Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pelican Brewing Company - Cold Coast Cascadian Pilsner

As Cascadian as
Marionberry Pie?
Folks who live outside of the Pacific Northwest probably wonder why they see the term "Cascadian" pop up on my blog from time to time. Well, if you're currently scratching your head and wondering "What the heck is a Cascadian?" I'm here to assist.

Check out a map of the Cascade Range. You'll see that these mountains span the entire Pacific Northwest, from Northern California through Oregon and Washington to Southern British Columbia. There are some beautiful peaks in the Cascades. Mount Hood (called Wy'east by the native Multnomah people) sits practically in my Portland backyard at less than an hour drive away. And Mount St. Helens, famous for blowing her volcanic lid in 1980, is right across the border in Washington State. As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Cascades are filled with active volcanoes. Like the people living among them, these seemingly serene mountains have a smoldering intensity lying just below the surface.

Most Pacific Northwest inhabitants will tell you that "Cascadian" means much more than a reference to the mountains. This unique bioregion is known for its pristine water, beautiful forests, and diverse ecology. Most Cascadians are very proud and protective of the spectacular environment that surrounds us. The Cascadian flag flying from my front porch doesn't represent any kind of independence movement--not in the traditional sense--but rather a celebration of all the "good stuff" here; and there is certainly an abundance of good stuff, much of which goes into making my favorite thing in the whole wide world...tasty, tasty BEER!

Yesterday, while searching for craft beer bargains at the grocery store, I came across a bomber of Pelican Brewing Company's Cold Coast Cascadian Pilsner. On sale for $3,99. Bam! That baby went into the cart! This unique winter seasonal boasts an ABV of 7.0% and 50 IBU's.

The beer poured into my gigantic pilsner glass (seemed appropriate) a clear, golden yellow color with a foamy white head. The head rose up to two fingers thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. Quite a pretty head on this one--picture perfect! Webby tendrils of suds were left behind all over the glass as I imbibed.

Aroma was biscuity malt and lemony hops up front. Sweet, floral, herbal notes.

For taste, the "Cascadian" moniker was not betrayed. As expected, this is a very hop-forward pilsner. Citrus hops. Lemon and orange. Bready, biscuity malt. A bit of peppery spice on the finish. 

Light to medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. There was some heat from the 7% ABV, but nothing harsh.

Overall, this was actually a fun drink for me. I found it to be quite refreshing, especially in juxtaposition to all of the heavy-hitting holiday beers I've been socking down lately. This flavorful pilsner is a big boy beer that may not suit everybody's taste, but it sure works for me. I like it and will certainly drink it again. I'm giving Cold Coast Cascadian Pilsner a BeerGuyPDX score of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sabertooth “PSYCHEDELICSTONERROCKMICROFEST” Offers Mind-Altering Music and Beer

(photo courtesy of
McMenamins’ Sophomore MicroFest Celebrates Crystal Ballroom’s Past

McMenamins presents the second annual Sabertooth MicroFest, a psychedelic and stoner music packed weekend, taking place Feb. 5-7, 2016 in downtown Portland. Drawing on the counterculture history of the Crystal Ballroom, Sabertooth celebrates the mind-altering experiences that started in mid-'60s folk, rock and blues. From the Peace Rites of Allen Ginsburg and historic performances by the Grateful Dead through the Flaming Lips Boom Box Experiment, the Crystal has always been the place to experience psychedelic music in all its forms. The bands featured this year, including Super Furry Animals, Red Fang and Built to Spill, represent a wide range of psychedelic music styles and interpretations of the art form.

In addition to a full music line-up, MicroFest goers and craft brew aficionados can enjoy the Blasphemous Brew Fest – a showcase of seven wild and weird small batch beer styles custom made for the MicroFest by McMenamins and other local breweries. Beers are available for purchase in Lola’s Room on Saturday and Sunday for ages 21 and over. Sabertooth ticket holders can bring beers from the brew fest up to the Crystal Ballroom to watch the show. 

In the spirit of the event, Al’s Den (at Crystal Hotel) features its own psychedelic stylings all weekend from 7-10 p.m. by two of Portland’s homegrown artists: World’s Finest on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6 and Quick and Easy Boys on Sunday, Feb. 7. 

Sabertooth music line-up at Crystal Ballroom:

· World’s Finest, 7 p.m. (Al’s Den) 
· King Black Acid, 8 p.m. · Earth, 9 p.m. 
· Super Furry Animals, 10:15 p.m. 
· Blasphemous Beer Fest, 5 p.m. (Lola’s Room) 
· Eternal Tapestry, 6:30 p.m. 
· World’s Finest, 7 p.m. (Al’s Den) 
· Witch Mountain, 7:20 p.m. 
· YOB, 8:25 p.m. 
· Red Fang, 9:30 p.m. 
· Blasphemous Beer Fest, 5 p.m. (Lola’s Room) 
· Brett Netson & Snakes, 6:30 p.m. 
· Quick and Easy Boys, 7 p.m. (Al’s Den) 
· The Fresh & Onlys, 7:20 p.m. 
· Mikal Cronin, 8:25 p.m. 
· Built to Spill, 9:30 p.m.

* Showtimes subject to change, check the website for updates

Blasphemous Brews at Sabertooth provided by: 
· Ale Apothecary 
· Breakside Brewery 
· Cascade Brewing 
· McMenamins Crystal Brewery 
· McMenamins Edgefield Brewery 
 McMenamins Thompson Brewery 
· Upright Brewing 

February 5-7, 2016 
Friday: Doors at 6 p.m., Music at 7 p.m. 
Saturday: Doors and Brew Fest at 5 p.m., Music at 6:30 p.m. 
Sunday: Doors and Brew Fest at 5 p.m., Music at 6:30 p.m. 

3-day pass: $85 advance, $90 day of show 
VIP Viewing Area* (21 and Over) - $140 advance, $145 day of show 

Individual day passes: $30 advance, $35 day of show 
VIP Viewing Area* (21 and Over) - $50 advance, $55 day of show 

* Limited amount of VIP tickets available 

McMenamins Crystal Ballroom and Lola’s Room 1332 W. Burnside Portland, OR 97209 Al’s Den at Crystal Hotel 303 S.W. 12th Ave. Portland, OR 97209 

Presenting sponsors are McMenamins, Portland Mercury and XRAY.FM. Additional support from Jackpot Records, Sizzle Pie and Voodoo Doughnuts. 

About Crystal Ballroom 
McMenamins Crystal Ballroom is a historic dance hall that has been a part of downtown Portland, Ore. for 102 years. The hall has seen countless first loves unfold, police raids, visits by silent screen idols and Beat poets, psychedelic light shows, narrow escapes from fire, demolition, and neglect, and a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Today the music palace hosts everything from rock ’n’ roll and country, to hip-hop and big band swing and is well-known for its original floating dance floor. 

About McMenamins 
McMenamins operates 54 distinctive pubs, restaurants and historic hotels in the Pacific Northwest. Founded by brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin with a single Portland neighborhood pub in 1983, McMenamins today includes eight Washington locations and 45 Oregon properties, 18 on the National Register of Historic Places. McMenamins handcrafts its own beer, wine, spirits, cider and coffee and offers an eclectic mix of pubs, hotels, movie theaters, concert venues, spas and events for guests to enjoy.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Block 15 Brewing Company - Autumn Farmhouse Ale

Ah, Autumn!
Oh, no! Here it comes! Rant alert! I recently read a couple of negative beer reviews in one of the local throwaway papers. Actually, I can't really call them reviews--they're more like pompous hit jobs. The articles were written by sarcastic, self-aggrandizing hipsters with pretentious bios and vague pedigrees. It's difficult to figure out exactly where these journalistic titans hail from, but I somehow get the impression that in between the sabbatical in Borneo and that internship at McSweeney's, they spent most of their time playing Guild Wars 2 in grandma's basement. 

These writers make up for their lack of descriptive adjectives with a disdainful screed that makes Donald Trump's tweets look like Shakespearean sonnets. The articles ooze with derision and snobbery. Ack! Who needs that kind of crap? Not the Portland craft brewing community, that's for sure.

You may notice that I rarely post a negative review. If I don't like a beer, I just don't review it. There are PLENTY of wonderful beers to focus on, and I'd rather spend my time letting people know about the fantastic beers they should seek out and enjoy. Additionally, I have HUGE respect for the brewers in this town. They bust their asses to get the best beer in the world into our bellies. I'll cut them some slack for the occasional clunker. Okay, end of rant. Let's get to the beer.

Tonight's beer is definitely NOT a clunker. I'm drinking Block 15 Brewing Company's Autumn Farmhouse Ale. I picked up the 500ml bottle for $5 at a local bottle shop. Deal! The label says it was brewed with "local honey, hops & oats" and the ABV is 6.85%.

The beer poured into my glass a lovely golden color with a subtle peach hue. The white head rose up to two fingers thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. Spotty lace and a thin cap of foam were left behind. Gentle, effervescent bubbles rose up from the bottom of the glass. Purty!

Aroma was mild, yeasty funk with hints of apple, stone fruit and honey.

Taste was Belgian yeast, biscuity malt and an array of fruit flavors. Apple. Pear. Lemon and honey. Nice balance of sweetness and tart.

Light to medium mouthfeel. Good carbonation. Very easy drinker. 

I paired this brew with the spaghetti and marinara sauce I made for dinner tonight. This is a great beer to have with a meal. The flavors aren't overpowering and complimented rather than detracted from the food.

Autumn Farmhouse Ale is a limited production. I hope they make more in the future! I really like it! I'm giving this tasty beer a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4. I want more!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ninkasi Brewing Company - Noir Milk Stout

Two-fisted or two-bit?
Standout, or stoolie?
I love me some Film Noir. Are you familiar with the genre? You probably are, even if you don't know exactly what I'm talking about. Wikipedia gives the following definition:

Film Noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly such that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Film Noir literally means "Black Film" in French. Although most of these movies are filmed in a dark, bleak, gritty visual style; noir refers more to the pessimistic, cynical, existential themes than the look and feel.

Examples of American Film Noir Classics are 1944's Double Indemnity, 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1941's The Maltese Falcon, and 1946's The Big Sleep. These films rarely have a typical Hollywood "happy ending" and often center around an "anti-hero"--a seedy crumb-bum with few redeeming qualities that we end up rooting for anyway.

My favorite Film Noir classic is 1947's Kiss of Death. Young Richard Widmark turns in one of the most memorable performances of his career as psychopathic killer Tommy Udo. Man, oh, man, is he EVIL. How evil? Check out this clip: 

Don't be a squealer!

I was greeted by the typical, gray Portland sky when I stepped outside my front door this morning.  The oppressive, invasive dampness went straight through my Pendleton and into the depths of my soul--like I said, typical Portland. I drove over to the local QFC to pick up snacks for the Seahawks v. Ravens game (Go Hawks!), and by snacks, I do mean alcohol. Portland is a city fueled by beer and booze and I'm not one for bucking the system, especially one that fits so well into my lifestyle.

I was looking for a beer on sale in the cold case and spotted a red tag in front of Ninkasi Brewing Company's Noir Milk Stout. The deco-inspired label beckoned me to plunk the bomber into my rusty, wobbly-wheeled grocery cart. The shapely, brunette liquor manager was giving me approving glances as I wobbled and squeaked past her. "Nice choice," she said. I grunted my response without giving her the once over. Kick off was in 10 minutes and I didn't have any time for dames.

The beer poured from bomber into my stout glass a dark brown color that was almost as black as my ex-wife's heart. A creamy, mocha head rose up to about an inch tall with just a little coaxing. No threat of a beating was necessary. I had a pair of brass knuckles handy, just in case, and I was glad I didn't have to use them. The head dissipated at a moderate rate, leaving a light ring of foam behind.

Aroma was coffee, cocoa and roasted malt. Vanilla and toffee notes in the background. It immediately reminded me of her. Poor kid always took her coffee black--with lots of cream and sugar.

Taste was bitter, French roast coffee with sweet milk chocolate following it up. Roasted malt. The creamy lactose sweetness was nicely balanced against that strong coffee bitterness. Hints of toasted nuts and toffee. Ah, French roast. For a second, there, I thought I was hallucinating. Paris. I guess we'll alway have Paris...

Medium to full mouthfeel with a smooth, creamy finish. A bitter coffee and chocolate coating was left pleasantly on my palate at the end. Yeah, all good things have to come to an end. That's the way the cookie crumbles--or the way the bottle empties, as the case may be.

Overall, Noir Milk Stout is a keeper. Loads of flavors that somehow remain distinct and appropriately complimentary at the same time. I like it--and it's been a long time since I've found anything I like. I'm giving this brew a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4. It's probably more like 3 and 1/4 cans, but I'm not feeling very generous today. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the dames.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fort George Brewery - Magnanimous IPA

Magnanimous? I say
I drink a lot of different beers. It's my hobby. I have almost 1500 unique beers checked into the Untappd app--and I'm lazy about checking in. There are 471 beer reviews on this blog--and I'm lazy about writing reviews. I'm always on the hunt for a new beer to buy and try. There are four or five new-to-me brews lined up in my fridge right now. What I'm getting at is that a beer has to be pretty damn special for me to stock it up for regular consumption. It's a pretty short list, but I do believe I've found a new beer to add to it.

Fort George Brewery's Magnanimous IPA is a seasonal collaboration that I am praying becomes a part of Fort George's regular line-up. Please, please, please! This is a fantastic beer that I could drink anytime, ALL the time.

The beer is brewed with Grand Fir tips from Earth & Sky Farms of Oregon City. The Fort George website advises that the hops that went into the pot are Simcoe and Chinook. The ABV is 7%.

Magnanimous IPA is a piney hops masterpiece. I suppose I should stop singing its praises and get on with the formal review.

The beer poured from pint-sized can into my IPA glass a golden amber color with a foamy. creamy, bright white head. The head dissipated slowly and left copious amounts of sudsy lacing all over the glass. Quite an attractive, photogenic beer, I must say. The graphics on the can are quite festive, too.

Aroma was pine and more pine, along with citrus and herbal notes. Tropical fruit. Biscuity malt.

Taste followed the nose. Lots of pine, spruce and herbal notes. Hints of gin behind lemon, orange and juicy tropical fruit. Sweet caramel malt calmed down quickly by a respectable, bitter hops finish.

Medium mouthfeel with a little bit of a sticky chew to it at the end. Herbal notes were left behind on the palate, giving this brew a unique, interesting, liquor-like finish.

Overall, this is a wonderful beer that I am totally crushing on hard. The Wonder Beagle was bouncing into the furniture trying to find out where the aroma was coming from, and she drooled up quite a puddle. Perfect score for this one: 4 crushed cans out of 4 AND a Droolie.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The High Price of Beer Fest Admission and Other Festivus Grievances

A Festivus Cane Shaking...
In 1997, an episode of the TV series Seinfeld introduced the world to an annual holiday called Festivus. Celebrated by the Costanza Family, "a Festivus for the rest of us" was portrayed as a secular holiday intended to replace the commercialism and religious trappings of the traditional, western, December holidays. The episode struck such a chord with viewers that people actually began celebrating Festivus as a real holiday. December 23rd is now recognized as the official day of Festivus, and I have given some serious thought to setting up an aluminum pole and celebrating it myself this year.

One of the traditions of Festivus is the Airing of Grievances. After the holiday dinner, which should include a traditional Festivus meatloaf, the celebrants take turns lashing out at each other and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year. Ah, disappointments, I've had a few, and some of them are, of course, beer-related. Let's get right to them:

1) People Who Park in Front of My House - The high price of rent in Portland has resulted in several of the rentals on my street being occupied by a countless number of young people. Honestly, I have no idea how many of them are living in each house. It's like watching a clown car empty when they all leave for their various barista jobs in the morning. Of course, each and every one of them has his/her own car, which has resulted in a serious reduction in available parking on the street. Hey! I know I don't "own the street" because my wife reminds me every time I complain about it, but a man should be able to park his own car in front of his own house and not vie for that space with a bunch of PBR-swilling nitwits every day! Whew! First grievance down and it feels so GOOD!

2) The High Price of Beer Fest Admission - Every year, the most popular beer festivals appear to have a huge increase in attendance. More and more people are crammed into the same venue until it seems like just a giant, boozy pile of asses, elbows, and beer glasses. The promoters of these events MUST be making boatloads of moolah. I understand there are significant costs involved with putting on a beer fest, but I don't understand why the price of admission keeps increasing. Will we see $40 a head at the best fests next year? I wouldn't be surprised.

I was particularly disappointed to see the Holiday Ale Fest charging TEN DOLLARS for designated driver admission this year. WTF, HAF? To me, that's just gouging and not in spirit with the whole idea behind a designated driver. We want to encourage people to be DD's, not piss them off and make them complain--and I heard several complaints about that yesterday, along with the sticker shock of the $35 admission price.

There are two likely scenarios when a person chooses designated driver status at a beer fest: a) they don't drink alcohol (or they don't like beer) and they are being dragged to the beer fest by their significant other or thoughtless friends; or b) they're a selfless hero who is willing to deprive him/herself of tasty libations in order to ensure the safety of family and thoughtless friends. Designated drivers should receive FREE admission and FREE root beer, along with a goddamned medal. Seriously, I can't think of anything more boring than to be the only one NOT drinking at a BEER fest. Charging for that experience adds insult to injury and is totally uncool.

3) People Who Smoke at the Bus Stop - Why is there always some joker smoking at every Portland bus stop? And can we make it legal to kick them in the shins for doing it?

4) Megacorps Buying All the Beers - Remember back in the seventies when the only beer available was big corporate beer? Here in the US of A, you had Bud, Miller and Coors. Looking back, it was kind of cute how loyal beer drinkers were to their chosen favorite from that meager, adjunct-y selection. Of course, not everybody was drinking the big three. Out in the woods, mountains and swampy parts of the country, groups of smelly hippies were brewing their own beer. Those long-haired weirdos were concerned with strange concepts; like innovationflavor, and quality. After President Jimmy Carter signed the law making homebrewing legal in 1976, craft brewing was suddenly brought out of hidden backwoods sheds, and the revolution was on.

Of course, you can't keep a soulless, omnipotent megacorp down. Those three beers I mentioned previously, Bud, Miller and Coors, are all currently involved in a massive merger clusterf**k for consumers engineered by the Superpower of Beer: AB Inbev. Successful craft breweries are up for grabs, getting snatched up for insanely high prices. (ONE BILLION dollars was the price paid for San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing by Constellation Brands.) Everyone is wondering what craft brewery will be the next to sell out to Big Beer.

Debate rages on about whether or not these acquisitions will ultimately be "good" or "bad" for craft beer. Some say the infusion of Big Beer bucks will lead to a larger distribution of craft beer. Others lament that the very definition of "craft beer" has become so diluted and polluted that it's not even a "thing" anymore. What do I think? Well, I just look at where beer was 40 years ago. I think the wet dream of those megacorps--soon to be only one, really--is to return to those good old days when no one had a discriminating palate and people chose their beer brand based solely on which one had the best Superbowl commercial. Taste-schmaste!

Okay, four grievances aired is enough for today. I have to save some for the Festivus table. I also have to conserve energy for the Feats of Strength tradition. Those kids of mine are getting too big to take lightly this year.

Happy Festivus to us all!