McMenamins beer in cans taste-off

As I wrote in my post, “Received: McMenamins cans are here!,” that I would, I did a taste-off between the canned versions of Ruby and Hammerhead from the Edgefield production brewery and those from my local McMenamins Old Saint Francis School brewer, Mike “Curly” White. On the 23rd of August I stopped by OSF and got a growlette (32 oz glass “bottle”) of each.

Picture of coozie, two 16 oz cans of McMenamins beer, a postcard, and a small ornament of Ruby.

On 24 August I compared the two Hammerheads and on 25 August I compared the two Rubys. [First 2 under this link]

Hammerhead Taste-off

“Hammerhead McMenamins Hammerhead label

A classic Northwest Pale Ale and McMenamins Standard. This rich chestnut colored gem is a model of harmony between hops and malted barley. Hammerhead’s signature Cascade Hop nose and intense hopped flavor blend nicely with the caramel tones from the Crystal Malt. This beer has a vocal following; to run out is an unforgivable sin.

Malts: Premium 2-Row, Bairds Crystal 70/80

Hops: Cascade

Original Gravity: 1.056

Terminal Gravity: 1.010

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

Calories: 241 per pint”

McMenamins Hammerhead can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

McMenamins Hammerhead taste-off: Can on left, OSF on right

Old Saint Francis School Hammerhead

Aroma: lightly floral and light melon; caramel and toasted bread crumb.

Color: Slightly opaque golden orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence.

Flavor: “English.” Soft. Fairly complex malt of bread, toast and light caramel for a pale ale. Medium hop flavor which was lightly floral and very light citrus. Medium bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Light chalkiness in finish; finishes semi-dry and then dries out a bit more.

Edgefield Hammerhead

Aroma: very light cattiness when cold; disappeared but then came back, so fleeting cattiness. After warming some: very light tobacco/ashtray and a very light dankness.

Color: Almost clear medium-dark orange. Light tan head of extra fine bubbles and a couple small fisheyes; decent persistence [same head as OSF].

Flavor: almost smoky. Medium hop flavor of very light citrus, pine and some earthiness. Medium bitterness.

Mouthfeel: creamier. Slightly more attenuated. Finishes semi-dry.

More “polished” overall but I think the scales [for me, in this instance] tip to Curly’s version. I like the chalkiness and the malt was more complex. His also did not have some of the odder aromas coming from the canned version.

Ruby Taste-off

“Ruby McMenamins Ruby label

One of our most popular standards, we still make Ruby with the same aims we had when brewing the first batch back in March of 1986: To create an ale light, crisp and refreshingly fruity. Great Western Premium 2-Row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry puree is used to craft every colorful batch. Simple but delicious.

Malts: Premium 2-row, Maltodextrin

Hops: Chinook

Fruit: Raspberry

Original Gravity: 1.039

Terminal Gravity: 1.005

Alcohol by Volume: 4.0%

Calories: 170 per pint”

McMenamins Ruby can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

McMenamins Ruby taste-off: Can on left, OSF on right

Old Saint Francis School Ruby

Aroma: high fresh raspberry. Lightly bready malt almost hidden under the fruit. No discernible hop aroma. Light corn as warms. Once warm got some ashtray on intake.

Color: opaque pink grapefruit with a just off-white head of extra fine bubbles and varied fisheyes and medium persistence.

Flavor: Light corn with a light corn slickness. Raspberry present more in finish than across palate but still low.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Finishes medium-dry with a medium-low hp bitterness but no discernible hop flavor. Softer than the canned version.

Edgefield Ruby

Aroma: raspberry but more artificial. Very light bread crust. Very light corn in inhale just before sipping.

Color: much clearer than OSF version; almost clear orange-peach with the same head as OSF version.

Flavor: Almost raspberry up front and then a lot in the back.

Mouthfeel: Slightly less body than OSF version. Finishes in middle: kind of semi-dry and semi-sweet at same time.

Raspberry is not my favorite ingredient in beer but I preferred Curly’s version with its much fresher-seeming raspberry aroma and a bit less raspberry flavor. Again, the OSF version was also missing the weird (mostly) phenolic aroma showing up. Those can be fine in an imperial stout, barleywine, old ale, etc. but not in these styles of beer. All in all, it was fairly close but not as close at the Hammerheads were.

After I was done making my notes on the individual Rubys I combined them in a 50/50 mix. The aroma was closer to be fresh raspberry (OSF) than artificial raspberry (can). Color and clarity were in between, of course, and the head was much longer lasting than either version alone (although the mix did get a slightly more vigorous pour). It also had a softer mouthfeel than either. For me, it was the best of both worlds.

Wrap-up

These cans are gorgeous, although I am a bit biased as I adore McMenamins in-house art style. I would say it is fairly close still between Edgefield and Curly here in Bend, although I think Curly’s still got a slight edge where my taste buds are concerned. I do not pretend this is any sort of objective standard or measure. ‘Tis just me.

Thanks again, McMenamins for sending me these beauties!

[Disclaimer: These beers came to me free and unbidden [but appreciated] from McMenamins.]

Received: McMenamins cans are here!

Picture of coozie, two 16 oz cans of McMenamins beer, a postcard, and a small ornament of Ruby.

Friday I received a package from McMenamins which included their new 16 ounce cans of Hammerhead (NW pale) and Ruby (raspberry ale), along with a Hammerhead coozie, a postcard and a small hanging ornament of Ruby.

How did they know I still collect cans? Had to get rid of so many over the years and after so many moves. I have very few of my old collection left which I started 45 years ago when I was 12. Nowadays, for now, I am keeping one can of every canned beer I have. And, yes, most are packed away from view. Again. And. Still. ::sigh::

I am hoping to get growlettes of both of these beers brewed by our own local brewer, Mike “Curly” White, at Old Saint Francis School to compare and contrast each one to the Edgefield-brewed cans. I have done that in the past when McMenamins has sent me bottles of seasonal releases. I a very lazy blogger and that is a very tad bit of work but it seems worth it and a slightly different angle to me so I like it. So far I believe Curly is ahead on my preferences but I know there was a time or two Edgefield’s bottled versions won out. Always close and always interesting.

According to the postcard, they are available at all 54 McMenamins locations across Oregon and Washington, and are $2.75 each or $10/4-pack. That’s a pretty nice price for 16 oz cans.

Reviews/comparison coming soon I hope.

McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza

On Saturday, January 16, 2016 we attended the McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza with 22 breweries & 4 cideries present. [updated beers drank 29 January 2016]

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto.

For McMenamins passport fans there is an event stamp.

We got there pretty much at opening at 1 pm and like last year the weather was (or threatened to be) a bit wet so they had moved large portions into the theater. There were still couches and other seating available when we arrived so we joined some of our friends.

Photo of some of my notes, the program and two fest glasses from the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

Disclosure:

Let’s just get this out of the way. I got put on the guest list so got a free entry package of tasting glass, 10 tokens, and a koozie. We did pay the $15 entry and got Sara her own glass and tokens though.

I like this festival as it brings together a lot of different McMenamins beers and brewers along with a fairly equal balance of beer from other local Bend breweries. The brewers from the 10 or so represented McMenamins breweries were there from 1-4 pm pouring their beers and I chatted with a couple including our local brewer, Mike “Curly” White. I didn’t get names but also a woman from Thompson (Salem) and a guy from Crystal (Portland) that I actually had conversations with and not just chit chat.

I didn’t bother to take any other pictures except of the names of the beers I was getting. Of course, I didn’t get pictures of the ones I tried via my wife and I didn’t get all of those written down. May well have missed one of the ones I got myself, photo-wise.

Definitely caught a good buzz. We stopped and got a pizza and drank a lot of water before heading home at a still reasonable time.

These are the beers that I tried in as close to the order that I had them (highly accurate):

  • McMenamins Old St. Francis School Midnight Scream Double Black IPA
  • McMenamins High Street (Eugene) 565 Strong Ale
  • Silver Moon Train Rye’d Barleywine
  • McMenamins on Munroe (Corvallis) Ballena Russian Imperial Stout
  • Deschutes The Descendant
  • McMenamins Anderson School (Bothell, WA) Into the Badlands IRA
  • McMenamins Thompson (Salem) Magnuson Strong
  • McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor *
  • Three Creeks Ten Pine Porter
  • Worthy Dark Muse 2015 Stout
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine *
  • I am missing (at least) one that I had a taste of Sara’s and I believe that is Crux Snow Cave. [Bend Brewing’s Big Bad Russian is definitely missing from here. 29 January 2016]

My favorites were definitely the McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine and, very surprisingly, as 2nd oddest beer out, the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor.

For the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor I wrote:

“Haha. This shit is like crack. Sara had a sip, her face lit up, & had another before saying anything.”

That is surprising behavior for my wife with any lager-like beer except Samichlaus.

The alcohol wasn’t hidden from you, although it wasn’t exactly prevalent either, but you just wanted one sip after another and we aren’t talking small sips. This was a very dangerously “more-ish” beer and one of the best uses of corn ever in a beer. I was not expecting to like it under the context of the fest but it was exquisite. I got a chance to go back and tell the brewer all this after having it. That’s a feature of this fest, if you can go early.

For the Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine I wrote:

“2014 barleywine in Hogshead Whiskey. Another (almost) crack beer.

? [unsure]

With palate cleanser cookie is awesomer in the opposite of Helldorado a deep dark chocolate barleywine. Crazy.”

Quite tasty. Not quite a crack beer because easier to tell its 10%+ ABV is present. But amazingly tasty. And far more “appropriate” for the time of the year.

I also enjoyed Deschutes The Descendant but that was the odd beer out for this fest. I don’t believe there were any other sours, and no other fruit beers either, I believe. Quite delicious.

Photo of the description of Deschutes The Descendant at the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

My friend Jon Abernathy has a much better post and definitely more and better photos at his post, McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, thoughts and photos. If you check out Jon’s post you can see that we had pretty much the same thoughts on best beers of the day even though we did not have exactly the same ones.

My pre-post can be found here at McMenamins OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January.

If you are in Bend or the nearby area mid-January next year, and like high gravity beer, you ought consider this fest. I cannot comment on how it is in the evening as we insure that we are in and out before then, which is how we try to do fests. But we enjoy this one quite a bit.

McMenamins OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January

The Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza is coming to McMenamins Old Saint Francis School Saturday January 16th. Keep reading for details.

We went to the Second Annual last year and had a grand time. Doppelbocks, barleywines, Scotch ales, etc. Beers to warm you on the inside. Hope to see you there!

“If the world is looking a little dreary post-holidays, here’s something to cheer you up: High Gravity Extravaganza brewfest at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF) in Bend! This bold beer event celebrates high gravity brews in one of the country’s top craft beer destinations. Haven’t had a chance to attend yet? The brewfest inspiring you to “go big or go home” is back for a third year in a row.

At High Gravity you can sample over 20 high gravity beers and – new this year! – fresh seasonal ciders from McMenamins and Central Oregon’s top breweries amidst the rugged beauty of snowy high desert mountains, with outdoor fire pits and rich comfort food to keep you warm and happy. Live music from Sophistafunk and Dirty Revival will be grooving in Father Luke’s Room from 3-10 p.m. and brewers will be on hand to answer questions about their brews and discuss technique.”

Details

  • What: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
  • When: Saturday, January 16, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Meet the Brewers 1-4 p.m.; Music 3-10 p.m.
  • Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701
  • Beer: OSF’s head brewer Mike “Curly” White is joined by McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest and local Central Oregon breweries including Bend Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery, Goodlife Brewing Co., Solstice Brewing Co., Smith Rock Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing Co., and Worthy Brewing Co., Crux Fermentation Project, and more!
  • Cost: Free admission, 10 taster punch cards available for $15 or $1.50/taste (4 o.z.); All ages welcome; 21 and over to drink
  • Learn more: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
    “Go Big or Go Home”
  • Bring your McMenamins Passport for the brewfest stamp, too.

Music Schedule

  • 3 p.m. til 6 p.m. Dirty Revival * Vibrant Neo-soul
  • 7 p.m. til 10 p.m. Sophistafunk * Funk & Hip-hop
  • Info on the bands can be found at the above link also.

Participating Breweries

  • Sunriver Brewing (Sunriver)
  • Ochoco Brewing (Prineville)
  • McMenamins Old St. Francis (Bend)
  • Deschutes Brewery (Bend)
  • McMenamins Thompson Brewery (Salem)
  • McMenamins West Linn (West Linn)
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale)
  • GoodLife Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Monroe Brewery (Corvallis)
  • Boneyard Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins High Street Brewery (Eugene)
  • RiverBend Brewing (Bend)
  • Wild Ride Brewing (Redmond)
  • McMenamins Concordia Brewery (Portland)
  • McMenamins Roseburg Brewery (Roseburg)
  • Bend Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins on the Columbia (Vancouver, WA)
  • Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters)
  • Worthy Brewing (Bend)
  • Silver Moon Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Crystal Brewery (Portland)
  • Crux Fermentation Project (Bend)

McMenamins Kris Kringle 2015

With perfect timing for release day, a bottle of McMenamins 2015 version of their Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle, showed up on my doorstep last Friday, the 13th of November.

Image of McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale label

I also received and reviewed the 2013 release here.

Here is McMenamins description of this beer:

Just in time for the holidays, November 13th marks the release of this year’s McMenamins Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle.  The busy-as-elves McMenamins brewers have created another wonderful gift for your taste buds this holiday season.  The 2015 version of Kris Kringle is a hearty and robust ale with a big and bold malt complexity as well as an intense and flavorful hop profile.  This “winter warmer” highlights the rich, toasty, aromatic and chocolaty malt flavors as its very sturdy foundation.  Generous amounts of two different hop varieties were added in five different additions, which delivers a magnificent and massive hop assault.  There’s still some ginger and cinnamon added into the batch but the spices are a little more subdued than in years’ past.  McMenamins brewers hope you enjoy this years’ version of our old Holiday favorite, Kris Kringle.  Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

Malts: Pale Ale, Munich, Wheat, 15L & 120L Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Centennial (Bittering, Flavor &Aroma), Cascade (Flavor & Aroma)

OG: 1.068  TG: 1.015  ABV: 6.84%  IBU: 76  SRM: 15

Buzz Words: Robust, Hoppy, Festive

I popped open this very fresh “winter warmer” on Monday and quite enjoyed it. More on that in a moment.

Photo of bottle, glass of beer, and postcard for 2015 release of McMenamins Kris Kringle

Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest a couple years ago I looked forward to trying different winter warmer beers. I have gotten over them as quickly as I have pumpkin beers. Actually, I like some pumpkin (and yam) beers. What I pretty much despise are pie beers. Use the freaking pumpkin to flavor your beer. Keep the f’ing spices out of pumpkin beers though. I guess if you like Creme Brulee Stout and its ilk then have at it. But I think pie beer sucks.

Many, if not most (I’m betting), winter warmers are the equivalent of pie beers. Full of spices that are good for a sip or two but become gagging if I have to contemplate more than a couple ounces of said beer. Can’t stand beer like that.

This is NOT one of those winter warmers. McMenamins is claiming that there is still some ginger and cinnamon in this and I believe them. But the level of spicing is perfect! I had to keep asking myself whether it was spiced or not. Subtlety is the operant word. Never once did I think of this as a spice beer but only as a tasty beer that might have a small amount of almost undetectable spicing. As it should be.

In the aroma I got a medium caramel, very light cocoa and light herbal earthiness when cold. As it warmed, a very light woodiness, light nuttiness and very light vanilla notes came through.

While I did not have a strong light source at hand and the sun had set, I’d say the color was a dark copper-orange with a creamy off-white head.

The beer was creamy and medium bodied, with medium-light caramel notes, and a very light sweetness until the finish when a mild bitterness came along and cleaned up any lingering sweetness.

If this is what a winter warmer can be then I may have to reconsider my stance. But then most pumpkin beers are pie beers and I fear most winter warmers are, in my opinion, spice bombs also. No thanks.

I’ll be picking a couple bottles of this up and you should to. Only available until Christmas Day.

I also tasted our local McMenamins (Old St. Francis School) version on the previous Saturday while there for their birthday. The primary difference I noted was less carbonation and a thinner body but still tasty.

FYI: FTC. And all that: This bottle was provided to me by McMenamins.

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2015

This year’s version (2015) of McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale is out. It was released Friday, 18 September at all locations. Get it while you can!

This year’s was made with fresh Simcoe hops from Sodbuster Farms. For those keeping track at home, I was given this growler for free, as I was last year and the year before.

I shared it with six or so friends the day after it was given to me. I did behave and leave the growler sealed, although I was tempted Friday eve to dip in early.

I found it quite tasty and apologize for having little to say about this year’s batch. Aroma of light citrus and very light caramel. Color: Not entirely clear orange. “Bright” with a nice generic base bitterness.

I definitely enjoyed it—one of the best fresh hop beers I’ve had so far in 2015; which would be four different ones so far—but I did like last year’s a lot more. That has nothing to do with the quality of the beer but with my hop preferences.

From McMenamins website:

McMenamins staffers headed to Sodbuster Farms on the outskirts of Salem, Oregon, to collect this year’s hop harvest of Simcoe hops-a first for us! We delivered the Simcoes to 20 McMenamins Breweries all over Washington and Oregon, henceforth known as “The Running of the Brewers.” Each batch of Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale is brewed within hours of the hops being picked off of the vine. This is a daunting task but one that the McMenamins Brewers feel is well worth the monumental coordination involved. The resulting beer is an absolute fresh hop showcase, marked this year with pine and citrus characteristics from the Simcoes. Thundercone is on tap at all locations-while it lasts!

Malts: Canada Malting Superior Pilsen Malt, Franco Belges Caramel Munich 40
Hops: Simcoe
OG: 1.061 TG: 1.013 ABV: 6.19% IBU: 56 SRM: 7

Give it try before it is all gone. It may well be at the Sisters 5th Annual Fresh Hop Fest this Saturday, September 26th. Hope to see you there!

McMenamins 2nd annual High Gravity Extravaganza

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto of the McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, now in its 2nd Annual instantiation, 17 January 2015 in Bend. [We missed the 1st last year due to attending the Big Woody in Portland that same weekend. No true regrets but wondering what happened to the Big Woody.]

Since I haven’t attended I can only pass along the details and promise you that we plan on being there for certain. High-alcohol beers, music, fire pits, and more.

In the spirit of Central Oregon and the uniqueness of the High Desert in January, step out and celebrate big, bold beers while basking in the crisp winter air at the High Gravity Extravaganza at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF). This second annual “Go Big or Go Home” event brings together high gravity ales from some of Central Oregon’s top breweries (list below) and McMenamins around the Northwest with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains while huddling around blazing firepits. With live music by Mark Ransom & The Mostest and Down North,  you can also stop by the brewer’s corner to meet the makers, discuss technique or just share a couple pints with friends.

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Music begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701

Beer: Joining 10 McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest are 12 local Central Oregon breweries [see below].

Cost: Free to attend, special taster pricing.

We welcome these Central Oregon Guest Breweries, pouring their bold beer samples:

  • GoodLife Brewing
  • Three Creeks Brewing
  • Bend Brewing Company
  • Solstice Brewing Company
  • Worthy Brewing Company
  • Sunriver Brewing Company
  • Wild Ride Brewing
  • Crux Fermentation Project
  • Riverbend Brewing
  • Deschutes Brewing Company
  • Boneyard Beer Company
  • Silver Moon Brewing

Participating McMenamins Breweries pouring their big and bold beer samples:

  • McMenamins on Monroe
  • High Street Brewery
  • Thompson Brewery
  • McMenamins on the Columbia Brewery
  • West Linn Brewery
  • Edgefield Brewery
  • Concordia – Kennedy School Brewery
  • Crystal Brewery
  • Old St. Francis Brewery
  • Roseburg Brewery

We are looking forward to it, as are many of our friends. We hope to see you there.

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014

Yesterday morning I picked up a growler of Mike “Curly” White’s 2014 version of McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale, which will be released Friday 19 September.

[Disclaimer: I received this beer for free, if that matters to you.]

I reviewed this beer last year also. Seems I liked it quite a bit but I liked this year’s even more. This year’s (the 5th year) uses fresh Brewer’s Gold (5 lbs / barrel) in three hop additions. There are some dried Chinook used in first wort hopping but they are very minimal in impact. It uses Pilsener malt for the base and some Belgian Caramel malt for color and flavor. See the link in 1st paragraph for more info from the source.

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014 - quite tasty

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014 – quite tasty

Aroma-wise I got very light citrus, faintly lemony, and caramel once it began warming a bit. The color is a cloudy orange. I was unable to get much of a head from the growler even with vigorous pouring but presentation isn’t everything. A better head would help with the aroma, too, though. On draft it may have a fine head.

This is a big, chewy, full-bodied ale, resulting from both the malt and unfermented sugars but also full of the earthiness of the fresh Brewers gold hops. Floral, yet softly bitter in the finish. More-ish.

This is a very more-ish beer. It just helps you along to want another sip after each of the previous ones. I drank almost the entirety of a 64 oz. growler by myself. This is not a beer I would want every day but I want it once a year, every year, for the short period it can be available. OK. I want it more than that but this is even more of an agricultural product than beer is normally and I can live in a world with these constraints.

Lots of fresh hop beers are IPAs and if that is your thing fine but try to leave any preconceptions/biases aside and give this a try on Friday or shortly thereafter. Drink a pint and see if it doesn’t jump help you along and leave you wanting another.

Also, for all you Cascade hop fans, which is what was used for the previous years Thundercone, please give this year’s Brewer’s Gold version a try. Provide feedback in whichever way works for you.

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale will be released at all 22 McMenamins breweries on Friday, Sep. 19th. I can’t speak for all 22 versions but I loved my local Bend brewer’s version.

By the way, McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend is having an Oktoberfest this Saturday. Great chance to get yourself some Thundercone.

[Disclaimer, in case you missed it the first time: I received this beer for free, if that matters to you.]

Last night’s very buzzed Facebook review:

Hey #inBend go get some of Curly White’s Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale atMcMenamins Old St. Francis School this Friday. Excellent! Very more-ish.

I’ll be writing a post tomorrow but I got a growler of this as-yet-unreleased fresh hop ale today. I drank most of the growler myself this evening. Just couldn’t stop.

It’s got a little early bitterness from some dried Chinook but is really all fresh Brewer’s Gold giving an amazing full, earthiness. Probably the biggest bodied fresh hop beer I have ever had.

Yes. I got this beer for free, But no one drinks a growler of a beer that isn’t good. I don’t anyway.

Last year I linked to Jon’s review at The Brew Site and will do again. See his for a bit more detail, especially in his tasting notes. Again, we both say go forth on Friday and taste this for yourself.

6th Annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest (2014)

My current favorite beer fest, which thankfully is a local one, the 6th Annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest arrives in Bend Friday, 29 August and Saturday, 30 August.

The fest opens at 5 pm on Friday evening and noon on Saturday. If you value tasting your beer and smaller crowds then I suggest you get there as close to opening as possible on each day. If you value the party more then come out later on Friday and Saturday. We’ll be there for opening both days.

The fest is 21 and over only and takes place next to the Des Chutes Historical Museum, 129 Northwest Idaho Avenue in downtown Bend.

Basic entry including commemorative glass: $10

Tasting package: $20. Includes glass, entry and 10 tokens

Whiskey tasting: Tokens will apply to both beer and whiskey

Tokens: $1 each and tastes cost 2-5 tokens each

VIP package includes Brewer’s Shirt, Admission, Tasting Glass, and 10 Tasting Tokens for only $40! [That is a nice shirt. I got one at Big Woody.]

Notice those tasting prices. This is not an inexpensive fest. Tokens are $1 each and each pour is 2-5 tokens. I like it that way. Slows down the drunks some. When beer fests are cheap many people go to them primarily to get drunk amongst a crowd. I am not saying it isn’t a legitimate reason. I just prefer not to be around those people.

The website, particularly the beer “list,” could really use some work. Side-scrolling/clicking from brewery to brewery is not cool. I appreciate that each brewery gets a bit more space to tell us about themselves and their beers as I want to know about them before I choose to try them. But the brewery profiles could be pulled out into a single page on the website with links from the beers and a much better layout for the beer information in a much more compact format. Please.

I liked what the Bend Brewfest tried to do with their beer list this year. It could have been really impressive but I feel for anyone who used it as their data was beyond bad. In multiple ways. The wife took all she could get from the website and the booklet and so on and cleaned it up as best as she could and released it into the world as a public Google spreadsheet. Her version was vastly much improved from the official results but it still sometimes was based on conflicting information so had a few problems. I want to give props to Bend Brewfest for going this route but you really need to look at data entry and, before that, standardization of the data. It is not useful if there are so many conflicting forms of data in a field that sorting cannot work in a useful manner. I hope more beer fests look towards something along the line of what Bend Brewfest did with its online tap list this year. Just get the data right. Or do not bother.

I took a look through the beer list and this is what I found that sounds most interesting so far:

These are my top picks:

Mazama La Gaule du Matin – Port Barrel Aged Sour Belgian Blonde :: I love most of Mazama’s beers and they now, barely a year old, have some mighty tasty beers coming out of barrels. This will be a new one for Little Woody according to the owners. One of my favorite beers of both Oregon Brewers Festival and The Bend Brewfest was their El Duque do Porto, which was their Grand Cru from port barrels. It was a “special” beer at both fests and cost 2 tokens in each case. My second taste was because I may well never get it again and it was damned tasty. Even out of plastic.

Deschutes Sour Raspberry Wit (Pub Exclusive) :: Raspberry is not my favorite fruit flavoring (for much of anything) but I love Deschutes pub beers. I also believe raspberry could work well in a Wit.

Below Grade Kiss Me Kate :: We had this at last year’s Little Woody, and then at the Winter Fest at GoodLife in December and we were one of the very few to acquire a bottle which we drank and loved. I have consistently given it 4.5/5 stars. It is a barrel-aged Imperial IPA. I do not intend to miss this beer.

McMenamins OSF Grandma’s Oatmeal Porter Rum Barrel Aged :: Brewed here in town at the McMenamins Old St. Francis School by Michael “Curly” White and Vance Wirtz this is an oatmeal porter which spent four months in McMenamins Three Rocks Rum barrels. 

Bend Brewing ROMANOV, Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout :: BBC has been crafting excellent big beers for a good while now. I am guessing this is an Ian Larkin recipe (but if anyone knows different let me know) and that excites me.

Silver Moon Wild Turkey Barrel Aged Train Wreck Barley Wine :: We have had and liked (me) or loved (her) Train Wreck but not sure we’ve had the barrel-aged version.

HUB Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged Motherland RIS) :: I generally like HUB’s stouts and this is no exception. I gave it 4.25/5 stars but wrote this: “At P&S. A bit thin. Want to like more. Will age help?” I am, by the way, very tough on stouts. The barrel-aging may make this even thinner so keep that in mind. I hope not as taste is most important but an amazingly tasty stout that is thin is getting whacked by me in ratings. This is true but also funny as I kept trying to “defend” (and suggest as a stretch for folk’s palates) the Orlison Brewing Underground Stout (a lager) at Bend Brewfest. Sadly, people weren’t having it and even telling me that stouts cannot be lagers. I just told them to learn some history of brewing in the Baltic States particularly and in particular about porter and stout once Russia imposed to high of fees on British imports. Then I quietly left them alone. 

These are the next group of interest:

Wild Ride Nitro Bourbon Barrel Aged Bitch Stout :: I have had a couple beers from pretty much brand-new Wild Ride out of Redmond but haven’t been overly impressed. I do need to get to the brewery and I am looking forward to seeing if they can do a bourbon barrel-aged stout.

Silver Moon Oregon Spirit Distillers Bourbon Stout ::

Bridge 99 / Platypus Pub Collaboration Red Eye Rye

HUB Pink Drink (barrel-aged Belgian Style Tripel with raspberries) :: Again with the raspberries but it a tripel with raspberries could work.

Stone Arbalest (Belgian Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels)

Hop Valley Oakeroo (Festeroo Winter ale)

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood

Good Life Proprius  (brown naturally soured with Brett in a Volcano Vineyard’s Syrah Barrel for a year)

Deschutes Mirror Mirror :: If you have not yet had this year’s batch of Mirror Mirror then try this now. Then grab a few bottles if you can find any left on shelves and store it away for a couple of years. It is damned tasty now but I guarantee if you treat it even half-decently in storage it’ll be even better in 6-months to a year. We have 7 bottles and are going to keep one for at least 5 years.

Worthy Barrel Aged Dark Muse Imperial Stout :: I have had the base beer, Dark Muse, a couple three times and it is a perfectly respectable stout. I found it a bit thinnish, at least on my first go, so it too could be even thinner from the barrel-aging. I primarily want to see how Worthy are handling barrel-aging at this point.

Lagunitas Sonoma Farmhouse Ale

10 Barrel Dry Fly (huge wheat wine, in Dry Fly rye whiskey barrels for 14 months)

Three Creeks Vanilla Night Ski Oatmeal Stout

Three Creeks Night Moves (blend of stouts aged in Pinot Noir Barrels AND Bourbon Barrels)

McMenamins OSF Brandywine Bridge Red Ale

Closing

I certainly will not get to all of those but they are what I am focusing on for now. Tap lists can change and moods can be very different out on the fest grounds versus sitting at a computer at home a few weeks in advance. Thankfully the cost will help keep down the number I try. The flip side of that is one best hope they like most of their beers. It is an easy choice to throw out a $1 sample but much different at $2-5 each.

Hope to see you at the 6th Annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest this upcoming weekend, 29-30 August, 2014. Gate open at 5 pm Friday and noon on Saturday.

McMenamins Kris Kringle 2013

On Friday I stopped by McMenamins Old St. Francis School to see brewer Mike “Curly” White who gave me a growler of the just-released-that-day 2013 Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale brewed by him along with two bombers of the Edgefield version. By the way: The flyer accompanying this years release lists slightly different hops that the one at the link.

Description: Just in time for the holidays, November 15th marks the release of this year’s McMenamins Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle. The busy-as-elves McMenamins brewers have created another wonderful gift for your taste buds this holiday season. The 2013 version of Kris Kringle is a hearty and robust ale with a big and bold malt complexity as well as an intense and flavorful hop profile. This “winter warmer” highlights the rich, toasty, aromatic and chocolaty malt flavors as its very sturdy foundation. Generous amounts of four different hop varieties were added in five different additions, which delivers a magnificent and massive hop assault. There’s still some ginger and cinnamon added into the batch but the spices are a little more subdued than in years’ past. McMenamins brewers hope you enjoy this years’ version of our old Holiday favorite, Kris Kringle. Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

Ingredients: 

Malts: GWM Pale Ale Malt, GWM Munich Malt, GWM Wheat Malt, GWM 15L Crystal Malt, GWM 120L Crystal Malt, Baird’s Chocolate Malt.

Hops: Nugget (Bittering & Flavor), Chinook (Flavor), Cascade (Flavor & Aroma), Santiam (Flavor & Aroma)

Buzz Words: Robust, Hoppy, Festive

Alcohol: 6.84% • IBU: 90 • SRM: 15 

I took the growler and a bomber over to Paul and Sandi’s house that night, where we re-watched the 1st Thor movie since we were going to see the Thor: The Dark World on Saturday. I poured the wife a glass from the growler before I headed over since she wasn’t joining us for the movie.

McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale 2013

McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale 2013

Let me say up front that I enjoyed both versions, as did everyone else who tasted them.

Kris Kringle 2013 Old St. Francis School version:
A: medium level of fruity hops and very light pine.
C: Dark orange-brown.
Malty with a slightly sweet finish, while also having a slight hop bitterness in the finish. Was kind of wondering where all the claimed bitterness was hiding. I’m not complaining because I’m not a hophead. I found myself really enjoying this as a highly drinkable beer. It certainly is no session beer based on ABV but it was going down easily like one.

Kris Kringle 2013 Edgefield production brewery version:
A: far more aroma, especially more pronounced hops.
C: same color but definitely clearer, more heavily filtered.
Hoppier tasting and far more bitter. More attenuated; still malty but not sweet; dry finish. A very different beer, although the family resemblance was definitely there. Also found this one going down quite easily.

I enjoyed both and suggest you get to your local McMenamins and pick some up along with a bottle or two of the Edgefield production version and do your own head-to-head taste off. I’d be interested in hearing what you discover. Thanks, McMenamins!

Disclaimer: Beer provided to me free of charge by McMenamins.