Snowed In (The Session #108)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site who is hosting this month’s Session:

“The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! …

My birthday is 2/3rd of the way solidly into winter, late in February. People can complain about winter weather all they like—as do I on occasion—but my birthday is during that hell of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing winds and everything else that comes with being in the Midwest or Central Oregon in the dead of winter. I used to despise it but now I embrace it. I want it all. And I want all the winter types in February! Now I’m not sadistic; I am perfectly pleased with a day or two of each of the bad kinds of winter weather or even a good gobsmacking by two or three all in one day. Then it can go away. It can, of course, be as nice as it wants; although, admittedly, I’d be a bit freaked out by temps over 60F/15C.

All of that to say, I am fully down with Jon’s topic. And while perhaps not as prepared as I would like “knowing the snow’s coming” we are not unprepared either. Both contingencies will be addressed, as will most of the ideas Jon proposed.

Cold weather beer styles

My cold weather beer styles are pretty much my normal beer styles, although a few specific beers creep in during the colder temps. Imperial stouts and barley wines, barrel-aged or not, are our go-to beers, all year-long. I am not a fan overall of the winter warmer category but a few like Deschutes’ Jubelale and Anchor’s Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale do get put into the winter line-up, at least a couple of each. It also means trying more of them to hopefully find others that can do spicing the way I prefer; not many do. There are also other winter seasonals, such as Deschutes’ Red Chair, that also need a few or more imbibed.

Dip into cellar? Something special?

Here is where we are already prepared. Our cellar is two smaller fridges—4.4 and 11 cubic feet—which are temperature controlled, for which we have a by shelf inventory (spreadsheet). We also—as we buy more beer than we can actually cellar—have several boxes full, all of which is also accurately inventoried. Then there’s the general drinking beer which we do not bother (anymore) to put into the spreadsheet. “General drinking beer” may still be an Impy stout or a barley wine but we simply had no intention of cellaring them when we acquired them; we simply meant to drink them “soon.” We were buying mostly cellar beer for a good while. Had to get that (somewhat) under control. We also used to put every beer into the spreadsheet. We were young. Or something.

So … “snowed in and not going anywhere”? We do have projected dates for most of the cellared beers but we adjust some of the longer, more hopeful, dates based on drinking as we go. Some have definitely moved up across time. We also realized we needed to drink a lot more of them sooner rather than later based on incoming amounts so we are “suffering” our way through that. 😉

I am going to assume this is around my birthday in a couple weeks; thus, as of now anyway, first up would be my last Firestone Walker Double DBA Proprietor’s Reserve Series No. 001 (2012). I drank the previous one February 28th last year and it was freaking ridiculous. It was simply one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and we had a whole 22 oz. bottle to the two of us. I got four of these from our friends at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in late 2013 and they have been amazing all along but the improvement along the way has been off the charts! So I have chosen this as this year’s birthday beer. Could change my mind but not thinking I will.

Next up for consideration:

Some of the tasties we are already scheduled to drink soon: 2013 editions of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and Crux’s Tough Love. There are far more coffee stouts than the Péché, like a 2013 BCBS Coffee, a Stone 2013 IRS Espresso and a Founders’ Breakfast Stout. among a few others.

We might finally get on with our Fort George Cavatica Stout tasting. We have 16 oz cans of regular Cavatica Stout from 2014, along with the barrel-aged versions from the last few years: 2013 Rye, 2014 Rum (also 16 oz cans) and 2015 Bourbon (22 oz bottle). Should make for a fun excursion.

I spy a 2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin slotted for sometime in 2016. Snowed in seems like as fine an occasion as any for it.

Perhaps one evening as we’re winding down, we could sip on a Westvleteren XII (2012) and contemplate our moments of good fortune. I still have three of these that I got in the “fix the roof” six-pack.

Like I said, there are others, listed in the spreadsheet or not, but these are some of the more intriguing and, in a few especial cases, better—fully world class—beers that would fit the extended snowbound occasion.

Stock up on go-to beer

Depending on the timing, I would want a case of Deschutes’ Jubelale. This year’s (2015) is my favorite so far. Every time I drank it I wanted another. Sometimes I chose not to but the “but I want another” was strong for me in this year’s Jubelale. The thing is … I only drink this fresh. Same as with Red Chair. And I do mean fresh. If I can’t verify this is only a month old or less I generally won’t touch it. My choice, I know. Saw a 12-pack at Haggen’s (supermarket) the other day (first week of January) for a reasonable price and I had a tough time rationalizing my way into following my own principles. I adore both of these beers but can only drink them for a few weeks each year as if it isn’t fresh it is not the same to me. I am not so much on this level of freshness with any other beers. Not at all. Don’t get me wrong I like fresh beer (and appropriately aged beers, no doubt) but this is some kind of hyperfreshness fetish. But, to me, when definitely fresh, these are both world class beers of the highest order but when not quite fresh anymore they rapidly start to approach “Meh. There’s better beer available in this town/bar/pub.” I don’t want to be there with either of these beers. So I self-limit in an odd way.

Picked up a case of Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout end of January. This is currently the wife’s go-to beer whenever I am drinking one of the many things I have around that she isn’t into. I also quite like it and generally leave it to her but with a case I can have a few. We’d been buying it by the 4-packs but realized I should just ask “my guy” for a case. Making that request a couple weeks ago reminded me I have no Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the house either. Went through several cases of that the last couple winters especially as that was my go-to beer. Might need to grab a 6-pack or two and see how it’s tasting. Could need to talk to my guy about that again too.

I have been drinking a boatload of Pelican’s Umbrella Single-Hop IPA with Ella hops from New Zealand as my go-to beer lately. I’ve been loving the heck out of that! Also a bit strange as there are only a few IPAs—of any kind or color—that get me excited. And never one I have bought by the 6-pack! I was so excited when Umbrella was put in 12 oz 6-ers and made year-round. Crazy but there it is. Seems I need a good hop bite with none of that “Is it the roast malts, or the bitterness from the hops/coffee/chocolate/ … WTF is that bitterness?” that we get frequently in many of the beers we love.

Even more lately, I have been drinking Fremont’s Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout in 12 oz cans. Fremont has just recently begun distributing in Bend but I have had several of theirs previously thanks to a local friend, Ryan, who is a big fan of them. In fact, he gave me one of these for my birthday last year. I gave it 5-stars (of 5) and wrote “Very creamy. Fruity. Nice. I like this a lot.” I left out the ridiculous roastiness, the massive mouthfeel during and long after, and the lingering complexity. This is big and chewy and at 8% seems even bigger.

Whoa! just checked Fremont’s website and they say this beer is only available January 1st to February 29th. Oh. Hell. No. Just shot my guy a message. Got a case on its way. This is stocking up on go-to beer, right?

Too late for more Jubelale for me this year but maybe if I truly knew the big one was coming I’d break my prohibition as it would still be a tasty beer, to say the least. I would want a case of at least one of the stouts but preferably the Ten Fidy as we need something Sara is happy to consume without investing lots of thought. Going with the Fremont for now but would not a couple 6-packs of the Barney Flats for something more sessionable and also of Umbrella. Need a little variety in your drinking beer, I do.

Homebrewer

I am a fledgling home brewer so do not yet even have all of the equipment and certainly not any ingredients for brewing up something on the spot—well, that’s a lie as I have a good 3/4 lb or so of Cascade pellet hops in the freezer that were given to me.

I have also not brewed in the snow yet but look forward to it. If I can find a way to make it possible.

I think a nice roasty, toasty porter or stout would be a good match for the weather and goes along with many of my other choices in this post.

“Desert island beer” but colder – snowed in for all of winter

Well … this depends. Is this something available and affordable to me? Is it something I choose for myself or for the wife and I both or something we choose together? Those questions will all influence the answer.

Considering that if it isn’t available to me (for whatever reason) or I cannot afford it (one of those reasons) then I’m not going to get it so we will just forget that blissful group of beers and move on.

I think, as of now, the easy answer is Barney Flats if only I’m choosing and Ten Fidy if I am for both of us, and possibly if we both choose one between us. I would go with the almost sessionable Barney Flats over the not-at-all-sessionable Ten Fidy myself as it would have a bit more range.

If I could somehow get fresh deliveries but only of the same beer I might for go this year’s Jubelale but that’s not really possible over Winter anyway since by then Red Chair has replaced it as a seasonal.

Beer book(s) paired with which beer

Well, there’s the easy answer of the appropriate style with each book in the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications, for instance Pale Ale with one’s favorite pale. I’m not sure what my favorite pale is although I know I like a few. Poking UnTappd I’m going to have to say either Deschutes Hop Trip, Block 15 Print Master’s Pale, Mazama Oregon SMASH, or Crux The Pale Ale.

I own Pale Ale (Foster), Porter (Foster), Stout (Lewis), and Barley Wine (Allen & Cantwell) (all of which I’ve read) and Vienna, Marzën, Oktoberfest (Fix & Fix) which I have not.

Probably couldn’t get very far at a time with Barley Wine unless sipping very slowly. I’ll leave it to you to choose appropriate beers for these and the following.

Might I suggest some possible combinations for your own consideration:

Boak and Bailey  Brew Britannia with the best approximation [if not in the UK] of English beer, preferably a sessionable one, that you can achieve in your location. Actual British beer would be preferable, with something from one of the upstarts even better. Perhaps you ought sit in your local and enjoy your beer there while you read it. That would be my choice. [Learned to read in bars in college & grad school, basically across my 40s. “Retired” from the Army and started college full-time to finish undergrad degree and eventually grad school.]

Patrick Dawson – Vintage Beer with anything cellared for over three years.

Sam Calagione – Extreme Brewing with some Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, or one of their other off-centered beers [same issue as Barley Wine above, though].

Terry Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts with tasty porters or stouts or an assortment of the various sub-styles if your tastes are eclectic enough. Mine are. I can appreciate a well-made porter or stout of any origin.

There’s also the Brewing Elements series from Brewer Publications:

Stan Hieronymous – For the Love of Hops with a nicely hopped (whatever that is for you), hop-forward beer, with either your favorite hops or some of the newer German varieties or anything from New Zealand.

John Mallett – Malt with tasty malt-forward beers.

Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff – Yeast with tasty yeast-driven beers. [not yet read]

John Palmer & Colin Kaminski – Water with, well, not sure what a water-forward beer would be, but tasty beers where the style is heavily-dependent on the water profile seems a good start. [not yet read]

Then there are potentialities like working your way style-by-style through some of these:

Mirella Amato – Beerology [read, not yet reviewed]

Garrett Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

Jeff Alworth – The Beer Bible [read, not yet reviewed]

Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries (or your own state/region) with a selection of Oregon (or other “district” as appropriate)  beers

Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer [still need to do a proper review of this]

Pete Dunlop – Portland Beer (or your city)

Joshua Bernstein – The Complete Beer Course [not yet read]

Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium with as many of the great beers of Belgium you can (easily) get to hand. [not yet read]

Leaving the easy to come by—self-evident—beer-related pairings:

Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with some “home-brewed ale.”

“‘Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.’*”

“From ‘Country Lassie’, a song by Robert Burns (1792). ‘Sine’: then; ‘maun’: must; ‘yill’: ale (Scots dialect). Cf. the proverb, ‘As they brew so let them drink’ (ODEP, 85).” 227/433

If you are still reading, thanks. Sorry for going on so long but I was inspired by Jon’s topic, even if it was mostly meaningful to me.

Holiday Beers (The Session #106)

This is my entry for The Session #106 with the topic of holiday beers; hosted at by Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin, which is the home of The Session.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The prompt

So for this Session, write about whatever makes you happy, so long as it involves holiday beers.

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

Review one or more holiday beers.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

Those are just a few suggestions, celebrate the holiday beers in your own way. Happy Holidays!

General thoughts

I seem to have a somewhat fraught relationship with “holiday beers.” I’m going to talk about some generalities, some specific beers, and then answer Jay’s questions in the prompt.

This is what I recently wrote in a post about McMenamins’ 2015 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.”

So my basic stance is “Um, no.”

But I followed those paragraphs up with “This is NOT one of those winter warmers.”

I also keep trying pumpkin, squash and yam beers and hoping they aren’t pie beers because I appreciate the subtle influence of those ingredients used well. Fort George has the wonderful Squashed Stout at the Festival of the Dark Arts, or has the last 3 years. There are others.

Perhaps more to the overall point, as Jay pointed out in his announcement post:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? Different breweries, thankfully, do this in many, many different ways. Some use unusual spices or fruits, some use special malts or hops, some use other uncommon ingredients like spruce or rye, and some make a style that itself is unusual. So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

Thus, no stylistic rules to go by and while winter warmers do not fall into a coherent style many holiday beers are within its purview. But then anything “made to impress” can also be a holiday beer.

So I keep trying them.

Impress me. Please.

Specific beers

I have written positively about Kris Kringle twice now. But it is extremely lightly spiced and an otherwise well-executed amber perhaps. [McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013)]

We recently shared a bottle of pFriem Winter Ale which turned out to be a very lightly spiced PNW IPA. It was a well-executed beer and I found it tasty although not what was expected. The wife spit and called them heathens. I told her that was a bit much but tilted her way a tad bit. Thankfully there are plenty of other pFriem beers we both adore.

Deschutes Jubelale is an annual ritual at the Deschutes Bend Public House. It gets some particular love for the free poster-sized artwork (which the labels are based on) with a signing by the artist each year. We have them all since we moved here in 2012 (um, 4 then). And the signing starts at a good time if you aren’t worried about dinner. Go to the bar at the Deschutes Pub and order a very fresh Jubelale and get in line to get your poster signed. We may have been first this year for posters. It is an easy in and out and you get to drink tasty beer, meet a talented artist and get a free, signed poster. Be sure to tour the brewery to get a view of the real artwork from most of the years as you finish your tour. Much of it is breathtaking. Thanks, Deschutes!

I actually need to pick up a six-pack of Jubelale as this is now the time of year for me to drink it. Was kind of craving it Tuesday night when we finally got home from work and the store. It is quite delicious this year. I don’t drink lots of it but a sixer or two each winter seems proper.

Wednesday night we had a Fermentum OG 1111 (2012?) [brewed at the Santa Maria al Carrabiolo convent per RateBeer] which I picked up a couple months ago at Corvallis Brewing Supply.

Carrobiolo

“birra stagionale invernale” = winter seasonal beer

This was an odd one. Smoked which I guess all of the flames on the label ought have tipped us off to. The aroma was of light smoke as was the taste. As it warmed that smoke became somewhat peat-infused. It was medium-bodied with the light peatiness lingering in the finish. Neither of us are smoked beer fans, nor especially of peat, but this was oddly drinkable. It wasn’t an awesome beer to us but I’m glad I tried it.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA – fresh, in early to mid-Winter, it is one of the best beers in the world.

Maybe this is not actually a holiday beer I guess but I think of it as such seeing as it is a winter seasonal (available January – April). This beer has been named The Best Beer in the World a couple times, which is honestly ridiculous. But for about four to six weeks each year in early winter this is one of the world’s best beers. I don’t believe it would be if it was available year-round although it would still be an excellent beer. Just give me my several Red Chair between January and my birthday in February. Just please keep the nitro away from mine! Yes, I am a winter baby. Has something to do with my attitude towards holiday and winter beers, methinks.

Jay’s suggested questions answered

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Review one or more holiday beers.

See McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013) posts.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

The idea is perfectly fine. It is the execution. And differences of opinion and literal taste and all that.

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Nonsensical question to me. In a special context or situation—like I take it we assume “the holidays” to be—then I want a special beer. For me, and the wife, that is probably a massive imperial stout or a similar barleywine; quite probably barrel-aged. For me it could also be an excellent lambic or gueuze or Berliner Weisse on the rare occasion I get a chance to enjoy such lovelies. It could also be an aged Samichlaus. Considering so many other people who are routinely under the misguided impression that many of those are not year-round beers are now thinking the weather is right ….

There just are no holiday beers (as more commonly thought, but see below) that I have found yet that reach the pinnacle of my palate. Some are quite tasty and are indeed worth drinking by the numbers one can do on two or three  or maybe even four hands over the course of a couple months [see Jubelale and Red Chair, above]. But none have reached the level of preference for special occasions, or even if I just want a beer I will love [well, OK, extremely fresh Red Chair is a beer I will love BUT ONLY for a 1-2 month window].

For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period. And some are quite exceptional beers in their own right but they impress me in ways I consider differently, I guess.

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Deschutes The Abyss release day is a tradition for us. It is also a holiday for us. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important days of the year! The wife would also add Deschutes’ birthday which is (usually) release day for their Black Butte Reserve anniversary beer, which might be my second favorite Deschutes beer. Tis her first by a head.

The release the last couple of years [2013] has been between the second and third week of November so a great pre-Thanksgiving start. Last year (our 3rd) we got our first snow of the year the night before and it was a big one. The next day we faced the tough decision of whether to trudge the one mile each way to the pub in snow boots or to use our snowshoes. We opted for boots and was there for opening through a foot of snow, drifts were deeper.

I failed to write this up last year, which is one of my great ones along with nothing about Fort George’s Festival of the Dark Arts our 2nd and 3rd years.

It was an epic day but in a mostly fun and enjoyable way. We were able to spend several hours drinking our vertical flights and still leave while it was light out.

We will be there at opening (11 AM) this year on 17 December [got pushed back a bit this year but even more “holiday” now]. Cannot wait to compare 2011-2015 vintages and “Please, please, please!” have a truffle, Deschutes!

Based on this recent tweet I suspect they are. Not sure what that silvery gunk is but I imagine it is good or I can ignore it.

Official 2015 The Abyss release day info (10th release this year):

Sounds awesome but even I find that a tad insane. I’ll take my flight at 11 AM and settle in for the next couple of hours of tasty bliss.

If you want to read my sort of love letter (let’s be honest) to The Abyss then here it is. If all goes well I will get to have this experience again next month with even more vintages, all 10. Please, life. I am begging you.

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Ones that get wide distribution are released too early, in my opinion. Smaller, more local ones seem to be better timed.

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

I have not been to many. The only one that comes to mind was the 1st Annual Winter Beer Fest, sponsored by Growler Guys and hosted at GoodLife on 14 December 2013. The beers and the event were alright but we also had another beer event that evening, the inaugural event of a friend. We did not make last years event. This year’s event is the 3rd, now called the Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival.

Seems like it could be a festive mood in which to try various offerings and in smaller quantities. That’s one of those fraught questions which arises considering other beers in different styles, or various processes or ingredients: if it is only tasty for, say, 2 to 6 ounces can I call it a good beer? Let any superlative you choose that fits the context stand in for good? Is it then? I haven’t answered this one for myself yet. I can’t  answer it for anyone else.

Other holiday beers on hand to drink

HolidayBeers

I kept a couple Anchor 2014 Christmas Ales and picked up the pFriem and Stone yesterday.

Anchor Christmas Ale [Our Special Ale] 2015 release is here. This is its 41st year. See all of the labels here and see which trees have been used by artist Jim Stitt over the years.

We did drink one of the 2014s we held on Thanksgiving as our noon beer and it was OK. I don’t think the year did it any favors though.

pFriem Belgian-style Christmas Ale. Ah yes. Belgian (or Belgian-style) Christmas beers could almost be a class in itself. Not revisiting the others from over the years here. For instance, Delerium Noël or Fantôme Noël, which we had along with others at a Deschutes Brewery University class on Winter beer and cheese back in January 2013. Bring these DBU classes back please, Deschutes.

Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout has just been rereleased (due to popular demand, by the way) and this time, now in 12 oz bottles versus first-run 22 oz bottles (bombers), it claims to be “For the holidays and the new year.” OK. It’s a holiday beer posing as a Mexican hot chocolate. It was damned tasty last time. Here’s hopin’.

It’s brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. This semisweet milk stout was excellent last time. This is what I said about it in my Untapped checkin:

A full-on trigeminal attack. Oily mouthfeel; var. astringencies; spice & aroma of peppers w/hint of heat. 4.75

Oh yeah. I remember this. If you ever need a beer to engage every possible sense perception in your mouth, throat and nose this is a number one contender.

So. Much. Going. On.

In there all at once and in weirds successions and … It was mind-blowing actually. An experience, as they say.

Boy. I hope this can stand up to my hopes and memory now. But if this is a holiday beer then bring them on.

Final thoughts

So my holiday beer thoughts and experiences are fraught and complicated. I truly appreciate some beers that have spices and other flavorings; see Kris Kringle, Jubelale, and Xocoveza above as examples. Just as I do quite appreciate some pumpkin, squash and yam beers.

But these do not circumscribe holiday beers as Jay Brooks has described them for years in the annual holiday beer tasting for the Celebrator Beer News. Also above [with the clipped bit]:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? … So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

As I said above,

“For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period.”

These are not the same things to one of a philosophical bent but I’m not defining “holiday beer” for anyone else either. Certainly not for myself for all time. This isn’t even a view I held 5 years ago.

But I see some overlap.

As I prefer a beer that impresses me–and those above that I want to drink several of do–I think they fit Jay’s description perfectly. [I am not claiming that he sees it as a definition.] The fact that they would only greatly impress me if they kept their seasonal, whatever the “season,” release and thus remain somewhat restricted is irrelevant.

Speaking of beers that impress me, I want to leave room in my description of holiday beers for the narrower one of “my favorite holiday beer:”

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Much overlap but these may also be beers that would make any occasion special, raise it from the ordinary, force you to pay attention. To it and to what is going on around it. They bring you back to yourself.

Cheers!

Thoughts from a real beer writer

Just in time, a new article by K. Florian Kemp from the Stylistically Speaking column in All About Beer v. 36(6) dated 2 December on the history of some kinds of holiday beers.

My previous posts for the session (one is by me wife)

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.

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 crème 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 Crème 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.

DBU: Winter beer and cheese

Tuesday night, along with some friends, we attended Deschutes Brewery University (DBU): Winter Beer and Cheese Pairing, which was a joint production of Deschutes Brewery and Tumalo Farms. Our hosts were brewer John Abraham and cheesemaker Flavio DeCastilhos.

Title slide for Deschutes Brewery University - Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

Title slide for Deschutes Brewery University – Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

They paired 6+ winter beers with 6 cheeses from Tumalo Farms and then told us a bit about each of the beers and cheeses as we sampled them and then chose to sample whichever cheeses (and other small nibbles) with the beers as we saw fit. The reason I said 6+ is that they could only find 3 bottles of the Fantôme de Noël which meant only a half pour each so they added a 7th beer, Duchesse de Bourgogne, and gave us a pour of that too. These two were beer(s) 2A and 2B in the list.

Menu for Deschutes Brewery University - Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

Menu for Deschutes Brewery University – Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

The beers in order were:

  • 1 Hub Abominable from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, Oregon
  • 2A Fantôme de Noël from Brasserie Fantôme in Soy-Erezee, Belgium
  • 2B Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, West Flanders, Belgium
  • 3 St. Bernardus Christmas Ale from Brouwerij St. Bernardus in Watou, Belgium.
  • 4 Delirium Noël from Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium
  • 5 Super Jubel from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon
  • 6 The Abyss (2012) from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon

The cheeses, all from Tumalo Farms, in order (clockwise starting at 12) were:

Cheese plate at Deschutes Brewery University - Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

Cheese plate at Deschutes Brewery University – Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

During the intro, John or Flavio (sorry, can’t remember which one), said my newest favorite phrase, “favorably contradictory,” when talking about some of the things we might look for as we made our own pairings of beers and cheeses. “Favorably contradictory.” So many potential uses in taste sensations but hopefully even some broader uses. 😉

And as John said, “Beer and cheese. It’s not rocket science.”

Why Beer and Cheese? slide at Deschutes Brewery University - Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

Why Beer and Cheese? slide at Deschutes Brewery University – Winter Beer & Cheese Pairing event

Since my notes on the cheeses are so poor, let me say upfront that every one of these cheeses is exquisite! I will certainly be looking for Tumalo Farms cheeses more actively in the future [and I did link them all above].

Abominable and Pondhopper:

7.3% ABV, 70 IBUs. Grapefruit, pepper, light caramel.
Goat’s milk and Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale.
The Pondhopper really brings out the hops in the Abominable, which also paired nicely with the Rimrocker. The Nocciola really brought out the grapefruit in the Abominable.

Fantôme de Noël and Jewell:

10% ABV, barrel-aged, assorted spices. Grapefruit smell.
Failed to make any notes about the Jewell, which should not reflect on its taste.

Duchesse de Bourgogne and Jewell:

Aged in rum barrels. Cherry, vanilla, oak, green apple, rum. Tastes a fair bit like a green Jolly Rancher.
Tastes quite good with dried apricot.

They had us take a small bite of the pickled ginger at this point to clear our palates. Ugh!

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and Rimrocker:

10% ABV, Belgian strong ale. Boozy dark fruits, clove, cinnamon, oak.
Again, failed on cheese notes.
The St. Bernardus was really mellowed by the Jewell. Was quite good with several of the cheeses (think I tried it with 4), although most, except the Jewell, didn’t affect the taste of the beer much.

Delirium Noël and Classico Reserve:

10% ABV, Belgian strong ale. Berries, plum, figs, raisins.
100% goat’s cheese, cave-aged for one year. Very nutty.
The Classico Reserve really mellowed out the Fantôme de Noël in a very good way and was also good with the Duchesse de Bourgogne.

Super Jubel and Nocciola:

10% ABV., 100% pinot barrel-aged for 6 months. Well-balanced hops & malts.
Oregon hazelnuts.
A really good pairing, sweetens the beer.
Super Jubel also quite good with the cracker with figs.

The Abyss and Fenacho:

11% ABV, 70 IBUs, Italian brewer’s licorice, blackstrap molasses, dry hopped with vanilla beans and cherry bark.
Fenugreek seeds. Hints of butterscotch at the finish.
The Abyss and the candied walnuts = O.M.F.G.

I apologize that my notes are so poor for both the cheeses and the beers. I am new to this level of studied appreciation and lack some of the vocabulary and still have a fairly undeveloped palate; all of which I am trying to remedy quickly. It is also quite hard to pay full attention to whoever is providing you info and taste beers and cheeses (or whatever food) in assorted combinations and keep up with it all. Also, after a while, several small glasses of strong beers begin to take their toll. My first goal in all of this is to pay as full attention to the experience of tastes and aromas as I can, and only secondly to worry about notes.

I will say that all of the beers and cheeses were quite good, as were the pairings set up by John and Flavio. I gave the first 5+ beers all 4 stars and based on some of the cheese and other foods paired with The Abyss (2012) I gave it a 5 star rating for the first time. I am still a long way from considering it the Best Stout or Porter in the world but it is still an amazing beer with lots more potential than I suspected [see my previous notes on The Abyss here and here]. I’m telling you, The Abyss and candied walnuts!

We would like to extend a definite “Thank you!” to John and Flavio who did an excellent job hosting this event. Feel free to do some other pairings in the future for us!

This was Sara’s and my 3rd DBU and we are looking forward to many more! See you there!

[This post, DBU: Winter beer and cheese, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 6 December 2012.]

Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

I had a very bad afternoon yesterday (Thursday, 29th) and by 3:30 pm I was ready to start drinking some very dark, very strong beer. But I didn’t.

Then around 3:50 I saw this tweet from @DeschutesBeer

Meet the brewer & taste The Abyss ’11, ’12, BBXXIII, BBXXIV, & Jubelale on Nitro @platypuspubbend #inbend 2nite 6-8pm. See you there??

Sara and I decided to go since we had not yet had Black Butte Porter XXIII. We headed over around 5:15 to check out the bottled beers upstairs—looking for Midnight Sun Berserker Imperial Stout, in particular. Didn’t find any but there are several Midnight Suns and a few other things we’d like to try soon. Headed downstairs and got a table before the proceedings were to start. Turns out that they even had Black Butte Porter XXIII on tap so we got a 10 oz. snifter to share and some food.

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

Snifter of Black Butte Porter XXIII at The Platypus Pub

This is what I put into Untappd when I checked this beer in:

Mmmm. Tobacco, figs, slight wine notes, pepper on sides. XXIV is better but this is darn fine.

The event started a bit early but we had our food and it was an ongoing thing for a couple hours so we chilled and ate. The brewer and some other folks were there and had some ingredients—brewer’s licorice, vanilla beans and cherry bark, and something else (I forget)—in jars for smelling and tastes of the beers.

While we were eating we saw that they had flights of the 5 beers so we ordered one. It came with the BBP XXIII & XXIV, The Abyss 2011 & 2012, and Jubelale on nitro. Then they told us there was a special 6th one which we would get from the brewer but a few minutes later a guy from the Platypus Pub came by with our 6th glass and said “Here’s your XXII.” Holy WTF, Batman! Black Butte Porter XXII. Sara immediately texted Stacey and Beth. Beth was able to come join us.  All of the beers were quite good but I wasn’t very good at making notes last night.

Flight of Deschutes beer at the Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

Deschutes flight: Back L –> R: BBPXXIII, BBPXXIV, Abyss 2011. Front L –> R: Abyss 2012, Jubelale 2012 (nitro), BBP XXII

BBP XXII was much smoother than the XXIII and XXIV and tasted more of vanilla and dark malts, with a very slight bourbon/whiskey taste. I think Sara and Beth like it the best of the three but I still like XXIV the most. Perhaps that is because I have had it more frequently and in more varied situations. Sure wish I could give the XXII that chance, too.

Black Butte Porter XXII carton at Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub

Black Butte Porter case

These are amazing beers and I want to thank Bend for being the town that it is, Platypus Pub for hosting this evening, and to especially thank Deschutes for brewing so many outstanding libations and sharing them with us.

[This post, Deschutes beer tasting night at the Platypus Pub, originally appeared on habitually probing generalist on 1 December 2012. It was slightly modified in that I removed the initial disclaimer about it being tagged DigiWriMo.]