Friday, November 29, 2013

McKenzie Brewing Company - Unforgivable Darkness CDA

Come to the dark side...
I had quite an Oregon beer line-up for Thanksgiving, largely due to my thoughtful daughter from Eugene. She brought home a bag full of bombers that she picked up along the way. She sure selected some good ones--hey, she doesn't drink beer but she's obviously gained some beer picking skills from pops, just from osmosis.

One of those beers was McKenzie Brewing Company's Unforgivable Darkness. It's a Cascadian Dark Ale with an ABV of 7%. This is the first beer I've ever tried from this Eugene Brewer. It's a collaboration with Steelhead Brewing.

The beer poured into my pint glass a dark, dark, brown to almost black color. The mocha head was a sight to behold. It rose up to more that two fingers thick. It was quite creamy and clumpy and popped up over the rim. Beautiful.

Aroma was roasted malt, chocolate and espresso, with citrus notes in the background. Some hints of ripe, dark fruit.

Taste followed the nose. Coffee, cocoa up front with a good, solid sock of hops bitterness. Indistinct citrus. Great balance between the roasted malt and hops.

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel. Creamy finish. No noticeable alcohol taste.

There's a lot going on in this beer. Sometimes, that's not such a good thing, but in this brew, it works. I really enjoyed it and it was my favorite out of all the Thanksgiving beers in my holiday list. I'm giving this beer a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle thoroughly disgusted all of the Thanksgiving guests by drooling up a huge puddle in the middle of the living room. Good job, Unforgivable Darkness!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Worthy Brewing Company - Farm Out Saison

Starting Thanksgiving early.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I ain't got no self-control. I bought three special bombers of beer to go with the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, and now, I'm down to two. I just can't help myself. My Turkey Day dinner guests are just going to have to make two bottles go a long, long way. Sorry. Hell, we have a ton of wine...

The bomber I cracked open early was Worthy Brewing Company's Farm Out Saison. It's a Belgian Style Ale, according to the label. It comes with an ABV of 7.3% and 25 IBU's.

The beer poured into my tulip snifter a hazy, golden yellow color with a peach/apricot hue. The bubbly white head came up to just about a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated quickly. A minimal ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was lemony citrus and ripe stone fruit. Some tropical fruit notes, too. Bready, yeasty malt smell in the background.

Taste was predominantly stone and tropical fruit with a lemony overlay. Mild bitter hops. Belgian spiciness. Biscuity malt.

Medium mouthfeel with lively carbonation. Dry finish with a pleasant bitter aftertaste. Malt and spicy Belgian yeast flavor left on the palate at the end. No detectable alcohol.

This a is darn good Saison! I really like it a lot! I'm giving Farm Out a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alameda Brewing Company - Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA

AH-OOOOOOO!
It'll make you howl.
Alameda Brewing Company is the Portland brewery that is closest to my house. YEAH-AH! Representing NE Portland! It's pretty much my neighborhood brew house. They cinch the deal by offering $5 growler fills on Saturdays. And the nachos are pretty good. Oh, and the BEER is pretty dang good, too.

Tonight, I pulled a bomber of Alameda's Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA out of my fridge. How have I not reviewed this beer before? I've consumed growlers of the stuff all by my lonesome. Guess I've already dropped a spoiler there. Yes, I like it a lot.

The beer poured into my shaker pint a hazy, golden orange color with a creamy white head. The head rose up to about a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A thin cap of lacing and a good amount of sudsy web was left behind.

Aroma was lemon, orange and sweet malt. Subtle floral notes and hints of honey in the background.

Taste was an initial sweet, indistinct citrus flavor at first sip, then a big, bitter hops sock to the jaw. Pow! A lot of pine. Subtle dankness. After the hops sting wore off, an earthy malt taste lingered behind. The drinkability factor is very high with this one.

Medium mouthfeel with plenty of carbonation. Creamy finish. No real booze taste detected, despite the 8.2% ABV.

This is a great brew that can be had in my neighborhood, often at a bargain price. Local, fresh and delicious. That's what craft beer is all about. I'm giving Yellow Wolf IIPA a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle woke up from a sound sleep when I uncapped this one.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rogue Ales - Dead Guy Ale

Dead bang, right on.
I've had Rogue Ales' Dead Guy Ale so many times, I keep forgetting how much I like it. It's a dang tasty beer! It's a Maibock or Helles Bock style. I just reviewed another Maibock beer a couple of days ago. Dead Guy Ale is kind of at a different level and a superior brew, in my opinion.

I picked up a bomber of Dead Guy Ale at the little tienda down the street. I was walking the dog and got to thinking about how thirsty I was--then I remembered I had no cold beer in fridge. Something had to done about that. The Dead Guy was the only beer in the store's cold case worth drinking. The bomber set me back five bucks and some change. ABV is at 6.5%.

The beer poured into my shaker pint a hazy, honey-amber color. The off-white head came up to about a 1/2 inch and dissipated at a moderate rate. A decent amount of webby lacing was left behind.

Aroma was brown sugar, caramel and biscuity malt right up front. Notes of over-ripe stone fruit in the background. Subtle aroma of apple pie spice. Smelled nice, even from across the table.

Taste followed the nose. Lots of sweet malt. Caramel notes. Hints of hazelnut. Pleasant hops bitterness perfectly off-set the initial sweetness. Just the slightest hint of booze was present.

Medium mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Creamy finish. Earthy malt flavor and hops bitterness left on the palate.

I really like this beer. It's pretty damn perfect for what it is and a good ambassador for fine Oregon beer. This one should be getting the attention those "donut" brews are getting, I'm just sayin'. Dead Guy Ale gets a very respectable 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.


Flat Tail Brewing - Seriously Low Budget Belgian Golden Strong Ale

The name is certainly
a mouthful...
Yeah, I'm a low budget kind of guy. I've never had much more than two cents to rub together (What exactly does that mean?) and whenever I do have a few extra bucks, I spend it on beer. Hey, you know what they say, "you can take the boy out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the boy." Something like that. I'm descended from a long lineage of trailer trash, let's put it out there, as if you couldn't tell.

Naturally, I was attracted to Flat Tail Brewing's Seriously Low Budget Belgian Golden Strong Ale. I bought a bomber of the stuff at Imperial Bottle Shop and Taproom for five bucks. Deal. It comes with a respectable ABV of 8%.

The beer poured into my Mason jar a slightly hazy, golden orange color. The white head made it up to about a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated quickly. Practically no lacing was left behind, but the head came back whenever I refreshed the glass.

Aroma was apple, pear and stone fruit. Fruity, Belgian yeast. Somewhat cider-like in smell. Almost like apple pie. Interesting.

Taste gives sweet malt and fresh fruit flavors. Apple, white grape and pear. Some banana notes in the background, along with a pleasant spice and mild bitterness. No real alcohol taste that I could detect.

Medium mouthfeel with lively carbonation. Finish was dry with bready yeast and pleasant malt flavors left on the palate at the end.

Perhaps not the greatest representation of this style of beer. Lots of true Belgian brews will give you way more character and flavor for your beer bucks than this one. Nevertheless, it is very drinkable and entirely unoffensive. I certainly wouldn't turn one down. I'm giving this Seriously LowBudget brew a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Crux Fermentation Project - Outcast IPA

Hey, ya, that's a nice IPA!
I'm an IPA lover. I'll admit it. The classic American India Pale Ale is my favorite beer style of all time. Just give me a beer with some big citrus juiciness, a massive amount of alpha hops bitterness and a healthy dose of malty deliciousness, and I'm a happy man.

Far too often, I taste an IPA that misses the mark by... just... this... much. Bummer. Apparently, there are a lot of ways to muck up an IPA. Yes, experimentation is the nexus of innovation, but I don't really like drinking experiments. I'm a Beer Guy, not a lab rat. So sad when I have to dump half a bomber of pricey suds down the sink.

Gratefully, that was not my experience today. Crux Fermentation Project (out of Bend, Oregon) has produced an IPA that really impressed the heck out of me. The beer is called Outcast and it comes with an ABV of 8%. The label advises that the stuff was brewed with Australian Galaxy hops. Let's get right to the review.

The beer poured into my glass a clear, golden orange color. The bright, white head rose up to a full finger thick and dissipated slowly. Plenty of sudsy lacing was left behind all over the glass.

Aroma was big on citrus, orange and grapefruit, with a light pine scent in the background. Tropical fruit aroma was also in the mix. Pineapple. Guava.

Taste gave a massive mouthful of grapefruit from the very first sip. Just a hint of dank funkiness and a solid sock of hops bitterness. More citrus and less tropical fruit was present in the taste than the nose initially suggested. If you love grapefruit flavor in an IPA, this is your beer. A light, herbal spiciness rounded things out nicely.

Medium mouthfeel with just a little bit of a chew to it. Hops bitterness left behind on the palate at the end. No hint of alcohol.

This is a really nice IPA. Very drinkable. The only thing I'd change would be that slightly heavy-handed grapefruit flavor. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable brew and I'll certainly buy it again. The Wonder Beagle went crazy for the stuff. I had to make sure my glass was far out of her reach. I'm giving Outcast a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Southern Oregon Brewing Company - Holy Water

Best disclaimer EVER:
Contains no holy water.
"Maibock" is a traditional Bavarian brew. The name translates to "May Bock", so named because the seasonal beer is typically consumed during the spring months. According to Beer Advocate, "the Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock." Hmmm, good to know.

Southern Oregon Brewing Company's Holy Water describes itself as a Maibock beer. It comes with a respectable ABV of 7.1%. It does NOT contain any holy water, according to the label. That's also good to know. I picked up a bomber at Fred Meyer for $3.99 (on sale).

The beer poured into my glass a clear, honey amber color with a bubbly white head. The head only made it up to about a half inch tall and dissipated quickly. Lots of pinpoint carbonation could be seen rising continuously from the bottom of the glass.

Aroma was huge on sweet, bready malt. Light apple and pear scents in the background.

Taste followed the nose. Big sweet malt flavor up front. Caramel and honey. Light brown sugar. Nice bitter sock followed the initial sweetness and provided appropriate balance.

Medium mouthfeel and a lot of carbonation. Creamy finish but with a fairly noticeable alcohol taste left on the palate at the end. 

There's just a bit of a harsh raspiness to this brew. Not particularly refined, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I'm giving Holy Water a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. No Droolie. The Wonder Beagle didn't even notice I was drinking it.


Base Camp Brewing Company - In-2-Tents Imperial IPL

Wolf-tested, Gnomey approved.
I already highly approve of Base Camp Brewing Company's In-Tents IPL. It earned a 4 crushed cans rating when I reviewed it last year. So, when I saw a bottle of In-2-Tents Imperial IPL in the cold case at Belmont Station, I had to buy it and try it.

The label says this brew is double wet hopped and comes with an ABV of 7.7%. It came packaged in one of Base Camp's super-cool, aluminum bombers and set me back $7. Let's see how the boys at Base Camp did with it, shall we?

The beer poured into my pint glass a hazy, orange/amber color with an off-white head. The head rose up to more than a finger high and dissipated slowly. Spotty lacing was left behind, along with a full ring around the rim.

Aroma was sweet malt, indistinct citrus and pine. Notes of tropical and stone fruit in the background.

Taste was full of hops bitterness right from the first sip. Sweet, earthy malt. Grapefruit. Slight alcohol taste, but not a deal breaker. Not a great deal of complexity to this one. Still, it's an easy drinker and quite tasty.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Slightly creamy finish with the hops bitterness left behind on the palate at the end.

Good stuff and the first "Small Batch" series from Base Camp that I've ever tried. Looking forward to more. I'm giving this brew a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle's interest was peaked as soon as I popped the cap off the bomber.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ducks in the Bay by Greg Gearing - Guest Blogger!

Greg's on a boat!
I am very honored to welcome Greg Gearing as Beer Guy PDX's very first GUEST BLOGGER!

Greg is the consummate beer guy, himself. A Portland native who recently returned to the area from Texas, he knows his way around a pint glass. I met Greg at the very first bottle share event I attended in Portland. He works long hours as a health care professional, but he is as passionate about craft beer as he is about his career. (Ladies, he is single.)

Greg is a big Oregon Ducks fan (Go, Ducks!) and his fanaticism recently took him on a trip to the Bay Area. San Francisco is considered by many to be the cradle of American craft beer, and it is certainly a respectable beercation destination.

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, like I am, you'll be happy to see that Greg has done quite a lot of the preliminary legwork for us. Thanks, Greg!

Ducks by the Bay

As part of a pilgrimage for the Oregon @ Stanford game earlier this month, I spent 4 nights in the Bay Area with the intent to drink a lot of beer. The majority of my time was spent in the downtown SF area, specifically right around the Market Street BART stop. San Francisco (and the Bay Area) is quite large, so my review is only but a small slice of what is possible!

Mikkeller Bar:

www.mikkellerbar.com
34 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102


Taplist as long as your arm.
Mikkeller Bar is a new establishment which was opened this summer by the Danish gypsy brewer duo. The bar was massive and gorgeous, with elegant "European Style" taps, numbering 44. An example of their beer selection can be seen in the picture below. The prices are high, but that is to be expected for SF, and most of their beer is imported. The service was stellar every time I was here. The food looked good, though I never tried it. Mikkeller Bar is the beer destination for downtown SF and what they offer is currently unmatched by Portland.

City Beer Store:

www.citybeerstore.com 
1168 Folsom St #101, San Francisco, CA 94103

Part of the gentrifying neighborhood of South of Market, City Beer Store is a tasting room and bottle shop that has a lot in common with the Portland destination of Belmont Station. There were 8 taps that seemed to focus on regional specialties. A new concept to me was an exclusive fridge devoted to on-site only bottle consumption. This fridge had a very good selection of rare and aged beers, including some from Deschutes and Logsdon. The owner, who also was the bartender, is a total beer nerd and is extremely passionate about his love for beer. I'd like to see other bottle shops in Portland copy the rare/exclusive bottle collection idea.

Cellarmaker Brewing:

www.cellarmakerbrewing.com 
1150 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Cellarmaker is a hole-in-the-wall, all new brewery that opened only a month or two ago. There is a dearth of actual breweries in San Francisco proper, and Cellarmaker hopes to buck that trend. Brewed and served on site in the South of Market neighborhood, Cellarmaker focuses on both hoppy beers and funky beers. The owner, who sported impressive sideburns and a mullet tail, apologized to me because everything on tap was in the session range. According to the website, that problem has already been fixed!

What's pouring?

Deli Board:

http://www.deliboardsf.com 
1058 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Only one big block away from both City Beer Store and Cellarmaker, this is where you go to eat. You are able to bring your food into Cellarmaker; I think this is also true for City Beer Store, but I'm not certain. Limited hours (11AM-4PM), so this is exclusively for daytime drinking.
Lots of beer on that list.

Church Key:

no website 
1402 Grant Ave San Francisco, CA 94133

Way up north, almost by the Fisherman's Wharf, is Church Key. Claustrophobic and eclectic, Church Key is one of the original SF beer bars. I wasn't all too impressed with the establishment, though I don't know why. The tap selection was varied and quality, the place was even divier than Roscoe's, and my bartender was awesome. Also in this neighborhood is a place called "La Trappe", which I was unable to visit, though was recommended to me by multiple locals.

21st Amendment:

www.21st-amendment.com 
563 2nd St, San Francisco, CA

Just a stone's throw away from AT&T Park, 21st Amendment is the quintessential modern day San Francisco brewery. They have a full service bar and restaurant that includes an open kitchen and upper floor alcove seating, perfect for sports watching. Their tap selection is all their own stuff, with about half of it being their grocery store selection, and more expensive too! The food is great and service is good. 21st Amendment is an all-around great package, though from a beer perspective, it is just a little bit underwhelming.

The Rose and Crown English Pub & Restaurant:

http://www.roseandcrownpa.com/
547 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

The Rose is pretty much the only place for craft beer in Palo Alto. The closest comparison would be "Horse Brass Light", with emphasis on the light. If you're in Palo Alto, certainly stop here. It's a great location that is less than one block off of University Ave. However, do not go out of your way to Palo Alto for beer.

GO DUCKS!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stone Brewing Company - Enjoy By 12-13-13 IPA

Should say "Enjoy NOW!"
The first Stone "Enjoy By" brew I reviewed was the 9-13-13 version. In that review, I expressed my humble (and insignificant) opinion that the whole "Enjoy By" dating thing was kind of a gimmick--but I also admitted that gimmicks aren't such bad things when the results are exceptional. Hell, I'd drink a beer named Toilet Scrubber Pooper Scooper, as long as it tasted good.

9-13-13 earned a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was quite taken with the aroma of the stuff.

12-13-13 is a double IPA that comes with an ABV of 9.4%. Is it any better than the 9-13-13 version?

The beer poured into my glass a clear, golden, copper color with a bright, white head. The head dissipated quickly and left a light ring of lacing behind.

As described in my prior review, aroma was big citrus hops and lots of luscious tropical fruit. Orange, pineapple, guava and passion fruit. Pine and some sweet caramel malt in the background. A nice funk to the aroma, as well.

Taste was citrus up front. Orange and grapefruit. Big tropical fruit flavors. Sweet malt taste that was perfectly offset by the hops bitterness. Some pot-like funkiness that I didn't pick up in the prior version. I like it.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. No noticeable booze in the finish of this one.

Either this is a better batch, or I'm having a better day. Doesn't matter. The Wonder Beagle went insane when I opened the bomber. She was doing her little hoppy dance and drooled up a massive puddle. Big love from the hound. I'm giving 12-13-13 a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Brouwerij Affligem - Affligem Blond

Beer Guys prefer blonds/
Okay, I have a tale to tell about the subject of tonight's beer review. A few years ago, I wandered into my local Big Lots store, looking for bargains, when I spied a shelf filled with 750 ml bottles of Affligem Belgian beer. They had a Dubbel, a Tripel and a Blond...for A BUCK A BOTTLE! Score! I couldn't believe it. I bought a full case of each variety. Best beer deal I ever made.

Affligem the beer was originally brewed by Trappist monks in the Abbey of Affligem, in Bussels, starting around the year 1062. Holy cow! That's a long time ago! Wikipedia tells me that the beer is now brewed in the nearby village of Opwijk, under the "license" of the monks, but the brewery is owned by Heineken. Maaaaan! Apparently, everybody eventually sells out to the big corporations, even robed, silent men of God. Bummer.

In any case, Affligem Blond is a Belgian pale ale that comes with an ABV of 7%. I bought a 11.2 oz. bottle at 1856 bottle shop for $3.00.

The beer poured into my proper Belgian beer chalice a slightly hazy, golden yellow color. The fluffy, white head rose up to more than a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A minimal ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was Belgian yeast and spice. Coriander and clove. Light lemony citrus and banana scents in the background.

Taste was bready yeast and sweet malt. Banana, lemon peel, apple and Belgian spices. Mild citrus bitterness and an herbal zing rounded out the finish.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Dry finish with the spice and lemon/herbal flavor lingering on the palate.

This is a solid Belgian brew. You're not likely to ever find it at the price I did years ago, but the three bucks I paid was a bargain, too. I really enjoyed this beer. The Wonder Beagle started an impromptu display of her entire battery of tricks, trying to get me to give up a few drops. Thus, I'm giving Affligem Blond a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deschutes Brewery - Chasin' Freshies 2013

Fresh hops never stops...
Apparently, I wasn't very impressed with last year's version of Deschutes Brewery's Chasin' Freshies. The stuff only earned a rating of 2 crushed cans out of 4 on the BeerGuyPDX rating scale. Maybe I was really grouchy that night. Who knows?

What's cool about seasonal beer releases is that they can be completely different brews from one year to the next. Chasin' Freshies is just such a brew. I was clearly pretty "meh" on the stuff last year. This year...

The beer poured from bomber to glass a slightly hazy, light golden, yellow color. Almost looked like a pilsner. The white head rose up to two fingers thick and looked deliciously lumpy and creamy. Impressive appearance.

Aroma was lemon and orange citrus with a hint of tropical fruit. Not much malt came out in the smell on this one. All fruit with a touch of floral and herbal notes.

Taste followed the nose, but with biscuity malt in the mix. Lots of citrus flavor, some pine, and a mild bitter punch. Grassy, herbal notes. A load of indistinct tropical fruit. Very crisp and clean flavor profile to this one. No dank funkiness. It's an easy drinker but with a lot of taste. I like it!

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. The head came roaring back to life whenever I refreshed the glass. Dry finish with the citrus flavors lasting on the palate.

The 2013 model of Chasin' Freshies is keeper. The Wonder Beagle didn't give up much drool, but her nose definitely perked up while I was drinking this one. I'm giving it a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fort George Brewery - North VII

A lot going on inside
this brew.
"Barrel-Aged Imperial Belgian-Inspired IPA"

That's the description printed on the label of Fort George Brewery's North VII. My immediate thought was that this is a brew that is going to be AWESOME...or a brew that tried too hard to be too many things. Of course, Fort George Brewery, in beautiful Astoria, Oregon, is one of my all time favorite brewers on the planet. They make some tasty, tasty beer. I decided to place my taste buds in their capable hands.

North VII comes with an ABV of 9%. That's pretty respectable. The label also advised that the brew was aged in American Oak Kentucky Bourbon barrels, and dry-hopped after it left the barrels. Interesting.

The beer poured from bomber into my tulip snifter a slightly hazy, orange, copper color. The off-white head rose up to a full finger thickness and looked quite creamy and clumpy. The head dissipated slowly and left copious amounts of sudsy lacing behind.

Aroma was straight up pine and citrus. Very IPA. Light tropical fruit scents in the background: pineapple and mango. Sweet caramel malt and flowery Belgian yeast.

Taste gave a big bitter bang of citrus: grapefruit and orange. Very spicy. Caramel malt and bready yeast. Pine and oak flavors permeated my palate but didn't overtake the underlying citrus hops flavor. All of the flavors really popped as the beer warmed up. Delicious.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with the citrus and pine lingering tastefully at the end.

This is a delicious beer. I admit it took a few sips for me to warm up to it, but once I started drinking in earnest, I fell in love. Merry the Wonder Beagle drooled the biggest puddle I ever saw drip from her muzzle. My gawd! I'm giving North VII a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fire Mountain Brewery - Hangman Winter Fest Ale

Hangin' with the hangman.
It's finally Winter Warmer Season! Oh, yeah! That's the seasonal beer "style" I can get solidly behind. Big, full-bodied, massive ABV brews meant to stave off the frost and make e'erbody happy, happy, happy until the freezin' season is over. Sooooo, much better than its precursor--Pumpkin Beer Season. Seriously, I can only drink so many pumpkin brews, but winter warmers are a different story. The only thing holding me back is the alcohol content. 8% and higher qualifies as a real winter warmer in my book.

Today, I'm drinking a Hangman Winter Fest Ale from Fire Mountain Brewery. Okay, let's start with the name. I don't get it. What's festive about a hangman? I guess in the olden days, the whole village would turn out to watch a hanging and make a big ol' party out of it. Still, more gruesome than fest. In any case, the beer was brewed with seven malts, flaked rye and barley, and dry hopped with Amarillo and Cascade hops. The ABV is 8%.

The beer poured into my pint glass a clear, medium copper color with an off-white head. The head rose up to about a finger thick and dissipated quickly. A thin, spotty cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was sweet malt and brown sugar up front. Indistinct citrus notes and over-ripe, dark fruit in the background.

Taste delivered an unexpected bitter hops zing. Orange and grapefruit. Earthy malt smoothed out the initial hops bitterness. There was a spicy, peppery bite that lingered throughout. Nice balance of bitter and sweet. No alcohol taste that I could discern.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with the peppery spice and hops bitterness left on the palate at the end.

Hey! This is a nice brew! I'm giving Hangman Winter Fest Ale a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. I bought the bomber at Grocery Outlet for $3.99. Good price for a quality craft beer.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thunder Island Brewing Company

Roomy tasting room...
About halfway between Portland and Hood River, you'll find the quaint, riverside city of Cascade Locks, Oregon. According to Wikipedia, the city took it's name from a series of locks that were built to improve navigation past the Cascade Rapids on the Columbia River.

If you have never visited the Columbia River Gorge, you really should. From magnificent Multnomah Falls, to the view from Vista House, to the windsurfers at Hood River, the Gorge provides some of the most pristine beauty found anywhere in the Pacific Northwest--or the entire Nation for that matter.

Thunder Island Brewing Company recently opened their doors in the city of Cascade Locks. The brewery is located in an old port building in picturesque Marine Park. There are a number of large picnic tables outside, with an unobstructed view of the Columbia River, the Cascade Locks, the Bridge of the Gods, and Washington State on the opposite bank.

The large tasting room has a bar and a number of inside tables--good thing, because Cascade Locks averages about 80 inches of rainfall a year. It was pouring down in buckets the day we visited. Nevertheless, the scenery was still worth the 30 minute drive from Stumptown.

We were greeted by brewer and co-owner Dave. Super friendly and the vibe at Thunder Island made us immediately feel right at home. (I have to say the brewery wasn't easy to find. Just take a left turn once you are inside Marine Park and keep going until the road ends.)
$4 pints!

They had three beers on tap: their Scotch Porter (made with a full bottle of Scotch), Pale Ale and an IPA. I really enjoyed the porter. Nice and mildly smokey. The IPA was tasty, too. Dave advised us it was brewed with Falconers hops. There was also a cider on tap from local Fox-Tail Cider. All good stuff!

To me, Thunder Island Brewing Company represents what craft brewing is all about: People with a passion for fine beer, learning the craft and then sharing the awesome results with their neighbors. It's fun and exciting to see these folks getting their brewery off the ground and their doors open.

Whenever I'm taking a trip through the Gorge. Thunder Island Brewing Company will definitely be seeing me drop by, probably with a growler under each arm. I also hope to see their wares in some of the local taprooms.

I'm looking forward to a lot of good things from this brewery in the future. I believe they had a Kölsch in the fermenter when I took a tour of their operation. I highly recommend you take a drive out to Cascade Locks to see for yourself!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hair of the Dog Brewing Company - Fred

Better Fred than dead.
It was recently in the news that a rare bottle of Hair of the Dog beer (Dave) sold for $2,000. Hair of the Dog was also named the number one brewery in Portland by those two Scottish dudes on the Brew Dogs TV program.

Trust me, I'm not jumping on the hype train. The only thing that impresses me about any brewery is how their beer performs on my taste buds. Dave is certainly out of my price range, and a 12 oz. bottle of Fred is almost as painful to my wallet. $4.99 at Fred Meyer. Ouch. Is it worth it? Let's find out...

Fred poured from bottle into tulip snifter a hazy, golden amber color. The off-white head came up to two fingers thick and was quite creamy and clumpy. The head dissipated slowly and left lots of sudsy lacing behind.

Aroma was brown sugar and dark fruit. Just is hint of citrus in the background, along with a bit of booze.

Taste was biscuity malt and toffee. Sweet potato pie and over-ripe, dark fruit. Raisin, date and plum. Nutty flavors blossomed as the beer warmed up. Definite warmth of booze--almost seemed barrel-aged, but it's not.

Full mouthfeel. Medium carbonation. Just a bit of a syrupy tonsil-coater. Booze and sweet malt at the end.

Fred is definitely a world class brew. Massive amount of character in a small package. The Wonder Beagle thought it smelled marvelous. Fred earns a perfect BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.


Burnside Brewing Company - Thundarr the Bavarian

Funny, I don't feel Bavarian.
Neighbors had a Halloween party. A loud party. At about 1 AM, I was thinking about going over with a mix CD of classic rock and bullying them into playing it--instead of the auto-tuned techno pop they were forcing the entire neighborhood to listen to all night.

"PLAY THIS, OR DIE!"

I didn't do that. I also didn't toilet paper and egg their house at 4 AM. I swear, it wasn't me. It was some other beer-bellied guy named Dolf Dinderblinn. I saw him speed off in a bitchin' Camaro.

Anyway, I'm not quite caught up on the sleep deprivation. I'm sure the upcoming Daylight Savings Time switcheroo isn't going to help much, either. My internal beer clock is all messed up. Why, I might even have a beer for breakfast...

This morning's beer review concerns a brew made right here in Stumptown: Burnside Brewing Company's Thundarr the Bavarian. It's described as a Bavarian Style Imperial Wheat Ale. It comes with a healthy ABV of 7.4%. I bought a bomber of it at New Seasons for $3.99.

The beer poured into my pint glass a very hazy peach color. The bubbly white head rose up to about a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated before I could get my camera fired up.

Aroma was mild fruit and bready yeast. Banana, melon, with some underlying spice. Clove.

Taste gave some initial lemony citrus followed up by coriander and clove. Crisp, clean, solid malt backbone shines through. Bready yeast flavor, as foretold by the nose. Mild tropical fruit. Hints of apple. There's no hint of that 7.4% alcohol that I could detect.

Medium mouthfeel with lots of carbonation. Dry finish. Malt flavor and spice left briefly on the palate.

I'm not a huge Weissbier fan, but I like this brew. It gives a nice bang for the buck. Good stuff from a local brewer that I'm giving a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.