Monday, September 28, 2009

Palette cleansing

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.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wild River Brewing

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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Oktoberfest weekend

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.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-12 beer-vents

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New bottle shop alert!!

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.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Who knew raccoons played darts?

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:
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 guessed it..Belmont Station.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


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.

Friday, September 4, 2009


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.