TCBC Beer 101

Saturday evening Sara and I attended Beer 101 at Three Creeks Brewery in Sisters. All in all, it was an enjoyable time. Zach, the head brewer, gave us a small talk and a handout on beer and brewing. It covered what beer is, the ingredients of beer and some details about those ingredients, the Reinheitsgebot and beyond, and beer styles.

Sign advertising TCBC Beer 101

TCBC Beer 101

We also received a taster tray of all 10 of their beers currently on tap and Zach provided an overview of what went into them, how they differed from each other when similar, and what he was trying to accomplish which each one.

TCBC Tap List on Saturday, 9 February 2013

TCBC Tap List on Saturday, 9 February 2013

We also got a tour of the brewhouse and a description of the brewing process from Zach (see pictures below).

Flight of 10 TCBC Beers

Flight of 10 TCBC Beers – In order as listed below, begins in back row left to right

The ten beers were: Knotty Blonde, Stonefly Rye, Ponderosa Pale, Firestorm Red, Hoodoo Voodoo IPA, Fivepine Chocolate Porter, Big Bad Sisters Coffee Stout, Hodag Cascadian Dark Ale, McKay’s Scottish Ale and Raptor Rye IPA.

Knotty Blonde is Three Creek’s version of the “lure ’em away from fizzy, yellow beer” or, as Zach put it, “an alternative to the big industrials.” It uses all Sterling hops, has a nice biscuit aroma and a thin body. Fairly tasty for its style. 4.0% ABV, 18 IBUs.

Stonefly Rye is a wheat beer but with 20% rye malt. It is an unfiltered, cloudy beer with a slight spice flavor. It might make a good transitional beer for those not yet ready for a full on weizen or wit. But, for me, as a fan of those types, while I appreciated the rye, I found it a bit lacking, primarily in its spiciness. 4.6% ABV, 28 IBUs.

Ponderosa Pale, if I heard correctly, uses Cascade, Crystal and Columbus hops. It has a citrus aroma and a grapefruit taste. 5.3% ABV, 50 IBUs.

Firestorm Red, which is hoppier than their regular amber, has a grapefruit and caramel taste. 5.8% ABV, 65 IBUs.

Hoodoo Voodoo IPA uses Centennial and Liberty hops for flavor and aroma and Columbus for bittering. Zach also said it was dry hopped but I did not catch which hops was used in that stage. Aroma and flavor of grapefruit, hops throughout. 6.2% ABV, 82 IBUs

Fivepine Chocolate Porter has 22 pounds of dark chocolate in each 10 barrel batch. Light cocoa aroma. Coffee taste initially, cocoa after warms. 6.2% ABV, 55 IBUs.

Big Bad Sisters Coffee Stout was previously described in this post and was just as tasty this time around. Sara even managed to swap one of her IPAs for another 101er’s coffee stout. 9.2% ABV, 60 IBUs.

Hodag Cascadian Dark has a malt bill like a typical IPA but then adds a couple of de-bittered dark malts. It uses Crystal, Columbus and Bravo hops and is also dry hopped. It has a grapefruit aroma and taste and I liked it a lot more once it had warmed up. 6.4% ABV, 75 IBUs.

McKay’s Scottish Ale uses a different, fruitier, yeast strain, whereas all of their other ales use the same American yeast strain. It uses Maris Otter malt for an earthy and nutty flavor and malted golden naked oats for a “sweet berry” flavor. It has an aroma of fresh baked bread and is fairly sweet. I found it quite tasty but also wishing it was a bit less sweet. I believe it was Sara’s favorite after the stout. 6.3% ABV, 25 IBUs.

Raptor Rye IPA. Sorry but I don’t have a lot of notes on this one. It was hard to hear at this point (see below), I was busy tasting earlier up the list, and I am not a big IPA fan (anymore). Dry hopped. Grapefruit aroma and taste. 6.2% ABV, 80 IBUs.

Barley mill

Barley Mill

Mash tun with the Kettle peaking out from behind on the right.

Mash tun with the Kettle peaking out from behind on the right.

Head brewer Zach and the mash tun with the kettle in the middle and fermenters in the background.

Head brewer Zach and the mash tun with the kettle in the middle and fermentation tanks in the background.

Heat exchanger used to cool the just boiled wort on its way to the fermenter.

Heat exchanger used to cool the just boiled wort on its way to the fermentation tank.

Fermentation tanks

Fermentation tanks

Fermentation tank close-up

Fermentation tank close-up

Bright tank from which beer is bottled or put into kegs.

Bright tank from which beer is bottled or put into kegs.

As I said above, it was an enjoyable afternoon and early evening. But. There was one problem and it was kind of a big one. Before the event started a large group of people had congregated around the pool table and were clearly having themselves a grand time playing pool and socializing. Lots of loud talking, occasional shouting, and high-fiving. Typical bar behavior. But this made it extremely difficult for many at the event to hear what Zach was saying. There was another brewery employee present who was able to take over the discussion at the table nearest the jolly revelers and Zach talked to the table we were at and another. Nonetheless, it was still difficult to hear much of what was said.

I am not sure that anyone is at fault here and as rude as I want to say that group’s behavior was I do not think they had any idea whatsoever that they were bothering anyone. This is certainly something Three Creeks will have to figure out for any future events, though. Either the events will need to move into the restaurant area somehow or, perhaps, the pool table will need to be put off limits during events such as this.

Sara and I had sat about as close as could be to where Zach was so we probably had the least issue with the noise but we still had some problems hearing. I have no doubt that some of the other folks in attendance were far less pleased with the situation. I am not sure what Three Creeks could have done at the time but it is something they will certainly have to consider for the future.

That said, it was a good event and a definite bargain for $10 each as the beer alone would normally cost much more than that.

Thanks again Three Creeks for another enjoyable event! We’ll be keeping our eyes open for an announcement when Zach pulls out the currently barrel-aging stout to blend with next year’s coffee stout. 😀

1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing

Yesterday afternoon we drove out to Sisters for Super Secret Date Night (more about that in a moment). Turns out Sara was taking us to the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing Co.

We drove out to Sisters a little early so we could browse at Paulina Springs Books. I picked up a copy of Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest, published in 2011. I have been eyeing it for a while now and finally snatched it up. I will review it but have no idea how soon as there are several other books in the review queue.

1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing

We got to Three Creeks minutes before the event started and there was plenty of room in the bar area where it was held. Eventually I’d say about thirty people were in attendance. It was clear that they were expecting appreciably more, which was later confirmed by one of our hosts when we signed up for another event in a few weeks. If you RSVP for something folks you really ought to try and make it whether or not you paid in advance as they probably went to a LOT of trouble for your sake. In this case, the chefs did an amazing job making some fairly (and extremely tasty) desserts. “Extra” beer can always be sold but it is much harder for the pub to offload all of those desserts.

This was the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing for Three Creeks and we, and others in attendance, are definitely looking forward to the 2nd. Our hosts for the evening were brewer Zach Butler, chef Mark Perry, and hostess Heidi Hausner, all of whom did a great job.

There were four pairings. The desserts were all full-size portions while the first three beers were ~4 oz. pours in taster glasses, with the last being a good 10 oz. in a snifter.

Menu for the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters

The menu for the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters

First up, the Raptor Rye IPA paired with an apple, pear and pecan strudel accented with cranberry raisins topped in butterscotch whipped cream.

The IPA was 6.2% ABV and 80 IBUs and with the rye it was well-balanced. It had a floral aroma and fruity hops flavor. I found it a tasty IPA and not excessively hoppy. I gave it 4 stars (out of 5). The strudel complemented the ale well but I found it almost mellowed the rye and hops too much. Still, they tasted quite good together.

1st pairing at the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing

Raptor Rye IPA and apple, pear & pecan strudel

Next up was the Dark Hollow Harvest Ale with a crĂšme caramel, a vanilla bean flavored flan with a light caramel ‘sauce’ and orange slices.

Their take on a late fall/early winter warmer had a slight malt aroma and was a decent version and drinkable. It was 6.5% ABV and 36 IBUs and I gave it 3.5 stars. As a pairing the dessert had almost the opposite flavor this time. The hops in the harvest ale were definitely brought to the forefront and it almost seemed like the rye from the IPA was transferred in. It really was kind of odd. Again, they were tasty together but it was not the effect I was expecting. Sara and I both agreed that the pairing might well have been better if the flan had a graham cracker crust; that is, if it had been treated as more of a cheesecake. We think the graham crackers would have brought out the malts more.

2nd pairing at the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing

Dark Hollow Harvest Ale and CrĂšme Caramel

Third, was a barrel-aged Crosswalk Imperial Porter. It was a blend of about 60% whiskey barrel-aged (9 months) Crosswalk Imp. Porter, 20% non-aged Crosswalk, and 20% Fivepine Chocolate Porter per Zach. It was 10% ABV and 66 IBUs.

Whiskey notes in the aroma and whiskey, tobacco and chocolate in the taste with a hint of vanilla from the oak. I gave it 4.5 stars and my opinion of Three Creeks beers definitely went up a notch or two. The dessert pairing was a chocolate hazelnut torte filled with strawberry buttercream, covered in a bittersweet chocolate ganache, with slices of fresh strawberry on the side. It seems I failed to make any notes on the pairing as I was enjoying it too much. They were exquisite together! Even the strawberry slices and beer paired wonderfully. This was definitely Sara’s favorite pairing of the day and it was probably mine too. (I’m not good at favorites, particularly when there is more than one good thing around.)

3rd pairing at the 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing

Barrrel-aged Crosswalk Imperial Porter and chocolate hazelnut torte

Last but certainly not least, was the Imperial Big Bad Sisters Stout. They described it thusly: “This huge imperial stout was brewed with 10 different malts and all Cascade hops, then infused with 7.5 gallons of cold pressed Sumatra coffee from our friends at Sisters Coffee Company.” Zach went on to explain that Sisters Coffee basically cold pressed 5 lbs. of Sumatran beans into 7.5 gallons of coffee which was then added to the bright tanks. Each snifter had the equivalent of about 8 oz. of strong coffee in it!

The stout had a massive aroma of coffee and the taste of coffee was even more massive. But it was good, strong coffee and not burnt at all like so many coffee stouts seem to be, including some with cold pressed coffee. Whatever the brewers and coffee folks did was correct in this case. The ABV was 9.2% and the IBUs 80.

The pairing was an Imperial stout infused chocolate mousse cake using chocolate reclaimed from brewing their Fivepine Chocolate Porter and accented with a bittersweet chocolate covered espresso bean. They were also exquisite together.

4th pairing at 1st Annual Beer & Dessert Pairing at Three Creeks Brewing

Imperial Big Bad Sisters Stout and Imperial stout infused chocolate mousse cake

Zach, the brewer, had reminded folks to let the stout warm up some so the malts and other flavors could come through. Well, we were there for quite a while nursing these massive stouts and although they warmed up plenty it was still mostly coffee in the aroma and taste. But that is not a complaint! This was possibly the best coffee stout I have ever had. Clearly, with this much actual coffee in it it isn’t an everyday coffee stout but it was still a 5 star beer without a doubt.

By the way, this all was only $15 a person. The last beer was easily an $8 (or more) beer. This was, in essence, a steal.

Super Secret Date Night

Back at the start I mentioned Super Secret Date Night. It is something Sara started several years ago when we were still dating. One of us plans a date that we know, or at least highly believe, the other will really enjoy and we put it on the calendar as “Super Secret Date Night” and let the other know it is scheduled. Often the other won’t know until we arrive what the event or outing is; sometimes they learn because of where we’re heading to get there. This time Sara planned the outing. We have gone to concerts and all sorts of things this way. It is really a simple thing but adds just that little extra bit of spice to being out together.

Brewey/Brewpub Events

I have been thinking I go to too many Deschutes events and may be neglecting the other breweries/brewpubs but the truth seems to be that many don’t have these kinds of events very often. Few of them have the kind of space needed for anything large or even to be able to segregate a group of 25 or less. That’s kind of a shame in my opinion. I realize they each have their own niches–e.g., Silver Moon has a lot of live music, Boneyard has no space–and that is a good thing. I just would like to see all of them engaging other parts of the community in more and varied ways. Entice me to your establishments and events, folks; help me drink your beers.

On this note, Sara and I are going back to Three Creeks on Saturday, February 9th (weather cooperating) for TCBC Beer 101. There will be a presentation from brewer Zach Beckwith on the basic ingredients in beer and the brewing process and tour of the brewery. This will be followed by a sensory analysis based on a full flight of the 10 beers currently on tap. The cost is $10/person, which is again a steal as the flight alone would cost you $15.

Zach was saying last night that they hope to have some kind of event like these each month. I say kudos to Three Creeks Brewing. Keep up the good work.