Category Archives: Festivals

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.

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.

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.

Bailey’s 9th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for almost as long as Bailey’s has been serving beer to me. But here we are, 2016, still kicking it. The ninth anniversary was last Saturday and despite my concerns about having it on the same weekend as the OBF, everything turned out fine. It wasn’t overcrowded and the lines were minimal, at least as long as I was there. All in all I have to admit it exceeded my expectations.

The beer reviews, as always, are edited for readability.

North Coast- ’14 Old Stock Cellar Reserve: old ale. I am waiting to drink this because (my friend) Fuz is trying to line up his camera shot. Priorities, damnit! It’s a little like boozy syrup and I have to say, I’m enjoying it. A little heat as it goes down: this stuff is strong. It’s also incredibly clear: I don’t know how they got it this translucent but it’s a beautiful looking drink. As it warms up, it gets a bit more chocolaty and I’m a little less enamored with that. Onward!

Block 15- Cardinal Coalescence: Flanders red in brandy barrels. This one comes down on the tarter side of the style: a bit puckery, is what I’m saying. I can feel it in my nose when I breathe it in. The brandy isn’t coming through much though. I don’t mind, since the beer is still quite tasty.

Double Mountain Divine 9

Double Mountain-Divine 9: imperial brown in bourbon. THE PRECIOUS, IT IS MINE
…I mean. Don’t drink this beer. Very bad. Stay away.

Fort George/Bailey’s Taproom-Anni Are You Oak Aged?: wee heavy with Bull Run bourbon. The malt nose is prominent and the bourbon effects come in late and on the side of my tongue. This is a suspiciously drinkable ale that would catch someone unprepared unawares.

Epic- 2015 Big Bad Baptist: Imperial Stout w/coffee & cocoa nibs, in whiskey. Initial nose is COFFEE so I set it aside to warm up a little. It does sweeten up after this but the coffee flavor is so strong, very little is allowed to express itself in this beer. Unfortunate. It isn’t bad, just feels one dimensional, even as it smooths out quite nicely near the end.

Commons Unforseen Circumstances

The Commons-Unforeseen Circumstances: stout with brettanomyces; You can smell the tart quality in the nose, almost blueberry like. The sour quality is so mild and the mouthfeel on this beer is so light that I’m having trouble getting a grip on this beer. It’s slippy. Drinkable but in an rare odd moment, not extremely well defined. I’m not sure if I can recommend it.

Fuz nails it for me: “Root beer.”  And he’s dead on; the sassafras not the sweetness. Too bad.

Fremont- Rusty Nail: it says licorice in the description so I was avoiding it until a woman drinking nearby said it was worthwhile. I didn’t get any licorice in the beer. It’s just a really solid cinnamon tilted imperial chocolate stout. With bourbon. I dig it.

Firestonewalker- 2012 Parabola Imperial Stout: bourbon. Chemical nose. This is always a little weird. The flavors are a bit harsh, too. A rough edge of bourbon that the chocolate cannot cover up. As it is, I await the warming up of this beer to see if it improves. By the time I’m nearly done with it, I can say that is has mellowed out but not quite enough to suit me.

And finally, a thank you to all the staff at Bailey’s Taproom. I really appreciate your service.

OBF 2016 Review

I had a realization walking through the 2016 festival this year: so long as the crowds aren’t insane, I really enjoy it. Because it’s one of the few places in Portland where I see people from different cultures coming to share beer. During an era of American politics where thick lines are being drawn to divide us from them, an event that’s just an “us” is nice to attend.

As always, these are the lightly edited notes. If I don’t think the description does enough, I’ll try to say whether or not I think one should try the beer. If there are mistakes, please forgive me, as I’m hurriedly trying to get these up so they may be of use to other festival goers.

Old Town Brewing ale

Old Town Brewing, Kentucky Refresh-Mint: It has a mint nose, and a hint of lime at the finish. The goal was to make a mint julep beer and…well, I have to say they did it! I like it-YMMV.

Jing-A Brewing, Eightfold Path imperial stout: nose of chocolate pudding mix, dry, a little sweet. The flavors mostly match this, with a bitter chocolate note on the finish. But…this is a a collaboration with Elysian & 10 Barrel which means one of two things: This is a subsidiary of ABInBev, or it’s a way for Jing-A to get their way into the US. If it’s the latter, then the bummer is that I don’t know what a true-blue JA beer tastes like. If it’s the former…hey, it’s a good beer.

Collaborator, We Rye’d Like Kings, session IPA: This is a pretty subtle beer. Low ABV, lots of hops but nothing overwhelming, a little grainy flavor in the middle. It’s meant to be a really drinkable beer and it is.

North Island, IPA: NW IPAs have really taken a hold across the world, is what I draw from this beer from Japan. It’s pretty solid for what it is though! Grapefruit bent with a little malt in the middle before the hops take over, it’s a solid example of the style.

Shonan, Wiezenbock: This has a bitter finish that I’m not sure should be there. And I don’t get a bit of toasty malt flavors either. I think they overhopped it. There’s a creamy start to this beer that doesn’t quite jibe either; all in all, pass.

Doomsday CDA

Doomsday, Cascadia Fault CDA: nose hints of gasoline and the finish is, once again, emphasizing the burnt roasted quality of the malt instead of the hops. I was hoping for something better, because the name of the brewery is kinda rad, but this beer is just not a good take on the style.

Seaside, Honey Badger Blonde: The honey badger may give no fucks, but this beer is entirely fuckable. That…didn’t come out quite right. This is a light, crisp ale with a solid malt nose and a super clean finish. There’s a nugget of sweetness in the middle and it’s an eminently drinkable ale.



Melvin DPA

Melvin, 2×4 DIPIA: This is practically the definition of an exceptional juicy double IPA. Grapefruit nose, sweetness on the finish that’s strong enough to meet in a fine handclasp with the hoppy bitterness: have some.

Riverbend, Oregonized Love: It’s difficult to not let the good be the enemy of the great at this moment. Is this a bad IPA? No. But after the Melvin, it has too long a road to climb to meet the standard of the 2×4. I’d say give it a shot-but early.

Pints, Lemon Curd ESB: Lemon and a little spiciness on the nose. The lemon flavors pair quite nicely with the maltiness of the beer, with the lemon touching in enough at the finish to keep the beer really crisp. Recommended.

Squatters Pale

Squatters, Bumper Crop: this has a great lavender nose and is super easy to drink. Sweet, with a little herbal pulse on the finish; I’m really enjoying this beer.

Brauerei Nothhaft, Rawetzer Premium Export Festbier oktoberfest/wiesn. This is exactly what it say it is. Complaint factor zero. It’s light, drinkable and a pleasant way to finish this festival.


Oregon Brewers Fest 2016

Twenty nine: that’s the number of breweries coming to the OBF this year that haven’t been there before. That’s a lot of beer to try and I’m pretty sure I won’t get to it all. On the upside, I’ve had beers from some of the local brewers already, so that narrows things down a little bit.

Still, looking at the list, there’s a pretty broad range of breweries, including a bunch from outside the US, which is super cool. The styles are, predictably, tilted heavily towards lighter fare; a lot of sessionable IPAs, lagers, fruit beers and the like. There’s still plenty of options though. So long as the beers are tasty, I don’t really mind the summertime bent.

I’ve got a press pass to the OBF this year and will be attending on the 29th. While I’ll be off all next week, I hope to have a post up either late the 29th or early on the 30th so people attending on the weekend can take whatever recommendations I’ve got. I’m not going to pick out any one brewery this year beforehand, because my process tends to lean more on “Is there no line for this beer? Let’s have that!” than “Hunt and acquire this.” What can I say? I don’t think lines are good for beer.

Portland Craft Beer Fest 2016

While Sunday was spent serving beer, Saturday I was at the OBC booth at the festival to talk to people about homebrewing. While there, I had the opportunity to try some of the beers and get some comparisons in with other members working the booth with me. As always, the mildly edited notes:

Grixen brown

Grixen: Summer Brown Ale-this is a really nice, mild beer. Man it’s tasty. It’s not carbonated at all and that’s a little bit of a drawback but it still works, which is a testament to the quality of the beer. I can get a little toasted nut and dried fruit flavor but even without carbonation, this beer is so light that it doesn’t weigh on the palate at all. I’d ding the beer for lacking carbonation except at festivals, sometimes shit happens.

Old Town Brewing: Summer of 74-Not quite as sure about this one. There’s a fruity quality-the description says tangerine, hibiscus and green chili. I get some of the herbal note in the nose but the fruity quality is dominant. The chili is, thankfully for me, nearly invisible. Nearly. As the beer is just finishing, there’s a little extra ping on my tongue, almost metallic, that I think is a touch of zip from the chili. A nice beer but not for me.

Natian: Cease & Desist Imperial Milk Stout-this is…not as good as milk stouts I’ve made. The nose is solid-a hint of cream to the coffee. The body is not very rich, though and there is a metallic finish, kind of like putting my tongue on a 9-volt. One person suggests an element of smoke and that might be throwing me off too. But I think keeping it in oak barrels warped the more delicate flavors.

Commons Pils

Commons: Pils- there is a faintly tart scent in the nose, with the pilsner malt up front-a touch of honeysickle there. But this beer finished with a touch of perfume and then poof, it’s gone. Very clean, very drinkable, another success from the Commons.

Royale: Fat Unicorn pale- The nose really isn’t very hoppy, though it does offer hints of perfume. But the finish is extremely bitter and the lack of balance is turning me off. It’s supposed to be more malt forward, according to the description but I’m not getting it. I’m trying to rub the bitterness off the roof of my mouth with my tongue and that’s just not fun.

Pyramid: Ditto IPA- at 4.5%, this is a session IPA but it’s possibly the best session IPA I’ve had. It’s light but not too bitter, the nose is floral without having the sharpness of something perfumed. It’s quite possibly going to be an unappreciated beer at this festival and that’s too bad. It’s worth a pint or two.

Uptown Market Brewing: Oatis Reddin’-This is under the red ale category and by golly you can smell the caramel malts right up front. It’s got a barleywine flavor to it, along with a creamy feel to it that I am really digging on.

Rev Nat’s cider

Reverend Nat’s: Sacrilege sour cherry cider-the nose has some cherry and the middle brings the apple sweetness, but it’s the ginger spice finish that comes as a real surprise. It’s quite refreshing and very good-at first. However, the ginger is so strong that it lasts a bit longer than I’m comfortable with. The burning sensation at the back of my throat is making this a bit too uncomfortable and I’m just not so hot about recommending it. It’s almost great but for me the ginger is eventually overwhelming.

I had a Sasquatch Woodboy IPA after that but the ginger from the Sacrilege was warping my palate. I couldn’t get a good sense of the beer, so I feel it would be unfair to talk about it.

A Tale From The Frontlines

Credit to Will M for the picture

I was a server at the Portland Craft Beer Fest on Sunday-I’ll have a writeup of beers I tried later this week-and for the most part, it was a very good experience. The staff was on top of everything, the volunteer servers remained in pretty good cheer despite many kegs pouring foamy and for the most part, attendees were understanding and good humored.

Now, when I pour at a festival I try my best to hit the pour line. Getting under is bad-people will rightfully complain. Getting a little over, no one has said anything bad to me yet. But when I hit the line? That feels pretty good. A rare moment when I just nail it.

It isn’t my goal to hit the line and ONLY the line. A little generosity goes a long way, especially when you’ve been standing in line for a beer. But sometimes, I just hit the line and that feels good.

So when this older fellow holds up his mug critically and then gives me the eye, I tell him:  “It’s to the line,” and he wordlessly sneers and walks away, he’s not doing himself any favors.

His ladyfriend in an orange top snipes at me, “They don’t pay you enough.”

“You’re right!” I say. She is confused. As though she does not know what the word “volunteer” means.

“And the marketing sucks.”

So I smile my biggest, beamingest smile and stare back at her. The beer is poured and this conversation is over. She haughtily turns her shoulders and walks away. And I thumb the fuck outta my nose at her.

But you know what? I could’ve just raised my hand and told the staff that “These people have had to much to drink: they shouldn’t be served further.” Because I’ve been told by the staff that if, for any reason I don’t think I should serve someone, they will have my back. And a shitty attitude is a prime example of drunken behavior. Don’t you think?

Be nice. We are here to help you. Do not fuck with us.

Keg Draining Special

The wonderful McPolanders had another event, this time in an attempt to empty kegs in their outdoor fridge. I’m not sure if they were getting tired of some of those beers or if some of them were just old (some were just old) but I am rarely going to pass up an opportunity to try free beer.

I mean, c’mon. I really like writing but free beer is free. So, here we go!

Double Mountain- Carrie Ladd Steamship Porter: Look at this. It’s nice and light and chocolaty. I tell ya, I’d consider drinking more porters if they were this good all the time, or trying to disguise themselves as stouts. The finish is both nicely roasty and a little sweet. Good palate cleaner, too: I can see eating both really heavy meals with this and something like a salad with some stronger cheeses mixed in.

Widmer- 2014 Smoked dark lager: It’s smoked all right. My first impression is: This beer falls into that ‘too much smoke’ trap that so many smoke ales do. And then my tongue started sending “fire” messages. I get zero nose from it, but this beer is spicy! A spice that lasts long after the smoke clears. Fire after smoke? Talk about mixing your metaphors. Something seems off here, because Widmer doesn’t do beers like this. Either I need a cleaner glass, or something has gone very, very wrong.

Fat Heads- Bumbleberry Ale: there’s a blackberry/blueberry nose, which I like. I actually looked up on the internet to see if bumbleberries were a real thing and it is, kinda-sorta. The ale itself is a bit sweet and there isn’t enough of a bubbly finish to erase it. That’s not a bad thing exactly but it has that fruit beer finish that makes me feel like it should be a flaw. I think that if the finish was crisper I would appreciate it more.

McPolanders- Chocolate porter: there’s a dryness to this beer and a little smokey quality too. This beer is complicated. That isn’t a bad thing but it’s making it very difficult for me to pin down what it’s about. I kinda want to sit at the bar with a full pint of this and bounce ideas off a chalkboard about this beer. When I ask the hostess about it, she tells me they  put a little mesquite in there and things start to make a lot more sense.

Cider Riot- Never Give An Inch Blackberry cider: holy crap the nose smells like butter. I really don’t want to drink this but for you, I will. It’s…really not very good. Tart + buttery = no go. The big qualifier here is: I’m told this is pretty old and as a consequence, not a very good example of their stuff. I believe it. So I won’t take this experience as gospel but whoa, this has gone wrong.

Burside- Permafrost winter ale: Probably the most like what I would expect. Sweet in front, biter on the finish but it’s not an IPA. It’s definitely tilting more towards an old ale with the maple in the mix. Not the maple frosting flavor you get sometimes, closer to good syrup.

Lucky Lab- irish stout on nitro. Look, I don’t think I can afford to be a purist but damnit, if your beer is a stout then it shouldn’t be something I can see through when I hold it up to light. The beer is equally thin, like a watery coffee, absent the viscosity of a stout or the coffee notes that should be there.

McPolanders Blueberry Lavender ale. Boy, the nose on this is just LAVENDER. Rare to get a beer that punches you in the face with flowers like this. It’s a little too much. Buuuut. This beer has such a nice crisp finish, with the lavender remaining in my cheeks, I’m hard pressed to be upset about anything. It’s the kind of beer I can see a whole lot of people just going crazy for and being very, very happy with. The floral note plays off the berries and the finish is very bubbly. Good stuff, even if the nose plays hardball.

I asked the host about this one and he told me that the biggest difference between this beer and the previous iterations of the style they made was that they crushed the lavender this time instead of just adding the flower whole, like you would hops. He was not pleased with the strength of the nose and said he’d probably scale it back next time.

And that’s pretty much it! I had a lovely time, so thank you to my hosts, and the company was excellent, as always.

NAOBF 2015 report

Off to the NAOBF this year! And man, do I still hate jam bands.  Fortunately, these festivals are still about the beer and I think it’s fair to say as an overview that there wasn’t much middle ground. Of the beers I had, I either thought; yeah, this is good, or where can I discretely dump this out?

Fortunately, I was joined by my pal Seth (some of his beverages made it into my pictures and the occasional insight into my notes), who kept my temperament even and tilted more towards the ciders and meads, which seemed to be a better deal, overall.

So let’s get to the notes!

Pints Radler

Pints Green Line Organic Radler-
Has a soda pop nose; sweet, lime. But the beer is pretty refreshing and doesn’t contain any soda sweetness. There’s a lemony wrap around the malt that keeps everything well in check.

Coin Toss Nine Eyes IPA-
Nose like the pith of a grapefruit and a finish the same way. That isn’t hops, that’s just bitter.

Logdson Farmhouse Kili Wit-
This is a nice , not too sour ale with a very dry finish. The nose is sweetly funky, and it reminds me a little of white wine. Good stuff. I tried this beer because of their efforts at the OBF (Fuz really liked their beer) and it paid off.

Beau Gruit

Beau MaddAddamites Noo Broo Gruit-
Funkyish nose, like the farmhouse but the beer itself is malt-toasty with a dry finish. It’s complex and I’d like a pint. It’s very drinkable and very, very good.

13 Virtues ORG pale-
This isn’t bad, but it’s so thin that I’m really hard pressed to glean flavors from it. It isn’t making itself memorable at all, which is a bummer.

Loowit Gaiabolica pale-
There was a nice sweetly lemon nose on this one, and the beer itself pushes IPA levels of bitterness on the first impression. But further sips reveal a bitterness that’s actually provided by light body. It’s a beer that walks the pale/IPA line and it doesn’t have the malt presence to keep it balanced.

Pinkus Muller alt
It’s got a bland maltiness and…Seth says, “McMenamins would love to serve this(bland) beer”. I don’t feel the need to finish this.

McMenamins sour and porter

McMenamins double barrel aged Pavol the collector Baltic porter-
The surprise of the festival, no question. McMens is known for doing unremarkable, bland ales so this was a revelation because it was quite good. The chocolate milk smoothness on the finish was especially welcome. Seth: “It reminds you of dessert without being sweet” and that captures the beer very well. It’s damn good and part of a series of beers they did well at this festival. Seth’s Oaken Tower, also by McMens, is a very nice sour. (The lager, on the other hand was awful. 2 out of 3 isn’t bad though!)

Kells Red ale-
This has that toasted malt scent (a little biscuity?) that I’ve picked up buying supplies for beer. Flavor carries this too. Took me a minute to appreciate it but once I did, I enjoyed it.