Archive for July, 2010

Braving the Oregon Brewers Festival

It all starts with a plan. You carefully orchestrate times, pass along invites, plot courses, and then carry it out. But as any good heist movie will teach you, nothing ever goes according to plan. At most, you can hope for 80% follow-through and a similar outcome. That is why a planner must be open to change, especially when “ooo, shiny!” speedbumps appear.

I can find no better illustration than my two-day excursion to the Oregon Brewers Festival. Over the last few years, I’ve been to a fair share. The first time I went, I didn’t know what I was doing. By the second or third time – consecutively – I had developed a few sure-fire strategies. I even wrote a guide about it.

Unlike years prior, I had it in mind to actually remember what I was trying and what the different tastes were. By “remember”, I don’t mean I ever left in an extreme state of haze, rather, a lot of beers run together. India Pale Ales, particularly.

Okay, some of the haze was from the alcohol, but that’s a whole ‘nother entry.

This year, I set goals. (1) Arrive early. (2) Use only the tokens I have been given, maximize tastings. (3) Stay away from IPAs (my beercandy). (3) Leave early before the night crowds arrived.

The first day of Brewfest went exactly as planned. Truth be told, I only planned on going that one day. Everyone else I knew planned to attend Friday and Saturday (July 24th-25th). There was no way I wanted to deal with the sardine-packed weekend herds. As luck would have it, another friend of mine had the same idea.

All settled, we embarked. These are the beers I tried on Thursday (the 23rd), and my impressions of them.. Er…not exactly in the order I tried them, though. (I had to stagger the best with the rest.)

Hop Valley Brewing Co. Alpha Centauri Binary IPA: This amber-colored India Pale had the usual hoppy nose, but an oddly mild citrus hint to it. It was pretty much a standard IPA with a slightly unbalanced aftertaste. Of course, I liked it (as I do any IPAs), but it didn’t deviate much from the norm.

Green Flash Brewing Co. Le Freak: This was advertized as an Imperial IPA/Belgian Trippel hybrid. Yes, yes, I know I was supposed to stay away from IPAs, but it was a mutt. It doesn’t count. The brew was tangerine orange in color with a floral-tart aroma from the foamy head. Tastewise, it had just enough sweetness from the Belgian aspect, but any pungency was counteracted by the IPA hop kick. Unique and good.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery India Brown Ale: Alright! Yes, it has “India” in the title, but it is not an IPA! It’s a hybrid flavored with coffee and brown sugar. The foamy head was about medium for a beer of its type (nut brown, IPA, what-have-you). The aroma matched the liquor color; dark, roasty, with a chocolaty finish. By roasty, I mean it seemed heavy on the barley – slightly bitter/nutty. I adored it.

Caldera Brewing Co. Hibiscus Ginger Beer: I loves me anythin’ with hibiscus in it. Ginger, not so much, but I hoped that would be understated in this low-hop beer. Luckily, it was. The liquor had a light crimson color – contributed by the hibiscus petals, obviously – and a sweet, slightly vegetal nose. It lived up to its name, spicy-tart with a sweet berry finish.

Sidenote: I meant to only photograph the ones I really liked this year; the Top 7. That was fast becoming difficult since almost everything – up to this point – was so damn good.

The Bruery 7 Grain Saison: A Belgian-style beer alright. It possessed a strong, sweet nose, light head, and looked like a Belgian blonde. Matched that in the taste, too. Crisp tasting, but “meh”. Then again, my palate is biased against Belgian beers to start with. No fault of the brewer.

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema: This was described as a honey-gold ale with Pacific Northwest hops. I absolutely loathed this beer. I didn’t want to be uber-negative in this entry – and I’m sure it’s a fabulous brewery – but I can’t disguise my ire for this. I won’t use superlatives, but I hope this never crosses my plastic pint again. Next time, Anderson, bring the Hop Ottin’ IPA. In the PacNW, that’s a safe bet.

Sidenote: It was about this time I lost my friend in the crowd. In my wanderings, I got even more lost – distracted by the most perfect, princess-like posterior in stonewash jeans I saw that entire day. Totally unrelated to the Cerveza Crema, but shortly thereafter.

Oakshire Pinot Barrel-Aged Strong Ale: Originally, I meant to steer clear of the Buzz Tent (i.e. the place for specialty, two-token beers.) However, this offering had a unique aspect I’d never run into. I’ve had bourbon cask-conditioned ales, but never one from a wine barrel. Had to have it. On even a small sample pour, this strong ale boasted a thick head with a dark body. The mouthpiece aroma was all berries, flame, and ass-kickery. Oh, and the expected wine notes. It was so wine-like and creamy, I wanted to – as my compatriot said – “hump the leg of the brewer.” But…in a purely hetero way.

Sidenote: When trying to locate the profile for this on the Brewfest handbook, it wasn’t listed. In fact, the only pinot barrel-aged beer they had on the Buzz Tent roster was put out by Hop Valley. I’m pretty sure the one I had was the Oakshire one since the sign matched the moniker, but I have no way of verifying that short of asking the brewer…and I’m too lazy for that.

Riverport Brewing Co. 5/5 Pepper Beer: I’m not a fan of pepper. I know I’m not a fan of pepper. My friend – who sampled this Buzz Tent two-tokener – even stressed that I wouldn’t like it because I didn’t like pepper. Well, he was right, I didn’t like it. It tasted like pepper. No fault of the brewer (again), just a palate preference.

Sidenote: The beer name was actually mispelled in the Brewfest handbook as “Peppper”. For the longest time, I thought that was intentional…until I tried looking it up.

Laht Neppur Brewing Co. Strawberry Cream Ale: Although I’m trying to avoid brewery info in these little taster blurbs, there’re a couple of interesting facts about this Northwest newcomer. They also brew their own wine, one being a port-style Syrah. I’m doubly anxious to visit it someday. That said – alas – I didn’t approve of their Strawberry Cream Ale, mainly because it didn’t taste like strawberry. Sure, it had a fruity aspect, but it was muddled and beaten down by the wheat aspect. Negative though that opinion may be, I’m still fascinated to find out more about this brewery.

Eel River Brewing Co. Organic Acai Berry Wheat: I’ve never been a fan of “superfruit” claims, like those made for acai berries. That said, everything with the berries I’ve tried – from teas to vitamin water – turned out delicious. I hoped that was the case with this wheat. It was orange-to-brown in color. The taste was dry, crips and berry-ish. Overall, I found it mediocre. Not bad for a wheat, though, given that they can be hit-or-miss on the subjective tongue.

Sidenote: My beerbud and I were discussing a tea-beer recipe mixing a strawberry tea concentrate with a strawberry ale fused with a stout. He told me to remember it for later reference. So I did.

Laughing Dog Brewing Dogzilla Black IPA: You can smell the hops on this from several feet away. It’s damn strong. As expected by the title, it was black. It tasted like an actual dog biting my face off with sheer awesome. I almost regret not taking a picture of it. I even swigged the rest, and let out a cathartic manly grunt. Well, “attempted” manly grunt.

Sidenote: The girl ahead of me in line was chatting up the obsidian-dark volunteer, wondering where his accent was from. She cooed, “I love your accent. Are you from an island, like Jamaica?” He smiled bashfully, “Uh, no. Ethiopia.” She left embarrassed for being way off. When it was my turn up to bat, I said to him, “That was the best exchange I’ve heard all day.” He laughed.

Moylan’s Brewing Co. Pomegranate Wheat: I looked forward to sampling this because of the pomegranate factor. Unfortunately, the vibrant, purple-colored brew kinda tasted like left-out fruit punch. It would probably have a better effect if I was trying it on tap from a fresher source, but overall I didn’t favor it.

Maui Brewing Co. CoCoNut Porter: Up until now, I’d never heard of Maui Brewing. The only Hawaii-based op I knew about was Kona. But this was a porter, and by mandate, I had to try. It was rich, dark, no foam to speak of, and heavy on the cocoa nose. I was almost worried that this was the skunk end of the batch. The taste changed that. It was sharp and tasted like liquor-infused truffles. Yeah, I liked it. This was dark beercandy.

Kona Brewing Co. Coco Loco – Big Island Brown: My friend and I weren’t sure what we would label this as. Originally, we thought it was a stout. It’s lightness then made us think, “porter”. Turns out it was a brown, as per the liquid color. Didn’t see that coming. The brew possessed a light head with a heavy coconut milk scent, and the taste was crisp and smooth. Not much more to say about it. I approved.

Oakshire Brewing Co. Overcast Espresso Stout: This stout lived up to its name exactly. I only wish it hadn’t been a sunny day while trying it. Per the profile, it was black in color, possessed a nut-roasted smell, and tasted like a mocha with a kick. I likened it to an Irish Coffee. Awesome.

Marin Brewing Co. Blueberry Ale: For a simply-named beer, it’s a shame it didn’t have a stronger flavor. However, it still smelled and tasted like blueberries, albeit on the light side. I chock that up to the pale ale bit.

Pelican Pub & Brewery Kiwanda Cream Ale: Touted as a 19th century-styled beer, this pale surprised me in its delivery. The liquor was gold in color, medium foam-age, and followed through with a suprisingly rich, blunt taste. What’s funny is that I’ve been to Pelican and had their sampler before. I don’t remember this one. Sacrilege.

Sidenote: My friend suggested we mix it with the Oakshire Overcast Espresso for shits-n-giggles. It was genius. They complimented each other perfectly. Not sure if either vendor would appreciate that experiment, though. (Heh.)

In addition, around the same time I noticed a raven-haired goddess on the arm of a rather large missing link of a man. My friend – in his best deadpan – said, “I could take him.”

Boulder Beer Co. Kinda Blue: The only other blueberry beer of the Brewfest, described as a “fruit-filled wheat ale”. It had a red/amber look to it on first pour, a berry-rich nose, and the wheat aspect was the flavor’s forefront. Alas, a little light on the berry, and its sweet finish was almost a little too much. Verdict? Okay.

Dick’s Brewing Co. Dick Danger Ale: Described as a hybrid, I couldn’t tell ya what it was paired with. My immediate guess (at the time, too) was a porter and a brown. The profile states that it’s also coffee-flavored. The dark palette supports that. On splashdown, it produced no foam to speak of, but it sported a decent creamy aroma. Tastewise, it was malty, the creamy aspect translated to the body, and not too strong on the coffee connection. Nod of approval? Earned.

Rogue Ales 21: I usually dismiss Rogue prematurely. A lot of their beers have the same palate to me, variants of the Dead Guy Ale formula. This was way different from anything they’ve produced, or that I could remember. It had a liquor hint to the taste, bourbon-like. You could taste the 8% ABV out of this.

Maui Brewing Co. Heaven & Earth BalreyWine: Yet another two-tokener from the Buzz Tent, and all I had were two tokens left. It was one of the few barleywines on display this year, and I’d never heard of Maui Brewing up until trying their CoCoNut porter. Seemed like a win-win to me. I didn’t add a lot in the way of taster notes for this. All I scribbled out was, “Bourbon-y but mild.” I guess that means I liked it.

Sidenote: I’m still curious if it was really called “BalreyWine” or if that was yet another handbook typo.

And so closes Day One…

DAY TWO

Here is where “The Plan” took a turn for the ‘tarded. As mentioned, I originally only set aside the one day for Brewfest to try everything I wanted to. About noon the following day, I received a text from a friend of mine who was in town from upper Washington. We’ll call him BrewMunkey (since that’s the name of his taster blog…and he knows more than I do). I was in touch with him for most of the day prior relating beers to look out for. He and BrewMunkeyBride were planning on staying until the place closed.

Since I hadn’t seen them since – oh – the last Brewfest, I figured a second day wouldn’t hurt. I also found out an ol’ high school bud was also making the rounds in the afternoon. Now I had to go. I already had the cup, I still had two tokens, I figured another $10-worth of tasters wouldn’t hurt. So, off I went into the brew-fray…again.

Horrible mistake.

By the time I got there, it was already 2:30PM. The park was packed to the fences. The two main tents were at carrying capacity. Shouts of “whooooo!” could be heard from the street. The air smelled of collegiate drunken reverie. It was no longer Brewfest…

It was “Bro”-Fest.

Upon entering, it was even worse. The average attendee was male and in his mid-20s-to-mid-30s. He sported a sportive tank top to brandish his Larry the Cable Guy-ish “right to bare arms” and matching tribal tattoo. And – if he was lucky – he came with arm candy; an attractive, dazed damsel who wouldn’t know a real beer from a ‘tini drink. These folks were the median.

Sure, scattered about, there were legitimate groups there to enjoy a really good beer, but the norm were the fresh-out-of-college, still-in-party-mode binge drinker. And while I still fall in the age demographic for this group, I abhor it. Maybe it’s my glasses, or a bout of premature old age. When I have a libation, I appreciate peace – a tinge of my tea drinker aesthetic spilling over into my pint glass. Friday was anything but peaceful.

With the few tokens I had, most of my time was spent at the Buzz Tent. I also made the uneconomical move of accidentally sampling things I tried before. I didn’t realize this until I looked at my notes a few days later.

In all, only six new beers tried on the second day. Here they are:

Alaska Brewing Co. Alaskan Barleywine: When I escaped the swelling crowd, I was relieved to find the Buzz Tent reasonably populated. I bee-lined for the barleywine. This offering from Alaska Brewing was very strong on the barley taste, had a wonderful hop finish, and went down smoother than any I’d had so far. It was a good way to start.

Sidenote: I found my group shortly before trekking to the barleywine. Afterward, I went with the espresso stout from Oakshire, thinking I hadn’t tried it before. Upon returning, I lost sight of ’em again due to the crowd. Didn’t find ’em again until an hour later, but I always defaulted back to the Buzz Tent.

Three Skulls Wreckage Barleywine: As far as barleywines go, this one felt medium in strength, easy to swallow, and a nice (almost floral) finish. The after-belch kinda burned, though, but that’s not a judge of bad character. Well, except mine.

Sidenote: Upon my second go-around to the two-tokeners, I had difficulty choosing between a cask-conditioned stout…or another barleywine. Out loud – and in front of the volunteer – I said, “Eenie-meenie-miney…Barleywine.” She looked at me strangely.

After leaving the tent, and walking the periphery in search of people I knew, the odor of marijuana filled my nose. Wonderful. Yep, definitely Bro-Fest.

Natian Brewery Destinatian: Dubbed the smallest – or “nano” – brewery at the festival per the profile, this was a Portland-based outfit and a new one to me. For a dark amber, I thought it was surprisingly light. It had a wheat-like aroma, a note of honey to the taste, and a crisp bite of citrus at the end. I enjoyed it immensely.

Eugene City Brewery Honey Orange Wheat: I know I tried this, my notes say I did, yet I couldn’t find the brewery listed in the handbook. Googling didn’t help either, except for mentions of a Rogue annex with the same name. Too bad. This was wonderful. The liquor had a vibrant orange color, a predominately wheat nose, but it was like tasting orange juice mixed with cider and a dash of mead.

Sidenote: It is here I should mention the absolute, undisputed King of Brewfest – Sunburned Obese Button-Down-Shirt Fat Guy. Sir, I raised my glass to you. You were awesome. Second Runner-Up was Handlebar Mustache Goth Kilt Guy. He trailed only by a margin.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Ollalieberry Cream Ale: I’ve never even heard of an ollalieberry before. What it tastes like, I couldn’t tell ya. For this ale, I simply could not get passed the sour taste. There was a berry profile alright, but it was far too sweet and face-implosive. However, I’ll fault my palate for that. I don’t like really sweet-n-sour things to begin with.

Sidenote: I had a beer snob moment with the volunteer who was serving this. He was about to poor me the last bit from an almost-empty pitcher. I stated that I didn’t want the skunk end and pointed to a full/fresh pitcher next to him. Both he and another volunteer insisted that the skunky sediment was fresh as well. I insisted on the other pitcher. They acquiesced…but only poured about halfway. Jerks.

Buckbean Brewing Co. Original Orange Blossom: In reading from the handbook, I was surprised that this was a brewery from my old Alma mater – Reno, NV. This ale might be enough to make me visit again. It was citrusy, sweet, but with a balanced floral character throughout. I would say this was the best I tried my second day at Brewfest without question. The perfect summer ale.

I closed my day with a recommendation from a friend to try the Rogue 21. Of course, I already tried it, but I didn’t know it at the time. I liked it better the second time around. Fresher batch, mayhap. I said my farewells to BrewMunkey and BrewMunkeyBride, and to the others I knew. Crowd-worn, I dragged my feet to the lightrail.

In the end, regardless of earlier frustration with the populace, it was still worth the jaunt. There were those I missed that were more worthwhile than I thought, and I notched off two more barleywines in the process. In those terms, it was a success. However, in the future, I’ll stick to my guns for only doing it the first day.

I’m not a party person…

Despite evidence to the contrary.

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 Beverage Blog No Comments

Beerfest on a Budget

The advent of July signifies many things – the death-breath of the summer blockbuster season for another year, blistering hot iced tea weather, and a cavalcade of fire-signed birthdays. None of these hold a torch, however, to the greatest reason July exists; at least, in the Northwest. And that is Oregon Craft Beer Month.

I always knew that this was the time for a myriad of brew-oriented bacchanaliae, but I never put two-and-two together. Oregon – and by extension, the entirety of the Pacific Northwest – has prided itself on its homebrew and microbrew culture. Many a basement-dwelling brewer surface and socialize, drinking merrily in celebration of taste instead of toastiness. Although the latter is often an end result.

I’ve missed some of the plethora of parties due to scheduling or spaciness. The first beerfest (that I knew of), which preluded the festivities was the North American Organic Brew Fest. In June of ’09, I had the pleasure of attending and enjoyed it immensely. Alas, the following month of that year, I missed it’s sister festival – The Portland International Beer Festival. This year, the roles were reversed.

Although on a tight budget, nothing would make me miss this splendid little event. As luck would have it, the event fell on the weekend of my brother’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than with a gourd-filled globe-trot?

The only factor I had to keep in mind this time, alas, was my pocketbook. One of the disadvantages for the disenfranchised, on this little excursion, was that some of the beers up for sampling required multiple tokens (a dollar each) per 4oz. thimble. That could add up. $25 only guaranteed you ten. As such, my brother and I devised a way to maximize our tasting treasures. Sample, share, sit. We claimed territory at a table and took turns venturing back into the festival fray for frothy goodness.

By the end of our outing, we had sampled a good seventeen or so…and, boy, did we feel it. Luckily, this year I convinced myself that I was there in an “official” capacity. I brought a notebook to remember what I tried. These were my thoughts – chicken-scratchy and sketchy, though they may be – at the time I tried them:

Arko Amber Grand Imperial Porter

When we first started out, the bro and I decided to go dark first. He had a preference for darker beers anyway. While I liked ’em, they didn’t compare to my usual beer candy – IPAs. This year, though, I decided to steer (mostly) clear of my heavenly hoppies and diversify. Even though it was a splendid “double IPA” year.

The Arko Amber Grand Imperial Porter is a Baltic-style porter from Belgium. Some “internets” digging turned up that Arko is a distributor of Polish products. I suppose that includes beer. Alas, I could find no other mention on the product other than for a “Grand Imperial Porter” via BeerAdvocate. I didn’t know whether or not they were the same product.

Anyway, I felt that this porter had a toasty finish. It was malty, pungently sweet, but overall a decent dark.

Flyers Brewery Kentucky Uberwine

Flyers is a restaurant/brewery hailing from Oak Harbor, Washington. Their website mentions they maintain six staple beers on their menu. For this festival, they brought the big guns; a bourbon oak-aged barleywine they dubbed “Kentucky Uberwine”.

I love me some barleywines, although such a love affair can be chancy. I’ve tried some that I’ve absolutely adored (Stone’s Old Guardian) and others I never want to taste again (Deschute’s Mirror Mirror). Coupled with that, the bourbon cask process. Sometimes, it can add an excellent bite to the brew or give it too much of a liquor lean.

On first taste, I noted how extra bitter it was. This didn’t bother me at first, but the scotch-bourbon-ish hint bubbled up from within, burning my nose. If I wanted scotch, I’d drink scotch. I wasn’t expecting it in a barley beverage. My brother noted that it had a licorice taste to it. In summary, not recommended. Too bad, though, the rest of their beers seem delicious.

SBS Imports Batemans Mr. George’s Ruby Porter

SBS Imports is a Seattle-based beer/cider import company that’s been in business since 2003. Among their wares are offerings from a brewery established in England in 1874 by George and Suzanna Bateman. The Ruby Porter we tried was obviously named after the original founder.

It had a very cream-like nose on first whiff. To the taste, it started off thick and malty but ended on a crisp – almost pilsner-y – finish. I wondered what it would be like at a UK-like room temperature draft serving. Overall, not bad.

Spaten West Munich Dunkel

I’m sure many (all two of you) who read this have heard of Spaten. Anyone with a fair share of German restaurant or Oktoberfest badges earned have at least seen the brand somewhere. From humble beginnings 600+ years ago to the veritable beerhemoth it is today, it’s contribution to the world of “Weisse” cannot be ignored.

My brother chose to sample this Dunkel. While usually a stout/porter fan, he actually liked the deep-bodied flavor of a good dunkel. I can hardly blame him. “Dunkel” in German translates to “dark”. The first one I ever tried was on tap – a McMenamins seasonal – and it was exquisite.

This one fell a bit short on the darkness. The liquid was cherry-colored. Initial taste was Bavarian crisp but a bit on the light side. I can’t say it was bad, but it fell short by Dunkel standards.

Arko Black Boss

Yet another Baltic porter from Arko and Poland. This one had a weird nose to it – liquor-like, even. I also noted that in the taste. On the tongue it was reminiscent of one of those vodka-filled, dark chocolate candies you give to family members during the Holidays. Odd, but I liked the effect.

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

The name on this fascinated, for the last time I tried something called “Yeti”, it was a pale lager from India. It was recommended by an in-law, and I regretted it. Great Divide is a brewery out of Denver, Colorado. I want to say I’ve tried their Titan IPA before, but I can’t remember. Some beer-ish experiences have hazed together over time.

Their Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti is a new twist on their stout mainstay – aptly entitled, “Yeti”. Cocoa nibs and cayenne pepper were added to the recipe to bring out some extra kick. And kick it did a little. It had an ordinary carbonated beer nose that didn’t betray what lay beneath. Taste-wise, it was woodsy, bitter, not all that chocolaty, but *damn* thick. In short, loved it.

Caldera Rose Petal Imperial Golden Ale

Caldera is one of two breweries in Ashland, Oregon that I know about. The first being Standing Stone. Before now, I hadn’t sampled any of their brews. Their Rose Petal Imperial Golden appealed to me just by the main ingredient. I’ve imbibed my fair share of rose-flavored teas. This made me wonder if they could steep well in a bubbly beer.

Alas, that wasn’t much the case here. It barely had a scent that might have been floral but very light. To the palate, it had a rosy aspect on aftertaste, but I had to try really hard to spot it while swishing it around in my mouth. Other than that, it stuck to it’s original namesake as a golden ale and didn’t deviate much from that. Good but not through rose-colored eyes.

Merchant du Vin Westmalle Trappist Tripel

This Trappist beer caught the imagination of my brother. Apparently, this is a beer brewed by a Catholic order of monks called the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or Trappists. Of the 147 monasteries of the order in the world, only seven produce beer; six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands. This was a Belgian one.

This was also a two-token sampler, but my brother went for it anyway.

The first thing he noticed was that it seemed to have “stuff” floating around in it. He first thought this was beer rot. After a complimentary refill, he gave it another shot. And liked it. I, then, gave it a go. It had a typical pale ale scent; fresh and clean, not unlike an Outkast song. To the taste – while on the forefront, fairly typical of a Belgian-styled ale – it had a completely wonderful, sweet finish.

We fell in love with it.

Sierra Nevada Brewery 200*8* Bigfoot Barleywine

You – fair reader – might be wondering why I put little doohickeys around the “8”. There’s a reason for it. Allow me to explain:

I never thought much of Sierra Nevada Brewing. Their pale ale always tasted, well, pale. It reminded me of college, cheap and wasted. One time while on my way to visit family in NorCal, I was almost tempted to stop at the brewery. However, that would’ve meant spending more than five minutes in Chico.

Uh…no.

If I had known a barleywine had been produced there, I probably could’ve made at least a four-minute pit-stop and justified it. Originally, in our handy-dandy beer guide for the ‘fest, the Bigfoot Barleywine was listed as a 2009 vintage. The volunteer corrected me as I was having it poured. It was actually a 2008 varietal. I’d never imbibed a two-year-old barleywine. Score!

This had a frothy nose on initial spashdown, a wonderfully balanced hop taste, and a surprisingly smooth aftertaste. I even handed off to my brother – an “un”-fan of barleys as a general rule – and he greatly approved, noting that it reminded him of a double IPA. I wouldn’t tarnish it’s type with that title, but I can see how that comparison could be made. This was the best barleywine of the brewfest. Er…not that I tried that many.

21st Amendment Brewery Hell or High Watermelon Wheat

Originally, I intended to try 21st Amendment’s Double Trouble IPA. I searched high and low for the damn beer, but it was nowhere to be found. A volunteer later informed me that they ran out of the stuff on the first day, replacing it with some golden ale. This upset me a smidge.

Luckily, they had a uniquely-named, oddly-flavored wheat that begged to be imbibed, a watermelon wheat. While weisses are a hit-or-miss affair with me, there are a few that catch my fancy. Usually, there’s something unique about the recipe. Sometimes it’s the addition of oranges, others, maybe a type of flower. In this case, it was a rather large, unassuming green fruit.

As a sidenote, I should point out that whoever the volunteer was that poured me this…well…she was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Red hair, green eyes, devilish smirk. I even sputtered out, “By the way, this isn’t a drunk statement, but I love your hair.”

Oh yeah, I’m that smooth.

But I digress. This wheat had a very strong watermelon taste with a smooth “weissbier” after-whip. I approved.

Yet another sidenote. My brother and I racked our brains trying to figure out what the 21st Amendment was. It wasn’t until we got home, and learned it was the repeal of Prohibition, that we felt like idiots.

Spaten West Franziskaner Dunkel-Weisse

Yep, yet another Dunkel from Spaten. This time it was a Bavarian dark wheat. I really don’t have a lot to add her other than to say it was good, sharp and dark. No superlatives necessary. Moving on.

Laurelwood Brewery Olde Reliable

I’ve frequented the Laurelwood Public House on a few occasions in Northwest Portland. It’s been a good couple of years since I visited there last, but I don’t ever recall them having a barleywine. Or…maybe I did try it and I forgot. Beer does have that effect.

I had a bit of an altercation with the volunteer who was serving this. He asked for my beer token, and I thought I already gave it to him. Little did I know that I was still holding onto the darn thing. I apologized profusely. But on to the barley…

This had a slightly humble but barley-rich nose and a thick, copper color. On the flavor-front, it was a hopslosion of taste, almost too much. Luckily it settled on the palate eventually. Just in time for me to recover and notice a girl in a lime green, sci-fi-esque jumpsuit stroll by. Perfect.

Skelton Brothers Kulmbacher EKU Pils

Initially, when I went to try this, I thought I was going for the the Kulmbacher Schwarzbier. I read that it was another type of German dark – like the Dunkel – only more thick. Somehow, I ended up requesting the EKU Pils instead. I “think” I changed my mind at the last minute to give pilsner another shot (having never been my favorite). However, keep in mind, I was about two pints in of 8%-or-higher beers. Details were hazy. I thought this was the Schwarzbier I originally asked for.

Not the case, it was the pils. And I hated it. Glad to be reminded of that…after the use of a valuable token.

Old Lomboc Proletariat Red

A couple of friends of mine arrived at the festival two hours after my brother and I. They chose to play a wee trick on me on arrival. The female of their group grabbed me from behind and cooed, “Hey sexy.”

I knew this couldn’t be an actual person, and responded with, “Oh, hi [insert name here].” Mouth in mid-sip. I was un-phased by un-truths.

One of the beers said female tried was the Old Lomboc Proletariat Red. Said brewery was situated in the Pearl District of Portland, and I visited once with my stepdad. I remember liking their beers, but I didn’t recall the Proletariat. I asked for a sip. It possessed the usual sharp amber taste…and for some reason, I wrote the word “bubbles” down in my notebook. No idea why.

Almar Orchards J.K.’s Scrumpy Organic Cider

When I originally went up to try this, I couldn’t find it. Little did I know that I hadn’t looked at the name close enough. By the time I finally found it, I was let down to see that it cost two tokens. I had hoped it was only one, for I only had a sole one left at that point. One of the friends that arrived sung its praises and tossed me an extra token.

And, boy, he was right. Like a hard cider should be, it was heavy on the apple flavor. No acidity with a bit of a honey-ish note at the end. I was floored. (No, not literally.) It was worth the two tokens.

Double Mountain Brewery Devil’s Kriek

Double Mountain is a brewery I visited with my stepdad on an excursion to Hood River. The small-ish, waterfront town boasts three breweries – two micro, one macro (Full Sail). Double Mountain was right across from the macro. When we stopped through, they were still in the process of opening up for business. The main bar wasn’t even complete yet. But they were still serving beer, so we didn’t care.

Among the best (and strongest) we tried was Devil’s Kriek, a 9% berry beast of a beer. Purple in color, sour to the palate, but divinely presented.

I related this story to my brother, and he instantly wanted to try it. I took a sip for good measure, hoping it was the same beer I remembered. (Memory was hazy from that trip, yadda-yadda.) And, oh yes, it was. He liked it, and I liked recalling it.

Beers I “Think” I Tried…But Forgot to Take Notes For

Perusing my old notes, I found mention of Hopworks’ Bourbon Barrel Mystery Beer. I wrote down the name, but had no written information on it. I can only conclude that I tried it, but I’m not certain if I liked it or not. Secondly, I noticed scribbles of Wandering Aengus’s Anthum Cherry Cider. I believe this was one a friend of mine token’d, and I mooched a sip of it. All I wrote for it was, “It tastes like cherries.” Hardly a detailed description.

For a beerfest outing, this was perhaps my most responsible. I ventured (and adventured) in a well-mannered fashion, sampled many a libation, and maintained my wits…for the most part. Strong, though the ales were, I only poured two-ish pints worth down my throat. When I returned home, I slumbered. It was the contented nap of a busy brew-taster. A sleep of a thousand hops.

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Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 Beverage Blog No Comments

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