Three Creeks March Maltness 2013

Saturday afternoon Sara and I headed out to Sisters for the Three Creeks Brewing March Maltness 2013 event. This was a takeoff on March Madness, of course, with six beers from six different Oregon breweries in the competition.

Poster for Three Creeks March Maltness 2013

Poster for Three Creeks March Maltness 2013

The beers were presented in full taster glasses and brought out at the same time. Three Creeks provided small handouts with the names of the beers and their breweries, room for our tasting notes and a place to record our top four choices, in order of preference [Sorry. Failed to get a picture of it]. The winner will be announced once the first keg blows (Mon. afternoon it seems; see below), which means they are also selling sampler flights of the six beers to others that came after the actual event.

As we sampled the beers they brought around trays of tasty appetizers. There were Thai peanut chicken spring rolls, pear pesto gorgonzola pizza, Caprese bruschetta, and smoked salmon turnovers. All were quite tasty. The food was the main benefit of coming for the actual event. [The wife says thatI am to stress that the food was quite tasty.]

Placemat with descriptions of the six beers in the competition

Placemat with descriptions of the six beers in the competition

The beers were, in suggested order of tasting:

  • Lompoc (Portland) Brewdolph Belgian Red
  • Coalition (Portland) Off the Wagon Dunkel Rye
  • Three Creeks (Sisters) McKay’s Scottish Ale
  • Crux (Bend) Double Cross Strong Dark Belgian Ale
  • 10 Barrel (Bend) Doppelbock
  • Oakshire (Eugene) Black Moon Rye-Sin American Rye Stout

Most of them were rather tasty. I thought the Oakshire was reasonably good but it had a definite smoky taste not mentioned in the description. Smoked beers are such an acquired taste—I do like a few but must be in the mood—that I feel that it should always be noted in any description.

I believe there was a big problem with the Crux and had hoped to talk with Three Creeks head brewer Zach about it but he never made it over to our table. Keep in mind, as a Belgian-style strong dark ale it was my first pick based on style alone, even before tasting any of them. But sadly, it had an immense aroma and taste of “cleaning fluid” or turpentine or something like that. Now it was 12% ABV but we drink a lot of high ABV beers and this was not simply alcohol badly masked. And even if it was then it was still a problem. I don’t know if it was the beer itself, or simply the keg Three Creeks had, or a bad tap line for just that beer as the others did not have a hint of the problem, or what. It is shame because despite not being able to get past the—to me—highly offensive odor and taste I could tell that there was a darn fine beer behind it. The wife liked it just fine, which still baffles me. But the other two folks at our table didn’t like it at all from the first sip. I kept trying and as it warmed the offensive odor and taste lessened until when it was fully at room temp it was mostly gone. But by then my entire palate was awash in the odor and taste already. Whatever the issue was, it kept this beer out of the running.

[I just got back from a visit to Crux Fermentation Project to pick up some of their freshly released beers in bottles. I had a taste of the DoubleCross and it was perfectly fine. In fact, I grabbed two bottles of it, along with one of their porter. I chatted with the Crux bartender and he thinks perhaps it was my glass the other night. I realized that I never did smell or taste Sara’s or anyone else’s glass of DoubleCross. ::sigh:: I wish I had asked about it from one of the staff or else sampled Sara’s. Oh well. Another lesson, hopefully, learned.]

Here are the final results as posted on Three Creeks Facebook page on Monday afternoon:

Hey “March Maltness” enthusiasts. You voted and the results are in. It was neck and neck! Here’s your “Final Four” :

  1.  “Brewdolph” (Lompoc)
  2.  “Mckay’s Scottish Ale” (Three Creeks)
  3.  “Doppelbock” (10 Barrel)
  4.  “Off the Wagon” (Coalition)

Thank you to all who participated in our very first “March Maltness” and for making the event so fun and successful!

 Interestingly, I nailed it. [Of course, if my Crux had tasted like it is supposed to then my order would have been different.]

All in all, another excellent event from Three Creeks. My hat is again off to them. Thank you, Heidi, Mark, Zach and all involved Three Creeks staff, and all the other breweries who supplied beers for this event!

They are also having something similar in April they are calling IPApril. It isn’t an event per se but over 26-27 April (I believe) they will be having several different IPAs on tap from assorted PNW brewers with a similar kind of ranking system. Keep an eye out on their facebook page for details.

 

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. 😀