. Chuckanutbrews 18 different styles, from Dortmunder to Vienna. They use very selective choices in their malts and hops, including organic hops from New Zealand, and organic malts from Canada. The food seems to get as much attention as the beer. I didn’t have much, but what I did have, the roasted yam fries, were awesome. During the summer I am sure the place really rocks with their awesome waterfront patio. Definitely worth a stop, and it’s proximity to Boundary Bay make for a interesting night.
A little north of Mt. Vernon lies the town of Burlington. It is easy to zoom right by, but a few blocks east of I-5 is a cool little spot, that goes by the name of the Train Wreck Bar & Grill, to grab a beer and a bite. I have to thank the good folks at Red Barn Cider for the recommendation. I haven’t ever seen a bar that looks more like “The Brick” from Northern Exposure than the actual Brick in Roslyn, WA. The exposed brick walls are covered with randomly covered with intriguing, and some times haunting, images of logging, railroads, and a man being hung on a bridge. The long and narrow room is illuminated from above by wagon wheel chandeliers. The menu seems as eclectic and the clientele, which included die hard regulars, and curious travelers such as myself. Fried edamame joins forces with fried cheese curds to round out the starters. The crab shooter I chose as an appetizer was amazing, and the main course of Irish style fish & chips made for a mighty meal. For my brew, I had two pints of Boundary Bay’sCabin Fever, which is their winter seasonal. The beer poured quite dark with a small head. I detected little nose. The taste was a mix of malt and chocolate, and the body was very full and it left a nice crisp caramel aftertaste. According to the Boundary Bay website, “This big beer is deceptively strong, yet tastes very smooth thanks to extra long cold conditioning.” I really liked it, and wish I could find it closer to home.
The Porterhouse is Mt. Vernon’s tap room. It is a great place to sample brews not available in our Portland market. The 20 taps and one cask has interesting offerings from Scuttlebutt,Boundary Bay, Georgetown, Hale’s, Anacortes, and Lazy Boy brewing. You would probably be hard pressed to find such a great selection of harder to find Washington beers outside of the Seattle area. Inside, the room is very warm and inviting, thanks to the dark green and wood walls and the central fire place. The Porterhouse is also the only bar in Mt. Vernon that I have managed to find not one, but two steel tip dartboards. The beer I would like to chat about is Anacortes Brewing’s seasonal release, Noel. If you have thumbed through my past blogs, you may have noticed I am not usually not an Anacortes fan. During my last two visits there, I was unimpressed with the beer, service, and food. That being said, I was blown away by the Noel. At 7.0%, it nicely warms you up during a chilly December night. The beer had a complex nose of caramel, oak, and whiskey. The color was a strawberry red, and was poured with a nice head. It had a wonderful, spicy mouth feel. It also had notes of wheat, malt, and caramel. It is a pity that those who do not travel that far north may never try this beer.
Hello everyone from chilly northern Washington. Since posting last, I have been to Skagit Brewing, Chuckanut Brewing, Boundry Bay Brewing, and I am heading off today for San Juan Brewing. It's good to be alive. Though sparse, the beer scene up here is impressive, and what I have had so far has been excellent. Some highlights in the bottle have been Scuttlebutt's 10° Below and Elysian's Bifrost Ale. Sorry for the lack of links or descriptions, I'll come back to it. For now though, I have to run off to catch a ferry to San Juan Island. Stay warm!!
I am going up to northern Washington for a week. Besides taking part in an advanced cider making course, I'll also be checking out Skagit River Brewery again, and also going to San Juan Brewing for the very first time. Before leaving, I'd like to put in another post in my winter beer series. This beer was suggested to me by the staff at Beer Mongers. I never would have taken notice to it otherwise, who knew good beer came from Missouri. So without further nonsense, here it is... Boulevard Nut Cracker Ale. The beer pours with a very nice, dark caramel color. I know it sounds crazy, but the beer had for me a very distinct, piny nose, also with hints of lemon. Not unpleasant, but, kind of nice. Although they make no mention of any spruce tips used, it has a close kinship to the Alaskan winter seasonal. The spiciness, according to the website, is due to the use of Chinook Hops. It is a little spicy, and doesn’t have an overwhelming sweetness to it. What’s weird is it doesn’t fit my aforementioned qualities. The ABV is relatively low at 5.9%, and it doesn’t have a super heavy malty body. But, the taste is so....unusual..in a tasty way. The spiciness tastes festive. The beer is like a holiday session ale, light enough to put back a few, but interesting enough to make the seasonal release one to look forward to.
First up, Lost Coast’s Winterbraun. I am Lost Coast fan, and enjoyed many 12 packs of Great White throughout the summer. But what can they do for my winter needs? A lot. The beer is a very nice brown color, and I can instantly pick up the smell of malt. It is brewed with a mixture of pale, caramel, and chocolate malts. Saaz hops simply balance it out, and add no noticeable bitterness, except on the very finish. The beer is not super sweet, and is a lot like a Brown. At 6.5%, this does fill this blogger’s rule of higher winter ABVs, especially when compared to Great White’s 5.0. In fact, except for a tie with their Raspberry Brown, rates it as the brewery’s beer with the highest ABV. A very pleasant beer at a good price. But, the question is, is it a great winter warmer? It is malty, it is heavier than a summer ale, and the alcohol content is higher. Mmmmm, I’m not so sure. It just doesn't have the full, heavy body I was looking for in my quest.
Avery’s Old Jubilation is their winter seasonal. This is the first year I have tried it. It pours very dark, with a very nice nose of cherry and malt. The first taste is an interesting blend of Two-row barley, special roast, black, chocolate, and victory malts. There is no bitterness, even on the finish. At 30 IBUs, it is definitely heavier on the malty than hoppy side. The hops used are bullion hops, which do give it a noticeable currant flavor. The bullion hop is one I have not come across before, and has an interesting story of it’s own. The beer’s 8% ABV surely fill the needed for a strong brew for the winter. Check. The body leads itself to sipping, not guzzling. The complexity of the beer is amazing. Every time I grab my glass for another drink, I notice more and more flavors emerging. Brown sugar, caramel, slight citrus notes. The website suggest hints of hazelnuts, toffee, and mocha. Like the Winterbraun, this is an excellent value beer. Let’s face it, there are some epic beers out there, but we do not always have, or want to spend the money for them.
It’s getting cold. Do we reach for and enjoy the same beer during this time of year? No, probably not. We look forward to heavier beers, beers we refer to as winter warmer’s. But is there anything we can definitely point to as hard core rules while describing this style? Sort of is a good answer. I think of maltier beers, beers with more body and higher alcohol than their summer counter parts. I think it is clear the difference between a Widmer Brothers Drifter and a Deschutes Jubeale. Or, a Saison DuPont and a Scaldis Noël. Beer Advocate describes a winter warmer as having “Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balanced, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon.” Sounds good. Use of spices, herbs, or, in Upright Brewing’s case, trees, all can go into a rich, fully flavored winter brew. The “rule” gets broken though, such as my recent experiences. Fish Tale’s Winterfish, for example, proudly exclaims to be “the hoppiest winter ale we know of!” At 70 IBUs, they may be right. But is super hoppy what we want as the temperatures plummet? Aren’t we looking for something a wee different, after the previous beer push of fresh hop ales? So I am doing a bit of in house and out of house tasting. I will break it up into different posts, and not one long one. For my in house tastes, I will have the aforementioned Winterfish, Deschutes Jubeale 2008 & 2009, Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale, Pyramid’s Snow Cap, Avery’s Old Jubilation, Boulevard’s Nut Cracker, Lost Coast’s Winterbraun, and some overseas love in the form of Scaldis Noël. Out of house will consist of Upright Brewing’s winter offering of Holy Herb, and Widmer’s Brrrr at Beer Mongers. Until then...
Located just east of Multnomah Village sits Old Market Pub. The other outpost of this two pub chain is The Broadway Brill & Brewery. We visited Old Market the other day after a quick hike up to Council Crest. First impression..sports bar. Which is fine. I counted eight TV’s, all playing different football games. Ok, I can deal with it, as long as I follow my new rule of never sitting under one. The first two beers we ordered were their Pinocle Pale, and Rat Dog ESB. The Pinocle Pale, according to their lackluster beer menu, is “an excellent crisp rendition of this classic style!” It came with a very slight head, and with an amber color. It was indeed crisp, hoppy, and too bitter for me. The bitterness lingered long after the beer was gone. It was drinkable, but I do not know if it was “an excellent” rendition of the style. The ESB was a better choice. It had the exact same color as the pale. It had some nice malt taste, with hints of brown sugar. Unfortunately, like the Pale, was suffering from an overpowering bitterness that was not balanced enough by the malt, for myself. My last beer was recommended by the waitress, the Mr. Toad’s Wild Red Ale. This apparently was their “first great beer!” It was very dark, Stout dark. It was the best of the three we had, and was like drinking a light Stout. It was not very malty, not very hoppy, and had a very weak body. In short, it was kind of....blah. But, the best of the three. Overall, the beer was ok, but if you are in the area, try to make it a little further to Raccoon Lodge. So, all of that being said, I have some other observations. First off, it is primarily, I would say, a family friendly sports bar. They do have a pretty big menu, with lots of different options, and even a separate vegetarian menu. The food we had was pretty good. In the back room, they have four shuffle board tables, four pool tables, and a really interesting looking Gilligan’s Island pinball game. Each shuffle board table had a nicely laminated sheet with instructions and rules for the game, which is great. I wish they applied the same well thought out design and execution to the beer menu. Old Market Pub makes me angry, like other brew pubs do. The beer seems to take a distant back seat. After asking for the beer menu, I was given a little 4x5 wrinkled piece of paper, with some horrible notes on the beer. Most of the info listed brags about awards they won in the last century, instead of little things like ABV%, IBU, and hops used etc. This is info beer geeks love, and thrive on. Why take more pride in your shuffleboard rules than your beer menu, you're a brewery! After ordering our first beers, our main menu with the beers listed was taken away, leaving me with no list to go off of until I asked for it. Does this frustrate anyone else?? The bar is covered in Corona crap too, from dirty Corona bottle salt and pepper shakers, Corona coasters, and Corona banners running the entire length of the room. Corona? Do they have stock in the bar? Also, it wasn’t even listed on the beer menu as an option, do they even carry it? Aaugh! They are a brew pub in Portland, meaning they make their own beer, and I assume take pride in it, why clutter your brew pub with Corona stuff. Was the distributor trying to clean out the trunk of his car? Have you ever seen a Budweiser poster at Double Mountain? A Busch coaster at Upright Brewing? Fuck no. Whew....calm down...calm down.. So, I don’t know, maybe I am super critical. Maybe they just want to make some beer, and watch some football. Nothing wrong with that.
The Palo Santo Marron, from the ever experimental folks at Dogfish Head, is a 12% ABV brew that pours out like motor oil....a very tasty motor oil. One you get past the likeness to Pennzoil, you notice the beer pours with a gorgeous, creamy head. In the darkness lies a beer aged in wooden tanks made from Paraguayan Palo Santo, which translates to "holy wood", trees. The nose does little to let you in for what you have in store, you mouth is about ready to thank you. The taste is caramel, with hints of cherry: vanilla, with hints of chocolate. It tastes so smooth, you wonder where the 12% is, but after a bottle, you soon find out. The label lists it as a Brown Ale, but Porter or Stout drinkers would find a friend here as well. The wood lends so much to this beer. The tanks used are "At 10,000 gallons, the largest wooden brewing vessel built in America since before Prohibition." Usually I am dubious about beer aged in wood. I think sometimes it adds a lot, but sometimes it adds too much. This beer's wood addition is so subtle, like Getz playing softly in the background. But, as Corcovado sweetly fills the room, you can hardly imagine the room without it. I bought this fine beer at Beer Mongers for $3.50 a bottle, though I would, after trying it, gladly paid more.
Hidden on the bottom shelf at John's Market, I found a new beer, from a new brewery, Fire Mountain Brew House. Located in Carlton, FMBH has two brews to choose from, an "Oregon Pale Ale", and a "Steam Fired Stout." According to FMBH, the pale is "The best of both worlds. This crisp, balanced ale combines the fruity yeast profile of an English ESB with the light body and citrusy hop character of it's American counterpart." It is a good beer, but in my opinion, not so much a pale. In fact, I would say it is one of the better ESB's I have had. It has a fruity, citrus nose, and a dark brown color. The first taste I got was sweet malt, with a very citrus, almost orange , finish. At 5.5% it is quite drinkable, and has a very low 35 IBU. On the label they claim to be brewed "old school," and maybe they are. I drink this and think of some truly fantastic English ESBs. I would like to see this on tap somewhere soon, to really see a nice full flavor profile on it, as I always think something gets lost in the bottling. All in all, a good beer. I think this upstart shows great promise, and I look forward to trying more of their brew. They mention that they are also at Saraveza and Hop and Vine.
The One Horse Tavern in Gaston used to serve up some home made microbrew, good food, and provide some small town friendly service. Well, two out of three isn't bad. Coming back from Wandering Aengus yesterday, I made a plan to stop at the One Horse Tavern to try out some of their brew, but, alas, they brew no more. The bartender that has only been there three weeks did not know when or why they stopped, but after checking around the web, it seems as though they were brewing as recently as June 2009. Currently, they have four taps, and a moderate bottle menu. The menu looked interesting, although, not a place for vegetarians...at all. But, according to the bartender/waiter/cook, the food is all homemade, and excellent. So, if you are in the area, and eat some dead cow, stop on by, but do not make plans to go there to try their beer.
Midnight Sun Brewing is a brewery that I, until now, was not very familiar with. Most people probably can not name more than one Alaskan brewery, which I hope changes. I got myself a 220z bottle of La Mâitresse du Moíne last night at Beer Mongers, and was completely blown away. It is a Belgian-style dark ale that comes in at 9% ABV. It pours quite dark, with a nice creamy head. The nose has hints of caramel, sweet malt, and brown sugar. In the mouth, it's caramel notes become stronger, and has that "oh so lovely" Belgian yeast taste. It has a very strong taste, but light body. Even my Belgian beer hating wife was loving this beer..too much in fact...next time I will buy her her own. The Mongers also have CoHoHo, a seasonal Imperial IPA from Midnight Sun, and they are trying to get the Arctic Devil Barley Wine. Belmont Station has the Maitresse, Obliteration, Panty Peeler, and Sockeye Red.
..for the award of most useless use of shop space in Portland goes to "Stout, Microbrew, Wine and Market." The new..ok..I'll call it a bottle shop..located at 2033 SE Hawthorne, opened with the fanfare of an ant's fart, and rightly so. Stout, Microbrew, Wine and Market (yes, that's the name) is to bottle shops what MC Donald's is to fine dining. Walking in reveals a selection only second to 7-11, after it's been robbed and hit by a bomb. 80% of the beers are from Pyramid, 10 from Misc, and the rest is PBR. 6 packs of macro brews, hanging out warm against the wall, will run you 7.99, while the special of the day, Pyramid 12 packs, will set you back 8.99. It might be the only place in town to still get spring seasonals. Nothing is really priced, and you need the shop owner, with his phone glued to his ear, to let you know what things cost. Though after being there, I learned it is either 7.99, or 8.99. The soda to beer ratio was roughly 3 to 1, and the back room was full with assorted crackers, ramen noodles, and other crap I saw for a split second before bolting out the door. Ignore the British flag on the sign too, since I saw not a single brew from the UK. Oh yeah, they have wine too. Save yourself the 200% markup and go to Plaid Pantry. If you have the desire to stop and check it out, pull over, place your hand in your glove compartment, and slam it repeatedly until you pass out from the pain. You will thank me later.
If ever there was a time I cursed myself for not having a growler or set of darts in my car, it was today. I had first gone to Mash Tun years ago, on a blind date. Memories of the girl, and the beer, had fizzled away. But trying to come up with a place to grab a pint and bite in North Portland today, Mash Tun came to mind. Back then I was single, and swore Full Sail was the greatest beer ever/ Things have since changed. It is easy to drive right by Mash Tun. Located on a side street off of Alberta, a small sandwich board is all you have to guide you as you concentrate more on avoiding hitting stoned hippies or lost tourists. The small-ish brewery is off to your right as you enter, and the dart board is on your left. The dining area can seem a little cramped if the outdoor patio is not open, but one man’s small is another man’s cozy. Besides their own brews, the full bar also has a nice selection of guest taps from Ninkasi, Double Mountain, and Walking Man. The dining area also has a free pool table, along with three (three too many for me) flat screen TVs playing whatever game is going on. When we were there, they had four of their own on tap, an Imperial IPA, the “Cream O’ Wheat,” “Alberta Pale,” and the “Kilgore Stout." We tried it all, except for the Imperial IPA. The Alberta Pale, in short, was excellent. It was a nice golden color, a little cloudy, and poured with a very small head. It wasn’t very hoppy, and the hops that were used gave the beer a pleasant floral flavor, and very little bitterness. It had hints of orange, and finished nicely. The Kilgore Stout was quite dark, but light tasting. It was slightly sweet, and had strong flavors of chocolate. Erin described it as “roasty.” Lastly, I had the Cream O’ Wheat. I am usually not a great admirer of wheat beers,but this was a dilly of a beer. It was light , and a good session beer I think. No real strong flavors came out, it was instead balanced well, and a joy to drink without endless dissection. A lesson I learned today was one should never sit under a TV. Most of the eyes in the pub were squarely focused on said TV, which in turn felt like every eye was focused on us. But it’s ok, I am working on these issues in therapy. Also, our waitress, Kimberly, at that moment, was indeed the hardest working waitress in Portland. She was not only the only waitress, but seemingly the bartender, and busboy. She may have been the cook too, but I am not sure. During all of this, with a full room, she remained calm, friendly, and a fountain of info on Mash Tun’s brews. Other notes, my usual bitch, not enough info about the beers. I would like to see a menu, that actually stays at the table, describing all of the beers, including ABV’s, IBU’s, and any other pertinent information. And also...ummm..well, that’s it. The food was great, the beer was very good, and the entire waitstaff (Kimberly) was awesome. Make a trip up to Alberta for Mash Tun. It is well worth the trip.
In case you haven't heard, Stumptown is going to be guest to even more microbrews int he next coming months. Between Beervana and It's Pub Night doing great jobs reporting this, I'd like to simply link to this list on Beer Around Town. Enjoy, and keep your peepers peeled.
Where else can you hear Robert Plant belt out Black Dog on a huge flat screen while trying quality micro brews? I had a great time at Beer Mongers last night. They recently added four more taps, bringing the grand total up to five. On tap last night was Ninkasi Sleigh'r, Firestone's Union Jack, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Bear Republic's Racer 5, and Monkey Face Porter. Besides the Led, Firestone was doing a tasting, showing off their Union Jack (way better on tap), Nectar IPA, Hemp Ale, and their "seasonal" robust porter. The only beer I really liked was the porter. The Union Jack, as mentioned, was far better on tap, and I found it flat from the bottle. The Nectar IPA was hop heavy for me, and the Hemp Ale fell into the Hemp beer status of being gimmicky. Aside from that, last night was great. The guys that run the place are true beer lovers, and it's a privilege to get into a conversation with one of them. Check this place out if you haven't already. The prices are awesome, and the beer they have all rate as very interesting choices, and you will find something you haven't seen before.
As a member of Belmont Station's email list, I was recently informed of their new pricing setup. From their email: "Effective this Monday, November 2, the biggest discounts will go to CASH customers. Just as at the gas pump you now see two prices on all the beer, cider, mead, sake, and wine at Belmont Station. The CASH price is about 4% lower than the credit/debit price." Hmmm, what to think of this? My first observation is that, to my knowledge, no other retail store,including bottle shops, does this. As a devotee to plastic currency, I know I am less likely to shop there now, knowing that someone in front of me, with the same product, will be paying less with cash. Also, if I bring a certain amount of money, cash, and happen to see something new or interesting, I can not grab it if it eceeds the amount of cash I brought. I have to walk around thinking about how much I am spending, instead of grabbing a pint next door, and wandering around filling my six pack at will. Now yes, they will have an ATM there... "We are also installing an ATM for your convenience, although we recommend you make sure you know if your bank will charge you extra to use what they call a "foreign" ATM. Tip: some credit unions and small banks do not charge these fees, that is the kind of ATM card I have." As far as I know, the keeping the money local argument goes flying through the window when you are paying an ATM fee, and any money you are saving by using cash gets sucked back into that fee. It could be I am being whiny about this. You may say, "just man up and bring cash", and "you can avoid a fee by going to your bank." True. I do not like the idea of being in the same store, buying the same items, and paying different prices. Whether or not it is the cash price at Belmont, gas at the station, or whoever has that fucking Safeway card. Though not overly scientific, I did find a poll online regarding this issue regarding gas stations. Out of 26,335 votes, 29% of the votes said they would rather go elsewhere for gas to either protest the practice, or find a better price. Considering 40% of those polled didn't have stations that split prices, that is a staggering number. But, I still like Belmont. And I don't think they are doing this to frustrate people on purpose, or or for any other reason but to save money for customers, and make more for themselves. That being said, I think I'll grab a pint at Belmont, and buy a beer at Beer Mongers. I guess it is the stuborn mule in me, but I don't like being punished for whatever payment option I choose.
Had a great time last week at one of my favorite places to find cool trash out in the Gorge. This particular site is over in Washington, and besides the pictured Lucky Lager, I found lots of old Blitz cans, and a new find..Rheinlander. Now, as far as I can piece together from random websites, Rheinlander, which I had never heard of before, was brewed up in Seattle at Sick's Rainier Brewing, brewer of Rainier, and eventually Heidelburg. Specifically, Rheinlander was brewed at their Century Brewery. All, from what I have heard, were pretty bad beers, but really, for me, paint the picture of a long gone Northwest. These old breweries were staples, and had been around forever. Lucky Lager had actually at one time had a brewery in Vancouver, WA. After all others had closed, Lucky was being made up at the Olympia Tumwater Brewery. Now, Olympia and Rainier are brewed under contract in California. Seems kind of wrong, but at least the names are still alive. Lucky is made by Labatt's now, and quite popular in southern BC. Rheinlander is long gone, though a brewery in Wisconsin makes a beer called Rhinelander, note the difference in spelling, and confusion.
Quick note here. I am sure a lot of you have had some awesome product made by the great folks at Oskar Blues. But, did you know, that the plastic rings that hold the six packs together are photo degradable??? How cool is that!?! In other words, left out in sunlight, they will actually totally disappear. Another reason to pick up some at Belmont or Beer Mongers (that allows you to buy single cans) today!!
The other day we made it to Salmon Creek Brew Pub up in Vancouver, right next door to By the bottle. I had never been there before, but really it was the only place in the Couve I could think of to take my parents out to eat. Plus, the opportunity to scratch another brew pub of my list sounded good too. In theory. Only two beers were ordered, by myself and my wife. I got the promising sounding Brother Larry's Belgian, while Erin went for the Scottish Ale. Short story, both were a disaster. The Belgian was a nice color, and even had a pleasant, though subtle, nose. The hint of any kind of Belgian flavor lasted seconds, and disappeared leaving the oh so pleasant taste of water. It was weak beyond belief. The Scottish was exactly the same, my cat is more Scottish than that beer was. My mom's ice tea even looked about 50-50 water and tea. It was bad beer folks. Maybe it always isn't, I don't know. I would always be happy to give it another go to see. Or at least, I would have been..... When we got the bill the real entertainment started. We were shocked that four lunches, two beers, and two double shots of Jim Beam ended up being over $90. Ok, that's fine, we were shocked, but I guess $11 for a double shot of Beam adds up, but something else didn't. Apparently, my beer was more expensive than Erin's, and not available on the happy hour menu. Would have been nice to know that. We asked, and the very nice waitress asked someone, who turned out to be the owner, Ana Pratt. She laughed, and said "Of course it's more expensive, everything comes from Belgium to make it. " Maybe a Belgium brewer should have come in the box. Ok, well, we mumbled and went to signing the check. Then she comes over, and explains, again, that it all comes from Belgian, and that it is not on the happy hour menu. The problem we had, was, there is no notation of any of that on the beer menu. She then, in front of the lovely waitress, says it was the waitress's fault for not letting us know. The fight was on. My wife, irritated that she would call out the waitress for her mistake, told her bluntly that the beer wasn't very good. She then told us it has won several awards . You know, this was the same problem I had with Ken at Fearless. If someone doesn't like your beer, don't start shouting who does like it, and bringing out your ribbons and shit. Say something like, "you know, I am sorry you didn't like it, would you like to try something else", or something along those lines. Both Ana and Ken got angry we didn't like it, and treated us like idiots because they have award winning beer. That somehow their scary great brewing skills were lost on the likes of us. Awards do not pay the bills, and that award was for a single batch. I know what we had that day would not win 2nd place at a 2 beer competition. So, my humble, simple advice is to avoid this place at all costs. Ana would rather argue that her beer is good, than actually listen to what her customers are saying. But hell, it's just my opinion. I know lots of places where I can get better beer, and friendlier service.
So, I have making my way through some beers that I normally wouldn't buy, in an attempt to tune in on what my father would go for. Last night, I decided to do a blind taste test, made possible my the fine folks at Beer Mongers, that allow you to buy single cans. The beers: Coors, Tecate, Alaskan Amber, PBR, Dales Pale Ale, and Big Sky Brewing's Trout Slayer. I tried to get mild tasting, lighter beers, with a few twists thrown in. Another way to go, I guess, would have been to get Busch, Bud, and some Natural Light thrown in, but my poor fridge can only hold so much shitty beer. A side note, I plan on doing a blind taste of PBR, Hamm's, Olympia, and Rainier at some point. So, the color I thought would be a dead give away for the Alaskan and Dales. They were darker, and the Alaskan would be more red. I was feeling confident. But, I was only able to pick out the PBR and Dales. We also found out that dad's favorite beer wasn't his beloved Coors, but PBR, even when tasted side by side. Then, with six half glasses, the fun started. We got the idea to start mixing. The Coors and PBR got mixed, and mellowed out the PBR's fizzy-ness, while making the Coors a little more interesting. Not bad. Next, we mixed the Alaskan Amber and the Dales. Wow, now, if you want to tste something different, that is the way to go. It was pretty good. The Tecate and Trout Slayer got mixed last, and in this case, last was definitely least. Horrible. Though, to be fair, the only thing one could do to improve the taste of Tecate would be to drop a bomb on the brewery. My personal taste was the Dales was easily the best, and the Tecate was the worst. Though, maybe it wasn't even fair to compare all of these together, but, we did, and it was fun.
Hood River has three breweries, Full Sail, Double Mountain, and Big Horse. Big Horse you say??? Yep, atop a hill, with an army of stairs to ward off the weak, it does exist. Why hasn't this brewery received the accolades that Double Mountain and Full Sail have?? Hmmm, I think I may know why. My parents are still here. We did the whole fruit loop thing, and arrived in Hood River too early to enjoy the genius of the brewers at Double Mountain. Full Sail was out of the question because, well, I do not like the taproom anymore. So we went to Big Horse for a pint and some grub. The adventure into the unknown started only after my parent's, in their 70's, trekked up the stairs. First impression, the service sucked. Althought the two waitresses seemed friednly enough, this observation was only determoned by how I saw them treat the other customers. It would be awhle before we were aknowledged at the please wait to be seated room. It not only would have been nice to be talked to, but even offered a pint as we were waiting for a seat. After being sat, the service improved. Second impression, the pricing of beer was a little too complex. Archimedes himself would scratch his head deciphering it. First off, I hate places that charge for a sample of beer. I think a microbrew, especially one with a zillion stairs, should reward patrons with a 40z sample of their choosing. Charging a dollar for a 40z sample seems trivial. Then, they have sliding scale taster tray pricing. 4 4oz samples will run you 5$ (though a pint only costs you $4), and 5 samples go up to 6, 6 for 7, etc. Then, you have to add .50 for a pint of beer that is 7% ABV- 8% ABV, and $1 to a beer that is 8% +. Christ, after going through all of this, anyone would need a drink. First up, I had the Lonely Mt. Blacksmith Beer. At 6.5%, I slid just under the 7% penalty charge. It was described was a Swarzbier, a black lager. It came with a nice, creamy head, and very dense, dark black color. On the nose I picked up hints of anise, and malt. The taste combined malt, anise, and a smokey flavor. Not too shabby. My dad had the Easy Blonde. At 5%, I hoped the light beer would be the closest thing to his beloved Coors I could find. It poured without a head, and was a very clear, straw colored brew. The taste was a spicy, almost citrus flavor, and evidently was good enough to warrant a second pint. The Strange was my last pint. It's made with raw hulled hemp seeds, which, as far as I can tell, looks better on the menu than it ended up tasting in the beer. Adding hemp to a beer seems gimmicky to me. It was made using Palisade hops, and came in at 6% ABV. It tasted like a really bitter, poorly made IPA. If you are dying to cross off every brewery in Oregon on your list, it may be worth a visit. If not, skip it, and try to get to Hood River late enough to enjoy Double Mountain. Or, you know, go to Full Sail if you haven't been. I only detest it because I saw what it used to be, and loathe the changes they have made. I swear my final words will be "free...oyster..crackers."
My posting may be sporadic over the next few weeks, as my parents are visiting for the month. My father's visit signals the arrival of a Coors stocked fridge. Over the past 8 years or so, I would always strive to offer some of the NW's finest micros, trying to impress him of my knowledge of breweries, fine beers, and bold tastes. I realized during one visit to a micro brew that my efforts were maybe a bit optimistic, as he asked the bartender what they made that tasted like Coors. Ok, time to throw in the towel. Coors isn't a bad beer by any means. I find it to be a little tasteless, but of course, I am used to Belgian Sours, bitter IPAs, and black hole dark stouts. But the important thing to me is that my dad likes it, and it is a beer that we can drink together. I would feel like the biggest snobby asshole if I was sniffing a bottle conditioned, 6 dollar a bottle Belgian, as he was happily putting away a can of Coors. So, for awhile, it's Coors. I even tried a bit to introduce some milder beers, Full Sail's Session, HUB Lager, but to no avail. Interestingly enough, we did find one beer he drank, and even liked. After a trip to Double Mountain a few days ago, we may have found a beer that rivals Coors, their bourbon barrel aged Terrible Two. a great place to pick up some Coors.
I haven't been posting for a bit, because I really haven't been trying a lot of different brew lately. Once in awhile, I need to stop drinking a lot of beer. I need to step back, and let my palette get refreshed, and approach it again with maybe a better, more enlightened palette. What I do is go to my back up booze, gin. I love gin. Gin, to me, is the holy grail of liquors. Now everytime I go to my favourite bar, I get a shot of Gin with a back of Hamm's. Not only do I enjoy the Gin, and let's be honest: the effects, but I actually apreciate the Hamm's a little, and find it not as disgusting as I once did. So, what I would recommend to anyone that is a beer nerd, snob, or connoisseur, is to step back for a bit, and refresh your mouth. I have a few ideas, and would be interested to hear more.
Switch styles: Are you the one that orders IPA every time you go out? Get a mix and match IPA sixer every time you go to a bottle shop? For the love of god, there are other styles!! Try not having a single IPA for a bit (more than a day). Order a Pale the next time, or get ready for the cold weather by ordering Stouts more often. You may not like, or down right hate the first exploration into a new style, but not only will you approach IPA differently when you start back up, you may even find more beer that you like. Belgians, Bocks, Lagers, they are all out there.
Switch Boozes: The world is full of other ways to get lit and forget about your troubles, or cause new ones. My other vice is Gin, but it's not for everyone. Go visit a local distillery, and get free samples of other styles before investing money in a bottle. Most liquor stores have tastings sponsored by distilleries, and you can go in and try a few for free. Now, liquor is more expensive, but you can get those little bottles pretty cheap. One tip though, never go bottom shelf unless your mixing. You will thank me the next morning. Cider is another overlooked beverage. For my money, Belmont Station has the best selection in town. Cider is not as popular here as it is in the UK, and the cider here is different. Some made here are bad imitations, often made from concentrate, and added color and flavorings. But good cider can be found, Aspall is a good Brit way to start. Wandering Aengus makes good dry, fairly traditional UK cider, while Blue Mountain is more sweet, and suited to most Americans. Another tip, Hornsby's is not cider, it's apple flavored crap. Look at it this way: Hornsby's=Busch light, Spire = Coors, Wandering Aengus = Bridgeport, Aspal = Hair of the Dog. Wine is a good way to go too. Avoid the valley, and hit the Gorge to beat the crowds, and save on tasting fees.
Stop Drinking: Yeah, I know, I'm not doing it either. But, if you can this is probably a good way to refresh your palette. I can not speak from experience though. But, if I was to do it, I would try drinking a lot of fruit juices, and eating foods that contain flavors found it certain styles of beer. Then, when I went back an hour later to drinking, I could better taste the flavors that are listed in the tasting notes, instead of simply saying I do to look smart. Try eating a grapefruit, then drink IPA, eat some chocolate with coffee, then have a stout, etc.
I will drink beer again soon enough, trust me. But for now, it's Gin and Hamm's at my absolute favorite bar of all time. I know when I do, after my adventures through Juniper Berries and Minnesota funk, I will look at that first Vortex IPA or Fred a little different.
On a recent business trip to Medford, I had a chance to check out Wild River Brewing. Wild River Brewing has three other locations in Southern Oregon: Grants Pass, Brookings, and Cave Junction. Wild River bottles their beer in 12oz bottles, that are only available at their locations. And after talking with a staff member, they are not on tap anywhere else either. Wild Rivers pride and joy, besides the beer, is a wood fire oven offering up pizzas and calzones. They also have a decent selection of pastas and sandwiches. If like me, your from out of town and want something besides Marie Callendars, Shari’s, or Applebees, Wild River’s food is a welcome find. I had the taster tray, which had seven of their current offerings: a Kolsch, Bohemian Pilsener, Honey Wheat, IPA, ESB, Nut Brown, and an Imperial Stout. The ABVs ranged from 3.4 for the Nut Brown, to 7.9 for the Double Eagle Imperial Stout. Without going through them all, I will mention my two favs, and my two “not so favs.” The two that stood out were the Kolsch and the Pilsener. The Harbor Lights Kolsch was clear and golden. It was a little sweet, and balanced by the spalter and hersbrucker hops. The Pilsener was my favorite, and I ended up leaving with a six pack of it. It is dry hopped, which helps build the nose, and gives it a bit of a spicy mouth feel. It is matured on Czech lager yeast, and uses 100% Saaz hops. The two that didn’t quite give me a smile were the Stout, and the Nut Brown. The Stout showed promise. It poured dark, with a creamy head, and had a nice nose. But, the body was weak, and it tasted watery and a bit like a stout flavored soda. If this was sent to Catherine II, an 18th century Russian-British war would have been the outcome. The Nut Brown tasted of burnt stale nuts, and chocolate. Yummy. It was the only taster that I couldn’t even finish. Imagine pouring almond extract into an ESB, and you could match the flavor. The other downer is the almost non-existent amount of alcohol. At 3.4%, you feel as though your having a history lesson, taking you back to the days of near beer. It’s handy to know of Wild River. If you ever find yourself in a town where they are, they are worth a try. I wouldn’t plan any trip around them, but I would give them another go if they ever found tap space in Portland.
This weekend was a busy weekend. There were a few events going on, and I decided to skip the big one at Widmer Brothers, and instead make an effort to try as many Oktoberfest style beers as I could. Interesting the differences, and similarities. So, a quick run down. We had the Oktoberfest at New Old Lompoc's Hedge House, one at Fanno Creek Brewpub, Deschute's offering at their Pearl pub, and Bayern's at Higgins. First up was Lompoc. Their Oktoberfest was 5%, and was described as a pale lager. The pale lager had a vivid, red hue. It was poured with little head. It smelt malty and sweet. The taste was very light, mild hops to add a bit of a floral flavor to it, and was sweet from the malts. It was clean, crisp, and a nice way to start the day. The one thing I noted, at least for the Oktoberfest beers I tried, one shouldn't look forward to big bold flavors. Those seeking the next 100 IBU beer, or a beer with an ABV of over 8 will be dissapointed. They are traditiionly in the 4-7% range, and lean more to the malty side, than hoppy. Moving on, (I also had a Belgian style at each place, that I will write about in a separate post) our next stop the Fanno Creek Brewpub in Tigard. They were having an Oktoberfest of their own that didn't quite pack 'em in like Widmer does. But that's ok, they had a great accordion player that, in addition to German classics, added in the theme from Indiana Jones, and even the music from Chalmun's Cantina (any Star Wars nerds out there?). Their Oktoberfest beer was higher than most others, at 6.3%. It poured with a nice head, and was golden in color. It had a citrus nose, with a little funk. This is when I would like to say, again, I wish a brewery would provide tasting notes for their beers. This beer had none, as I find strange since the Oktoberfest beer at their Oktoberfest is kind of important. That being said, it was balanced, approaching boring. I have had a lot of Fanno Creek brews that I really liked, but this one I didn't. It was ok, but dull. The next day, we started out at Deschute's in the Pearl. I love Deschute's brews, but do not really like the Pearl outpost. The staff is very nice, the food is good, but I hate the room. Except for the bar area, the place feels like a Golden Corral. I feel like I should be walking up to the buffet grabbing some salad, jello, french fries, and crab legs. I don't even know if I can put my finger on it, but that's how it makes me feel. Their Portland brewed, 5.3% Oktoberfest was served in a honest pint, and pretty good. It was a light amber color, and the nose had notes of grain, and some tropical fruit. It tasted fine, and was balanced, but really tasted like an amber. It was made with German Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malts, but I could not detect much of a malty taste. Lastly was Bayern's at Higgins. Much different than the others. Very dark, and malty. It is 6% ABV, and brewed with hops from Bavaria, and Czech Republic. It was an interesting beer, and better than some of the other Bayern beers I have had. Overall, it was interesting compare all of these. None of them for me really stood out, but all were worth a try. What I am excited about is to write about the Belgian style ales I tried. Some were amazing, and one was horrible.
Today is a great day for beer drinkers. There is a plethora of events going on. Widmer Brothers, and Fanno Creek are both having Oktoberfest celebrations. Also tonight, the Portland Art Museum is hosting an event featuring Laurelwood, Lompoc, and Lucky Lab. I do not know much about the details for that one, and PAM doesn't list it anywhere I could find on their site. (update: it is actually on the 19th, the date was listed wrong on SNOBs site.) Also, if you feel like going out of town, there is a Septembeerfest going on down in Corvallis. It sounds pretty cool, and features a pretty good lineup of brews. I am not up to the drive, as I am going to Medford in a few days, and tend to limit my I-5 travels to a bare minimum. If you go, make sure to check out Calapooia in Albany, they have 4 or 5 dart boards, and take darts pretty seriously there. Enjoy.
The Beer Mongers just opened up a bit ago, as alerted to me by It's Pub Night. I can't add much to his review, only to say I checked it out yesterday, and I thought it was very cool. It is not as big or well stocked as Belmont Station, but it does have some interesting choices, and some great prices. I spent $3.85 on a Hair of the Dog, which if memory serves, is a pretty good price. They said they do plan on adding more beer, as well as some mead and cider. Hopefully they will work in some tastings and events, much like my beloved Belmont. The plus for me is I can walk to Beer Mongers, but to walk to Belmont Station, I would need to hire a Sherpa. Also, for those not in the area, Beer Mongers is right on the 4 Bus Line.
Well, apparently they do, at least at the Raccoon Lodge, home of Cascade Brewing. We went there yesterday, just to try their beer, but, was pleasantly surprised by the fact they have a dart board downstairs. First off, the dart board is in such a great location. Against the back wall, out of everyone's way, and player's get a perfect view of the brewery through the glass. Hell, you have to walk through the brewery to get to the bathroom. The board appears to be very new, or, maybe it just hasn't seen a lot of action. What goes best with darts? Well, beer of course. And luckily, Cascade Brewing makes some really good beer. And what goes better with darts and beer? A great bartender, and boy did we have that with Davey. He was super friendly, helpful, and offered us a sample of anything we wanted, and insisted we try the Razberry Wheat. He also let us in on the fact that Saturday and Sunday are all day happy hours. So, we started with the Razberry Wheat sample, then I had a 12oz pour of the Mouton Rouge, Erin had the Celtic Copper Ale, and then we split a taste of the Mt. Hood Honey Moon Pale, and I ended with a pint of the Blond Bock. First up, the Razberry Wheat. At 4.5% ABV, and 18IBU, this is a pretty light beer. The raspberry flavors dominate in a way that one may not even think it was a beer. More like a spritzer, and raspberry soda. It was crisp and refreshing, but I personally would find it hard to have a whole pint of it. I would say it was more interesting than good. Then, I ordered the Mouton Rogue, a "NW style sour red." It was so nice to see a local brewery make a sour of such complexity and interest (though don't get me wrong, I know there are several that do). It reminded me of the Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour. It wasn't quite as puckering as New Belgium's La Folie. I noted a nice cherry nose, a beautiful red color, and a very quick, sour taste. Although the tasting notes mention it is a blend of barrels with up to 16 months of lactic fermentation and aging, I tasted no oak-ness. A bold sour, and at 7.5%, one that will sneak up on you, making it perfect to blame as your wife beats you at darts. The sample of the Mt. Hood Honey Moon Pale was up next for us, and it was a beer that didn't really impress me all that much. Not that it wasn't good, it wasn't in the league of the sour. Call me crazy, but to me, it tasted like a Kolsch. A style of beer I am not floored by, unless it is the tasty Hale's Kolsch. They bill it as a pale, with 70lbs of honey for every 10 barrels. It's 5%ABV, and 34IBU. I detected no honey notes, but maybe a full pint may have been in order. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to get a full feel of a beer from a sample. I am sure the style Nazis will disagree with me, but I tasted Kolsch. It even reminded me of Double Mountain's Kolsch, the only beer of theirs I am not a fan of. But, I am sure others love it. My last pint was the Blond Bock. It has a gold color, 6.2% ABV, 40 IBU, and is made with Saaz Hops, which gives it a spicy finish, with a slight peppery mouth-feel. It is light tasting, and a nice malt/hop balance. It's a beer that you could drink, drink, and drink. It was like an excellant session beer. Was it super interesting? No. But it tasted very good, and I could put quite a few away I think. I wonder if they would let me crash on their pool table? Erin's Celtic Copper Ale had an amazing nose, smokey, maybe even a little leathery. They say it appeals to Amber drinkers, but I think Red drinkers, or even Scotch Ale drinkers would find this beer to their liking. I only got one taste of it, so I can't write much, though I did like it.
So, the pros: Dartboard The beer is very good They also have a full bar All day happy hour Saturday and Sunday Honest pints Awesome staff
The few cons: Sports bar - it has four flat screens downstairs, all playing something different, I know they are popular, but I have something about TVs in pubs. That's really just a me thing. Not very veggie friendly Too far away from me
But wait.... Davey told us about something great, something fantastic, something...dare I say..monumental!! Coming around, or after the new year, they are going to open an east side establishment, close to 8th and Belmont that will be named the Barrel House. So, that will be cool. I hope that location also has a dartboard. By the way, the do make some beers that they do not serve on tap, and those are available at...you guessed it..Belmont Station.
This topic has been rolling around in my head for awhile. It concerns something I see all too much when we go hiking. Trash. Nothing ruins a long day of hiking to some remote piece of beauty, than seeing a Busch light can nestled in the ferns. So, I am advocating something here, and hopefully it will take off. Also, I am going to tell you a secret I have, and hope it spreads. First, some math. Erin and I hiked Wind Mountain in Washington the other week. Great hike. Then, we did some geocaching. The geocache was surrounded by tons of disgusting garbage, most of which I wouldn't touch unless I was wearing a bio hazard suit. It made me sad. Well, what we decided to do was pick up, at the very least, the recyclable cans and bottles, and take them back to town, cashing in on the deposit. It isn't much, but it's something. We ended up with a pound or so, a mix of about 10 or 12 bottles and cans. From which, we will get around .50. Ok, not much, granted. But, it's a pound of trash that isn't in the wild now. Plus, we get a free game of two-player Ms. Pac Man at Clinton St. Pub. So, what if...what if..25 couples go hiking on an average day. Obviously, a lot more do, but let's say 25 couples. They each pick up a pound of trash. Now let's say, those same couples go hiking twice a month, and each time they pick up a pound of recyclables, that's 50 pounds out of the forests. That turns into 600 Pounds a year. 600 pounds less of junk, junk that will never rot, out of our pristine forests, lakes, creeks, watersheds, and mountains. The things that make the Pacific Northwest what it is. Now, I am no math genius, but the way I figure it, that 600 pounds, turns into about 600 two player Ms. Pac Mans. All for one couple, taking 2 pounds of recyclables, a month, from where it doesn't belong. Now, my secret. I have found some cool trash (pictured above). All through the Columbia River Gorge, I have found dump sites, filled with our forefathers garbage. I have started a large, classic beer can collection from only what I have found along some popular, and not so popular, trails in the Gorge. I will be happy to share the locations with anybody, if they promise to take what they want..and a little extra. Oregon State Parks has said they do not plan on cleaning it up, as it may be "historic trash." Bull shit, it's a bunch of cool Rainier, Heidelberg, and Olympia cans from the 50's. I guess, all I am trying to say, is if your out, try to pick up a little something. Just think, once you do, no one will ever see that piece of trash there ever again. Sure, you may go back a month later, and see more trash, but someones got to start somewhere. And I propose, that beer lovers, are Oregon lovers, or are Washington lovers. Like us, you may like to hike, then hit up a micro brew . Well, try picking up after other people, people who are so careless, thoughtless, and do not care about anyone or anything but themselves. By doing so, you show your love for this area. And, who knows, you may even find something cool along the way. That's it, my hippie rant is over. I promise not to do it again.
The trouble with developing a love of Belgian Ales, is the price. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's worth a few extra bucks to get some really good, expertly crafted, Belgian Ale. But, well, it's a love that can get spendy, fast. So, maybe going to Belgian "styled" ales is a way to go once in awhile. I'm not a snob (actually I am a S.N.O.B), I'll try an American Belgian style ale. So off to the best bottle shop ever, Belmont Station, I went. Mainly to grab some free tastings of Hale's, but also to get something..different. Enter...Pranqster, a Belgian style golden ale, from the good folks at North Coast Brewing. You know them, you love them, they make Old Rasputin, and Red Seal, one of the best ESB's that isn't a ESB, around. I just finished my 120z, and at $2.49, a hell of a bargain. It's fairly strong, at 7.6%. It poured with a slight head, that fizzed away quickly. The nose had typical Belgian notes, but not as strong as, say , a Saison Dupont or anyting. Think...mmm...think Duvel. The taste wasn't too funky, but had enough funk to entertain the die hard Belgian lovers. It was crisp, fun to drink, and had an aftertaste that lingered, making me want another. Ok, not my best description of a beer, but, they all can't be winners. This is a good beer, at a good price, and deserves a try. Plus, if you go to Belmont Station to get it, you can see their cool new tap handle wall.
On our third try, we finally got to sample some of the White Salmon based brewery's brews. The first time, they didn't have any of their own on tap, the second time, they were closed due to a neighboring fire. But now, they are open, with three of their own on tap, and nine guest taps. So after a nice hike up Wind Mountain yesterday, we went for a much needed beer. First up, I had the X-tra Pale (pictured), and Erin had the ESB (pictured). At this point, I should say, I do not feel I should say whether or not I liked this ESB, or any ESB. I can say what I thought, but really,I don't like ESB's. Erin liked it a lot, but I didn't, too sweet for my taste. It did have a nice, red colour, and very little head. It has a malty taste, with some bitter notes from the hops. Now, Erin liked it, said it was nicely balanced, and the waiter said it was his favorite beer. I didn't like it, but that says nothing really. Now, my X-Tra pale, which the waiter told me is 5.3%, was really good. Again, little head, nice cloudy yellow color, had some faint citrus notes on the nose, had a hoppy, sweet taste, with a gentle aftertaste, all leading to a very tasty brew. Iwill say, I wondered if the waiter messed up and gave me the IPA, it was a hoppy Pale, but then, I had the IPA, and I knew it WAS the IPA. At 6.8%, it is their biggest brew. The flavor was very floral, and not as bitter as other IPAs. But, it was very good. Sometimes, I think with some extreme IPAs, when the IBUs are pushed, the balance goes askew, making a "hey look what we did" brew, instead of a beer anyone would want to drink on a regular basis. This was a great beer, with an explosive mouth feel. I could swear I even got a little pepper on the aftertaste, with some spicy notes. Very good IPA. So, to wrap it up, the beer was very good. The view from the deck is amazing, and any bar with a kayak strapped to the wall is a winner for me. We had the nachos for a snack, and have had the chips and mango salsa in the past, both pretty good. The guest tap list is also nice: Laurelwood Organic Red, Scuttlebutt Porter, Double Mountain Kolsch, Deschutes Green Lakes, Stone IPA, Walking Man Red, Rogue Brutal Bitter, Hamms, and Pine Martin Pale. So, I have a few complaints, though few, and small. After the drive home, I put my finger on what I didn't like about Everybody's Brewing. It doesn't feel like a brewery, it feels like a family restaurant, that happens to have some killer beer. I would have a beer list, or a beer menu, describing the beer, and listing the details that beer geeks like. When I asked about the ABV, the waiter didn't know any of them, and had to search for the info. Which is fine, and the guy was super nice, but, it's a micro brew. At least write them on the chalkboard. Also, the deck with the great view of Hood I mentioned earlier, is totally at mercy with the sun. I wish they would put out some umbrellas for the tables out there. Two small issues. Make it a stop on a Hood River, Stevenson, White Salmon pub crawl. Drive from Portland just to go?? Hmmm, probably not, but...maybe. Maybe, go and decide for yourself.
Finally, a post about darts. Really, we have been in a rut when it comes to playing darts. We usually end up at Lucky Lab, Roots, or when the eyes want more than the wallet has to offer, resort to the $11 half rack of Lost Coast at Plaid Pantry and stay in playing on our home board that hangs on our sadly punished wall. But last night was different, we decided to venture out to Triple Nickel. It was my first visit to this Belmont dive, known for strong drinks, organic cruelty-free tater tots, pool, and hosting dart league play. I had read on Bar Fly various reviews, some making it sound like paradise, others making it sound like hell on earth. Some reviewers talked about rude bartenders, dirty people, and disgusting food. But, I found none of that last night. Of course, I am not saying those may not be there, but for us, the experience was good. It is a sports bar, well sort of. They have a number of flat screens, all playing whatever game of pointy ball may be on. Which, worked well for us, because we had our pick of any of the four dart boards. The dart area is awesome. The ceiling panels ooze nicotine from decades of patrons, the walls are stained in chalk from the score boards, and you are faced with a mind boggling number of plaques and trophies from dart tournaments of years past. All of this, mixed with a damn strong Gin & Tonic, with Queensryche playing on the jukebox, well, that is the Triple Nickel. Now, the tap list does hold the required PBR, Henry's, and Deschutes offerings. But, there was a couple of interesting taps, Hale's Cream Ale from Seattle, and Trumer Pils from Austria (well, Berkeley, CA). Yes, I liked the place. Except for one huge problem I had....Erin beat me the first match, and we called the second a draw so we could make our movie (Up, really good by the way).
Bill's doesn't make it to Portland all that often, or, at all as far as I know. They have two locations in Cannon Beach. One downtown in the tourist-centric area, and one a little farther out, the Warren House. Usually, when we are in Cannon Beach, we head for the Warren House. It is less populated with casual wander-bys, has an outside beer garden, and pool table. But, for this trip, after a successful Saddle Mountain summit, we choose the downtown outpost. They have seven of their own beers on tap, as well as three guest taps. First up, I had the Duckdive Pale Ale, while Erin opted for the Ragsdale Porter. The pale had a nice head, a very cloudy hazy body, and was a darkish tan/yellow. There was little nose, but that lead to a low carbonated, nicely balanced brew. It had a full, pleasing mouth feel, and really, in my view, was closer to an IPA than a pale. It is made with Amarillo hops, and weighs in at 4.8%ABV. I really liked it, and wish it would show up in town once in awhile. The Ragsdale Porter was too bitter for me, personally. For a porter, I found it a little weak, both in flavor and appearance. It finished flat, and left little aftertaste. Erin liked it however, and was happy to find a lighter porter for the summer months. Next up was the 2x4 Stout, and at 7.9%, the biggest brew Bil's offered. The nose had notes of roasting coffee and caramel. The mouthfeel had malt, smoke, and caramel, with no coffee notes like some other stouts have. They use a mix of Ahtanum, Chinook, and Summit hops. The last beer I tried was the Asa's Premium Blonde. A 4.6%ABV beer that was light, saison golden, and had a small, though thick head. The nose had a very strong, hopyy and orange aroma. It was crisp, and refreshing. Bill's isn't a destination brewery by any means, but handy to know about if your in Cannon Beach. The food was good too. We split an order of Halibut fish and chips, and really hogged it down. Why isn't it a destination brewery? Well, everything is good, but not "drive an hour great." Call me an alcoholic (go ahead, my wife does everyday), but I like my beers in the 5.5 plus range, and a little more full bodied. But, for what they were, I thought everything we had was done well, and when I am in Cannon Beach again, I would go back.
Last night was the first brewers challenge at Blitz Ladd. Though not too far away, I usually avoid Blitz because I am not a fan of sports bars. But, that being said, we had a pretty good time last night, and enjoyed some great live music from The Insomniacs. The theme for last night's challenge was IPA. The tasting tray was $5 a head, and you got to sample 12 different IPAs. The list was:
The Grifter IPA won the judge's choice award, while the Hop Stoopid won the people's choice award. Our two favorites were the Union Jack, and the Old Salt. Our least favorites were the Fearless, and the Eclipse. I hope they make this first time challenge a yearly event, it was fun. According to the taster sheet, they are having a Winter Brewers Challenge. Stout?? Hmmm, I hope so. I will be sure to check it out.
A nice little sale of note is going on, as I write this at least, at Belmont Station. For just $2.49, you can pick up a bottle of Doppelbock from "the world's oldest brewery. " Weihenstephan Korbinian, besides being a good beer, is a good pickup if, like me, you like to collect labels. As with a lot of German beers, the design on the label is really interesting, colorful, and makes whatever is inside seem very prestigious. Is it the best Doppelbock I have ever had in my entire life? No, but it isn't the worst either. Is it the best I have ever had for $2.49? You bet your ass it is. At 7.4% ABV, you won't make it through too many I would think. It was quite dark, not too sweet, and nicely balanced. I am not a food pairing genius or anything, but I would suspect that this beer goes better with food, than just drank alone. But, again, at $2,49, you can afford to be experimental.
Quick note, a fantastic beer from Klamath Basin Brewing is available at the Hawthorne Lucky Lab. The beer is called 8 Second Ale. It is made using Hersbrucker hops, which gives the beer a light hop flavor, great for these horrid 100 degree days. I thought I might have even detected a little bit of Rye on the mouth feel and aftertaste, which was nice as Lucky Lab currently doesn't offer the Quality Rye, a beer that deserves a seperate mention on it's own. So, I do not know if other Lucky Labs have it, but stop by the Hawthorne post, grab an 8 Second, then scurry back to the dart boards for an affordable, boozy way to say fuck you to the triple digit temps.
Everyone has one. The old saying goes they are like assholes, we've all got one, and they all stink. Sometimes opinions can make you friends, and other times they can make you enemies. Opinions about beer are no different. One man's Duvel is another man's Keystone Ice. If you are in Alabama and order a Duvel in some backwoods bar, your liable to never be seen or heard from again. Likewise, if you order a Bud Light at a micro-brew in Estacada, you will be laughed at "until the idiot who asks this question finally leaves quietly in disgrace". I think opinions about beer are so interesting. We have our beer experts, our connoisseurs, the opinions that we read in magazines that we hold in high regard. We have our blogs, for those of us that have "way too much time. Instead of creating something. They tearthings down, which has always been way easier." And then we have the no blog writing, non beer expert, consumer, that actually likes to drink the beer he/she likes, and tell friends about it. In my opinion, the most respected of the beer gods, all the way down to the simplest of the Estacada folks "who are so damn jealous" "they can't see straight. They are pissed that someone is able to accomplish anything in this town," have a right to think what they want. We all are amazing experts when it comes to our own palette. It's true. I am the world's leading expert on the palette of Jeff (this Jeff anyway, there are a lot of us). I blog about it. What I think. I have a full time job, goals, plans for a side business, have fought and won a battle with cancer, a loving wife, great friends, and count myself lucky to live in the greatest town in the greatest state in the country. I do not have way too much time, I have spare time. Spare time that I like to drink beer, appreciate beer, and talk about beer. If I go somewhere and love it (like the awesome Ft. George) I climb to the tops of buildings , screaming out "Go, Go, Go!!" If, however, I go somewhere else, and do not like it, I enjoy writing abut that as well. But, who am I . Just a guy. My last name isn't Eckhardt, or Armstrong, or Alworth, all of whom I enjoy reading. I take their opinions very seriously, and respect each of them. I would also respect an opinion from some guy with a last name of Jones, Smith, or Doe. What gives me a right to my opinion? The hard earned money in my pocket that goes out, and supports the local micro-brews. That's right, my consumerism gives me the right to drink, eat, be merry, and climb on my soap box and bitch and moan to my heart's content. Some people, however, think certain soap boxes are made out of gold. Unfortunately, in reality, they are ALL made out of popsicle sticks. And not the good popsicle sticks, the cheap crappy ones. Why Jeff, why do you rant on, why aren't you writing about how great the new tasting room is at Upright Brewing (it is), or how awesome it is that Bar Avignon has Ft. George on a permanent tap (Vortex IPA, mmmm). Why???? Why???? Apparently, because I have way too much time on my hands, have no desire to create anything, and am surrounded my cross-eyed, jealous, pissed off friends.
Or maybe because every time I drink a micro-brew, I can taste Oregon. And all I want, is for Oregon to taste very, very good.
italicized quotes courtesy of Ken Johnson, whose beers I am not a fan of.