Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Ace of Spades IIPA

A winning hand?
I love, love, love India Pale Ales. L-O-V-E, love them! The IPA is absolutely my favorite beer style. Specifically, I prefer Northwest style IPA's, with their hop forward flavor profiles. Big, bitter, piney, citrus-y hops. The best IPA's provide a healthy sting to the taste buds. A pucker that makes you shake your head for just a second and go "BLUH-UH" and then go right back in for another sip. Yes!

Portland, Oregon truly lives up to the nickname of Beervana. There are so many awesome breweries here in Stumptown, and many of them have absolutely perfected the humble IPA. That's not surprising. We have the water. We have the hops. We have an infinite number of craft beer fanatics that demand awesome beers and a multitude of talented brewers willing to oblige. Yes, you should be jealous.

Tonight, I'm drinking a bomber of Hopworks Urban Brewery's (HUB) Ace of Spades Imperial India Pale Ale. The bomber was a a bit pricey at $8.99. The label reported an ABV of 8.6% and 100 IBU's. No specific naming of the hops used in this brew. Was it worth the price of admission? Let's see.

The beer poured into my IPA glass a clear, amber/orange color with a foamy white head. The head rose up to slightly more than a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A solid cap of lacing was left behind throughout most of the drink.

Aroma was light, resinous pine and citrus hops up front. Orange and a whiff of grapefruit. Lots of tropical fruit. Floral, herbal notes punctuated throughout. Earthy. Spicy. Caramel malt.

Taste followed the nose. Not particularly dank, but respectable hops bitterness up front. Herbal, spicy. Pleasant tropical fruit behind orange and grapefruit flavors. Sweet caramel malt with some earthy, grassy notes that provided some unexpected complexity.

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel. Relatively low carbonation. Some noticeable alcohol warmth at the end, but still a very smooth, slightly slick finish.

Overall, this is a very easy drinking IIPA. Perhaps a little on the milder side for a serious hophead, but probably a perfect "starter" imperial IPA for anyone willing to take their first plunge. Good stuff! I'm giving Ace of Spades a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was drooling up a puddle for this brew.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gilgamesh Brewing Company - Oedipus IPA

What walks on four feet in the morning?
Me, with a hangover...
Hey, wasn't Oedipus that poor schmuck in Greek Mythology who killed his father, married his mother, and then gouged his eyes out with a brooch pin? That dude had some serious angst, yo. Naw what I'm sayin'? Oops, sorry. I just finished watching several YouTube episodes of Thug Notes. I love that guy.

This is Oedipus IPA from Gilgamesh Brewing Company. I'm sure they had a good reason for naming the beer after a character with some significant...mommy issues. Ack. No explanation was provided on the label. Anyway, the beer comes with an ABV of 6.4% and was brewed in Salem, Oregon.

Oedipus poured into my IPA glass a clear, golden orange color with an off-white head. The head rose up to more than two fingers thick and was quite persistent. Very clumpy and lumpy, it left a massive amount of sudsy lacing behind all over the glass.

Aroma was pine resin and citrus. Orange, grapefruit and tangerine. Sweet, caramel malt bringing up the rear.

Taste followed the nose. Loads of indistinct citrus flavor. Mostly grapefruit. Big bitter blast, followed up with sweet malt. Good balance.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Creamy, semi-oily finish, but in a very pleasant way. It went down very easy.

Excellent example of a classic Northwest IPA. If I saw Oedipus on tap, I wouldn't hesitate to order one. If it came in a 12 oz. six pack, I would not hesitate to load my BBQ cooler with the stuff. I'm giving Oedipus IPA a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sandy River Basin Watershed Council Clean Up Drink Up

It's the water, stoopid.
"What makes Portland beer so gosh darn AWESOME, Mr. Wolf?" I swear, I hear that question all the time, and do you know what my answer is? Do ya? Well, besides having some of the most innovative, creative and talented brewers in the world, Portland also has the WATER! IT'S THE WATER!

Portland water comes straight out of the Bull Run Watershed about 30 miles east of the city. Unlike many other large cities, Portland's water is delicious right out of the tap. It doesn't have to be filtered or flavored or fiddled with. You don't have to hold your nose when you take a sip. Bottled water is an unnecessary--and dare I say WASTEFUL--luxury in Portland, Oregon.

Just ask any local brewer and he or she will tell you how much they appreciate the fantastic water they get to brew with here. Sure, we pay a premium for water that tastes this good, but it's worth it. (Check back with me when my next water bill arrives.)

The symbiotic relationship between watershed and brewer was very much discussed and recognized at a recent river clean up event I attended on September 7th. Portland Brewing Company co-hosted the clean up, along with the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. I was very happy to receive an invitation and to offer my trash picking services for a couple of hours. Trust me, I was amply rewarded with mass quantities of beer.

Portland Brewing donated a month of profits from Zig-Zag Lager
to the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, a non-profit
dedicated to habitat restoration and preservation of the Sandy
River and it's tributaries.
Friendly rangers met us at Dabney State Recreation Area,
near the banks of the Sandy River, and  provided clean up
equipment and guidance for our trash collection efforts.
Will work for beer!
We collected a lot of trash, but I found the area to be surprisingly
clean. The worst thing? Cigarette butts everywhere! Come
on smokers! Clean up your butts!
I'm a mean man with a trash picker upper stick!
(That's what they're called. Google it.)
Portland Brewing provided appropriate refreshments.
After party refreshments (beer!) and dinner at
nearby Shirley's Tippy Canoe. Awesome!
I absolutely plan to donate more of my time to clean up events and other efforts of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. They are doing good work that benefits everybody in Oregon--especially those who appreciate pristine, natural rivers and wild habitats. Check out their website and see if there's a volunteer opportunity for you!

Oh, and while you're at it, visit Portland Brewing Company's brewery and taproom at 2730 NW 31st Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97210. They deserve some props for supporting such a great organization--and the natural beauty and clean water of Oregon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crockpot Carnitas

Fire up the Crockpot!
Man, another 95 degree day? Seriously? I'm tired of this heat! I don't have air conditioning, so it's broiling here at Casa de Wolfgang. No way am I going to fire up the stove to cook dinner today. I don't even want to man the grill out on the deck. It's too dang hot!

Gratefully, I have a vintage Crockpot slow cooker. There are lots of tasty Crockpot recipes, but I have a hankering for carnitas! Tender pieces of spicy, Mexican-style pork. It's super easy to make in a Crockpot. Of course, my recipe includes...beer. Oh, and tequila, because that's how I roll.

Ha, on a side note, I got an unsolicited Tweet from an Islamic prohibitionist today. He admonished me for "promoting the use of alcohol" and suggested I read the Quran and pray. Uh...BLOCKED! Seriously, dude, this is 'MERICA and I'm Beer Guy PDX. I bleed and sweat beer. There's no way you'll ever see me go all Cat Stevens on ya. No way. I'm also eating pork, so there you go. Not trying to be culturally insensitive, but I didn't start it. I don't hassle other people because of their lifestyle and beliefs. Live and let live--and nothing bugs me more than an intolerant religious zealot. /rant. 

Anyway, here's my carnitas recipe:

  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup lager beer
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash soy sauce
  • 1 shot tequila
Mix the dry spices and rub on both sides of the pork roast. Gently place at bottom of Crockpot. Carefully pour in the beer and chicken stock around the sides of the roast, trying not to wash off the spice rub. Add the rest of the ingredients and set the Crockpot on low. Cook for about 10 hours. When it's done, it will just fall apart with the poke of a fork. Serve with rice, beans and tortillas.

Ninkasi Brewing Company - Critical Hit Barley Wine Ale

Dragon slayer?
First things first: I don't know very much about Dungeons and Dragons. My son is a big RPG aficionado, so what I do know is just from being on the periphery--watching the kid play with his friends and listening to him describe long, detailed, incomprehensible play by plays of his late night D&D sessions. I know a little about Halflings, Paladins, Rogues, Necromancers and such, and I attempted to play a game once, but it was just too damned complicated for me. I prefer a game with as little rules as possible.

When I spotted a bomber of Ninkasi Brewing Company's Critical Hit Barley Wine Ale, I had to pick up a couple of them--one for me and one for my D&D loving son. Hey, there's a 20 sided die on the label and a wizard doing some wizardly type stuff. What sealed the deal was the D&D Character Sheet hanging from the neck of the bottle. The stuff wasn't cheap--$12.99 at Whole Foods. The label advised that it was a 2012 batch. So how was it?

The beer poured into my snifter a hazy, medium brown color with a minimal tan head. The head disappeared pronto and only a light ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was brown sugar and toffee over indistinct citrus hops. A bit boozy. Dark over-ripe fruit. Raisins and dates.

Taste was citrus hops up front. Grapefruit and orange. A bit piney. Definitely different for a barley wine. When the initial hops bitterness faded, there was a healthy dose of sweet, bready malt. Light molasses. Booze. Dark fruit.

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel with light carbonation. A bit of an oily, tonsil-coating finish with noticeable alcohol at the end. Citrus flavor was present throughout the drink and that was the last thing left on the palate.

Clearly a Pacific Northwest style barley wine. I'd drink it again, but I'd definitely have to be in the right mood. The pricetag would prevent this brew from getting any kind of regular consumption in my house. However, I'd like to put a bottle of it my "cellar" to see how it ages.

I'm giving Critical Hit a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.