Loving Deschutes, Firestone Walker and Fremont

I do not do this near often enough, so I want to pass on some of my current beer love which was prompted by a lovely lunch down at the pub yesterday.

Deschutes

Just want to give a shout out to the Deschutes Bend Public House, and Andrew in particular, for a grand lunch yesterday. Had a tasty salad and tasted 3 amazing beers and also had a taste of the production Pacific Wonderland on draft (3rd version for me; 2nd favorite).

Salad on plate, 2 taster glasses of beer, a pint of beer and a pint of water.

Black barleywine on left, Kaizen Cream Ale almost gone, and a pint of The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA

Stopped in for The Oregon Tr’Ale IPA and had tasters of Kaizen Cream Ale and Black Barley Wine. All were exquisite. The Oregon Tr’Ale is a collaboration between several local breweries (The Central Oregon Brewers Guild) for the American Hop Convention held just recently in Bend. It uses Mecca Grade malt and experimental hops from the Willamette Valley.

Deschutes, et al. The Oregon Tr'Ale bottle label

All photo credit belongs to Deschutes Brewery. Borrowed (and slightly cropped) from this tweet: https://twitter.com/DeschutesBeer/status/821881154349441024

Andrew always takes great care of me and I sincerely appreciate him and all of the staff at the Public House. Cheers!

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pubic House brewhouse on The Abyss 2016 release day (16 December 2016)

The other two shout outs I want to give are to the two breweries I wish I were far closer to: Firestone Walker and Fremont.

I think of them as roughly equidistant—as in, far removed from here—but I guess they are not, in a stricter sense. According to Google maps (various routes rounded) it is ~700 miles to Paso Robles, CA (our main FW destination) from Bend or ~800 to Buellton, CA (my desire but not wife’s) and only ~330 to Seattle, Earth for Fremont.

Firestone Walker

We (the wife and I) have been loving Firestone Walker vintage beers—the “boxed beers”—since just after getting to Bend in 2012. We buy more FW “prestige” beers each year than Deschutes, since before now there simply were more FW ones (which we love) and now the Big D [my moniker for Deschutes; they are comparatively “big” in the craft beer world] is stepping up with The Abyss variants and more Pub Reserve series and such. Our taste buds and other sensory apparatus love it. Our pocketbooks do not.

Bottle, snifter full of beer, and box for Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale

But Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Sucaba [on hiatus this year], the Anniversary blends, Helldorado, Velvet Merkin, highly lamented Double DBA …, even the recently late and lamented Wookey Jack (perhaps my favorite black IPA/Cascadian dark). I have also loved the Luponic Distortion series. Um, where is #4 though?

Back of my wife's head taking a photo of Firestone Walker Helldorado glass and bottle with her iPad

Sara taking a picture of 2015 Helldorado blond barleywine

But those boxed beers from FW?! Oh. My. I have 47 checkins of FW beers in Untappd and they are mostly variants of the boxed beers.

Full snifter, bottle and box of 2014 Sucaba Barrel-aged Barley Wine No. 004

Fremont

Another brewery we have come to love for the same sorts of reasons is Fremont in Seattle [20 checkins]. They are masters of barrel aging and spicing and I will rarely say that of the first and, until now, never of the second.

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

Bottle of 2015 Coffee Edition Bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star oatmeal stout

I have had the pleasure to experience [their beers] Bourbon Barrel Abominable [B-Bomb], barrel aged Dark Star and their assorted variants. And I hope I am justified again this year but regular Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal stout in 12 oz cans, available for two months a year, is my go to again this year. I got a case last year but asked my guy to get me two this year. This would be my daily go to beer if I could have it year round. As it is I buy it in quantities nothing else compares to. Except perhaps the wife’s Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Her go to beer.

I have also simply adored a few of Fremont’s fresh hop beers. Packaged fresh hop beers! I can only imagine how transcendent they would be at their own pub.

Bottle and two glasses of 2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

2016 Rusty Nail Imperial Stout with cinnamon, licorice and smoked barley

Prairie Artisan Ales

I also want to throw a bit of love at Prairie Artisan in Tulsa, OK [8 checkins]. We have had a few things out here and they are lovely. A friend did point out the trend to incapacitating ABVs to which I had to agree, especially since even I made it in reference to one of their beers. But I consider a non-brazen 12-12.5% beer to beer fair game as long as you know what you are getting in to. We prepare for that scenario. We live that scenario.

I simply adore their labels, by the way.

Bottle and glass of Pirate Noir at BTBS

But Apple Brandy Barrel Noir, Vanilla Noir (as a non-fan of most beers with vanilla), and Pirate Noir? Simply amazing beers.

I have a second Pirate Noir, which I just had in last few days, to try in future; currently slated for 4th quarter this year. I had the Apple Brandy in July via a bottle brought home from Corvallis Brewing Supply (Love you folks!). Doubt I’ll ever get to try it again. My checkin comment was “Tastes like chocolate-covered apple brandy. It does.” That cracks me the heck up. I assume that was a good thing at the time.

Bottle and glass of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

Untappd 2500th unique

I am one unique beer away from 2500 unique checkins on Untappd. I have decided it will be the Firestone Walker 2015 Parabola barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Not sure why I haven’t checked it in already but no worries; I will tonight after work.

Screenshot of my Untappd profile page showing 2499 unique checkins

Recap

So big love and thanks to Deschutes Bend Public House, Firestone Walker, Fremont and Prairie Artisan. I could definitely see myself spending lots of quality time at both Firestone Walker’s and Fremont’s pubs. Some day we will get there. Or so I tell myself anyway. Mighty glad though that they are distributed here.

Just wish they were closer so I could drop in and hang for an afternoon every once in a while.

Barley Wine: Typology Tuesday #1

This is my post for the first Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles, the brainchild of none other than Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The first topic is Barley Wine. [I would have hoped to do better than this post but I only learned of Typology Tuesday today. I now have the next couple scheduled in Google Calendar.]

Typology Tuesday logo

Let me begin by stating that barleywine is one of my favorite styles, although I much prefer mine to the English-end of hopping. As Derrick Peterman wrote at Ramblings of a Beer Runner:

“I’ve had some good American Barley Wines, but found a fair share of them to be either unbalanced palate assaulting monstrosities or bloated, muddled concoctions struggling beneath the weight of all their heavy flavors.”

This past weekend I had the good fortune to judge at a commercial craft beer awards. On the second day, Sunday morning at 9 am, out came the American Barley Wines (BJCP 22C). “Well. Alrighty then. Glad I didn’t get too buzzed during Saturday’s judging and that I had a good breakfast,” said I.

We were told there was another table doing American Barley Wines so we had decided we only wanted to advance three. We had initially been brought four but they were cold still so we asked them to go ahead and decant any others and bring them to us. Not long after we got five more.

Score sheet and small plastic cup of barleywine

After a short break to let the first four warm up some we dove in. We couldn’t find anything particularly wrong in any of the first three, except some oxidation; something all of us preferred but were they within guidelines? “Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). (BJCP 2015)” We also did not find them exceptional.

Thus, beginning with the first one we set them aside until we had a few more under our belt. We did this to the first three. Finally after the fourth one we started narrowing them down. We had one or two that were too heavily oxidized and one with DMS and diacetyl. We, of course, had to retaste the first three. After getting to the ninth one and having weeded it down to a potential three we got brought four more.

OK. We quickly had them verify that we were in fact the only table with barley wine and that there were 13 in total. When we finished we thought we had passed on five to the medal round but it turned out to be only four. We got fresh pours from new bottles of all of them and got to work.

One was easy to remove as it was certainly odd man out and pushing the style guidelines in a couple ways even though we all quite enjoyed it. From there we moved on to ranking the other three and while third came easy, ranking the other two was much harder.

When we were done (thankfully that was the entirety of our morning) I found myself still sipping the odd man out. Realizing this I had one more sip and added it to the dump bucket. There really was no good reason to be putting more barleywine in my body!

Except for a couple of these, they were all quite drinkable. Some were not to my preferred palate in a barleywine but they all made you want another sip. They were mostly all well-executed although some more than others, of course, and the one I preferred the most was not exactly to style. Such is life.

Some were more heavily oxidized than others but that is how I prefer my American barleywines! I am one of those folks who age these beers at least 9-12 months before opening. I also age them no more than about two years as all that staling hop character can get unpleasant quickly. English barleywines need little aging and can last years and years, in my opinion and experience.

I will never judge barleywine (or any other style) at GABF or the World Beer Cup, as Jay Brooks has, but I feel privileged nonetheless and learned a lot from the other two more experienced judges, one a long-time homebrewer and one a long-time homebrewer and professional brewer.

A few barelywines wrap themselves sinuously around my soul while doing their utmost to fire the hell out of my pleasure receptors in a profound and spectacular way. Generally the ones that do are less bitter than those that don’t. But if I must have bitter bombs on occasion I could do far worse than American barleywine.

I am so very glad they exist as a style.

My 5-star checkins of the style per UnTappd are (I have had at least 60 distinct Americans):

  • Firestone Walker 2012 Sucaba
  • Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2013
  • Dogfish Head Olde School 2009 (~4 years old when drank)
  • Amnesia 10th Anniversary

I also see Firestone Walker Helldorado 2015 there but that is not an American barleywine, folks.

My favorite English barleywine (per Untappd) and only 5-star (Helldorado belong here too) is Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2009. And, honestly, I’ll take the infected or non-infected version. Have only had the infected version now, twice. Delicious. We really need to try one of our 2014 Mirror Mirrors soon.

2013 End of Summer Beer Extravaganza

Untappd says to “Drink Socially” and that is exactly what we did. Saturday, 14 September, was the 1st Annual End of Summer Beer Party at Paul and Sandi’s. The show got under way at 3:30. In attendance were Paul and Sandi, John and Sherri, Sara and I, and for a while Mike “Curly” White and his family dropped by. We drank a lot of beer, most of it aged for a year or as many as 7, ate good food and had a Mario Kart race off on the Wii. Um, I sucked at it, as was to be expected.

The beers and the order we drank them in are as follows:

Midnight Sun Berserker (2012) – was a bit smoother than last time we had it almost a year ago. Aged nicely.

Midnight Sun Berserker Russian Imperial Stout 2012

Midnight Sun Berserker Russian Imperial Stout 2012

10 Barrel Precursor Imperial Red (2011 Small Batch Series) Bottle 780 of 2600 – bourbon aroma and quite tasty.

10 Barrel Precursor Imperial Red

10 Barrel Precursor Imperial Red

McMenamins Red Rum Rum Barrel-Aged Amber Ale – from a large mason jar as growler. Tasty.

North Coast Old Rasputin XV – Quite good.

North Coast Old Rasputin XV Russian Imperial Stout

North Coast Old Rasputin XV Russian Imperial Stout

Full Sail Session Premium Lager – This was the go to for palate refreshing.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale – Aroma was smoky with a hint of bacon and maple. Not near as bad as I expected (or had heard) but still not good.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale – I could describe but do not waste your time on this beer. We all poured it out. Some had a few more sips than others but we all ended up pouring it in the yard.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ale

Fire Cirkl Dragon’s Blood Braggot – This was also aged for a year and based on the couple of tastes we’ve had of fresh stuff over the last several months the aging helped it. Aroma of wild flower honey and a clear, deep garnet or ruby brown.

Jubelale 2007 – Interesting. Soft, woody, oaky. Pretty darn good for a six-year-old beer not meant to age.

Deschutes Jubelale 2007

Deschutes Jubelale 2007

Southern Tier Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout – Aroma of OMG; as in not good; artificial. Not as bad as the Rogue Voodoo Doughnuts but almost. Others (maybe most) quite liked it.

Oakshire Hellshire III – Mellower than 7 months ago. Quite tasty. Glad I have a few more bottles left.

Oakshire Hellshire III Stout

Oakshire Hellshire III Stout

Jubelale 2008 – Some almost off flavors and a bit musty. Did not age well. But, as Jon admitted, aging these was a crap shoot.

Deschutes Jubelale 2008

Deschutes Jubelale 2008

Jubelale 2009 – Pretty tasty. Not quite as good as the 2007 but certainly much better than 2008.

Deschutes Jubelale 2009

Deschutes Jubelale 2009

Rogue Big Ass Barrel Blackberry Ale – Definitely a Rogue. Blackberry, as the name implies. Quite drinkable but not great to me.

The Abyss (2006) – 1st year. Aroma of licorice and “softness.” Licorice, tobacco. OMG! This is what aged beer should taste like.

Deschutes The Abyss 2006

Deschutes The Abyss 2006

Fire Cirkl One-Eyed Ginger – I didn’t even try this one. There was very little I was going to put in my mouth after The Abyss.

[At this point Jon and Sherri left and eventually we slid in a few barley wines.]

Pelican Mother of All Storms (2012) – Quite tasty. I had heard that this was supposed to be quite hoppy but after a year or so it was fairly balanced.

Firestone Walker Sucaba (2012) – An excellent barley wine, as I already knew. The year it has been aging has changed it little. Thankfully we have another bottle just as old and will let it age another year or so.

Firestone Walker Sucaba 2012

Firestone Walker Sucaba 2012

See Jon’s post at The Brew Site blog for a slightly different take and more and better pictures.

We brought the Hellshire III and and the Sucaba. Next year we will have some better aged things to share. But seeing as we only started cellaring beers last September/October those weren’t bad choices. In fact, they are both damn fine beers. In the meantime, we have acquired a fair bit more and have found sources for more aged beers. I am definitely looking forward to next year’s end of summer party.

We had a great time and tasted many high quality beers and were exposed to a few we might not otherwise have been. For me, the 2006 The Abyss was definitely the highlight.

Thanks Sandi and Paul for such a fun day! Sorry we kept you up so late.