Loving Deschutes, Firestone Walker and Fremont

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

Deschutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firestone Walker

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

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

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

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

Sara taking a picture of 2015 Helldorado blond barleywine

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

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

Fremont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prairie Artisan Ales

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

I simply adore their labels, by the way.

Bottle and glass of Pirate Noir at BTBS

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

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

Bottle and glass of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

Untappd 2500th unique

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

Screenshot of my Untappd profile page showing 2499 unique checkins

Recap

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

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

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)

Beer and Brewing vol. 8

Beer and brewing: National Conference on Quality Beer and Brewing, 1988 transcriptsVirginia Thomas; Brewers Publications 1988WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderBeer and Brewing vol. 8 is composed of the edited transcripts of the National Conference on Quality Beer and Brewing, held in Denver, CO, June 1988 (ed., Virginia Thomas).

My 4-star goodreads review was short and sweet: A bit dated now but it is interesting to see when/where some ideas arose/evolved.

I’ll try to do a bit better here, although I’m not making any promises other than you get the table of contents and some of my notes.

Read 5-28 October 2014

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • 1. Ten Years of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian
  • 2. Sensory Evaluation for Brewers – Jean-Xavier Guinard and Ian Robertson
  • 3. Issues in All-Grain Brewing – Dave Miller
  • 4. Aroma Identification – Charlie Papazian and Gregory Noonan
  • 5. The Excitement Is Brewing – Hans Bilger
  • 6. Improved Record-Keeping – Randy Mosher
  • 7. Bavarian Breweries – Prince Luitpold von Bayern
  • 8. Making Amazing Mead – Leon Havill
  • 9. Brewpubs of Austria – Baron Henrik Bachofen von Echt
  • 10. Beer for Lunch – Michael Jackson
  • 11. Hop Flavor in Beer – Dr. George Fix
  • 12. Beer Formulation – Daniel Carey

Jumping in…

1. Ten Years of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian

lists his 5 foundational texts for homebrewing [very perfunctorily] 4-5

He published Joy of Brewing in 1976

Mostly a personal recollection of his previous 10+ years in homebrewing and possibilities for the future.

2. Sensory Evaluation for Brewers – Jean-Xavier Guinard and Ian Robertson

Sensory Evaluation as a Research Tool

The Notion of Experimental Design

The Choice of the Proper Sensory Test(s)

     2 main types: analytical-laboratory and consumer tests

         analytical: if there is a difference b/w beers, & nature & magnitude of diff 20

         consumer: acceptance, degree of liking, and preference 20

     Analytical Tests

     Consumer Tests

         “Fortunately, the pioneering work of Meilgaard, Pangborn, Clapperton, Mecredy, Neilson, and others has given an edge in sensory evaluation to the brewing industry and the literature is now virtually error-free.” 24

     Statistics: Friend or Foe?

     Sensory Evaluation as a Quality Control and Trouble-shooting Tool

     Preparation of Reference Standards for Flavor Profiling

Includes a table of flavor descriptor and how to make them cheaply. Also provides proper citations for all of those pioneering works mentioned.

3. Issues in All-Grain Brewing – Dave Miller

Interesting and lots of possibly good advice.

4. Aroma Identification – Charlie Papazian and Gregory Noonan

Provides an introduction to the ASBC Flavor Wheel as developed my Meilgaard, et al., amongst other aroma identification issues and topics.

5. The Excitement Is Brewing – Hans Bilger

Another interesting personal story. This one by a German brewmaster in a tiny brewery in Kentucky.

6. Improved Record-Keeping – Randy Mosher

A report, of sorts, on the book The Brewer’s Workbook, which was being published. 101

Some nice things to keep in mind and other “fudge factors”

7. Bavarian Breweries – Prince Luitpold von Bayern

8. Making Amazing Mead – Leon Havill

9. Brewpubs of [in] Austria – Baron Henrik Bachofen von Echt [TOC and chapter title differ.]

10. Beer for Lunch – Michael Jackson

A lunchtime food and beer pairing led by MJ.

11. Hop Flavor in Beer – Dr. George Fix

Kettle utilization 191

12. Beer Formulation – Daniel Carey

Goes through the formulation of a Maibock.

Final comments:

As you can see, there is a great diversity of topics here. It is worth reading as a snapshot of a time and while there is still much valuable information in it, much of it is dated. For instance, the ASBC Flavor Wheel has been updated since then, I believe. [I have read most of the foundational literature—especially Meilgaard and Meilgaard with others.]

I found my copy used at Browser’s Bookstore, Corvallis, Oregon and paid a total of $3.00 for it. It was a good value at that price. Any more would begin to be questionable; for me, anyway. Updated information is widely available on many of these topics, often from many of these same folks.

OHBA at Starshine Brewery

Wednesday evening we hosted our friend and colleague, Tiah Edmunson-Morton, in a little get-together at our place with friends and acquaintances. Tiah is the archivist for the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives at the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center of Valley Library, Corvallis, Oregon. She had come on her first official visit to Bend.

[I have been sadly remiss in writing about OHBA here. Previous mentions on this blog: Tap Into History: Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives Launch Party 4 Mar 2014 and In which I admit my slackardly tendencies once again run amok … 20 Dec 2013.]

We tried to bring some folks together that represent differing aspects of Bend’s hops and beer culture. We kept it “close to home” and brought in friends who are our most frequent beer drinking buddies and some folks we know but want to know better.

This was really a social event but one with a purpose, or perhaps purposes, for us. We were hoping it would give Tiah a chance to wind down some in between her two research days. And considering she walked all over Bend in 90°+ sunshine she deserved a relaxing evening of conversation and sipping local beers.

One of our purposes was to welcome Tiah to Bend. We helped what little we could with connections for her direct research. Another was to put Tiah in touch with some other aspects of Oregon beer culture. She has understandably been primarily focusing on hops growers and early craft brewing history in Oregon but is well aware that there is much more besides all of the new breweries.

We wanted to expose Tiah to a bit more of the consumption/consumer end of craft brewing and hops: folks who put on bottle shares, acquire certifications even if not directly in the industry, write local beer/brewing history books, blog, take and sell pictures of beer/breweries, cellar beer, visit breweries, …, drink the beer. There are also new hop growers, including some over here in the so-called High Desert of Central Oregon, and plenty of new breweries who need to begin considering their history and how best to conserve that. With all of that in mind, these are the friends we invited:

Miles Wilhem – Exploring Beer, Central Oregon Beer Week 2014; Smith Rock Hop Farm@whydrinkbeer

Miles and Jon & Sherri (see below) are some of the usual suspects that we’d be drinking with, although only infrequently together so that was nice. Miles is into putting on beer tastings as educational events, along with bottle shares. He was a major contributor to the small but hard-working team that put on Central Oregon Beer Week this year. He also is now the farm manager/foreman/handyman/do-it-all/? for Smith Rock Hop Farm. To us, Miles represents a lot about craft beer culture. He is also interested in being even more involved in areas he isn’t currently. Just recently he helped start Smith Rock Hop Farm in Terrebonne, Oregon and in my opinion the history of hops growing in Central Oregon needs to be captured from its birth/rebirth. [I’m going with rebirth as I suspected. One piece of evidence, see pg. 2 in the 1st of 2 massive PDFs of The Hop Press (2 parts here). And why you should follow @brewingarchives on Twitter.]

Jon & Sherri Abernathy – native Bendite, co-founder of Central Oregon Beer Week; author of forthcoming Bend Beer, The Brew Site, Hack Bend@chuggnutt @brewsite

Jon just is Bend beer. He grew up here. He knows most everyone and has for most of the lived craft beer history in Central Oregon. He just submitted the final manuscript for his forthcoming history of Central Oregon beer called Bend Beer. It is due out in Sep. Sara and I have had the privilege of doing some proofreading of the manuscript. We are looking forward to holding it in our hands and re-reading it. Jon was a co-founder of Central Oregon Beer Week three years ago and a big factor in its first two years. He is the primary author of both blogs, The Brew Site and the repeatedly award-winning, Hack Bend. Jon and Sherri hosted The Abyss vertical tasting back in January of this year. Months ago when Tiah and Sara and I were discussing potential Oregon beer blogger’s sites to scrape for the archive Sara & I suggested Jon’s The Brew Site blog. Really, without being directly involved in the industry, Jon just is Bend beer.

Bend Brew Daddy & Bend Brew Mama (Matthew & Lisa Ward) @bendbrewdaddy @bendbrewmama

I first met Bend Brew Daddy on Twitter a while back and we met in person at the Big Woody Barrel-Aged Festival in Portland back in Jan. We’ve seen each other here and there around town so it was nice to have them over. Matthew is tearing up the beer photography #beertography around Central Oregon and further afield, particularly via the Internet. Again, I think that the people in and around craft beer need to be documented. Matthew is producing fine works of art and having fun and making some money doing it, all the while supporting the breweries whose products inspire him. Also, we wanted to get to know Matthew and Lisa better.

Darin & Meghann Butschy – Oblivion Brewing

I first met Darin and Meghann exactly a year previous from this event. I was down at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in the middle of the day hanging out and we were about the only folks in the bar this time of mid-afternoon. I was trying to behave but I was bored and buzzed and they were telling Jason that they were a new brewery in town and they’d like to bring some beer by and …. Once they were done chatting and Jason had wandered off, I took my toasty self over to the bar and introduced myself and gave them one of my cards. We chatted for a while and Sara and I’ve been there with them from their public start. Back when we lived closer and I could walk, I was at BTBS a lot in the afternoon when Darin (and once in a while Meghann) would be there. I was almost always drinking an Oblivion beer when he came in. I love Darin’s beers.

Meghann’s mind was blown when I mentioned to her that with them rapidly coming up on their 1st anniversary now it is time to start thinking about the history of the brewery and how to preserve that archivally. I truly like Darin’s beers and, to me, they are one of the very few standouts in all of our new breweries. So I am happy to help promote them. We also wanted to get Miles and Jon a little more familiar with Darin and Meghann and vice versa.

We sampled lots of local brews: Oblivion Aurora Golden Ale, Crux Double Cross, Crux Belgian Gale, BBC Scarlet IRA, BBC Sexi Mexi (thanks, Jon!), BBC Ching Ching, GoodLife Hat Trick triple IPA (quite tasty!), and GoodLife Mountain Rescue. Introductions were made. Conversations were had. Again, this was mostly social and just a start. Tiah is hoping to come back to Bend a few times in the future. And now when she reaches out to any of these folks they’ll know who she is.

Note: Starshine Brewery is the name of our [admittedly, currently nonexistent] home brewery. Untappd needs a name of a brewery, which also requires a named beer [our future massive Russian Imperial Stout is named Information Loss Paradox. Look it up. Being an aficionado of the many concepts and definitions of “information” makes it all the more intriguing to me in an ironic sense, among others. Especially for a massive RIS.] I got tired of not having a location for beers I was drinking at home and checking in so I had to create it in FourSquare/Untappd.

Mazama Brewing visit

As I mentioned here a couple of days ago, we went to Corvallis the back half of last week. One of the highlights was our visit to Mazama Brewing on Wednesday evening. They are a brand-new brewery having only opened on 31 May and still pouring from their first batches.

Mazama Brewing tasting room

One view of the Mazama Brewing tasting room

We got there around 4 in the afternoon and there was only one other patron there. We were warmly greeted by the Taproom Manager, Gillian, who continued to take great care of us.

Mazama Brewing menu

Mazama Brewing menu

We started with a flight of their current 5 beers, almost all Belgian-inspired. They are from left to right in the photo below, Belgian Style Blond, Belgian Style Dubbel, Grand Cru, Saison d’Etre, and Hop Eruption IPA.

Taster tray at Mazama Brewing

Taster tray at Mazama Brewing

All of these beers were keepers! I gave the blond 4.5 stars out of 5, the dubbel 4, the Grand Cru 4.25, the saison 4 and the IPA 4.5. These values take into account my liking for them as individuals but also as to whether they are in style, which explains the dubbel and saison having lower scores. We ended up getting a glass of the dubbel after our tasters. We were leaning towards the Grand Cru but knew we were going to dinner with some friends later at another very beery place so decided to steer clear of its 10% ABV and got the dubbel which we truly enjoyed. One of friends had two of Mazama’s Grand Cru at dinner and greatly enjoyed them.

Mazama Brewing Belgian Style Dubbel

Mazama Brewing Belgian Style Dubbel and a different of the taproom

I had just submitted my first column for a local/regional beer publication the day before and I needed a decent headshot for the byline so I had Sara take a few photos while there. This is not the one I used but it does show me enjoying the nice aromas of the dubbel. [What’s that? I haven’t mentioned this yet? No. I haven’t. Time constraints would be first and foremost the reason. Also, I’ll kind of believe it myself when I see it in print next month.

Sticking my nose in the dubbel

Sticking my nose in the dubbel

Mazama Brewing was very welcoming and I truly enjoyed every one of their beers. They are also working on a porter. Considering that these were first batch beers, consistency is going to be crucial to their success. They are also a bit out of town proper on Hwy 34 but they are next door to 2 Towns Ciderhouse and Nectar Creek Honeywine meadery, so perhaps that will help bring traffic.

They are also currently on tap in over 20 locations in Corvallis and Albany and reaching other locations in Eugene and such with tap takeovers. Canning is also in their future. I have talked them up to my favorite local watering hole, Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café, so perhaps we’ll see some of their beers over here in Bend soon.

If you get to Corvallis please do visit them. In my humble opinion, they are one of the better breweries in that area; by far. Of course, liking Belgian-style beers will help. Also. Can they nail the consistency?

I truly wish them the very best!

Mazama Brewing coasters, both sides

Mazama Brewing coasters, both sides

My “8 Ways To Celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month”

A few days ago The New School tweeted a link to an article at Gadling.com (travel blog), “8 Ways to Celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month,” by Anna Brones on 6 July 2013. Since I was on my way to Corvallis for a few days I found its timing serendipitous, especially suggestion #2. Thus, I thought I would use it to build a post around.

I had never heard of the Gadling travel blog before or of the article’s author, Anna Brones. Poking the site and especially her byline link, I must say I am slightly confused. It states that,”Anna Brones is a food and travel writer based in Paris, France. In her spare time, she heads up Foodie Underground.” Most of her articles are about Europe, although I did see one about train travel in the Pacific Northwest so perhaps she gets out here once in a while. Not a complaint at all. Just seems a bit random to me but then, hey, I’ll take folks talking up Oregon Craft Beer Month on a wider basis.

On to the article and what I am already doing that fits her suggestions:

1. Go to a festival

While not making it to the big one this year (Oregon Brewer’s Festival), we did attend the Whole Foods Summer Brewfest on Saturday, 6 July, which benefitted the Humane Society of Central Oregon. We tasted all of the following beers and one mead from Nectar of the Gods:

  • Deschutes Belgian Baroness
  • Stone Oak-aged Arrogant Bastard
  • Fort George 3-Way
  • Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere
  • Crux Castor Weizen
  • Hop Valley Vanilla Infused Porter
  • Full Sail Bohemian Pilsner

It was small but included these breweries and around four to six more. It was a tough choice for which beers to try and several we would have liked to sample we had to pass on since we were going to a movie afterwards.

2. Plan a road trip that involves at least five breweries

While I hadn’t actually “planned” out a road trip, per se, it is always my intention to visit the breweries when I go to Corvallis. And this trip was going to include one brand-new brewery, Mazama Brewing, and one new to me, the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery, where I had scheduled a visit for a tour and tasting. The following is a list of the breweries I visited in the order I got to them this time:

  • Mazama (brand-new; soft opened 31 May)
  • Block 15
  • Flat Tail
  • OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery (new to me)
  • McMenamins Corvallis Pub (new to me)
  • Oregon Trail

I intend to write a post each about my visit to Mazama and the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery.

3. Buy beer and other assorted goods

The Fourth of July is mentioned so I will mention the 4th of July Coming Out Stouts party we had with 7 of our friends. Its name, which had a couple different variants, was in celebration of the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings and of my recovery from my recent surgery. We sampled 12 stouts and one porter while enjoying food, conversation and companionship on our back porch. Most of the stouts were already present although I did pick up another Cavatica Stout from Fort George (it comes in 16 oz cans and not 22 oz bombers like the others) and a Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout to pair with the other oatmeal stout I already had.

On 2 July I picked up bottles #7-12 of Black Butte Porter XXV from Broken Top Bottle Shop to round out my case. While I couple of days later I bought a Deschutes Teku goblet at the brewery to compliment the BBPs and other big dark beers from Deschutes.

No doubt other beers have and will be bought over the remainder of the month. As for other beer gear, yesterday I ordered a new Danby 11 cu ft DAR1102WE fridge to replace my much smaller Danby DAR440W as The Cellar. It won’t be delivered for two more weeks but I got an amazing price from Standard TV & Appliance who has it for 15% off through this Monday. Even without the sale it would have been much cheaper then Amazon or Home Depot.

4. Plan a weekend of “research”

The suggested “research” is browsing this Portland monthly article, “50 Best Oregon Beers,” to see which you can get if you live elsewhere. Since I do live in Oregon, I thought I’d see how many I have had so far. It looks like I have had 18 of the 50 so far, although I am fairly certain I have tasted 2-3 more of them.

As for research, especially if you put scare quotes around it, well, that’s what I do. Each week I have scheduled a minimum of one hour/day for four days of beer studying and research. I read beer books and magazines and websites and blog posts and so on. I try to review some of them and hope/intend to review more.

While in Corvallis I got 3 books from OSU Valley Library and bought 2 books and a magazine at The Book Bin. I am currently reading Bamforth, Charles W, ed. 2006. Brewing: New Technologies. Woodhead Publishing in Food Science, Technology, and Nutrition. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Pub. and I am re-reading Bamforth, Charles W. 2009. Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing. 3rd ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. I intend to write reviews of both.

Numbers 5 and 6 are run and drink, and bike and drink but due to my surgery I can neither run nor bike currently.

7. Try a new style of beer

This one is in theory harder to pull off than any of the others but succeed I did. At Block 15 in Corvallis I was able to try their IMP, a Belgian enkel or single. While touring the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery I was able to taste their Standard American industry lager and a Nordic Farmhouse Rye. That’s three new styles.

One could argue that I have drank plenty of standard American industry lager, which would be true, but I haven’t in a decade or two and I certainly  haven’t since I started seriously drinking craft beer. I still think I need to give the ubiquitous PBR a try soon but I can in reasonably good faith consider myself to have tried Bud/Miller/etc. and even a variant made with 016 hops instead of Willamettes.

8. Learn to homebrew

I tried this myself once back in the mid 80s while in Belgium with a British homebrew kit. It did not turn out well. I did help a friend on brew day with a Russian River Blind Pig clone back in June but I doubt I will get a chance to do so again this month. The books and magazine that I bought at The Book Bin are all on homebrewing, though, and one of the books from Valley Library is, so in essence the attempt is there.

No doubt I have missed something or the other but there’s my list of things done to celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month as bounced off of some list of ideas.

The most important thing, though, is missing from the list. That is simply to experience and (responsibly) enjoy some tasty Oregon craft beer this month. Along with every other month of the year!

What are you doing to celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month?