Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fresh Hop Infusion

I've been reading a lot about the recent craze of using a French press coffee maker to infuse flavor into beer. This stems primarily from the "Randall" flavor infuser developed by Dogfish Head, but on a smaller, one beer at a time level. I was thinking about buying a French press to try it out, but those damn things are expensive! No way was I going to spend $40 for a gizmo I probably would never use more than once or twice.

Well, my bargain shopping wife brought home a French press from a flea market this afternoon. It's a hideous fuchsia color, but she only paid $0.50 for it. Deal! Let's get to infusing!

It looks like I'm going to have a bumper crop of Centennial and Cascade hops this summer. My plants are already popping with nuggets.

I plucked off a good handful of both Centennials and Cascades, rinsed them off and patted them dry in a dishtowel. I wasn't sure if that was the right procedure or not, but I figured the hops needed to be rinsed free of any buggy hitchhikers and that I didn't need to add any extra water to the beer--thus the wash and dry.

Hops fresh off the bine.
I poured the beer directly into the French press over the fresh hops.

T-minus 3 minutes and counting...
I set the timer for three minutes and let the brew stew in the hops. After the three minutes were up, I pushed the plunger down on the French press and squeezed all those hoppy flavors out.

Tada! does it taste? Awesome! Wow! This can turn just about any beer into a fresh hop bomb! As long as you have the fresh hops to do it, of course. I'm excited to try this technique with all kinds of other flavors, not just the hops. Got a French press? Got some beer? Hops? Give it a shot!

21st Amendment Brewery - Hell or High Watermelon

I assume it's seedless...
We had a big bash at my house last night. My wife, who is an awesome cook, was joined by several friends who have equal culinary skills. It was a South Indian feast to die for: saag paneer, subji, kachoris, coconut AND tamarind chutneys, cucumber raitu, chicken tikka--are you jealous yet? You should be.

The only thing I was in charge of was getting the beer on the way home. Now, I know what I like when it comes to the suds, but it's an entirely different thing when you are trying to come up with a good mix of styles that all of your guests will enjoy. I picked up some premium brews and some...not so premium. Fine craft beer isn't for everyone. In fact, outside the group of hardcore beer geeks I usually imbibe with, most people have rather anemic beer tastes. Thus, a twelve pack of a nameless lager ended up in my cooler.

One of the other beers I brought home primarily for my guests was 21st Amendment Brewery's Hell or High Watermelon. It's a wheat beer with an ABV of 4.9% and it's brewed with watermelon. Truthfully, I thought some of the ladies might like it. I bought a six pack and was surprised to find that five remained behind in the cooler this AM...and I drank the sixth. Maybe it was the thought of a watermelon flavored beer that failed to excite anybody, or perhaps no one wanted to dig that far down into the ice to get one. Beats me, but I figured I might as well review the stuff. It was still cold.

Hell or High Watermelon poured into my glass a cloudy, pale yellow color with a foamy, white head. The head dissipated quickly and no lacing was left behind, except a very minimal ring. A massive formation of pinpoint bubbles rose continuously from the bottom of the glass, however.

There was a pronounced watermelon smell to this beer. A little bit of cucumber and a touch of lemon.

Taste followed the nose to the letter. Not much malt flavor that I could pull out with my weak taste buds.

Thin mouthfeel with lots carbonation. A bit of a watery finish.

Not really my kind of a beer and pretty much what I was expecting. If it had more of a bitter kick to it or something, I'd probably like it more. As it is, I'm giving Hell or High Watermelon a BeerGuyPDX rating of 2 crushed cans out of 4.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Heater Allen Brewing Company - Isar Weizen

Like a glass of sunshine.
I've been knocking back quite a few lagers lately. I seem to be going through a phase. Don't get me wrong, I still loves me my craft ales, but I think I'm starting to grow as a beer drinker.

Over the years, I've avoided lagers like the plague because of the mega-brewery attachment to the brewing style. Of course, a craft lager isn't going to have the nasty, budget-stretching adjuncts and additives that you'll find in BudMillerCoorsEtAl. At least, you'd hope not.

I recently discovered Heater Allen Brewing Company from McMinnville, OR. These folks make some mighty fine lagers. Excellent stuff and I'm looking forward to trying everything they brew. Today, it's Isar Weizen, their Bavarian Style Wheat Beer. No ABV given on the label that I could find. I'm guessing at about 5%.

The beer poured from bomber into my pilsner glass a hazy, golden amber color. (Interesting.) The white head was more than a finger thick and was quite creamy, clumpy and luscious looking. The head was very resilient and left a good amount of webby lace behind.

Aroma reminded me of baking spices. Nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. Bready smell...banana bread.

Taste followed the nose. Baking spices with a bit of a peppery quality. Sweet, earthy malt. Loads of flavor. The stuff is delicious.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Slightly creamy finish.

Another memorable lager that I will definitely buy again. I'm giving Isar Weizen a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Oregon Hophouse - Fifteenth Avenue Location

Hop on over to the
One of the best things about the Oregon Hophouse on NE 15th Avenue and Brazee (Portland, OR) is that it's so darn convenient to get to the place. It's located right off the Number 8 bus line and is in walking distance from Lloyd Center. Oh, yeah, they also have a boatload of beer on tap. There's that.

I think they have about 25 to 30 rotating taps of fine craft beer--most from local breweries. The taplist is usually very well-rounded and the prices are generally reasonable.

The service is friendly at the Fifteenth Avenue location (never been to the Hawthorne branch) and the food is pretty decent. It's your typical pub grub: burgers, sandwiches, fries, onion rings, etc. They have a nice selection of happy hour items, too. I'm particularly fond of the pulled pork sliders.

As every good taproom should, the folks at Oregon Hophouse don't mind giving you a taster pour of anything they have on tap. The taplist is presented on an old-school chalkboard. No Digital Pour or other electronic wizardry afoot. I like the personalized artwork that is applied to each beer listing on the chalkboard. 
The writing is on the wall...

The pub consists of one medium-sized room and a small bar. There are a few booths lining the main area. Two or three flatscreens are mounted on the walls, typically tuned to the usual sporting events. (Go, Timbers! Ducks! Beavers! Blazers!)

There are a number of large picnic tables with big red umbrellas out on the roomy patio area at Oregon Hophouse. That seems to be a big draw for neighborhood folks with dogs and strollers. A perfect spot to sip a cold beer on a hot summer day.

There is a laid-back neighborhood vibe at the Fifteenth Ave. Hophouse. Unlike some other taprooms around these parts, the noise level at this pub is usually at a normal level. That means you can have a conversation with someone without shouting or missing half of what they said. Imagine that!

They regularly have special events at Oregon Hophouse: special beer tastings, trivia contests, meet the brewer nights and live music. I'm not normally in for those kinds of things--I'm all about the beer--but if you like 'em, they have you covered.

All-in-all, a nice neighborhood taproom--not at all dive-y. Decent food. Lots of great beer on tap. Check it out for yourself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Heater Allen Brewing Company - Pils

Good things come in
plain packages.
I was at the Goodwill today searching for glassware and I came across a totally bitchin', very unique pilsner glass. It had a very different shape and a solid, heavy foot. Best of all, it cost 99 cents.

I buy all of my barware at thrift stores. Seriously, you're a spend-crazy knucklehead if you buy glasses anywhere else. First, glass doesn't wear out. Well, when it does wear out, it's broken and totally destroyed. Otherwise, it's going to be in pretty much the same shape it was in when some schlub bought it new. So...why would you buy it new?

In any case, I couldn't wait to try out my "new" pilsner glass, so I went to the store to buy a pilsner. What I came home with was Heater Allen Brewing Company's Pils. Nothing fancy about the label on this one. I was able to discern that the stuff is brewed in McMinnville, Oregon. No ABV given.

The beer poured from bomber into my awesome new glass a slightly hazy light golden yellow color. The bright white head was a sight to behold. It rose up to almost two fingers thick and was amazingly persistent. Frothy, sudsy lacing stuck around throughout the entire drink.

Aroma was grainy, biscuity malt and crisp citrus hops. A pleasant herbal spiciness with a grassy quality lingered in the background.

Taste was lemony citrus with a bigger bitter hops character than the aroma belied. Solid malt flavor provided a great balance against the hops. 

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. That head came roaring back to life whenever I refreshed my glass. Dry finish with the bitter hops leaving lemon and herbal notes behind.

I like this beer and it did a great honor to my special new glass. I'm giving Heater Allen Pils a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Worthy Brewing Company - Gary's No Quit Wit

A quitter never wins
and a winner never quits.
The city of Bend is located in Central Oregon, surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural scenery you'll find anywhere. Bend also has an incredible number of excellent craft breweries within it's city limits. There's some mighty good beer coming out of Bend, Oregon. Absolutely. 

The beer I'm reviewing tonight has quite a story behind it, too. I'll let you read it for yourself here. Nice to see this beer was brewed for such a worthy cause. Worthy Brewing Company's Gary's No Quit Wit is a Belgian-style wheat beer with an ABV of 5%. This is the first beer I've tried from this particular brewery and I'm very impressed.

Gary's No Quit Wit poured into my glass a hazy, pale yellow color. The white head rose up to more than a finger thick and was quite a beauty. It was clumpy, creamy and dissipated slowly. Copious amounts of sudsy, webby lacing was left behind all over the glass.

Aroma was mild citrus and Belgian spices. Floral notes mingled with pleasant, grassy hops.

Taste was lemony citrus backed up by a nice spicy kick. Coriander and clove. Light malt and bready yeast.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Dry finish with the Belgian spices left on the palate.

My wife sampled this wit and said she really like it a lot. This is her kind of beer and she's pretty darn picky. I really liked it, too. Good stuff. I'm giving Gary's No Quit Wit a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

10 Barrel Brewing Company - Hop Project #91 Black IPA

IPA is the new black.
Here is yet another Hop Project beer from 10 Barrel Brewing Company. Like the others, this beer is simply identified by a number: #91.

#91 is a Black India Pale Ale. The label provides all the information:

ABV: 7.3%
IBU: 94
OG: 16.35 degrees Plato
SRM: 32.5
KETTLE HOPS: Magnum, Simcoe, Chinook
DRY HOPS: Chinook, Simcoe

Hey, what more do you need to know? Oh, yeah, how about how it tastes? Let's get to reviewin'.

The beer poured from 12 oz. bottle into glass a dark brown/black color with thick, creamy, mocha-colored head. The head rose up to a good finger thick and dissipated slowly. A significant amount of sudsy, webby lace was left all over the glass.

Aroma was very interesting. Lots of citrus and pine. Orange and grapefruit. There's also a prominent toasted malt smell. Chocolate and burnt coffee.

Taste was citrus hops right up front. Grapefruit and orange. Toasted malt. Chocolate and coffee. The hops bitterness is balanced very well with the malt. Honestly, it took me a few sips to get on board with the flavor profile in this brew. It seemed a little mismatched at first go, but as the beer warmed up, I warmed up to it.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Creamy finish.

All-in-all, this is a fairly decent brew. Not really my style, but they can't all be. Still, it's a quality beer with a lot of character. I'm giving #91 a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Beer Chips

Beer with your beer?
I was pushing a cart through Fred Meyer the other day, shopping for you-know-what, and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the word "Beer" on a bag of potato chips. Seriously, that's some clever marketing because, hey, how is that NOT going to catch my attention? Beer Chips? Come on! That's a no brainer.

Beer Chips were on sale: three for $5.00. Deal. They also had Barbecue Rib and Buffalo Wing flavors. Of course, I bought those, too, but I was mainly interested in the Beer Chips.

The chips were fairly thick and had a pretty good crunch to them. They weren't too greasy.

I'm assuming the beer flavor comes to the chips by way of the powdery coating that's on them. The ingredients read as follows:
Potatoes, sunflower oil and/or corn oil, sugar, beer extract (maltodextrin, beer), salt, honey granules, (refinery syrup, honey), autolyzed yeast extract
The "beer extract" is interesting. Lots of sugar on these chips, that's for sure, and they do taste very sweet. You have sugar, maltodextrin (which is basically sugar) and honey (which is basically sugar). Sugar.

I must say, there is somewhat of a beer-like flavor to these chips, but I don't think I'd recognize it if the bag didn't make such an in-your-face beer declaration. The sugary sweetness is the most pronounced taste in these chips.

What's the final call on Beer Chips? Well, I finished the whole bag, but I'm not likely to ever buy them again, even if they are on sale. I prefer a natural chip--potatoes, oil and salt. I also prefer my beer in non-extract form. I'm giving Beer Chips a BeerGuyPDX rating of 1 crushed can out of 4.

Kraft Beer Kulture

Where were you in '62? I grew up in SoCal during the 1960's. Kustom Kulture was booming in the San Fernando Valley and I was fascinated--no--enthralled by it. One of my earliest childhood memories is of me and my twin brother sliding across the bench seat of my pop's pinstriped '52 Mercury coupe, during a high speed police chase, so I guess you could say I was born into living la vida hot rod.

What is Kustom Kulture? Think of the movie "American Graffiti", George Lucas's homage to the San Fernando Valley of yesteryear.  Hot rods cruising--or drag racing--down the boulevard, headed for Bob's Big Boy or the Van Nuys Drive-in Theater. Young men (and very few young women) would spend every last dime of their Tastee-Freez paychecks on custom parts and paint for their beloved jalopies. 

Mom and Pop would be gardening in the 1/4 acre yard of their modern ranch-style house, or sitting in green and white lawn chairs, sipping orange juice squeezed from the fruit of their very own trees. The suburban dream was in full swing and no one could have possibly imagined that in just a few years gasoline would cost almost five bucks a gallon, the economy would be in the toilet and the Toyota Camry would be the most popular car ever. Sigh.

When I was a kid I loved everything hot rod--especially the hot rod shows. I would beg my dad to take me to see George Barris's Munster Koach and the Batmobile. Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, the creator of Rat Fink, was another '60's Kustom Kulture icon. All of my friends wore Rat Fink t-shirts--on the weekends. Rat Fink gear was strictly forbidden at the Catholic school I attended, even UNDERNEATH our uniform shirts, which made them even more cool. Roth was also one of the preeminent car customizers of his era. The man was a genius, plain and simple. His out-of-this-world hot rod creations were turned into Revel model car kits and I bought and built every single one of them.

When I was a young man, I finally got my own hot rod. I wish I could say that I loved that car, but I was no mechanic and it was a beat-to-hell junker. Still, I imagined myself to be a master customizer--even though that pine air freshener hanging from the rearview was the height of my modifications  Hard to believe that I don't even own a car today. Hot rods are a thing of the past. Sure, there are still some hardcore septuagenarians out there who dust off their highboys on the weekend, and some young grease monkeys working on some badass smoothies and zoomies somewhere, but the high price of gasoline pretty much killed it.

By now, you're probably asking what Kustom Kulture has to do with craft beer? Nothing really, but there are some interesting similarities. I submit that today's craft brewers are the proverbial Holders of the Keys of Kustom Kulture--reincarnated today as Kraft Beer Kulture. Okay, I can hear you saying "What the hell are you talking about, Wolf?" I admit, that's quite a stretch, but give me a chance to explain.

Hot-rodding was very subculture in the 1960's and early 1970's, but it was also very mainstream. Everybody loved hot rods. They were featured prominently on TV and in movies. Even the Monkees had their own custom hot rod. (A Sweet GTO). In spite of the growing corporate involvement, the men at the forefront of customization were rugged individualists. Mavericks. Creators with a tenacious vision and an unwavering devotion to their craft. They worked tirelessly in out of the way industrial areas, where no one could possibly imagine what wonderful things were being crafted behind those bay doors. Sound familiar?

There is also a similar subculture history between the two. Kustom Kulture has it's base in illegal street racing. Hot rods were initially created to run...moonshine. Until 1976, homebrewing--the forefather of modern craft brewing--was illegal in the United States. There's a bit of bootlegging, outlaw mystique in the pedigree of both.

Many of the craft brewers I've met have the same kind of over-the-top creativity that those '60's car customizers had. Never mind those crazy beards, sometimes the beers they brew seem downright crazy. They don't just push the envelope, they blow it up! Most of them don't seem to really give a crap what you think of the work they do, either. They are just doing it for fun--and if they can make a profit, great. That's what makes them COOL. I know of one Portland brewer who has a framed photo of the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, tacked up next to his taps. That says a lot.

When I go to a beer festival, I get the same kind of giddy feeling that I did when I was a kid at the hot rod show. I can't wait to see what my favorite brewers are coming out with and bringing to the tents. I wear t-shirts from my favorite breweries as proudly as my Rat Fink shirts from back in the day. When I read doomsday articles that proclaim craft beer's impending "saturation" and demise, I have to chuckle. Comparing craft beer to the stuff put out by macro-breweries is like comparing a Nissan Versa to my  '79 Firebird.

As for homebrewing, I think I'm a little more successful than I was at hot rod building. It's a much cheaper hobby, too. I think my entire homebrewing operation set me back about $350. Of course, the craft brewers give me a lot of cool beers to try to emulate. I know most of this proposition is based solely on my own "old guy" nostalgia. Thanks for allowing me the trip!

Long live Kraft Beer Kulture! It's cool, Daddio! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bear Republic Brewing Company - Café Racer 15

The checkered flag is for delicious.
I tasted Bear Republic Brewing Company's Cafe Racer 15 a few months ago at a local taproom. I remember being quite impressed. So, when I saw a bomber of this brew in the Fred Meyer cold case this afternoon, I snapped it up ASAP. I went running greedily to the checkstand with my prize. I didn't even bother to check the price.

Unfortunately, I always pick the slowest checkout line at the store. ALWAYS. The young lady LOOKED fast and efficient when I first approached. Sadly, she was determined to tell the customer ahead of me all about her pet turtle (an omen, right there) and her entire school schedule for next year. Arrrrrgh! Didn't she know my beer was getting warm?

Finally, it was my turn to checkout. The chatty young miss tried to scan my beer. "PRICE NOT FOUND". Arrrrrgh! She had to summon a price check. The fellow who was charged with jogging back to the cold case to get the price was even slower than the checker. Sigh.

Needless to say, Cafe Racer 15 had to be chilled a bit at home before I opened it. When I did get that cap popped off, it poured into my shaker pint a hazy, orange amber color with a frothy white head. The head rose up to about a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated at a moderate rate. A good amount of sudsy lacing was left behind.

Aroma was citrus and pine. A healthy dose of tropical fruit also filled the nose: pineapple, guava and mango. Sweet malt in the background.

Taste was a big punch of citrus flavor with a great big sock of hops bitterness right up front. Grapefruit and orange. Loads of tropical fruit juiciness. Herbal and pine spiciness. The pleasant malt taste wasn't overpowered.

Medium to full mouthfeel. There was a bigger body to this one, for sure. Somewhat of a creamy finish, but the 9.75% ABV was pretty obvious right at the end. Still, the booze didn't detract from all of the delicious flavors left rolling around on the palate.

There is very little fault to be found with this awesome IIPA. It's a great brew. This is also one of those rare beers that Merry the Wonder Beagle was able to smell through the uncapped bottle. I'm giving Cafe Racer 15 a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. It's a keeper.

Blue Dog Mead - Green Collar

Good doggie.
Sick with the flu--whadda ya gonna do? Sounds like a good time to catch up on my reviews. I'm only about a 100 behind. Hey, keeping a blog journal of your beer s'periences is hard work.

This review will mark the first time I've ever tried mead. My only knowledge of the stuff is that it's an ancient alcoholic drink made from honey, and that it was the drink of choice of orc hunters and dragon slayers and such. You know, back in the days when men were knights and women were damsels.

I spotted a can of Blue Dog Mead's Green Collar Sparkling Mead in the cold case at New Seasons last week. A 12 oz. can? That seemed like the perfect size for sampling the stuff, so I bought it! It comes with an ABV of 5.9%, according to the label, and it's gluten free. I suppose that's important to some folks. Me, I love my glutens.

Green Collar poured into my small tulip glass a clear yellow with a very brief white head. It looked like sparkling apple juice. Lots of bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

Aroma was apples and honey. Mild spice.

Taste followed the nose. Apple and pear. Honey and vanilla but with a pleasant tartness. Not too sweet. Some interesting herbal, yeasty qualities in the background.

Thin mouthfeel and copious carbonation. A tiny bit of a chew to the body of it, so it doesn't feel like juice.  It has some character. Dry finish. Tart apple taste left on the palate.

Hey, I like this mead! This brew reminded me of apple cider, but with a bit more complexity. Tasty and refreshing. I'm ready to go out and kick some goblin soon as I get over this flu. I'm giving Green Collar a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. I would definitely buy it again.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 Barrel Brewing Company - Hop Project #2 IPA

I'm going #2.
10 Barrel Brewing apparently put out some special project beers in a 12 pack. That's a lot of expense for me to put into a bunch of beers I've never tried. I mean, not like I wouldn't drink them anyway, but you know, I'm a cheapskate. Always looking for a deal. 

Gratefully, the good folks at Hank's Thriftway, in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, decided to bust up the packs and sell the batch beers separately. FYI: Hank's may look like your typical, low budget, indie supermarket from the outside, but they have one helluva craft beer selection! Seriously, Hank's knows beer and you can find awesome deals there--like this one. $1.50 for this 12 oz. bottle.

10 Barrel Brewing's plain jane labels are pretty cool, in my opinion, especially the one's in this group. Everything you could possible want to know about the beer is right there on the front of the bottle. The beer I'm reviewing today a the #2. It's an IPA with an ABV of 6.9% and IBU's of 74. It was brewed with Bravo and Cascade hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo. Good to know!

The beer poured from bottle into my shaker pint a clear, golden orange color with a bright white head. The head rose up to about a finger thick and dissipated slowly. A thin web of lacing was left behind on the glass.

Aroma was what I would expect from my favorite hops. Citrus and mild pine up front. Light tropical fruit in the background.

Taste followed the nose exactly. Grapefruit, orange, tangerine. Hints of pineapple. A pleasant, underlying herbal spiciness. Clean, biscuity malt flavor, too.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. A bit of a dry finish with mild hops bitterness and solid malt taste left on the palate. 

Good stuff. I really, really like it. I would go #2 anytime. Wish they sold this brew in bombers or sixers. I'm giving #2 a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was really digging the smell.

Saraveza's IIPA Festival

It's a celebeertion.
I attended Saraveza's 4th Annual IIPA Festival this afternoon. For the completely uninitiated, "IIPA" stands for Imperial India Pale Ale, aka, the American Double IPA. An IIPA is typically distinguished from it's more conservative IPA sister by two things: 1)  A massive flavor and/or hop profile; and 2) A massive, massive alcohol content. In short, an IIPA is an IPA on steroids (hoproids?). It's a beer that will typically sucker punch you right in the taste buds and has the ability to knock you flat on your butt, if you're not careful. As you can imagine, an IIPA Festival is no place for beer drinking amateurs. No sirree.

This IIPA tastival is held at Saraveza, a great little taproom and bottle shop in North Portland. The cost of admission was $20 this year, which included a commemorative tasting glass (suitable for reuse in any respectable beer geek's bar) and 10 tasting tickets. Each ticket generally resulted in a 4 oz. pour. There were several premium brews that required two tickets for a taste, but those were the exception, not the rule. All-in-all, a very good value, considering that a full serving of virtually every beer featured in this fest would cost you some extra scratch.

The physical venue is small and intimate for a beer festival. A makeshift bandstand was set up out on the sidewalk and the pouring took place in the main bar area and the little event space next door. The crowd was primarily serious beer aficionados--not at all like the throng of rowdy amateurs you'll find at most of the highly advertised mega-fests. The folks at this IIPA Fest were clearly looking for some unique and/or legendary heavy-hitting beers--and Saraveza delivered.

Bar area at Saraveza pouring
some tasty IIPA's.
I counted 40 IIPA's on the taplist, most from popular Oregon and West Coast breweries. The cast of characters included the elusive Pliny the Elder and Dogfish Head's 120 Minute. There were a few super-charged or "Xtra-Hopped" versions of some well-known local brews, including a Gigantic IIPA poured from a Firkin, and a couple of brews ran through a Randall. Cool.

I found that the initial 10 taster tickets were more than enough for me. These are beers that are meant to be tasted, savored and discussed among your beer-loving peers. It ain't guzzlin' beer. However, if you wanted to knock back a few, the bottle shop was in full operation, with plenty of other beers waiting to be purchased and enjoyed from those cold cases. I saw plenty of attendees doing just that.

They also serve food at Saraveza. They have pasties--meat pies--and lots of appetizers to choose from. That really helps at a beer festival that is serving a boatload of high ABV brews. It's also a big plus that the food is pretty darn good. I got some deviled eggs, some jalapeno poppers and a BLT they had on special for the event. Still, I had a pretty healthy buzz going when I left.

I will definitely have Sarazeza's IIPA Festival on my must-do list for next year. We had a great time. No big crowd. Plenty of interesting beers to taste. Friendly, chill atmosphere. Tasty food. And with the Alberta Street Festival going on a few blocks away, it made for a really fun afternoon. I'll be back! 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gigantic Brewing Company - High Fidelity Beer

Drinkin' in stereo
Ah, another beautiful morning in Portland. I'm just sitting on the deck in the (partial) sunshine, writing beer reviews and sipping on a homemade cappuccino. My wife makes some mighty perfect coffee drinks, by the way. In case you were not aware, the only thing Portlanders take more seriously than beer is coffee. I'm not a member of the java cognizanti, but I do know my wife makes one helluva awesome cappuccino.

I drank quite a number of tasty beers last night. One of them was Gigantic Brewing Company's High Fidelity Beer. It's an American Pale Ale with an ABV of 5.9%

The beer poured into my shaker pint a golden amber color with a massively huge white head. The head dissipated slowly and copious amounts of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was resinous pine and citrus hops. Biscuity malt.

Taste was citrus: orange, lemon and a bit of tangerine. Prominent malt flavor throughout. Spicy, herbal notes.

Medium mouthfeel with very good carbonation. A slightly creamy finish with the mild hops bitterness and bready malt competing for attention on the palate.

Good stuff and I'm giving High Fidelity a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Caldera Brewing Company - Caldera Pale Ale

A pot of gold.
What's great about Thursday? It's not Monday. What's not so great about Thursday? It's not Friday. I'm looking forward to this upcoming weekend for sure--even if the weather refuses to cooperate. 

The forecast calls for a "chance of storm" on both Friday and Saturday, but that shouldn't prevent me from crawling atop a barstool and drinking my fill of tasty, tasty beer. Even if I opt not to go outside, my fridge is fully stocked. I'm ready for anything! Of course, I'm dipping into the weekend beer stock early tonight. We'll see what kind of a dent I make in it. 

The brew of the evening is Caldera Brewing Company's Caldera Pale Ale. It comes in a 12 oz. can with an ABV of 5.5%. I previously mentioned how much I prefer beer in cans over bottles. Lighter, easier to store and more environmentally friendly, cans are the way to go.

Caldera Pale Ale poured into my shaker pint a clear, orange amber color with a big, foamy, clumpy white head.  The head rose up to more than two fingers thick and dissipated slowly. Loads of lacing remained behind all over the glass.

Aroma was grapefruit and resinous pine up front. Tropical fruit--pineapple and guava. Sweet caramel malt in the mix, too.

Taste followed the nose. Mild hops bitterness. The malt flavor was present throughout the entire drink. Nice hopsd/malt balance.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Slightly creamy finish with some bitterness remaining on the palate, but the malt providing the primary aftertaste.

Good stuff. This pale has the kind of Northwest punch I like. Not too earthy. Not too fruity. I'm giving Caldera Pale Ale a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was equally impressed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Southern Oregon Brewing Company - Na Zdravi Czech Style Pilsner

Czech out this pilsner...
Wow, it's starting to get to the point where I've tried almost every beer in the supermarket cold case. (Somebody has an OBSESSION!) Tonight I found myself perusing the bombers at QFC and I was having a hard time picking out a new brew to review. I'd either tasted 'em before, or they didn't interest me.

It was a scorcher in Portland today. Probably got up to about 90, which is wicked warm when you don't have an air conditioner. I wanted a beer that would cool me off and quench my thirst. No tonsil-coater tonight--no way. 

After standing there indecisively for about 15 minutes, my wife finally gave up on me and headed for the checkstand. Pressure! Way at end of the shelf, I spotted Na Zdravi Czech Style Pilsner from Southern Oregon Brewing Company. I had my beer. It comes with an ABV of 4.8% and the bomber set me back four bucks.

The beer poured into my pilsner glass a clear, golden yellow color with a bright, bubbly, white head. The head came up to about a finger thick and dissipated quickly. A thin, spotty cap of lacing remained behind.

Aroma was sweet, bready malt. Mild citrus and herbal hops.

Taste was flavorful biscuity malt with light lemony notes. A pleasant herbal, spicy kick in the aftertaste. Very crisp and clean. What a pilsner should taste like.

Thin to medium mouthfeel with lively carbonation. There was a very subtle creamy finish to this brew. Nice malt flavor left on the palate at the very end.

Na Zdravi is and easy drink with a memorable character. I like it. Merry the Wonder Beagle liked the smell of it, too. I'm giving this beer a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

United Brands Company - Joose Strawberry Margarita

Slumming big time...
Convenience store, Anytown, US of A. If you've never experienced this very unique slice of Americana, where the hell have you been? Were you raised in a gated community, home schooled and chauffeured to the country club for swim and golf lessons until you were 18? Probably.

For us Unfortunate Sons, we know what it's like to hang around the local 7-11, Circle K, Plaid Pantry, et al. late at night--trying to work up the courage to ask some smelly transient to buy us a six pack of whatever the hell they could grab and shuffle out the door with. It's a sacred coming of age ritual.

Hell, I remember waiting three effing hours for Ben Hasselbecker to come out of Tipsy Fox Liquor with a single sixer of Mickey's Big Mouths. Ben had a sweet mustache and we knew the partially blind clerk would never card him. Ah, that malt liquor tasted so, so sweet.

I found myself in front of the cold case at my local 7-11 tonight. How the hell do they get away with selling such swill? My stepson refers to this crap as "panty droppers". High sugar, super high ABV malt beverages that taste like soda pop but pack a helluva wallop. It's almost criminal. I picked up a can of Joose Strawberry Margarita. 12% ABV in a 23.5 oz. can. Holy crap! That's a heavier hitter than anything you'll find at Portland's famous Holiday Ale Festival. Yoink! I had to buy a can to review.

Joose Strawberry Margarita poured into my large Mason jar a bright, unnatural red color. The stuff was practically  neon. Hawaiian Punch red. Cancer-causing, Red Dye #5 kind of red. OMG, can I really put that in my mouth kind of red? Lots of fizzy red foam bubbled up through the ice. It's ALIVE!

Aroma was sweet, cotton candy, sugary, fake berry. Starburst strawberry smell. Sweet, artificial strawberry.

Taste was an initial rasp of heinous alcohol, immediately masked by super sweet, sugary, fake berry flavor. Reminded my very much of Frankenberry cereal. Gawd, it's sweet. And then it tastes like burning.

Soda pop carbonation and psychosis-inducing booziness. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Why isn't someone in prison for making this sh*t?

Seriously, I can't imagine a legitimate reason for making this stuff. The only reason it should be sold is because this is 'MURICA and nobody should EVER try to curtail our FREEDOMS, especially when it comes to Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms...errrr, wait a minute. Anyway, this stuff is probably the absolute worst thing I ever put in my mouth, and I once ate a live Praying Mantis on a dare.

I'm giving Joose Strawberry Margarita the coveted Golden Turd Award. This brew is so bad, it's good--based on pure, unabashed audacity alone.

Urban Hop Farming

Crazy climbers
Not only do I enjoy drinking craft beer, I brew my own. Now, I absolutely consider myself to be a novice homebrewer. "Homebrewing for Dummies" was written with me in mind. Let's just say my beers aren't going to win any contests--not yet. Still, there's nothing like the personal satisfaction of uncapping a bottle of your own homebrew and savoring the fruits of your labor in a pint glass. Ahhhhh.

My brewing operation is fairly rudimentary. The whole set-up takes up about 24 vertical sq. feet of space in my back hallway (about the area of a hockey goal). I was planning to move my little brewery into the boy's old bedroom once he moved out, but apparently the empty space has been earmarked as the new "guest room" by my wife. There's a gallon of new paint waiting to be applied to the walls, so that's about all she wrote for my man cave aspirations. Sigh.

In any case, I started growing my own hops to go into my own beer about three years ago. Hops are crazy climbing plants. They are "bines" not vines, which means they send out twisty shoots that grow around and up objects in a helix. Vines typically have little clingy anchors and suckers that attach the plants to whatever they are growing on. Hop plants are perennials. They wither up every winter, but the rhizomes (a twisted knot of roots) stay safely underground and come roaring back to life every summer.

I have three varieties of hop plants growing in my yard: Cascade, Centennial and Zeus. The Cascade and Centennial hops are my favorites and I love brewing fresh hop IPA's with them. I use the Zeus more for general purpose brewing. They provide an herbal, spicy quality that I like. 
Saved from mite infestation!

When you grow hops, you have to provide something for them to climb on. I string wire up to the eaves of my house and across my patio. It makes an attractive partial patio cover for my deck in the summer. That's a photo of the Cascades up there. They are the hardiest plants in my garden. Seemingly pest resistant and early to flower, I'm expecting a bumper crop from them this year. I can't wait!

My Zeus plants had a rough start this season. I had no idea what was wrong with them. Black spots appeared on the leaves and the plants began to turn brown and die. Some of my 420 loving friends knew what was wrong right away. Mites. Hops are close relatives of Cannabis and they are apparently susceptible to many of the same pests and maladies.

My friends suggested spraying the plants with an eco-friendly concoction of water, dish soap and orange oil. It worked! The plants have come back to life and healthy new tendrils are sprouting all over them again. Yeah!

I am far from being a horticulturist. If I have to do much more than water a plant down with the hose, it's probably not going to survive. Gratefully, other than my aforementioned mite problems this year, I've found that hops are very easy to grow. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it. Imagine how excited you'll be about adding your own freshly harvested hops to your homebrew!

If you grow your own hops and have any tricks and tips you'd like to share, I'd be more than happy to hear from you. Post a comment of drop me a line at

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Hefe

This beer is boss.
Wednesday is garbage day in my NE Portland neighborhood. As you might imagine, my glass recycling bin is always overflowing. Always. The trashpicker guy who roams the streets on garbage day religiously makes a beeline for my bin and I must be one of his best "customers". There must be at least $2 worth of recyclers in that little blue tub. Hey, just doing my part to support the local economy.

Seriously though, we Portlanders are lucky to be able to support our local economy in the most delicious way--buying local beer. Portland has been a leader in the craft beer revolution since day numero uno. We have more breweries than any other city in the world, and that beer is exceptionally awesome. I could drink nothing but Portland beer for the rest of my life and be perfectly satisfied. Of course, I like to consider myself to be worldly kind of guy, so I do quite a bit of beer-exploration outside the confines of Portland city limits.

I didn't have to go very far to find the beer I'm reviewing today. It's brewed right here in Stumptown. Widmer Brothers Brewing Company is a pioneer Portland craft brewer. You can find their brewery on N Russell Street and you can often SMELL them brewing up a storm as you cross the Fremont Bridge. I love the smell of hops in the morning!

Today's brew is Widmer's Hefeweizen. Hefe poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my pilsner glass a hazy, golden yellow color. The minimal white head rose up to about a 1/2 inch high and dissipated quickly. A very thin, spotty cap of lace was left behind.

Aroma was lemon citrus and sweet grainy malt. Mild floral, spicy notes in the background.

Taste was crisp, clean and refreshing lemon and orange. Mild hops bitterness and a pleasant biscuity malt flavor. Very good hops/malt balance to this one.

Medium mouthfeel with lively carbonation. A bit of a creamy finish to it. Delicious malt flavor left on the palate at the end. No alcohol bite detected in this 4.9% ABV brew.

Another great brew from Widmer. A cooler full of these on the deck would sufficiently motivate me to get to all of the "honey-do" yardwork chores my wife has planned for me today. Perfect for what it is supposed to be--an easy drinking, sessionable, thirst-quencher. I'm giving Hefe a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Portland Beer by Bus - The Number 4

It's been a while since I posted a Portland Beer by Bus route. Today's the day! Finally! What a slacker I am. In any case, this time I'm presenting the wonderful Number 4 for your craft beer lovin' perusal. I sure hope somebody is making use of this valuable information. I'm posting these for two reasons: 1) to help carless tourists find their way to Portland's awesome beer destinations, and 2) to get some drinkers out from behind the wheel and onto a bus bench where they belong. Don't drink and drive! 

Once again, I'm adding my obligatory disclaimer: I bear no responsibility if you get lost, mugged, or end up with a really bad tattoo. Don't sue me. You're a grown-up, so take control of your own life and beer consumption. I also strongly suggest you check these stops on the TriMet Trip Planner yourself. Routes change, and I might be writing this after drinking multiple, multiple beers. Just sayin'.

The Number 4-Division/Fessenden connects Gresham, SE Portland, Portland City Center, Old Town/Chinatown, Union Station, the Rose Quarter, NE Portland and St. Johns, via Division, 5th/6th, Everett/Glisan, Williams/Vancouver, Mississippi, Albina, Lombard, Fessenden and St. Louis. During the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours, buses run about every 15 minutes.

McMenamin's St. John's Theater & Pub
8203 N Ivanhoe Street
From East/South: Get off at N Richmond & Syracuse
Stop ID: 4818

Occidental Brewing Company
6635 N Baltimore Avenue
From North: Get off at N Syracuse & Baltimore
Stop ID: 1059
From East/South: Get off at N Lombard & Baltimore
Stop ID: 8480

StormBreaker Brewing
832 N Beech Street
From North: Get off at N Mississippi & Failing
Stop ID:
3957 From East/South: Get off at N Mississippi & Beech
Stop ID: 3955

Hopworks BikeBar
3947 N Williams Avenue
From North: Get off at N Vancouver & Ivy
Stop ID: 6000
From East/South: Get off at N Fremont & Gantenbein
Stop ID: 1841

Upright Brewing
240 N Broadway
From North: Get off at N Vancouver & Weidler
Stop ID: 6009
From East/South: Get off at N Williams & NE Broadway
Stop ID: 6357

Deschutes Brewery
210 NW 11th Avenue
From North: Get off at NW 5th & Davis
Stop ID: 9301
From East: Get off at NW Everett & 5th
Stop ID: 8886

PINTS Brewery
412 NW 5th Avenue
From North: Get off at NW 5th & Davis
Stop ID: 9301
From East: Get off at NW Everett & 5th
Stop ID: 8886

The Green Dragon (Rogue Ales)
928 SE 9th Avenue
From North/West: Get off at SW 5th & Salmon
Stop ID: 5020
From East: Get off at SE 7th & Clay
Stop ID: 7856

Lucky Labrador Brewing Company
915 SE Hawthorne Blvd
From North/West: Get off at SE 7th & Clay
Stop ID: 7855
From East: Get off at SE 7th & Clay
Stop ID: 7856

The BeerMongers
1125 SE Division Street
From North/West: Get off at SE Division & 12th
Stop ID 1375
From East: Get off at SE Division & 12th
 Stop ID 1376

1216 SE Division Street
From North/West: Get off at SE Division & 12th
Stop ID 1375
From East: Get off at SE Division & 12th
Stop ID 1376

Imperial Bottleshop and Taproom
3090 SE Division Street
From North/West: Get off at SE Division & 30th
Stop ID: 1447
From East: Get off at SE Division & 30th
Stop ID: 1448

Hedge House (Lompoc Brewing)
3412 SE Division Street
From North/West: Get off at SE Division & 34th
Stop ID: 1451
From East: Get off at SE Division & 34th
Stop ID: 1452

More routes coming soon!

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Pig War White IPA

This little piggy went to
My wife and I spent a wonderful vacation in a little stone cottage in the San Juan Islands last year. It was probably the most restful, relaxing and enjoyable week I've ever had in my life. Wish I was there right now. Beautiful scenery up there in the State of Washington, I'll tell you what, but I had no idea the area was once part of a territorial dispute between a fledgling US of A and the British Empire.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with a little history lesson to go along with your beer, especially if it's a damn tasty one. HUB's Pig War White IPA is named after the 1859 squabble over ownership of the San Juan Islands. Apparently, the tiff started over the shooting of a British pig (a hog, a real pig) by an American settler because the animal was digging up his potato patch. Ah, don't these things often begin with a little errant, irresponsible gun play?

Happily, the pig was the only casualty in the fracas, which really turned out to be a long, drawn out staring match between the two sides. I bet a lot of beer was consumed by those British and US soldiers while they sat around twiddling their thumbs and shouting insults at each other.

"Why, you, dirty yankee pig killers, you!"

"Oh, yeah! guys have sissy accents!"

In any case, let's get to the beer at hand.

Pig War White IPA poured from bomber into my pint glass a slightly hazy, golden yellow-orange color. The white head took a little coaxing to get up to a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated at a moderate rate. A thin cap of lace was left behind.

Aroma was citrus and floral hops. There was a light tropical fruit smell in the background.

Great taste. Citrus flavors of orange and grapefruit. Crisp, clean, biscuity malt. Hops bitterness throughout the drink.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Dry finish with the hops bitterness left behind on the palate.

This is a near-perfect summer IPA. Sessionable, even though the ABV is 6.0%. Very refreshing on a hot day but with a great IPA flavor profile. I love this stuff. I bought the bomber on sale at QFC for $3.99. Going back for more. This Pig gets a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was digging the smell.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Centennial Single Hop IPX

Add caption
Happy National IPA Day! 

Seriously, who thinks this stuff up? National IPA Day? Somebody actually stood in front of Congress (with a straight face) and made a legitimate proposal to name the first day of August the official celebratory day for my favorite style of craft beer.

Of course, there's also National Doughnut Day (June 7th), National Potato Chip Day (March 14th), and even National Whoopie Pie Day (June 25th). Hell, Google any old anything and there's probably an official "day" set aside to honor it. Is there a National Beer Bloggers Day? Probably, but I'm not going to look it up. Enough grumbling, already, let's get on with the beer review at hand.

Centennial IPX poured from bomber into my pint glass a clear, amber orange color with a massive, foamy, creamy white head. The head came up to two full fingers tall and dissipated slowly. Copious amounts of lacing was left behind all over the glass.

Aroma was citrus and mild pine with light floral notes in the background. Sweet caramel malt in the mix, too.

Taste was indistinct citrus up front: orange and some lemon. Nice bitter hops zing. A spicy, herbal quality with a slightly soapy, lavender flavor. I know that doesn't sound particularly appetizing the way I'm describing it, but it's really tasty. Interesting complexity.

Gimme your beer,
stupid human!
Medium mouthfeel with medium to low carbonation. Smooth, creamy finish, with the hops bitterness left behind on the palate. No noticeable alcohol taste to it.

I like it, and clearly Merry the Wonder Beagle did, too. Check out that drool string. It reached almost three full inches before it landed with a plop on my pants. Yuck, That is some viscous spittle, I'll tell you what.

The favorite sport around our house is Dog Drool Racing. I uncap a beer and we wait around to see how long it takes to attract the dog's super sniffer. She'll get all up in my face and start whining and drooling, if it's a beer she likes, and then here comes the waterworks. She was really getting aggressive over the Centennial IPX. Puddles were left all over the floor. Disgusting, but hilarious. Yeah, that's how we roll.

As I've said in previous posts, the dog has a very discriminating nose for beer. She only likes the smell of fine craft beer and very much prefers big, aromatic hops.

While I'm on the topic of dog drool, and beagles in general, I'd like to take this opportunity to crawl on top of a soapbox and make a pitch for my favorite side interest...

Hundreds of beagles are used as test animals in labs and hundreds more are held captive in puppy mills. In either scenario, many of these wonderful little dogs are subjected to deplorable conditions and disgusting abuse You can help by making a donation or providing a good, loving home to an awesome beagle in need. Check out the good work done by Cascade Beagle Rescue. Okay, enough preaching. Thanks for your time.

As for Centennial IPX, I'm giving this delicious beer a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4, and a Droolie.