Saturday, August 29, 2015

BridgePort Brewing Company - Tilikum Crossing Orange Line IPA

Got a ticket to ride?
There are a lot of things about our city that make us Portlanders proud. There are also quite a few things that we like to ceaselessly complain about. One thing that fits into both of those categories is our public transportation system. My goodness...where do I even start?

Portland's public transportation system, TriMet, is top notch. It's a combination of light rail (known as the MAX), streetcars and buses that can get you anywhere you need to go in the Portland metro area and beyond. $2.50 will get an adult rider a ticket for any of the three modes of transportation for 2 1/2 hours of use. An all-day pass costs five bucks. I pay $100 for an unlimited monthly pass. When you consider payments, gas and insurance that's cheaper than running a car any way you look at it.

Portlanders are also very concerned about pollution, energy use and sustainability. It's what we do en masse. We care about the environment and many of my neighbors have shunned individual automobiles (I wish more would) and committed to full-time use of public transit to get to work.

Ah, but we Portlanders are a fickle lot. We spend as much time complaining about the state of our public transit system as we do riding it. It's never on time. It often breaks down. We have to rub elbows with smelly weirdos. It costs too much. It's poorly run. Blah, blah, blah. We're never satisfied. It's the Portland way. Don't judge us. You just wouldn't understand.

Recently, our light rail system was expanded to reach a greater number of citizens in the 'burbs. The MAX Orange Line is set to open later this month, providing service out to the city of Milwaukie from Portland State University in SE Portland. A new transit bridge was built to make it possible--the first new bridge to span the Willamette River in 40 years. It's kind of a big deal.

The Bridge was named Tilikum--don't you dare laugh--which is a native Chinook word meaning people, tribe or relatives. The bridge is strikingly beautiful and will carry thousands of Portland commuters across its span by foot, bike, train, streetcar and bus. Click HERE for photos and more information.

This is Portland, so naturally, a special beer needed to be created for the Tilikum Crossing and Orange Line inaugural. Who better to produce that beer than Portland's OG craft brewery, BridgePort Brewing? BridgePort did it up right with their very first White IPA, and they named it Tilikum Crossing Orange Line IPA.

I purchased a bomber of Tilikum Crossing at Fred Meyer for $7.49. It's a limited release brewed with Belgian yeast, orange peel and 25% wheat. It was dry-hopped with Lemondrop Hops and comes with an ABV of 6%.

The beer poured into my pint glass a hazy, golden orange color with a clumpy, foamy white head. The head rose up to a full finger thick and dissipated at a moderate rate. A full cap was left behind, along with some spotty lace in the glass. Quite a lovely beer upon initial pour and inspection.

Aroma was lemony hops and biscuity malt. Spicy, herbal Belgian yeast. Floral notes.

Taste followed the nose. Lemon and orange flavors. Bready, biscuity malt. Crisp, clean wheat. Mildly bitter, lemony hops on the finish.

Medium to slightly thinner mouthfeel. Good carbonation. Dry finish. Those lemony hops and Belgian yeast flavors left subtly behind on the palate at the end. Nice.

Overall, this is an easy drinking White IPA. I've never been too wild about this style, but it works for me. Good stuff and an excellent representation of the grace and smooth lines of the Tilikum Crossing Bridge in liquid form. I'm giving this beer a respectable BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.


Wolf's Cane Shake of the Week: TOO SOON for Pumpkin Beer!

Ding dang it!
Due to a recent medical mishap that I'm slooooowly recovering from, I need to use a cane to steady myself and/or keep from falling into the gutter face first. I know, I know, I'm old and infirm. What ya gonna do? I put hot rod flame stickers on it, a la House, but there's really no cool factor to a cane, no matter how jauntily I try to walk down the street with it.

I really only need the cane when I'm ambling to the bus stop or find myself at a place where I need to stand for a long period of time. No big deal, but I figure that if I'm going to have this damn cane around for a while, I might as well put it to full use.

Those who know me already have me appropriately pegged as a grumpy, old crank. Now, I have a cane that I can shake at those excessively tatted and Swiss cheese-ily pierced hipster kids when they park in front of my house or play that crazy rave music too loudly. My gawd! How do they listen to that crap? DANG KIDS!

Wait, did that lady in the Berkies just let her overly-coiffed lapradoodle crap on the parkway without cleaning it up? Hey, lady! Yes! I'm shaking this cane in YOUR general direction! EEEE, OHHH, COUGH!

What? Portlandia is filming in my neighborhood again? Git the hell outta here, you Hollyweirdos! See this cane shakin', Fred and Carrie? WHEEZE, SPUTTER!

As you can tell, I'm having a lot of fun with my cane shaking, which has led me to create a new segment for my blog called Wolf's Cane Shake of the Week.

Today, I'm shaking my cane at the brewers who are putting their pumpkin beers out before the summer is even officially over. I saw several in the cold case at Fred Meyer today. What the hell? I'm not a big pumpkin beer fan to begin with, I'm just sayin', but this is ridiculous! Fortune Magazine posted an article about it this week and it appears these wily but unscrupulous brewers have a strategy to get their pumpkins in our faces as early as possible. It's a CONSPIRACY, I tell ya! Call Art Bell! Get Portland-hatin' Glenn Beck on the phone!

Pumpkin beers have long been "seasonal" brews, and I think it's important to keep them in the appropriate SEASON, which is FALL. It's the same kind of "seasonal creep" that we've seen from retailers for years. Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise hit the shelves earlier and earlier all the time. It ruins the mood of these special holidays when the decorations are up so soon that they get sun-faded and dust-coated. COME ON!

Brewers, please stop trying to get the jump on each other and come to some kind of mutual understanding about the release date of pumpkin beers. Can we do that? I would be more than happy to arbitrate the situation, cane in fist, if that's what it takes. At least, wait until the first week of October. Um-kay? Don't make me keep shaking this cane at ya!

I suppose many of you folks who enjoy pumpkin beers are tickled to death to see your gourdy, vegetal favorites in stores this early. Why, why do you love these odd brews that so often taste like somebody spoiled a perfectly good beer by plunking a piece of gooey pumpkin pie into it? WHY? I'm shaking my cane at you right now...

Okay, that's enough for now...my shoulder is getting sore and I either have to swap cane shakin' arms or take a break. Time for my nap, anyway. STOP IT ALREADY WITH THEM THERE EARLY PUMPKIN BEERS! Thank you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gigantic Brewing Company - Ume Umai

Plums and rice and malt, oh my!
Portland's Gigantic Brewing Company puts out some very interesting label art. Their beer is pretty darn exceptional, too, so it's definitely not one of those "lipstick on a pig" kind of deals. The aesthetic of the label is typically on par with the craftsmanship inside the bottle. For me, it provides just a little bit more excitement whenever they have a new release. Neato, keeno! Check out this collection of labels on Gigantic's website

Gigantic's Ume Umai is a beer brewed with plums and black rice. The label depicts two octopus-encrusted Samurai dudes clobbering each other with...octopus fists. I'm not sure what that's all about, but it looks pretty cool, nonetheless. This 7.5% ABV beer is described as follows:

Inspired by the Japanese flavor palate, we combined plums, black rice and pilsner malt to make a unique beer experience. Brewed "dry" in the Asian manner, Ume Umai is fruity, yet earthy and above all refreshing and delicious.
The beer poured from bomber to glass a hazy, peach/orange color. The thin. white head rose up to about a 1/4 inch and dissipated quickly. A light ring of lacing was left behind.

Aroma was stone fruit, apple and pear. Biscuity malt. Light spice and herbal notes in the background.

Taste was plums and sweet malt, backed up with tart apple. Subtle layers of complexity seemed to build with each sip. Interesting. The flavors really blossomed as the beer warmed up. No hint of alcohol. This is an easy drinker, but I definitely recommend sipping and savoring it for a while. 

Medium mouthfeel. Light carbonation. Dry finish but with a light creaminess that's definitely different.

Overall, this is certainly a unique brew. I can't even think of something to compare it to...nope, it's pretty much in a category of it's own. Really nice and I would drink it again. I'm giving Ume Umai a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 1/2 crushed cans out of 4.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Small Town Brewery - Not Your Father's Root Beer

Not root beer, but is it BEER?
I've been hearing a lot about Small Town Brewery's Not Your Father's Root Beer. Some people have been telling me that it's awesome and that I MUST try it. Others have described it as putrid, heinous swill. I really had no intention of ever trying it because I loath gimmicks. LOATH them. Also, there was no way in h-e-double toothpicks I was going to plunk down more than ten bucks for a six pack of something that I would end up pouring down the drain.

TRADER JOE'S TO THE RESCUE!

Trader Joe's sells singles of just about every beer on their shelf. Thus, I was able to buy a solo 12 ouncer for a buck fiddy. Even I can afford that.

First, I did a little online research about Small Town Brewery. It seems their provenance as a "craft brewery" is a bit...sketchy. Hey, who knows about anything you read on the interwebs? You can't believe anything nowadays. (This is the please don't sue me disclaimer.) However, I read one article that linked Small Town Brewery's primary investor to the company responsible for Four Loko. Remember that stuff? The alleged psychosis-inducing, high ABV, caffeinated concoction that was banned in a number of states? Somehow, I don't find that very hard to believe. Just sayin'.

Not Your Father's Root Beer is clearly just an alcohol fortified soda pop. The one I tried came in at 5.9%. Apparently, there are also HIGHER ABV versions of the stuff. Yikes!

I'm not going to give this stuff a serious review. Come on! I must say, it tasted pretty good. It was like A&W with an alcohol rasp at the end. I can't imagine what the higher ABV versions taste like. Same root beer taste, but way more...burning.

At least this stuff is being marketed toward the higher-end craft beer consumer and not stacked up in 24 ounce cans in the 7-11 cold case. There appears to be a level of responsible salesmanship involved, I'll give them that. I doubt you'll see too many kids (illegally) buying this brew at it's present price point.

I do have to warn you all that although it went down easy and tasted a-okay, the stuff gave me one mother of a headache! I get the same kind of temple throbbing pain whenever I drink wine, too, so take this caveat for what it is. Your experience may differ.

I would never buy this stuff again. Why not just dump a couple of shots of Everclear into some root beer? Personally, I like 100 proof Southern Comfort in root beer...doesn't give me a headache. In any case, lots of folks like Not Your Father's Root Beer, so what the hell do I know? I'm giving it the coveted Golden Turd Award. A brew so bad, it's good!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lagunitas Brewing Company - Imperial Pils

The king of craft beers?
Today, I'm drinking an Imperial Pils by Lagunitas Brewing Company. I picked up a 22 oz. bomber of this brew at New Seasons for $3.99. I spent a lot of time lurking about the beer aisle at that store this afternoon--I just couldn't decide--and then wouldn't you know, I forgot the main item I went there to get. Sorry, Merry the Wonder Beagle, papa didn't bring home your dog food, but I did bring home the beer!

This beer comes with an ABV of 8.6%. That's a heavy hitter, for sure. So...is it pilsener, or pilsner? And what's the difference? The label of this beer calls itself a "pilsener". Let's do some googling, shall we?

According to what I was able to gleen from the interwebs, there are three types of pilsners: A German Pilsner, a Bohemian Pilsener (with the extra E) and a Classic American  Pilsner. I found articles with lengthy descriptions of each style, but I'm lazy and didn't want to read them all. Basically, from what I could ascertain by applying the Evelyn Woodhead Speed Reading Method, the Bohemian Pilsener is brewed with Czech hops and the German Pilsner style is the Bohemian Pilsener adapted to brewing conditions in Germany. The American version arrived in the USA along with immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them when they settled in America. Prohibition literally killed the style and it has no real resemblance to the crap macro brewers manufacture under the monikers pilsner or pils.

Okay, enough with the learnin' and on to the drinkin'. How is this Imperial Pils?

The beer poured from bomber to fancy pilsener glass a clear, golden yellow color with a bright, white head. The head rose up beautifully to two full fingers thick. That head was clumpy and creamy and dissipated slowly. A full cap and thick webs of lacing were left behind all over the glass. What a nice presentation, which struck me as quite...imperial.

Aroma was grainy, biscuity malt and mild, lemony, herbal hops up front. Floral notes and some booziness.

Taste followed the nose. Lemon and orange citrus hops. Sweet, grainy malt. Bitter hops lingered at the end providing a good balance against the sweet. A bit of an alcohol burn at the end.

Medium mouthfeel with good carbonation. Dangerously easy to drink. No alcohol rasp. How they do that? 

Overall, this is like a premium high ABV malt liquor. All the good stuff but no heinous alcohol or adjunct/additive residue on the finish. A couple of these bombers could get the average drinker in some real trouble real fast. The low price is a wonder, too. I'm surprised hipsters aren't buying this readily available, seasonal brew by the caseload.

I like it! I'm giving Lagunitas Imperial Pils a BeerGuyPDX rating of 3 crushed cans out of 4.