Tag Archives: lompoc

Lompoc Winter Ale Roundup

One of the things I’m starting to look forward to is the Lompoc Winter ale offerings. Every year they seem to go all in on their seasonal offerings and since I don’t get out too often, I always appreciate the invite to see what they have coming up. This year distinguished itself a little differently from previous years by offering us some beers that were still in progress. Some are meant to come out in December, specially offered for the Holiday Ale Fest so I tried to keep that in mind as I reviewed the beers. The ones that weren’t quite ready yet I took note of, so you can read the reviews with that in mind and take it into consideration when it’s time to try them for yourself.

The opening beer offered while we settled in was the Entropy cream ale, which is a really wonderful starter: bready, something I think might have to do with the yeast, and a hint spicy but nothing overwhelming. All in all, it’s pretty swell. Sure, they’re bribing is with an excellent beer to start, but I won’t complain. It’s not a winter ale but it’s a good one and I recommend it.

Cherry Christmas- and now they Winter ales start up. This was called a spiritual successor to a previous ale they did (mostly, they liked the name) but the concept is this: wheat ale and cherries in a wine tote. This is an early version, unblended, so it’s a beer in the middle of the process. Scent is…sweet, and a bit leafy. The cherry flavor is really mild and it’s not too sour at all. They didn’t do anything to sour it up and I prefer it that way but apparently that is what’s coming: addition of lactobacillus to intensify the sour elements. The wheat malt is what’s holding it together, for me. This beer is almost thin and that’s halted by the denser mouthfeel the wheat malt provides. I would love to try this in a few weeks without the sour addition.

Jolly Bock lager: originally made for holiday ale fest, 97ish. I don’t much nose: something cake or baklava like… honey? The hop bitterness snuck up on me: there isn’t much malt to this one and my girlfriend suggests a little less hops might’ve been better. I’m inclined to agree. The hops dominate it a little too much.

Brewdolph, which I remember liking in the past, has changed a bit: this year they used more American malt instead of German. I’m told that this was to ensure the freshness of the ingredients. Belgian Ardennes strain of yeast gives it a clove character you can taste: there’s a saisonish flavor but it is restrained, giving the beer some character without blowing it out of the water. Makes me think of a French-oriented saison. The malt comes out in the nose a bit candy like? Low key though.

It’s about this point when the brewers at Lompoc tell us that we’ll probably be getting louder as we talk about the beers. What I notice about that moment is: when given permission to get louder, we get louder. Everyone was pretty restrained up until then but with a bit more noise seems to come a more festive feel to the event.

Holiday Cheer vanilla porter: a genesis of ’01 or so: another Holiday ale fest. Lompoc doesn’t have enough room to make as many styles of beer as they previously did, having moved from their NW location. Last year they made the 8 Malty Nights, so they are switching for this year to satisfy everyone (sort of).  Aged for a week on vanilla beans, they say they want to have it spend more time with the vanilla, so this beer is also not quite finished. The vanilla is just starting to peek out, chocolate still the overriding flavor here. With some more time, I think we’ll have a very different story.

C-Sons Greetings is probably one of the most infamous (in a good way) Xmas ales they do. The nose is just full on spicy pine and I am not disappointed at all: it is a very good beer. Apparently the trends are moving away from really hoppy, potent beers but if this is what brewers are making, I don’t know why. It’s an excellent beer.

Old Tavern Rat has a very strong toasty flavor, caramel in the nose and is a fine ale. I like barleywines and this is one worth savoring. Let this warm up and hang out with a cat on your lap. Also, it tastes like a vanilla ice cream topping. That always feels right.

The bourbon barrel aged Tavern Rat is only going to be offered on tap so get it while you can. It smells hot, with hints of licorice or maple in there: fig is what I’m told I should be looking for and as soon as I hear that I get it: dried fig and molasses. But it’s really smooth and doesn’t have a hot finish. Definitely a pour and share beer, something to let warm up. I am going to have to make a trip out just for this, I think.

Revelry Red- this is another one they will do things with. Currently unblended, this ale has been sitting with sour cherries, not unlike the Cherry Christmas. This year, the Revelry Red is going to be combined with the same base beer that has been port barrel aged.  The sour cherry in this is more pronounced. As it stands, it feels a bit…weird. It’s not one dimensional but I feel like the blended version will really elevate this beer and criticizing it is unfair. It isn’t bad but it feels unfinished.

That’s it, folks! Thanks to Lompoc for hosting.

Lompoc Holiday Preview

I had a chance to try six of the eight upcoming holiday ales from Lompoc because two of them hadn’t been brewed yet. It was a fine evening to spend at the Sidebar, with tales of brewing and recollections of Don Younger, including the classic, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” I can’t speak for anyone else but I certainly had a good time. And by god, I need to make a shirt with Mr. Younger’s quote on it. That should make money, damnit.

Here’s what I thought of the beers I tried that evening.

lompoc holiday set 1
From R-L Jolly Bock, 8 Malty Nights, Franc’ly

The Jolly Bock was a malty, red lager that they said wasn’t quite finished yet. It showed: the beer was a solid, malty brew it had only the barest hint of hop bitterness at the end to balance it out. The lack of strong carbonation held it back I believe, but not by much. Should be fine come it’s release near the end of the month.

8 Malty Nights, a beer inspired by the Chaunkah holiday (it was even blessed by a rabbi, the first year they made it!) had great roasty chocolate flavors in the nose and through the mouth. I found it to be one of the highlights of the evening and I’m told it’s going to be bottled this year, so I look forward to getting some of that to share with friends.

The third beer, Franc’ly Brewdolph is one that I have a little trouble with. It had been aged in Cabernet Franc barrels and just blended that day when I tried it, so there was practically no carbonation to it; this beer definitely resembled a fresh beer, just brought out to play.

But it was good. Really good: someone mentioned that it tasted like cranberries and that’s not an unfair description: the tartness at the end was right out of a nice dry white wine and I really liked this beer! This beer is going to change, though: carbonation is, I’m told, going to subdue the oak flavors a bit and bring up the fruit, and the tartness should mellow a little. However I don’t want it to; I want people to try this one because it’s really tasty.

That said…I also really want to try it when it’s carbonated too, to see how it changes. I have no doubts that the Franc’ly will be a good beer and represent Lompoc well at the Holiday Ale Fest, I’m just curious if the changes will be for the better or even out.

Lompoc holiday beers 2
From R-L, C-Sons, Old Tavern Rat, wee heavy

The C-sons Greetings was a definite highlight of the evening. My notes say ‘Pine sword across the tongue!’ It’s a really good IPA and this year’s batch should be given to anyone who enjoys NW style IPAs.

Old Tavern Rat was the penultimate brew and, despite being a barleywine, had a very strong bitter note at the end, uncharacteristic for the style. It was explained to the crowd that this year, the OTR was brewed on a different system; the one at the main brewery, instead of where they had usually done it, at the NW 23rd location. Despite knowing the new system might provide more hop bitterness at the end and planning for it, this beer came out a bit different than expected.

Which I find comforting as a home brewer. Even the professionals occasionally have trouble with their alchemic processes! I also find it really interesting: they took a recipe they knew well and were able to adjust, yet brewing on a different system-a set of tools they knew well-led them to making a beer that was different than expected.

That’s fascinating, to me. Now, the OTR may or may not be for you but I think it will be worth trying some this year and comparing it to last year’s batch, should you have some, or next year’s batch, when it comes out.

Finally, there was a bourbon barrel aged wee heavy, brewed in conjunction with LOLA. This spent months in barrels and was made with fifty pounds of molasses! This beer is a strange one, in a good way. The nose is very bourbony and had me thinking it was going to be really potent. But the mouthfeel was very light, the ABV only 7.5%, so it drank like a much lighter beer. Really a wonderful drink and I recommend trying it if you get the chance.

7pm Arrival

I was invited to the Lompoc Holiday Ale preview event, which, as always, is a super cool thing to be invited to. I’ll have a writeup on the beers I sampled on Wednesday but the spoiler alert is: they were interesting and/or good and I had a great time.

I arrived early, perhaps too early, with everyone noticing my entrance; Jerry, the owner of Lompoc, Chris, the PR woman who is responsible for my invite and John Foyston, who is one of the Elder Statesman of beer writing in Oregon.

No pressure.

But here’s the thing about events at the Sidebar; they are jovial and friendly and all around in the spirit of the holidays. Being there felt like the kind of event that kicks off your holiday season. It wasn’t long after I arrived that other people started to wander in and we all started to talk about beer and break up to…talk about beer again. I even had a chance to catch up with the folks at Taphandle, which was awesome and I’m hoping we are able to arrange a beer together soon.

Yet, the whole time I felt a little out of place. I was asked multiple times who I wrote for and that question made my brain go weird. What do you mean who do I write for? I write for me. I write for you.

But that isn’t what they meant, of course. I was even asked if I ever considered ‘monetizing my blog’ which also felt weird. I’m not against making money; hell, I’d be happy to have people pay me for this but I don’t know the first thing about such matters–and truthfully, that isn’t why I’m here. I’m here to talk to you.

It became a little clearer when I was talking to Josh, one of the new brewers at Lompoc. I told him I felt a little out of place and he said ‘You built this thing because you loved it’.

The only thing I could think at that moment was; well, yeah. Why else even bother?

And that’s why I can stand with the people–whose efforts I respect and appreciate–who have become those larger figures in the scene. I’ve spent my time and I can be proud of what I’ve done.

The money matters less than the interaction with people. Getting to hear the stories told in a pub is a reward that is very distinct from a paycheck and I’m fortunate and thankful that I am in a position to go to these events. I just recognize that I’ve earned that position and maybe don’t have too feel so awkward next time.

Plus, I’m thankful for those who have allowed me to be in such a position. Without an audience this would be a very different blog so I appreciate your attention.

The Lompoc tasting

I was invited to Lompoc‘s Sidebar for a preview of their winter beers and after a long weekend of moving, I cannot adequately explain what a treat it was to sit down and relax a bit. I also got seated next to the authors of the Taphandle blog, and they were delightful people to talk to. As regular patrons of the Sidebar, they were quite knowledgeable about Lompoc’s brews and fun to chat with about what we were drinking.

There were nine beers served but I’m going to talk the most about my favorite four. I didn’t detect any flaws in the other beers but they just didn’t work for me.

Blitzen aleThe Blitzen, a golden ale with spices like cinnamon, clove and ginger, had a warm feel to it; there was a scent that I couldn’t place. At first I thought it was like cider but much later it hit me: the Blitzen smells like a cinnamon cookie. The finish on this beer is really clean so I think it might be easy to overlook but I’d like to have another one.

The Brewdolph was a really awesome red ale. Malty and finishing very crisply, with a little tiny bite at the end that the brewers told us was from the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain used for this beer. I was informed that we were getting a fresh batch of it and that they frequently age some of the Berwdolph for a year and serve it, when the yeast bite has smoothed out but I have to say, I liked that bite. Hearing that it smoothed out made me a little less curious to try it, as part of me is saying ‘but it’s good already! D0n’t fix it!’

Still, I trust ’em and I’m sure that when I have the opportunity, I’ll try an older Brewdolph.

Bourbon barrel aged C-Sons Greetings is next on my list and it took me a little off guard. Bourbon is usually a flavor that goes with vanilla or chocolate flavors, hence stouts and porters get the treatment and to have a beer as heavily hopped as the C-Sons aged this way was a surprise. It works though; the beer has a bourbon nose but it’s really mellow, flavorwise, nothing sharp or aggressive poking out at it, despite all the hops added. My girlfriend said that this beer fulfilled her desire to have a shot with a beer back by rolling it all in one, and that’s not a bad way to think about the aged C-Sons.

Bourbon barrel Old Tavern Rat aleFinally, the bourbon barrel aged Old Tavern Rat, brewed in honor of Don Younger crossed my plate. The brewers started making this ale well before his death and the brewers mentioned how they wished he’d been there to have some, despite knowing that ‘He would’ve hated this beer.’ This beer is, from my notes, ‘Smooth as hell–the dark fig flavors kick in and end the rougher warm alcohol finish, making it one of the better beers.’

It was good.

Of the others, the regular C-Sons is a hop heaven that barely retains its balance, the regular Old Tavern Rat has a great caramel/creme brulee flavor to it and the Jolly Bock was smooth and malty-but at 7% has “Danger, Will Robinson” written all over it, because it’s just too easy to drink.

The Cherry Christmas and the Holiday Cheer were both not quite my thing; the brewers mentioned that some of those beers weren’t quite ready yet and maybe that’s why I didn’t glom onto them. Still; I found those beers to be a little thin in the body and as a result they didn’t hold their flavors up as well as I might’ve liked.

All in all, it was a really cool night and I thank everyone who made it happen!

I’ll have whatever you say #9

Luck is a funny thing. Sure, some people would say that there’s no such thing as luck but I have to say, though my worldly experience isn’t quite up with the masters, every so often you get lucky.

So it is tonight, walking into the Tanker. I’ve not ventured far in an effort to avoid the cold Portland streets. Weathermen are advising we all stay indoors and hide. I’m more about avoiding other people’s lousy driving and fear of ice than I am about not facing icy conditions but there’s also something to be said for not tempting fate.

I walk into the bar, stepping past two outdoor smokers as I do so, to find an empty space on the rail. Two glasses of some kind of lager are nearby but they are without owners. The lager is not going to be the good kind–call it instinct. Instead, a man with a outdoor vest and a beard is at the bar waiting to order. So when he gets a Lompoc Special Draft, so do I.

Easiest pick ever. Shortly after I’m served, the two smokers return to the bar, older, football fans smelling of old smoke and hunched over the bar like defeat. I’m actually a little sorry I didn’t get a chance to ask them what they were drinking, though my palate is happier I came into the bar when I did.

Most everyone is watching TV in one form or another, or they have raised their voice so much in order to cut through the visual noise and ensure that attention is being directed their way. It’s ok; the Tanker is that kind of bar, geared for loud, boisterous behavior. I notice there are video poker machines now–sad. Seems like a bar has more character when there isn’t video poker. Then again, the poker is offset by the murals of men fighting Godzilla on the wall; gangsters with berets, beards and Barettas trying to mug giant lizards about to stomp bridges. So I have to let the poker machines slide. Art is cooler.

My LSD is pretty tasty too, toffee flavors and a touch viscous, though there is a strange feeling on the aftertaste, as though there was a tiny hint of chalk. That’s probably just my brain short circuiting though, so let’s not mark Lomboc down for this.  Besides, it isn’t making my beer taste bad so the heck with it; I’ll take a good beer with a strange moment any day over bad brews with a strange one.

The 3rd Anniversary Event

So Bailey’s 3rd year of being open was celebrated in fine style, with twenty beers kept in barrels for months finally making a showing. It was crowded but civil, and between myself and the other four people I was with,  every beer got a fair shake.

In a fit of…maybe not-so-smartness, I used Twitter to catalog my general thoughts on the beers I was drinking. So if my comments on these beers more pithy than descriptive, you’ll know why.

tokensBefore I start though, I want to mention the awesomeness of the tokens used at the event. The picture’s on the left-how cool is that? Old bottlecaps are reusable, colorful, and beer-related. Way, way better than the wooden tokens or paper tickets I usually get at such things.

I started with the Cascade Quadratic. From the feed:  reminds me of a sweet tart with dry finish. I liked it-and it was certainly one of the most complex beers of the bunch.

Next, I had the Allagash Curieux: “has a woody flavor that finishes in a bad way for me.” But later I upgraded this beer saying “as it warmed up the woodiness has mellowed. Drinkable.” I wasn’t a huge fan but I did end up seeing the good side of this one.

The third sample I had was Oakshire’s Ill Tempered Gnome. An old ale I said was “pleasantly hopped on front and back with a solid middle.”  I remember being surprised by this beer, as it was the first one that presented me with any hop presence that I could discern. That certainly helped it stand out in a field of oak and pinot barrel aged brews.

Fourth up was the 3 Skulls barleywine. I got this in part because I like the name 3 Skulls. My notes say: “good but there is a quirk I can’t place.” I never was able to figure it out and in a rare instance, my friends couldn’t assist me, in most cases just not picking up on what I found strange.

dragons milkMy fifth sample was New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. After some teasing from my girlfriend, the tweet said this: “New holland dragons milk is smooth tasty and caramel coco w/alc warmth.” I liked it quite a bit.

After this, some surprises were in store. I found Deschutes’ Twilight Pinot to be a “solid pale with a fascinating Pinot influence that spikes near the end. Worthy mixture. ”

Upright’s Six was “a sour beer for the masses. Good and drinkable but not distinctive.” I mean this in the best possible way. Sour beers are very, very difficult for many people to drink and some even ask why bother. This beer could serve as a gateway for some into the style, and for others a chance to try the style without taking a sledgehammer of sour to the tongue. I call it a win.

I also liked Lompoc’s LSD “is my final beer smooth and drinkable but…fuck you I’m drinking.”

So clearly, by then I was done writing even though I liked the LSD a lot.

But it seems like the local boys made good in this event. Lompoc, Deschutes and Upright all made good beers I wrote about. I also had Hopworks’ For Those About To Bock on the recommendation of my girlfriend and thought it was very good, and Cedric dug on Hair of the Dog’s Cherry Adam.

I also heard good things about the Lagunitas Pinot Saison and Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza but there just wasn’t enough time in the day to try everything personally.

Anyway, Cheers to Geoff and his staff for three great years. Here’s to next year!

52 Weeks 46: Natian Mild IPA

Now this is one of the more interesting beers I’ve had in awhile. A mild IPA? Wouldn’t anyone even reasonably educated in the ways of brewing say that those styles don’t really mix well? 

But this beer works. There’s a bitterness in this beer that reminds me of strawberries. You know that hint there in the fruit, especially if it isn’t quite ripe, that’s leafy and green? That’s what I’m getting in the midrange flavors and bite. But the front had a sweetness and the nose doesn’t give me hops, just a hint of caramel. So this beer has some complexities to it but it also holds to the mild style in drinkability. Very easy to sip on, drink fast, great for hot days, a good beer to have before dinner, just an all around excellent drink. I didn’t know of the brewery until now but I look forward to more offerings from Natian-who apparently is savvy enough to have a Facebook and MySpace page, but not a website of their own.

Then again, they have more followers than I do, so who’s laughing now?

My Dad is visiting and so he’s come with me to this edition of the blogpost. Now what’s interesting is that when Fuz visits, we tend to talk over me writing, just as when my girlfriend has come out with me. Dad is content reading The Drunkard’s Walk, sipping Lompoc’s Oktoberfest. We’ve had a pretty nice visit and most of the beers I’ve been offering him have gone over quite well. I may not be a professional grade brewer, but I can offer a drink to my Dad knowing it’s good stuff so I’ll take it. 

Then again, we had quite the adventure in the one block to took to walk here. maybe a bit of solitude is appropriate. Two homeless looking people shouting at each other about who had the headphones for the other’s iPod; the questioner strangely still, the responder with a raised golf club to keep the former away. We passed by as the incident was dissipating, the person with the golf club telling the other that they were a moron and their headphones were in their pocket. We wove around the argument and narrowly missed cutting off a scrawny white man in Joker-purple pants with a lilac colored shirt sliding into Mary’s strip club, and between two black men who seemed to be talking about their angle of approach to…something, the words faded behind us as we walked up to the bar.

Dad asked me why I chose Bailey’s as the bar and I told him; it was close to where I worked, I liked the place and there was a constant rotation of beers there that would insure I wouldn’t repeat myself.

But I also come here to touch Portland’s character. I know I don’t need to show off Portland to my Dad-he’s been coming here since before I was born-but I do like introducing him to my favorite bar, which I imagine he’ll say he enjoys due to the lack of televisions and reasonable volume to the music. It’s meant to be a place where you can read a book while your son dabbles in technology and I think that’s awesome.

Of course, the most interesting parts of the conversation are yet to be had. That’s how it is with my Dad; you can’t write it up while it’s happening because you’re engaged. Otherwise you aren’t involved. Not that he insists upon it, just that you’ll miss the best part if you’re trying to do something else. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a visitor.