Category Archives: Festivals

I Choose Poorly

I decided to go to the Beers Made By Walking event on Saturday because I felt my budget would be more friendly towards the event. I almost reconsidered, because the skies were ominously overcast and I didn’t have my hat ready for rain.

You gotta have a proper hat for the rain in Portland. Unfortunately, the day didn’t work out like I thought.

My first stop: Belmont Station where I tried the following:

Ground Breaker Guild’s Lake Ale: (using blackberries, ginger, mugwort)

I can pick up the ginger, especially in the finish but the nose has an earthiness to it that is unexpected. Not unpleasant but definitely unexpected. The finish is quite bitter however and doesn’t do favors to the ginger qualities. It doesn’t weigh heavy on the palate which is good but it doesn’t leave a good final impression and that’s negative. That final note is almost sour and I’m wanting to change up as soon as possible.

Coalition Walk a’Brown: (using vanilla leaf, hazelnuts smoked over American Red Cedar)

I’m still a sucker for a brown ale so I was not expecting the smoky note in the nose but I thought this was a good sign. Sadly, it was not: the smoke flavor just kills anything else in the beer. I can sense on the edges of my tongue vanilla trying to escape the eye of Mordor that is the smoke but it just isn’t allowed to be. Hm. Maybe they should’ve just roasted the hazelnuts instead of smoking them.

A little disappointed, I decided to walk over to the Horse Brass to see if I could change my luck. The walk was uneventful but the clouds were threatening and I was definitely missing my hat. You just can’t go outside in Portland without your gear!

I arrived at the Horse Brass and was able to find a table to sit down at. Looking around, it was apparent that there was a group who had been lead on a tour for the Beers Made By Walking event that had arrived, so I was feeling pretty hopeful…until the waitress came by and informed me that if I wanted a beer, it would be a 20-30 minute wait.

So I did what any sensible human being would’ve done: I left. Better to go home and enjoy a beer of my own than to twiddle my thumbs.

Of course, once I got home the people on my Facebook feed were talking about how awesome the Pro/Am event was. Next time, I suppose. Next time.

Portland Problems

I was strongly considering going to the Pro/Am competition this weekend, for something to write about and because some people from the OBC have some beers available there. I like seeing what people I know are able to do when given the opportunity to really cut lose with access to professional equipment.

But then I heard about the Beers Made By Walking event and if there’s one thing I really love, it’s walking. And then drinking. And then walking some more.  I really feel you cannot go wrong with these things. Plus; more unusual beer.

But I can only do one of those things and I’m having a difficult time deciding what I should pick. It is a hard life, sometimes.

Bailey’s 7th Anniversary

Because I had company, I was unable to do the full day at Bailey’s for their 7th Anniversary event.  This worked out though, because I was able to get in on a tasting upstairs instead, which was really wonderful. It was a mellow event where I could sit down and get some good notes taken and enjoy my beers. As a bonus, there were some very tasty things to nibble on while I  had the beer, so I started seeing what happened when I combined some food with these ales and was quite surprised.

As always, congrats to the people at Bailey’s for another successful year.

Nebraska Apricot Au Poivre-Saison. This is like a white wine spritzer. I mean this in the best way; it’s light and tart, and despite the visual cloudiness of the beer, it tastes very bright. There is a black pepper note at the finish too, but this tweaks the beer in a way that I’m not overly fond of. I know this would go over like gangbusters with some people but for me, the saison elements are so overshadowed, I can’t quite get into it. There’s a peachy faintness to the nose, barest whiff. I dig that but the beer overall just doesn’t make it. Offset with a little apple though, and this beer becomes much more palatable.

Firestone Walker Agrestic-American wild ale.  Nose like bourbon and sprite. Light, bubblyish nose, even though I am not tickled by effervescence. Flavors are that way too. It’s a sour ale, but extremely restrained in its presentation. Lemon twist finish that doesn’t linger at all. It’s hard for me to get a handle on this one. The sour qualities (again, referencing a white wine) overrun much of the other flavors but I’m not unhappy about that. Then I get my hands on some very sweet raisins and eat them. This beer shifts enjoyably when offset by a touch of sweetness. Otherwise, it’s just a bit one-note.

De Struise Pannepot Reserva-Belgian Strong Ale.  I get some french oak barrel nose. Maybe a little chocolate and maple, too? An undercurrent of vanilla, just barely. Very, very smooth beer. The alcohol warmth doesn’t arrive until it’s in my belly. Part of me wants to suggest that this beer is thin,  but I don’t think that’s the case: I think it just finishes really lightly. The dark malts-some flavor between chocolate and coffee, but not definitively either-ride my tongue easy and then disappear when I finish my beer. A bit of parmesan cheese and a little salted almond and suddenly this is a fine ale to have things to nosh on. Not quite as awesome with brie so I think the sharper/saltier flavors are the way to go here.

Block 15 Super Nebula- stout. This tastes like chocolate soda. Holy moly. It’s amazing. The saltier cheese I had kinda works but not exactly. The nose is such a nice chocolate nibs scent but with sweetness that it’s impossible to resist. The beer itself: good, though it finishes a touch hot at the very back of my throat. It is a nice sipping beer. I want to swirl it while I pet a white cat and plot the demise of my enemies. Oh yes. Let’s kick the crap out of something. Get evil. I want it.

Against the Grain 70K Imperial Stout. No nose that I can tell. Hm…well. Let’s get a sip of that and….yeah. Let’s put this over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which is on top of a waffle and let’s GO. I don’t know that it’s got any lactose qualities beyond being very, very smooth but the bourbon and chocolate flavors rock the rocking; however they aren’t too friendly to sweeter compliments, (apple, grape) and the saltier options doooon’t quite work. A nice surprise: blue cheese. Huh. I would not have seen that coming.

North Coast Old Stock Ale-old ale. Whoa. Warm, sweet, syrupy. Raisin present, too. Let’s get some pancakes, baby, put strawberries in ’em, then pour this over them and chow down. There’s a slow roll of chocolate underneath it all but this beer really, really needs to be consumed in small doses. It’s intense, the heat of it starts a little early and I’m hard pressed to find a proper compliment to it. Anything sweet is too much, and the saltier things feel like a turn off right now; maple sugars and salt just don’t feel quite ‘together’ here.

It hits me: sour, as in a sour ale. I pitch the idea of blending this beer and the Firestone Walker and it takes root; I get a little sip of a 70/30 blend of the Walker/North Coast, as blended by Geoff (who owns the place).

It works. The sweetness and volume of the North Coast compliment the thinner feel of the Firestone, while tapering down the sour qualities making the whole drink really solid. We should totally do that again.

2014 OBF Wrapup (and haiku)

Dudebros on the bus
Your vulgar misogyny
Is quite unwelcome

Maybe next time you
Should not imbibe before the
Event in question

Once again, we have my (mildly) edited notes for this year’s Oregon Brewer’s Fest! Let’s get moving.

Ex Novo: Black & Wheat fruit ale- raspberry nose-sweet, finish is very harsh,  dirty; thin middle.

Beer Valley: Heavy Sugars Honey Ale- (pic) Nose has a farmhouse/creamed corn taste. Hint of plum? But there isn’t much else. It needs more of something; as it is, it tastes ethereal. Color is a nice pink though.

Crux: Off Leash NW Session- Nice fruity nose. The finish is a little strong on grapefruit. Still, very drinkable in heat. More malt would’ve made this beer super.

Dogfishhead: Aged Strong Ale- I can’t decide on this one. It starts solid but I get a soapiness in the finish. It’s just harsh, young and not ready for prime time.

Elysian: Perfesser Belgian blonde- nose has a funk, thought it was Belgian yeast but no; Brettanomyces yeast is doing that. It’s restrained though, as a sour but the finish is pushing me away, getting more funky as I sip it.

North trailers are too
Hot: people gravitate to
Shade: more trees next year

Crowds make the Southern
Ales challenging to get
Nobody likes lines

Deschutes: Gluten Free NW Pale- Nice. Dry finish, dankish nose is not too strong, easy to drink. One of the better ales I had.

Logsdon Farmhouse: Straffe Drieling Belgian tripel-(pic) soft Bazooka Joe flavor with a hint of white wine dryness. Chamomile is notable, and somehow it all comes together to be pretty quaffable.

Sierra Nevada: Coffee Milk Stout (collaboration with Ninkasi)- There is no milk here. It is a coffee stout, and barely achieves that on mouthfeel. Sigh.

The Dudes: Grandma’s Pecan Brown english nut ale- Expectation of pecan not quite met but this is a nice brown ale. Roasted quality is nice, a little nutmeg but it’s restrained; all in all I like it.

Sprecher: Abbey Triple Belgian tripel- Nose is nosy. Bah. But the flavors are soft, nothing to clove, fruity or harsh. Dry finish. I like this quite a bit, once I get past the nose.

Nimbus: Old Monkeyshine Ale, strong ale- I got this in part because of the name, I’ll admit. The beer is roasty. It’s a little thin but it’s not a bad beer. Strong ales just need to have a bit more density/oiliness in the mouth, to me.

Fitger: Hoppulujah IPA- Nice IPA. Grapefruit nose, nice bite on finish but there is just enough restraint to make it all work., since there isn’t a big malt presence. Dig it.


Crazy 88

There are 88 beers available at the Oregon Brewers Fest this year.

Damn, that’s a lot. More than one man can safely get through and keep a job, and as always I will have to pick and choose but I really hate doing that beforehand. Until my boots are on the ground I don’t have the slightest idea what will be available.

Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward at all: Ex Novo is a new brewery in town and I haven’t had their stuff at all, Crux has been consistently good since I was introduced to them last year, The Dudes’ and Sprecher are new to me and offering at least interesting styles of beer that I don’t see often at the OBF.

Worst case, there are always the reliables: Widmer, Pelican, Deschutes, Elysian; year after year they produce tasty, drinkable beer and usually they want to liven things up at the OBF. Sure, they’ll be popular but maybe I can find a time when the lines are juuuust short enough that my patience isn’t tested.

On top of everything else, it rained in Portland recently, so our heat wave has been broken, even if temporarily. That should make the event far more comfortable.

NAOBF 2014

Despite an overcast sky and a muggy environment, I went out to brave the NAOBF last Friday. The upside was that it never seemed to get too crowded, so I could try any beer I wanted. The downside was that there were beers that looked like this:

Seriously. That…that is not beer. I mean, I understand they claim it is and it may even chemically be beer but that looks like a collection of bull semen. Don’t ask how I know.

So here’s the limited notes on the stuff that I did try:

Lakefront (pictured) Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout: Intense nose but mild coffee flavor and very drinkable and tasty.

Thirstybear Howard St IPA: basic grapefruit IPA, tasty,bitterness restrained in finish.

Three Creeks Greenwash IPA: smellled like farts and tasted like it was burnt. Dumped this.

Loowit Giabolical: Smells like pot, but is thin until the bitter finish. There’s just no there, there.

Ft George Pi: malted strawberry nose, which I liked, dry dirty finish. Nope

Falling Sky Biopiracy: (pictured): tasty, clean, sweet. This was my first beer of the day and a good one to start with.

Ambacht-G++: Hot finish, faint bourbon in nose. Fruit mish-mash flavor and I can’t get into it.

So there you have it! There wasn’t anything stellar but there were definitely some questionable beers. I know that visual presentation isn’t everything and I certainly have brewed beers myself that weren’t clear and sparkling but there were some ales that just didn’t look like enough love and care had gone into them.

Plus, I got a nagging sense that some of these beers were castaways, there because it’s a festival and whatever, people will drink it. I hope that’s not the case but there were so many beers that just didn’t work for me I start to get suspicious.

North American Organic Brewers Fest ’14

I’m going to check out the NAOBF this Friday and if I’m lucky (and there is wifi) I may even use Twitter for it’s intended purpose: yelling about beer.

But if not, then look for some commentary next week, because that’s how I roll.

I’m rarely a fan of “organic” beer per se. I approve of every brewer’s attempt to conserve resources and use the best ingredients they can but all too often I am left feeling like the beer is substandard. So often, regardless of style, there is a ‘dirt’ flavor on the finish. And while I think we should always be striving for a better world, I don’t have to drink your mistakes. However, it’s been a few years since I’ve attended the NAOBF and I know for a fact that brewers can learn a whole lot in a short time about how to improve a beer.

So, let’s see what they got.

Of these, Falling Sky, Hi-Fi, Lakefront, Loowit, and ThirstyBear all interest me because I haven’t heard of them, so I’ll probably make those places a priority. Others like Widmer, Laurelwood, Lompoc, or Kells I feel will give me a beer worth drinking. Then there are some beers that I want to try because they aren’t IPA’s which seem to be the dominant style at the event; thankfully Logsdon, Golden Valley (even Widmer!) and a few cider places will provide options.

However, should that beer finish dirty…I will not be merciful.

Spring Beer & Wine Fest 2014 (reviews)

I both attended and served at the Spring Beer & Wine fest and for the most part, I had a pretty good time. I never really click with the SB&WF, though. There are so many non-beer related things that I wonder what’s going on.

Also, as a server, just a PSA for everyone wanting a beer: behave. I am a volunteer, not your friend and they don’t pay me enough to put up with your shit.

And now, the (mildly) edited notes!

Krauskis Gun Barrel IIPA is solid, sweet, grapefruit but not just bitter! I liked this beer because it had more to offer than the standard grapefruit bitterness. Look for more of their stuff int the future.

Heathen Vanstersam (pictured) a pale with a grassy nose, light beer nice finish.  I liked this beer enough to serve at Heathen’s station the next day and was glad I was able to recommend it vs their IPA, which was also good but stole far too much attention.

3 Mugs imperial red has a whip cream nose and banana finish. Creamy but not a good thing for the style.

Backwoods Blueberry wheat. Has a nice blueberry nose that runs through. Not heavy and the blueberry isn’t overpowering. Good beer.

Fire Mountain Summer IPA. Not bitter. Sweetness is cloying? Ugh not for me. (I was nicer to this beer than perhaps I should have been, because I got into a conversation with someone who really liked it. However, it didn’t have any characteristics of an IPA; nothing in the nose, not a hint of bitterness in the finish. It’s hard for me to insist that something is bad when someone really likes it. I should have phrased my criticisms; not to style).

Awesome’s strong ale (picture) has a finish that is acrid. Overwhelms the rest of the beer and messes up what could have been a solid drink

Orange Collar from Blue Dog mead tastes… Hint of sour nose but the drink is light not too sweet and just amazing. Apparently it’s coming out in cans, so get it.

Laht Neppur Piper Canyon scotch ale. It’s nice, malty hint of smoke…and then banana! What the fuck?

Cider Riot Everybody Pogo hoppy cider
This is what refreshingly tart tastes like: sweet tart you can drink. I liked it but I’m not sure I’d have pint after pint. Maybe on hotter days!

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!