Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to Un-Squash Your Autumn Beer Selection

Dark, Robust and PERFECT for Fall
Fall is probably my favorite season. The weather gets crisp, the Oregon trees present their spectacular color changes, and the best holiday EVER--Halloween--delivers frights and chills galore, but there's one thing about Fall that I positively dread. What could possibly ruin my awesome Autumnal vibes, you ask? PUMPKINS! I absolutely despise pumpkins! They are containers for the souls of the damned! Hard, demonic, waxy shells filled with slimy seeds and stringy guts! GAAAAAAAH!

Hey, I don't want you to think I'm some kind of wacky, out-of-control anti-pumpkin crusader. I don't mind the occasional decorative gourd or two. I can even enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie, given the right amount of whipped topping, but what I can't enjoy--and refuse to allow in my fridge--is PUMPKIN BEER! Why? Why, people? What is this desire to ruin a completely decent batch of beer by tossing copious amounts of gourd-y goo into the boil? Noooooo!

Believe me, I tried to get into this seasonal craft beer trend. Over the years, I've choked it down by the bomber and glass. I've found that the best compliment I can bestow on a pumpkin beer is that it doesn't taste like pumpkin at all. Finally, after decades of gagging and unceremonious drain-pouring, I gave up. I decided to be true to myself--and my taste buds--and just shun the stuff.

Okay, enough ranting about the horrors of pumpkin beer. I'm here to provide support for my fellow pumpkin shunners out there--and I know you're out there...somewhere. The question: what's in the cold case for US when those leaves start to fall? The answer: PLENTY!

Today, I'm featuring three local Portland beers that are more than appropriate Autumnal libations. These beers are all sufficiently dark, robust and flavorful for the season at hand, and not a pumpkin taste anywhere near these beautiful brews. 

4 & 20 Imperial Black IPA from Culmination Brewing Company. Jet black in color with a creamy mocha head. Looking into a pint of this hop-tastic beer is like staring into the abyss--and finding the abyss staring back at you. To me, this is a perfect Fall beer. The 9.5% ABV certainly helps take the chill off when the temps drop in the evening. The sweet, roasted malt is expertly balanced against an array of citrus and pine hops flavors. The Pacific Northwest hops profile of Simcoe, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial makes this the quintessential Oregon Fall beer for me.

Black Widow Porter from McMenamins. This offering truly is a Fall seasonal. I look forward to Black Widow every year and the good folks at McMenamins were kind enough to send me a bomber. Of course, Kennedy School is right down the street from my house (google it) and I love to get this beer poured from the tap. It's always superb and this year is no exception. Deep, dark brown color with a creamy, tan head, it is a lovely beer to behold. The rich, roasted malt flavor is the star of show. Robust, but smooth and highly drinkable. Hints of cocoa nibs and coffee. Once again, PERFECT for Fall.

Stubs Old Crow Hazelnut Porter from Alameda Brewing Company. This beer has an appropriately spooky, Halloween-ish label. Crows are generally creepy. Gratefully, the beer inside the bomber is not creepy at all. This porter has rich, robust, roasted malt flavor with the subtle taste of roasted hazelnuts in the mix. It's a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a dark tan head. Bitter cocoa and espresso. The nuttiness gives this beer a Fall feeling.

Alrighty! I think I have my fridge sufficiently stocked up with enough non-pumpkin beers. Perhaps I'll be much less annoyed when I see all the space those jack-o-lantern brews will be hogging up on the shelves. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Block 15 Releases Late Fall Bottled Offering, Cosmic Cold Brew

(Photo courtesy of Block 15)

A stout conditioned with Ethiopian Zonegediyo Gedeb coffee from Bespoken Coffee Roasters

Corvallis, OR — Today Block 15 Brewing Company releases its late fall seasonal, Cosmic Cold Brew, available bottled and on tap at bottle shops and beer bars around Oregon. Block 15 worked alongside their south Corvallis neighbors, Bespoken Coffee Roasters, to elevate their classic stout Nebula with additional malt and a 24-hour cold extraction on washed Ethiopian Zonegediyo Gedeb coffee. Both varietal and roast profile were selected to complement the base beer with delicately fruity notes, moderate acidity, and a delightful aroma that seamlessly melds into their stout's rich chocolate and caramel roast character.

Block 15 plans on releasing future variations of Cosmic Cold Brew, featuring additional ingredients that are inspired by classic coffee drinks from around the world.

Grains: 2-row, Maris Otter, Chocolate Malt, C120, Chocolate Wheat, C-35, Roast, Flaked oats
Hops: Columbus, Crystal
Adjunct: Washed Ethiopian Zonegediyo Gedeb coffee beans
Yeast: London Ale III
ABV: 7%
FG: 1.019

Cosmic Cold Brew is available in 500mL bottles featuring artwork from artist Patricia Smith. 

About Block 15 Brewing Company
Offering unique hop forward ales, crisp lagers, barrel-aged rarities and one of the Northwest’s most extensive wild & sour programs, Block 15 produces a range of artfully crafted beers, brewed with a nod toward fresh ingredients and fresh thinking. Established in 2008, and brewer-owned from day one.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hopworks Urban Brewery - Abominable Winter Ale (2016)

Have you tried this yeti?
I'm trying my best to stay hunkered down while the pumpkin beers take over every cold case in town. Gawd! They're everywhere! It's truly my least favorite beer season. Just in case you didn't know, I believe putting squash in beer is an abomination! An ABOMINATION, I say! If you like pumpkin beer, well, you are out of your gourd. Heh, heh, I crack myself up.

Gratefully, the seasonal winter beers will be on the way soon. Even more gratefully, Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) has gotten on the stick and already released their most popular seasonal beer, Abominable Winter Ale. I love the stuff and this year it's better than ever!

It's good! The SALES SHEET describes Abominable as a "Winter IPA". 7.3% ABV. 70 IBU's. Munich and light caramel malts. An organic Northwest-hop medley that creates complex floral, spicy, and citrus hoppiness. What's my two cents? Let's find out...

The beer poured into my glass from a bomber (also available in pint-sized cans) a hazy, reddish amber color with a thick, creamy, light mocha head. The head had great retention, dissipating slowly and leaving a solid cap and webs of lacing behind.

Aroma was citrus hops and caramel malt. Pine. Floral and herbal notes.

Taste followed the nose. Resinous pine. Indistinct citrus: orange, lemon and grapefruit. Lucious, earthy malt flavor. Herbal spiciness. Sweet malt flavor expertly balanced against a bitter hops punctuation that perked up the taste buds after every sip. Notes of tropical fruit and pear.

Medium mouthfeel with a bit of body to it. Good carbonation.

Overall, this is an amazing IPA. Layers of complex flavor to continually delight the palate. SO good. Virtually perfect and enough to earn a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4. Plenty of taste and a terrific distraction from the heinous atrocity of pumpkin awfulness assaulting us right now.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hopworks Urban Brewery (with Patagonia Provisions) - Long Root Ale

This afternoon, I was fortunate enough to try one of the newest and most interesting beers in Portland, Hopworks Urban Brewery's Long Root Ale. What's so interesting about it, you ask? Beer is beer, you say? Well, have you ever heard of Kernza? I didn't think so, Mr/Ms Smarty-Tarty Pants. This tasty pale ale is brewed with copious amounts of Kernza. Wouldn't you like to know what Kernza is? No, it's not that MMA fighter who got KO'd at Moda Center last Saturday night. Kernza is almost as tough, though.

Kernza is a perennial grain that is produced via organic regenerative agriculture. Basically, unlike wheat and most other grains, Kernza will keep growing back, year after year after year. No replanting necessary. The roots grow deep into the ground (thus the name Long Root Ale), which helps prevent soil erosion AND allows the plant to grow quite well without pesticides, thank you very much. There's even some speculation that if grown in enough quantities, Kernza could help remove carbon from the atmosphere and reverse global warming. Hey, I ain't no scientist! All I know about is drinking beer, but this sure sounds like a super hero of a plant to me!

For more coherent information about Kernza than I can provide, check out the video HERE.

Hopworks has partnered with Patagonia Provisions to distribute this sustainable, organic beer at Whole Foods markets throughout the West Coast, starting today, in pint-sized cans. Long Root Ale is also available on tap at all Hopworks locations. 

I really enjoyed the flavor of this beer. The Kernza actually adds something unique. It's a little spicy like a rye beer. It has great head retention and foam like a wheat beer. The flavor is lightly nutty. It's kind of difficult to put an accurate descriptor on it... Can we say it has a distinctive Kernza flavor? That's probably the best I can do, and you'll have to try it for yourself.

This one is definitely different and very much worth a try. It's very drinkable. Many pale ales are too hop-wimpy for my liking. Long Root Ale has an appreciable hops flavor that keeps on giving. I'm giving Long Root Ale a BeerGuyPDX rating of 4 crushed cans out of 4. Organic, sustainably produced, eco-conscious; you can't get much more PDX than that and it makes me proud that Hopworks is showcasing this very Portland beer across the Pacific Coast.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Wayfinder Beer Is Worth Exploring

Portland's Newest Brewery Opens Today with an All-Star Line-Up

Bring together the food, beer and business acumen behind Double Mountain Brewery, Sizzle Pie and Podnah's Pit and what do you get? One helluva awesome new Portland brewery, that's what! Wayfinder Beer opened its doors the the public today. but I was very fortunate to get a sneak peek at the place and their most excellent offerings on Thursday. I was thoroughly impressed. EVERYTHING is spot on; from the decor, the space, the beer, the food, the cocktails, and...did I already mention the beer and food? 

Let's start with the beer, shall we? According to Charlie Devereux (Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom), the beer will be "lager-centric", meaning that Wayfinder intends to carve its niche in the Portland beer scene by concentrating on lagers--but with a Pacific Northwest twist, of course. The brewing operation is headed by lager specialist Kevin Davey, formerly of Firestone Walker, Gordon Biersch and Chuckanut Brewing. The current taplist is an array of collaborative beers that were brewed with a stellar list of established local brewers (Baerlic, Breakside, Hopworks, 54° 40', Widmer). I got to sample them all and I was certainly not disappointed.

How about a cocktail? I must say that an issue I have with most brewery taprooms is that they typically only serve beer. Great for me, but my better half, Mrs. BeerGuyPDX, is not a big fan of beer. I know! Crazy, right? If you have a similar issue, never fear, Wayfinder is here! They have an appropriately appealing cocktail line-up for the distilled spirits lover in your life.

Food? Come on, do you think the guys behind Sizzle Pie and Podnah's Pit could screw that up? Heck no! They have a wood-fired Argentine oven at Wayfinder Beer. The kitchen has an awesome concentration on smoked meats, and they make their own sausage and cured meats in-house. Wow! I left with my beard smelling of smoky deliciousness. Kept me hungry for the rest of the night.

The brewing operation has four bright, shiny new tanks and plenty of room for more. The indoor restaurant and bar areas are spacious and inviting, and there is a HUGE outdoor patio. The decor is relatively spartan but the warm wood and well-designed nooks give the place a homey feel, nonetheless. I can imagine having an intimate beer or two with a gathering of friends and not feel like we're in a cavernous beer hall.

Wayfinder Beer is located at 304 SE 2nd Street, an area on Portland's waterfront that was, in decades past, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the PNW. It is definitely an up and coming neighborhood now, but still with enough industrial grit and grime to provide some character and a glimpse of Portland's nefarious past.

I'm already recommending Wayfinder Beer to Portland beer tourists as a must visit, and they just opened up for business today. This is a brewery to watch and I'm expecting big things.