Sunday, February 17, 2013

Base Camp Brewing Company - In-Tents IPL

So good, it yurts.

I've been following the chatter on Twitter about Base Camp Brewing Company since their tasting room opened a couple of weeks ago--before the opening, actually. I was pretty excited to  sample their wares, but then I caught the mother of all flu bugs. That certainly knocked me off my beer tasting game. With mucous oozing from every orifice, the last thing I wanted was a beer, which tells you just how freaking sick I really was. (Get the flu shot, I'm just sayin'.)

I finally made it over to Base Camp yesterday with my visiting progeny. Nice operation. The tasting room is a big, open space. The decor is outdoorsy but quite polished. Photos behind the bar depict the owners engaged in various outdoor adventure activities. An old canoe hangs from the ceiling above the bar.

We bellied up to that bar and ordered two taster "logs". The taster glasses are set into holders that are made from actual logs. Fitting. We enjoyed every beer they offered, but my favorites were the Ripstop Rye Pilsner, the In-Tents IPL and the S'Mores Stout (complete with toasted mini-marshmallow). I brought two bottles of the IPL home with me to review.

Before I review the beer, I have to mention that the folks running this brewery are really NICE. Why is that important? (Here comes a big digression.) About 20 years ago, I frequented a brewpub in my old burg. It was one of the first microbreweries in the area and I really liked the beer. The problem was that the owner/brewer, a guy named Randy, was an ill-tempered jerk. When he wasn't verbally abusing his employees, he was scowling and snarling at his customers from behind the bar. Needless to say, his business eventually dwindled to zero and Randy closed his doors. My wife believes that food and drink carries the attitude and demeanor of those who make it. Think Grandma's pies and Dad's Special Chili. Nice people make nice things. I believe that, too. 

We had the pleasure of chatting briefly with Base Camp's owner/brewer Justin who was manning the bar with his wife. They clearly have put a lot of themselves into this brewery. Justin told us that the wood behind the bar was salvaged from a barn on his parent's property. That old canoe hanging from the ceiling has a real personal history behind it. You should ask about it when you drop in for some beer. If these folks put the same amount of devotion and pride into their product (which I'm sure is the case), we Portlanders will be in store for some special brews for many years to come from Base Camp.

It's always a treat to talk to a brewer about his beer while you're drinking it. I would have never known that the In-Tents IPL is made with both white and red Oregon Oak chips, and that they chip the chips themselves. Brewing is an art and it's interesting to know the thoughts that went into the creative process from the artist. We were also treated to an impromptu tour of the brewing operation by a very friendly fellow named Ross. My son and I were kind of snooping through the open bay door and Ross asked us if we would like to look around. How awesome is that?

Base Camp packages the In-Tents IPL in really cool aluminum bombers. I think it's an awesome idea. The bottles are lighter, unbreakable and faster to cool than glass. It also helps that the beer inside the bottle is damn tasty. Now, to the beer at hand:

The beer poured from aluminum bottle to pint glass a hazy, deep amber color. The off-white head was quite ample. A full two inches thick, with nice creamy clumps. It dissipated slowly and left copious amounts of lacing behind.

Aroma is very much like an IPA. Citrus and pine with pleasant floral notes. There's a sweetness to the aroma, too.

Taste is also like an IPA. Grapefruit and orange. Robust malt in the background with some really interesting complexity to the finish. Lots of flavors left rolling around on the palate. Medium mouthfeel. This is a lager?

This beer is very drinkable. I'd fill up a cooler with it for my next family BBQ and make a space for a couple of bottles in my fridge--seriously, that's about as big a compliment any beer is ever going to get from me. To top things off, In-Tents got Merry the Wonder Beagle to leave a huge pool of drool under my chair. Doesn't get much better than that. In-Tents IPL gets a Big Dumb Galoot rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4.

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