Cantwell & Bouckaert – Wood & Beer

Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide by Dick Cantrell and Peter Bouckaert

Date read: 17 July – 19 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Cantwell & Bouckaert's Wood & Beer book

Paperback, xxiv, 228 pages
Published 2016 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an excellent book, particularly for the pro brewer, but also for the homebrewer with the cash and fortitude to undertake fermenting and/or conditioning/aging in barrels. Of course, other ways to get wood into beer—spirals, chips, powder, etc.—are also covered.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword by Frank Book
  • Foreword by Wayne Wambles
  • Introduction
  • 1. The History of the Barrel, or There and Back Again
  • 2. Cooperage
  • 3. Wood & Wooden Vessels
  • 4. Wood Maintenance
  • 5. Flavors from Wood
  • 6. Flavors in Wood
  • 7. Blending and Culture
  • Appendix A: Techniques for Wood- and Barrel-Aging for Homebrewers
  • Appendix B: Wood Primer for Homebrewers
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I utterly recommend this book if you are considering barrel/wood-aging at any level. It can get quite deep at times —but always fascinating—but you only need to absorb small bits as a homebrewer. All in all, a lot of great stuff to be aware of even if you never stick any beer in wood or vice versa. This book will help you gain an even better appreciation of the art of cooperage and that of the barrel-aging of beer.

The bottom line: Every individual barrel [or piece of wood] is its own special snowflake. That is the starting point. Good luck!

This is the 22nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

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.

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)

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.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 release

Today is release day for Deschutes much-anticipated Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barrel-aged barley wine. It has been 5 years since it was last released. This past Dec 20th I had some of the 2009 Mirror Mirror at a Solstice Barley Wine Night party we had at our place and it was quite tasty so I was definitely looking forward to this release.

Mirror Mirror 2014 Release barley wine at Deschutes Brewery barrel works

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine at Deschutes Brewery barrel works

The same friend who brought the 2009 Mirror Mirror to our barley wine party, the ever personable Jon Abernathy, invited me as his +1 to an invitation-only media event held yesterday at Deschutes barrel works, celebrating the release of the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve. We got to chat with founder Gary Fish and barrel master and brewer Ryan [sorry, failed to catch his last name].

Deschutes founder, Gary Fish, and barrel master/brewer Ryan, talking to us about the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

Deschutes founder, Gary Fish, and barrel master/brewer Ryan, talking to us about the Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

They talked about Mirror Mirror, the Reserve Series, the new Pub Reserve Series, the barrel works, upcoming plans for beers, and answered questions while we sampled the new 2014 Mirror Mirror. Next we tried some of the first Pub Reserve Series beer Big Red. And finally we got to try some future Not the Stoic right out of the rye barrel it is aging in. It was a grand time, the beers were all world class, and I learned a lot. Thanks, Deschutes and Jon!

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, cold side

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, cold side

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, warm side for sours and those beauties needing warmer temps of 70 degrees

Deschutes Brewery barrel works, warm side for sours and those beauties needing warmer temps of 70 degrees

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve Barley Wine was the first of the Deschutes Reserve Series and was previously released in 2005 & 2009. It was “born of a double batch of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, [and] is an inspired barley wine ale layered with intriguing nuances. Explore the latest incarnation and enjoy its delicious complexity in every sip.” It is 11/2% ABV and has 53 IBUs. It is brewed with English malts and Cascade and Millennium hops. Fifty percent was aged for 10 months in oak barrels that once held Oregon Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec wines. [All info from the one-sheet they provided.]

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve barley wine

I hope to get about 5-6 bottles of this and sit on them for 6-months, 1 year, 2 years through to 4-5 years. I expect quite delicious things to develop. I suggest you get to one of the pubs and try this fresh on draft and then put aside a bottle or two for at least 6 months. Keep in mind that even Deschutes recommends waiting a year as the bottles have a “Best After” 24 February 2015 date on them. I’m willing to “sacrifice” a bottle at 6-months to see how it is developing but my main interest in this vintage is in the 1 to 5-year-old range.

The Pub Reserve Series was quietly released at the end of last year. These bottles are only available at both of the pubs and the breweries’ tasting room. “It’s no secret that our brewers love to experiment in the pub brewhouses, and this new series celebrates that passion with some never-seen-before, single-batch brews. First up is Big Red, a double Cinder Cone Red, aged in Cabernet and Syrah barrels. The next pub Reserve beer will be Planète Rouge, a blended sour red ale – releasing March 24, 2014.” [All info from the one-sheet they provided.]

The Big Red, an Imperial Red Ale, is shaping up quite nicely already. We had a sample at the Deschutes Pub on 31 December when it was released and picked up a bottle for some light aging. It has a “best by” 1 Dec 2014 date and based on how it has already matured I think I’ll give it another 3-4 months. If you are interested in this you had best grab it soon at either of Deschutes pubs in Bend or Portland or at the tasting room at the brewery.

After they discussed the Pub Reserve Series, I asked Gary and Ryan if the Portland Pub beers would be available at the tasting room. They clarified that these beers are brewed in both pubs, in this case barrel-aged, and then shipped to the brewery where they are blended and then bottled for sale. So they truly are a collaboration between the two pub brewers. I know I need to learn more about the Portland pub brewer but we adore Veronica Vega and her Bend pub beers!

The Not the Stoic will be a barrel-aged, Belgian-style quad, due in April if I remember correctly. It is aging in several different barrels and we got ours straight out of a rye barrel. I hope once it’s blended some of those rye notes remain, along with whatever other intriguing notes they get from the other barrels.

Not the Stoic straight out of the rye barrel

Not the Stoic straight out of the rye barrel

Again, thanks so much Deschutes Brewery and Jon for including me.

Oh yeah. We each got to bring a bottle home.

And as final photo teasers here are some true beauties to salivate over in your dreams while we wait for some future release:

The Abyss Imperial Stout. But is this 2014 or 2015?

The Abyss Imperial Stout. But is this 2014 or 2015?

 

Pub Imperial Bitter sitting in a spanish sherry cask. OMG! Please let me find this at the Bend pub whenever it is released.

Pub Imperial Bitter sitting in a spanish sherry cask. OMG! Please let me find this at the Bend pub whenever it is released.

 

 

The Abyss vertical tasting

On the 11th of January of this year the wife and I were invited along with about 16 other people to Jon & Sherri Abernathy’s home for one of the most epic tastings ever: Deschutes The Abyss Imperial Stout full vertical tasting, 2006 – 2013.

Epic is the correct word. Certainly there are similar tastings of equally exquisite beers, but bring in all 8 years beginning with the first vintage (2006) and they become very rare, and often epic, events.

The first order of business is a big thanks to Jon & Sherri for collecting, saving, hoarding, storing and, finally, sharing all of those bottles of The Abyss. Bless you Jon for starting discussions of carrying it forward in 8 or more year flights into the future (next year 2007-2014 unless some saintly benefactor shows up with some 2006).

Jon's menu for The Abyss 2006-2013 Vertical Tasting

Jon’s menu for The Abyss 2006-2013 Vertical Tasting

The guests were Jon’s work buddies, local beer geeks and local beer industry folks including Gina and Jason, great people and Deschutes’ social media team. There is of course some overlap between various groups. There were three folks who were not having beer.

We drank the vintages sequentially starting at the beginning with 2006 and ending with 2013, although a few people had already dropped off or were about to by the time we got to 2013. 😉

Deschutes The Abyss 2006 - its 1st vintage

Deschutes The Abyss 2006 – its 1st vintage

We had shared a bottle of 2006 The Abyss back in summer with some of these same folks at the 2013 End of Summer Beer Extravaganza. Jon’s bottle was a bit better aged than that one, which wasn’t bad in the first place. He only had two 22 oz bottles of 2006 so we were getting about 2 oz each. It was an exquisite beer.

I knew trying to keep notes on the nuances between vintages was beyond ridiculous and I wanted to focus on the beer. I was planning on checking them all in on Untapped but only made a few notes on the first few. 2007 was going to be the only vintage I had not yet tasted* and I wanted a few notes on it. Here’s what I said:

  • 2006: A: heavenly. Dry must, cedar. Choc, tobacco, vanilla. Amazing! [notebook and Untappd]
  • 2007: A: tar, tobacco. OMG Beergasm! Slightly more tobacco, slightly spicier in mid-finish [notebook only]
  • 2008: little sweeter; smoother [notebook only]
  • 2009: slight Brett “infection” After that I just checked them in with a five-star rating and got back to enjoying them.
Deschutes The Abyss 2007

Deschutes The Abyss 2007

Every single one of the vintages was exquisite despite its differences from its siblings. Perhaps it is also due to those differences. Drinking 2 pints of The Abyss is not something one undertakes lightly. Experiencing all of those one after the other over a few hours was priceless.

In 2009 Deschutes had a problem with some of their batches getting infected with Brettanomyces. I have had Mirror Mirror and now The Abyss from 2009 (all previous 2009 The Abyss i have had was not infected.) that were both “infected” and let me tell you that they were still exquisite beers—despite and because. For many fans of Mirror Mirror and The Abyss the 2009 infected bottles are their favorites.

After the 2013 there were still some bottles of assorted vintages that weren’t empty. I had another ~1.5 oz of 2006 and then the same of 2010. In all, I had had ~2 pints of The Abyss.

My favorites so far are 2006, 2007 and 2010. I believe 2009 has amazing potential and 2011 isn’t far behind it. 2012 and 2013 are, of course, tasty but are still young.

We have a bottle each of 2007 and 2008, which I got at the Deschutes Bend Pub on release day this year. That bottle of 2007 is the priciest beer per oz. that I have bought so far. We also have 2 bottles of 2012 and 12 of this past year’s vintage. Sadly, it will be several years before we can host a vertical of The Abyss ourselves.

Thanks so very much to Jon and Sherri for hosting this wonderful tasting and for sharing all of this The Abyss with us.

Orange bottle cap from Deschutes The Abyss 2006 [see Jon's post linked below for more info]

Orange bottle cap from Deschutes The Abyss 2006 [see Jon’s post linked below for more info]

Here is Jon’s recap of the evening at his own blog: Abyss tasting Some of his tweets:

 

Deschutes Brewery tweets:

 

* We moved to Bend in time for the 2012 release of The Abyss and had a flight of 2008-12 at the pub on release day, and this past year we had 2009-13, again at the pub on release day.

The Abyss 2013 Release

Thursday was release day for The Abyss 2013—Deschutes’ imperial stout—at both the Bend and Portland pubs. That meant one thing. I was there. Just like I was there last year. Just like I hope to be there for years into the future.

A few others and I were there when they opened the Bend pub doors at 11. I settled in at a table in the bar area as my friend Miles was going to be joining me in a bit for lunch. I ordered my taster flight which came with 5 oz pours of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2013 on nitro along with one of Deschutes’ heavenly chocolate truffles.

Tasters of The Abyss Imperial Stout on Release Day. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013 ntiro

Tasters of The Abyss Imperial Stout on Release Day. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013 ntiro

[Please, please, please Deschutes—if you are listening—put the truffles back on the every day menu!]

Slowly over the next two hours I sampled my way through those small glasses of heaven. Miles wasn’t able to finish all of his before having to head back to work so I inherited varying amounts. He did finish the 2010 and the 2013 non-nitro though.

Since the better half had to work she was unable to visit until very late afternoon. I met her and then we headed to the pub. She had the flight and I ordered a snifter of the 2009. Pub brewer Veronica Vega came by at some point with a tray of bottled 2009 samples and we snagged one. By the time we had to leave for the Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett show at the Tower the pub was really hopping.

Snifter of The Abyss Imperial Stout 2009

Snifter of The Abyss Imperial Stout 2009

We had seen several friends and were able to leave some of all vintages for our friend Jon to taste.

On my first visit earlier in the day I also picked up one bottle each of 2007 and 2008 (very limited, one/person) and two of 2013. The 2007 and 2008 were quite dear and I have now upped my per ounce cost and total cost per bottle even beyond when I got the Westvleteren XII this past spring. As far as I am concerned, The Abyss is every bit as good as Westvleteren XII and 2007 is the only year I have yet to taste. I am stoked.

The Abyss Imperial Stout bottles. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2013

The Abyss Imperial Stout bottles. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2013

If you get a chance, try The Abyss. Doesn’t matter if it’s this years or some other going back to 2006. Just try it. Try as many of the vintages as you can. If you like big stouts you will most likely be pleased.

For me, The Abyss is heaven in a glass. I won’t say it’s “the best beer in the world” because that is just silly. But it is one of my very favorites of what is arguably my favorite style. Thank you, Deschutes!