Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dogfish Head Brewery - Punkin Ale 2014

Going outta my gourd.
Ah, man, it's pumpkin beer season already? I gotta tell ya, I think most pumpkin beers are abysmally craptastic. They are hideous, satanic abominations that need to driven back through the Autumnal gates of hell from whence they came! Oh, the humanity! Nothing saddens me quite like seeing premium spots in the supermarket cold case being taken up by pumpkin brews from late September through early January. It just isn't right!

Brewers often over-spice these seasonal nightmares with buttloads of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Hey, pumpkin pie is for eating, not drinking. Blech! But they aren't all awful. Every once in a while, I'll run across a pumpkin beer that could even be worth drinking more than once.

Dogfish Head Brewery is world renowned for making some primo craft beer. Their 90 Minute IPA is epic. They are also known for being extremely innovative and never afraid to push that creative envelope. I would expect a fairly exotic pumpkin beer from Dogfish Head--and maybe that's the case with their Punkin Ale. It's far from over-the-top and very, very drinkable, in other words, DIFFERENT than most other pumpkin beers! Imagine that!

The beer poured into my snifter from a 12 oz. bottle a slightly hazy, golden amber color. The head rose up to only about a 1/4 of an inch tall and dissipated quickly. A thin ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was pumpkin and mild pumpkin pie spice--nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Over-ripe fruit and sweet malt in the background.

Taste was surprisingly mild on the spice. Nice, clean, NATURAL pumpkin flavor. Brown sugar. Earthy malt. It tastes like a beer, not like a pie. Good!

Medium mouthfeel with low carbonation. Smooth, slightly creamy finish. Just a tinge of booze to this 7% ABV brew.

Overall, this is a perfect pumpkin beer for my palate. I'd drink it again anytime. Nothing weird, over-powering or too pie-like. I'm giving Punkin Ale a very respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fort George Brewery - Fresh IPA

From bine to brew to can to you!
Fort George Brewery has just proven that a craft brewer doesn't have to be witty, or clever, or controversial when naming a beer. All they have to really do is make sure that whatever they bottle (or can) is freaking delicious.

Fort George's Fresh IPA is exactly what the name foretells: It's a fresh hop IPA. Fort George's website advises that over a ton of wet Simcoe hops were packed into brew tanks within 24 hours of harvest from Loftus Ranches. This beer comes with an ABV of 6.4%. I purchased a single 1 pint can at New Seasons for $2.99. I've been hearing a lot about this brew, so I couldn't wait to pop the top and try it. How did it stack up, you ask?

The beer poured into my IPA glass a clear, golden orange color with a bright, white head. The head was a full finger thick and dissipated slowly. A significant amount of foamy lacing was left behind. Quite an attractive brew, I must say.

Aroma was pine resin, citrus and tropical fruit. Wow, quite a nose full of fruit, actually. Orange, grapefruit, pineapple, guava, mango. Sweet malt in the background.

Taste followed the nose. Hops bitterness gave way to orange and grapefruit. Tropical and stone fruit. Just a tinge of herbal, grassiness. Just right. The malt flavor was left on the palate at the end. Nice balance. Much more complexity than I anticipated.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Juicy finish. No detectable alcohol.

Overall, this is a fantastic fresh hop beer. Delicious, and just what I'd expect from Fort George, a brewery that has yet to disappoint me. This one is a keeper. I recommend getting some in your fridge ASAP, because I'm probably going to swoop in and snatch up multiple purchases at every store in Portland. You've been warned. I'm giving this wonderful beer a perfect BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4 and a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle put out six inch drool tendrils for this one.

Monday, September 22, 2014

No-Li Brewhouse - Inland Empire No. 8 Session IPA

Session anyone?
There's a YouTube video called 50 State Stereotypes (in two minutes). If you've never seen it, I recommend you click on the link that I so thoughtfully provided in the previous sentence. You're welcome in advance.

The line in the video for Oregon is pretty funny: "Dreadlocks on Caucasians." Ha! And then there's the line for our neighbor to the North, Washington State: "Richer hippies than Oregon." Ha, ha!

Truth is, Oregon and Washington have kind of a lukewarm relationship. No real love, no real hate, but we do tend to irritate the hell out of each other every once in a while. We're like dorm-mates: we get along because we're forced to live together, but if we weren't in such close proximity, we'd probably never hang out--or even talk.

One thing the two states do have in common is a love for fine craft beer. They brew a lot of great beer in Washington, that's for sure. Oh, it's not NEARLY as awesome as the beer brewed here in Oregon, but seriously, nothing is... (Let's see if I can start a fight, or at least a tweet war.) Yes, Washington craft beer is a-okay.

Tonight, I'm reviewing a "session IPA" brewed by No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane, WA: Inland Empire No. 8. The label advised that this 5.5% ABV has 67 IBU's and was dry-hopped with Cascades. How was it?

The beer poured into my IPA glass a light, golden orange color with a huge, foamy head. The head rose up to more than two fingers thick and dissipated slowly. Copious amounts of sudsy lacing was left behind and lasted until I finished the bomber off.

Aroma was citrus hops: Lemon, orange and grapefruit. Mild stone and tropical fruit. Some floral notes. Sweet malt smell underneath it all.

Taste followed the nose. Loads of citrus hops flavor. Grapefruit and lemon. Very flavorful for a "session" beer. Nice malt backbone to this brew, too. No noticeable alcohol taste at all, as you'd expect from the lower ABV.

Medium to slightly thinner mouthfeel. Appropriate carbonation. This one was an easy drink. I polished off the bomber pretty quickly. The citrus hops flavor was left pleasantly behind on the palate.

Nice! I would call this an excellent beginner IPA, or a perfect lawnmower IPA. Lots of flavor, but very quaffable. I'm giving Inland Empire No. 8 a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. Good job, Washington! Keep brews like this one coming across the border, but keep your rich hippies at home, um-kay? ;-)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Portland Growler Co. - 32 oz. Sprocket Growlette

Keepin' it chill, PDX style.
It was my birthday on Wednesday. My gawd, I hate birthdays. Yeah, yeah, I thought September 17th was the most awesome day of the year when I was a dumb kid. Now, let's face it, I'm almost as old a Mathuselah and the only purpose my birthday serves is as a stark reminder of that long dirt nap that is waiting right around the corner for me. Humbug to birthdays! (Shakes cane in Death's general direction.)

Anyway, the only good thing about my birthday nowadays is that I get to drink loads of beer and folks give me presents--well, my wife gives me presents. This year, she surprised me with an awesome little ceramic growler made right here in Portland, Oregon by the Portland Growler Co.

My growler is a 32 oz. model (they call it a growlette) with a "sprocket" handle. It's satin grey. These babies also come in 64 oz sizes and in a variety of finishes and styles. My lovely missus presented me with this great gift at our favorite taproom, so of course, I got it filled immediately. 32 ounces of Boneyard Beer's Hop Venom IPA. It was filled at around 8:00 PM last night and has been sitting in my fridge all day. How did it hold up?

The flip-top lid opened with a little bit of a pop. Good. As soon as I started pouring, a healthy head rose up from the glass. Good! It was 91 degrees in my living room this afternoon. I closed the lid after every pour and it took me about an hour to polish off the 32 ounces. That little growler kept the beer cold the entire time. With this heat, I thought it was a pretty good test.

What I really like is the fact that I can fetch home some of Oregon's finest craft beer in a piece of fine, local, artisan-crafted pottery. This little growler is functional, beautiful and made right here in my hometown. How cool is that? The wide-mouth lid is great. It looked very easy to fill. 

Of course, hand-craftsmanship is never cheap. My 32 oz growlette cost $55. A larger 64 oz model will set you back $65. Personally, I think it's worth every penny. I've gotten many compliments and questions already. What a great gift for the beer drinker in your life--even if that's YOU!

I highly recommend this product. Go get one!

More growler reviews here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Ace of Spades IIPA

A winning hand?
I love, love, love India Pale Ales. L-O-V-E, love them! The IPA is absolutely my favorite beer style. Specifically, I prefer Northwest style IPA's, with their hop forward flavor profiles. Big, bitter, piney, citrus-y hops. The best IPA's provide a healthy sting to the taste buds. A pucker that makes you shake your head for just a second and go "BLUH-UH" and then go right back in for another sip. Yes!

Portland, Oregon truly lives up to the nickname of Beervana. There are so many awesome breweries here in Stumptown, and many of them have absolutely perfected the humble IPA. That's not surprising. We have the water. We have the hops. We have an infinite number of craft beer fanatics that demand awesome beers and a multitude of talented brewers willing to oblige. Yes, you should be jealous.

Tonight, I'm drinking a bomber of Hopworks Urban Brewery's (HUB) Ace of Spades Imperial India Pale Ale. The bomber was a a bit pricey at $8.99. The label reported an ABV of 8.6% and 100 IBU's. No specific naming of the hops used in this brew. Was it worth the price of admission? Let's see.

The beer poured into my IPA glass a clear, amber/orange color with a foamy white head. The head rose up to slightly more than a finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A solid cap of lacing was left behind throughout most of the drink.

Aroma was light, resinous pine and citrus hops up front. Orange and a whiff of grapefruit. Lots of tropical fruit. Floral, herbal notes punctuated throughout. Earthy. Spicy. Caramel malt.

Taste followed the nose. Not particularly dank, but respectable hops bitterness up front. Herbal, spicy. Pleasant tropical fruit behind orange and grapefruit flavors. Sweet caramel malt with some earthy, grassy notes that provided some unexpected complexity.

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel. Relatively low carbonation. Some noticeable alcohol warmth at the end, but still a very smooth, slightly slick finish.

Overall, this is a very easy drinking IIPA. Perhaps a little on the milder side for a serious hophead, but probably a perfect "starter" imperial IPA for anyone willing to take their first plunge. Good stuff! I'm giving Ace of Spades a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie. The Wonder Beagle was drooling up a puddle for this brew.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gilgamesh Brewing Company - Oedipus IPA

What walks on four feet in the morning?
Me, with a hangover...
Hey, wasn't Oedipus that poor schmuck in Greek Mythology who killed his father, married his mother, and then gouged his eyes out with a brooch pin? That dude had some serious angst, yo. Naw what I'm sayin'? Oops, sorry. I just finished watching several YouTube episodes of Thug Notes. I love that guy.

This is Oedipus IPA from Gilgamesh Brewing Company. I'm sure they had a good reason for naming the beer after a character with some significant...mommy issues. Ack. No explanation was provided on the label. Anyway, the beer comes with an ABV of 6.4% and was brewed in Salem, Oregon.

Oedipus poured into my IPA glass a clear, golden orange color with an off-white head. The head rose up to more than two fingers thick and was quite persistent. Very clumpy and lumpy, it left a massive amount of sudsy lacing behind all over the glass.

Aroma was pine resin and citrus. Orange, grapefruit and tangerine. Sweet, caramel malt bringing up the rear.

Taste followed the nose. Loads of indistinct citrus flavor. Mostly grapefruit. Big bitter blast, followed up with sweet malt. Good balance.

Medium mouthfeel with excellent carbonation. Creamy, semi-oily finish, but in a very pleasant way. It went down very easy.

Excellent example of a classic Northwest IPA. If I saw Oedipus on tap, I wouldn't hesitate to order one. If it came in a 12 oz. six pack, I would not hesitate to load my BBQ cooler with the stuff. I'm giving Oedipus IPA a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sandy River Basin Watershed Council Clean Up Drink Up

It's the water, stoopid.
"What makes Portland beer so gosh darn AWESOME, Mr. Wolf?" I swear, I hear that question all the time, and do you know what my answer is? Do ya? Well, besides having some of the most innovative, creative and talented brewers in the world, Portland also has the WATER! IT'S THE WATER!

Portland water comes straight out of the Bull Run Watershed about 30 miles east of the city. Unlike many other large cities, Portland's water is delicious right out of the tap. It doesn't have to be filtered or flavored or fiddled with. You don't have to hold your nose when you take a sip. Bottled water is an unnecessary--and dare I say WASTEFUL--luxury in Portland, Oregon.

Just ask any local brewer and he or she will tell you how much they appreciate the fantastic water they get to brew with here. Sure, we pay a premium for water that tastes this good, but it's worth it. (Check back with me when my next water bill arrives.)

The symbiotic relationship between watershed and brewer was very much discussed and recognized at a recent river clean up event I attended on September 7th. Portland Brewing Company co-hosted the clean up, along with the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. I was very happy to receive an invitation and to offer my trash picking services for a couple of hours. Trust me, I was amply rewarded with mass quantities of beer.

Portland Brewing donated a month of profits from Zig-Zag Lager
to the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, a non-profit
dedicated to habitat restoration and preservation of the Sandy
River and it's tributaries.
Friendly rangers met us at Dabney State Recreation Area,
near the banks of the Sandy River, and  provided clean up
equipment and guidance for our trash collection efforts.
Will work for beer!
We collected a lot of trash, but I found the area to be surprisingly
clean. The worst thing? Cigarette butts everywhere! Come
on smokers! Clean up your butts!
I'm a mean man with a trash picker upper stick!
(That's what they're called. Google it.)
Portland Brewing provided appropriate refreshments.
After party refreshments (beer!) and dinner at
nearby Shirley's Tippy Canoe. Awesome!
I absolutely plan to donate more of my time to clean up events and other efforts of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. They are doing good work that benefits everybody in Oregon--especially those who appreciate pristine, natural rivers and wild habitats. Check out their website and see if there's a volunteer opportunity for you!

Oh, and while you're at it, visit Portland Brewing Company's brewery and taproom at 2730 NW 31st Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97210. They deserve some props for supporting such a great organization--and the natural beauty and clean water of Oregon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Crockpot Carnitas

Fire up the Crockpot!
Man, another 95 degree day? Seriously? I'm tired of this heat! I don't have air conditioning, so it's broiling here at Casa de Wolfgang. No way am I going to fire up the stove to cook dinner today. I don't even want to man the grill out on the deck. It's too dang hot!

Gratefully, I have a vintage Crockpot slow cooker. There are lots of tasty Crockpot recipes, but I have a hankering for carnitas! Tender pieces of spicy, Mexican-style pork. It's super easy to make in a Crockpot. Of course, my recipe Oh, and tequila, because that's how I roll.

Ha, on a side note, I got an unsolicited Tweet from an Islamic prohibitionist today. He admonished me for "promoting the use of alcohol" and suggested I read the Quran and pray. Uh...BLOCKED! Seriously, dude, this is 'MERICA and I'm Beer Guy PDX. I bleed and sweat beer. There's no way you'll ever see me go all Cat Stevens on ya. No way. I'm also eating pork, so there you go. Not trying to be culturally insensitive, but I didn't start it. I don't hassle other people because of their lifestyle and beliefs. Live and let live--and nothing bugs me more than an intolerant religious zealot. /rant. 

Anyway, here's my carnitas recipe:

  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup lager beer
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash soy sauce
  • 1 shot tequila
Mix the dry spices and rub on both sides of the pork roast. Gently place at bottom of Crockpot. Carefully pour in the beer and chicken stock around the sides of the roast, trying not to wash off the spice rub. Add the rest of the ingredients and set the Crockpot on low. Cook for about 10 hours. When it's done, it will just fall apart with the poke of a fork. Serve with rice, beans and tortillas.

Ninkasi Brewing Company - Critical Hit Barley Wine Ale

Dragon slayer?
First things first: I don't know very much about Dungeons and Dragons. My son is a big RPG aficionado, so what I do know is just from being on the periphery--watching the kid play with his friends and listening to him describe long, detailed, incomprehensible play by plays of his late night D&D sessions. I know a little about Halflings, Paladins, Rogues, Necromancers and such, and I attempted to play a game once, but it was just too damned complicated for me. I prefer a game with as little rules as possible.

When I spotted a bomber of Ninkasi Brewing Company's Critical Hit Barley Wine Ale, I had to pick up a couple of them--one for me and one for my D&D loving son. Hey, there's a 20 sided die on the label and a wizard doing some wizardly type stuff. What sealed the deal was the D&D Character Sheet hanging from the neck of the bottle. The stuff wasn't cheap--$12.99 at Whole Foods. The label advised that it was a 2012 batch. So how was it?

The beer poured into my snifter a hazy, medium brown color with a minimal tan head. The head disappeared pronto and only a light ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was brown sugar and toffee over indistinct citrus hops. A bit boozy. Dark over-ripe fruit. Raisins and dates.

Taste was citrus hops up front. Grapefruit and orange. A bit piney. Definitely different for a barley wine. When the initial hops bitterness faded, there was a healthy dose of sweet, bready malt. Light molasses. Booze. Dark fruit.

Medium to slightly full mouthfeel with light carbonation. A bit of an oily, tonsil-coating finish with noticeable alcohol at the end. Citrus flavor was present throughout the drink and that was the last thing left on the palate.

Clearly a Pacific Northwest style barley wine. I'd drink it again, but I'd definitely have to be in the right mood. The pricetag would prevent this brew from getting any kind of regular consumption in my house. However, I'd like to put a bottle of it my "cellar" to see how it ages.

I'm giving Critical Hit a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Salt & Straw - Apricots and Citra Hops

Hey, you got hops in my ice cream!
Hey, you got ice cream in my hops!
I'm certain you've heard of Salt & Straw, otherwise, you've been living all alone... under a giant toadstool... deep in an Oregon forest... cut off from all human contact. I'm sure you know that Salt & Straw is a purveyor of the most magnificent craft ice cream in the Pacific Northwest--perhaps even the world.

Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for my waistline, Salt & Straw is right here in my neighborhood. They used to have a little push cart right near the same NE Alberta Street location that is now their flagship brick and mortar. Whenever I saw that cart on my way home from work, I'd stop for some deliciousness. Now, I can stop just about anytime I want.

In addition to their regular line-up of flavors, like Stumptown Coffee with Burnside Bourbon (my fav), Freckled Woodblock Chocolate, Arbequina Olive Oil (wife's fav) and Pear with Blue Cheese, Salt & Straw typically puts out several decidedly different flavors every month, usually based on a theme. For September, the theme is fresh Oregon produce--and what do you think is my favorite Oregon produce?  Come on, that's an easy one. HOPS! Imagine my delight when I spotted Apricots and Citra Hops up on the menu board today. I HAD to try it.

Now, this isn't the first time Salt & Straw has come out with a beer-like ice cream flavor. They are actually old pros with this kind of flavor profile. Truthfully, I think they could make Sawdust and Black Mold taste delicious. These folks are probably legitimate, wand-toting wizards. I'm not kidding. By now, you're probably asking "What does hops ice cream taste like?" Do you really want to know?


The ice cream is fruity and with just the right amount of hops bitterness. The hops flavor is not over-the-top, but it's definitely in there. Perfectly balanced against the apricot. Wow! I love this stuff. Seriously, get yourself down to Salt & Straw and try it for yourself. I believe they have three locations here in Portland.

This is a first for BeerGuyPDX, but I'm actually giving an ice cream a score of 4 crushed cans out of 4.