McMenamins beer in cans taste-off

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

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

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

Hammerhead Taste-off

“Hammerhead McMenamins Hammerhead label

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

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

Hops: Cascade

Original Gravity: 1.056

Terminal Gravity: 1.010

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

Calories: 241 per pint”

McMenamins Hammerhead can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

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

Old Saint Francis School Hammerhead

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

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

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

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

Edgefield Hammerhead

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby Taste-off

“Ruby McMenamins Ruby label

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

Malts: Premium 2-row, Maltodextrin

Hops: Chinook

Fruit: Raspberry

Original Gravity: 1.039

Terminal Gravity: 1.005

Alcohol by Volume: 4.0%

Calories: 170 per pint”

McMenamins Ruby can, 2 snifter glasses and a growler

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

Old Saint Francis School Ruby

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

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

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

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

Edgefield Ruby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap-up

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

Thanks again, McMenamins for sending me these beauties!

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

Received: McMenamins cans are here!

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews/comparison coming soon I hope.

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

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

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto.

For McMenamins passport fans there is an event stamp.

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

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

Disclosure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine I wrote:

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

? [unsure]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2015

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

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

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

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

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

From McMenamins website:

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

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

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

“Virginia” beer

The wife and I spent a week recently in the Falls Church, Virginia area enjoying lots of beers; only some of these were from Virginia so I put “Virginia” in double quotes. We went for a memorial service for my niece who recently passed and with so much family together again we also celebrated Thanksgiving and my brother-in-law’s birthday on Dec. 1st. With so many relatives in one house, along with the stress of saying goodbye to a loved one, and multiple receptions, and … a lot of beer (and wine) was consumed.

My daughter and son-in-law picked us up at the airport Wednesday evening. We stopped at Dominion Wine & Beer @DominionWB in Falls Church, VA on the way to my sister’s house. Great selection and friendly people. They told us about a free tasting of big beers on Black Friday for the Bourbon County Brand Stout release and even had the bottles on the counter.

Black Friday BCBS Release Tasting at Dominion Wine & Beer, Falls Church, VA. Consumed from left to right.

Black Friday BCBS Release Tasting at Dominion Wine & Beer, Falls Church, VA. Consumed from left to right.

We made sure to add it to our calendars.  The real beauty: it is about a 5-minute walk away from my sister’s place. We will definitely be visiting them whenever we make it back there. In fact, we visited 3 or 4 times in the week we were there.

Before we left Bend, Sara discovered that there is a Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church so that was high on our list and we made it there Sun evening (30th). We also wanted to get to Spacebar, a specialty grilled cheese and tater tots craft beer bar, which we did Monday night.

I failed to checkin every beer in Untappd. I even failed to record/list every (unique) beer and also to take a picture of every one. Of course, some were duplicates and I didn’t want to check them in. Some I just missed.

This post is in 3 parts: commentary on the tasting at Dominion Wine & Beer; our 1st visit to a Dogfish Head Alehouse; and a list of the beers that I know I had, by day, as best as possible.

Dominion Wine & Beer BCBS Release Tasting

On Friday, my kids, their spouses, and Sara and I attended a tasting in conjunction with the Goose Island BCBS release at Dominion Wine & Beer. We got there a few minutes early and the place was packed and the tasting had already started. The gentleman pouring made sure to get us started at the beginning though. It was packed to the gills but everyone jostled along good-naturedly. I overheard the guy at the checkout telling someone that this is their biggest tasting by far; that most are far more manageable. Good to know. 😉

Let me just say that any tasting that begins with Epic’s Big Bad Baptist is something to not only behold but to be at. Seeing as we were going so big I only tried to grab an overall impression and didn’t write any tasting notes. These are the beers in the order we had them.

  • Epic Big Bad Baptist (Batch 40) [no checkin]
  • North Coast bbl-aged Old Rasputin 4.5
  • Stone Southern Charred 4.5
  • 3 Brothers Resolute 4.0
  • Avery Tweak 4.5
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2014 4.5

As you can see I liked most of them well enough. 😉

Dogfish Head Alehouse, Falls Church, VA

Dogfish Head Alehouse of Falls Church, VA

Dogfish Head Alehouse of Falls Church, VA

Sunday evening found 9 of us heading to the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church (Mom, kids and spouses, sister and spouse, Sara and me). Sara and I were practically giddy. Overall our visit was excellent.

There were some issues with getting the correct beers in both of the premium flights ordered (Max and Sara) and the onion rings on two orders were cold. Our waitress, Marian, was most excellent. She got fresh hot onion rings for both and she tried to get the beer issues straightened out. Whoever was pouring was not on their game, that’s for sure. Possibly the wrong beer was on the wrong tap. Sara & Max both got 4-beer flights with one beer overlapping. That beer was different in both cases and was not the beer asked for. They were both replaced but the beers were still different (color, taste). Then Sara discovered her Palo Santo Marron was Chicory Stout. She doesn’t care for it and it is a standard beer compared to the premiumly-priced Palo Santo. Marian was horrified and was going to replace it but since I had a snifter of the Palo Santo we decided to just share that. We certainly had enough beer between us.

Heavenly snifter of draft Palo Santo Marron

Heavenly snifter of draft Palo Santo Marron

I did pull Marian aside and tell her that she was awesome as far as were were concerned. In the end, I also talked to the manager. I started by telling him Marian was “grace under pressure” and that we appreciated her. I also calmly let him know we had been having beer issues and that he might want to keep an eye on the bar tending. He was already on it since Marian had alerted him. He was grateful for the information and apologetic. My son grabbed the entire bill so I have no idea if either did anything with the bill. Nonetheless, everyone got at least as much (or more) beer as they ordered and everyone had plenty of tasty food.

I would be happy to go back as everyone we interacted with acted professionally and sometimes stuff just happens.

Beers consumed

[Note: except for 1-2 already at the house and those at Dogfish Head and at Spacebar, all beers were acquired from Dominion Wine & Beer. The ones already at the house may also have come from Dominion.]

26 Nov

  • Yuengling Traditional Lager 4.0
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout 4.0
  • Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout Unrated [late checkin]
Yuengling Traditional Lager

Yuengling Traditional Lager

Dark Horse Too Cream Stout

Dark Horse Too Cream Stout

Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout

Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout

The Yuengling surprised me with how good it was. I would gladly drink several in the proper setting. The two Dark Horse stouts were fairly tasty.

27 Nov

  • Saison Dupont 5.0
  • The Duck Rabbit Milk Stout 4.5
  • Great Lakes Blackout Stout 4.0
  • Bells Two Hearted Ale 4.5
  • Brasserie d’Achouffe McChouffe 4.5
  • Dogfish Head Beer Thousand  4.5
  • Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail 4.0
  • Brouwerij Huyghe La Guillotine 4.0
  • Tröegs Troegenator 4.0 [late checkin]

Had a classic, Saison Dupont, as an opener and during my stint as a sous chef for others. Ended up drinking most of the bottle myself. I tried to share. Their loss.

04Bells 044

Bells Two Hearted Ale

d'Achouffe McChouffe

d’Achouffe McChouffe

Dogfish Head Beer Thousand

Dogfish Head Beer Thousand

07EvilTwin 047

Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail

Brouwerij Huyghe La Guillotine

Brouwerij Huyghe La Guillotine

Tröegs Brothers Troegenator

Tröegs Brothers Troegenator

28 Nov

  • Tröegs Troegenator [probably]
  • Epic Big Bad Baptist Batch 40 – seems no checkin [DominionWB tasting – see section above]
  • North Coast bbl-aged Old Rasputin 4.5 [DominionWB]
  • Stone Southern Charred 4.5 [DominionWB]
  • 3 Brothers Resolute 4.0 [DominionWB]
  • Avery Tweak 4.5 [DominionWB]
  • Goose Island Bourbon County 2014 4.5 [DominionWB]
  • Hardywood Virginia Blackberry 4.0
  • Sam Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock 2.5
Black Friday BCBS Release Tasting at Dominion Wine & Beer, Falls Church, VA. Consumed from left to right.

Black Friday BCBS Release Tasting at Dominion Wine & Beer, Falls Church, VA. Consumed from left to right.

Hardywood Virginia Blackberry (Reserve Series)

Hardywood Virginia Blackberry (Reserve Series)

Samuel Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock

Samuel Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock

29 Nov

  • Schlafly Imp Stout, bourbon barrel-aged 4.5
  • Southern Tier Choklat – no checkin

Personally, I do not care for Choklat. At all. The wife does and bought this one. I think maybe she’s outgrowing her fondness for it. I hope.

Schlafly Imperial Stout 2013

Schlafly Imperial Stout 2013

Southern Tier Choklat

Southern Tier Choklat

30 Nov

Dogfish Head Alehouse

Dogfish Head Alehouse, Falls Church beer menu on 30 November 2014

Dogfish Head Alehouse, Falls Church beer menu on 30 November 2014

I had a small taste of both Firefly and American Beauty but wasn’t impressed enough to want a whole glass. So many other good choices. Went with the Palo Santo Marron, my first on draft. It was exquisite, of course.

FYI: The Core Beer Sampler is 6 4-oz pours of 60 Minute through Chicory Stout; the Premium Sampler is 4 4-oz pours of any four premium beers. The pours are quite generous and easily 5-oz each. I went for the snifter as I am a bit unhappy at the 50% increase in price along with a decrease of 33% in the amount of beer. That is quite significant and way beyond “premium.”

1 Dec

  • Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout – Tad thin but OK  3.0
  • Lost Rhino Face Plant IPA 4.5 [late checkin]
  • Peak Organic Winter Session Ale ME 5% 4.5 [Spacebar]
  • Terrapin Wake n Bake [Spacebar -Sara]
  • Blue Mountain Long Winters Nap Maibock VA 10% 4.0 [Spacebar -Sara]
  • Smuttynose Smuttonator Doppelbock NH 9.5% 4.0 [Spacebar -Sara]

I wish I had recognized that the KBBS was the one Brian Yaeger wrote about in Red, White, and Brew. Neither Sara or I were fans either way; it was pretty meh. I enjoyed the Face Plant.

It was too dark at Spacebar for photos. My Peak Organics Winter Session was quite tasty. I also enjoyed trying Sara’s Blue Mountain and Smuttynose. My son and his wife both got Deschutes Black Butte Porter.

ALLTECH Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout

ALLTECH Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout

Lost Rhino Face Plant IPA

Lost Rhino Face Plant IPA

2 Dec

None – travel day

Actually, I tried to get a beer in the Portland (OR) airport before our flight home to Redmond. Our little terminal even had a Laurelwood pub. But since the waitress could not answer what I considered a most basic question about a beer I left. I wanted to know whether the stout had coffee in it. She was apologetic that she didn’t know but that is irrelevant; it is polite but of no actual informational value. She also didn’t volunteer to check with anyone else.

I don’t know if those folks are airport concessionaires or actual Laurelwood employees but they were wearing Laurelwood attire. Protip: Educate your employees or people acting as employees. She lost you the sale of a pint and food. She also lost you the good will of a tired, pissed off traveler who came to you for respite and replenishment.

Recap

A lot of good beer was drunk, along with a bit of mediocre stuff. That’s the deal when being adventurous though.

We sent my daughter and son-in-law back home (they drove) with a 2013 The Abyss and a Black Butte Porter Reserve XXVI which I had checked on the way. They also took the small bottle of BCBS we bought at the tasting and a couple other things. We also left a few tasties for my sister and brother-in-law.

Thanks, northern Virginia (especially Dominion Wine & Beer) and thanks to the Virginia brewers/breweries for the actual VA beers we did have.

Upon arriving home just before midnight on Tuesday, we found a very wet box on the front doorstep. Pulling it inside and unwrapping it found–bedraggled but not frozen– two Lompoc Pamplemousse Citrus IPA bombers, a grapefruit, USB key and pint glass. It must have been delivered late in the day and, for once, everyone’s timing was good (except for the beautiful presentation which was a bit disturbed).

Lompoc Pamplemousse Citrus IPA package

Lompoc Pamplemousse Citrus IPA package

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?

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014

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

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

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

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014 - quite tasty

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale 2014 – quite tasty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last night’s very buzzed Facebook review:

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

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

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

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

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

McMenamins Kris Kringle 2013

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

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

Ingredients: 

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

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

Buzz Words: Robust, Hoppy, Festive

Alcohol: 6.84% • IBU: 90 • SRM: 15 

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

McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale 2013

McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale 2013

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

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

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

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

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

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale

McMenamins Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale is released today, Friday the 13th, in Bend. Overcome your lingering superstitions and go enjoy some.

On Wednesday, 11 September 2013, I stopped by McMenamins Old St. Francis School Brewery to pick up a growler of their newest seasonal Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale. It isn’t officially released (in Bend) until Friday the 13th (today) but the brewery offered me a growler full in advance and I gladly accepted.

This is my first fresh hop beer of the year and I was really looking forward to it. It took all of my willpower not to dip into the growler on Wednesday evening but my friend Miles couldn’t join me until Thursday so I held off.

Nice Thundercone sticker also given to me. I really like McMenamins designs.

Nice Thundercone sticker also given to me. I really like McMenamins designs.

You can learn about Thundercone from the McMenamins website.

It is a one-batch companywide release and when it is gone it is gone. This is its 4th year according to the promotional flyer they provided me. Thundercone uses Pilsener and Belgian Caramel malt and is bittered with dried Chinook hops. Five pounds per barrel of fresh Cascade hops from Sodbuster Farms is then added in three additions to every batch.

Last night Miles and I dove in. We used the Sierra Nevada Spiegelau IPA glass and a Nonic pint glass to see what aroma differences we could detect. The Spiegelau IPA glass, in my experience, directly enhances the hop aromas but does little to nothing that otherwise affects the taste.

Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale in a Nonic pint, growler, and a Spiegelau IPA glass, and a sticker.

Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale in a Nonic pint, growler, and a Spiegelau IPA glass, along with a sticker.

In the aroma I got a bit of the caramel from the malt, along with an earthy, grassy hop aroma with just a hint of fruit. The Spiegelau glass heightened the fruitiness and brought out a bit of the grapefruit one would expect from Cascade hops. Clearly, the fresh Cascades are an entirely different beast than their dried sisters. Color was a cloudy dark orange. I suspect minimal filtering, which helped provide a creamy, medium-bodied drink. In the flavor the grassy, earthy qualities come through, along with a bit of, to me, more general citrus. This was a highly drinkable beer and Miles and I made short work of the growler.

Alcohol: 6.19% • IBU: 56 • SRM: 7

Thank you, McMenamins for the beer, growler and sticker!

For another perspective on this beer, see Jon’s post at The Brew Site.

I believe we both recommend you seek some out while you can.

Disclaimer: This beer and a growler to hold it were provided to me free of charge by McMenamins Old St. Francis School pub as an unsolicited PR item with no expectation of anything in return.