Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alameda Brewing Company - Rose City Red

Wow, I've reviewed quite a number of brews produced by Alameda Brewing Company. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising. This top-notch Portland brewery is located within walking distance from my house--okay, it's a bit of a LONG walk, but not too far to go for fine craft beer.

Solid brews are made at Alameda. Take a trip to NE Portland's NE Fremont Street and look for the giant hop sculpture hanging above the front door. It's telling you that there's a lot of good stuff inside, including some very tasty pub grub.

Tonight, I'm drinking a bomber of Alameda's Rose City Red. It set me back a very reasonable $3.89 at Grocery Outlet. This beer comes with an ABV of 6.4%.

Rose City Red poured into my shaker pint a hazy, dark brownish-red color with a foamy, tan head. The head came up to about a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. Lots of webby lacing was left behind all over the glass.

Aroma was massive, sweet caramel malt with indistinct citrus, floral and light pine notes in the background.

Taste was caramel malt up front. Mild cocoa notes with hints of hazelnut. Nice bitter hops sock was a pleasant surprise. 

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Bitter hops and sweet malt flavors left behind on the palate. Great balance, in my opinion. Not too sweet, not too bitter. Just right!

Some great red ales are coming out of the Pacific Northwest lately. I approve! Merry the Wonder Beagle LOVED the aroma of this stuff. She drool-slimed me good! I'm giving Rose City Red a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.

FYI: Rose City is Portland, Oregon's nickname.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Base Camp Brewing Company - Lost Meridian Wit

Can I get a Wit-ness?
The weather has taken a wonderfully warm and sunny turn here in Portland, Oregon. Time for a craft beer change-up! Now is the time for something light and refreshing! Bring on the ciders, shandies and wits!

Tonight, I'm drinking a Lost Meridian Wit from Base Camp Brewing. I picked up an aluminum bomber at the co-op on the way home. Yes, the co-op. The price was $4.99 for the 22 oz. bottle. "Soak in a mountain river. Chill in the snow. Cool off in a lake. Refrigerate if you have to" proclaims the label. The folks at Base Camp are dedicated to providing packable potables for outdoor adventurers, that's for sure.

The beer poured into my pilsner glass a hazy, golden yellow color. Actually, I filled TWO glasses because one of the only beers my wife will drink is a wit. The white, bubbly head rose up to about a finger tall and dissipated quickly. A thin cap of spotty lacing was left behind.

Aroma was light, bready yeast and malt. Lemony citrus. Light smell of coriander in the background with some floral notes.

Taste followed the nose. Flavors of lemon and grapefruit rind. A nice, mildly bitter hops taste was left behind on the palate at the end.

Medium to thin mouthfeel with lots of carbonation. No alcohol taste to this refreshing 5.0% ABV brew.

Overall, this is a tasty, easy drinker. It provided absolutely no interest for the Wonder Beagle's nose, however. I like it, and what's more, my wife found it acceptable, which says a lot. I'm giving Lost Meridian Wit a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. Good stuff!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hoppy Camper

It's a brew-tiful day in the neighborhood.
I live in one of the most awesome neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon. The Alberta Arts District is actually an amalgamation of several old NE Portland neighborhoods, primarily parts of Concordia, King and Vernon neighborhoods. 

The "main drag" is along NE Alberta Street, between NE 7th and 33rd Avenues. I LOVE living in this neighborhood. Yes, it's a little gritty. There's an abundance of graffiti and more than a few interesting individuals lurking about (most recently, the NE Flasher). But, nestled among a vast array of awesome art galleries, bars and restaurants are some of the friendliest folks you'll find anywhere. My neighborhood is also home to probably the most amazing street festival in the Pacific Northwest, Last Thursday.

Like many Portlanders, I'm committed to public transportation. My number 8 bus drops me off at NE 15th Avenue and Alberta Street everyday. After that, it's a brisk walk up Alberta and I'm home sweet home. It's a pleasant walk, even when it's raining. Today, it was gloriously sunny and warm. What could make the walk home even better? How about a cozy food pod complete with a BEER cart? Yeah, that works!

I was very happy to see the Hoppy Camper beer cart open for business in the spot once occupied by the Captured by Porches beer bus at NE Alberta and 23rd. Awesome! I missed stopping in at Captured on the way home. I was sad when they closed, but very happy when I read that a new owner would be reopening the taps.

Serving 'em up with a smile.
I introduced myself to Brandon, the proprietor of Hoppy Camper. What a nice guy, and what a nice little taplist! Oh, yeah! Upright Pils, Laurelwood Porter, Double Mountain Kolsh, Epic Escape to Colorado IPA and a cider. A little something excellent for everybody! Good choices and I was more than happy to plunk down the price of $4 for a pint. Of course, I ended up getting three.

The 23rd & Alberta Food Cart Pod also has a little something for everybody. Garden Monsters has a variety of tasty salads. The Cheese Plate PDX has lots of cheese-related goodies, like grilled cheese sammiches, and the Sugar Shop has tasty sweets, like the AMAZING chicory liqueur s'more I ate today!

The pod has a number of large picnic tables, covered by a spacious awning. It's a great family atmosphere and I'm told that special musical events are being planned for the weekends. I'm there! I have to admit that the Hoppy Camper will certainly help inspire me to walk the dog more often!

There are taps inside that trailer.

Let's meet up at the food cart pod!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Base Camp Brewing Company - Smith Rock Red Lager

Red: Cure for the Monday blues.
One of the most awesome things about living in Portland, Oregon is that you can find great happy hour deals every day of the week. I'm talking cheap pints at some of the best brew pubs and brewery tasting rooms in town. On Mondays, you can get tasty pints of fresh brewed beer at Base Camp Brewing for only $3.50 ALL DAY. And I'm talking about everything they have on tap. How's that for a deal? You bet it's a deal!

I was really needing a pick-me-up after a long day at the office today. We made a quick stop at Lardo, loaded up on some sammies and headed over to Base Camp. They are totally cool about folks bringing in food. There's also a collection of food carts right outside. Inexpensive pints and tasty eats? That'll fix up any crummy Monday!

I had a number of delicious brews at Base Camp today, but the one that intrigued me the most was their Smith Rock Red Lager. First, what a beautiful beer it was! It also had a unique, spicy flavor that I loved, but just couldn't identify. I even had my supertaster wife give it a whirl. She said it was clearly some kind of "hard spice" but she couldn't pin down the flavor either. I had to check Base Camp's website when I got home. "Ah-HA!" I proclaimed when I read the description. "Of course!"

The beer was presented in an elegant pilsner glass. It was a clear, red-orange color with a foamy, bright white head. The head was a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. Lots of sudsy lacing was left behind. That head was quite creamy and left copious amounts of whipped cream-like foam in my 'stache.

Aroma was earthy malt up front with pleasant floral notes in the background. Interesting, spicy, spuce-like smell that I had difficulty describing. (It was my third HH beer, BTW.)

Taste was sweet, bready malt. Light, ripe, indistinct fruit flavor. Well-balanced, mild hops bitterness. There was an herbal spiciness, as mentioned before, that I couldn't identify. Now that I know the beer "features the aromatics of Oregon sage and juniper", it all makes sense. That's what it was! I really liked it! How they do that? Very different and totally tasty! Base Camp certainly stumped my tired, old taste buds, but in the most delightful way.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with that distinctive spice flavor left behind on the palate, gently competing with the malt. No noticeable alcohol taste. Very crisp and refreshing.

What a great brew, and it absolutely fits Base Camp's "adventure-based brewing" genre of beers. Unique and forest inspired. I'm giving Smith Rock Red Ale a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4. Good stuff! Makes me (almost) want to go rock climbing or something.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Art of the Bottle Share

Line 'em up!
If you know me, you are probably aware that I very much enjoy arranging bottle share events. Heck, you've probably been to a few that I've co-hosted. If you don't know me, you might be saying to yourself, "What in the Sam Hill is a bottle share?" If that's the case, I'll do my best to clue you in.

I attended my very first bottle share in Portland more than a year ago. Really? Has it been that long? It was arranged by my friend Chris who is the master of the bottle share. I guess you could call him my Bottle Share Sensei. Chris operates by the Twitter handle @PDXbottleshare.

That first bottle share had a small turnout. I think it was a total of five guys and my wife (my trusty DD), sitting outside in the rain in front of a local brew pub. Still, it was a great time and the start of something awesome. I had some fantastic, rare, hard to find beers and I was hooked. Let the bottle share madness begin!

The idea is simple: A number of craft beer enthusiasts get together and bring along a bottle (or two) of their favorite beer. The bottles get opened and everyone shares! It's the best way I know to sample beers that you've always wanted to try or brews you've never heard of before. All have a good time and share their thoughts (or not) about the great beer they're drinking. It's a win for everybody!

Since that day, I've attended and helped arrange a number of very successful and fun bottle shares at various taprooms throughout the greater Portland area, and there's more to come! But perhaps you'd like to set up your own bottle share? Well, I have some tips and advice, if that's what you're looking for! Sorry, this advice is going to be very Portland, Oregon specific, since liquor laws are widely different all over everywhere!

Fun times for one and all!
1) Pick an appropriate venue. There are lots of brew pubs and taprooms in Portland. If you're a beer lover, you probably have your favorite. Strike up a conversation with the owner or manager and see if they have any interest in hosting your event. From my experience, some are and some just aren't, and they aren't usually shy about letting you know one way or the other. Of course, there's always your own home, if you've got the room and your neighbors aren't opposed to parties.

2) Advertise your event. I use social media and word of mouth. Twitter and Redit are good places to get your message out there. If you're using Twitter, make sure you understand how to use hashtags "#" appropriately. The brew pub and taproom may also like to advertise the event on their own website or with flyers and posters. Expect a big crowd, if they do!

3) Be inclusive, not exclusive. If you know me, I don't have to tell you what I think about beer snobbery. For those unfamiliar...I don't like beer snobs. Beer is an inclusive, everyman (and everywoman) drink. It's meant to be joyfully shared. If you're a snotty, know-it-all snob, get a life and please don't invite me to your bottle share. I'm sure it won't be any fun anyway. If you graciously involve and include beer lovers of all levels--from newbies to master brewers--you'll be a good ambassador for our favorite beverage, you'll also make a lot of friends!

4) Be a good host. If you're the host of a party, you have to work the room and make everyone feel welcome. I'll admit that I'm a social clod. Luckily, I have a secret weapon--my wife. She's gregarious and friendly and always makes her dolt of a husband look good. Whether you're good with social situations or you know someone else who is, it's important that your guests know that you appreciate them taking the time to make your event a success!

Great friends sharing good beer!
5) Fill the bellies. Make sure your guests have plenty of snacks and water. Honestly, I've found that a few bowls of pretzels, chips and nuts are the most appreciated snacks you can serve. Cheap and easy, but if people are drinking a lot of beer, they need to be fed and watered.

6) Make it a short time frame. Trust me on this one. Set a start and FINISH time for your bottle share, and keep it short. Two hours is plenty of time.

7) Obey the OLCC rules. Basically, if you are having your share at a pub or taproom, a licensed OLCC server must open all of the bottles. After that, anyone can pour from any open bottle. I also wouldn't recommend having regular events at your private home. You don't want to get tagged as a speakeasy, or anything like that.

8) Make sure your guests understand bottle share etiquette. This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be put out there. Everyone should take a teeny, tiny taste from each bottle, just to make sure everyone gets some. There's nothing worse than having someone unthinkingly pour himself a full glass of the most popular brew. No bogarts, please!

9) TIP! If you have a professional beer server popping the caps on your bottles, please tip generously! Most bartenders live off their tips. If they spent two hours helping you make your event a success, make sure they get something for their time.

That's it! I'm sure I'm forgetting something important. If you're hosting a bottle share, and have questions, drop me an email or make a comment below. I'll be happy to help!