Category Archives: Festivals

Benfest 2017

In the Portland brewing scene, there are a lot of brewers with the surname Ben and….well any excuse to throw a party, right? Thus: Benfest-a festival with beers mostly made by people named Ben, or in honor of, as this year also saw the passing of Ben Flerchinger, a loved local brewer and part of the proceeds went to his family to help with the expenses of death.

Sigh. Sorry, folks. Looks like it’s going to a week with more downer feelings than usual.

Here’s the mildly edited notes!

Gigantic Benmosa; grapefruit, tangerine, pineapple. I’m not sure this is even beer, so much as a fruit drink that might have alcohol in it. Even the bitterness on the finish is heavily reminiscent of the pith of grapefruit. I don’t think it’s for me-that pith note isn’t something that I like. But it’s definitely what it says it is! And if you like mimosas, you should give this a go.

Breakside First Blanche; witber. This beer feels soft on my palate. Almost like a hug. It’s also very straightforward; little wheat malt in the nose, a dollop of tartness on the finish. I’m more into this one.
Gigantic/Sasquach collab, Been There Freshed That; fresh hop pale. Smells like band aid. Tastes similar. Pass.
36776416740_a04d66a981_cCoin Toss Benvention; Imperial mild. Milds are very difficult for me to tell you about. Like brown ales, their strength is in their forgettable qualities. There’s just enough malt happening here that I have something to chew on. It’s 5.2% ABV, which I don’t object to, but why not just call this an ESB? Probably because I don’t know enough about styles to say. But sit me down with a pitcher of this and a plate of nachos and I’m a happy camper.
Lucky Lab Benedict Palmer; lager with lemon and ice tea. Nose of sulphur. That makes my face wrinkle. There’s a corn note after that and this doesn’t unwrinkle me. The flavor has some corn and lemon in there, but they do not mesh well.
Three Creeks Stampede Strong ale; American strong. I cannot pick up anything on the nose to save my life. However the beer hits my tongue softly, gives me a nice roasted flavor, followed up by some sweetness. The Stampede also has a pleasant heft to it; the beer might hit the tongue softly but it rolls around with a little weight. That sets up the finishing hop bitterness and just a tiny pop of effervescence to end. The Stampede Strong makes me want to sit with some buttered popcorn in a movie theater. I feel like that would be a great environment with a pretty nice salty offset to the beer.
Laurelwood Ben There Done That; Kolsh. OK, so my current stance is: Old Town’s Kolsch > everyone else’s, which is why I wanted to give Laurelwood’s offering a shot.
Old Town is still safe. The nose on this Kolsch has that lager old hop nose that isn’t so awesome. However, after that? There’s a really pleasant beer to drink. It’s sweet, with a nice rounding effervescent pop around the sides of my tongue that I’m enjoying. It’s definitely solid, even if it doesn’t take the crown.
Deschutes BlENded; saison. Now this is a nose that pops up like a jack in the box. Spicey, a little funk and a little fruit in there. This beer is…a touch unusual. Mostly saison. That is: wheat malt, Belgian yeast spice note, but the finish is fruity and sparkly, like grapefruit champagne. I find this beer really interesting and very quaffable. Have at it.
36776417350_697553de95_cGigantic Macallan Barrel aged barleywine, pic. Oooooo boy. This is basically alcoholic, unsulfured molasses. Brown sugar syrup that will give you a buzz. It is REALLY good. It is also a beer to have one of, and a small pour at that, because at 15% it’s more dominating than Michael Jordan.

54-40 Half Cocked; IPA in the cask with Citra hops. The nose is ALL Citra, with sweet orange and lemon scents. There’s also just a little nudge of cut grass in there, too. The beer itself: solid. the nose is amazing, the liquid is very good but I almost want a more carbonated version so that it finished with some pop. However, the body of the beer has a solid malt adding a nice sweetness and hint of grain before the hop bitterness, which isn’t very intense at all, sweeps in to round it all out.

Ecliptic Benith; Grapefruit Gose. Wow, this nose is just a nice confluence of sour and salt and fruit. My first sip has me exclaim because of its tartness in comparison to all the other beers I have had today. That isn’t to suggest it’s bad, though. Just the opposite; the tartness is on point and the finish is dry like white wine. The contrast that this beer provides from the other styles here is more than welcome and I have to say, this might be the first Ecliptic beer I can endorse.
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OBF 2017 x 2

The Oregon Brewer’s Fest is in full swing now and I’ve got my (mildly) edited notes to share. As a bonus my friend Fuz came with me, took notes, and has allowed me to share those as well.

Between the two of us we got to try a whoooole lotta beer. His notes are in blockquote and…I think that’s all you need to know! Let’s have at it.

36045127992_8e04bc0a5a_z1) Chetco Brewing, The Chetco Effect pale. The sorachi hop nose is distinct and pleasant, the finishing bitterness not too prominent; as a first beer, this is solid. Clean, with a pretty dry finish, I can see myself having a full pour.

Beer 1: Ghost Runners Brewery, Chasing Fluffy Pink Unicorns:
Raspberry, pink peppercorn gose – it doesn’t over balance any flavors, but keeps them nicely in check. Perhaps a bit more of the saltiness of a gose would be welcome, but against fruit like raspberry a delicate touch is better.

2) Ancestry, Tiny Umbrellas IPA: grapefruit and melon in the nose. Onion in my mouth. I had two sips, just to make sure. And then? NOPE.

Beer 2: Three Creeks brewing, dry hopped apricot stonefly session ale – the beer delivers on all stages of the apricot, but it’s also the dried apricot, not fresh, and that means it’s less enjoyable for me. Dan liked it, but he also acknowledged that he’s fonder of dried apricot than I am.

3) Oproer, 24/7 IPA; I’m not getting a nose here and the finish tastes like dirt. “Clean dirt,” Fuz says, “but dirt.”

Beer 3: Perennial artisan ales, Ship of the Sun – terrible. Can’t finish. Can barely start. I suspect spoilage in transit. But: bandages should not be the aftertaste of a beer.

35818906580_598a099f93_z4) New Holland, Dragon’s Milk- Thai Curry. This is quite interesting. While there is a strong element of dried fruit in there-raisin is what I pick up and it’s all over-the finish has a definite Thai spice note to it. This is a rarity for me: a spicy beer that I can drink and enjoy. I don’t think I’d want a full pint of it but I know that this beer is going to rank very high on someone’s list.

Beer 4: Lost Abbey. I wish I could say that it was better. But it’s not. It’s perfectly fine, as these things go. But…

5) Sasquatch, Kremlin Ginger Blonde- The lime and ginger in the nose is distinct and mouth watering. The beer itself is just fantastic. The ginger isn’t overpowering, the lime is a nice hip check to it, and the beer is crisp and delicious. Just great. Pour me more of this, please.

Beer 5: Dunedin, Passionate Disenchantment – is actually not bad. Serrano pepper, coffee, and saison all do eventually-eventually work together. But it feels as if the brewery is trying to do too much with one beer, even a beer that can carry spice flavors. The pepper lingers on the palate-it’s not disagreeable, but I will need a stronger beer after this to stand up to this one.

6) Bridgeport, Deep Cuts: India Pale Wheat. This isn’t a terrible beer but it’s a bit weird. The malts feel like they are in conflict with the hops, where I don’t get a proper feel for the hops or the malts and…it’s muddied. I don’t think it’s flawed, but I’m not sure this was the best idea.

Beer 6: Oregon City, Plumbelievable – it’s too Johnny one – note, and the note hasn’t been built up on the best of plums, even though it’s built off of two fruits. The lacto detracts from the beer. It’s not a bad beer, but it’s too simple and too generic for my taste.

7) Cloudburst, Tigers In Tiny Spaces pale. This is…OK. That isn’t a bad thing. But it isn’t popping out at me either. In a way, this beer is a sip it and forget it but as with some beers, not noticing it is actually a plus. Give it a shot. Maybe I’m overlooking something.

Beer 7: Burnside brewing, Cannonball!: it’s actually quite pleasant, with the barrel making itself known. And each of the fruits comes through (cherry and pineapple), with the aftertaste definitely lingering more pineapple. Were I making it, 5% less pineapple. But it’s certainly a nice, round, well-balanced beer.

8) Boneyard, Enzymatic IPA: nose is faint but hints of honeydew and grapefruit. Unfortunately my pour was served both warm and a bit flat. It’s not bad…but it could be a heck of a lot better if it was served cold and bubbly. I am not sure that I can really evaluate this beer properly because it’s serve was so off.

Beer 8: Breakside, Dreamboat – a thing of cromulence. That is what I can say, at this point. It’s not bad.

36077114311_18773d2981_z9) Caldera, Cousin Rick Triple IPA: First thing I notice is that the color on this beer is outstanding. I love that amber hue. The nose harkens back to IPAs of old, with pine being the outstanding scent, though there isn’t much else. But as an IPA, this holds up very nice. A good roasted flavor, followed by a sweetness, followed by a hefty but not scouring bitterness, and I’m totally in for this.

Beer 9: Great Divide, grapefruit radler: the nose is off-putting. Day-old rind with a bit of flesh attached. The beer itself is perfectly drinkable, if it tends a bit more to the grapefruit than I would think would be in style.

10) Elk Horn, Sirberlin. A concoction of beer, lemongrass and lychee fruit, the first thing I notice is the grassy nose. The beer itself is tart, and high up on the thirst quenching scale. I enjoy this beer and would say that it’s working with a light pale malt base, which really doesn’t get in the way of the fruit/souring elements. Nice.

Beer 10: Pelican, Negar Pelicano: I like it, but it’s a bit thinner than Negro Modelo and similar beers. Still: very nice closing beer.

35818900250_f9a1f3cd72_z11) Druthers brewing, The Dare Gose: The nose has a little funk, a little coriander and hints of sour. The beer itself is pleasingly tart, with a dry finish reminiscent of white wine. Yeah, I dig it.

12) Crooked Stave, Single Hop IPA: the nose on this is full out mandarin orange and I love it. The flavors are thin, with a dirty bitterness on the finish. What a disappointment.

13) Old Town, Coconut Curryiocity: I don’t know what the fuck is going on here, but it tastes like meat.

14) Widmer, Thrillhaus: first off, if this is a copper colored beer then I am a monkey. Straw/golden if anything. But more relevantly, there is no nose and the beer tastes like I don’t even know what. It isn’t good. Bad corn, is what I finally come up with before pouring it out.

15) Walking Man, Yoga Pants ale. The nose brings the lavender and after that you have a smooth, sweet but not cloying ale with just the right amount of herbal flavor. I’d have a pint.

35407277433_e634f12e31_z16) Terminal Gravity, Knuckle Buster red: the nose smells like caramel and the flavors support it very nicely. It also doesn’t weigh heavy on the tongue, which is a little surprising. It’s pleasant, drinkable and a fine beer to finish on.

And that’s it! I hope everyone has fun at the festival and gets to try some great beer.

The Interview

Geoff Phillips is the owner of Bailey’s Taproom, the Upper Lip, and Brewed Oregon. With Bailey’s 10th anniversary coming up this Saturday I thought it would a cool opportunity to ask him a few questions.

He was gracious enough to spare me so me time via email, so here we go:

Do you remember the first keg you tapped for Bailey’s?

This was the draft list 8/1/2007. It was one of these 13 beers, probably Obsidian Stout, because that would have been on tap number 1 (nitro):

Walking Man Barefoot Brown Brown
Terminal Gravity Triple Triple
Stone Ruination Imperial IPA
Roots Gruit Kolsch Gruit
Off the Rail Coal Porter Porter
Ninkasi Believer Imperial Red
Mac and Jack’s Serengeti Wheat Wheat
Lost Coast Imperial Pilsner Imperial Pilsner
Laurelwood Mother Lode Golden
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Imperial IPA
Green Flash West Coast IPA IPA
Deschutes Obsidian Stout – Nitro Stout
Anderson Valley Boont Amber Amber

(Ed note: that’s kinda wild that we can see what the first run of beers were and in comparison to what they are now.)

What’s been the most surprising trend you’ve seen in Portland?

I have to say I’m pretty surprised by the Hazy IPA trend.

Most interesting challenge to running Bailey’s over the past 10 years?

Dealing with vendors. Don’t want to get into specifics, but it’s challenging when you disagree with the services provided with different suppliers.

What do you look for when evaluating a new beer/brewery for the tap list?

I have pawned off all those duties to our beer buyer, Bill Murnighan. Over the last 4+ years, my role curating the draft list at Bailey’s has been more and more removed. I’ll occasionally give some insight on a beer or brewery that I’ve experienced, but Bill is much more on top of the trends of the industry right now.

How has the audience changed? Both in demographics and tastes (if at all)?

I think the audience is just growing in size. I think you can see a few changes in tastes but IPA still rules them all, and has for all 10 years we’ve been around.

Anything you wish you’d known before you started?

Always a tough question. Doing things over, I’d get a good accountant earlier.

Is there something you’d like to see changed, legally, to make it easier to acquire beers from out-of-state?

I think it’s keg logistics that make it more difficult to acquire beers from out-of-state versus the legal hurdles. One way kegs are making it easier, but someone still needs to coordinate getting it on a truck at a reasonable price point. And then you are still dealing with breweries that are at capacity that can’t make enough beer to supply other markets.

And, is there a style that you have come to appreciate over the years?

Looking at the list of 13 beers we opened Bailey’s with, I’m sure 10 years ago I would have been most excited with the Imperial IPAs or possibly doing all 13 in sample glasses. But now, I’d just order a pint of one of the lower alcohol choices.

And that’s it! I just want to thank Geoff once again for his time, and I hope to see people on Saturday at the fest. I’ll probably be tweeting reviews, just because that’s fun to do, sometimes, until I’m having too much fun at the event, instead of being about the event.

Oregon Brewers Fest 2017

The OBF is ramping up with what is, once again, a truly daunting list of beers to try. My hope is to get to the festival on the 27th, thus having a post up on the 28th for everyone to view & use as a guideline for my triumphs and mistakes!

However, instead of talking about what I’m interested in or disappointed by (looking at YOU, 21st Amendment with your x-year-in-a-row shoving of that shitty watermelon ale at us. You’re better than that. And we deserve better.) I’d like to highlight was is, for me, a new program: the Safe Ride Home.

Let’s be straight with each other: people get intoxicated at festivals. You know it. I know it. I am someone who has gotten drunk at a beer festival. Just so nobody thinks I’m getting high and mighty about the subject.

Which is why when I go to these festivals, I take the bus downtown and the bus home. Honestly, it’s a relief; I just don’t have to worry about anyone’s safety.

So I want to encourage readers to behave in a similarly safe and responsible manner and I’m really pleased that the OBF is highlighting methods for people to both attend the festival and have fun, as well as get home safe and sound.

See everyone on the 27th! (Or the 28th, if that’s when you read the blog!)

Cheers To Belgian Beers 2017

With the Belgian beer festival last weekend, I took it upon myself to go down and see what was on offer. A friend came with and helped with some feedback on the beers, which is always welcome.

Here are the lightly edited notes:

Wolf Tree: The Belgian Dip-while I like the nose, which resembles a banana sundae, heavy on the chocolate sauce and vanilla scents buuuut, man do I not like this finish. It’s sour if you can believe that. And sour and banana, as my friend suggests, do not go well together.

35082392546_2195cf5e9b_cSolera: Soundgarden Gnome-a sour hibiscus ale that they skipped using hops on, this one has an interesting nose, bringing up the a sour flower. A very drinkable sour, too! Not too tart, and it finishes really fast-the flavors don’t linger. Definitely something I’m liking, even though as a sour, I’m glad it’s in small doses.

Bent Shovel: Summer Delight-the nose is like corn and old veggies. The flavor is overwhelmingly vegetal too. Sorry, this one is a miss.

Lompoc: The Laughing Gnome-light Belgian style. The nose has a tropical fruit quality, a bit like melon. This drinks like a pale though, a pub style beer that you could have a couple of and still feel coherent. I like this and I think I could have more.

35082393256_9326cc3119_cOregon City Brewing: Floodwater Belgian IPA-has a great nose of grass and a pleasant biscuit taste. It’s not super bitter either, which means that I can recommend it to non-IPA people, at least as a taster.

McMenamin’s Beware the Kludde Belgian strong dark-boy, the nose is great on this one. The sweetness of dried cherries is all over it. However, the malts skew very roasted and despite being an 8.8% beer, it just doesn’t feel like there’s any sweetness to support our the roast, nor any callback to the nose. It’s SO close, but in the end I can’t get behind it.

Horn Brewery: Walvis Bruin-Belgian style brown. There’s a meaty nose on it, like bacon, which is pretty neat. It’s really light though, and even though there is a hint of that smokey quality from the nose, it stays as a beer that you can drink and is refreshing.

35082393866_40f3055561_cThunder Island: Gnome de Plum Belgian dark. The nose has a massive hit of bubblegum, which is weird but not offputting. There’s a caramel candy flavor, with a bit of bubble gum but it has a definite sour note on the finish. I can’t say that I would recommend it-there’s a lot going on and the bubblegum might turn people off. But for me, this is an interesting  and compelling drink.

Little Beast: Dutchy-Fruited Belgian dark. This beer describes itself as an ale with cherries and cacao nibs and by golly, that is what it is. I don’t get much from the nose, but the cherry and Cocoa flavors combine for a really dry beer that I think would be excellent for someone. It just isn’t quite my jam. But it’s a solid beer!

Organic Beer Fest 2016 Reviews

I arrived early to the Organic fest, and I’m glad I did. The lines were nonexistent and that gave me plenty of opportunity to try some beer without waiting in line. Reviews are mildly edited, as per usual.

Coin Toss-Half Penny Lager: smells like a lager and the flavor is one where I can detect the rice sweetness. It’s got a creaminess to it, giving it a little more body than other lagers might have and the finish isn’t too crisp. But it’s solid.

29145115522_f7ca237f03_z
Old Tow Cardamum’s the Word

Old Town-Cardamum’s The Word (Hibiscus and Cardamon wheat ale)-There’s an herbal nose, so I can pick up the cardamon and the hibiscus is near the finish and also very light…but there isn’t quite enough there, there. I can’t recommend it, but I also can’t recommend against it, either.

Falling Sky-Organic Matters Pale-skunky nose and while it’s not off putting, it suggests something old, not nice. The bitterness on the finish is countered but a slightly sour note that really torques it all poorly.

Yachats-Cetacea saison: if someone had just given me this beer, I would insist this was a lager. Same kind of nose, same kind clean middle. This saison is something I have to dig for, like an archeologist, with its floral spiciness beneath it all. I think someone should else should try it for perspective, just know you may not get what’s expected.

Thirsty Bear-Valencia Wheat: it’s sweet at the start but the finish is just nasty. I want to rinse my mouth out with mouthwash to get this dirty flavor out.

Aslan-Dawn Patrol “pacific ale”: I should’ve known before I even got it that when they didn’t ID it by a style that exists, trouble lay ahead. Candy fruit in the nose leading into a touch of malt on the tongue but vegetal on the finish.

28632351723_3d736d7ff8_z
McMenamins’ Pavol the Collector

McMenamins-2016 Hogshead Barrel Aged Pavol the Collector Baltic Porter: it’s a pretty damn good beer. A hit of that whiskey sweetness in the nose, with a touch of vanilla and then a pleasantly chocolaty beer that has a remarkably smooth finish.

Fecken-Arnold Fecken Palmer Golden Ale: the cold brew tea is in the nose, but the beer itself is a a pleasantly sippable beer: the lemon peel flavor on the finish is a touch offputting, preventing this from becoming a really great session summer beer but I’d have another.

 

Organic Beer Fest 2016

I’ve been invited to this years Organic Beer Fest so huzza! Let’s take a look…

First thought: hey, a mushroom beer!

Second thought: huh, the rest of these styles don’t really lean towards the experimental side. But that’s OK! Organic beers tend to have a tougher row to hoe in my experience, because “organic” is sometimes valued over “tasty” and can frequently mean “experimental weirdness”.

While that has been changing, I think it’s a positive sign that many of the beers are straightforward in style (at least, it seems like that from my browsing) because that’s how you hook people: with something that is just as good as the regular stuff, just different.

Once you have the basics down, then you can let ambition kick in.

I am hoping to be there the 26th, with a post up later that day on what I had.