Whenever I travel, I buy a bunch of beer that I haven’t seen before and review it. It’s a lot of fun and a way to get a sense of what’s out there. But it struck me that I don’t do this for Portland. I just go to bars and see what there is but I don’t investigate the stores very often. And something is weird about never exploring the place you live in, don’t you agree?
So off to a few bottleshops in Portland (Imperial and Beermongers, specifically) to get some beer for…well, the usual kinds of posts! Also to see what’s available now, what are we getting that I didn’t know about before? The biggest difference is that I didn’t look for beers brewed specifically in Oregon. Here we go.
Ruse-Deep Sleeper barrel aged imperial stout. There’s a lot of maple in the nose of this one and it’s almost enough to cover up the whiskey flavor but not quite. Put together, it’s not exactly off putting but it is almost cloyingly sweet, which is a strange thing to say.
The alcohol heat is also readily apparent; I get a slight burning sensation on the back of my tongue that last far beyond the beer. It’s not very well balanced and as it warms up, it becomes less so. Fans of whiskey might enjoy this but I’m less inclined towards it. The barrel ageing has just made this beer a little to harsh, even as a sipping beverage.
Falling Sky-Dreadnut Stout: not much nose. Some coffee roast but faint. The beer is…well, it’s a stout. It isn’t very dense and I like mine to have a little more weight on the tongue but it tastes very much in style. Lots of roast malt, a very dry finish but this isn’t a thirst quencher. It’s a palate cleanser. That kind of roast malt gives it some robustness to stand up to food. I suppose I’d put this at better than average. Good, but not necessarily great.
Stormbreaker-Lumber Lager: bready/biscuit nose! Which I dig. Those flavors aren’t present in the taste. That seems a little odd but it is more to style I suppose. It’s a nice beer, emphasizing the malt character a LOT. I don’t want to say there are zero hops in this beer but they’re really down low in the mix. Maybe just enough to give a little bitterness on the finish, so the sweetness doesn’t leave that tacky sensation in my mouth. I do appreciate that; it gives this beer a more drinkable quality than most. Like most good lagers, this beer needs nachos. But that’s a pretty reasonable fault. Sure, I could just have it after I mowed the lawn but c’mon. Nachos!
Smog City-Saber Toothed Squirrel American Amber: this has a potent citrus nose, which feels weird for the style. The more I sip it, the more I think this is a grapefruit IPA, not an amber. Now, on the merits of an IPA, it’s actually pretty good. It’s nicely balanced, with some sweetness to keep the finishing bitterness at bay, and the effervescence pops nicely to clear the palate.
So, when things get this unusual, it’s worth checking the BJCP guidelines. Turns out, American Ambers can be aggressively hopped and so long as they mine the citrus flavors, it’s well within reason. Huh! Knowing that, I’m inclined to recommend this beer: It’s pretty dang tasty. But you definitely want to know what you’re getting.
Woodland Empire-City of Trees IPA: the nose smells piney and grassy. I like it; It’s not too intense but it’s still pretty solid. Unfortunately, those scents fade quickly and just a couple sips in, I can’t smell it anymore. There’s very little active head on this beer and that’s a drawback, because the bitterness on the end is a scraping intensity on the roof of my mouth. Just. Gah. Some balance would be nice. There’s practically nothing in the middle, though, and what there is tastes a little like butterscotch, which…is just no. I don’t think I want to finish this beer, so I won’t.
Elk Horn-Stagg Moose, barrel aged imperial stout: Boy…this cost me $26 and it tastes so rough. The nose has a strong whiskey thing and it’s offputting. There’s also a raw cocoa flavor, coupled with a bunch of bourbon and it just isn’t very smooth at all. There’s almost a woodiness to it.
As it warms up, a lot of those negatives mellow out. The nose diminishes, the whiskey note hits more in my belly, warming there instead of on my tongue and it allows for more chocolate to appear. There’s still a little burn, but it’s not bad. The finish is still pretty rough though and it doesn’t help the beer. It’s almost chalky.