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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Year in Review - 2007

Although there's a certain artificiality to it, looking back over a year does provide a certain kind of perspective. I recall 2006 as the year of new beers. This year, by contrast, saw breweries release very few new beers beyond seasonals. So trends can be charted. One may also stop to ponder the changes a year witnesses--the new arrivals as well as the departures. Artificial it may be, but year-end reviews aren't mere fluff.

So, with no further ado, here's one blogger's thoughts on 2007.

Good Trend
The use of Belgian yeasts in general and the emergence of Duvel-type strong golden ales in particular represented a minor yet welcome trend in brewing. Going back to '06, when Full Sail debuted Vesuvius, and then this year with Deschutes' 20th Anniversary ale, Max's Farmer's Daughter, and Double Mountain's Devil's Kitchen, we have four examples (which you might argue does not represent a trend, but then again, you're not writing this blog). Double Mountain led the way in Belgian yeast experimentation, but the trend is growing. Max Teiger also experiments with it, as does, increasingly, Ron Gansberg at Raccoon Lodge. What I find most interesting is that the yeasts aren't just being used to create traditional Belgians, but often as a way of adding a little extra zing to a style that would otherwise be considered pedestrian.

Bad Trend
As we brace for the effect the hop and barley shortages are bound to wreak on good beer in 2008, it's worth noting that once again, craft beer had a very good year in '07. Sales were up again by double digits for craft beer, and this contrasted sharply with the flat sales industrial brewers experienced yet again. The result, predictably, was faux craft--beers either brewed in macrobreweries that disguise their origin, or small breweries snapped up and operated by the bigs. In Oregon, we saw the release of Henry Weinhard's Organic Amber as a local example.

Good Trend
Fresh hop ales. By the boatload. Also, the increasing use of organic ingredients. What began as niche products may be the norm in ten years. 2007 saw both of these trends turn almost-mainstream.

So maybe there weren't a lot of new beers released by old breweries. There were, fortunately, a great deal released by new breweries. And, in what amounts to a fairly major trend, four of the new openings were second places by already-established brewers.

Breweries and brewpubs
  • Max's Fanno Creek - Max Tieger's second brewpub, this labor of love opened in Tigard in May.
  • Heater | Allen - McMinnville's second brewery, and Oregon's only all-lager brewery. Super tiny now, but planning to expand.
  • HUB (sorta) - Hopworks Urban Brewery, Christian Ettinger's second brewpub, didn't open in 2007--it's slated for early '08--but it did release a lot of beer.
  • Double Mountain - Charlie Devereux and Matt Swihart took their show on the road--or down the road, about four blocks from Full Sail to open this wonderful new brewpub in downtown Hood River. It was the best debut by a brewery since Roots.
  • Southern Oregon Brewing Company - Medford's first brewery, a fairly substantial 20-barrel operation, released its first beers in November.
  • Beer Valley - Ontario, Oregon's first brewery, which has an impressive slate of burly, interesting ales, including an imperial stout and barleywine.
  • Wildfire - a project of a local Bend pub--JC's Bar and Grill.
  • Bailey's Taproom - a sleek, open new taproom in downtown Portland just across the street from the Tugboat, and it may well boast the best selection in the city.
  • Green Dragon - while it may get bumped up to brewpub status eventually, the Green Dragon has been, for the past few months, just one of the nicest new pubs in town--featuring wonderful beers alongside excellent food.
  • Belgian Embassy - in the old house formerly occupied by Lovely Hula Hands in North Portland (just up the hill from the Gasthaus) is a restaurant featuring Belgian cuisine and an impressive list of Belgian beer--in the bottle and on tap.
  • Belmont Station Biercafe - one of the coziest corner spots in Southeast Portland. A smallish selection of beers on tap, but easily the largest in the bottle (800+).
Michael Jackson (1942 - 2007) - Even after four months, I am still left with the feeling of absence after the death of the wonderful British beer writer Michael Jackson. Even the act of looking back through this year's news, one sees the churn and change. What a shame we have lost the world's greatest interpreter of beer and brewing. Feels like we're flying without a net. We will miss your wit and your words, Michael.

How could I conclude a year-end wrap-up without mentioning the Honest Beer Project? I couldn't, and haven't, but there's no reason to belabor the point. Enough.

We already know that 2008 will be interesting: brewers are scrambling to brew without certain hop varieties; they're trying to stay afloat even as prices spike, and they don't want to cool the huge growth in interest in their product by pricing it too high. The best breweries will likely turn lemons into lemonade and come up with wonderfully innovative ways around these problems.

Every year is an adventure, and I'm looking forward to seeing what 2008 brings. I'll be here--same beer time, same beer channel.

See you around the pubs . . .

Thanks, John!

By the way, in the Oregonian A&E weekend arts supplement yesterday, John Foyston wrote about the Honest Pint Project and the petition we've got going (328 signatures as of two minutes ago):

THE HONEST PINT PROJECT-- The five-buck pint will likely be a fact of life in 2008, thanks to global hops and barley shortages. That's OK for most of us, because fresh, flavorful beer is worth that and more. Besides, what are we going to do? Return to the days of Mickey's Big Mouth and Milwaukee's Beast? Not bloody likely.

But blogger Jeff Alworth wants us to get our pint's worth when we pay our money, because many pubs, restaurants and bars use a "shaker pint" that's closer to 14 ounces than to an honest 16-ounce pint. The Honest Pint Project on Beervana ( -- one of the places online I regularly visit to stay informed) builds on a foundation laid by erstwhile Portland beer writer William Abernathy, who used to schlep Pyrex measuring cups to bars and broached the subject a decade ago in his Willamette Week column. Alworth has taken it further, though: He now has a list of Portland restaurants and pubs and their glassware on his blog, and he's inviting folks to sign a petition asking for real 16-ounce pints: link.

Incidentally, I'll be trying to contact the state next week to see what our next steps are. You have all been fantastically groovy to have signed the petition--I think it will demonstrate a real interest in the issue.

(By the way, I know content's been a bit thin lately, but I'll be posting a year-end review later today, and my beer of the year on Sunday or Monday. Plus there's that Beer Valley review I've been meaning to get to--that's the Ontario, Oregon brewery that opened earlier this year. They pretty much rock, so you should know more about them.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Your Choice for Best Beer of the Year

Okay, I've discovered a widget that allows me to run polls, so here we go again with a list of the best beers of the year. Call it the people's choice.

Good Living

Two pics. In the first, professor Emerson inspects a glass at the Kennedy School to determine whether it is an Honest pint. (Inconclusive.) The glass contained an oatmeal stout that was adequate, but uninspired. A bit sharp at the finish, not quite as sweet and creamy as I'd like, but in possession of the innate stoutiness that makes me warm on December afternoons. We had just departed Pambiche, a Cuban restaurant where they import not only Xingu beer, but Caribbean sunlight. Another dollop of warmth on a chill winter day.

Second pic at Pix, the extraordinary pastry cafe in which you can not only enjoy a Queen of Sheba Truffle Cake, but wash it down with a variety of Belgian ales. You can see from this photo that they do it righ--an engraved tulip glass with a candle to backlight it golden radiance.

This, incidentally, is why people score Portland so highly on the "liveability" scale. Find me a town where I can begin with a Cuban lunch, move on to a 92-year-old converted elementary school serving micro-brewed oatmeal stout, and conclude at a French bakery that offers Belgian beers in their appropriate glassware. Can't be done.

Ah, Portland.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Odds and Ends

First, an update on the petition: 301 signatures and counting! I've gotten support from a growing number of bloggers, so a shout out to Metroblogging and Homeless on the High Desert. If you haven't signed, consider this yet another call to action. (What action?--read about it here.)
Go sign it now.
Now, onto beer business. I'll be looking back at 2007 this week, including naming my second annual best beer of the year. My two, loose rules are that the beer had to be new (though not necessarily released in '07), and had to be brewed by an Oregon brewer. So could a Walking Man beer from '06 win?--probably. We'll see if a compelling example arises. Below are some of the beers that lept out at me.
  • Raccoon Lodge Baltic Porter
  • Double Mountain IRA
  • Full Sail Lupulin (their fresh hop ale)
  • BridgePort Hop Harvest (fresh hop)
  • New Old Lompck Star of India (fresh hop)
  • Hair of the Dog Jim II
  • Roots Habenero Stout
  • Hopworks Kentucky Christmas
  • Widmer Decorator
  • Caldera Cauldron Brew
What did I miss? Which of these did you think was the best?

(Sorry I don't have that handy polling feature so you could just vote--but it's only available in the new Blogspot designs. So you'll have to vote in comments or via email.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I hope you are all spending a warm, joyful day with family and friends, perhaps enjoying a winter ale, or perhaps just a slice of roast beast (or even tofu). Wherever the day finds you--here's hoping you're having a delightful Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Petition Update - and Thanks

Well, this lark turned out to be more successful than I would have guessed (particularly given that I launched it just before Christmas). But the very good folks at Witigonen (also here) and BlueOregon have linked to the petition, sending more traffic its way, and there are now a whopping 86 signatures (9:11 pm).

The way with these things is that they tend to get a big burst at the start and then peter out. So if you haven't signed the petition yet, don't let it peter out:
The Honest Pint Petition

When a patron pays for a pint of beer in a restaurant or pub in Oregon, the glass should hold a full 16 ounces of beer. Unfortunately, the most common type of glassware in regular use is the 14-ounce "shaker" pint glass. In many cases, neither the owners, servers, or patrons are aware that the shaker pint glassware is undersized.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, request that the Oregon Department of Agriculture Measurement Standards Division create a program to authenticate glassware used in bars and restaurants as an honest 16-ounce pint.
Sign Now!

People can include comments with their signatures, and there have been some entertaining ones which I'll pass along for your amusement, as a sort of nightcap to this post.
A proper pint is every Oregonian's right!

It's surprising to think that, in the state most known for beer culture, you can walk into a restaurant, order a pint, pay for a pint, and legally receive less than a pint.

A pint's a pound the world around -- except in Oregon :-(


Yay beer!
Yay beer indeed--sign the petition!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pint Standards - Sign the Petition!

For the past 308 years, the various British governments have all assured that when a publican poured a pint, the drinker knew s/he was getting a pint. It was even engraved on the glasses, complete with the British crown. Despite this, it never occurred to me to investigate whether such a standard should exist in Oregon--this despite my much heralded* Honest Pint Project. Fortunately, it did occur to Dave Selden, and he tracked down the relevant authority--the Measurement Standards Division of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Here was his response (bold mine):
Hello Dave,

Thank you for your contact with us regarding your question about pint glasses in restaurants and bars. This issue does fall under Measurement Standards regulation, however, we do not currently have an active program for these types of issues and we are therefore unable to investigate it at this time. We have made a record of this complaint and will keep it on file to help provide data to legislation in hopes of gaining a more viable program in the future.

If you have any further questions please contact me.

Thank you,
J. N., Compliance Specialist 2
Measurement Standards Division
Oregon Department of Agriculture
Our course is clear. No doubt the reason no such program exists is because the state is unaware of the problem. We must therefore create the political momentum necessary to propel this critically important issue to the front of the Department of Agriculture's to-do line. In service of this noble goal, I have created an online petition for you to sign as an indication of your enthusiasm regarding this pressing cause.
Go sign it now.
You paid your five bucks, you want the comfort of knowing you've received an honest pint! To arms!

*By me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Your Beer Says About You

Last night, Jeff Merkley held a fundraiser with Jon Tester at the Portland Brewing Taphouse. Tester is a member of an exclusive club into which Merkley would like to be admitted--the US Senate. As the blogs reported on the fundraiser today, little mention was made of the beer. It fell to Paul Gronke, a poly sci professor at Lewis and Clark Reed who was in attendance, to raise the issue.

Sarah Lane [another blogger] raises this at dailykos, but, sadly, only illustrates her east coast bias and ignorance of those issues most vital to the future of Oregon.

For my own part, I regret to inform people that I think I saw Merkley with a Hefeweizen! A Hefeweizen?!? Can it be true? Why not just tip back a Bud Light?? If the man can't handle a dark beer, how can he handle the US Senate?

If this can be confirmed, it will indeed be a bad day for candidate Merkley (whom, it should be said for transparency's sake, I support). But perhaps Gronke mistook a cloudy glass of IPA for the offending hefeweizen. Or perhaps it was early on, and he was trying to drink something light so as to stay sharp for his speech. (And also: Pyramid Hef is more in keeping with the German original; while it still "sends the wrong signal" politically, it's a pretty decent beer.) We can't jump to hasty conclusions.

Nevertheless, for those who think their beer choice doesn't speak to their character--well, they must never have visited Beervana. Beer matters here. If the cameras are on, candidates shouldn't lightly hoist a Silver Bullet--and of course, they know that. But what if the choice is an organic pale ale versus an Irish stout? Here's a handy guide. Anthropologists and Oregonians, feel free to offer comments.

  • Macro-lager - This suggests the drinker is 83, is from Idaho, or is irredeemably clueless. A sure-fire campaign-killer.
  • Imported lager (Stella, Heineken, etc) - This suggests a drinker attuned to class but not taste, someone who probably finds Oregon ratty and parochial. Culturally, a Heineken drinker falls below a Bud Light drinker and only slightly above a drinker of Night Train.
  • Hefeweizen - (By which we mean Widmer.) Aware of the social impetus to drink local, but lacking a clue. Wishy-washy, undependable, shallow.
  • Pale ale - A pale ale drinker is good-natured and fun, the type of person who looks to have a couple at the pub and talk Blazers.
  • Porter - Porter drinkers are salts of the earth. They are straightforward and honest and hardworking, if not particularly dynamic.
  • Stout - Stout drinkers, like porter drinkers, are down-to-earth, but more avuncular and jolly. They have experienced life and are prepared to share their wisdom.
  • IPA - Tippling an IPA suggests a person of daring character, an innovator, a risk-taker, someone who will take a stand for an unpopular position. A maverick.
  • Amber ale - A gentle soul willing to nurture projects and build bridges. Someone often mistaken for being a patsy, but who has an inner strength.
  • Belgian ale - Suggests an unstable personality, someone who will actively seek out the weird and funky. Dennis Kucinich, for example, is a well-known gueuze drinker.
  • Nondrinker - Not fit for office. The American revolution was fomented in a pub; anyone who refuses a beer is likely a monarchist. And what happens when the president vetos your bill? How will you endure filibusters? When your party gets crushed in an election? If you're not drowning your sorrows in a wholesome beer, I shudder to think what you might be doing.
Aside from the first three and the last one, there are really no wrong choices. Of course, if I had been advising Merkley, I would have told him to go for the IPA. Your thoughts?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wreck on Cask

The Pilsner Room is one of Portland's underrated taprooms. Not only does it have John Harris specials on tap year-round, but there are a number of well-selected rotating taps from breweries around the state. I never seem to make it past the Harris rarities, but it's good information to have, just in case you're looking for something out of the ordinary.

It has, in addition, a gorgeous view of the Riverplace Marina, an attractive backdrop on any visit. But last night I had a perfect view of the Christmas boats on their departure from the marina and south, down toward Milwaukie. And later, after they had sailed out of view, the Blazers game came on, allowing me to pivot my attention inward as the local boys dished out some pain to Utah for their sixth win in a row.

But the salient detail I really need to pass along is the presence of Wreck the Halls on cask. For those of you whose cells are calibrated to a certain level of hop saturation, few beers could be more ideal. It isn't exactly a bitter beer, just one fizzing with hop flavor and aroma. On the surface, you get lots of citrus, but the cask allows other notes to blossom--lavender and pepper chief among them. Especially where hoppy beers are concerned, nothing allows them to breathe so well as cask.

In this regard, I think the beer is mis-named. It suggested a bruiser, whereas this beer is pure pleasure. If the brewery wants a seasonal allusion, I suggest "Green Christmas." But whatever, do yourself a favor and stop by for a pint.

Friday, December 14, 2007


That time of year. I'll try to get a review of Ontario (Oregon)'s Beer Valley up in the next day or two, and I have some year-end posts to get to as well. But it will probably be a day or two before I have time to sit down.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review: Heater | Allen

Heater | Allen Brewing
907 NE 10th Ave
McMinnville, OR 97128
(503) 435-9119

Hours: No regular visiting hours now, but you might catch brewer Rick Allen brewing or bottling if you drop by. It's safer to call ahead.

Beers: Pale lager (a pils), schwarzbier, Coastal Common (a hybrid steam beer with Cascade hopping), bock, dunkel, Vienna, seasonals (currently pouring a doppel for winter).

Available: Call the brewery to arrange for pickup or delivery. Belmont Station should be carrying them soon.
Last night, Oregon's smallest brewery was featured on tap at the Green Dragon. I wasn't able to make it for the official event, but (Dragon-meister) Jim Parker invited me to drop by a couple hours earlier to sample the three beers he was pouring. By chance, I happened to catch owner/brewer Rick Allen, who gave me the history of his brewery and walked me through a tasting.


The roads to good beer are many. These days, it's more common for brewers to get an early jump on their career. In a previous age (twenty years ago), brewers came to the trade later in life. Rick Allen is a throw-back. After years as an investment banker, he took a job as a CFO in a California winery for a year. He wanted to come back to Oregon and, with his experience of the industry, considered opening a winery here. But given the odds--hundreds of wineries and only dozens of breweries--as well as his 18 years as a homebrewer, he decided to go for beer instead.

The brewery he set up is truly micro--20 gallons a batch. That's 20 gallons, as in .65 barrels. He brews twice a week and the portion that doesn't go in kegs he bottles by hand. That's a mere 320 pints a week, in what amounts to large-scale homebrewing. This is the test phase, though--he wanted to see what kind of market there was for lagers. It has been good enough that he plans to upgrade to a 4-7 barrel brewery by next spring--though even that is tiny by commercial standards. Still, it will be enough that we might actually get to see it on tap in Portland on more than a lightning basis.

Every beer brewed by Heater Allen is a lager, just the second such experiment in Oregon's craft-brewing history. You'll recall that the two previous incarnations of Northwest micro lager brewing, Saxer and Thomas Kemper, didn't fare so well. So why lagers?

"I like lagers, number one," he said, "and number two, I view it as a market niche. A lot of people do fabulous pale ales--I just didn't think we needed another one." He also likes the way the exceptionally soft water that washes down the Nestucca and Yamhill Rivers gives his beer a softer palate (noticeable indeed--see my review, below).

Given the small batches he's brewing, lagers seem like a decent bet. Saxer and Thomas Kemper both tried to support substantial volume--but, even at seven barrels, Heater Allen would be a fraction the size. I suspect people will also be willing to give lagers a second look--in the early 90s, when Saxer got started, lagers still had a strong association with the stuff you got in cans. I think a nice pilsner (see below) will have a receptive audience, and the schwarzbier style is one of the nicest--and tailor made for NW audiences.

The Beers
The three beers Allen brought to Portland were all excellent. He uses a Bohemian pilsner yeast, and it leaves the beers soft and sweet. He spoke at length about malts, which are more evident in a clean lager than in ales--a further reason to welcome these beers. Malts are so often an afterthought in Oregon brewing, where the layered flavors come from complex infusions of hops. In Allen's beers, the malt character is complex, and the hops have to vie for attention (don't worry, they're ample enough for Beervana). Notice also the strength--these beers are true sessions, weighing in at less than 5% abv.
  • Pale Lager (pilsner) - Pilsners are, Allen told me as I started sipping his version, "really, really hard to make." He experimented with 14 versions of this recipe before he got it down. It was worth the effort. It is a classic Bohemian pils, more like Budvar than Urquell, with a soft palate and sneaky hopping. The Saaz are clear and crisp, but they aren't intense until you've had a sip or four, and then the bitterness starts gathering at the back of your tongue. It's really hard to find a fresh pils in Oregon--this would be a most welcome addition. (4.8%, 40 IBU) Rating: B+
  • Coastal Common - This beer recalls steam beer without actually being one. Steam beers are lagers fermented at warmer ale temperatures, but in Allen's version, only marginally so ("a degree or two"). He designed it to appeal to fans of traditional Oregon ales, and hopped it with lots of Cascade. The result is slightly disorienting. With a citrus bouquet and palate, the tongue settles in for a long, sweet finish. Instead, it dries and ends abruptly. I would need a couple pints to see if I could shake my habitual expectation. (4.9%, 39 IBU) Rating: B.
  • Dunkel - A beer that occupies the place a brown ale does in the English lineup, and just as obscure in American brewing. This is really the finest example of malt complexity of the three he brought--I found roast notes, chocolate, and nuts. He adds just a touch of crystal malt to draw out a poundcake-like note. Keep sipping and you keep finding more. As with his other beers, it finished a little sweeter than some lagers, giving it a fullness in the finish I enjoyed. I think of browns as the cold-weather session, and this one was perfect on the freezing evening I tried it. Rating: B+
At the moment, you may not have many opportunities to try Heater Allen beers. Even after this tasting, I am left longing for the schwarz and doppel he didn't bring to town. But keep this info in your mind--it looks like Allen has been persuaded to continue this experiment. With luck, we'll see more of his beers on tap in 2008.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Vodka Tasting

Going a little off script here, I'd like to direct your attention to an open house/tasting for three microdistilleries--including the newly-released Sub Rosa vodkas which, I understand, are having their debut tasting.* From a press release, here's who will be in attendance:
  • House Spirits, local makers of Aviation Gin, Medoyeff Vodka and Krogstad Aquavit.
  • Discuss cocktail trends with the editors from Imbibe Magazine.
  • Taste grappa from Ransom Spirits.
  • Sample the newly released Tarragon and Saffron infused vodkas from Sub Rosa Spirits with distiller Mike Sherwood.
To make it a fully sensual experience, you'll also be able to sample chocolate from Xocolatl de David.
Location: House Spirits Distillery, 2025 SE 7th
Time and date: Noon to 5pm, Saturday, Dec 15
Only adults, 21 and over, are allowed, but it's free.
In an email, Mike described his vodkas this way: "Sub Rosa Spirits makes intensely flavored vodkas. One is a tarragon flavored. The other a Saffron flavored vodka, that is more akin to a curry, methinks. Not for the faint of palate."

So go, enjoy, and maybe even buy a bottle. 'Tis the season--

*Mike Sherwood, the man behind Sub Rosa, was formerly the Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, so there's a link back to beer should you wish one.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Beer Star Awards?

Via John Foyston, I see that Deschutes has won another busload of awards from a tasting festival--The European Beer Star Awards. Who? The 21st Century may go down as the "awards" century. In a version of Andy Warhol's prophesy, we might say that in the future, everyone is destined to win 15 awards.

It's not just limited to beer, of course--literary awards, film and TV, music, food, liquor, wine; they all now have an ever-greater number of awards. (I am a culprit: look for my Beervana beer of the year later this month.) The reason is that awards presenters burnish their own image while createing excitement and interest for their organization. Breweries no doubt like it because everyone loves winning. The ultimate effect, however, is that if everyone is honored, no one is. The net effect of all these awards is that the more we see the results, the less we care.

So now we have the European Beer Star Awards, which has apparently been around just four years. Its bona fides seem good--it's hosted by a couple of Munich breweries and the association of small and independent breweries of Europe. Based on the entrants (62% German) and winners (visual inspection confirms that the majority--or at least a plurality--were from "Deutschsland"), EBSA appears to be a mainly Teutonic affair, however. It featured 575 beers from 28 countries--though it's not clear how many breweries that represents. Boston Beer was the big American winner, with eight medals, but Oregon did great, too. We had six winners, including three golds for Deschutes. Rogue and BridgePort also took home some metal. A pdf of the winners list is here.

Make of it what you will. Cheers to the winners!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Good News!

Two items:

1. Heater Allen Pouring Tuesday

From Rick Allen, via email:
After hearing a number of favorable comments about the place, I visited the Green Dragon last week and came away impressed. Not only was the food excellent, but the beer line-up is probably the most interesting in Portland . If this wasn’t enough, it turns out that Jim Parker, the owner and noted beer fanatic, is an old family friend on the Heater side of the equation.

So next Tuesday, December 11th, we will be introducing our beer to Portland at the Green Dragon! Beginning at 7:00pm, we will be pouring the Pale Lager, Coastal Common, and Dunkel. Please stop by!

Green Dragon
928 SE 9th
Portland, Oregon
2. Xanthohumol

You know that beer is good for you. But did you know that an agent in hops is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off cancer?

German researchers are working on a new beer brew that appears to fight cancer. The secret a compound found in hops -- xanthohumol.

"Xanthohumol has been shown to be a very active substance against cancer," said beer researcher Markus Herrmann, PhD....

Xanthohumol shuts down enzymes called cytochromes P-4; they can activate the cancer process. It also helps the body detoxify carcinogens, stopping tumor growth at an early stage.

Preliminary studies at Oregon State University show that xanthohumol can kill breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers....

But just drinking more beer won't do the trick. It would take 60 regular beers to equal the amount of xanthohumol researchers are able to brew in this one beer. That's why scientists are now working on ways to give all beers higher levels of Xanthohumol, and even find ways to add it to other foods, like chocolate.

And remember, just like chocolate -- the darker the beer, the better it is for you.

And there are potentially more beer benefits. Other compounds found in hops are potent phytoestrogens. Scientists say these compounds could ultimately help prevent post-menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis.

(Hat tip to Patrick.) Now, about the argument for that beer tax, again...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Flogging Charlie

Since I don't have any time for blogging today, I leave you with another excerpt from my recently-published novel--allowing myself yet another opportunity to flog it. As blogger Chuck Butcher has noted, "there is an economy of styling and language and the protagonist is well drawn." As a good portion of the novel takes place in the presence of beer, I can therefore recommend it wholeheartedly (if not objectively) to everyone. Get your copy today--delivery before Christmas is assured!

An excerpt, with the protagonist, Charlie di Paulo, and two friends--Carlos Munro and Clay Lapierre--in a bar scene.


“You think that’s really his name--Heater?” Carlos eyed a bank shot on the five ball.

“You don’t have the angle.” Charlie’s eyes were peering from the edge of the pool table.

“I think he’s got it.” Lapierre, with less interest, leaning against the wall.

“I’m telling you, the physics just aren’t with you.”

“Watch and learn.” Carlos tapped the five gently off the rail, just in front of Charlie’s nose, and watched it dribble toward the corner before losing steam a couple inches short of the corner pocket. “Damn. But the physics were there.”

“Nope. If you’d hit it hard enough to knock it in, you’d have lost the angle.”

“Piss off—it was easily makeable.”

They looked at Clay for a ruling. “Inconclusive,” he judged.

Carlos picked up his beer and joined Clay on the wall. “What do you think—is he a dangerous guy?”

“I don’t know. I tell you though, I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.”

“Maybe our next movie should be about a bookie,” Clay suggested.

Charlie, lining up a shot. “Actually, you look a lot like him. Younger.”

“Gambling is one of the most ancient professions.” Carlos, retreating into speculation. “In fact, the argument could be made that it’s the oldest profession—not prostitution. Exchanging money for sex is a fairly advanced concept, but gambling. . . .”

“Gambling depends on money.” Lapierre noted.

“No, think about one caveman saying to his buddy, ‘If I can hit that pterodactyl with this rock, will you give me your share of mastodon?’ Rudimentary gambling, like kids.”

“What about, ‘I bet you your woman that I can hit that pterodactyl with this rock.’ Gambling and pimping at the same time.”

“Co-emergent professions—nice. But they’d have to have the idea of ownership first, so I think it’s unlikely.”

“What are you talking about? Men jealously guarding their women? That’s as ancient as mankind.”

“He’s got you there,” Charlie said.

Charlie sank a difficult angle shot, but missed the simple follow—twelve in the corner. Carlos smirked on his way back to the table. “Where were the physics there, Charlie boy?”

Charlie joined Lapierre on the wall. “How much work do you do for Heater these days?”


Without thinking, he answered, “Yeah.” He considered Charlie’s answer further. “You do other work?”

“He doesn’t call me for fares very often, but about twice a month he has me run collections for him.”

Carlos, poised over the three ball, straightened up. “Collections? You pinch hit as a bookie?”

Charlie shrugged. “Oh, for God’s sake, I’m not Vito Corleone.” He nevertheless took the opportunity to take a theatrical, Godfathery sip of beer. “When Heater’s car was broken down, I took him on his rounds a few times. Got to know the routine. Now, once in a while when he gets busy, he gives me a call, and I take a spin around his other businesses. It’s very small time stuff. A cashier at the towing business wants to put a ten spot on the Ducks, that kind of thing. I just run the meter and he pays me that.”

“Sure, that’s how it starts out,” Lapierre goaded. “But pretty soon you’re taking C-notes, maybe a car title. Before you know it, you’re out with Heater at 2 am packing a lead pipe.”

“He’s probably in too deep already.” Carlos cracked the three, rattling it into the side pocket. “He’s like a rat in one of those humane traps. He’s munching on the cheese, but he doesn’t realize there’s no way out.”

Charlie put down his beer, scratched his cheek, and did his best Brando. “What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ten Years of Collaborator

John Foyston has a very nice post about the Collaborator project, which turns ten this year (the first beer was released in January, 1998):
The partnership, known as the "Collaborator Project," began in the spring of 1997 when members of the Oregon Brew Crew lamented the fact that there were many outstanding beer styles that were not being brewed by their local breweries. As a result, Kurt and Rob Widmer, members of the Oregon Brew Crew themselves, invited members of the home brewing club to work with the Widmer Brothers Brewing team in identifying and creating the unique beers they felt were missing. 2007 marks the Collaborator Project's 10th anniversary.
He also includes a list of the beers produced in the Collaborator project, along with the names of the brewers. You'll see some familiar ones--Noel Blake (writer, brewer, man about town), Ken Johnson (whose Scotch Ale is now made in his microbrewery), Preston Weesner (maestro of the recently-concluded Holiday Ale Fest), Brian Butenschoen (Director, Oregon Brewers Guild), and more.
01/22/98: Milk Stout - Jeff Brinlee, Jeff Langley, Ken Bietschek
02/12/98: English Brown - Scott Sanders
00/00/98: Belgian Dubbel - NA
05/05/99: Belgian Wit - Noel Blake, Martin Wilde
10/28/99: Hallucinator - Gary Corbin, Mike Rasmussen
12/20/99: La Vie - Martin Wilde
02/28/00: Bermuda Schwartz - Eric Dana
05/16/00: Pre Prohibition Lager - Curt Hausam
12/22/00: Steel Bridge Porter - Noel Blake
08/30/01: HB 25 - Mitch Scheele
12/14/01: Hop Nation - Matt Hollingsworth
03/07/02: Fearless Scotch Ale - Ken Johnson
10/09/02: Sled Crasher - Noel Blake
01/24/03: Moore Fearless Maibock - Ken Johnson, Preston Weesner
11/13/03: Saul's Stout - Ingmar Saul
04/08/04: Saison Christophe - Bill Schneller, Chris Johnson
12/06/04: Alpenhorn Vienna Lager - Mitch Scheele
03/25/05: Hopnosis - Brian Butenschoen
00/00/05: Zephyr - Dan Schultz
10/06/05: Lagerhead Pilsner - Bill Schneller, Chris Johnson
01/06/06: Big C Stout - Craig Edwards
00/08/06: Ember Ale - Jamie Dull
00/03/07: Continuum Brown - Scott Sanders
00/07/07: Rawkin Bock - Noel Blake
00/09/07: Cascadian Dark Ale - Patrick Miller
I was just starting my stint as Willamette Week beer writer when this project began, and I remember what an innovation it seemed like--not to mention a slightly dangerous thing for a commercial brewery to undertake (what if the Collaborator beers were better; what if they sold more; what if ... ?--these are the kinds of questions marketing asks, usually dooming ventures such as these). One of the main movers and shakers of that era was Bob McCracken, a lively, healthy advocate for homebrew who took me out for more than one beer. Gary Corbin, writing in an email, tells what happened next:
Then-OBC President Bob McCracken and Rob and Kurt Widmer originated this program back in the late 90's. The scholarship was named for Bob after his untimely death at the young age of, I believe, 38, in the last scheduled month of his OBC stewardship.
As a result, the proceeds from the project that go to a scholarship fund at OSU are now named in his honor--the Bob McCracken Scholarship Fund.

It's been a wonderful experiment, and I hope this is just the first of many decades of good beer to come.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beervana Creeps to Ontario

Where states abut one another, border towns take on the character of one state or the other, not always with deference to state lines. In Eastern Oregon, there is a cluster of towns just west of Boise on I-84 that look to the Gem State. They share Idaho's cultural orientation toward self-reliance, with gun racks in the back of their pick-up cabs and everything they imply. It is even a little pocket carved out for the Mountain time zone. And of course, it's the kind of place where beer comes in cans--the easier for transporting to the hunting or fishing site.

And yet, shocker of shocker, it turns out that Ontario, behemoth of the Eastern-Oregon towns (Vale, Nyssa, Fruitland, ID) at 11,250 people, now has its first brewery. It's called Beer Valley Brewing, and Chris at Belmont Station has a bottle of their amber ale (and hat tip to him for the news).

Even more shocking is that their apparent flagship--or anyway the beer that's featured most prominently on the website--isn't the Mountain-time-zone amber (5.5%, 20 IBUs), but Black Flag Imperial Stout. It is a huge beer (11%, 100+ IBUs) that the brewery describes thus:
Black Flag Imperial Stout, the first beer released by Beer Valley Brewing, is a monstrously huge beer brewed for beer enthusiasts who want to test the edge of sensory perception. Brewed with 8 different malts and 4 different hop varieties to give it depth and complexity, Black Flag Imperial Stout delivers an extreme beer drinking experience like no other beer on the planet.
Whoa--extreme beer from Ontario?! I can't believe it: Beervana now extends to the Idaho border. With luck, that stout will follow the amber over here to the Pacific time zone.

Arghh, mateys!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holiday Ale Fest - The Final Roundup

Q: What happens when you have a cool little beer fest that features breweries' most creative efforts of the year, is held just off the MAX tracks, and offers a toasty warm respite for shopping-phobes in the middle of the Christmas rush?

A: It becomes an overcrowded, big festival in its once-cozy space.
Something's gotta give. Pio Square is a wonderful location, looking out as it does on the downtown buildings. But it's only wonderful if you can get a beer in less than 20 minutes (or say, two minutes) and aren't in constant physical contact with all 23 of your closest neighbors. I stopped off after work on Friday for a full pour of Jim (just to be sure) and returned at 11:30 on Saturday. Friday night, even at five straight-up when I arrived, was insane. It was so crowded and so loud that I had to text Sally to find her once she'd gotten (almost instantly) lost in the crowd on her trek to get us tickets; when I tried to call, I couldn't even tell if she picked up. Saturday was all right until about three and then almost instantly the lines went from ten-person affairs to behemoths that ran the length of the tent.

The supply and demand ratio is out of whack. Short of raising prices to thin crowds, the thing needs to be moved. How about the North Park Blocks where the Portland International Beer Fest is held?

But there was a consolation prize for my attendance--a density of dense beers unlike any I can recall. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a six-month-old, blended, barrel aged, 9% ale--which, admittedly, soothed me quite a bit.

The big winners of the fest, in addition to the Jim II and Baltic Porter I mentioned Friday, were Caldera Cauldron Brew, Double Mountain Fa La La La La and Widmer Decorator. Give Widmer extra points, however, for originality. Of the beers I tried Saturday, it was the clear standout.

Widmer Decorator
This summer, Widmer attempted an Imperial Wit, a failed experiment that sacrificed all of the virtues of the original style without attracting any of those of imperialization. Consider Decorater a make-up beer. It was apparently brewed with a weisse yeast--anyway, it had a wonderfully tart, zingy profile. Still, despite the hefty alcohol percentage, it was light and refreshing--neither heavy nor the least cloying. I would have guessed a beer of no more than 5% ABV. Amid the heavy monsters at this fest, it was a shocking contrast. I don't know if there's a market for this beer in Oregon (based on the reactions of the people I kept sending over to try it, maybe not), but I would love to be able to buy this on a regular or recurring basis. Rating: A.

Double Mountain Fa La La La La
I didn't get over to the DM until a little later in my flight, and as a result, my ability to record the experience was affected. It was a wonderfully aromatic beer, with spicy notes in the nose and on the tongue. Caramel body nicely balanced the layered bitterness--an extra, extra special Northwest bitter (to coin a style). Rating: B+

Caldera Cauldron Brew '07
Another hoppy ale, this one had the character of the Big Northwest Reds I have been writing about, but I couldn't get a clear read on the actual color of the beer through my opaque plastic. It had a bit more body than some of the reds, which to my tongue gives the hops a little better platform on which to deliver their performance. Caldera was sticky and green, but the bitterness was supported nicely by the malt. Rating: B+

The other beers were a mixture of well-intentioned failures or interesting mostly-successes. I give beers like this a lot more latitude than some: brewers spend months on an experiment they can't replicate, hoping that their experience, wits, and a little luck give the beer some of the transcendence it possesses in its back-of-the-envelope stage. Even when the beers didn't work, I felt edified somewhat. A brief run-down of the others I tried (in order of tasting):

Ninkasi Otis (aka "Oatis") - A roasty, rich ale that finished with a sharp, astringent note. Up until that moment, everyone liked it, but the sharpness alarmed some lovers of the soft style. Might have been some tannins from crystal malt or a bit of Chinook or ... ? I liked it, but perhaps subsequent batches will come in a little milder.

Hopworks Organic Kentucky Christmas - I would love to know what's in this beer--I got a note that reminded me of sage or rosemary. (Truth is, what it reminded me of was chicken, but much like alder smoked malt reminds you of salmon, I think the note was actually an herb normally used in chicken's preparation.) Unlike a lot of Christian Ettinger's beers, it wasn't a hop bomb but was rather a very nice, warming malty beer. The bourbon was subdued.

McMenamins Krakatuk Russian Imperial Stout - Way over-roasty. Like chewing on a handful of roast barley.

Pelican Bad Santa - This beer should have been a home run, but the constituent elements didn't come together. The body was very thick and the malting and malt alcohol intense; next to this, the hopping, which was robust, had to merely scream to be heard. The genius of IPAs is that the malt play a decidedly supporting role. Black IPAs are confronted with the difficulty of getting color without a lot of dark-beer notes (chocolate, roastiness, and coffee). Bad Santa didn't pull it off.

Mirror Mirror 2005
Barleywines, like stouts, are hard to screw up. You just throw in the kitchen sink and any off notes have no chance of surviving. But because of this, it's also hard to achieve the sublime. Mirror Mirror--at least the taster I had at the Fest--was an indifferent barleywine. It had the strength without the distinction. The notes were muddied without being deliciously stewed. It was strong and hoppy, but tasted like a kitchen-sink beer. An extremely rare beer, so a shame I can't make those of you who didn't have a taster feel jealous.

Calapooia Kringle Krack
This may actually have been a great beer. I enjoyed it and admired a thickness and depth of flavor I was unable, at that late moment, to describe.

Some of the beers at the Fest can be found around town or at their home breweries, so keep your eyes peeled. You may not have been able to swing a dead cat without finding one of these rarities at the Fest, but you'll have to seek them out with some intention now. And it's a long time until the next Holiday Ale Fest, so happy hunting--

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Youth Movement

Here's some news to offset all the grim reports we keep hearing about hop and barley prices: the kids are really into craft beer. As I was standing in the (increasingly long) lines at the Holiday Ale Fest on Saturday afternoon, I noticed that I was surrounded by festgoers with a mean age of about 24. This isn't unusual for the Oregon Brewers Festival, which has a certain frat party feel. But these youngsters weren't there to get tanked. They were buying the beer in 4-ounce servings, sniffing, swirling, sipping, and then comparing notes. Typical exchange (from memory):
"Did you try the Ninkasi?"

"Yeah, it was fantastic."

"Really? I thought it was a little sharp. I just tried the Alaskan Porter. Amazing."

"Oh yeah? I'll give it a try."
I have worried that craft beer would be regarded as fuddy-duddy by the new generation--most of whom don't even remember a pre-craft era. Consequently, I've keeping an eye on the 20-somethings; so far I hadn't seen anything like the droves who turned out for the fest this weekend. They were there drinking some of the most intense beer brewed, at premium prices, and they were having a ball. It augurs well for the next decade or so.

More on the fest tomorrow. Teaser: the best beer at the Holiday Ale Fest wasn't an ale.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday Ale Fest Vid

A reminder:

A Late, Mid-Fest "Preview"

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
--R. Burns, 1875
I promised you joy--or at least reports of the joy in which I delighted on Wednesday night, when offered the chance to sample ten of the Holiday Ale Fest's finest beers. A day late and a dollar short; well, sometimes you get what you pay for.

In any case, I herewith offer my findings--along with thanks to Preston Weesner, host of the sampling as well as the fest, who busted out the good stuff for our pleasure. I will report these in the order they were offered, just for the sake of fairness. (I encourage you not to save Jim for last, however--get it early and get it often, for another chance you will not have.) One note: the beers came out of the keg icy cold, and the tent had not yet been fully appointed with those nice heaters, so it stayed cold. This affected many of the samples, concealing what I could intuit were layers of complexity.

Hallucinator, Collaborator Project (Widmer)
The aroma was strangely similar to malt liquor, a smell that transported me back to 1987. Fortunately, the beer was far nicer. An old ale that draws inspiration from the muscular doppelbock style, it has the nice fruitness of an ale, but a woody maltiness of doppel. In very nice balance, and easy to drink, but it could use another month to mature. (A year it would make it exquisite.) 7.5% ABV
Drink it if...
you're looking for a smooth, warming beer. Not a hop-lover's delight, but a good beer to start with; it'll loosen your joints without wrecking your palate.

O'Holy Hops, Max's Fanno Creek
How do you make an Imperial IPA wintry? Deploy hops that impart a piney, green quality. The nose of this beer, even ice cold, tells you something tasty's coming. But what it can't tell you is that the hops seem almost mentholated. Chris, from Belmont Station, called them "minty." Despite the strength, it is not an overly intense beer. Will be wildly popular. 8.5% ABV
Drink it if...
you love hops. Of the ten we tried, this was the pinnacle of hop expression--with aroma, flavor, and bitterness that will leave hop-heads smacking their lips for more.

Smoked Porter, Alaskan
This is really a world classic. Even if you enjoy it every year, it's hard to pass up--and if you've never had it, put this porter at the top of your list. Malts are hand-smoked over an alder fire, and you'll be amazed how "salmony" it tastes. It's not the fish that makes it salmony, but the alder. The porter is thick and rich--a perfect winter ale. 6.5% ABV
Drink it if...
you like dark beers. The smoking is intense, and I imagine that some people will find it difficult to reconcile this note with what they think of as "beer." But this is beer practiced old-school, like they did in the days before commercial malting.

Oak-aged Jubelale, Deschutes
You know I love me the Deschutes. I praise each offering shamelessly. But even as Brett Favre can get injured, so Deschutes can offer an indifferent beer. I can't understand why, either--it was aged in wine barrels for two months, then blended with Bachelor Bitter, one of the brewery's best beers (5 parts to one), and then dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings, my favorite hops. I found it too sweet on the front end, with a bright candy note, and too sharp at the back end. Could be it just needs some more aging. 6.7% ABV
Drink it if...
you are one of the legion who adore Deschutes. They did so much to make this beer special that you almost half to ignore my comments and give it a try. Plus, the only other place to get it is Bend.

Oak-aged Tannen Bomb, Golden Valley
The regular Tannen Bomb recipe was aged in a pinot barrel for 30 days. Always gentle (it's a stealth beer upon which the uncareful drinker can get bombed), this is, if anything, gentler. The grape notes are clear and sweet, and it seems to thin out the palate. It may take some color from the grapes, too. (Chris called it "polished mahogany.") Warm it up and let the flavors come out. 8.5% ABV
Drink it if...
you like sweeter, gentler ales. This one has plenty of alcohol heft, but it is silky smooth--the hot toddy of winter ales.

Backdraft IPA, Wildfire Brewing (Bend)
Backdraft is a pretty standard interpretation of the IPA style--hops out front, with a nice aroma, fairly complex flavor, and sharp bitterness. It's a bit out of balance, but in exactly the way Oregon hop-heads appreciate. 6.5% ABV
Drink it if...
you want to try a beer from this new Bend brewery. If you like standard IPAs, you'll like it. But with 41 taps pouring, you might find it hard to justify squeezing into your rotation.

Scaldis Noel, Brasserie Dubuisson (Belgium)
After 237 years, a brewery start to work the kinks out. This is one of two or three beers that's regarded as de rigueur for a beer geek Christmas. Extraordinary--a smoky, layered, rich, and mature beer that seems to have those 2+ centuries of wisdom blended in. It's very strong, but you hardly notice it--this is like mother's milk. 12% ABV
Drink it if...
you want to see how Oregon brewing fares alongside world standards. It sells for $5 an 8-ounce bottle, if you can even get it (the shipment sent to the fest is larger than the entire annual allocation for distribution in Portland), so consider it a great opportunity even if (as I suspect) you have to pay extra.

Baltic Porter, Cascade Brewing/Raccoon Lodge
I posted a description of this beer yesterday--and it's worth reviewing just to see what all went into this beer. Let's start at the top: forget Baltic Porter. I don't blame the brewery for picking a name at random to assign to this unique beer, but if you go looking for Black Boss, you'll think they poured from the wrong tap. It has a cherry nose, and is predominantly sweet, cherry-chocolate on the palate. There is a sour note, darker malt notes, notes I don't even know how to describe. Quite a thing. 9% ABV
Drink it if...
you like your beers funky and style-bending. They wouldn't let this beer into Germany, but they might throw a festival for it in Belgium.

Red Wheatwine, Fort George Brewery (Astoria)
As wheatwines are wont, this is a subtle, warming beer that should be tasted early. We did not and I couldn't appreciate it. I mention it only for historical purposes. 8.8% ABV
Drink it if...
you'd like to tell me what it actually tastes like.

Jim II, Hair of the Dog
Preston reminisced about Jim Kennedy as he introduced this beer, which includes some of Jim's favorites mixed in (brewer Alan Sprints describes it here). Sprints is the Merlin of American brewing--his beers seem more like potions than potables. Jim II is to beer like white dwarfs are to stars; matter condensed. There's a little-known Indian epic called the Kathasaritsagara, which means the "Ocean of the Sea of Stories." In this way, Jim II is the Ocean of the Sea of Beers--if you pay close enough attention, you'll taste every note known to humans: sweet, smoky, dry, alcoholic, apricot, orange, chocolate, leather ... after that I quit writing. 8% ABV
Drink it if...
you live and breathe. Fortunately, it should be a little easier to get this year--Alan made four times as much. Still, don't take any chances. Get a taster immediately.
Yesterday, I mentioned that there were two sublime, absolutely-can't-miss-these-beers of the ones we were offered in this tasting. In case it wasn't clear in the description, I was referring to Jim II and the Baltic Porter. Add Alaskan Smoked Porter and Scaldis Noel to the list if you've never tried them. And once more, here are the details--
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Thurs-Sat: 11a to 10:00p
Sunday: 11a to 6p
The traditional plastic fest mug is $5; a taster is $1 and a full pour $4.
Feel encouraged to use the coments to report back any amazing must-try beers you discovered--we must pool our knowledge so as to not miss the jewels.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Brewers Speak - Caldera and Raccoon Lodge

Here are the last two missives from brewers about the beers they've sent to the Holiday Ale Fest--which starts today. I was able to sample ten (!) of the 41 taps last night, and will post a review later today (tonight, actually--I left my notes at home). One of the beers we tried, however, is the Raccoon Lodge's Baltic Porter, which brewer Ron Gansberg describes below. I am now officially psyched. Based on the samples I had last night--and there were two sublime, absolutely-can't-miss-these-beers in the bunch--this has the makings of one king-hell of an event.

Raccoon Lodge (aka Cascade Brewing) Baltic Porter
"Thanx for the interest in the Baltic Porter. This beer is a blend of select stocks of Baltics and a 10% Belgian Quad. We based the selections around some '06 Baltic that had aged 8 months in a "Jack Daniels" whiskey barrel on Goldings and Centennial whole hops. We added a barrel of '07 Baltic from a French oak Pinot Noir barrel. This barrel was wine-neutral but with only one run of wine through it, the beer picked up some fresh oak flavor and vanillin aromas. We also selected some '07 Baltic from a first beer run Pinot Noir barrel which had a crisp angular hop presence from the barrel whole hops. We fleshed this blend out with some Belgian Style Blond Quad (SG 25º P) [editor's note--he means here that the recipe was for a gigantic beer] to add some body, sweetness and a little twist.
"Cheers! Ron

"PS We are releasing our "Belgian Flanders Style" Kriek and Blackberry Ales in 750ml champagne bottles for sales and tasting 12:00 to 4:00 pm on Dec. 8th and Dec. 15th. Come on by and check them out!"
I will show my hand to a small extent here by saying that 1) this beer was nothing like a traditional Baltic Porter (more Bruges that Baltic), and 2) it was one of the sublime, absolutely-can't-miss-these-beers.

Caldera Cauldron Brew 2007
Caldera was the first place I contacted, and I focused more on the stats in my question. Perhaps that's why I got stats from President Jim Mills in the reply. Still, there's enough info here to make a pretty informed judgment:
"1.064 original gravity
6.5% alcohol by volume
Deep garnet in color
Hops: Galena, Cascade, Simcoe
Dry hopped in the brite tank with Simcoe and Cascade hops
Malts: Rahr 2 row, Crisp crystal 60 and 120, Special B, Great Western Munich, Gambrinus Dark Munich, Crisp Chocolate"
Incidentally, we didn't try the Caldera last night, so these are all the facts I'll be able to impart. More tonight on the other beers I tried. In the meantime, if you plan to head down to the Fest, these are the details you'll need:
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Thurs-Sat: 11a to 10:00p
Sunday: 11a to 6p
The traditional plastic fest mug is $5; a taster is $1 and a full pour $4.
Also, today only they'll be pouring a series of super rare beers at specified times. I'm slow in getting this posted, so you've already missed the first flight. Not to worry, there are seven more:
  • Anchor Brewing, Anchor Christmas (11am)
  • Dupont, Avec les Bon Voeux (11am)
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing, Wood aged Scotch beer (Thursday)
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing, 20th Street Ale (Thursday)
  • Brasserie St. Feuillien, St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel (Thursday)
  • Eggenberg Brauerei, 2005 Samichlaus Bier (5 pm)
  • Deschutes Brewing, 2005 Mirror Mirror (5 pm)
  • BridgePort Brewing, 2005 Old Knucklehead, Batch #11 (after 5 pm)
  • Hitachino Nest beer, 2006 Celebration Ale (after 5 pm)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Brewers Speak - Jim II and Bad Santa

Continuing on with my brewers reports, we go next to Jim II from Hair of the Dog and Bad Santa from Pelican.

"Jim," Hair of the Dog
Jim, last year's must-have beer, was brewed by Alan Sprints in honor of the life of Jim Kennedy. This year's version is a little different, as Alan describes:
This year's Jim is a blend of Adam, Fred and Doggie Claws, all barrel aged for 6 weeks. Along with the base Beers I have added about 10% of a German Pilsner, a 9 liter bottle of Val Du Trippel, 1989 Thomas Hardy's--the year I met Jim--a 1991 Rodenbach Alexander that I bought from Jim, and a 1994 Maredsous 10 that Jim enjoyed drinking. I am drinking a glass now, I smell Plums, Almonds and Oak, the Beer is a deep copper color and the lace sticks to the sides of my glass. The beer has a strong hop backbone with notes of chocolate, wood and crusty bread, a firm mouth feel and a complex finish that continues to evolve after the Beer is gone. I am guessing it is 8% abv. I made 16 kegs for the festival this year, only four last year.
For anyone who was at the fest, you recall what happens when you mix the limited supply of just four kegs of a beer with the demand of an entire tent-full of people who have all turned up to taste that beer. Madness. Will four times the quantity match the demand? Time will tell (though I wouldn't bet on it).

Pelican Bad Santa
This is a hybrid beer the Fest describes as a "black IPA." Brewer Jason Schoneman gives more detail:
"[Head brewer] Darron [Welch] asked me to come up with a fall/winter seasonal beer so while designing the recipe I wanted to incorporate some elements of the Holiday season. The rich flavors and wonderful aromas that the foods of the holidays have were my inspiration for this beer. One of my favorite events of the fall season is the hop harvest so I wanted to make sure the beer incorporated plenty of hops. We used 100 pounds of whole leaf Ahtanum hops, 44 in the boil and 56 lbs in our mash-tun that we converted into a hop back. I also wanted the beer to have a complex malt character so we used melanoidin and dark malts to bring out the richness of the beer. When people ask me to describe this beer I call it a cross between an IPA and a Porter. It is dark and rich but with a pronounced bitterness and hop character. "
Stats on Bad Santa:
Malts: Pale, melanoidin, de-husked black malt
Hops: Magnum, Ahtanum
Original Gravity: 17.3º Plato
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 80
The last installment comes from Raccoon Lodge and Caldera. But first, I'm off to a tasting they're offering tonight (for us special "media" types), so I'll have some actual impressions to share, too.

The Brewers Speak - Hallucinator and Decorator

Brewers, bless their alpha-saturated, bitter little hearts, are incredibly responsive. I sent out a bunch of emails yesterday about the Holiday Ale Fest beers that intrigued me, and my inbox this morning was stuffed, like a Christmas stocking, with oodles of goodies. Since they would make a hugely long single post, I'll break 'em up. This first one includes info about Widmer-related beers, Hallucinator and Decorator.

Hallucinator (Collaborator Project)
The Collaborator project teams up members of the Oregon Brew Crew and Widmer. The homebrewers come up with an obscure style of beer, hold a competition, and the winner becomes the Collaborator beer that Widmer then brews commercially. But you want to know about the beer. Fair enough; on to Gary Corbin, homebrew and co-author of the recipe:
"Hallucinator is one of the very earliest Collaborator beers. Michael Rasmussen and I were the homebrewers. It's an English Old Ale (Strong Ale), light amber in color, malty, with moderate to low hop bitterness. Despite its sweet flavor and smooth finish, it's deceptively strong: it weighs in at 7.7% ABV. It was People's Choice in the 2002 Winter Ale Fest. Credit Noel Blake for coming up with the intriguing name."
And here's Michael Rasmussen, the other co-author:
"We both liked the English Old Ale style. I like things that stand the oft stated complaint "it's so dark and heavy" on its head. (Whiners, how heavy can Guinness be when it floats on the ale in a Black and Tan? geez, they don't even know they're own taste buds. OK, rant off) Hallucinator ain't dark, but it is a hefty beer.

"We gathered in Gary's garage one misty fall day and worked out the now-revered Hallucinator recipe. Its inspriation came in large part from what we hoped to drink on another overcast, cool typical Portland fall day.

"As to the name, 'You think the BATF will approve it? I dunno they're pretty down on anything that can be construed as a drug reference. Great! We've gotta try it!'

"At its debut Holiday Ale Fest Hallucinator was a run away People's Choice. We're hopeful the public will once again honor Hallucinator with their votes. We're confident Ale Fest goers who sample Hallucinator will be have happy, happy, happy tastebuds."
Widmer Decorator
Widmer is famous for sending experimental brews to beer fests, and some of their past offerings to the OBF have become legendary. The main brain behind this year's offering to the fest is Alan Taylor who wrote to describe not just the beer, but the process.
"The story behind it is typical of what we do here for special events and the yearly W series. The 7 brewers sit down together and throw around ideas. Someone mentioned a Weizenbock, which we all thought would be fun to brew. I put together the general parameters for it—malts, hops, yeast strain, mash profile and fermentation schedule—since I have brewed these beers in Germany before. The fine tuning of the recipe and fermentation schedule was a collaborative effort within the brew team. As you will see from the product profile, we brewed with the malts, hops and yeasts commonly used to make a German-style Weizendoppelbock.

"On a side note: right before brewing the beer, we started to look for a name for it (oddly enough, that can take as long as any other part of the process). Once we came to naming the creation, we found one that works with the winter & holiday seasons: Decorator. So with the –ator suffix, we had to crank up the formulation a bit to get to Doppelbock strength. We brewed two batches of it down at the Rose Garden for the Holiday Ale Fest and the Gasthaus here on Russell."
He included the stats on the beer, too:
Malts: Light Wheat, Munich, Pilsner malt, Caramel (10L)
Hops: Hallertauer
Original Gravity: 18.4º Plato
ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 24
Getting excited yet? Next up: Hair of the Dog, Double Mountain, Pelican, Caldera, and the Raccoon Lodge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Ale Fest - An Amazing Bounty

The annual Holiday Ale Fest is arriving imminently (Thursday through Sunday, 11/29 - 12/2), and the beer list is out. It is amazing. More in a moment, but feast your eyes on this:
  • Hair of the Dog, Jim II
  • Collaborator, Hallucinator
  • Pelican, Bad Santa (Black IPA)
Used to be that this fest offered regular seasonal offerings from breweries. It was fine, but mostly there weren't any unique beers to draw you down on a wet, cold December day. Well, looking through the list of 41 beers, I see exactly four that are regular seasonals. There are a lot of brewpub offerings (where you often find the gems), and the bigger breweries are mostly sending interesting things, too. But what really intrigues is the variety of styles; no longer is it just winter warmers and barleywines. We've got old ales, a baltic porter, Scotch ales, an imperial stout, a few Belgians, a spiced beer, an oatmeal stout, a couple bocks, and more. Of course, there are lots of winter ales and barleywines, too--so no need to panic.

I'll have a chance to taste some of these Wednesday night, and I'm trying to track down more info on some of the beers now, but here's a short list of the most intriguing options (in addition to the three must-tries listed above):
  • Caldera, Cauldron Brew (dry-hopped strong ale)
  • Raccoon Lodge, Baltic Porter
  • Golden Valley, Oak-aged Tannen Bomb
  • Ninkasi, Otis (oatmeal stout)
  • Widmer, Decorator (weizenbock)
There are also three breweries I've never heard of: Wildfire (Bend), Silver City (Silverdale, WA), Off the Rail (Forest Grove). More as I learn it, but that's a teaser to get things rolling in the lead-up to the fest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Buy This Book

Pardon me while I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging with this commercial announcement.

I have written a novel.

It has been long in coming--six years since I started it, though I actually finished the first draft by 2003. The next year or so was editing, and then the rest of the time I have been trying to get it published. My final bid was the major independent publisher Milkweed Editions, who decided to pass after subjecting it to a thorough editorial review (not just the slush pile reader, who as in many other cases, rejected it outright). Cue the sad strings.

But wait! I have, undaunted, decided that it's worth putting out there, damn the embarrassment and shame that comes with self-publishing. Art is, after all, a communication, not a product. There's something deeply depressing about the prospect of this thing moldering in the basement. I don't know if readers of beer blogs are readers of novels, but consider this an active pitch: buy the book, you'll like it! An additional hook: it's set in early microbrew-era Portland; see the birth of Beervana!

I'll include a couple of the beer-related excerpts below to give you a sense of the writing. But first, here's the description from the back cover:

The Puddle Variations
Walking Man Press, 2007, 260 pages.
ISBN: 978-0-6151-7184-5

What portion of a 16mm movie can be made for $1,000? Or, put another way, how does one turn a thousand dollars into a 30-minute short? This is the question confronting Charlie di Paulo, who has just received a seed grant from the Portland Film Institute to shoot his 16mm film. For a 26-year-old cab driver, a thousand dollars is a lot of cash, yet it won’t even cover the cost of his film stock.

Money isn’t Charlie’s only problem. His new girlfriend and his stepfather, Vic, are both convinced he should be pursuing his dream through more conventional means, and Vic has offered to pay for film school. For Charlie, whose 8mm short was good enough to win him the grant, education isn’t necessary—money is. As the book unfolds, he sets about trying to raise the money and mount the production, and along the way he receives support in various forms from the local doyenne of independent film, a cobbler, a philosophy student, and a bookie.

In the first one, the main character, Charlie, attempts to woo Janie with alcohol. Of course, he is a man with certain tastes. In the second one, Charlie describes the city to his step-father, visiting from Phoenix.


“Can I get you something to drink?” he asked.

“Whatcha got?”

“Alcoholic or non?”


“Beer. Two varieties: stout or India pale ale.”

“You don’t have any wine?”

“You’re in Portland now; you’ve got to kick that wine habit. This is a beer town.”

“Beer’s icky.”

He went to the table where he had left a paper sack next to the fruit bowl. He selected two bottles of beer, went to the kitchen and poured them into glasses. Thick and black as oil. “You just haven’t been drinking the right beer.”

“Ewww. This is going to be so icky. Look at it.” But she took the glass. “So when do we eat, mister?”

“Food will take a half hour to cook, roundabout. When do you want to eat?”


“Hmm, well. I’ll see what I can do.” From the kitchen, “Put some music on.”

He set the oven to preheat, pulled out the food, and put the rest of the beer in the fridge. While he puttered, he heard her testing music in the living room. A few notes of the Clash, silence. He put in the veggies, pulled out the salad, and tossed it. He came out of the kitchen to the sound of jazz, but then saw her stop the music. Eject. She picked up a handful of CDs and thumbed through them, stopping from time to time to read the back cover of one. Charlie, watching, noticing that she took sizeable swallows of her beer.

She finally settled on a 70s funk compilation. Decisively dropping the CD in the player, she pressed play and spun away from the stereo.

“Hey. How long have you been standing there?”

“Just came out.”

She turned back for her beer, sitting next to the stereo. “I don’t believe you. You were spying on me.” He didn’t say anything; didn’t move. She walked up to him, too close, looked down her nose at him. “You little spier.” Her assessment punctuated with another swallow of beer.

“See, stout. Tasty.”

She looked at the remaining inch of liquid in her glass, then back at him. Leaned back. “Do you like my music selection?” They listened to a fat bass line roll out of the speakers and let smiles bloom.

“I do.”


On the way through downtown, Charlie pointed out the sights. “The freeway used to be on this side of the river.” He indicated the green ribbon between the river and buildings of the city. “But they ripped it out in the 70s and put in Waterfront Park.”


A few blocks later: “If you look up a couple streets on your left, you can see Pioneer Courthouse Square. It’s an open block we call our ‘living room.’”

“It’s a nice downtown. Clean.” He looked out his window and up. “And compact. The blocks are really small, aren’t they?”

Jake’s was still buzzing when they got there at nine. Vic stopped before they went in and sampled the air. “I remember this smell. What is it?”

Charlie pointed to an industrial orange-brick building two blocks north. The Blitz-Weinhard brewery. “Boiling beer.”

“Oh right. They brew beer often?”

“All the time. It’s the smell of the city.”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hop Prices Continue Skyward

You know things are bad when an article about the price of hops (and likely rise in beer prices) becomes front-page stuff. (You also know you're in Beervana--where stories about beer prices can help move papers.) So it was in today's Sunday Oregonian, where our trusty beer scribe John Foyston laid out the bad news:
Malted barley and hops are the two most expensive ingredients in Northwest craft beers, and they're becoming more expensive: Oregon- and Washington-grown hops that sold for $2 a pound last year now fetch as much as $18 a pound on the spot market -- if they can be had at all -- and barley is up about 75 percent....

Call it a quadruple whammy: Hops and barley acreage has been declining -- hops because of a 10-year glut and barley because many farmers are planting corn for ethanol instead. Ethanol has also diverted corn from the feed market, often making it more lucrative to sell barley for feed instead of to the malting houses that supply brewers.

But wait, there's more: Two years of failed hop crops in Europe, a 2006 warehouse fire in Yakima that destroyed 4 percent of the U.S. crop and two years of disastrous barley harvests in Europe, Australia and Ukraine. Factor in a weak dollar that has the world clamoring for our hops and barley and you have the makings of a uniquely bad patch for brewers and consumers.

It's not actually new info, just further evidence--as if you needed it--that this crisis is real. There were, however, some scattered facts about which you may be ignorant:
  • BridgePort uses 55 tons of hops a year (!); they managed to secure contracts through 2010, so their flagship IPA should still taste the same.
  • Small brewers try to keep a 30% margin on kegs, which means that tap prices are likely to rise $.25-.50.
  • Prices are predicted to hit $9 a sixer, and $5 a pint--in pubs where they're not already that steep.
All of this could be very bad news for small breweries. I plan to keep buying the same amount of good beer I always have--and I hope other drinkers will, too. This crisis shall pass; I just don't want any brewers to pass with it.