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.

Who you gonna invite? (The Session #118)

Stan Hieronymus of appellation beer, author of Brewing Local and For the Love of Hops, and the founder of The Session is hosting the 118th Session: He asks “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This can go so many directions as there are very many scenarios I can imagine, so I am going to put forth a couple different ones here, seeing as they are all fantasy anyway.

As much as I was inspired by this, I also seriously struggled with writing it. Not sure what’s going on, but here it is, as it is.

Beer & Brewing #1

Jessica Boak – co-beer blogger extraordinaire at Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog and co-author of Brew Britannia: the strange rebirth of British beer and Gambrinus waltz: German Lager beer in Victorian and Edwardian London

Ray Bailey – the other half of the dynamic B&B duo; see Jessica above

Jon Abernathy – friend and another extremely long-term beer blogger at The Brew Site and author of Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon

Peter Kopp – author of Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

I have been reading Boak & Bailey for a couple years now [blog, books, & newsletter] and interact with them a tad bit on Twitter too. They seem like good folks and ones I would love to actually have a chance to sit with in a pub and talk, so they are natural fits.

Seeing as they are somewhat fairly-to-heavily focused on the recent history of beer in Britain, I thought my friend, Jon Abernathy, would be an excellent choice due to his same focus on our local region.

A fourth here was tougher but I went with Peter Kopp as another historian of an aspect of beer production.

So I guess my theme here, if there is one, is authors of recent historically-focused books on beer.

The beers I would serve—I’m sure I could be swayed as my creativity here got exhausted quickly—are the following:

A lovely British cask bitter in perfect nick. Because. I have never had such a thing and I need the experience. What is all the fuss [SPBW, CAMRA, real ale, …] about?

Heineken (Dutch) c1984. While I was stationed in Belgium in the mid-80s one of my fellow soldiers—a Dutch airman—would bring me this by the case. I also drank Rodenbach—in 33 cl bottles—and a couple others by the case. This was so very different than the stuff imported in green bottles that I had been drinking 5 years earlier just before joining the Army and leaving for Europe. I would really love to taste this and see if it was as good as I remember it.

1842 Pilsner Urquell. Why would you not want to try the first—and only—Pilsner? What was this thing that so changed the world?

Thrales 18th century Russian Imperial Stout. The wife and I adore big Imperial stouts, so again I would love to try one of the early exemplars and possible eponym.

Women in Beer

I definitely would love to do my part for the many great women in and around great beer and there are so very many inspiring choices here. Sadly, my creativity was restrained here as there are no doubt many more amazing and interesting women in this field that I am not aware of.

Women in Beer #1

Tanya Cornett – R&D Brewer at 10 Barrel, former brewmaster at Bend Brewing

Tanya is a great brewer—I don’t care about your feeling re AB InBev here—and someone I’d love to get to know. One of my beer heroes  in my newly adopted hometown.

Carla Jean Lauter – “the beer babe,” beer writer, blogger, twitterer

Carla is always interesting on the Twitters and her longer form writing—when I get a chance to see it—is also. Another person from my corner of the interwebz that seems like a really cool person to hang with over some beers

Mirella Amato – beer educator, author of Beerology: everything you need to know to enjoy beer…even more and one of the first Master Cicerones

Again, another really cool seeming person whose passion is focused on beer education, something near and dear to my heart.

Annie Johnson – 2013 AHA Homebrewer of the Year

I read an article—somewhere—about Annie in the last couple years and maybe even saw a short video and she just seemed so interesting and enthusiastic.

So I have award-winning brewers, both professional and homebrewer, and a beer writer and a beer educator/author.

For the women in beer dinner I would want the ladies to each bring their own selection. This would (hopefully) be a dinner in which I, the host, would mostly sit in and listen. Keep my mouth shut as much as possible and allow them to discuss what they want, how they want.

Women in Beer (Science)

Veronica Vega – R&D Brewer for Deschutes Brewery

Karen Fortmann – senior research scientist at White Labs

Nicole Garneau – geneticist & curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; coauthor of the Beer Flavor Map [see above link] [This is a bit breathless, to say the least, but gives an idea. Am immensely interested in discussing this with the coauthors.]

Lindsay Barr – sensory specialist at New Belgium; currently serves as chair of the ASBC Sensory Subcommittee; coauthor of the Beer flavor Map.

Veronica is one of my favorite people and another definite local hero of mine. I also know, for a fact, that she is an amazing person with a wide variety of interests and experience. I have been on a couple hikes with her—beer-related—and see her now and again at the pub or around town. I always get a hug. But please don’t let any of that distract you from her brewing chops—she has a much larger role now and well deserves it—but she was the Deschutes Bend Pub brewer when we moved here and is a major force in why I adore those pub beers so very much. I have drank quite a bit of her beer.

I read about Karen Fortmann in that Beer Advocate article and her work sounds absolutely intriguing.

The other two scientists, also mentioned in that article, came to my attention a few months back due to their work on the Beer Flavor Map. I have read Meilgaard’s work and others on the flavor wheel and find this [set of] topic[s] incredibly interesting. I would love to get a first-hand account of that work and the resultant product.

One professional brewer with a science background and three brewing scientists. This one would be extremely hard for me to be quiet so I would not hold myself to that here. Beer science. Got to learn. Got to ask questions of the researchers when you get a chance. Still, hopefully, not being a typical guy and letting the ladies have at it.

I would leave the beers up to the professionals, as above.

Growers / Researchers

Seth Klann – barley and rye grower, maltster Mecca Grade Estate Malt

Pat Hayes – OSU barley breeder

Gail Goschie – hop grower, Goschie Farms

Al Haunold – USDA hop breeder. Took over the hop breeding program in Corvallis (USDA-ARS) in 1965:  Nugget, Willamette, Cascade and several other hops are credited to him.

These people and their roles are critical to great beer! We need farmers–especially ones like Seth and Gail whose families have been farming in Oregon for over 100 years each. We also need our agricultural researchers and these two–at least in my world–are rock stars.

I do know Seth and Pat personally and they are both great people. I have had the privilege of attending OSU Barley Days with Pat playing host and another huge privilege of hanging on the Klann family farm for a a day during a homebrew club group brew and seeing the mechanical floor malter and the storage silos and so learning about all they do to bring us great malt. I have also heard both men present on barley a couple of times.

I do not know Gail personally but she seems like great people from all I have seen and heard. I never had the privilege of meeting Al Haunold either but in our little part of the world he is legendary.

For these folks I would love some vibrant, yet simple, SmaSH beers made with Mecca Grade malt [Full Pint, thanks Pat!] and Goschie Farms’ Haunold-developed hops.

Others

I had a couple other scenarios lined up but due to struggling with writing they need to be left out—there were plenty more women in beer, more growers and researchers, more beer writers, a foursome or three of library folks, homebrewing folks, beer education folks, and so on.

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 Lover’s Gift Wish List 2014

This is my 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Wish List which consists of things I am recommending for assorted reasons. Some I own and/or have used and some I have not. I will make it clear which is the case.

[Note: Having ordered something from this list as I constructed it over the last couple days has reminded me why I need to post this earlier if I am going to. Some of these cannot arrive before Christmas at this point but some can. There are also many other, and more appropriate, gift giving opportunities than Christmas.]

1. First up is something we bought personally from the creator at Fall Fest in Bend. We had been looking for a bottle opener that fully respects bottle caps and was ergonomic to use. Beautiful is also a definite plus.

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by Steve J. Bonora of SJ WoodWorks  $18

It works beautifully. Here’s hoping it lasts a long time.

2. BottleTrade has several things but tshirts mostly. My favorite tshirt is the Hop Medley one. But my favorite item is the His & Her Stout Glasses. Check out that while you can get one or the other, you can also get a pair in all four possible combinations of His & Hers. That’s sweet and should be supported for that reason alone. I have a pair on order and maybe some as gifts too. They will arrive late for Christmas at this point but it is “the thought ….”

3. Educational and reference tools abound. The Cicerone Certification Program has several useful items that any serious beer geek who is trying to improve their knowledge base should appreciate.

I have a set of the Beer Styles Profiles Card Sets and I am also in the process of completing the Road to Cicerone German Course. Either that or the new British and Irish course would help anyone wanting to know more about the styles of those countries and certainly help anyone studying to become a Certified Cicerone.

4. Sadly I cannot afford to be a member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas but I am certified by them as a Beer Steward.  Their web store has loads of useful times from educational to entertaining and many items are on sale now until the end of the year. We have both the Flavor Wheel and the Defects Beer Wheel. We haven’t had a chance to put them through their paces yet but look forward to it.

The Flavor Wheel is the official flavor wheel as developed by M.C. Meilgaard, et al. for the American Society of Brewing Chemists, the European Brewing Convention and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

Beer drinker, homebrewer, professional brewer, brewery worker, bartenders, etc.: all should be familiar with this tool and, more importantly, its terminology and organizational structure.

5. I have been meaning to write about Michael Kiser and his Good Beer Hunting blog/website for a good while now and just haven’t managed it. Check him out. Seriously. Just leave here now and check him out. His shop is full of quality as is his writing and photography. No doubt his podcasting and events are too. I have the issues of Mash Tun and a print of the Hunter Gatherer by Andrew Wright.

I do not have a Beer Peen Hammer but “Good God!” if you’d like to get me one. Check out that post.

6. Perhaps stocking stuffers for next year: Hop-infused lollipops made from locally grown hops – cooked in small batches and hand poured LolliHOPS™ from Yakima Hop Candy. 

7. Our friend Bend Brew Daddy takes excellent, collection worthy, photos and he has a calendar out for next year. Photos of Central Oregon beers and breweries here and the Rest of the World here.

8. Beer Hunter: The Movie Michael Jackson on DVD. Is there anything else to be said? I do own and have watched this and the “special features.” Worth seeing for all beer geeks; worth owning for many of us.

9. Home Brew Club Membership. A homebrew club membership could be just the thing for the budding homebrewer or someone considering it. Sara and I are members of our local club, COHO.

According to the All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift guide there is currently a promotion on AHA membership. Join or buy a gift membership (reg. $43) for $43 and get a free book.

10. Beer books.

Bend beer Bend beer: a history of brewing in Central OregonJon Abernathy; The History Press 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Our friend Jon Abernathy’s Bend Beer was recently released. This is what I have had to say about it here so far.

“It is currently “the definitive” book on brewing in Central Oregon, but I know even Jon wants more answers to some things. There is more he could not fit due to space constraints. Such is book authorship.”

Vintage beer Vintage beer: a taster’s guide to brews that improve over timePatrick Dawson; Storey Publishing 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

My review of Dawson’s Vintage Beer.

“Vintage Beer by Dawson is an excellent introduction to cellaring beer. It is a quick read that will also bear close studying and better note-taking. Production values are high and it is well-edited.”

Cheese & Beer Cheese & BeerJanet Kessel Fletcher; Andrews McMeel 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Any fan of good cheese and beer should own, and make use of, this book. We picked up our copy from the author at a signing and tasting at the Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House.

Tasting beer Tasting beerRandy Mosher; Storey Pub. 2009WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

My review of Mosher, which I consider the core book in the Beginner’s Beer Library.

“Synopsis: This is an excellent introduction to beer, beer culture and history, and the tasting (not simply drinking) of beer. Highly recommended!”

11. Magazine subscription. All About Beer and Beer Advocate are probably the two leading beer magazines in the US. Both are worth reading regularly if you like to keep up on what’s happening in the wider world than your own backyard. I subscribe to both.

12. Spiegelau glasses. We have one of the IPA glasses which we got as swag at a Sierra Nevada tasting at Broken Top Bottle Shop and Ale Cafe. It does lovely things for the aromas of hop forward beers. That is enough to affect, and improve, the overall taste of these beers. It is not a massive contribution but it works. The glass itself is fragile and hard-to-clean (I handwash my glasses) but I haven’t broken it yet.

I would definitely like to try the new stout glass. [Link found via 2014 All About Beer guide but was well aware of the glass’ existence.]

13. $300 Yeti Hopper 30 cooler. OK. Honestly. I have no experience of this or any other Yeti coolers but having looked at their website I definitely want one! This could be most useful when buying beers on road trips to get them home at reasonably stable temps. It certainly could have many uses but that would be our most likely use case.

14. For other ideas see the following (some items on my list came from these):

  • All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Guide. As I said, got a few ideas and a few links from here.
  • 10 Gifts for the Serious Homebrewer from The New School. There are some seriously useful items on this list. I won’t waste your time and point you at the 1st part as it was mostly (80-ish%) stupid products. I’m hoping their upcoming 3rd list is better.

There you have it: my most recent list of ideas for gifts for beer lovers. There is always my Beginner’s Beer Library page for ideas as it evolves. No promises on how quickly that is, though.

Bend’s “Healthy Beer Culture”

NB: This post is my entry in this quarter’s #beerylongreads, hosted by Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog.

NB2: This post is a response to “SIGNS OF A HEALTHY BEER CULTURE?” at Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog. That post is over a year old now but for some reason the other day I was attracted to exploring that question locally. How well does Bend and Central Oregon’s “healthy beer culture” meet their criteria?

Preliminaries

A couple of weeks ago (12 Nov), Boak and Bailey tweeted a link to an earlier post on healthy beer culture in response to The Beer Father’s “provocative post,” “Which Side Are You On?”

[One should check out both of those posts and their lengthy comments. There is some carping but there are a lot of valuable thoughts too.]

Here are the tweets for reference:

That last archive retrieval prompted by @TheBeerFather’s provocative post: http://t.co/iRIv8ObcJu

From the archive (October 2013): signs of a healthy beer culture http://t.co/ZENKHDnq2F

I saw a great reply to the “Which side are you on?” question. I thought it was good because it helped me formulate my thoughts, and more eloquently expressed them: that I’m not choosing a side and that I hope to avoid anyone who has chosen any side. Perhaps it was in one of those comments; I don’t remember.

I do place myself along a spectrum, one that is most likely multidimensional, and give myself permission to move around that space. Historically, my beer drinking shows that change happens in which beers I consume. I also recognize that people choose, and often even like, different things than me and that that is, and should be, beyond questioning.

This post though is to address how Bend does on this heuristic, or at least my little spot in Bend. Which means, your walkability and public transit options may well be different than mine or you may live farther from downtown.

First, their caveat:

“Perhaps inevitably, there’s an obvious UK-bias in the way we’ve approached this, and in how we’ve worded the list, although we did our best to avoid it. We’ve also used lots of deliberately vague terms — don’t ask us to define ‘decent’! (Or ‘beer culture’…)”

Bend and Central Oregon

Bend is a town of ~82,000 in the so-called High Desert of Oregon. Being in the eastern foothills of the Cascades we are in the rain shadow and thus get little precipitation. We do, though, have a couple beautiful rivers, including the Deschutes River which runs right through town. We have world-famous rock climbing formations nearby and many other outdoor recreational opportunities.

Bend started as a way point, then gained a few ranches, and then spent many decades with two huge lumber mills. That ended a couple decades ago and tourism, primarily outdoor tourism, has been king since. Currently, beer tourism is a significant and growing portion of local tourism dollars. Beer goes with everything that goes on here, indoors or out. We also host several international sporting events, mostly of various kinds of bicycle racing, but also skiing and so on. There are times of year when we have less visitors but we always have plenty of them.

This list of the region’s breweries [found in the sidebar] is the most accurate and up-to-date. You’ll see we’re pretty well set. [Note: those are breweries, most of which have a taproom also because … most are brewpubs.][If you are particularly interested in the history of brewing in this region, then notice also in the sidebar the book, Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon, recently written by Jon Abernathy and the compiler of that most helpful list.]

Of that list, and in my opinion:

One is not really in business and I’m not convinced it ever was although the wife and I poured two of their beers at our 1st Bend Brew Fest.  OK, they have a license and every once in a while one or two is available somewhere, either at a local homebrew club meeting or a fest. But there is nowhere one can go and get any of this brewery’s beer on a normal basis. I’ve heard rumor a brewery is being built. So I’ll back off and give them the status “brewery.” I’m just saying it doesn’t really meet my definition of an “active” brewery, let’s say. I’m good with it not meeting my own minimum requirement for what a brewery is but it does get listed most places, so be it. Hopefully they’ll get a better chance soon to show us what they can do.

Another should be self-respecting and admit it gave up on beer. That’s fine really, they do have pretty good food and they’ve always had guest taps. But if they were all guest taps they’d have to come off of the Bend Ale Trail and I do not believe they’d want that for business.

I learned on Veterans/Remembrance Day that Bend has a new one coming this month, Monkless Belgian Ales. Read about it at Jon’s blog [In fact, you can read that post and see the listing of Central Oregon breweries from the same link.]

Depending on who asks and who replies and why, this puts Bend at the top, or certainly in the top, of breweries per capita in Oregon. Which puts it up there, in the world. And it is all craft beer. Well, until recently perhaps. See #3 below.

Boak and Bailey’s Heuristic Answered, by me, for Central Oregon, and my spot in it

The numbered bold statements are Boak and Bailey’s with my answers beneath the respective “criteria.”

By the way, if you are asking who the heck are Boak & Bailey, they are a British beer blogging & tweeting, book authoring, couple whom I follow in those venues. I own the print book but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

1. There is a drinking establishment within walking distance of where you live where you like to spend time, and which serves decent beer

Definitely! Several. Deschutes Bend Public House, Bend Brewing Co., many others.

2. If you are skint, there is an acceptable drinking establishment within walking distance which sells decent beer at ‘bargain’ prices.

Probably. JC’s, D and D, …

[Note: To better answer this question for myself, I am undertaking a (minimal) form of Jeff Alworth’s Dive Bar Challenge. I started compiling a list of Bend dive bars, but may also need to look a tad further around Central Oregon. Thanks, friends, for all the suggestions so far.]

I think the real concern for us here is the acceptability of establishments (to us)  and not the quality or availability of good beer cheap. This is not to say these are seedy or dangerous or anything; simply not our style of establishment. But we could.

Decided to poke Boak and Bailey on Twitter and asked for their opinion on prices for a pint out:

.@BoakandBailey Where are the price points for you moving from cheap but acceptable pint to next level to premium? Sorry for Americanisms. https://twitter.com/bythebbl/status/534008041138446338

@bythebbl if we’ve understood your question correctly, we’d consider c.£2.60 to be cheap, £3.40 to be standard, £4+ to be a bit pricey. https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey/status/534009373664608256

@bythebbl that’s for standard bitter in the pub. We’d expect (and be reasonably happy) to pay more for 330ml of interesting bottled beer. https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey/status/534009651973869569

[Can I just go on record and say how I would love to taste a proper “standard bitter” in a British pub.]

Based on Google Currency Converter 16 Nov 2014, c.£2.60 (cheap), £3.40 (standard), £4+ (bit pricey) equates to $4.07 / $5.33 / $6.27 for a pint at a pub. That cheap price is tough but doable on most nights of the week. The standard price is close to ours. I’d agree the “bit pricey” is getting up there, although I often pay it or more for a 10, 12 or 14 oz snifter of “something interesting,” bottles or otherwise.

I can definitely find a pint of good (if not great) beer at that standard price ($5.33) in most of the places in town. There will also be beer above that point in most of those places. That price does not always include tip though. [Sadly, our pint glasses are only 16 Imp. oz. and not proper pints.]

But based on all of the locals nights at the many brewpubs and bars you can make that lower price point somewhere most any night of the week. And you can definitely make it in places we just don’t want to frequent. Not bad places; just not our style. But the beer is almost guaranteed to be better than “decent.”

Also have not mentioned beer in growlers. For that see #9 below. That can often be quite inexpensive.

I could always go by Deschutes brewery and get 4 5-oz samples. Every day it is open. For free. I hope I don’t get that skint though. I enjoy driving past it in the roundabout and knowing that I could go taste some great beer for free. That knowledge just makes the world shine a little brighter.

So, this gets a definite yes.

3. If you fancy something special, there is a pub or bar within reach on public transport (WRPT) which sells imports and ‘craft beer’.

I still don’t understand the difference between “craft beer” in America versus in Britain, but in Bend it is all craft, which is a good thing here.

Alright, that claim can now possibly be challenged as 10 Barrel is about to be bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev and according to the Brewers Association they will no longer qualify as a “craft brewery.” But that is a trade organization definition versus what the people think. Time will tell.

As for imports, yes to both walking and public transit: The Brew Shop, Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café, Newport Avenue Market, The Wine Shop & Tasting Bar (downtown) along with a few more I imagine, Whole Foods, and several others.

For both of these, also see #9 below regarding growler fills.

Definite yes.

4. The nearest town/city centre has a range of pubs serving different demographics, and offering between them a range of locally-produced beers alongside national brands.

Definitely. At least you can find national brands in a few places.

[Opinion: By the way, there are not too many “national brands” in the US anymore, as the ones most would think of belong to international conglomerates. People might call Budweiser a U.S. national brand but that’s crazy. The ones that come the closest are still, by Craft Brewers Association criteria, craft breweries; Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, and a few others. A few like Stone and Deschutes are rapidly getting there.]

5. There is a well-established family/regional brewery.

Deschutes Brewery. Something like 6th largest craft brewery in US and 11th largest brewery in the US. Pretty well-established; since 1988. [#s vary depending on when/who you ask/how you look.]

6. There are several breweries founded since 1975.

Every last one of the 27 or so in our little region are from after 1975; the first, Deschutes, was in 1988.

I am unsure whether this  lack of older breweries is supposed to count against us regarding our “healthy beer culture.” I certainly don’t think so. This region had no breweries between 1906 and 1988; at least as current history stands. Some of my big questions in life lately center around this. Why no brewery in region before 1905? Why none between 1906 and 1916 when the state went to Prohibition? Why none after until 1988? That last one is the easiest but still.

I am not in any way against older breweries, we just don’t have any and I’m not holding it against us. [In fact, I respect old breweries. When they deserve/d it. Just like with a newer brewery.]

7. There is at least one brewery founded since 2005.

Since 2005? Well over half of them; or, more specifically, #6 through #21, and the one that has closed. Almost 3/4 of them have been founded since 2005.

8. There is a regional speciality — a beer people ‘must drink’ when they visit.

Perhaps not one, but Boneyard RPM IPA [Beer Advocate / ratebeer], Deschutes Black Butte Porter [Beer Advocate / ratebeer], at the very least. This one may not be a big plus for us but either I’m treating “specialty” far too narrowly, or few regions have such a thing. If the first clause is correct then I’d add The Abyss, Black Butte Porter Reserve, one of Tonya Cornett’s Crush beers, and so many more.

9. There is an independent off licence (‘bottle shop’) WRPT.

Looked up “off licence” but not exactly sure about the “independent” part. We have several [most of the places mentioned in 3 above] and one (beer, cider) bottle shop within walking distance. We also have a liquor store within walking distance. Been there once to get the wife some whiskey for her sore throat hot toddy. I would consider most of them independent.

Growlers, which were mentioned a couple times above, serve a big role in our beer ecosystem. Witness the plethora—which only continues to swell—for new forms/shapes/materials that they come in. Commonly 64 oz (1/2 gal) and 1.5 l, they come in other sizes also, which seems to perhaps depend somewhat on region of the US. We also have growlettes here, which are generally 32 oz or 2 pints. Great beers the equivalent of a “standard bitter” can be had for $8 a growler. Yes, some are more but many are close to this price point. That’s four (US) pints at $2 each. If we only consider proper 20 oz pints as would be served in England then we would get 3 1/8 pints out of it. That gives us a $2.56/20 oz pint cost.

We have at least eight growler fill stations, probably 1.5-2x that, in Bend and Central Oregon. If you add in all of the breweries/brewpubs that fill them your choices to purchase great beer affordably are greatly multiplied.

I put them here since they are for take-away. Of course, here there is little to no assumption that you are taking them home; you may be taking them to a party (anywhere), on the Cycle Pub, camping, hiking, or whatever.

10. There is a shop selling home brewing supplies WRPT.

The Brew Shop, which is a combined homebrew supply store and bottle shop, along with The Platypus Pub in the basement, is easily within walking distance. We have to cross one of the worst intersections in town but it’s a 5-minute walk.

11. There is at least one beer festival in the region.

We have several beer festivals in the region. The biggest is the Bend Brewfest in August every year, then probably The Little Woody Barrel and Wood-Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest at the end of Sep/beg of Oct. We also have the Sisters Fresh Hop Fest, and there have been several other smaller beer fests that may or may not be recurring. But there will be more.

Then there is Central Oregon Beer Week—in its 3rd year this year—which is 9-days in May given over to the region to celebrate its own beer. We, indeed, have much to celebrate.

Some additions that point to a healthy beer culture here:

Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO): We have a large and fairly active, local homebrewing club. The wife and I are members, although so far I have only helped a friend brew once or twice. I also took a class on all-grain brewing from one of COHO’s officers at which we brewed, of course. And I have been a judge this year and the last at the annual BJCP homebrew competition they hold.

Boak & Bailey asked about homebrew shops in #10 so I assume homebrewing is important. Since not everyone joins an organization—I have several friends who are big homebrewers who aren’t members—this seems a reasonable indicator that the homebrewing culture is healthy here; or, at least, tending that way.

Central Oregon Beer Angels (COBA): This is also a reasonable indicator of the health of our beer culture, I would argue. An organization of over 300 local women “who love all things beer.” My wife and several of our friends are members. I know quite a few of their board members. And I have poured beer for them at an annual party. Biased? Anyway.

Large groups of women enjoying beer sounds like a healthy culture to me.

There are other groups, both organized and not, that do tastings and bottle shares; e.g., a couple through MeetUp.

Access to our brewers: We have incredible access to some amazing brewers. I have seen them, met them, talked to them at breweries, festivals, tastings, beer dinners, educational events, pairings, and so on. I have even gone on a hike with one of my favorites. I met Darin & Meghann Butschy of Oblivion Brewery at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café on the day they sold their 1st keg because I was hanging out in my local of an afternoon.

We know, or can fairly easily come to know, the folks who brew our beer in this town. That should count for something. Perhaps it isn’t required but it matters.

Wrap-up:

So, I think the answers pretty much tilt in our favor as to having a healthy beer culture. Certainly by this heuristic.

I know there were several posts, at least, in response to Boak & Bailey’s post but this is the one I found and read: a specific reply to Bailey by Leigh Linley at The Good Stuff, as applied to Leeds, England.

No doubt somebody would quibble about my not penalizing Bend for not having a brewery prior to 1975, and someone could argue we have no regional specialty, and so on. How much does that mark us down? Are we going to start rating places by this (It is not a scale). I hope not. And I imagine Boak & Bailey would be horrified if people did.

But I think it provides a great springboard to consider your own regional “healthy beer culture.” Or other regions, but only for benevolent purposes. 😉

Let’s start a conversation about “healthy beer culture” in Central Oregon

So Bendites, Bend lovers, Bend visitors: What do you think? Do we have a “healthy beer culture” in Bend? What’s missing? What is “unbalanced” in your opinion? Did I just completely mess it up? Do we have a regional specialty?

Please comment here or write your own blog post or Facebook post or what have you and link back here. Then please comment with a link to whatever you wrote. If you prefer not to make it public, then feel free to email me or otherwise. If you know me you can find me.

I have some views. We have some flaws and weaknesses in our beer culture. All-in-all, though, it is simply amazing. That leaves an awful lot to discuss, including what both of those refer to.

I would love to see a larger conversation about our beer culture in Bend and Central Oregon. [I just worry that I am not the one to be the driver at this time as only my close friends know I am having some still undiagnosed health issues. No one should worry but it affects my productivity, my focus and thinking, and I must “keep calm and carry on” or things get painful quickly in my head.]

Nonetheless, let’s take this where we may Central Oregonians. And of course, anyone else is welcome to join in regarding any larger points not specific to our region. For example, should we be penalized for not having older breweries and, if so, why?

The Session #93 Beer Travel

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

 This post is my participation in this month’s The Session, #93, which is on beer travel. It is hosted by Brian Devine at The Roaming Pint, who asks:

“So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?”

The host states that visiting where our beer comes from—and drinking it there—is “a better and more valuable experience” than just sucking it down some other place. The reasons he posits seem to be Freshness < == > Respect / Understanding.

There is an awful lot in between, including the capability to better determine whether one ought “pay respect.” I certainly do not have all of the answers or reasons but I hope to lay a few down.

Note: I apologize that this is fairly superficial; I had truly hoped to go a bit deeper. There has been a death in my close family and I am struggling with an as yet undiagnosed illness.

1. Personal connection; meeting/talking with folks who make it and the difference that can make in your appreciation.

For instance, once in Hood River we were at Pfriem Family Brewery for lunch. We had a taster tray and I got to the Mosaic Pale and it was nothing like any other Mosaic single-hopped beer I had yet had. While there was a punch bowl fruitiness in the aroma and a bit in the taste, there was actual bitterness and quite a bit of it. Josh Pfriem, head brewer, was hosing down the brewery floor on the other side of a wooden fence at table height. I was able to wave him over and asked him about his Mosaic hopping rate/regimen. Turns out he used them throughout but mostly up front in the boil so that they were primarily used for bittering. While I still prefer my Mosaic single-hopped beers to be mostly/entirely late-hopped I was better able to understand what was happening in Josh’s beer and to my senses and, thus, to better appreciate, and understand, my experience but also to appreciate what the brewer was going for.

While that does not change the beer or make it “better” somehow, it does provide that real, human connection that, as humans, we are always looking for. I would rather I get that from the brewers and brewery workers/owners I visit, whether or not it is “real,” than from some actor in a television commercial. Which is never real.

2. Try beers not distributed (at all) or not distributed to your area. This one is dead simple. And while it may involve freshness and gaining respect or understanding, it may also just be about trying beers you may never get to try again.

Take a local example, both in the brewery and the distance to visit: Deschutes. Most pub beers, whether here in Bend or Portland, never see the outside of their respective brewpubs. [Except in growlers here and there, but it’s not packaged or distributed.] Why would I ever want to deprive myself of Veronica Vega or Ben Kehs beers? I truly like almost every beer I have had by either one. But to get them I have to go to the pubs; it matters not that Deschutes is a behemoth in the craft beer world. These beers are not that. I have to go to the source.

To take another local example, Crux Fermentation Project. I can get a lot of their beers in bottles around town but they also have pub beers that will probably never see distribution. Good beers. Now here’s my thing with Crux—I stress it is my thing as no else I have mentioned it to has this issue. But the bottom line is that I do not like Crux beers from bottles. Nor do I like them on tap elsewhere. They don’t taste the same to me. I really like Crux beer, by the way. But if I want the Crux flavors, aromas and tastes that I know and love I have to go to the brewery/brewpub. Thankfully we are fairly close.

3. Of course, in the real sense of travel, all of the above and more apply. Some of the beers won’t be distributed outside of the brewery, or the beer simply is not distributed to your area/state/country, the beer is probably fresher, you may learn whether or not you appreciate the brewery based on what you learn visiting, you may appreciate them more based on a positive visit with people you relate to.

These, and no doubt many other reasons I look forward to reading from others, make traveling to the source an often pleasant experience.

Prosit!

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 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!

DB CO-OP Firkin-A

Last night Deschutes Brewery put on another outstanding event, Firkin’-A: Traditional Ales, at their Bend Public House.

Flyer for the DB CO-OP Firkin'-A event

Flyer for the DB CO-OP Firkin’-A event

This was the 2nd in their DB CO-OP series so far, which focuses on educating the community on local beer and local food, and which benefits assorted local causes via rallycause. The first two quarterly events were part of the Brewer Cooperative, while the last two will be part of the Central Oregon Culinary Cooperative.

Firkin’-A: Traditional Ales featured brewers from McMenamins, 10 Barrel, Brewers Union Local 180 and Deschutes. They all brought cask ales to share and Deschutes provided great traditional English bites to accompany them. Worthy was advertised as being there but I either missed them entirely somehow or they didn’t make it.

I began with McMenamins Note Taker IPA, followed by Brewers Union Local 180 Wotcha a la Challenger Bitter. Deschutes Pub Bitter came next and then I had 10 Barrels S1nist0r Black Ale which had been krausened with their Berliner Weisse (which I am assuming was German Sparkle Party). All of the beers were quite tasty and I had second sample of all of them.

Brewers Union Local 180 Wotcha ala Challenger Bitter

Brewers Union Local 180 Wotcha ala Challenger Bitter (Sorry about the bad photo)

The food, which consisted of an assortment of cheeses and sausages, bread and crackers, and some pickled vegetables, was quite tasty also.

Firkin tools and implements on display

Firkin tools and implements on display

Deschutes Brewer Veronica Vega, and others, put on an excellent party. Did I mention it was FREE? Big thanks to Deschutes and all of the other breweries and brewers in attendance for bringing their beers and spending their time with us. An especially big thanks goes to Brewers Union Local 180 for making the trek from Oakridge. I am really looking forward to visiting them someday soon. They come highly recommended from some serious beer drinkers that I trust.

The gentleman from Brewers Union Local 180 pouring traditional cask ale

The gentleman from Brewers Union Local 180 pouring traditional cask ale

The next two DB CO-OP events are:

By the way, I think the wristband idea is dead in the water and that you can just show up. It wasn’t needed for yesterday’s event. Feel free to ask on Facebook or via Twitter nearer these events as Deschutes social media folks are amazingly responsive.

 

Compulsion (The Session #76)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Compulsion is the topic for The Session #76 hosted at beer is your friend. The topic of “compulsion” led to the wife and I discussing language. That may be a whole other topic but if we really want to talk compulsions then there’s that.

We sat at the Deschutes Bend Pub having dinner, waiting for their new Gose release to start so we could taste it, meet the brewer Veronica Vega and the Oregon artisanal salt maker, Ben Jacobsen, whose salt was used to make the Gose, and buy some salt. We discussed the relationships and differences between “urge,” “need,” “want,” compulsion,” “desire,” “addiction” and so on. We checked definitions of “compulsion” in apps and online via our iPhones. Sara asked the Twitters to rank “urge,” “need,” and “compulsion” and she learned that, for some unknown reason, “compulsion” carries less force for her than for many others, including me. We find these discussions of ours fascinating and they may well be a compulsion for us both.

This all started for me as I wanted to participate in this month’s round of The Session but I was not really feeling it. Do I truly have a compulsion around beer? That is, not an urge or a desire or an impulse, but a compulsion, one (or more) with the full freight of that word? I am not sure but I don’t think so.

Do I have more beer than I can reasonably drink in a week or two (disregarding The Cellar)? Sure I do. Do I keep buying more when there is no real room for it in the fridge? Yes. Is it starting to spill over into boxes and dark corners that aren’t perhaps the best for storage? Uh huh.

Do we go to lots of beer events (tastings, sensory classes, releases, pairings)? Of course. Have we planned a vacation around beer or breweries? It wasn’t truly a vacation, but we raced up to Astoria (7 hours each way) in February for the Festival of the Dark Arts at Fort George Brewery and raced back the next day. It was so awesome we plan to make it an annual event, and a true vacation next time. So, yeah.

Are we constantly trying new beers, new styles, new breweries? Indeed. But we are recent immigrants to the heaven of beer that is Bend, Oregon and the larger Pacific Northwest. And the place we lived before was a true wasteland of beer. We have definitely identified some few favorites but every one of them is in some way hard to get regularly as they are special releases, seasonals, or annuals. So tasting new things makes sense.

Am I a beer ticker? I had to look that up, although I had a good idea what it meant. This was the most helpful site that I found. At least based on this site, I think what makes beer ticking a potential obsession is the obsession many have with their hobby, compulsion or whatever else you want to label it, itself.

I do use Untappd and I greatly enjoy marking off new-to-me beers but I will not try something simply because I have never had it and I will definitely drink something I know I love instead of having something new if none of the other things are appealing enough. During (and after) Central Oregon Beer Week I had Deschutes The Stoic (2011) four different times when I could easily have had something I had never had because they simply did not appeal to me in the presence of what is simply (one of) the nectar(s) of the gods.

Before I started this post I looked up “compulsion” in the OED. This is what I found:

1. a. The action, or an act, of compelling, or the condition of being compelled; constraint, obligation, coercion.

1869 E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) III. xii. 247 Such an oath could have been taken only under compulsion.
1875 B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) I. 141 If he likes he pays my price, but there is no compulsion.

2. Psychol. An insistent impulse to behave in a certain way, contrary to one’s conscious intentions or standards.

1965 A. D. Weisman Existential Core of Psychoanal. vii. 205 In contrast to compulsion, choice is essential to responsible acts.

Merriam-Webster Online has this to say:

1 a : an act of compelling : the state of being compelled

   b : a force that compels

2 : an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing); also : the act itself

And check out those synonyms and related words. Those synonyms [arm-twistingcoercionforceconstraintduresspressure] can certainly be a part of any act of coercion but none of that is going on in my beer drinking, buying, research, or any other activity relating to beer in my life.

Do I have a compulsion, then, in regards to beer?

I don’t think so.