Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Worthy Brewing Company - Powder Keg Winter Ale

Explosive flavor?
The Season of the Warmer is upon us! Yay! I love winter brews, as long as they don't taste like pumpkin pie. To me, a perfect winter ale is reminiscent of of my favorite year-round beers, with just a bit more flavor and tad more action-packed. And by action-packed, I do mean packed with al-cee-hol. That's why they calls 'em warmers, son.

I was excited to find a bomber of Worthy Brewing Company's Powder Keg Winter Ale in the cold case at New Seasons the other day. It was reasonably priced at $4.99 and the label proclaimed an ABV of 7.1% and IBU's at 65. The label also said the beer was brewed with a "Centennial/Chinook & Cascade/Columbus combo" which sounds awesome! Love those C's! How was it? I thought you'd never ask!

The beer poured into my pint glass a golden, orange-amber color with an off-white head. The head rose up to more than an inch tall and dissipated slowly. Copious amounts of sudsy, clumpy foam was left behind.

Aroma was citrus hops up front. Orange and grapefruit. Nutty, biscuity, caramel malt. A bit of pine resin. Floral notes.

Taste followed the nose. Orange peel with a nice spicy bite. Good hops bitterness to off-set the sweet malt. A little earthy. No booze detected.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Very well balanced. Hops and malt flavors left behind a creamy finish.

Overall, this is an excellent beer. Lots of flavor without being too sweet or excessively bitter. It's an easy drink for a beer with an ABV over 7%. I like it and will purchase again. I'm giving Powder Keg a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. Merry the Wonder Beagle would have given her left paw for a sip of this beer.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Holiday Ale Festival 2014 - Brewers Announced!

The Ghost of Holiday Ale Fests Past.
Wow, Daylight Savings Time is almost defunct, the trees are shedding their leaves, my rain barrel is over-flowing, and winter is right around the corner! You know what that means! The Holiday Ale Festival is only a few weeks away! Yay!

What is the Holiday Ale Festival, you ask? Wha? Where the heck have you been these past 19 years? The Holiday Ale Festival is the bestest winter beer festest is the whole dang Westest! Need convincing? Just read my review from last year's event here.

This really is my favorite Portland beer festival. It's much more intimate and cozy than most of the summertime fests. Held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, the official center of Portland, getting to the event couldn't be more easy. Just about every MAX line passes by the venue, and a good number of city buses, too.

The local brewers always seem bring their "A" game to the Holiday Ale Festival. Seriously, you're sure to find something unique and awesome on tap. Scroll on down and you'll find the amazing list of beers to be had at this year's festival. Oh, my quivering taste buds! See you there!

Here's the press release:



PORTLAND, Ore. – Oct. 28, 2014 – Tickets are now on sale for the 19th annual Holiday Ale Festival, taking place Dec. 3 through Dec. 7 at Pioneer Courthouse Square in the heart of downtown Portland. The popular event will feature 53 big, bold ales in the main festival, plus another two dozen rare, vintage and specialty beers that will be tapped at various times throughout the event — including a vintage draft J. W. Lees 2009 Harvest Ale barleywine to be tapped at the start of the event.

This year’s participating breweries are 10 Barrel, 13 Virtues, 2 Towns, Alameda, Baerlic, Base Camp, Bear Republic, Burnside, Cascade, Coalition, Deluxe, Deschutes, Dick's, Dogfish Head, Drakes, Eel River, Elysian, Ex Novo, Fearless, Feckin, Finnriver, Fort George, Gigantic, Gilgamesh, Golden Valley, Hopworks, Kells, Lagunitas, Lompoc, Mazama, McMenamins Edgefield, Migration, Natian, Nectar Creek Honeywine, New Belgium, Ninkasi, No-Li, Oakshire, Old Town, Payette, Portland, Rock Bottom, Rogue, Rusty Truck, Santiam, Seven Brides, Sixpoint, Slanted Rock, Stickmen, Stone, Vertigo, Viking Braggot and Widmer. (For a complete list of beers, visit http://holidayale.com/the-beers-standard-release.php; a list is also pasted in below.)

What makes this festival standout from other similar events is the beer selection: the festival works with every brewery involved to make sure they send a beer that has either been made or blended specifically for the event, or is a rare or vintage beer that isn't commonly tapped in the state, underscoring the event's reputation as one of finest gathering of winter beers anywhere in the nation. These top tier breweries are supported by some of the nation’s most passionate beer appreciators who have the good fortune to be able to celebrate all their favorite breweries in one location.

A small sample of the lineup includes Cascade Brewing’s Gingersnaps, a NW style sour blend of red, spiced red and spiced quad ales aged in Bourbon and rum barrels for up to two years on spices; Eel River’s Gargantua II, an imperial strong ale aged on Bourbon vanilla beans and blended with a strong ale aged in Jack Daniels barrels for six months; Dogfish Head’s Rasion d’Etre, a Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast that is rarely seen in the Northwest; and Stone Brewing Liberty Station’s New Desecrator, a black barleywine with nearly the same profile as Stone Old Guardian, but surrounded by de-husked darkness.

Beer alternatives include two ciders: 2 Towns Bourbon Barrel Aged Nice & Naughty, a specialty cider fermented with dark meadowfoam honey and aged in Bourbon barrels with spices; and Finnriver Stone & Pome Cider, a Bourbon barrel aged plum and peach cider. There is also a Triple Brett barrel aged sour session mead from Nectar Creek Honeywine, and Aurora Amber Braggot from Viking Braggot Co, with juniper berries, spruce tips and local blackberry honey.

To enter and consume beer, the purchase of an entry package is required. Advance ticket packages are available now through 11:00am PST on Dec. 3 at http://holidayale.com/advance-tickets.php; advance general admission tickets cost $35 and include the tasting mug, 14 taster tickets and express entry all five days. Advance VIP tickets cost $80 and include the tasting mug, 30 taster tickets, bottled water, access to VIP lines (including special tappings), VIP only vintage bottles and/or draft, and express entry all five days. (Express re-entry requires a wristband and the 2014 mug, and is subject to the festival's capacity.) Door prices are the same, but do not allow for expedited entry.

A full mug of beer costs four taster tickets, and a taster costs one ticket. Certain limited release and special tappings may not be available in full mug pours, or may cost double tickets. Additional beer tickets can be purchased for $1 apiece. Previous years’ mugs will not be filled.

Designated drivers in a party of two or more may purchase a designated driver wristband for $10, which includes Crater Lake Root Beer or bottled water for the duration of the stay (DDs are not allowed to consume alcohol).

Holiday Festival hours are 11am to 10pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 11am to 5pm Sunday. To avoid the lengthy lines that often accompany beer festivals, the recommended days for attendance are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The Holiday Ale Festival is for ages 21 and over.

Attendees stay warm and dry under clear-topped tents that cover the venue. Gas heaters create a cozy ambiance beneath the boughs of the region's largest decorated Christmas tree. In addition to beer tasting, the festival also features meet the brewer events, a root beer garden, food vendors, beer pairings with cheese, event merchandise and a coat and bag check that raises funds for the Children's Cancer Association. For more information, visit www.holidayale.com.

And here's the beer list:

10 Barrel Brewing Co., TBA, Double Black Ale with Black Licorice
13 Virtues Brewing Co., Barrel-Aged MAX Stout, Imperial Stout
2 Towns Ciderhouse, Bourbon Barrel Nice & Naughty, Cider
Alameda Brewing Co., Admiration IPA, American IPA
Baerlic Brewing Company, The Great Bear, NW Red Ale aged on Beechwood
Base Camp Brewing Company, Dunkelrauch Weizenbock, Imperial Grätzer
Bear Republic Brewing, Do You Want to Build A Snowman?, Golden Barrel Aged Blend
Burnside Brewing, Jingleberry, Imperial Stout aged on Fresh Cranberries
Cascade Brewing, Gingersnaps, NW Style Sour Strong Ale
Coalition Brewing, Big Maple, Imperial Maple Porter
Deluxe Brewing Company, Dunkel the Halls...With Beer & Jolly, Dunkel Bock
Deschutes Brewery, Scarlet Flame IRA, India Red Ale
Dick's Brewing Company, Black Friday Stout, Imperial Stout
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre, Belgian-style Brown Ale
Drake's Brewing Co., Jolly Rodger 2014, Imperial Coffee Stout
Eel River Brewing, Gargantua II, Whiskey Barrel Vanilla Imperial Strong Ale Blend
Elysian Brewing Company, Knock on Nelson, IPA with Nelson Sauvin
Ex Novo Brewing Co., TBD, Mexican Chocolate Baltic Porter
Fearless Brewing Company, Ichabod, Pumpkin Ale, Spice/Herb/Vegetable
Feckin Brewery, Top O' The Feckin' Mornin', Imperial Espresso Milk Porter
Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Finnriver Stone & Pome Cider, Barrel Aged Plum and Peach Cider
Fort George Brewery and Public House, Santa's Dinner Jacket, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Red Ale
Gigantic Brewing, Red Rider BB Gun, Saison with Cranberries
Gilgamesh Brewing, Eastside Bandit, Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter
Golden Valley Brewery, Pinot Noir Barrel-Aged Tannen Boom, Barrel-Aged Belgian-Style Strong Ale
Hopworks Urban Brewery, The Incredible Abominable of the Enchanted Barrel Forest, Barrel Aged Imperial Winter Ale
Kells Brew Pub, MIC Stout AKA Boom Roaster, Milk Imperial Coffee Stout
Lagunitas Brewing Company, Scare City, Wheatwine
Lompoc Brewing, Pinot Noir Barrel Aged Cheval de Trait Belge, Belgian Strong Ale
Mazama Brewing Co., Noel Rouge, Imperial Wit
McMenamins Edgefield Brewery, Lord of Misrule, Rum Barrel Aged Habanero
Migration Brewing, Frankie Claus, Belgian Imperial Stout
Natian Brewery, Irish Water, Imperial Golden Ale
Nectar Creek Mead, Triple Brett, Barrel Aged Sour Session Mead
New Belgium Brewing Company, La Folie, Sour Brown Ale
Ninkasi Brewing Co, Doppelbock, Doppelbock
No-Li Brewhouse, Whiskey Barrel Aged Winter Warmer, Winter Warmer
Oakshire Brewing, Prestidigitation, White Chocolate Milk Stout
Old Town Brewing Company, Bluth's Original Chocolate Banana Hefeweizen, Chocolate Bavarian-style Hefeweizen
Payette Brewing Company, Bandito, IPA with Agave and Tequila Soaked Oak Chips
Portland Brewing, 2014 Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout with Coffee
Rock Bottom, Yul Brynner, Santo Poco style Strong Ale
Rogue Ales, BIG ASS BARREL Maple Doppelbock, German Style Doppelbock
Rusty Truck Brewing Co, Santaweizen, Weizenbock
Santiam Brewing, Golden Sultan, Belgian Golden Strong
Seven Brides Brewing, The 503, Barleywine
Sixpoint Brewery, Lump of Coal Porter, Robust Porter
Slanted Rock Brewing Company, Cordial Tease, Spiced Winter Ale
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery, Big Chocolate Banana, Dunkelweizen
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, New Desecrator, Black Barley Wine
Vertigo Brewery and Taproom, Busted Head Red, Imperial Red Ale
Viking Braggot Company, Aurora, NW Amber Braggot
Widmer Brothers Brewing, Frosty The Munchieman, Porter

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Evil Twin Brewing - Ashtray Heart Smoked Porter

Like licking an ashtray?
Yes, I am influenced by flashy beer labels and interesting beer names. I'm probably highly susceptible to subliminal advertising, too. Hey, there has to be some logical explanation for my attraction to Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Pop Tarts...right? Right?

As for this afternoon's subject beer, I spotted Evil Twin Brewing's Ashtray Heart in a cold case the other day. The label on the 12 oz. bottle proclaimed it to be a smoked porter with a pretty hefty ABV of 8.9%. Truthfully, I considered the name to be a challenge to my taste buds. Could it really taste like an ashtray? With that kind of gauntlet thrown down, how could I NOT buy it?

The beer poured into my snifter a dark, dark brown color with a tan head. The head rose up to about an inch and dissipated at a moderate rate. A thin cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was was smoky, mesquite charcoal on top of cocoa and toffee. Interesting. It reminded me of how my shirt smells after an afternoon of manning the Weber Kettle.

Taste wasn't anything like licking an ashtray, but the pronounced smoke flavor probably isn't for everyone. I really liked it. Smoky, boozy, a little bit of an astringent aftertaste, but not in a bad way. Lots of dark cocoa and roasted malt. Hints of overripe, dark fruit. Licorice and vanilla notes. Not sure why this is called a porter. Seems like Imperial stout would be a better descriptor. 

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel. Creamy and a little oily on the finish. Very pleasing mix of roasted malt, cocoa and smoke flavors left behind on the palate at the end. Good stuff!

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd definitely drink this brew again and I can't help wondering what it would be like poured from a nitro tap. Awesome, I bet! I'm giving Ashtray Heart a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.


Habanero IPA Hot Sauce

Careful chopping those chiles...just sayin'

I have a bunch of homegrown Habanero Chiles that I need to use up. Man, they are hot this year! Seriously, They didn't get very big, but they pack a helluva wallop! Ow! I ate a Ghost Chile once and these peppers are almost as hot. No lie. Actually, I'm not sure they are Habaneros. These suckers are tiny, red and they don't really taste like Habaneros. Hey, I bought the plant at the Grocery Outlet, so there you go. Who knows what they are! Any botanists out there?

There are literally hundreds of commercial hot sauces for sale at your local supermarket. I know because a good number of them can also be found in the inside door of my fridge. In fact, I have such an extensive hot sauce "collection" that my wife has imposed a rule that I cannot buy a NEW hot sauce, unless an OLD hot sauce has been used up. Heh, heh, of course that rule does not include HOMEMADE hot sauce. Loophole!!!

Of course, I use beer in my hot sauce recipe, but you knew that already, didn't you? I really like this one. It has a spicy, Indian flavor that really pops. Here's the specifics:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups of your favorite India Pale Ale
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 8 - 10 Habanero Chiles, minced
  • 1 Jalapeno Chile, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp tandoori spice
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan, except the lime juice, and simmer for about an hour. Add a bit more beer as the sauce reduces. Remove from the heat and let it cool for another hour. Pour into a blender, squeeze in the lime juice and puree. Bottle and refrigerate. Use liberally on anything that calls for hot sauce.

FYI: The tandoori spice mix I used is my wife's own homemade blend. The basic spices are as follows: 
  • 1 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Block 15 Brewing Company - Wandelpad Ale

On the road to tasty?
Yay, it's Thursday! What's so great about Thursday? Well, it's not Wednesday. It's far from Monday. It's the day before Friday. Thursday is named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Thor is pretty cool. He's got that ker-smashing hammer and everything. Yeah, I like Thursday.

I often find myself beer shopping on Thursdays. I don't really know why. I just like to get ready for the weekend early, I guess. I got off the bus a few stops early and wandered into the neighborhood bottle shop. I loaded up on several bottles, a couple from breweries located in Corvallis, Oregon. The one I'm drinking this evening is Wandelpad Ale brewed by Block 15 Brewing Company. It's a Belgian-inspired ale, brewed with pale and pilsner malt, sugar and Trappist yeast. ABV is 6%.

The beer poured into my glass a clear golden copper color with a bubbly, white head. The head rose up to about a finger thick and dissipated quickly. A thin, spotty cap of lacing with some residual webs left behind on the glass.

Aroma was bready Belgian yeast with a little bit of farmhouse funk. Herbal, grassy notes. Apple. Pear.

Taste was light, lemony citrus up front. Herbal, peppery. Grass and hay. Tart apple. Light but pleasantly complex at the same time.

Thin to medium mouthfeel. Dry finish. Nice hops flavor left behind at the end. Very drinkable and quite refreshing.

Overall, this is a very nice beer. I had one with dinner and it paired quite well with the hearty beef stew my wife served up. I think it would work with just about anything. Good stuff. I'm giving Wandelpad a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. I think Thor would approve. KER-SMASH!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Haunted Craft Beer Crawl Anyone?

The infamous Whaley House
I ain't afraid of no ghosts!
Do you believe in ghosts? Yeah, neither do I...well, I DIDN'T believe in ghosts...then I moved into a haunted house. Yeah, there's nothing quite like coming face to face with an unearthly specter to make a believer out of you, that's for sure. Of course, my ghostly encounter wasn't exactly what you'd call straight out of Ghostbusters. I wasn't slimed with ectoplasm. There were no rattling chains or headless horsemen. My experience was a bit more subtle, but supernaturally creepy nonetheless. Hey! Buy me a beer and I'll tell you about it!

Living in a haunted house has peaked my interest in other supernaturally-imbued buildings and allegedly haunted places. When we visited San Diego, CA last year, I HAD to tour the Whaley House--purportedly one of the most haunted places on the planet. We weren't disappointed. A whole lot of creepy happened to us when we were there. Take for example the photo on the left. If you look carefully you may see two ghostly characters on the floor of the stage, both wearing Victorian era dress. See them? But you don't have to go all the way to San Diego to find haunted spots. Hell, no! There are plenty right here in good ol' Stumptown!

Yes, there are lots of spooky, haunted places in Portland. All you have to do is google "haunted Portland" and you'll find them. What impressed me is that many of the most haunted locales in PDX are...bars! Oh, yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Wouldn't it be fracking AWESOME to combine two of my favorite pastimes: drinking beer and ghost hunting? And just in time for Halloween! Who's with me? Let's fire up the Mystery Machine and go on a spooky bar crawl!

Here's the line-up:

1) McMenamins White Eagle - I saw a piece on this place on the Travel Channel last night, on a show called Most Terrifying Places in America. Actually, many of the establishments operated by McMenamins are said to be haunted, but the White Eagle Saloon has quite an unsavory and distinctively gruesome history. Built in 1905, it was part of the infamous "Shanghai Tunnel" system in the lawless Portland of yesteryear. Countless unsuspecting young men were waylaid, kidnapped and sold by white slavers to serve as unwilling crewmen on merchant ships to China. Besides being the seediest of seedy dive bars, the building was also a brothel, likely housing every form of debauchery and vice imaginable. No wonder it's haunted. Apparitions have been seen throughout the now renovated bar and hotel, particularly the women's restroom. Source: TravelChannel.com Of course, McMenamins are OG brewing legends in Portland and their fine brews can be had at this location. Get some Black Widow Porter!

2) Old Town Pizza - This wonderful pizza place resides in what was once the lobby of the Merchant Hotel. Built in the 1880's the hotel's basement was/is the main entrance to the aforementioned Shanghai Tunnels. The restaurant is said to be haunted by Nina--the ghost of a murdered prostitute. She supposedly met her end at the bottom of the hotel's elevator shaft 100 years ago. She ratted out some gangsters and they didn't appreciate it much. Now, poor Nina spends eternity watching Portlanders eat tasty, tasty pizza. Old Town Pizza also serves award winning craft beer brewed by their NE Portland sister operation, Old Town Brewery. 

3) Cathedral Park - The ghost of a murdered young woman supposedly roams around this lovely park, located at the base of spectacular St. John's Bridge. Although the crime took place in the 1940's, people still report hearing screams in the park at night. I'm thinking it would be good, clean, Halloween-y fun to check it out for myself, and then grab a beer at Occidental Brewing Company's taproom, which is just a few yards up the street from the park. Source:  Ghosts of North Portland website

4) The Bagdad Theater - Another McMenamins location, the Bagdad Theater has been beautifully restored to it's original 1920's glory. Oh, yeah, and the place is haunted, too. Come on! All old theaters are haunted! You know that! The lights dim unexpectedly and there's some spine-chilling thing hanging out in the men's room. Source: Ghostsandcritters.com

5) Kell's Irish Pub - Located downtown on SW Second Avenue, Kell's basement is supposedly haunted by a smokey fireman. Source: Ghostsandcritter.com

Do you know of any other haunted bars to add to the list? Have you had a spooky experience at your favorite taproom? If so, please enter a comment below or send me an email!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

McMenamins 2nd Annual Boone's Ferry Autumn Ale Fest

It's cool outside in more ways than one!
Autumn really is my most favorite season. The colors, the crisp weather, football, Halloween – what's NOT to love? Okay, all of those leaves that have to be raked up and bagged, but otherwise, it's a great time of year.

One thing I really do look forward to in the Fall is the seasonal release of McMemamins always amazing Black Widow Porter. Delicious stuff! Have you had any yet? If not, you should get yourself over to a McMenamins and try a pint. It's quite stellar this year! 

McMenamins certainly does Autumn right, and they should. They've had plenty of practice. With a long, long history of brewing here in Oregon, it's not surprising that many brewers who got their start at McMenamins have gone on to open very successful brewing operations of their own.

The 2nd Annual Boone’s Ferry Autumn Ale Fest at McMenamins Old Church & Pub on November 8th showcases McMenamins’ 30 years of brewing by celebrating the brewers themselves! Combining past and present McMenamins’ brewers, fourteen fall seasonals will be available – eight beers from McMenamins’ breweries and six beers from alumni brewers, which they’ve cooked up at the breweries they now call home.

Guests can mingle with (past and present) brewers, chat about the craft and enjoy live music from The Fashion Nuggets, a Cake tribute band, and Kinked, a Kinks cover band.

Seriously? A Kinks cover band? Free admission? I'm going just for that!

To top things off, guests will determine the best ale of the festival, aka, Boone’s Best!

When: Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 2-10 p.m.; live music starts at 6 p.m. 
Where: McMenamins Old Church & Pub, 30340 SW Boones Ferry Road, Wilsonville, OR 97070
Cost: Free to attend; cost to sample 
Attendance: All welcome; 21 & over to drink the ales

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In Defense of the Humble Shaker Pint

Choose your weapon...
Perusing through my news reader the other day, I came across yet another obituary for the humble shaker pint. The "movement" to banish these straight-sided drinking vessels from pubs and taprooms has been going on for years, and in some places, it appears the beer snobs have finally won out. I see fewer shakers sliding across the bar nowadays, that's for sure.

Many upscale craft beer bars exclusively use tulip pints and/or stemmed glassware. Ugh, nothing looks more ridiculous in my hand than a dainty lil' stemmed glass, I'll tell you what. I have a manly imagine to maintain and sipping beer with an extended pinky isn't going to help. Seriously, an ascot and smoking jacket would clash with my motorcycle boots. I'm just sayin'.

There are lots of reasons the shaker is derided as an inappropriate beer glass. Here are the list toppers: 1) The straight sides result in diminished head retention, thus reducing aroma; 2) The glass must be held with a full palm, causing premature warming due to body heat; 3) They don't really hold a full pint; 4) Shakers are ugly.

Truthfully, I think the whole argument is ridiculously pretentious. It brings a "wine snob" element to beer drinking that just irritates the hell out of me. First and foremost, I absolutely agree that SOME beer styles require a different drinking vessel. High ABV barelywines, delicate sour beers, beers that are traditionally served in specific glassware--these should all be served in the appropriate measure and glass. Otherwise, it doesn't make a bit of difference!

It is possible to pour beer from bottle or tap into a shaker pint and achieve an appropriate head. I've done it a zillion times. After the pour, any head is going to dissipate no matter what glass it's in. My question is this: how long does it take the average person to drink the average beer? I believe it takes me about 15 minutes to put down a pint. It's not like it's a bottle of wine that needs to sit around and "breathe". I don't walk around with an IPA in a stemmed glass, sipping and savoring it for half an hour. Do you? If so, you're doing it wrong!

The arguments against shaker pints do have some level of legitimacy. "Cheater pints" do exist. Their thicker bottoms and walls can result in something less than a full 16 oz. pour. Wah! Tulip glasses DO result in better head retention and to some extent better aroma distribution. (I would never use a shaker pint at a bottle share or tasting, where identifying the aromas and precise flavor profiles is the point of the drink.) As for the attractive design of the glass itself? Seriously, who gives a crap? I've enjoyed many a fine beer out of a Mason jar, thank you very much!

For the bar owner, shaker pints are super cheap and practically indestructible.  They are easy to wash, easy to stack and do the job just fine for most beer serving purposes. I've had to throw more shakers away because they became scratched and ugly than I've ever broken. That's some legitimate value in a business with a very thin profit margin, where any cost savings can make or break you.

I think a blind, no-hands taste test is in order. I would really like to see how many beer drinkers could identify the specific glassware they are tasting from--bet most couldn't. Perhaps I'll roll that out at the next bottle share...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cascade Lakes Brewing Company - IRA

Individual Retirement Ale?
What is an IRA? Let's look that one up, shall we? A definition doesn't immediately pop up when you google India Red Ale--go ahead, try it. See what I mean? The best I could find was a snippet on somebody else's blog that said an India Red Ale, or IRA, has "the body and color of an amber ale with the hop profile of an IPA (India Pale Ale).

Tonight, I'm drinking one such mysterious chimera of a brew: Cascade Lakes Brewing Company's IRA. The beer was purchased at the little tienda down the street from my house for $3.50 for the 22 oz. bomber. That's a decent price for a nice craft beer. The label proclaimed an ABV 6.8% and IBU's at 78.

The beer poured into my pint glass a slightly hazy, coppery amber color with an off-white head. The head rose up to almost two fingers thick and dissipated slowly. A full cap and spots of webby lacing left behind.

Aroma was full-on IPA: light pine and citrus hops. Sweet caramel malt.

Taste pretty much followed the nose. Citrus hops. Grapefruit and orange. Bitter grapefruit rind bite. Spicy, herbal notes. Sweet, earthy malt balanced well against the hops bitterness.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Somewhat of a creamy finish. Bitter grapefruit at the end.

I think about the only thing that distinguishes this brew from an IPA is the more robust, earthy malt. It's well-balanced, but the hops bitterness and malt sweetness are a little bit more on the outer reaches of the spectrum on both ends, if that makes sense at all.

Overall, this is a tasty brew and well worth the price of admission. This one went very well with the big-flavored homemade pizza my lovely wife prepared for dinner tonight. I'd recommend this beer paired with pungent cheeses and garlicky dishes. I like it and I'm giving this IRA a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Alameda Brewing Company - Stubs Old Crow Hazelnut Porter

Quoth the raven, "Gimme more!"
The weather kinda, sorta, almost feels like Fall today, so I felt like drinking something as dark and impenetrable as my black, black soul...

Boo!

Ha! Sorry, I'm just getting ready for Halloween here at Casa de Wolfgang. I am drinking something dark: a Stubs Old Crow Hazelnut Porter from Alameda Brewing Company. They put a cool, creepy, Halloween-y label on this beer, that's for sure. It comes with an ABV of 6.7%. I bought the bomber for less than 5 bucks at Grocery Outlet. Deal! So, how was it, you ask?

The beer poured into my glass absolutely pitch black. I held it up to the chandelier and there was no light getting through at all. The mocha head rose up to a 1/2 inch and dissipated at a moderate rate. A small ring and and little center swill of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was nutty, roasted malt up front. Coffee. Cocoa. Brown sugar.

Taste was bitter, dark chocolate and hazelnuts. Espresso with a touch of vanilla. Roasted malt. A hint of citrus and a touch of lavender at the end.

Medium to slightly fuller mouthfeel with low carbonation. Smooth finish. Nice hints of hazelnut flavor left on the palate.

Overall, this is a tasty, full-flavored porter. Smooth and well-balanced. I like it! I'm giving Stubs Old Crow Hazelnut Porter a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. Good stuff and I'm definitely drink it again!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Hop Haus Brewery - Tiki Caliente Chili Mango Ale

Put some pepper on it!
Next to beer, my favorite thing to put in my mouth is... chiles. (What did you think I was going to say?) Hot, hot chiles. Now, first things first: there's some debate about the spelling and pronunciation of the word that represents these spicy lil' fruits. Some folks use "chili" and pronounce it "chilly", like cold weather. Others use the spelling "chile" and pronounce it "chee-lay". I don't think there's really a right or wrong way, but I'm with the latter group. To me, chili is a meaty, spicy stew from the Southwest. Chile is the word they use for hot peppers in the region where the dang things originated. I think I'll stick with old school, thank you very much.

Okay, now that we've got that cleared up, let's talk about BEER. Chile beer to be specific. Truthfully, I've often been disappointed with most beers that are spiced with chiles. They are either tasteless or way too freakin' hot to enjoy. I even tried brewing a batch myself. Fail! Thus, I know how hard it is to do the chile beer thing right.

Tonight, I'm drinking a Tiki Caliente Chili Mango Ale from The Hop Haus Brewery in Gresham, Oregon. You already know that I LOVE chiles. You should also know that I love mangos. This 6.3% ABV beer was brewed with Pasilla, Anaheim, Jalapeno and Habanero chiles. It was also brewed with organic mangos. How was it, you ask?

The beer poured into my snifter a hazy, apricot color with a bubbly, white head. The head made it up to about a 1/4 of an inch high and dissipated quickly. Only a few spots of lacing were left behind.

Aroma was mango, stone fruit, watermelon, sweet malt, and just a tad of chile pungency in the background.

Taste was a wonderful mix of fruit flavors: Light, lemony citrus, mango, pineapple, stone fruit and watermelon. Light, biscuity malt in the mix. Very nice chile pepper flavor--predominately jalapeno and habanero. A spicy bite without being hot. That's what I'm talkin' about! Chile flavor in a VERY drinkable beer.

Medium to thin mouthfeel with appropriate carbonation. Pepper spicy zing with a semi-dry finish. Lots of juicy fruit flavors left rolling around on the palate with tasty malt at the end.

Overall, this is a crisp, clean, refreshing brew that provides just enough complex fruit and chile flavors to keep it interesting throughout the entire drink. My taste buds approve! I'm giving Tiki Caliente a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4. I highly recommend.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Flat Tail Brewing Company - Mustache Rye'd Red Ale

Something's punny around here...
In a previous post, I discussed how difficult it must be for craft brewers to keep coming up with unique, interesting names for their brews. I often imagine bearded, Carhartt-wearing dudes hunkered over work benches, wort bubbling all around them, racking their brains for AWESOME names for their latest and greatest concoctions. Of course, it seems some don't even try at all, sticking with simple style names as monikers for their beers: i.e. India Pale Ale, Red Ale, Cascadian Dark Ale, etc. Others just number their beers, which seems just about as lazy as you can get when it comes to brewing nomenclature.

Most brewers seem to understand that a catchy name will implant itself firmly into the deep, dark recesses of beer consumers' minds and, if successfully engineered, help that brew make it's way into shopping carts. Arrogant Bastard is one famous name that immediately comes to mind. Brash, slightly naughty, and absolutely memorable.

Tonight, I'm drinking a beer with a name that got a "tsk-tsk" from my significant other. Flat Tail Brewing Company's Mustache Rye'd Red Ale is definitely memorable, as most double entendre tend to be. Come on, don't act coy! You get the possibly "dirty" double meaning of this name! Hey, I'm no prude. It's a punny name, to be sure. But in the end, I don't really buy beer for the name. I buy it for the taste. How did Mustache Rye'd do in my personal taste test? (Insert crude comment here.)

The beer poured into my pint glass a hazy, deep, dark reddish brown color with a tan head. The head rose up to a full finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A full cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was mild citrus hops and overripe dark fruit. Floral and herbal notes. Earthy malt.

Taste was a good dose of hops bitterness up front with a very noticeable dry, spicy rye flavor punctuating the entire drink. Really nice! I like it when the rye is present and accounted for, as advertised. Hints of coffee and dark fruit in the background. Herbaceous. Earthy without tasting like earth.

Medium mouthfeel with lower carbonation. Finish was a bit creamy at first and ended with a dry note. No noticeable alcohol in this 8% brew. I like!

Overall, this is a really nice beer. It's definitely different and something I would absolutely buy again. I'm giving Mustache Rye'd a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.


Boring Brewing Company - Big Yawn IPA

Boring is as boring does?
Everyone has their own taste, especially when it comes to craft beer. If you've read my lil' ol' beer blog, you know that I have a particular affinity for Northwest-style IPA's. Nothing revs up my taste buds more than a masterly crafted, local India Pale Ale, brewed with a star-studded line-up of Northwest hops. Oh, yeah!

There are so many wonderful IPA's created here in Oregon, I haven't even come close to trying them all, and I consider myself to be a beer drinking professional. I get as excited as a little girl on Christmas morning when I run across a new (to me) IPA in my local bottle shop's cold case. Yippee!

The other day, I spied a bomber of Boring Brewing Company's Big Yawn IPA. Yes, Boring is a REAL town in Oregon. About 23 miles from Portland,  Boring was named after Civil War vet and early settler, William Boring. The moniker has absolutely nothing to with the demeanor of the residents or the vibe of the town--well, not much, anyway. At least one Boring denizen is a helluva brewer, that's for sure.

Big Yawn boasts an ABV of 7.2% and 75 IBU's. The label advises that it was brewed with a proprietary blended hop from Hopunion called Zythos. I googled the heck out of that and found Zythos described as possessing "distinct tropical (pineapple) and citrus tones, with slight pine characteristics" and "an excellent blend for any hop forward beer"... yes, I do believe that is accurate.

Big Yawn IPA poured into my IPA glass a deep, golden orange color with a creamy, white head. That head rose up to more than two fingers thick and dissipated slowly. Beautiful, creamy, clumpy, lumps of suds remained behind for a ridiculously long time. What a lovely presentation from first pour to final tip of the glass.

Aroma was citrus and juicy tropical fruit. Grapefruit, orange, tangerine, pineapple, mango and guava. Light pine. Sweet caramel malt in the background.

Taste followed the nose. For me, this beer provided the perfect mix of bitter, citrus-y hops and a seemingly endless array of tropical fruit flavors. Wow!

Medium mouthfeel with a creamy finish. Complex flavors competed on my palate for attention at the end.

Overall, this is a perfect beer for me. I'll be heading back to bottle shop to empty out the cold case of this beauty come next payday. I'm not kidding. Big Yawn gets a perfect BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. Merry the Wonder Beagle went crazy for this brew, doing her little doggie drool dance until there was a disgustingly massive puddle on the living room floor. It doesn't get much better than that!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Flat Tail Brewing Company - Tailgater Kölsch Style Ale

Beaver approved?
Come on, weather! Hey, I'm not complaining--well, yes, I am--but I'm ready for some cool fall temperatures! Dangnabbit, if it isn't 81 degrees here in my living room...at 6:PM...on October 5th! Come on! I'm ready for some tasty winter brews, but not today. No, this unseasonable heat has me reaching for a thirst quencher.

I blame Al Gore. He wasn't satisfied with inventing the Internet. Oh, nooooo! He couldn't stop there. Bastard had to go and invent Global Warming, too! Damn you, Al Gore! DAMN YOU! (Of course, I'm joking. Everybody knows bug-eyed aliens cause Global Warming. Jeesh!)

This evening, I'm drinking a bomber of Flat Tail Brewing Company's Tailgater Kölsch Style Ale. The label proclaims this beer to have an ABV of 5.5%. It was brewed with Wyermann Pilsner Malt and German Tettnanger Hops. Seemed like a nice hot weather beer and the price was right at $3.49 for the 22 ouncer.

This beer poured into my glass a slightly hazy, golden yellow color with a bright, white head. The head rose up to two fingers thick and dissipated quickly. No lacing was left behind. Pinpoint carbonation rose up from the bottom of the glass throughout the entire drinking session.

Aroma was light, lemony citrus. Grass, hay. Light, pilsner malt aroma in the background.

Taste followed the nose. Lemony citrus. Herbal notes. Light, bready, biscuity malt. Mildly peppery. Nice hazelnut flavor in the mix.

Medium to thin mouthfeel with good carbonation. Crisp, clean finish. The flavors dropped off rather quickly, but another sip brought it all right back.

Overall, this is pleasantly flavorful, refreshingly crisp drink. Perfect for a day like today. I like! I'm giving Tailgater a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ninkasi Brewing Company - Oktoberfest Festbier Lager

It's Oktoberfest at Casa de Wolfgang
I'm reviewing my second beer from Eugene, Oregon's Ninkasi Brewing Company tonight. Those good folks brew some solid beers, I'll tell you what. Whenever I'm in Eugene, I make it a point to stop at Ninkasi and see what's on tap in their tasting room. They haven't disappointed me yet.

Tonight, I'm watching UFC Fight Night on FX and drinking beer. Yeah, that's pretty much what I do best. My lovely wife bought me a giant pilsner glass from Pier One the other day. She's so thoughtful. The glass holds pretty much an entire 22 oz. bomber. The beer I filled it with is Ninkasi's Oktoberfest Festbier Lager. Seemed appropriate. The beer comes with an ABV of 5.9%. How was it, you ask?

The beer poured into giant glass a clear, orange/amber color with a light tan head. The head rose up to two fingers thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A minimal cap of spotty lacing was left behind.

Aroma was sweet, bready malt up front. Lemon and orange citrus smell in the background. A bit of brown sugar. Caramel. Some floral notes.

Taste served up spicy, herbal, citrus hops with a bitter punch that I wasn't expecting. Bready, earthy malt. Hints of overripe fruit. Excellent!

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with bitter hops and earthy malt flavors left nicely balanced on the palate at the end.

Overall, this is brew offers a nice Pacific Northwest twist on the traditional German style. I like it! It's easy to drink and has plenty of flavor. A bit one dimensional, as you would expect from a lager, but it's a crisp, clean, easy drink. I'm giving Oktoberfest Festbier Lager a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.


Ninkasi Brewing Company - Friends of Trees Pale Ale

Some of my best friends are trees...
Every once in a while, I'll be strolling through my neighborhood and see a brand new tree planted in someone's parkway. A sign announces that the tree was provided by Friends of Trees, a wonderful organization dedicated to maintaining greenery throughout the state of Oregon. They've planted over half a million trees! How awesome is that?

Friends of Trees is celebrating it's 25th anniversary and is currently having a $25 sale on trees. The deal goes like this: sign up, pick out and dig in. Friends of Trees will send a city inspector out to your house, make sure you have the appropriate permit, and then send helpers out to make sure you get your new tree planted appropriately.

In support of this great organization, Ninkasi Brewing Company has recently introduced Friends of Trees Pale Ale. The beer is described as a "hoppy but drinkable Northwest beer" on the label. It comes with an ABV of 5.5% and 60 IBU's. Ninkasi is donating ALL profits from this brew to Friends of Trees! If you ever needed another good reason to drink beer, here you go!

The beer poured into my glass a clear, golden hue with a bright, white head. The head rose up to a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A solid cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was citrus and mild tropical fruit. Caramel malt. Floral notes.

Taste was citrus hops up front: orange and lemon. Hints of pineapple. Good bitter hops bite. Light, biscuity malt. The hops bitterness is the predominant flavor left on the palate at the end.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with a good bitter edge.

Overall, this is a tasty pale ale that delivers enough flavor to satisfy most hopheads, while remaining very drinkable. I like it and it's getting a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

First National Taphouse - Portland

If beer is your kind of currency...
First National Taphouse is the newest beer bar in Portland. I just spent two consecutive evenings at the place, so you could correctly assume that I really like it there--a lot. And what's not to like? It's a craft beer emporium!

The taproom is definitely upscale. The decor is an appropriate mix of pub standard and modern industrial. Warm wood, eclectic fixtures and contiguous roll-up garage doors that I imagine will provide an awesome open air space when the weather is warm. Of course, they just opened in September, so I also imagine they won't be rolling up those doors for a while, but I look forward to spending some summer afternoons at FNTH.

There are 30 taps behind the bar and a wall of cold cases containing dozens of craft beer bottles. The draft beer prices run from $3.50 or $5.00 for a 10 oz. goblet to $5.50 or $7.00 for a pint. Some beers are also available in a 20 oz. imperial pint for $6.50. Not particular inexpensive, but not too crazy, either. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6:30 and from 9 to close on Sunday through Wednesday. I was quite pleased with the HH menu. Some very tasty snacks at decent prices. $3 Beer Fries, for example. I highly recommend the Tikka Masala Sweets: five bucks for a good sized plate of sweet potato fries topped with chicken curry. Enough to share for two. Delicious!

There are a number of amazing taprooms in PDX with 30+ taps, but not many with decent food. First National Taproom is going to fill in that gap quite nicely. They already passed a big test for me: I was able to take my wife to FNTH with zero complaint. Don't get me wrong! My wife is not a complainer. She just isn't a big beer fan (seriously, can you imagine?) and she appreciates a place with a full bar and a full lunch/dinner menu. They have it all FNTH. Extremely friendly service, too. I felt like an honored guest during both of my recent visits. Top notch customer service in PDX? Imagine that! ;-)

Located at the corner of SW 5th and College, First National Taphouse is close the PSU campus and is very easy to reach by bus and the MAX green and yellow lines. There is also an ample amount of parking nearby. Most of the surrounding pay lots appear to charge $3 for an evening. 

PDX 1962 SW 5th Ave 
Portland, Oregon 97201

See you there!

30 taps with a wide selection of styles
Nice selection of bottles, too
First National Taphouse's house brew:
Banker's Blonde by Vertigo Brewing