Blogs will save us.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Low-Alcohol Beers

Has Betsy Andrews replaced Eric Asimov as the beer writer for the Times? Let's hope so, because her story about low-alcohol session beers is a winner:

“A bunch of guys talk in the market,” said Don Feinberg, a founder of Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y., and an importer for Vanberg & DeWulf there. “We’ve all been saying the same thing for about 18 months now, which is, enough of the high octane.”

Mr. Feinberg imports boozy Trappist and farmhouse ales, but in April he introduced a brew from another Belgian tradition: bières de table.

“When I lived there in the late ’70s and early ’80s,” he said of his time in Belgium, “everybody drank it for lunch, from grandmothers to kids.”

It's a particular hobby-horse of mine, session ales, and it's quite a cutting-edge topic--all's the more impressive with Andrew's deft reportage. More:

Christopher Leonard, owner of the General Lafayette Inn, outside Philadelphia, said it was a test of his skill to create Lafayette’s Escape, a beer in the style of bière de table, at his inn’s brewery. It is only 1.9 percent alcohol.

“I was looking for a new challenge,” Mr. Leonard said. “I thought, Let’s go extreme the other way.”

He came up with an amber ale that has the peppery, herbal notes of Belgian yeast. “The beer had a residual sweetness, heft and density that made it taste like something that had more alcohol,” he said.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Confessions

1. I did not make it to a Denver pub. I am old and slow and I need my sleep. Hadda get out to Far Auroria each night, which cut down even further on bar-hopping.

2. I did, however, manage to wander into the exclusive Executive Club at Mile High (Invesco) Stadium. I slipped in because I had a floor pass--the highest security clearance for the event, but certainly not Executive Club exclusivity. I wandered in with my Boston hat on and shorts, and because they are used to being obsequious, no one stopped me. Nowhere else in the building was booze available, but that was pretty much all that was available in the Mile High Lounge, or whatever they were calling it. The first bank of taps were all A-B, the second all Coors, and the two nice ones in the middle had the following taps, which I photographed, for your amusement. Let the commentary begin!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Free Skinny Dip

Here in the Big Tent, the nerve center of blogger activity, they serve New Belgium for free. Much as you can inhale.
Pro: Free.
Con: New Belgium
Pro: Free
Con: Days have been extremely hot.
Pro: Today it's in the 70s; free.
So I just got a half-glass of Skinny Dip, just to see if it was as "eh" as I remember. It is. But still!: free. Bloggers, you know, can't be choosers. I may skip the conventionn tonight and let a co-blogger take my credential. In that case, I'll definitely go pub-hopping.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Denver: Not Beervana

I am having precious little time to make it to pubs, but I have been shuttled nightly to various bars where parties are being held. The last two nights, I was at a jazz club one night and a kind of chic upscale place the other night. These are roughly equivalent to places you'd find in the pearl. I wouldn't expect them to have a good or large beer selection, but I'd be shocked if I didn't see a couple-four micros on tap. I don't haunt the Pearl, but that's my sense. And a jazz bar--definitely.

But both these places had NO draft beer. Zippo. They offered some bottled beer: macros of an assortment I failed to note, Stella, Flat Tire. In the first, they had Blue Moon, which I ordered, in the second Sam Adams. I like Sam Adams, so that was fine, but I was really shocked--how could it be so sparse?

If you can't get a draft micro downtown in Denver, I think that speaks for itself.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Belgium

On the run in the middle of the day, but there's this big techie nerve center called the Big Tent for bloggers. It's sponsor is New Belgium, and they just tapped kegs fror the afternoon (probably 2pm Denver time). To their credit, the brewery sent four beers, including that nice black beer they do.

Also, bloggers + free beer = lotsa midday drinking. Not that this is a surprise. (It's 90 degrees, and we will be up late, so I'm just watching from a distance.)

Obama Beer

I was at a reception last night featuring a special beer (served, oddly, in 22-oz bottles): Obama Ale. Brewed by Half Moon Bay Brewing in ... California. Very odd. The label description reads "a golden colored ale brewed with European malt and hops. Lager-like flavor and a light, clean aftertaste."

Wrong. It is a Belgian pale hopped with Saaz. I confirmed this later when the brewery owner or brewer came by handing out campaign-like buttons promoting the beer. (Also, it appears there's a McCain Ale, too). It was a nice beer-soft on the palate, spicy with Saaz. Only 4.8%, which is a nice beer for an event with an open bar. People were squirreling away bottles as collectors items--me included.

(On the issue of beer culture, I think this is illustrative. The label in this case used nomenclature designed to appeal to a somewhat less-educated public. In Oregon, you'd call a Belgian-style beer a Belgian.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Off to Denver

So this blogging thing finally pays off. I'm off to the wilds of Denver tomorrow to begin blogging from the Democratic convention. I expect no news to happen, but I should be able to schmooze with the likes of Brian Schweitzer. So I got that going for me. I will continue to post throughout the week, but it will definitely be offbeat blogging. Hold down the fort, willya?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brewing With Flowers - Rosee d'Hibiscus

Who says you should only brew with malt, water, hops, and yeast? Okay, who except the Germans? The truth is, we all love adjuncts ... when they work. Early craft brewers dumped about anything they could think of in the kettle. There were some notable successes, but lots of failures. Brewers got back to basics, and only slowly--and subtly--began working them back in. It looks a little like 1993 again, except now breweries know what they're doing.

In Montreal, the very well-regarded Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel experiments broadly, and recently I picked up Rosee d'Hibiscus. It's a fairly straightforward wheat and the only wild card is the infusion of hibiscus flowers. They add color, aroma, and some flavor. The scent of this beer is quite a bit like a wit, though more floral, sort of a tart, citrus note. Wheat also evident. The flowers turn the beer pink, like herbal tea. The palate is also akin to a wit, but a little more tart. It's a sweet beer, but it does have a quality of tea. It's a bit like the gruit beers that have become more common; the first few tastes are slightly disorienting. But by the end, you're downing it without qualms.

If I were to use hibiscus, I might use a more interesting yeast. It's a fine beer, but not necessarily the kind of beer you'd find yourself craving. Admirable without being wholly lovable. An interesting experiment, and worth noting in the annals of adjuncts.

Bud's American-style Ale

John has the review I know you've all been waiting for, the latest concoction from Bootveizer's marketing department: American Ale.
And the verdict is: Not bad, not bad at all...the beer skews toward the malty side, but actual hops HAVE been used and it reminds me of a very drinkable ESB. My machinist/home-brewer pal Les Barker, was reminded more of a brown ale and noted that the beer has a nice dry finish.
My first thought: compared to what? Looks like John compares it favorably to Bud, the lowest bar in the beer world. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

The irony and pathos of calling it "American Ale" should be lost on no one, however. No doubt it will be derided by the craft beer community as "Brussels-made American Ale," or "American-style Ale," or somesuch. I hope that I have broken the ice. Feel free to contribute your own variation in comments.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Days of the Down and Out

Nobody loves you when you're down and out
Nobody sees you when you're on cloud nine
Everybody's hustlin' for a buck and a dime
I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine

--John Lennon
Over at Pacific Brew News, Rick sings a familiar lament about how to afford drinkin' when the economy's stinkin'.
Is it cool to cheap on a tip? Hell no. But is it so bad that we stay at home to drink bottled beer bought at places with shitty service and marginal quality? I guess I'm thinking about the owners of the bars more than I am about the servers, and maybe that's where my argument goes south, but I just can't help but think it's better to drink and be "cheap" (or economical) than it is to stop patronizing your local watering hole - be it a bar, brewery or pub. Is it cool to just order drinks, cut the food (eat at home), and call it a night?
It's an existential complaint, really. I hear you man, I hear you. But whatever you do, don't start drinking the Pabst. Hamm's ... well, maybe. But never Pabst.

Central Oregon Beer Community

Since we've been on a Central Oregon beer jag these last few days, it makes sense that Cascade Business News would do a story on it. Not a whole lot new here to people who follow beer closely, but this passage paints a very nice picture of what the community is like there:

Observers might think seven local brewpubs naturally would compete against each other, especially during economic downtimes, to persuade consumers to pull up a stool at their bar over another’s, but that’s not the case at all here in Bend, according to industry insiders. Locally, everyone does what they can to help each other out to the point of sharing ingredients in a pinch when a fellow brew master may be running a little short.

“Out there in Central Oregon getting supplies can be difficult,” Kennelly said. “We’ve had to use grain or hops from the Deschutes Brewery, the Bend Brewing Co. and Silver Moon Brewing when we get caught without something we need faster than we can get it from Portland. A lot of breweries down there exchange yeast, especially during Octoberfest, use it and pass it around. It really helps down there since Bend is not close to any (distributors).”

Fish agrees with Kennelly, saying his company regularly invites other breweries to bring beers to industry events where Deschutes is a highlighted craft brewer.

“We’ve tried to be as open as we can with everybody across the state,” Fish said. “That kind of community exists in Central Oregon and beyond. Nationally, craft brewers have four percent of the market divided between 1,400-or-so companies. We’ve developed some good friendships and alliances that exist outside of that competitive environment.”

Underwood says that having seven craft brewers with headquarters in Central Oregon means better beer choices for locals and for people visiting the area and that helps the word get out about the quality and standards applied to the beer-making process in Bend.

“Of course I would prefer that people drink a Three Creeks brew, but I’m just as happy to see people come to Central Oregon and try out a Deschutes brew, or have a beer produced at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company, or better yet spend a week here doing a brewery tour,” he said. “This is a real supportive market and it’s better for everyone when any single one of us gets any type of exposure outside of the region.”

Cool.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's in a Name?

I picked up a couple bottles of Silver Moon's beers this week (reviews to come), one of which is brewed in the dreaded "amber" style. I will confess to a certain weariness as I poured it out, because I'm almost never pleased with ambers. They seem like a marketing niche rather than a style, which is sort of how I remember them emerging in the 80s and early 90s. Breweries needed something to slot in between pale ales and browns, so they brewed these worty-sweet copper ales and dubbed them "ambers."

Without tipping my hand too much about Silver Moon, I'll say that the first inhalation of its gentle aroma suggested "best bitter," which my palate confirmed. There's not a whole lot of difference between best bitters and ambers, really. The former is a bit smaller than the latter (around 4.2%, compared to, say 5.2%), a little less dark, and a little thinner of body. But these are differences of degree, not type. The major distinction is hopping--with an amber you expect citrusy Northwest hops, and in a best bitter the spicier hops of England.

When I was studying Hindi, one of my teachers had a subtle way of describing native fluency. He spoke nearly flawless English (way better than my Hindi), but there were things he just couldn't get straight. He used the example of "mug" and "jug." They were both liquid containers, and they sounded the same. It took him forever to finally nail down the difference. Beer styles are a bit like that. On the one hand, they have such similarity that on a philosophical level, you almost can't argue a difference. Ambers and best bitters are, existentially speaking, roughly the same. On the other, there's something quit distinct, something worth noting.

In the US, when I encounter a best bitter (or even an ordinary bitter), I regard it as a statement of intention. The brewer knows s/he's selling something that will confuse the average consumer--bitters, especially now, are not bitter. Adding the "best" doesn't help clarify things for patrons who are unaware of the range of English bitters. American best bitters designed for people who can appreciate craft and subtlety. It is almost an axiom that they won't sell.

Ambers, on the other hand, are beers everyone can get their brains around. Look, it's amber-colored. No problem. Ambers seem to have been aimed at people for whom color is about as much information as they need. They are approachable, and their sweetness is enhanced by Cascade hopping, which make them a bit like lemonade. Add some body and you've got a crowd-pleaser, if not a great beer.

For me, "best bitter" implies a carefully articulated beer, with wonderfully distinct (if understated) notes of malt sweetness and hop flavor. "Amber," on the other hand, suggests an indistinct beer of little character--something inoffensive, but without interest.

Clearly, all of this is semantics. I was reminded of how much solidity I had put into the terms, though, when I tippled Silver Moon's Amber last night. Moral: don't judge a beer by its name. Consider me edumacated.

[Update. I forgot to mention one other wrinkle to this rumination: Anheuser-Busch's latest release, American Ale. (It's going to be a frosty cold day in hell before InBud releases a Belgian ale in the US market.) It is ... you guessed it, an amber ale. Now, I don't mean to instantly contradict the moral to my own blog post, but this doesn't bode well, does it? I mean, a Bud ale with 5.2% alcohol and 25-28 IBU. That sounds suspiciously like an "indistinct beer of little character--something inoffensive, but without interest." But let's not get ahead of ourselves. You never know, have to keep your mind open, pick your cliche. All I know is that the Belgians run the show now, so maybe (twist of the knife) it will finally have a little character.

Jon's sitting on a promo package (how does he get those damn things while I pay good money for my beer?), so we'll await his verdict with interest.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Ratings Site

We have Ratebeer and the Beer Advocate--sufficient for our needs, yes? BrewSocial thinks not. It's the newest entry into the beer social-networking segment, and the idea is that you go there and rate a bunch of beers and then the site's algorithm-cruncher spits out some recommendations for you. It is very similar to Netflix in design and function. I went in and rated about seventy beers and then went to the recommendations page. At that moment, I saw the flaw in the site.

The recommended beers have little or no information. The number one recommendation for me was Northstar Brewing's Fire it Up. What is it? Where is it brewed? Who knows. There is this description, which doesn't fill one with confidence: "a good drink mixed with beer, margarita, wiskey, and tequlia."

Netflix works because the information about the movies is rich and complete and because you can order movies right there. This site has neither virtue. I'm not totally sure what the purpose is, but there seems to be a lot of traffic. (There are of course friends and profiles and so on, but still ....) Perhaps you will go figure it out and explain to me how I missed the point.

Zen and the Art of Brewing

At the risk of offending my Catholic readers, I couldn't help but admire this beautifully Zen quote from Brother Thomas of the Westmalle Abbey, circa 1992, as quoted by Michael Jackson in the Great Beers of Belgium.
"Getting beer right is an art. When you can do that, you can call yourself an artisinal brewer. It is the brewer who makes good beer, not the equipment. You have to have a feeling for your beer... know what you are smelling, what you are tasting. It's a question of being there."
A question of being there--advice for life. Cool.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trappist Ales - Westmalle (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart)

You may imagine that the tripels and dubbels go back centuries--after all, it's one of the world's famous styles, and Trappist monks have been brewing for centuries. Yet despite their stature, abbey ales of this type are relatively recent, having emerged from the examples brewed by the monks of Westmalle Abbey after World War Two.

Abbey ales are the most well-known of all Belgian beers; it is therefore an education to sit down with a Westmalle, the most influential brewery for the style, and the most imitated. Westmalle's Tripel also happens to be the standard against which all other tripels are judged--and appropriately so. It is an exceptional beer.

History
The monastery was founded in 1794, just northeast of Antwerp, in the Flemish-speaking Flanders region of western Belgium. The monks started brewing in the 1830s for their own use, and started selling beer to locals in the 1870s. This arrangement lasted until 1921, when Westmalle began selling beer more widely. The famous line-up evolved over a period of years, becoming recognizable in the 1950s. Since that time, Westmalle has fiddled little with their styles, though the recipes do change to adjust for malt variations. Jackson reports that the brewers have used a variety of different hops--always whole flowers, never extract or pellets--and change them to their wish at the time.

Tasting Notes
When you're dealing with a high-gravity beer, you're in a pick-your-poison situation. The perils include sweetness, heaviness of body, harsh alcohol, and over-hopping. When brewers make adjustments on one element, they may worsen another. Westmalle's Tripel is a justifiable world standard because it manages to find a balance for all of these elements.

Let's start with the appearance. It is a familiar, cloudy golden. I marvel at the head on the beer, beautiful fluffy white and sustained, despite the alcohol. It's the liveliness of the beer that feeds the head, though it does not cascade with effervescence like some Belgians. (After my final swallow, what remained in the bottom of my goblet was a skiff of head, coating the bottom of the glass like a dusting of snow.)

Westmalle is hoppy, something that is not evident in the aroma (which is caramelly and alcoholic and smells more like a barleywine than a Belgian, oddly). It's not the first thing you notice--the sweet, rich, alcoholic notes muscle their way in first. But the hops are spicy and rescue the beer from becoming overly rich. The body is full and creamy, effervescent, but not heavy. I have had many tripels that are either too thick or finish too sweetly. Not Westmalle--the finish is long and dry. This is a big virtue of sugar--it allows the yeast to convert more sugars to alcohol, which produces a drier palate. It's fermented twice (before bottle-conditioning), and there's no information on the yeast strains. To my palate, there appear to be more than one variety, and I'd hazard a guess that there's even a little Brett in there (suspicions fostered by Orval--more on that in a later post).

If you drink the beer slowly enough, you'll find myriad flavors. Thick with phenolics, the beer has the characteristic banana-clove-spice continuum. It's also estery, a note cut off sharply--and surprisingly--by the dry finish. Depending on how long the beer has been aging, you'll notice more or less hop bitterness. I prefer those moments when the hops come through, because it's a sneaky bitterness, one you welcome for its steadiness. You will find all or some of the following flavors, depending on the bottle and age--caramel, orange or lemon, mint, figs, and .... Well, you go buy a bottle and tell me.

At the start of my series, I said there were two excellent and one world-class Trappist ale. I include Westmalle Tripel in the excellent category, and I can't quibble too much with those who declare it a world classic. It is the standard for the tripel style, and it is certainly one of the best examples brewed.

Stats
Original Gravity: Tripel 1.080, Dubbel 1.063
ABV
: Tripel 9.5%, Dubbel 7%

Hops: Whole flowers--varieties vary

Adjuncts: Pale candi sugar syrup (Tripel), dark candi sugar syrup (Dubbel)
Rating: Tripel, A-
Available: Readily available at beer stores and some grocery stores (New Seasons in Portland).

Three Creeks Article

The Bend Bulletin has some information about (ex-Lucky Lab brewer) Dave Fleming's new brewery in Sisters. It situates Three Creeks Brewing in a historical and regional context-- useful for those who don't drive across the Cascades much:
Three Creeks is brewery No. 7 in Central Oregon. It joins Bend Brewing Co., Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery, McMenamins, Silver Moon Brewing Co. and Wildfire Brewing Co. All are based in Bend except Cascade Lakes, which is based in Redmond...

Twenty years [after Deschutes Brewing opened], beer making has grown to a $500 million-a-year industry in Central, Southern and Eastern Oregon, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute. It provides more than $151 million in wages and 5,029 jobs.
Nothing satisfies curiosity like actually tasting the beer, but this at least gives some hints:
The brewery uses a 10-barrel system that will allow it to produce up to 31,000 gallons, or 1,000 barrels, of beer annually...

To succeed, the new brewery will need to create “name-making” beers that will attract craft beer lovers, [Wade] Underwood [president of Three Sisters] said.

“We’re still trying to figure out what beers are going to be most popular,” he said. “Deschutes Brewery had Black Butte Porter. Nobody else had it....”

Three Creeks hopes to find similar success with the 8 Second IBA, one of six staple beers on tap. The beer has the bitter taste of an India Pale Ale and the dark look of a porter, Underwood said.

“It’s a bold beer — nobody else is making it,” he said.

Another staple beer, the Knotty Blonde, appeals to the larger population that wants a lighter taste, he said.

I really gotta make a trip to Central Oregon soon. I've been lax about trying Tonya Cornett's beers, and this ups the ante even further. And as I recall, it's not a half-bad lookin' place, either.

The excitement around Bend notwithstanding, there's one comment in the article worth highlighting for its ... its ... well, have a look:
“Clearly, Central Oregon is becoming known as the microbrew epicenter of the state,” Audette said. “It’s great for us because culinary tourism continues to grow nationally and statewide.”
I will forgive Alana Audette for this hyperbole--she's the president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association. But the next time she's in town, I'm happy to take her on a tour of Portland's breweries--all 30 of them. We're not quite ready to cede the title of epicenter just yet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pomme Lambic (Nascent)

First it was just lambic. Soon the front-yard pomme will be flavoring it with (I hope) a sensually tart, earthy undertone. But I hope many things.

This is the staged photo taken out-of-doors, where colors are nice and the sun is deadly to beer.


Here we see the lambic in its actual, underground environment. Not pretty for picture-taking, but cool and gentle for beer-making.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Century Temps ≠ Beer drinking

1. Yesterday it was hotter in Portland (101) than Yuma, AZ (100).

2. My frog-like Oregon body needs an aqueous environment to survive, which means practically hooking up a saline drip just to stay alive.

3. Beer is a diuretic. And heavy. And filling. And bloating.

4. Today it's supposed to be 103.

5. Blogging to resume ... eventually.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Introducing the Sour-o-meter

This is pretty self-explanatory, but since this seems to be The Year of the Belgian [TM], I thought it would be instructive to have a standard against which to judge the relative sourness of a beer. (And now that I see that the print is tiny on this version, we may call it a beta and come up with a slightly easier-to-read version.) Behold:




Good Question

In comments below, "Anonymous" noticed something I've noticed, too--that sourness tends to dissipate with warmth. This is odd, because cold tends to (in Michael Jackson's words) "anesthetize the palate."
I'm just starting to get into sour beers and I'm sure this is an amateur question, but why do sour beers become less sour as they warm in the glass? (In Supplication's case, this was a nice feature as my amateur taste buds were able to decipher a few more aspects of the beer but no one at our table could figure out why). We’ve also noticed this trend with some of Raccoon Lodges beer as well as Cantillion’s.
Yup, I've noticed it, too, and on this one you've got me stumped. (There goes the well-tended illusion that I know something about beer.) Why do other flavors emerge when a beer warms, while sourness recedes?


(BTW, you anonymous commenters--any chance you could sign your posts, even pseudonymously, so I can recognize you when you comment?)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russian River Supplication

I arrived at Belmont Station within twenty minutes of the Supplication tapping and thought it was going to be standing-room only. Fortunately, there were a couple spots at the bar (Sally was with me), which had the added benefit of giving me a front-row view of all the people coming in and placing their orders. Not that I'd flatter myself that this lil' ol blog spread the word--but something did. The Supplications were flying.

As you can see from the picture, it's not an oud bruin--or any brown, for that matter. It is rather a golden-red, and captured the refracting August sun beautifully. This concludes the criticism portion of the review.

It has an extremely tart, lactic nose, and the cherries are more suggestive than overt. So intense is the aroma that you reflexively brace yourself. Wisely, it turns out, for this beer bears more resemblance to a lambic than a sour brown. There are two axes for sour beers, sour and funky, and Supplication is all sour. It is an intense and dry beer, tart and sour, and the cherries accentuate this. They also provide a nice sweet note in the middle, though it's also suggestive. Finishes bone dry, with an alkaline quality and a goodbye pucker. Long after a swallow, though, a strange thing happens: a dry-cookie, biscuit flavor pervades my mouth. I can't account for it. If there's pinot in the palate (it was aged in noir casks), it eludes me--subtle flavor components would be necessarily flattened by this tour de sour.

I loved the beer, and it was very much an authentic Beligian. Host a sour beer tasting of only Belgian-brewed beers, and this one would never be exposed as an imposter. It's aggressive but rewarding and to my palate, delicious. If I were the brewery, I'd dispense with the crazy "brown" descriptor (it's about half Rodenbach Grand Cru and half Boon Kriek, and no Liefman's) and call it a red or something that won't indicate any precursor--"sour" ale or something like that. Otherwise, thumbs way up (an A-, if you forced a judgment from me).

[Update: I have included the sour-o-meter reading for Supplication: a 4.5. Mmmm, puckery.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heater Allen Update & Review

I scored a bottle of Heater Allen Schwarzbier last night, and the nice cashier at Belmont Station reported that Rick Allen had gotten his larger, 6-barrel brewery online (reducing somewhat my sense that I had scored! with the bottle I was holding). And so it is:

Brewer's Notes, July 7
We've been brewing on the new system for a little over a month now, and I think that we've gotten a pretty good handle on how to best make beer on this system. First, we've figured out that the system works best when we're using 300 to 350 pounds of grain. For most beers this equates to 6 barrel batches, not 7. Higher gravity beer batches will be even smaller. We also are mashing the grain in the Boil Kettle rather than in the Mash Tun. This gives us much better temperature control for our step mashes. We then pump the mash up to the Lauter Tun, clean out the Boil Kettle, and then strain the wort back into the Boil Kettle. This is classic modern German brewing, as opposed to the British tradition of single step infusion mashing, and as opposed to old-style German decoction brewing.

Today we're going to brew our second batch of Bobtoberfest. Each batch we're brewing will yield about 4 1/2 barrels. We'll combine the two batches in one of our 9 barrel lagering tanks (the first batch is currently lagering in one of our fermenters).
They had bottles of the pilsner, which I've had, and the schwarzbier, which I have not. My sense is that schwarzbier is one of the more popular of Allen's beers, and I've never been able to score it. It's one of my favorite lager styles, and a perfect crossover lager for ale-happy Oregonians.

Allen's version is pretty thick and chewy; one could be forgiven for calling it "porter-like"--though of course I would never offend a proud lager brewery with such rank denigration. He uses 9 malts in the beer, and I agree that it has "complex malt, caramel, chocolate, and espresso flavors." It is quite a bit meatier than the German schwarzes I've tried, but it fights flyweight: just 4.8% alcohol. It is a fine beer, and I hope that drinking Heater Allen will no longer be such a rare treat.

Making Cider

In my front yard is a gnarled apple tree, some decades old. The house dates to 1925, so it must be older than that, but it's old. Beginning in about July, it produces tasty, modest-sized red-and-yellow apples, a bit tart, not overly sweet, with crisp flesh. The past few years, we've collected them off the ground and moved them to the compost heap, but this year we prepared to make cider. I dutifully climed up and around the tree, reaching out dangerously for apples at the furthest point of my reach, as the ladder/limb below waggled precariously. I only managed to collect about a bushel--or anyway an apple basket, if that's a bushel--before we decided we needed to press them.

I will spare the texture of this grand narrative, except to offer a few observations along the way:
  • Steinbart's is your one-stop cidermaking shop. You can rent a press there (seen in these photos) for $10 a day, and also get instructions about how to turn it into cider. For brewers, this process looks incredibly easy, bordering on crude. Essentially: press and add yeast.
  • When I bought the yeast, I was shocked when the salesman sent me to replace the liquid yeast with dry yeast--an absolute no-no in beer brewing. Apparently vinters use dry yeast almost exclusively. The salesman was blase about it, and so I quizzed him: how many wine/cidermakers use dry yeast? (90%) How many brewers use dry yeast? (20%) Shocked but chastened, I bought the dry, which to add insult to injury was Red Star brand, famed for bread yeasts.
  • Apples are principally structure, and only minimally liquid. We managed to get less than a gallon out of our bushel.
  • "Summer apples" are reputed to be poor for cider, and I have no idea how they'll taste once turned into hard cider. But as raw cider, fresh from the apple, they were fantastic.
I have now collected another bushel off the tree, and I'm not sure what to do with it. I will use a few of the apples for a pomme lambic I'm making, but maybe it calls for anther trip down to Steinbart's. But damn, it's a lot of work for a few ounces of liquid.

I will keep you updated about the progression of this experiment.

First, the apples go into a hopper and are mashed by an electric motor.



The pulped apples fall into a slatted cylinder, which is moved underneath the press.



Finally, you crank the press down, squashing the pulp and driving the liquid out the slats.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics Ads

I'm watching the Olympics now, and an ad for Budweiser just played with the prominent tag "Great American Lager." This has probably been playing for months, but there's something about it now that the context has changed. It feels a little ... desperate. You may be many things, Bootveizer, maybe even the king of beer (sales), but the Great American Lager? It's embarrassing to keep saying it.

The other ad is the Michelob series, ubiquitous, and playing at least every hour. It touts the Michelob family (Amber Bock, etc.) as high art--in what looks like a clear attempt to score some micro cred. It's not an egregious commercial; in fact, I like to see a macro adopting the if-you-can't-beat-'em,-join-'em posture. Perhaps someone who takes a tentative step in this direction will keep on going, right on over to a better-made, authentic craft beer.

But the upshot is this: it seems like A-B is a company off it's game. It used to dictate beer culture, dominating everything from the frat-boy segment to the old-man, damn-isn't-that-Beechwood-aging-tasty segment and everything in-between. But now it's Bud who's chasing culture; it has to try to re-establish itself as an American brewer in the minds of drinkers, and it has had no credible response to the craft segment. Not a whole lot more to say, just interesting.

The Dissident Takes to the Streets

A few weeks (months?) back, I mentioned Deschutes' newest foray into Belgian-style brewing: the Dissident. The press release just came out (though Bitter Truth readers already knew of it), and the release is scheduled for"the end of August." There's a strange kind of convergence about this news--last week we were debating the evolution of beer styles, with attention placed on Deschutes and Belgian styles, and then yesterday I mentioned Russian River Supplication, and now we have the Dissident, which the brewery describes thus:
Fermented for more than 18 months in isolation from the rest of the beers, The Dissident is a distinctive Oud Bruin, Flanders-style brown ale, with a fruity aroma and flavor, and the first wild yeast beer made by the award-winning Deschutes Brewery.

To give The Dissident its characteristic sour taste, the brewery used a wild yeast strain called Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) during fermentation. Known throughout the wine world for creating earthy undertones found in many European wines, Brett is used in the beer fermentation process to create strong flavors typically associated with Belgian beers. [I actually thought brett was a bane to wine and always welcomed in the manner of a hop farmer encountering powdery mildew, but hey, who cares about wine?--editor] Unlike English varieties that use traditional inoculated yeasts in the fermentation process, beers made with Brett take much longer to ferment and require additional barrel finishing time to balance the sour flavoring. In The Dissident’s case, this meant aging a portion of it in Pinot noir and Cabernet barrels for more than three months. Another key flavor component comes from the Central Washington cherries that were added 12 months ago.
Appropos of our discussion about the evolution of beer, I would like to draw your attention to what is almost a throwaway line in the press release:
Due to the wild yeast, The Dissident required special treatment and was held in isolation under lock and key apart from the rest of the brewery’s beers to avoid any cross-contamination. A secondary bottling line was also brought in from an outside contractor to facilitate The Dissident’s bottling and ensure the beer and wild yeast never touched the brewery’s machinery.
This is the kind of commitment to evolution that should make a beer drinker's heart sing. It means that the brewery didn't just casually decide to whip up a crazy Belgian style for kicks. It's intentional, it's experimental, and it's risky as hell. Whatever the beer ends up tasting like (and I hope it's great), this alone is worthy of praise. So: kudos to you, Deschutes.

Speaking of kudos, I'm really lovin' this label. I don't have a satori award for new labels, but we'd have quite a battle this year between Hop Czar and the Dissident if there was.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mark Your Calendar

Dunno if this has an Olympics tie-in, but Belmont Station is tapping the much-anticipated Russian River Supplication on Tuesday. It is a (Flanders?) brown ale "aged in Pinot Noir wine barrels for one year with sour cherries, Brettanomyces yeast, and Lactobacillus & Pedicoccus bacteria." Yes, bacteria--and it's intentional! It is a two-time GABF silver medalist, and I have heard it spoken of only in the sotto voce of those who know. Erase Pliny the Elder from your memory--this is not your pappy's strong ale (unless your pappy's a Flemish brewer).

Thanks partly to a harmonic convergence of brewing trends and also the lack of hops, this has been a banner year in Belgian experimentation in the US. By all accounts, Russian River is one of a handful of breweries that have attained some mastery over the art. Put it on your calendar--Tuesday the 12th. Actually, you better put it down as Wednesday. You wouldn't want to rush into anything. Go Wednesday, for sure. That way your trusty blogger will have gotten the lay of the land for you.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Denver Breweries & Pubs

So in 16 days I'll be touching down in Denver to blog about the Democratic Convention. Since the days will be extremely well-produced and wholly without sponteneity, I assume that there will be moments when I might sneak out to sample some of Denver's finest pours. It is, you know, the Napa of Beer. However, I'm pretty ignorant about the scene. Doing a Google search reveals six or seven places that look pretty close to the Pepsi Center. Anyone out there have recommendations? I expect to be without a car, so keep that in mind.
  • Wynkoop Brewing Co, 1634 18th St
  • Breckenridge Brewery, 2220 Blake St
  • Great Divide Brewing Co, 2201 Arapahoe St
  • Flying Dog Brewery,2401 Blake St # 2
  • Sandlot Brewery,2161 Blake St
  • Northstar Restaurant & Brewpub, 3200 Tejon St
I don't know how well to trust the Beer Advocate ratings, but it looks like Great Divide gets the highest scores. (Northstar is off the radar--just 11 reviews.) Of these, I'm most familiar with Gread Divide, which has distribution to Oregon. But I'm also interested if these are actually places you can go. Anyone familiar with Denver? Any place a must?

Crazy Eights

It is 8/8/08, and twice today, it will be 8:08. This has no beer relevance, but it's one of those things at which you nod your head when it passes.

Nodded? Good, back to regular business.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Trappist Ales: Chimay (Abbaye de Scourmont)

Chimay is the most well-known of the Trappist breweries, and most people who are beer fans will have had a glass--it's available at many grocery stores and you even see it on tap sometimes. One shouldn't construe this availability as evidence that it's a mass-market beer, though; Chimay is one of the most highly regarded brands in the world.

History
Compared to some of the other European monasteries, Chimay is but a spring chicken. The abbey at Scourmont (Chimay town) wasn't founded until 1850 very near the French border. They were early brewers, however, and started in 1862. One of the quirks of location is the groundwater of Chimay, which is very clear and free of minerals--producing the soft fullness for which the beer is famous. According to Jackson, the brewery needed to be brought back into production after WWII, and the monks brought in Jean De Clerck, who introduced the yeast strain still in use and formulated the basic versions of the three beers Chimay still brews.

Brewing Style
Chimay produces three styles of beer, "White" (a tripel), "Red" or Première (a dubbel), and "Blue" or Grande Réserve, a style unique to Chimay. The brewery uses about 10-15% wheat malt in each of its beers as well as dextrose--not the candi sugar characteristic of Belgian ales. Until the 1990s, the brewery used open fermentation. When they switched to tall, conico-cylindrical fermenters, the beers apparently lost complexity ("grievously," according to Jackson).

The recipes were developed in collaboration between the master brewer, Father Théodore, and Jean De Clerck in the two decades following WWII, and the final beer to join the line-up was White, in 1966. Still, the recipes change slightly. In addition to the change in fermentation, the hops also shift. Chimay surprisingly prefers American hops, and have used Galena in the past. They now use Cluster hops. Interestingly, they don't use whole hops but extract--because Chimay is designed to lay down and age, the monks prefer extracts, which hold their aroma and bitterness longer than whole hops.

Tasting Notes
Chimay is such an elegant beer. It has a heady, refined aroma and that rich, deep color; the head is a silky latte hue. There's a reason this beer sells well in the United States--it is so approachable, but neither tame nor simplistic. The flavor is a bit like desert--creamy and soft, vanilla notes and plum, and then the long finish, a little sharp with alcohol, just to remind you that this is an adult's beverage. Hops don't immediately announce themselves, but after a few sips, you realize they're actually quite assertive. Chimay is this way--you continue to find new depths. Later I found caramel and then cinnamon and then...

I don't know what the beer tasted like before they switched to closed fermentation--the change happened nearly 20 years ago. But if the Grande Réserve has suffered a "grievous" loss in the transition, it must have been an amazing beer. To me, Chimay is a confection--a glass of pure pleasure. It is excellent with cheese (which the monks of Sourmount also handcraft) but even better with chocolate. In fact, it could be that there's no better accompaniment. (Portlanders can experiment by going to a Pix Patisserie, where both chocolates and Chimay are available for side-by-side sampling.) Chimay's not the most sublime of the Trappists, but it's a world standard for good reason.

Stats
ABV: Red 7%, White 8%, Blue 9%
Hops:
Cluster hop extract (Yakima Valley)
Adjuncts: Dextrose (5%)
Rating: Grande Réserve A-
Available: Readily available at beer stores and many grocery stores.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Four Stages of Beer Evolution

There's an interesting discussion happening on the Trappist ales thread about American brewing evolution. Last night, Sally and I took a late-evening walk (mainly to beat the heat) and we got into this topic. I had a wee bit of a conceptual breakthrough I'd like to share. Let's start by setting up the question. In comments, Joe asks:
Let me pose a question: Would you like Deschutes to shelve Abyss for a year in order to properly pursue a barrel aged Belgian, or would you want to buy an Abyss alongside the best Belgium has to offer?
Let's back up a bit, because Abyss didn't emerge out of ... well, and abyss. It was the two-decade culmination of brewing evolution in Bend. To me, this is what that evolution looked like:

Stage One - Learning to Brew
Americans really didn't know what they were doing in the 80s. The breweries that got started weren't trying to compete with Fuller's and Guinness, they were trying to make decent beers. Almost exclusively, early breweries worked on English-style ales, because they were easiest and cheapest to brew. As beer drinkers, the standard we held breweries to in that era were "is this foul or not?" (Keep in mind that most of the brewers working in the micro industry then had never brewed professionally.) Among those beers that were not foul (certainly more than half, but something less than 100%), we began to find our palates and learn about styles. For the most part, breweries on the West Coast don't begin at stage one anymore--the apprenticeships that exist within established breweries produce brewers of skill and accomplishment.

Stage Two - Consistency
The second stage of brewing is being able to produce a line of consistent beers that meet the consumer's expectations and standards. These are beers brewed in recognizeable styles, or those that emerge out of consumer demand (Pyramid Apricot Ale, for example). There's nothing flashy about these beers, but they are respectable, enjoyable, and marketable. A good example is MacTarnahan's. Except for a few beers Brett Porter brewed in the late 90s, nothing coming out of this brewery set the world on fire. Redhook and Pyramid are other examples, as well as a host of brewpubs (the McMenamins are a case in point).

Stage Three - Mastery
Some of the breweries aren't satisfied with hitting solid Bs on their report cards. They strive to make beers that are in the argument for the style's best. Deschutes and Pelican are great examples. Deschutes' landmark beers are very traditional ales, but they're made at a level that elevates them above the less characterful lines of Redhook, for example. You don't necessarily shake your head in amazement when you tipple a Black Butte, but you do often smack your lips admiringly--it's just hard to find a tastier porter on the market. According to the Brewers Guild, there are roughly 90 breweries in Oregon, and just eyeballing it from memory, I'd say 20 have achieved mastery. The West Coast, due to the robust market here, has drinkers who support exceptional breweries and so we are over-represented in the country's slate of masterful breweries.

Stage Four - Evolution
The breweries that achieve mastery may begin to fiddle. They take what they've learned and alter an ingredient or change a method. They improvise and see what happens. Some of the experiments work, some don't, but the breweries learn from them and ultimately they may make a beer that is sublime and wholly original. Generally this evolution arises from the root style of the brewery. That's why Deschutes, although they're screwing around with Belgian styles now (with notably far less success than they've achieved elsewhere), have produced a few of these original beers. Deschutes has made probably 20 high-gravity special ales (Jubel 2000, Double Bale Quail, etc.) before they hit on a winner like Abyss. It is not a radical departure from a traditional imperial stout, but it's headed that way. What will emerge as the Abyss's grandchildren a decade from now? The success of Abyss is suggestive that evolution is under way at Deschutes. In some of the brewpubs around town, and in breweries across the country, styles are fraying at the ends as Americans innovate and dazzle. The fish are starting to leave the sea, but we don't know what the primates will look like in 50 years.

(One caveat here: I'd say evolution must follow mastery. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut sometimes, but breweries that don't understand what makes a masterful beer may make interesting experiments, but they're unlikely to hit upon the kind of genius that sparks an evolution in style. It's like the abstract artist who can't draw a dog. Sometimes swirls on a canvas aren't art. Sometimes a bunch of weird ingredients, a bourbon barrel, and an obscure strain of yeast just produce a weird, barrel-aged beer.)

So back to Joe's question. I would not like Deschutes to quit brewing Abyss (fat chance of that) to brew a standard Belgian. But I think this is a false choice. The beers in Deschutes regular line-up were, for the most part, available before Deschutes started brewing them. You could get a great pale, porter, stout, and bitter from England. Sure, they weren't made with NW hops, but that's hardly a variation worth mentioning. In order to achieve mastery, breweries have to stick with the extant styles. Hitting the mark on a maibock isn't easy. Mastering a maibock is even harder. The "Northwest style" beer isn't a new invention--it's a pretty faithful rendering of the English style.

However, I might like Deschutes to scrap Green Lakes, which I find uninspiring, so that they could fiddle with, say, a dubbel. If, in a decade or so, they had mastered brewing that dubbel, perhaps they would take what they know from that and combine it from what they know about brewing Bachelor Bitter and the Abyss, and wow me with something totally original.

The reason I'm so excited to see the Belgian styles come to America is because it opens up a whole new frontier of possibilities. If a brewery can brew both an exceptional English-style ale and an exceptional Belgian-style ale, it seems like a baby step to something we will be forced to call and indigenous American-style ale.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Trappist Ales: Rochefort (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint Remy)

I begin the tour of monastic beers with Rochefort, an ancient monastery in the French-speaking South. Actually, the town is Rochefort, the monastery is properly designated Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint Remy. The beers of Rochefort are straightforward--each is a similar rich, brown strong ale and they vary mainly in strength, all using roughly similar recipes. Monks employ the older system of degrees to designate this variance in strength--6º, 8º, and 10º. (For those familiar with original gravities, this is straightforward, the degrees corresponding to gravities of roughly 1.060, 1.080, and 1.100.) The most recent recipe in production is Rochefort 8, from 1955.

History
The monastery actually began life in 1230 as a convent; it didn't become a monastery until 1464. Brewing started in 1595, and monks cultivated hops and barley on the grounds. It went through a series of changes as splits, plagues, schisms, and wars came and went. The ancient monastery was sacked by Calvinists in 1568, and suffered similar ravages in the coming centuries (some bits survive from as far back as 1664). It's not clear how much brewing was happening during these centuries, but in 1887, the entire monastery began restoration. They completed the brewery in 1899--sans hop and barley fields.

Brewing Style
The beers of Rochefort are fairly simply made. They use a number of malts, including two pale malts, and others from around Europe, two hop strains, Hallertau and Styrian Goldings, and two yeast strains. Michael Jackson quoted Brother Antoine, who was the head brewer there when he visited in the 1990s: "Two of the pale malts, two of the sugars, two hop varieties, two yeast strains ... two of this and two of that; ... we like to keep it simple." They also use candi sugar in the boil, and this is what gives them control over strength. The result is a range of excellent beer, interesting and unique, but not particularly complex. In my opinion, Rochefort makes approachable beers in the lesser echelon of Trappist ales.

Tasting Notes
When I went on my shopping spree, I found only the Rochefort 8, the medial beer in the range. This puts Rochefort in a slight disadvantage, because with Chimay and Westmalle, I found the largest in their respective ranges. Rochefort 10 (which I've enjoyed in the past) is richer and creamier and hotter with alcohol, but not a radical departure, so I think my tasting of the 8 will suffice.

When you crack a bottle, the beer exhales robustly, just short of a champagne pop. It pours with lots of fizz, and the head foams up with big, watery bubbles. After these are burned off by the alcohol, and interesting tango ensues as the roiling bead tries to build the head back up while the alcohol keeps trying to burn it off. You are left with at least a skiff, and sometimes a full layer, until your last swallow.

The aroma is one of the nicest things about the beer--it is rich and raisiny, and provoked a feeling of wellbeing in me not unlike when I walk into a bakery. There is a touch of sugar but also something warm and earthy; very inviting. The palate is also sweet and raisiny, and as it rests on the tongue, is something like a liquid fruitcake--lots of winter fruits, a healthy warmth from rummy alcohol, and you can even find bread and nuts if you let your tongue soak long enough. Rochefort is effervescent, however, which makes it slightly cutting going down. This is the trade-off that comes with using sugar. The overall body isn't that dense, syrupy stuff you get in barleywines (though at 9.2, we're in barleywine strength), but the finish has a sugar hardness, like Coca Cola. The body is very nice--substantial, but not burly--so you can tell it's a bargain the monks are happy to have made.

I would recommend Rochefort in the evening, like a Scotch or port. It's not so heavy or sweet that it couldn't be enjoyed after a modest meal, but perhaps too much if you're stuffed. With its warmth and comforting notes, it's a great winter ale, and you would certainly not regret having it in place of a Wassail this December.

Stats
OG: 1.066 (6º), 1.083 (8º), 1.098 (10º)
ABV:
7.5% (6º), 9.2% (8º), 11.3% (10º)
Hops:
Hallertau and Styrian Goldings
Adjuncts: dark candi sugar
Yeast: two strains used in both primary fermentation and bottle-conditioning
Rating: For the 8º, a B+
Available: Imported by Merchant du Vin and readily available at import-beer stores. In Portland, you can find it at New Seasons in addition to specialty stores.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Trappist Ales

There is no reason Catholic monks should brew exceptional beer, and yet of the products produced by the Trappist monasteries of Belgium and Holland, three are regarded as world standards, one is arguably the best beer in the world, and none are less than excellent. I have recently returned to the monastic beers and have been tasting them in order for comparison, something I've never done.

American breweries are now beginning to tinker with the radical methods of the low countries--beer made with multiple yeast strains, using multiple fermentations, and with sometimes unexpected ingredients before being aged for sometimes long periods in wooden vessels. When you think of this kind of brewing, it makes sense that the monks would do it very well. They have the long view, not regarding beer as a commodity so much as another extension of God's work. They are in no rush to turn a buck, have no intention of becoming a multinational brand. The monks bring care and attention to their beers, and they have been perfecting them for decades. Considering these facts, it isn't surprising in the slightest that the would produce uniformly wonderful beer.

I'll review them in turn over the next few days. I have been looking at them with an eye to understanding what mkaes a Belgian ale tick, and what our own brewers need to do to match these standards. Since they also bring care and attention to their brewing, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to meet or exceed world standards within the next couple decades.

My Weekend

Enough said.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Roguish Website

A few weeks ago, I whinged about the terrible use of brewery websites:
The problem is that the sites are designed to sell rather than inform. It is not dissimilar to the experience I used to have as a paid writer when a brewery would send me on a tour with a PR flack. She would hustle me around to the things I didn't want to see and talk about things like "strong brand identification" that I couldn't care less about. Whenever we'd get near to something I'd like to see--like the brewery--I'd feel a firm hand on my arm and feel myself getting dragged off to look at the latest label mock-up or something equally uninteresting.
It is therefore with appreciation and thanks I note that the redesigned Rogue website rocks. The older version wasn't bad--it did have details on the beers and brewery--but it suffered from information creep and had become a shaggy-dog site. This new one is cleaner, the information is rich and the layout intuitive.

Rogue has always been proud to put its beer first and immodesty claims an almost transcendental mission: "Rogue is a small revolution, which expresses itself through handcrafted Ales, Porters, Stouts, Lagers and Spirits, and this is the way we conduct our business. The spirit of the Rogue brand, even the name, suggests doing things differently, a desire and a willingness to change the status quo." On the website, they are as good as their promise. Good job!

(Hat tip: Beer Northwest.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Oregon Beer Distributor

Following the news of distribution mergers (background here, further coverage here and here), I was pretty anxious about where the smaller companies might land. Consider this very good news:
Beverage distribution companies The Odom Corporation (Bellevue, WA) and Maletis Beverage (Portland, OR) have formed a joint venture called Odom-Maletis Beverage to enable combined expansion of beverage distribution services for suppliers and retailers. Their initial push will be into the Mid-Valley, Central and Southern Oregon areas currently not covered by either distributor.
We'll wait to see how all of this shakes out, but more competition is a good thing.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Belgian Boom

After posting about Upright Brewing yesterday, I started pondering the growing prevalence of Belgian-style beers in Oregon (a trend not unique to Beervana). In the 1980s, breweries were just reintroducing Americans to the diversity of beer. In Oregon, that was when pub culture re-emerged. The 90s and early 21st Century was devoted to mastering the craft (remember those infected beers of the eighties?) and beginning to develop regional styles. The West Coast love affair with hops probably began with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but in Oregon, it became super-charged with BridgePort IPA.

In the last few years, we've seen two emerging themes in brewing--barrel-aging and the use of Belgian methods and yeast. Barrel-aging was a no-brainer; it fit right into the already emerging mode of stronger, more intense beers. But Belgians styles are a right-turn; they don't fit into anything Northwest breweries have been doing in the past 30 years. Off the top of my head, these are some of the major forays:
  • BridgePort Supris and Stumptown Tart
  • Deschutes Anniversary Wit and Golden
  • Anything coming out of Ron Gansberg's magical laboratory
  • Double Mountain's regular fiddling with Belgian yeasts, including in their now-famous IRA
  • All the breweries that participate in Cheers to Belgian Beers
But Belgians are definitely outside the mainstream, and it's not clear which styles will find a market. When BridgePort released Supris a few years back, I was both impressed and mystified--would it find a market? (Apparently not: after its initial run, Supris vanished.) Double Mountain's IRA isn't really what we would call a Belgian--the yeast they use contributes some interest, but fans of traditional IPAs find it familiar. The sour frontier? Ron Gansberg is investing a huge amount of time and money into his creations, but it's a small scale. There are enough extant fans of the funk to keep him busy. But I wonder--will efforts like this create the foundation for a larger groundswell, or are Belgians strictly for the brewer and a few hardcore fans?

Time will tell. Predictions?