I’m not in Washington DC anytime soon but hey, maybe you will be and can check out the current exhibit on craft brewing at the Smithsonian.
I was digging through beers on my top shelf (where I tend to keep the rarer things), and I came across an unassuming bottle. And found myself face to face with a…spring gruit?
This is the Spring Fever Gruit from Saltspring Island Ales. And I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable in spring! Or at least much, much closer to when I bought it.
There are some signs that oxidation has taken place–a bit of dullness on the palate–but what struck me most about this beer was how pleasant it still was. Sweet and malty, with some of the herbaceousness coming through as well, it aged far better than I might’ve thought.
Not the best beer to cellar by mistake, but I’ve had worse from the fridge.
Which means I should be drinking more.
A friend brought this commercial to my attention and I hate it.
Look: I am not going to lie to anyone, because I like beer and I like to drink.
But this is encouraging unhealthy behavior, making drinking at breakfast look like a great time to just kick it and relax. Nevermind the impact alcohol as on your facilities and whether or not you have to function.
That isn’t a healthy way to exist and I despise the message that it’s sending.
“You should do this, but for Portland,” my friend Fuz tells me. My initial feelings on the notion are lukewarm, because does anyone need that? There are so many articles out there, what is one more?
Later that night, I run into two Irish tourists at Bailey’s Taproom and they ask me what places they should visit. I spend nearly an hour talking to them. Clearly, I have opinions, so I’m doing this!
These breweries and beers shouldn’t necessarily be regarded as ‘the best’; rather, I would think of them more as ‘the representative-ist’. Places that, should you be in Portland, I’d recommend visiting because of the quality represented, but also the history (as I understand it) of craft beer here, and the variety as well. I’ll try and explain each as I go, just to be clear about my own thinking. There is, thankfully, no wrong answer. Just; where do you want to go? What do you want to have?
I’ll also have a friend with me, in part to facilitate some thoughts on why we’re here, in part to get some real-time feedback before I put pen to paper, to give an answer to the question: why are we here? So if I mention another human, that’s why.
We start with Hopworks Pilsner.
I’m here because this was one of the first lighter beers that I can remember being brewed in Portland-which medaled at the Great American Beer Festival. This was a pretty big deal, because at the time Portland was known for hopping the hell out of every style it could get its hands on. Hopworks’ Pilsner brought hope to people tired of hops and helped set the stage for more styles to be available here.
This beer has a great yeasty bread elements to the nose, and you can absolutely taste the grain involved. I am almost certain it’s two row, but it has a flavor that mass market pilsners just don’t. Plus, it’s got enough of a bite on the finish from the hops that I get a contrast between the sweeter grain and bread flavors.
It’s a damn fine beer and you can get it lots of places in the PWN, but let’s face it; you should visit their pub. There’s a broad selection of ales, including a cider and while some of them come and go, the Pils is always on tap.
On the hottest day of the trip, I visited the Kohola brewery. This felt more like Portland: the brewery was located in a warehouse and behind some other buildings, so we had to go down an alleyway to get there. The serving area was blocked off by mobile guardrails and I could see the brewing equipment easily, with tubes running from the outside where the grain was stored, to the milling machines.
It was the classic ‘up and comer’ look.
I started with the Pilsner and it was a classic pilsner: little spicy, very clean finish. Can’t ask for better than that. It’s a great hot day drink.
Just to mix things up, I went for the Mean Bean Coffee stout next. With a chocolate covered espresso beans nose, this leans into the coffee bean addition nicely. But I’m glad I had a short pour of it, because coffee notes just don’t quite mesh with hot days like this, at least for me. It’s a fine ale, even holding its flavor as it warms, and finishes remarkably clean for the style. It just belongs to night time.
Last, I got the Red Sand Amber: this is a pretty damn solid Amber that has some coffee flavors on the early back end. There’s a prominent malt sweetness though that is really working for me and the color is great. As the beer warms up, a hit of brown sugar appears and I totally dig it.
I didn’t intend to start my trip to Maui by breaking my ankle but…well, it rains on the just and the unjust, right?
So, in an attempt to make my trip more bearable, my family was kindly willing to indulge me with trips to the two breweries I was able to find on the island. I enjoyed my stops there and picked up a couple beers from each place to talk about, so here we go!
The first stop was at Maui Brewing and Maui has an upper scale brewpub feel; there’s a full kitchen, a separate bar area where tours of the brewery kick off from, and because it’s Hawaii, damn near everything is open-air in it’s design. Birds flew in and out of the building as we ate lunch. I enjoyed the Double Overhead IPA but didn’t take any notes. On the way out, I purchased a couple things for later and here’s what we got:
Maui Brewing Star Maps Kolsch (collab with Smog City). Kolsch brewed with star fruit.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had star fruit but it’s tart. What that does to a Kolsch is obliterate the milder flavors of the beer by the tartness of the fruit. The combination means that the beer is easy to drink on hot days, but doesn’t pair well with others because the finish isn’t clean anymore.
I don’t dislike this beer, though I will confess it took me a minute to get used to. However, I’d recommended it for hot days only and the Star Maps might be worth tasting before hand, because star fruit has such a distinct flavor to it. It’s not for everyone.
The Pueo pale ale mines much more familiar territory. The nose has honeydew and citrus qualities, with a melon element on the finish, too. The citrus qualities turn to the bitterness I’d expect, which may be a little stronger than your average pale ale but within reason I think.
This is, I think, a local pale: meant to reflect what people might want in the warm, steadily humid environment of Hawaii. It’s a thirst quencher for sure.
Ok, so this is cool:
The front of the bottle is scratch-off, and the back of the bottle also has a scratch-off strip that gives you more information about the skull. The brewers were inspired by archaeological digs near Burgos, their home base.
As far as packaging goes, Cerveza Dolina has won me over.
Now, the taste? It’s definitely tending more German than most Spanish beers, which (if you’re getting the commercial stuff) tends to be more like Budweiser. (As an aside, I have to say…if you go to a halfway decent-looking bar and ask for a beer, you’re probably going to get something that is of good quality and taste, even if it’s been mass produced. But I digress.)
Even though the label says pilsen, this isn’t a pilsner–it’s really more in the kölsch line. (Heck, their own Web page for this beer is titled Kölsch.) The colour is a lovely darker gold, there’s carbonation–but not a lot–, and the taste is softly bitter and spicy and earthy. I say softly because nothing really lingers with this beer, but with this style, you’d not want it to. I just wish I had warmer weather to better appreciate its virtues.
Now: can we all go back and appreciate that label again? Because that’s a really neat label.