Monday, March 31, 2014

Base Camp Brewing Company - Smith Rock Red Lager

Red: Cure for the Monday blues.
One of the most awesome things about living in Portland, Oregon is that you can find great happy hour deals every day of the week. I'm talking cheap pints at some of the best brew pubs and brewery tasting rooms in town. On Mondays, you can get tasty pints of fresh brewed beer at Base Camp Brewing for only $3.50 ALL DAY. And I'm talking about everything they have on tap. How's that for a deal? You bet it's a deal!

I was really needing a pick-me-up after a long day at the office today. We made a quick stop at Lardo, loaded up on some sammies and headed over to Base Camp. They are totally cool about folks bringing in food. There's also a collection of food carts right outside. Inexpensive pints and tasty eats? That'll fix up any crummy Monday!

I had a number of delicious brews at Base Camp today, but the one that intrigued me the most was their Smith Rock Red Lager. First, what a beautiful beer it was! It also had a unique, spicy flavor that I loved, but just couldn't identify. I even had my supertaster wife give it a whirl. She said it was clearly some kind of "hard spice" but she couldn't pin down the flavor either. I had to check Base Camp's website when I got home. "Ah-HA!" I proclaimed when I read the description. "Of course!"

The beer was presented in an elegant pilsner glass. It was a clear, red-orange color with a foamy, bright white head. The head was a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. Lots of sudsy lacing was left behind. That head was quite creamy and left copious amounts of whipped cream-like foam in my 'stache.

Aroma was earthy malt up front with pleasant floral notes in the background. Interesting, spicy, spuce-like smell that I had difficulty describing. (It was my third HH beer, BTW.)

Taste was sweet, bready malt. Light, ripe, indistinct fruit flavor. Well-balanced, mild hops bitterness. There was an herbal spiciness, as mentioned before, that I couldn't identify. Now that I know the beer "features the aromatics of Oregon sage and juniper", it all makes sense. That's what it was! I really liked it! How they do that? Very different and totally tasty! Base Camp certainly stumped my tired, old taste buds, but in the most delightful way.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Semi-dry finish with that distinctive spice flavor left behind on the palate, gently competing with the malt. No noticeable alcohol taste. Very crisp and refreshing.

What a great brew, and it absolutely fits Base Camp's "adventure-based brewing" genre of beers. Unique and forest inspired. I'm giving Smith Rock Red Ale a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4. Good stuff! Makes me (almost) want to go rock climbing or something.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Art of the Bottle Share

Line 'em up!
If you know me, you are probably aware that I very much enjoy arranging bottle share events. Heck, you've probably been to a few that I've co-hosted. If you don't know me, you might be saying to yourself, "What in the Sam Hill is a bottle share?" If that's the case, I'll do my best to clue you in.

I attended my very first bottle share in Portland more than a year ago. Really? Has it been that long? It was arranged by my friend Chris who is the master of the bottle share. I guess you could call him my Bottle Share Sensei. Chris operates by the Twitter handle @PDXbottleshare.

That first bottle share had a small turnout. I think it was a total of five guys and my wife (my trusty DD), sitting outside in the rain in front of a local brew pub. Still, it was a great time and the start of something awesome. I had some fantastic, rare, hard to find beers and I was hooked. Let the bottle share madness begin!

The idea is simple: A number of craft beer enthusiasts get together and bring along a bottle (or two) of their favorite beer. The bottles get opened and everyone shares! It's the best way I know to sample beers that you've always wanted to try or brews you've never heard of before. All have a good time and share their thoughts (or not) about the great beer they're drinking. It's a win for everybody!

Since that day, I've attended and helped arrange a number of very successful and fun bottle shares at various taprooms throughout the greater Portland area, and there's more to come! But perhaps you'd like to set up your own bottle share? Well, I have some tips and advice, if that's what you're looking for! Sorry, this advice is going to be very Portland, Oregon specific, since liquor laws are widely different all over everywhere!

Fun times for one and all!
1) Pick an appropriate venue. There are lots of brew pubs and taprooms in Portland. If you're a beer lover, you probably have your favorite. Strike up a conversation with the owner or manager and see if they have any interest in hosting your event. From my experience, some are and some just aren't, and they aren't usually shy about letting you know one way or the other. Of course, there's always your own home, if you've got the room and your neighbors aren't opposed to parties.

2) Advertise your event. I use social media and word of mouth. Twitter and Reddit are good places to get your message out there. If you're using Twitter, make sure you understand how to use hashtags "#" appropriately. The brew pub and taproom may also like to advertise the event on their own website or with flyers and posters. Expect a big crowd, if they do!

3) Be inclusive, not exclusive. If you know me, I don't have to tell you what I think about beer snobbery. For those unfamiliar...I don't like beer snobs. Beer is an inclusive, everyman (and everywoman) drink. It's meant to be joyfully shared. If you're a snotty, know-it-all snob, get a life and please don't invite me to your bottle share. I'm sure it won't be any fun anyway. If you graciously involve and include beer lovers of all levels--from newbies to master brewers--you'll be a good ambassador for our favorite beverage, you'll also make a lot of friends!

4) Be a good host. If you're the host of a party, you have to work the room and make everyone feel welcome. I'll admit that I'm a social clod. Luckily, I have a secret weapon--my wife. She's gregarious and friendly and always makes her dolt of a husband look good. Whether you're good with social situations or you know someone else who is, it's important that your guests know that you appreciate them taking the time to make your event a success!

Great friends sharing good beer!
5) Fill the bellies. Make sure your guests have plenty of snacks and water. Honestly, I've found that a few bowls of pretzels, chips and nuts are the most appreciated snacks you can serve. Cheap and easy, but if people are drinking a lot of beer, they need to be fed and watered.

6) Make it a short time frame. Trust me on this one. Set a start and FINISH time for your bottle share, and keep it short. Two hours is plenty of time.

7) Obey the OLCC rules. Basically, if you are having your share at a pub or taproom, a licensed OLCC server must open all of the bottles. After that, anyone can pour from any open bottle. I also wouldn't recommend having regular events at your private home. You don't want to get tagged as a speakeasy, or anything like that.

8) Make sure your guests understand bottle share etiquette. This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be put out there. Everyone should take a teeny, tiny taste from each bottle, just to make sure everyone gets some. There's nothing worse than having someone unthinkingly pour himself a full glass of the most popular brew. No bogarts, please!

9) TIP! If you have a professional beer server popping the caps on your bottles, please tip generously! Most bartenders live off their tips. If they spent two hours helping you make your event a success, make sure they get something for their time.

That's it! I'm sure I'm forgetting something important. If you're hosting a bottle share, and have questions, drop me an email or make a comment below. I'll be happy to help!

Beer Batter Pancakes

It's not Sunday morning without PANCAKES!
At my house, a decent Sunday morning starts off with a big stack of hot, buttery, maple syrupy pancakes and a generous, heaping pile of premium bacon. Ah, it doesn't get much better than that! Real butter and real maple syrup, too, please! There are some things in life you just shouldn't scrimp on and pancake toppings are at the top of my list. (Right up there with two-ply toilet paper and fine craft beer.)

Sadly, many young people today believe that "homemade" pancakes are made from either premixed batter that comes out of a freezer or prepackaged pancake mixes. Ick. Pancake batter should always be made from scratch. It's so easy, even a Beer Guy can do it! Oh, yes, and by the way, my favorite pancake batter recipe contains...BEER! Of course it does!

Here's my recipe:
  • 2 cups of all-purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 and 2/3 cups of buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup of pilsner beer
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
SIFT the flour, baking powder and baking soda together into a large mixing bowl. This is very important! I recommend sifting THREE times. This will result in fluffy pancakes. Not sifting will result in pancakes that are more like biscuits. You can also use cake flour, if you want extra light and fluffy pancakes.

Whisk the egg and buttermilk together thoroughly in a smaller bowl. Whisk in the sugar and the vanilla extract. Then gently mix in the beer. (It's gonna foam at first.)

You'll want to use a lighter flavored beer. Even a cheap adjunct lager is better than a big, hoppy brew for this recipe. You want a light, subtle, malty beer taste. Nothing overpowering, but if you want to experiment with different beer styles, I say go for it!

Finally, gently whisk the liquid into the dry ingredients. Don't beat the batter! It may be a little lumpy, but that's okay. It you beat it too much, you'll get stiff, manhole cover-like pancakes. You'll want a nice, pour-able consistency, so add the the last of the liquid gradually until it seems right. Add a bit more buttermilk if it seems too thick to pour.

I recommend covering the batter and refrigerating it overnight, but that's not necessary.

I also recommend cooking the pancakes on a lightly oiled griddle, or the biggest non-stick frying pan you can find. A droplet of water should dance across the griddle when it's hot enough. Reduce to medium heat. Pancakes are ready to flip over when the edges start to look solid and bubbles rise and pop in the middle of the cakes.

This recipe makes about 10 to 12 medium-sized pancakes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let the Beer Fest Season Begin!

Next weekend is gonna be nuts! So many beer events and it's just the beginning of festival season! Seriously, there may not be enough hours in the weekend to get your drank on at all of the to-doings happening here in Stumptown. "What kind of beer events are you talking about, Wolf?" I hear you muttering. Well, two out of three of these special events are happening in my end of town. NoPo rules!

1) Roscoe's 5th Annual IPA Summit - Friday, March 28th from 2:00PM to 11:00PM. 16 specialty and limited release IPA's will be on tap at Roscoe's all weekend long! Brews from Double Mountain, Fort George, Upright, Boneyard and Russian River (yes, there will be Pliny the Elder), just to name a few. Roscoe's is located at 8105 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR 97215.  Roscoe's is one of my favorite beer halls anywhere. Make sure you get some catfish sliders while you're there.

2) Saraveza's 2nd Annual Farmhouse and Wild Ale Festival - Saturday, March 29th through Sunday, March 30th. Starts at 12 noon on Saturday and ends at 9:00PM on Sunday. $25 cash at the door gets you a glass and 10 taster tokens. Perhaps a tad pricey, but you'll get to sample from more than 30 rare and exotic brews that you just won't find on tap everywhere. If you are a fan of farmhouse and wild ale styles, this is a must attend fest. Saraveza is located at 1004 N Killingsworth Street, Portland, OR 97217.

3) Reverend Nat's Hopped Cider Festival - Saturday, March 29th from 12 noon to close. Not only is Reverend Nat a maker and purveyor of his own fine craft ciders, he is also a big promoter of the rapidly growing NW cider scene. He's like... like a cider apostle or something. On Saturday, he'll be featuring more than 16 hopped ciders from 16 different cideries for your sampling pleasure. Yes, it's not beer, but the cider market here in the Pacific NW is booming, and hopped ciders are amazing. Come try some local awesomeness! Reverend Nat's tasting room is located at 1813 NE 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97212.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Laurelwood Brewing Company - Piston Pale Ale

Bangin' on all cylinders!
Picked up a bomber of Laurelwood Brewing Company's Piston Pale Ale yesterday at Whole Foods. Yes, I was shopping at Whole Foods. I actually hate that yuppie, stuck-up store, but it's on the way home, and when you're riding the bus, you sometimes don't have too many options. I usually just stop in for an item or two--no way could I afford to do all my shopping there! I'm not Gwyneth Paltrow for gripes sake!

Grudgingly, I'll admit that WF has a pretty decent cold case. It's as expensive as f**k, but the selection is okay. They do try to do local, which I don't believe is done with very much sincerity. Pretty much just a gimmick to sucker in the faux "buy local", BMW driving crowd. Ick. Anyway, the bomber of Piston Pale Ale was on sale for $4.99.

The beer came with a mild ABV of 5.6%. It was brewed and bottled right here in Stumptown. I don't really know if that means much to the corporate goons at WF, but it does mean a lot to me. I'm proud of the fine beer that's brewed in this city and Laurelwood is one of the standard barers, in my humble opinion.

The beer poured into my shaker pint a reasonably clear, golden orange color. The bright, white head rose up to a full finger thick and dissipated slowly. Lots of sudsy lacing was left behind and stuck around until I finished up the glass.

Aroma was primarily citrus and sweet tropical fruit. Floral notes. 

Taste was a pleasant, sweet, caramel malt right up front. A mild but solid sock of citrus hops came rolling across the palate and provided a lasting bitterness at the finish.

Medium mouthfeel with appropriate carbonation. Creamy finish. Malt and hops both present at the end. Excellent balance.

This is a really nice pale ale. Perfect for folks who want a refreshing, flavorful beer but aren't full-fledged hopheads. I like it! Cool label, too!

I'm giving Piston Pale Ale a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Coalition Brewing Company - Space Fruit

Spaced out?
More cowbell! Remember that skit from SNL? There was a message in the middle of all that zaniness: you can never have enough of a good thing. Or can you? Hmmmm...

Tonight, I'm sipping on some Space Fruit Citrus Infused IPA from Coalition Brewing Company. Apparently, big citrusy hop flavored IPA's weren't enough for some people. The folks at Coalition Brewing decided to ramp up the citrus hop flavors in a West Coast IPA by infusing five different citrus fruits into the brew. I'm not sure how they did it but they did.

Space Fruit comes with a 7.0% ABV. There's some teeny, tiny printing on the label, but to tell you the truth, without my glasses on and the hour approaching 10PM, I can't read it. So, let's get right to it.

The beer poured into my trendy lil' IPA glass a hazy, golden orange color with a white, foamy head. The head came up to almost two fingers thick and dissipated slowly. Lots of sudsy lace was left behind.

Aroma was citrus and piney hops. Grapefruit and lemon rind. Interesting pungency to the stuff.

Taste was grapefruit and tangerine. Rind-like bitterness. Sweet, juicy, tropical fruit followed up the initial bitter citrus sock. Nice balance between the bitter and the sweet, actually. Different, that's for sure.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Dry finish leaves a final bitter note rolling around on the taste buds.

If you like loads of citrus flavor in your beer, this is the one for you! I like it. Space Fruit earns a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The dog absolutely would NOT leave me alone while I was drinking this brew.

Burnside Brewing Company - Spring Rye

Spring forward...
Is it Spring yet? Not quite, but almost. Tonight we do set our clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time--an archaic, out-dated, irritating holdover from the last century that needs to be stopped now, thank you very much. Seriously, how many of us are farmers who need an extra hour of daylight to get our crops in the field? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?  That's what I thought.

Today, I'm drinking a bomber of Burnside Brewing Company's Spring Rye. The label advises that it's a single hop rye ale with coriander. ABV is 5.5%. 21 IBU's. Ultra Hops. I actually sampled this brew at Zwickelmania 2014.

The beer poured into my pint glass a clear, amber orange color with a bright white head. The head rose up to a 1/2 inch tall and dissipated quickly. A thin cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was light, lemony citrus and spicy, grassy rye. Distinct coriander and other herbal notes in the background.

Taste followed the nose. Grassy, lemony. Earthy malt with spicy rye. Very crisp. The coriander flavor was present but not at all over-powering.

Medium mouthfeel with appropriate carbonation. Semi-dry finish with malt and herbal flavors left behind on the palate at the end.

This brew is quite a thirst quencher. Different. Lots of flavor. I like it. I'm giving Spring Rye a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crux Fermentation Project - Insider IPA

An inside job?
I've greatly enjoyed getting to know some of the delightful beers brewed by Bend, Oregon's Crux Fermentation Project. Expertly crafted is a term that immediately comes to mind when trying to think of an adequate descriptor for their beers. I've been wanting to take a beer tour of Bend for a while and Crux Fermentation Project has pretty much sealed the deal. I want to spend some time--a long time--in their tasting room. I'm a fan!

Today, I sampled a bottle of Insider IPA. The label advises of an 8% ABV. Sterling hops and Pilsner malts were utilized. Interesting. Let's see how it does...

The beer poured into my IPA glass a slightly hazy, pale orange color. The white head was a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. 

Aroma was citrus hops. Orange and tangerine. Earthy malt. Tropical fruit.

Taste followed the nose. Orange was the prominent citrus flavor. Lots of tropical and stone fruit. Pineapple and mango. Peach. Earthy malt flavor. Grassy, herbal spiciness in the background. Definitely a very different malt profile than most other IPA's out there.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Dry finish. Lots of malt flavor left behind on the palate.

Quite a different IPA. I'd call it a kinder, gentler double IPA. No noticeable alcohol taste, in spite of the higher ABV. Not a hop bomb, but certainly loaded with flavor, nonetheless. Good stuff, and I'm giving Insider a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Spend Your Tax Refund on Ridiculous Beer Gear!

Finally a use for that cap collection!
Did you get your tax refund yet? I did! You know what that means! Spending spree on all kinds of crap I don't need! It's the 'Merican Way. Excessive spending of discretionary income is the stuff upon which our economy is built! But where can you spend your fleeting little windfall in the most wasteful way possible? Hey, I'm here to help!

If you're like me, (and why wouldn't you want to be?) you have several thousand used bottle caps stashed all over your house. I actually have three old milk bottles filled with caps. My wife often says, "What are you going to do with all those caps?" I don't know. Pave the driveway with them? Build a replica of the Eiffel Tower? The possibilities really are endless.

It's cold inside.
Gratefully, the Perpetual Kid website has a less crafty solution. The Design Your Own Bottle Cap Lamp! It holds 100 bottle caps, which will still leave me with 900 to deal with, but what're you gonna do? Only $29.99. I'm sure this will go over in my house about as well as the Old Man's Leg Lamp, but I'm ordering one anyway!

Also at Perpetual Kid, you'll find another little item just screaming for you to waste your money on: the Cold Beer Jumbo Magnet! Regularly $7.99, this amazing piece of indispensable fridge door decor is currently on sale for $5.00! You can't beat that with a beer bottle!  Come on, you know you want one, and you had to get at least five bucks back from Uncle Sam. Right?

Closely related to the Cold Beer Jumbo Magnet is the Refrigerator Upgrade Magnet. This baby is also on sale for $5.00. If you get both, you'll certainly have the most awesome fridge in the neighborhood.

Fisty McFisterson
Over at ThinkGeek, they've got some fairly unique beer-related items. For only $14.99, they can hook you up with the Hill Giant Fist of Drinking.

It's basically a can koozie in the shape of a gigantic fist! Can't you see yourself strolling around with your massive beer-swilling fist at the next family BBQ? You'll be the envy of all your drunk uncles! I'm definitely getting myself one of these!

ThinkGeek is also the website where you'll find the 8 GB USB Flash Drive Bottle Opener. Honestly, I can't really see how combining a bottle opener with a flash drive improves either of those two individual items. Nevertheless, for only $17.99, you can be the biggest beer-drinking geek among your set of beer-drinking geek friends.
Let's get shifty.

Finally, on Amazon, you'll find this amazing Beer Can Shift Knob. How cool is that? Way cool, that's how cool! The crushed beer can kinda-sorta reminds me of something... What is it? Hmmmm, I can't quite put my finger on it...

In any case, this shift knob will set you back $49.98 the last time I checked and was available with free Amazon Prime shipping, as long as you're a member of Amazon Prime. It's one of only 500 produced, so it is truly a piece of hot rod art. Too slick not to get!

St. Patrick's Day is coming up. Are you covered for the green garb? If not, I'll give you such a pinch! And trust me, I pinch HARD. You better make sure you've got something green to wear, or THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and what would be more appropriate than a Paddy's Irish Pub t-shirt, as seen in the popular TV program "Always Sunny in Philadelphia"? Well, lots of things, probably. Irish people don't really like the term "Paddy". It's kind of a racial slur, and by kind of, I mean is.

Anyway, this very green t-shirt is available at Amazon for about $20. The alway awesome Flipadelphia t-shirt is also available for about the same price.

Well, that's all I have for tonight. Hey, if you still don't know what to do with all of your tax refund cash, you can always send it to me. Just sayin'. I can blow the whole check for you in a matter of minutes!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Awesome Ales - Red House IRA

Awesome sauce?
One of the most awesome things about living in an awesome beer town like Portland, Oregon is that just about every upscale restaurant, taproom, pub, dive bar and eatery around serves tasty, locally brewed craft beer. It's actually difficult to find a joint that DOESN'T serve decent beer. How awesome is that?

One of my favorite places to eat in PDX is a sandwich shop called Lardo. If you ever go to either one of their locations, I highly recommend the Korean Pork Shoulder sandwich or the Pork Meatball Banh Mi. Get an order of the Dirty Fries while you're at it. You'll be glad that you did. Oh, yeah, Lardo usually has a heck of a tap list. More than a dozen choices of tasty, tasty beers.

I was at Lardo the other day and found a new brew on their beer menu. Awesome Ales Red House IRA. I don't know much about Awesome Ales, but a perusal of their website told me they are a "gypsy and tenant craft beer brand". I'm not sure what that means, but I'd love to find out more. Their beer sure is good.

The IRA was handed to me in shaker pint. It was a reddish orange color with a bright white head. The head was a good 1/2 inch thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A thin cap of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was subdued citrus hops and biscuity malt. Floral, herbal notes.

Taste was sweet, earthy malt. Orange and caramel. Spicy, herbal. Nice creaminess to this brew. Delicious!

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Creamy finish with a good bitter punctuation note at the end. Lots of flavor complexity left rolling around on the palate. 

This beer actually is...awesome! Very nice, nice PDX brew. If I ever see it on tap again, I'll get some, absolutely. Thanks, Awesome Ales, for giving me an excuse to go back to Lardo this weekend. I'm giving Red House IRA a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Green Flash Brewing Company - Hop Odyssey Black IPA

Come to the dark side.
There isn't anything very complicated about the way I chose beers to review. I usually just pull something that looks interesting out of the cold case, tote it home and drink it. Eventually, I write a review. Truth be told, I drink a lot more beer than I review. Writing up blog posts takes time and effort and, well, I'm pretty darn lazy.

I am trying to be more diligent about documenting my conquests--or beerquests, if you will. Of course, there's that whole aforementioned laziness issue. Oh, well, there's no time like now and I've got a pretty nice beer to write up today.

Green Flash Brewing Company makes some tasty beers down San Diego way. Good stuff. When I saw a black IPA with Green Flash's logo on the label, I was intrigued. Had to try it. I'm glad that I did!

The beer poured into my tulip pint a pitch black color with a light tan head. The head rose up to two full fingers thick and was very creamy looking. The foam dissipated slowly and left lots of sudsy lacing behind.

Aroma was citrus and pine hops up front. Grapefruit and orange. Roasted malt in the background. Coffee and cocoa.

Taste was more than I expected. Big IPA bang to the stuff. Dank and piney. Very juicy tropical fruit. Spicy bitter tang with that earthy, roasted chocolate malt flavor lingering on the palate. Superb malt and hops balance to the stuff.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Juicy and a bit sticky on the finish.

Overall, this brew is a great example of an often quirky style. I like it a lot. I wouldn't kick a bottle of it out of my cold case, that's for sure. I'm giving Hop Odyssey Black IPA a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4. The beer also earns itself a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle left quite a puddle on the floor and at one point, tried to steal a taste when I left the room. Luckily, I caught her just in time to save the last drop for myself.