49 Problems

This year I’ve been granted a press pass to the Holiday Ale festival, which is awesome. My budget wouldn’t allow me to go otherwise and the intensity of the crowds at the HAF are such that I’m disinclined to go anyway. However, an opportunity like this cannot be turned down, especially since many people tell me the Holiday Ale fest is their favorite.

There is a downside, though. I can try ten beers and there are forty nine. So I have spent the last hour looking over the list of offerings, trying to suss out which ones will be worth my time. The Lompoc and Kells ales have some interest for me, as I’ve had an early version of the former and been told about the latter. Seeing how the Lompoc has changed and what Kells did when they weren’t going traditional is a pretty compelling idea.

Other ales I feel I can pass on: Lagunitas uses the word ‘krunk’ to describe their High West Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout. Nobody should use the word krunk. Elysian’s beer is based on their Doom beer from last year’s Apocalypse series and I’ve had that-even though this is a vintage edition.

I really don’t know what to expect though. The plan is: head down early December 6th, take photos and notes, and then head home and put it up on the blog.  If all goes well, readers will have a chance to verify for themselves!

Lompoc Winter Ale Roundup

One of the things I’m starting to look forward to is the Lompoc Winter ale offerings. Every year they seem to go all in on their seasonal offerings and since I don’t get out too often, I always appreciate the invite to see what they have coming up. This year distinguished itself a little differently from previous years by offering us some beers that were still in progress. Some are meant to come out in December, specially offered for the Holiday Ale Fest so I tried to keep that in mind as I reviewed the beers. The ones that weren’t quite ready yet I took note of, so you can read the reviews with that in mind and take it into consideration when it’s time to try them for yourself.

The opening beer offered while we settled in was the Entropy cream ale, which is a really wonderful starter: bready, something I think might have to do with the yeast, and a hint spicy but nothing overwhelming. All in all, it’s pretty swell. Sure, they’re bribing is with an excellent beer to start, but I won’t complain. It’s not a winter ale but it’s a good one and I recommend it.

Cherry Christmas- and now they Winter ales start up. This was called a spiritual successor to a previous ale they did (mostly, they liked the name) but the concept is this: wheat ale and cherries in a wine tote. This is an early version, unblended, so it’s a beer in the middle of the process. Scent is…sweet, and a bit leafy. The cherry flavor is really mild and it’s not too sour at all. They didn’t do anything to sour it up and I prefer it that way but apparently that is what’s coming: addition of lactobacillus to intensify the sour elements. The wheat malt is what’s holding it together, for me. This beer is almost thin and that’s halted by the denser mouthfeel the wheat malt provides. I would love to try this in a few weeks without the sour addition.

Jolly Bock lager: originally made for holiday ale fest, 97ish. I don’t much nose: something cake or baklava like… honey? The hop bitterness snuck up on me: there isn’t much malt to this one and my girlfriend suggests a little less hops might’ve been better. I’m inclined to agree. The hops dominate it a little too much.

Brewdolph, which I remember liking in the past, has changed a bit: this year they used more American malt instead of German. I’m told that this was to ensure the freshness of the ingredients. Belgian Ardennes strain of yeast gives it a clove character you can taste: there’s a saisonish flavor but it is restrained, giving the beer some character without blowing it out of the water. Makes me think of a French-oriented saison. The malt comes out in the nose a bit candy like? Low key though.

It’s about this point when the brewers at Lompoc tell us that we’ll probably be getting louder as we talk about the beers. What I notice about that moment is: when given permission to get louder, we get louder. Everyone was pretty restrained up until then but with a bit more noise seems to come a more festive feel to the event.

Holiday Cheer vanilla porter: a genesis of ’01 or so: another Holiday ale fest. Lompoc doesn’t have enough room to make as many styles of beer as they previously did, having moved from their NW location. Last year they made the 8 Malty Nights, so they are switching for this year to satisfy everyone (sort of).  Aged for a week on vanilla beans, they say they want to have it spend more time with the vanilla, so this beer is also not quite finished. The vanilla is just starting to peek out, chocolate still the overriding flavor here. With some more time, I think we’ll have a very different story.

C-Sons Greetings is probably one of the most infamous (in a good way) Xmas ales they do. The nose is just full on spicy pine and I am not disappointed at all: it is a very good beer. Apparently the trends are moving away from really hoppy, potent beers but if this is what brewers are making, I don’t know why. It’s an excellent beer.

Old Tavern Rat has a very strong toasty flavor, caramel in the nose and is a fine ale. I like barleywines and this is one worth savoring. Let this warm up and hang out with a cat on your lap. Also, it tastes like a vanilla ice cream topping. That always feels right.

The bourbon barrel aged Tavern Rat is only going to be offered on tap so get it while you can. It smells hot, with hints of licorice or maple in there: fig is what I’m told I should be looking for and as soon as I hear that I get it: dried fig and molasses. But it’s really smooth and doesn’t have a hot finish. Definitely a pour and share beer, something to let warm up. I am going to have to make a trip out just for this, I think.

Revelry Red- this is another one they will do things with. Currently unblended, this ale has been sitting with sour cherries, not unlike the Cherry Christmas. This year, the Revelry Red is going to be combined with the same base beer that has been port barrel aged.  The sour cherry in this is more pronounced. As it stands, it feels a bit…weird. It’s not one dimensional but I feel like the blended version will really elevate this beer and criticizing it is unfair. It isn’t bad but it feels unfinished.

That’s it, folks! Thanks to Lompoc for hosting.

Where I Want To Go: Old Gold

One of the great things about the Internet Age is the ability to get answers to questions. It’s probably the greatest thing, actually: we are curious monkeys and getting answers to questions helps set our minds at ease.

I’m going somewhere with this. Not far, even: I asked people on my Facebook feed where they would go for a drink if they were in North Portland. Difficulty level; no Saraveza (which is awesome, but I have been there.)

The response: Old Gold. The bloke who recommended it even agreed to meet me there for a drink, which is awesome. Almost every time one has a choice between drinking alone and drinking together, well, together is the better option.

The Old Gold is a whiskey bar, with the spirit offerings listed on a very large chalkboard near the entrance. The beers on tap were posted on an opposing wall nearby so I focused my attention to them, getting Double Mountain’s Chimney Stout, which is what I was sipping on when my buddy arrived.

He pointed to the small selection of whiskey and beer pairings which I had completely missed, and ordered a George Dunkel rye with the Chimney Stout back. I had a chance to taste the rye and it paired wonderfully with my beer. Whomever came up with that; good job.

I can’t help but feel a little bummed though. I had a good drink but I could have had a better one! On the other hand, if that’s my biggest complaint then what a great excuse to go back…

Not Quite A Pale

My latest batch came out fairly nicely. I think it will go well with Thanksgiving dinner, if I can save some until then…

I get a bit of toffee and orange in the nose. This beer is reasonably malt sweet but the hops seem to be just enough to keep it in line. There is definitely a orangeish citrus presence in this beer. Even in the finish there’s an element of sucking on the last of an orange wedge after a soccer game. Except with alcohol, which, excepting fire, makes everything better.

It’s a little higher in ABV than I usually hit but I’m not going to complain: it’s a solid beverage and I can drink a couple of them before calling it a night. That said, pale ales tend to have more hop presence and this just doesn’t. I’ve been rather restrained in my hop additions lately and I suppose that it’s starting to show.

Brew date: 9.14.13

Steeping Grains:
Added less than 1/8th tsp Calcium salts
.75 lb Biscuit
.75 lb C40
8 oz C120

Fermentables: 7 lb LME

Hops:
1 oz Mt Hood @ 60
1/4 oz Falconer’s Flight @ 60
.5 oz Mt Hood @30
.5 oz Mt Hood @ 5

Yeast:
Wyeast 1332 NW ale-starter made day before

OG: 1.068

FG: 1.012

ABVL 7.5%

Bottled 10.5

Where I Want To Go: Bailey’s #2

Old Town made a strawberry lemonade ale. A compatriot at the OBC had recently mentioned making such a concoction for a wedding she was attending and I wonder if the beers are related, somehow. Even if they aren’t though: how can I not try this beer?

And what I can tell you is: it tastes like it promises. There’s something to be said for that and I am glad I tried it, but no. This not what I want from a beer. It is too Sunday morning mimosa and not anything resembling late evening after dinner.

Timing matters: why bring this beer to the masses in November, you know?

Then again, it is far more likely that I am not the audience for this beer. Someone who wants a fruity drink but doesn’t want the hazard of a cocktail is the audience for this beer. On that merit, I have to say: go for it. I couldn’t detect anything too flawed or weird about this beer and the puckery lemonade qualities along with a strawberry aftertaste that I could definitely notice were there.

But it ain’t for me.

Beyond Hops & Barley

It was bound to happen: brewers were going to remember that a long, long time ago, people made beer using things other than hops to flavor the beer. NPR has caught up with some of those people and I’m personally really glad to see this trend coming. People have frequently made interesting things by using what’s around them and that has been one of the great qualities of travel: the opportunity to see how people innovated with what they had. The internet has compressed some of this-you can see many structures and art without going to to the city-and the convenience of modern transport has muddied other aspects: you can get food from places very far away and all but recreate signature dishes. In regards to brewing, some of you may not be aware that to capture the appropriate style for certain beers, brewers often doctor the water to replicate the appropriate conditions. In Portland, this means adding calcium to the water to get the appropriate mouthfeel for stouts.

To be fair, I don’t think this article is spotlighting a huge innovation so much as it is people reclaiming a good idea but I hope this good idea helps broaden the kinds of ales we get, as opposed to merely contributing to the ‘hops arms race’ that often plagues new beers, especially in the NW.

Han & Chewie Ale

I totally ripped the idea for this beer of from someone else, who made a beer called Millennium Falcon that I saw at Baileys.  However, because I was only stealing the idea not the recipe, I decided that Han & Chewie Ale was a cooler name.

This is also the beer I submitted to OBC Fall Classic competition. It did OK, scoring about 32 out of 50 which might seem low but we’re pretty hard on our beers in Portland. That said: I entered it as an English IPA and they seemed to get a more balanced beer between the malt and hops and less a hop-centered ale. That is my fault for not knowing my beer styles well enough to properly categorize the ale for competition.

Despite all that, it’s a pretty good beer and for non-competition purposes, very much worth drinking. I’ll take that.

Brew date: 9.8.13

Steeping Grains:
2 lb C40
1 lb C120
1 lb Victory
1 lb Munich

Fermentables: 4 lb Liquid LME

Hops:
.25 oz Falconer @ 60 (some in preboil)
.5 oz Millenium @ 60
.5 oz Millenium @ 30
.5 oz Falconer @ 30
2.75 oz Cascade (fresh) @ 5

Yeast: reused Wyeast London 1318

OG: 1.05

FG: 1.013

Put into secondary on 9.17
Added .25 oz Falconer hops

Bottle 9.21

ABV: 5.01%

Where I Want To Go: Reverend Nat’s

One of the nice thing about going to Kells last week was that I got to see the Taphandle people again. We had a short but nice chat and during which they recommended a variety of places to check out, including Reverend Nat’s cider taphouse.  As I hope everyone knows by now; I’m always up for a new joint to investigate and tasty beverages to try.

The taphouse is barely tucked away from the bustle of Broadway and it’s located right inside the working space. It’s tiny and charming, with a distinct but invisible line between where you drink and where they work. I liked this because I could turn and see the equipment that was being used and I enjoy seeing how things operate.

I’m going to provide my notes on the sampler I got but with the caveat that I don’t know cider as well as beer. I went with my girlfriend, who seemed to pick up on some flavors I didn’t, especially in the nose. I’m not sure if this is because a) my nose isn’t all that great, b) there wasn’t that much nose to pick up on or c) I just didn’t know what I was looking for. I have a feeling it might be a combo between a and b, because cider seems to be a less imposing drink than beer is. My point is: I was lucky to have her there to help me pull out some of the flavors that I might have missed otherwise. The notes correspond with ciders starting left to right on the bottom sampler in the photo.

Holiday Hopricot has a lot going on. Soft fizziness at the end that reminds me of poprocks or champagne. A touch of vegetal in the nose: it’s faint thing and not really offputting. This cider is attempting to mimic a saison and I feel like it’s just got so many parts moving around that it’s difficult to pin down.

The Revival Dry gives me the most cider impression so far. I’m told the nose is like roses, but my sniffer ain’t working. It’s thin, probably a good drink post work day. After it warmed up, I could smell something like Bazooka Joe. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, it was just interesting.

Deliverance Ginger Tonic has a strong ginger nose and really does taste like a ginger ale soda although quite a bit drier. I found that I liked it a lot, maybe because it really didn’t correspond with what I thought about cider? But I enjoyed it.

Session-style Ciderkin has a nose like pineapple, taste like it too, along with a pink grapefruit flavor around the finish. Something subtle and savory is in there that we cannot pull out, though. The finish isn’t too appealing and I cannot explain why.

Sacrilege sour cherry; has a hard candy taste, smells lambicy, cinnamony. The girlfriend picks up a flavor that she doesn’t like- cherry & cinnamon together. I’m more ok with it, although the cinnamon gets very strong as it warms up.

Finally, the Revelation Newton Pippin tastes like an apple peel and is pretty dry. I like this to: very drinkable, I want vanilla ice cream to go with it.