Even by my own modest standards, it wasn't one of my best. It hardly matters, does it?
- Subcategory - Belgian Ale
- Judge name - "M Jackson" (sort of visible in the blurry close-up)
- Judge qualification - none checked, perhaps out of modesty
- Aroma - He scored it 7 out of 12 possible points, writing, "Malty. Lightly spicy."
- Appearance (2 out of 3). "Bright. Attractive reddish amber. Good head."
- Flavor (12 of 20). "Starts well, vanishes somewhat in middle." (Very true; its central flaw.)
- Mouthfeel (3 of 5). "On the light side for the style. (It's meant to be light, but not his light.)"
- Overall impression (7 of 10). "Needs more complexity. More spicy yeast?"
Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
In 1993, he published the Great Beers of Belgium, introducing England and North America to the wonderful world of obscure artisinal beers brewed in Wallonia, Flanders, Brussels, and the Lembeek Valley. Jackson never just reviewed beer--he took you into the cultural and historical context of the beer, revealing how styles came to be. Great Beers of Belgium was part social history, part travel guide, and part anthropology. It transcended the genre and is perhaps the best beer book ever written (and a bible of mine).
On a personal note, I got to meet Jackson when I was writing about beer in the late 90s. He came to one of the first NorWester-sponsored homebrew fests. He and I took a tour of the Saxer Brewery during that visit, and I witnessed a remarkable display of palate sensitivity. For years, Tony Gomes, the brewer at Saxer, had argued that the brewery should using decoction mass for its bocks--an expensive, time-consuming process that he Gomes learned in his native Germany. The process produces very subtle characteristics at best--for decades, many in the industry have argued whatever benefits decoction may produce are too subtle to detect. Yet when we sat down in front of a line of Gomes' beer, Jackson sampled the flagship bock, cocked his head a little, and then asked if it was decocted. Gomes beamed, vindicated.
I later interviewed Jackson on that trip, and he signed my copy of The Beer Companion, which I refer to constantly in my posts here. Without Jackson, there would be no Beervana blog. That would be no loss at all, but consider this: without Michael Jackson, there might not have been a Beervana. A great one has left us, and the world will be poorer for it.
Cheers to a life well-lived. May we contribute half as much.
[Update: Other comments from around the blogosphere: Stan and Lew both have good pieces, and Lew's is personal and quite nice. I'll continue to update as the word gets out. Okay, more: Real Beer, Pete Brown, The Beer Nut, Stephen Beaumont]
First up, Full Sail is releasing Vesuvius as a part of their Brewmaster Reserve line. They introduced it at last year's OBF and it was in the vanguard of the current Beervana meme--Belgian Strong ales. In my review last year, I described it as "extremely approachable, quaffable, and tasty, concealing its substantial alcohol.... with nice fruitiness, a very slight Belgian tartness, and a long, dry finish. Very tasty and very dangerous. [Belgian golden, 8.5% abv, 20 IBUs]" This year's version is tweaked a bit, I think--it's listed at 24 IBUS. Should be available now in 22 ounce-bottles (which you know I love!) through November. Buy an extra to pop in the cellar.
Ninkasi has released a beer as nearly the opposite of Vesuvius as possible--a "cheap light lager" (Ninkasi's words) called Schwag. (Although it's the opposite of Vesuvius, there may be a connection between these breweries--Full Sail pioneered the nouveau-retro lagers with Session.)
This beer will be available only in Eugene for now, sorry Portland crew! It will also be our featured beer at Eugene Celebration. So the next time you're out and you got your mind on your money and money is on your mind, drink Schwag. It's locally made, none of those nasty rice and corn fillers, and great for social nights on the town.I don't know that I'm going to enjoy Schwag, but it's an interesting experiment. Holler if you see it on tap in Portland.
5% alc./vol. 10 ibus and 100% malt.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
House Spirits [Medoyeff] will “soon” be releasing a rum made from Hawaiian turbinado sugar, is currently into one year into a six year aged whiskey, and is planning a line of bitters(!). Their Aviation Gin and Krogstad Aquavit blew me away, so I can’t wait for these new products.... Clear Creek Douglas Fir eau-de-vie was one of the most interesting things I’ve tasted. Most uses of fir/pine/spruce just taste like PineSol, but this was pleasantly piney.
Imbibe Unfiltered (the sponsoring mag's blog) recaps the MixMaster's Cup, which featured bartenders from Ten 01, Acadia, Teardrop Lounge, Gilt Club, Saucebox, Fenouil, Purple Tooth Lounge, Park Kitchen, Jake's, Castagna, Meriwether's, and Clyde Common. Follow the link to find out who won.
Blotto has reviews of eleven liquors and especially liked:
Clear Creek Distillery McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt WhiskeyTrader Tiki also reviewed some spirits and liked:
This is a great single malt whiskey, if you find a bottle, buy one for me. Clear Creek notes “our whiskey would be a single malt Scotch if Oregon were Scotland”.
Modern Spirits Oregon Black Truffle infused vodka
This was incredible. The black truffle contributed forest floor and cocoa mushroom flavors. The vodk was extremely smooth. I’ll take a shot of this (chilled, but not iced) after the appetizers at any multi-course banquet (thyme garnish, please), and a demitasse of lobster bisque as a chaser.
Cockspur 12 year old [rum]: The classic, from Barbados, and so much of what a rum should be. Sweet, savory, slightly smoky, just fantastic stuff.And finally, Jeff Morgenthaler has a review and a recipe.
Rogue Spruce Gin: Another conifer-based liquor, the spruce tips mixed very well with the Gin, giving a lot of sharp bold notes and spiciness to it.
Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Eau de Vie: Like drinking a Tree. I can understand why the distiller doesn’t want this being mixed with (and at its pricepoint, I understand from my own perspective). It’s a wonderful and surprising flavor that I could see pairing amazingly wel with Pimento Liqueur.
I obviously blundered and missed a great time. Next year I'll get my priorities straight.
There are three downsides, though: it's not reusable, may not be recyclable, and ... well, it's Heineken. Surely the Irish can match this--they're the kings of brewery technology. Come on boys, let's get a wee keg of Guinney Extra Stout or Beamish--now that would be worth an Andy Jackson. Actually, now that I think about it, one of the Czech breweries could really profit with the use of this technology--a keg would deliver a fresh pilsner way better than a green bottle.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Our most famous native variety is the Western red cedar (thuja plicata) which is, in fact, a false cypress, not a true cedar. This is the tree that produces the resinous, water-repelling wood that's used for shake shingles. It has been used for centuries by native people to make everything from homes and canoes to art. Its greatest claim to fame is its aromatics, which derive from thujaplicin, and contributes the classic cedar scent.
Pondering that aroma, and how hops are often described as "piney" or "woody," I wondered: what would happen if you aged beer in a cedar cask? Has anyone done it? A search revealed a partial match--the Japanese brewery Hitachino Nest (Kiuchi) ages a strong pale ale in sugi casks.
Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) is a Japanese "cedar" with similar aromatic qualities to ours--it's in the cypress family--and is used to age taruzake, a variant of sake. It is very clearly affected by the aging; in addition to the traditional hoppy flavor (it's a British-style ale), there's an additional resinous, incense-like quality. It even seemed to thin out the body, too, but this may have been my imagination.
(I loved that the brewery had chosen a traditional local method for the beer. Now, if they'd experiment and come up with a more sake-like recipe, we'd really be cookin'.)
But the sugi is not the thuja plicata. Our cedar is robust and its oils apparently so potent as to resist infection. Would it overpower a beer? Make it undrinkable? The thesis is definitely testable, and I think that's my next step. Off to Woodcrafters to get a board for experimentation....
Anyone have any experience with this either as encouragement or warning?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
For the first time since before Prohibition, there's a chance for indigenous styles of beer to start developing in America. The post-WWII beers of America were lighter versions of the beer brewed in Germany--witness the Weinhards and Schlitzes and Busches and Coorses. Only recently have American brewers, freed of their old-world traditions, started to experiment with styles, and although they are among the most innovative brewers in the world, the evolution so far has been one of degree.
When you look around at the classic beer styles, they're almost all intimately connected with the region or even town from which they came. English pale ales were initially strongly associated with the water of Burton-upon-Trent. Bubbling up through sandstone, Burton's water contains gypsum and calcium sulfate ("Burton salts"); these minerals draw out the resins from hops and dry the beer. Scottish ales, known for their creamy malty character, come from a country rich in barley but hop poor. In Germany, smoked beers are obscure except in Bamburg; the same is true of the saisons of Wallonia. It's not quite true that every style was born solely because of the conditions in which it was first brewed, but almost.
What has arisen in the Northwest, and to a lesser extent in American brewing, is a love of hops, particularly those that are native to the US. It's almost impossible to walk into a brewpub in Oregon and find a beer that doesn't use the sweetly citrusy, aromatic Cascade hops. They are ubiquitous throughout the country, but they are native to the Northwest--associated in my mind with our pales almost as strongly as Saaz are to Czech pilsners and Kent Goldings to London ESBs. Of indigenous character, we have already developed. Styles are another matter.
But where will it go from here? In 100 years, will we still be brewing styles with distinct lineages back to the UK and (to a lesser degree) Belgium? Or will the rest of the world brew "Oregon-style" beers?
As a not-quite-avid homebrewer, I started to think what I could brew that would be distinctly native. An idea arose--that in a later post--but as I pondered what makes things native, I came up with a few variables:
- Ingredients. A Belgian wit is distinct mainly for the use of coriander and Curacao (bitter) orange peel. Until they figured out how to roast malt without burning it, all beers were dark; in the late 19th century in Plzen, brewers cracked this nut and invented the world's most popular style. When brewers added lactose, they created cream ales and milk stouts.
- Method. Some breweries have funky ways of brewing, and these help define style. The slate squares employed in Yorkshire breweries; the spontaneous fermentation of the Lembeek Valley; the funk contributed by casks at St. James Gate (Guinness) and Roeselare (Rodenbach); or the lagers fermented warm to create "steam beers"--America's only truly native style.
- Yeast. Many of the world's classic beers emerged from the decades- or centuries-old strains of yeast. In many (most?) cases, yeast strains are connected to locations where they originated and consequently are one of the chief elements that define styles.
- New Variations. Sometimes styles emerge by remixing the ingredients, methods, or yeasts to produce a beer recognizably different.
- "Localness." What has guided many brewers through time wasn't necessarily a desire to be innovative, but restraints of locality. They used what they had. In the age before industrialization, hops, grains, adjuncts, and water all had to be local. The character of the beer has historically been a reflection of the place it was brewed. The physical imperative is gone in the age of globalization, yet artisanal beers are still predominantly local products.
But while these beers have a lot in common with each other, they can't easily be shoehorned into other styles. They're a little stronger than a pale ale, but lighter than an IPA. The lighter body creates a platform for the hops, which though robust, aren't overwhelming. Brewers in Oregon have discovered that the sweet spot for hop lovers is a beer where the flavor, aroma, and bitterness are all aspects of hops; these large reds seem to have been designed to highlight hops at all turns. A native style? Getting there.
Peering Into the Future
The Northwest offers a wonderfully rich natural environment. I can see a number of possible ingredients that could become a part of the brewing tradition--fruit, wood casks from local trees, native botanicals. Breweries have made some forays, notably with fruit, but not in especially novel ways. What makes the krieks of Belgium sing is that they are not syrupy; the fruit is an essence, not a treacly additive. Wood is a big investment that doesn't pay off for years, so experiments have been limited to bourbon barrels (distinctly not Northwestern). Botanicals? Craig Nicholls has experimented with desert sage and juniper branches (from his back yard). Siletz makes a slightly strange spruce ale that is a version or two from perfected.
Yeasts may be the next frontier. Some breweries have developed a "house" character--Widmer and Hair of the Dog, for example. Other breweries will nurture character more actively--coaxing it by mixing strains and so on (Double Mountain seems a likely candidate). Belgian, English, and German beers are all recognizable by their yeasts; perhaps an Oregon yeast is in our future.
Finally, I also wonder if breweries may look to experiment with ingredients that have quasi-hop qualities, or those which draw out hop notes. No one can seem to get enough of the humulus lupulin, so experiments are surely in our future. In any case, it is impossible to imagine native styles developing that didn't play strongly to the zestiness of our local hops. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that zing.
Of course beer styles aren't fixed. They metastasize and change, and from the mutations emerge styles. We live in a very fortunate moment when we're seeing the process happen in real time. I'll try to keep my eye on this development and see if I can suss out any trends. It will be a joy to watch.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
There is no category, strictly speaking, of Belgian pale ales. But the Belgians make a lot of beers that defy categorization. We gathered 23 that may not have a whole lot in common except that they are excellent summer quenchers.
Though colors range from a warm gold to copper, all are on the pale side of the spectrum. Some have a provocative spiciness, while others are a mite hoppy, or even a bit sour. But what unites the best of these beers under our hodgepodge category is that they not only are dry and refreshing, they are stimulating.
However! While I normally find fatal flaws with Asimov's commentary (he's not particularly well-versed on styles and hasn't tasted American beers not available in New York--he is principally a wine guy), this is a pretty good article--it may excite fans who have never tried Belgians. The selection, especially of the transcendent Orval, is excellent.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
It is, however, a most tasty beer and not a bad late-summer sipper (last year's review here). So things could be worse.
Hello fellow bloggers!Dunno what to make of this, but I see that two beer bloggers have already confirmed (also Steve). It went out to 320 bloggers, so it could be a big crowd. I'm naturally suspicious of the MSM--what, you think you're gonna woo me with your big media facilities, punks?! Will we be drugged, clubbed, shanghaied, mugged? Is KATU looking to take the competition out? (As a blogger, my first instinct is always a paranoid one.) On the other hand, food has been offered, which would constitute a tangible benefit, so maybe...
Channel 2 is hosting a meet-up of Portland-area bloggers and you're invited!
KATU wants to get to know the blogging community and is interested in joining the conversation. There's no agenda, other than to enjoy some food and beverages courtesy of our hosts. Meet fellow bloggers, view (and photograph!) the television studios and have some fun!
While there is street parking in the area -- consider carpooling or taking public transit.
To help spread the word (and hear what fellow bloggers are saying about this meetup), let's tag our blog posts and photos "KATUmeetup".
Please RSVP so the right amount of food can be ordered, and when you do... feel free to post your blog address to your reply (optional).
Let me (or our KATU contact below) know if you have any questioins... hope to see you Wednesday August 29th! :)
Monday, August 20, 2007
Q: OK, Gary, for the beer geek, what do you consider to be the best beer in the world?This is a gimme, right? Maybe an old standby (Black Butte Porter) or one of the newer beers that has captured your love (Inversion, Buzzsaw). Not, apparently, if you're Gary Fish.
A: Hmm. I think it would be Westvleteren. It's made by Trappist monks from a small abbey in Belgium and only sold at the abbey from their brewery dock or cafe, which of course, makes it even more sought after.He selects not only a beer from another brewery, but in a style Deschutes has never brewed. Moving along:
Q: When it comes to wine commentary, there's Robert Parker. Who do you turn to in the beer world?I wouldn't expect him to mention a site like this with a wee trickle of traffic, but since he's talking to a newspaper with a reporter who has a beer beat (John Foyston), you might figure the answer is obvious. You'd figure wrong:
A: Two come to mind: English journalist Michael Jackson and Portland's own Fred Eckhardt. They're both brilliant writers, neat people and they know their beer.Apparently he knows that Foyston's a sweetheart and won't punish him for this apostasy. It's a slight interview and I've cherry-picked the most interesting parts, but the rest is here.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Prichards Distillery (TN)These 27 distillers will be offering over 50 liquors. For a full list of what they're bringing, here's a .pdf from Rogue.
Peach Street (CO)
Brandy Peak (Brookings, OR)
Clear Creek (Portland, OR)
Triple Eight (MA)
Hangar One (CA)
Indio Spirits (Portland, OR)
Modern Spirits (CA)
New Deal (Portland, OR)
Bend Distillery (Bend, OR)
Anchor Steam (San Francisco)
McMennamins Edgefield (Troutdale, OR)
Rogue Spirits (Newport, OR)
Essential Spirits (CA)
Ransom (McMinnville, OR)
Dolmen Distillery (McMinnville, OR)
Woodstone Creek (OH)
NW Distillery(Liquid) (Bend, OR)
Hood River Distillers (Hood River, OR)
Square One (CA)
House Spirits (Medoyeff ) (Portland, OR)
Details and Schedules
Sat, Aug 25th: 11 am to 8 pm; Sun, Aug 26th: 11 to 7 pm
Gerding Theater, 128 NW 11th at Davis
$10 entry fee includes 3 free pours
Distilling Seminars (Sat.)
5pm: How to Distill
6pm: What exactly is Rum, Vodka, Whiskey, Bourbon, Brandy?
7pm: How to make a perfect cocktail
Mix Master's Cup - A competition among professionals
Saturday: 1pm Rum; 2pm Gin; 3pm Vodka
Sunday: 1pm Brandy; 2pm Flavored Vodka; 3pm Whiskey; 4pm Finals
Friday, August 17, 2007
Teasing apart the causes and effects of drinking is therefore something I expect craft brewers have a strong interest in, and a researcher at Idaho State may be able to help them out.
Fred Risinger never gives his eastern Idaho bar patrons a last call -- but then his customers are mice. Some are teetotalers who eschew the mouse-sized shots of alcohol they can obtain at any time simply by pressing a lever in their cage. Others Risinger describes as "your wine with dinner mice." And some are raging alcoholics, downing, in human terms, several fifths of liquor each day.Remember the old slogan?--"Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one." This isn't the attitude craft brewers want to encourage. It would be cool if alcoholism could be a treatable disease in the future.
Risinger, an Idaho State University professor, said what makes the alcohol cravings in the individual mice different is the same thing that makes the alcohol cravings in humans different: genetics.
His goal is to find the right combination of drugs to short-circuit those genetic cravings that would lead the heavy drinkers, first with mice and then humans, to be able to turn away from alcohol.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
But here's a new one. Last night, we had a nightcap at Kells and ordered a round of libations that included three beers. Two came in cheater pint glasses, but the third came in a Guinness tulip-style pint glass, which, depending on the style, is either a full pint or 20 ounces. It's a bit difficult to tell which version they were using.
Selling the same beer in different volumes is unacceptable. I have no doubt Kells is in the dark about this, but that's really no excuse. (On the other hand, if you go, you can probably request the Guinnie glass and know you're getting the secret bonus.)
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Last year they brewed around 1,500 barrels and are aiming to triple that this year. With the brewery expansion, capacity will go to 8,000-10,000 barrels a year. After which, Craig says, he'll be happy with.
Anyway, look for changes soon--
[Update: I forgot to mention--Craig also said that Roots is the beer sponsor of the Dew Tour stop (the X Games event) in Portland, which is pretty cool. Oh, and Roots also has a new website--hosana! Sometime in the very near future, they'll be able to regularly update what's on tap at any given time. The Gruit Kolsch blew when I was there and it's still listed as on-tap, so that's apparently not operational yet. Go check it out.]
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
1. The Henry's beer list has gotten better. They boasted 100 taps when they opened, but about half were indistinct national brands or safe bets. They've gradually expanded their list of interesting beers and now have at least a dozen that are hard to find elsewhere. It's also a great place to take people who like beer but aren't super familiar with the arcana of styles. The menu is arranged roughly by beer style, so it's easy to do a tour. Examples of interesting beers right now: HotD Blue Dot, Walking Man Cherry Stout, a nice Belgian selection (Saison Dupont, Delirium Tremens, Hoegaarden), and Ninkasi.
2. Speaking of Ninkasi, I had a pint of the Total Domination. Whoa. My brother-in-law likes traditional English styles of beer (we scored an early perfect ten in his mind with Doryman's Dark), and when I had him sip the Blue Dot, he marveled. Later, I got the Total Domination, which like Blue Dot is a symphony of green, and he was intrigued. It's not as intense as some hop monsters--all the edges are smooth and approachable. It's just a saturated kind of citrusy hopping that hits all the notes--bittering, flavor, aroma. Yesterday, he ordered a pint and it appeared to grow on him over time. I don't want to project too deeply about his experience, but it's possible that over the past two days, I watched the birth of a hophead. A beautiful thing.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Belgian beers are harder to categorize than other styles because, outside broad groups, they are mostly individualistic. So a Belgian "strong" may be an abbey-style ale, a blonde (Leffe, Affligem), or a golden in the style of Duvel or Delirium Tremens. By cocking your head, you can shift many of these beers into another, related category or find an argument for why they fit into none. Generally speaking, they're yellow/gold, alcoholic, spicy and fruity, and smooth. But each one is distinct. One style or two hundred--it's not always easy to say.
However, one of the clearest examples is Moortgat's Duvel. After trying the Deschutes Golden (a review that some folks seem to think was overly critical), I decided to go back to this touchstone beer and see what made it such a standard. As American breweries use elements of these beers in their own recipes, it's good to remember what the original is like.
The name Duvel ("DOO vul") is a corruption of the Flemish for "devil," has inspired a whole series of rivals and imitators, and their names signal their inspiration--Judas, Lucifer, Deugniet ("rascal"), and so on. Although I haven't seen it stated explicitly, the name seems to refer to misleading, seductive power of this beer--it looks and tastes like a much lighter, smaller beer than it is. The devil in these details read 8.5--the beer's strength. Drinker beware.
I was amazed again when I had a bottle over the weekend. It is fantastically lively. The instructions on the bottle say "pour unhurredly," but unless you've got a large glass, you can't pour slowly enough to stop the massive head from rushing to the rim. You pour in increments, steadily building the pure white froth up like a vanilla cone. The beer is pilsner pale (made in fact with pilsner malt) and roils with bubbles. Still, it's not at all viscous, evidence of ample added sugar that gives the Devil it's juice.
It is hopped with Saaz, and their essence is captured in the head. The flavor, however, is very gentle, boardering on sweet. The Saaz add a robust bitterness and the characteristic spiciness sets off the sweet nicely; it finishes mostly dryly, with just a bit of residual sugar. However, it is in no way challenging--all the notes are beguiling and you really have to remind yourself of the strength to avoid quaffing.
So what are the lessons of Duvel? It is apostacy among Oregon brewers to add sugar to a beer. Moortgat doesn't even bother with candi sugar--they throw in regular old sucrose. Boosting alcohol with malt means a much heavier, maltier beer. This may be a frontier worth exploring.
Duvel is fermented three times after infusions of sugar and yeast (two strains are used). It's bottle-conditioned and aged for at least 6 weeks in cold storage before heading out into the world (the expiration date of the bottle I tried this weekend was November 2009). Bottle-conditioned beers, because they contain live cultures, age better than "dead" beers. The pocket of air in non-conditioned beers inevitably leads to oxidation, which happens more slowly in bottle-conditioned beers, which are preserved by the yeast. Bottle-conditioned beers continue to slowly ferment as well, which removes sugars and dries a beer out.
I hope breweries continue to experiment with Belgian styles, and if they do, I hope they start to experiment with the methods Belgian breweries use. Although they are at odds with the way a lot of commercial breweries operate--getting beer out the door as soon as possible, focusing on "freshness" above maturation--I suspect they're critical to achieve the types of beers Belgians manage.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I realized earlier this year that I literally had too much beer. The Dedicated Beer Fridge was full to bursting, I had almost a case in our regular fridge, there were two cases sitting under the kitchen table, and 14 cases under the basement steps. Some of it was beer that was never meant to age -- I had most of that in the DBF -- some of it was probably over the hill, and I had no good storage space for more beer.In the hoarder's mind, hoarding is its own end. Getting rid of these beers, even using them for the purpose you hoarded them in the first place--drinking them--is hard to face. Lew plans a one-clean-motion remedy:
I happened to talk to Scott "The Dude" Morrison about my problem. "Dude, R.O.S.!" he said, with a big Dude grin. R.O.S.? "You need to have a Really Old Shit party! Get it all out and drink it!"I see the virtue here, and perhaps I'll muster the courage. A lot of the beer I have is irreplaceble though--Tony Gomes doppelbock, single-batch concoctions that go back to the millenium, etc. If I drink them, then ... they'll be gone. Oh, the dilemma!
I should read some wine blogs; surely they have to deal with "hoarders' loss syndrome."* How do they manage it?
*Not an actual diagnosis.
Friday, August 10, 2007
John Foyston adds some detail:
Topical sessions begin on Thursday with a presentation by Denis Dekeukeleire, from the University of Ghent in Belgium, who is widely regarded as "the godfather of hops," according to Shellhammer. Dekeukeleire will speak on light-struck reactions in bottled beer in his presentation, "Beer Lightstruck Flavor: The Full Story" - a discussion of the factors and chemical reactions leading to "skunky" flavors in your beer....It's one of those kinds of industry events that don't have much interest among laypeople (Topic: "Nonvolatile Aspects to Hop Flavor"). But there's something satisfying about just knowing that they have come here, to the place where the results of the chemical analyses, experiments, and manipulations will be most appreciated.
This first conference of its kind in North America is timely in several ways, Shellhammer said. The hop season is in full swing, with the harvest only a month away. The Northwest produces about 30 percent of the world's hops, with prime growing areas in the Yakima Valley in Washington, and Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Welcome to the homeland, folks--
PHOTO: Erika Barnes.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Age is a funny thing. Nineteen years in the American market make Deschutes one of the venerable oldies. But compared to the breweries of Belgium that brew the original golden ales, it's not much time at all. Those world classics have resulted from refinements over the years or generations; one imagines the first batch of Orval wasn't the transcendent elixir it has become.
So 19th Anniversary Golden feels like the first draft of a very good novel, but it could use a little bit of editing.
It looks fantastic. A slightly hazy golden ale with a vigorous bead, it pours out like a beer from Brussels. The effervescence is a good sign that Larry Sidor got the yeast right--it hasn't been overwhelmed by the alcohol (later, the liveliness on the tongue will confirm this). The Curacao is evident in the nose, though the hops are somewhat subdued. There's a touch of volatility from the alcohol, and a wee bit of hard candy.
The palate is unrefined, however. Tibetan monks have a chanting technique known as "overtone singing" which allows them to produce multiple frequencies at the same time. The Golden Ale left me with that same impression. The high note is hops, which are sharp and peppery. Down below is the strong alchohol note, which has a liquor-ish heft to it. (Not to mention a licorice quality, but that's a different matter.) What I want is for these flavors to become stewed together, so that the alcohol strength is balanced by the hop bittering.
My guess is that this would be an entirely different beer had it rested for six months before bottling. I'll buy a couple to cellar, but the quality won't be the same--the beer will oxidize in the bottle (which aren't bottle-conditioned) and though the flavors should still come together, they'll be different that a matured batch would have been.
As I was drinking it, I was thinking that for a 19-year-old brewery, the economics of laying a beer aside for a year may not make sense. For a more established operation, it may not make sense to release a green beer so soon. Age is funny that way.
Malts: French pilsner
Hops: Czech Saaz, Slovenian Golding, Liberty, Brewers Gold
Alcohol by volume: 8.7%
Original Gravity: N/A
Bitterness Units: 60
Other Notes: Special Belgian yeast strain, candi sugar, and Curacao orange peel
Available: Through September '07
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
I'm not going anywhere with this, but if someone wishes to share some insight about these bottles and/or a little outrage, consider this an invitation.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Cantillon Organic Gueuze
The appellation "gueuze" looks unpronounceable and pretty much is, and its etymology is unclear, so I wonder whether we'll have a new name in English sometime. "Blended lambic," for example. For the record, you can pronounce it just about any way you like: gooz, gooz-ah, gerz-ah. Jackson describes it as being very similar to "cursor," but he's a limey and who knows what that means. I opt for gerz-ah.
Cantillon's offering is a blend of young, middle-aged, and elderly lambics (1-3 years in the cask). The blending allows a certain consistency of flavor, as the brewery combines different ages in combinations to produce the right level of sourness and complexity (lambics get funkier as they age). Resting in the cask, lambics tend to go "still" (flat), but Cantillon's gueuze was extremely lively. In fact, as it poured out, straw-pale, bubbly, bright, and white-topped, it looked distinctly like a pilsner. Only a very slight haze hinted at the wheat used in the grist.
What an intense beer! I'd love to bust this out on unsuspecting guests I'd just reeled in with a Duchesse de Bourgnogne, just to watch their eyes pop out. Despite the mellow appearance there is a wicked nose--sour and distinctly cheesey. A sweaty, been-sitting-on-the-counter fo a coupla hours cheesey. If anything, however, the nose understates what's to come. The two strongest notes, and they compete like prizefighters, are a withering crabapple sourness a bark-like medicinal bitterness which is evoked by thinking about some of the harsher grapefruits you might have tried. You can find other notes--anise, lemon--but they appear between the sharp sour and bitter jabs. This is a beer for those who like extremes in brewing. I thought it was extraordinary and would drink it occasionally--but only just. Like a nice Islay malt or jalapeno, it's something you need to be in the mood for.
Young's Oatmeal Stout
I want to like Young's, the venerable old London institution that pre-dates Shakespeare. I buy bottles, thinking that I will be transported to the roots of brewing, as when I have a beer from their city rivals at Fuller's. But each time I am disappointed, and so it was with this new version Young's offers.
Oatmeal stouts are generally creamy and light, a touch sweet and eminently drinkable (the opposite, perhaps, of gueuze). Young's is none of these. It is burly and chalky while not being particularly creamy. The brewery touts its use of roasted barley--maybe they're trying to attract Guinness fans--but it's this ingredient that fouls the beer up. Roasted barley can be harsh and tannic, and it is here. It doesn't dry out the palate like a nice Irish stout, though. The brewery seems to have cadged the worst elements of each stout variety and highlighted them in this recipe. Not good.
Brasserie Caracole "Nostradamus"
I'm not entirely sure why I picked this beer up. It's a wintery sort of tipple, brown, rich, and very strong at 9.5% abv. Somehow my hand was drawn to the bottle, though, and I tried it out. Fortunately, it's been kind of wintry in Portland lately (69 as our high yesterday), so I didn't mind and out-of-seasonal.
Caracole is a new company, but like so many in Belgium, the residents inhabit an ancient brewery. Located in Wallonia, near the French border in Falmignoul, Brasserie Moussoux was founded ten years before America was born. In the year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the name was changed to Brasserie Lamotte before eventually becoming Caracole in the year Clinton was first elected. The brewery is proud of its artisinal heritage, and still brews the old-fashioned way, over a wood fire.
Two things I didn't expect about this beer: it had an enormous, fluffy head that persisted to the final sip (amazing for a beer of this potency) , and it had a distinct hazelnut flavor. I looked at the website after I bought it to see what I'd gotten (the label was terse), but they offered this useles information: "piquant in the mouth with liquorice, mocha flavors, pear and toasted bread background." Which makes me wonder--do they even try the beers, or just select adjectives at random?
For me, this was a strong nut ale, neither piquant or bearing pear. The strength and thickness of the beer demanded a slow, sipping experience, but the hazelnut note was sweet and approachable enough that I was almost drawn to quaff. I suspect a good part of the sweetness comes from caramelization that occurs over the wood stove. I wouldn't describe it as an incredibly complex beer, but it is quite pleasant. I will have to remember to try it during the actual winter, perhaps in front of a fire.
All of these beers are available at Belmont Station. The Caracole and some Cantillon offerings (but not Organic Gueuze) can be found at the New Seasons on Division.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Hood River, OR
Hours: Mon - Thurs: 4 - 10pm, Fri: 4 - 11pm, Sat: noon - 10pm, Sun: noon - 9pm
Prices: 14-ounce glass, $3; 20 ounce imperial: $4, five-sample tray, $5.
Other info: Seasonal sidewalk seating; kids allowed
As Oregon's brewing industry matures, we're seeing more and more places opened by brewers who have been honing their craft at larger breweries. For those who recall the first generation in the 80s and early 90s, the result is a marked improvement in quality, creativity, and sophistication. In the beers of these "second generation" brewpubs, you taste the intention and experience, as if the brewers had been biding their time and perfecting their art, just waiting to try out recipes they've been working on for years.
Double Mountain features alumni from Full Sail, which is literally just around the corner. Although the pub space could use a little more attention--it feels more like a coffee shop than a pub--the beer and food are both exceptional and allow Double Mountain to debut as one of Oregon's best brewpubs. A remarkable accomplishment for a place that just opened in May.
Brewers Matt Swihart and Charlie Devereux aren't slaves to style. Of the six beers pouring when I visited in late June, four had improvisational elements. The change-ups were subtle; rather than screaming out, "look at how funky we are," their beers featured, say, unexpected yeasts or hops. Their creativity is more a nod and a wink to the beer geeks they expect to come to their pub. (I wrote at greater length about this here). A testament to their attention to detail, I think there were three different yeast strains--and possibly four--in the beers I tried.
Most breweries have a house character, but with styles appropriated from Germany, Belgium, and England, I honestly couldn't describe Double Mountain's. Perhaps improvisation and surprise is the character. Have a look at these beers and see if you can tell what they'll brew next. It escapes me. [Note: I intended, but failed to steal the menu when I was there (you can see it in this picture), and so I didn't write down the stats or ingredients of the beers. Sorry.)
- Kolsch. This is a style rarely brewed (in Oregon, anyway) with the appropriate yeast. It's the kind of beer you can fudge. If Double Mountain didn't use a kolsch strain, though, they did one hell of a job of fudging. Their version has a very lively tartness, detectable in the aroma right on through to the swallow. They have overhopped it for style, but selected hops that draw out a lemongrass note, complementing the tartness. People who love kolsches will forgive the bitterness, and people who like hoppy pales will find it interesting. Rating: A-
- Pale ale. Northwest pale ales are almost always characterized by citrusy local hops, and are consequently rather soft and sweet. Here again, Matt and Charlie buck the trend. They opt for herbal, piney hops. What results is an unexpected pale. The nose is quite herbal, and the bittering tends toward a sagey, peppery hop. There are citrus notes, but they're subdued. Sally, who tends to like British hopping more than local varieties, was especially fond of this one. Rating: B+
- India Red Ale. (Also known as IRA.) Ira is an IPA brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. The resulting beer is softer and rounder than a muscular Oregon IPA. It has a creamy sweetness that buoys the ample hops and simultaneously seems to enclose the bitterness in a gentle pocket. I am reminded of Orval, which is also a huge, yet deceptively smooth beer. Rating: A
- Hop Lava. This was the most pedestrian beer pouring, though it isn't mild. Supposedly dry-hopped, but I got very little aroma (the beers came out quite cold, which may have dampened the nose). It's a straightforward IPA, crisp, clean, very bitter, and quite strong. It's the kind of green monster that leaves a slick of hop resin on your tongue. Rating: B
- Alt. Altbiers are another style that breweries often try to fudge. The yeast used in traditional alts is an ancient German ale, but one with very little fruitiness--they taste more like lagers. Once again, if the brewers fudged this, they did a great job. It emphasizes the malt, which has a hearty grainy flavor, but also a touch of honey sweetness. It has impressive mouthfeel--close your eyes and you can in its creaminess almost conjure a porter in your mind. The hops are present and assertive, and they dry out the malt out so that it finishes cleanly. Alts are hard to pull off, and Double Mountain more than succeeds. Rating: A
- Devil's Kitchen. This is a Belgian style strong that nods to Duvel (Flemish for "devil"). Served in a goblet, it looks like Duvel--deep golden with a snowy head. It is heavier than many Belgian strong ales, though, and sweeter. It is vigorously carbonated, and a mineral quality helps offset some of the sweetness. It has a bit of mustiness--a nice touch that recalls the cellared beers of Belgium. It was a bit too heavy and too sweet, and I wonder if subsequent efforts might be drier and slightly lighter. A worthy effort, though. Rating: B-
I am again hamstrung by my lack of a menu, so I can't tell you the full variety of what is available. We had salads and a pizza, and they were both wonderful. The salad was a lightly-dressed, very fresh Greek. The pizza may have been modeled on the enormously popular Ken's Artisan Pizza in Portland. Like Ken's, the crust is wafer thin and delicious. The choices included a nice mixture of traditional styles. Sally, who is regularly disappointed by brewpub food, gave Double Mountain a rave.
We arrived at about 5 pm on a Saturday, and there was only one table available. An hour later, there was a waiting line. It appeared to be populated mainly by locals, which is always a good sign. Translation: the word's out.
Don't let that dissuade you, though--Double Mountain should be considered a destination brewpub. Take a trip to Multnomah Falls, drive down the Columbia River Highway, check out the Vista House, and then conclude your journey at Double Mountain--a perfect day.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
When I tried it at PIB, one of the friends I was with had drawn a firm line: she didn't like beer. It was the "beery" quality that got her. With PIB I made some headway--we got her to a kriek early (not "beery," but you don't need me to tell you that), and she was muscling through some dark ales. But then came the Duchesse, which she actively enjoyed.
When someone doesn't like beer, and you find a beer she can tolerate, generally it's a bad beer everyone else hates. But not so with the Duchesse. It was passed around to high acclaim from the Belgian-lovers to the Belgian-haters, to the NW hop-monster lovers. I wondered then if I had found the universal beer.
I recently discovered that you can get the Duchesse in a four-pack at Belmont Station (for $13--which means it's priced like a wine!). I brought some home and we tried it at a barbeque recently and I was again reminded of how popular it is. (That's another thing; it's not a beer that is so inoffensive everyone can drink it--everyone seems to rave about it.)
I didn't think such a thing was possible, and I may well find someone who doesn't like it. But if you're trying to share your love of beer with someone who adamently (and honestly) hates beer, give the Duchesse a try.
[Update: cool article here that describes the history of the beer and it's inspiration, the Duchesse. It describes the blending somewhat differently, too.]
PHOTO: Lau (a fan)
Friday, August 03, 2007
Her most recent entry comes to us from Cooperstown, where she visited one of my favorite breweries, Ommegang:
Arrived at Ommegang after most of the staff had retired for the evening. Only brewers Mike McManus and Wes Nick were left, brewing the last of the six batches for the week. They were both pulling a 12-hour, 6:00 pm to 6:00 am shift. If you haven't already figured it out, brewers work very hard to bring you your libation!...She started the journey in June and will roll into Denver for the GABF in October and then head back to Eugene. She's posting nearly every day, and nearly every day she's at a new brewery. Next stop is Burlington, Vermont (a great beer town) where she'll stop in at Magic Hat and others.
Mike and Wes brought me to Ommegang's tasting room and set me up with a real glass (no plastic cup for the road brewer) and a bottle of their current limited release, Ommegeddon. This beer is on the trucks headed all over the country as I write. If you buy some, buy two bottles because this beer will continue to change over the next two years, and you'll want to save a bottle for later.
The base of this beer is similar to the Ommegang Abbey, however it has been infused with Brettanomyces and dry hopped. The extra hops is subtle, but the Brett is definitely present. As QC Manager & Brett-Wrangler Jason Parrish told me, you have to be patient with Brett. Jason thinks most American breweries overpitch the Brettanomyces, but Jason likes it to grow and flower and slowly develop its characteristic horse-blanket, copper-penny flavors and aromas.
Now, if you haven't tasted a beer with Brettanomyces before, this is a good starter Brett beer because the Brett character is still fairly subtle. You may think the beer reminds you of the flavors in a slightly funky French or Italian wine. Then wait six months or a year (or two) and try it again. Voila! Mondo funkadelic. But not now. Now it is baby-barely-funk.
I will be checking in regularly to hear what she's learned--you might enjoy checking in, too.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Held along three blocks in the Historic Pearl District, over 5,000 people attended last year. This year’s event is a celebration of everything summer: BBQ, small, traditional craft micro-breweries, and live Classic Rock.It's cool that this exists, because it's about the polar opposite of the Portland International Beerfeet, with its cool $4 pours of compost beer. Of course, I love PIB, and ZZ Top tribute bands--well, let's say they fall outside my sweet spot. So enjoy if it's your cup o' tea, but don't look for a skinny balding guy in a beard--he'll be elsewhere this weekend. Details for those who are interested:
Each street will be dedicated to a separate theme. The street of BBQ’ers will include My Brothers BBQ, Sellwood BBQ, Wildcard BBQ, Smokin Man BBQ, and more. And a BBQ rib contest will determine which BBQ’er walks away with this year’s People’s Choice trophy. The street of Microbreweries will include 25+ Microbrews from the Northwest including Roots, Hair of the Dog, Eugene City Brewery, Old Lompoc, Issaquah Brewhouse, Laurelwood, Rogue Ales, and more. Live Classic Rock music will include local bands such as Afterburner, a ZZ Top tribute Band (below).
This is a family friendly event with buckets of chalk for street art, Italian Ice, Elephant Ears, and balloon artists to entertain the kids, and the adults! $2 donations at the door go directly to the Oregon Zoo.
Bones and Brew
Saturday 11-9, Sunday 11-7
NW 15th and Flanders in the Pearl District
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
And it will have a tasting room:
Testing the theory that it's not what you know but who you know, Hammond, 43, set out to find the right person to handle his brew. That happened to be Anders Johansen, 48, whose resume includes both stints with Pyramid and Deschutes breweries as well as a couple of start-ups.
"I surround myself with people smarter than me," Hammond says. "I hired someone with experience and ability who knew exactly what equipment we needed...."
Rather than piece together a new brewery from discarded and used parts, Hammond bit the bullet and invested $1 million into equipment.
"We could've started with a lot less and basically pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps," he says. "But we wanted mostly new stuff that's reliable and we wouldn't have to fix. We're starting small, but I bought enough equipment to where we can grow without more capital expense in the early years."Southern Oregon Brewing Co., located at 1922 United Way in Medford, will debut with a 20-barrel brewhouse, capable of producing 620 gallons in an eight-hour period. Hammond anticipates brewing once per week in the beginning.
Looks like it might be time for a road trip.
Tasting room hours will initially run from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Occupants at the 24-foot bar and tables can view brewery activity through two large plate-glass windows.
"We'll see how business is going and then probably expand," Hammond says. "Our primary focus is going to be on manufacturing and wholesale distribution."
PHOTO: Mail Tribune