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.]

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 OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January

The Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza is coming to McMenamins Old Saint Francis School Saturday January 16th. Keep reading for details.

We went to the Second Annual last year and had a grand time. Doppelbocks, barleywines, Scotch ales, etc. Beers to warm you on the inside. Hope to see you there!

“If the world is looking a little dreary post-holidays, here’s something to cheer you up: High Gravity Extravaganza brewfest at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF) in Bend! This bold beer event celebrates high gravity brews in one of the country’s top craft beer destinations. Haven’t had a chance to attend yet? The brewfest inspiring you to “go big or go home” is back for a third year in a row.

At High Gravity you can sample over 20 high gravity beers and – new this year! – fresh seasonal ciders from McMenamins and Central Oregon’s top breweries amidst the rugged beauty of snowy high desert mountains, with outdoor fire pits and rich comfort food to keep you warm and happy. Live music from Sophistafunk and Dirty Revival will be grooving in Father Luke’s Room from 3-10 p.m. and brewers will be on hand to answer questions about their brews and discuss technique.”

Details

  • What: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
  • When: Saturday, January 16, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Meet the Brewers 1-4 p.m.; Music 3-10 p.m.
  • Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701
  • Beer: OSF’s head brewer Mike “Curly” White is joined by McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest and local Central Oregon breweries including Bend Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery, Goodlife Brewing Co., Solstice Brewing Co., Smith Rock Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing Co., and Worthy Brewing Co., Crux Fermentation Project, and more!
  • Cost: Free admission, 10 taster punch cards available for $15 or $1.50/taste (4 o.z.); All ages welcome; 21 and over to drink
  • Learn more: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
    “Go Big or Go Home”
  • Bring your McMenamins Passport for the brewfest stamp, too.

Music Schedule

  • 3 p.m. til 6 p.m. Dirty Revival * Vibrant Neo-soul
  • 7 p.m. til 10 p.m. Sophistafunk * Funk & Hip-hop
  • Info on the bands can be found at the above link also.

Participating Breweries

  • Sunriver Brewing (Sunriver)
  • Ochoco Brewing (Prineville)
  • McMenamins Old St. Francis (Bend)
  • Deschutes Brewery (Bend)
  • McMenamins Thompson Brewery (Salem)
  • McMenamins West Linn (West Linn)
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale)
  • GoodLife Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Monroe Brewery (Corvallis)
  • Boneyard Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins High Street Brewery (Eugene)
  • RiverBend Brewing (Bend)
  • Wild Ride Brewing (Redmond)
  • McMenamins Concordia Brewery (Portland)
  • McMenamins Roseburg Brewery (Roseburg)
  • Bend Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins on the Columbia (Vancouver, WA)
  • Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters)
  • Worthy Brewing (Bend)
  • Silver Moon Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Crystal Brewery (Portland)
  • Crux Fermentation Project (Bend)

McMenamins Kris Kringle 2015

With perfect timing for release day, a bottle of McMenamins 2015 version of their Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle, showed up on my doorstep last Friday, the 13th of November.

Image of McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale label

I also received and reviewed the 2013 release here.

Here is McMenamins description of this beer:

Just in time for the holidays, November 13th 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 2015 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 two 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!

Malts: Pale Ale, Munich, Wheat, 15L & 120L Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Centennial (Bittering, Flavor &Aroma), Cascade (Flavor & Aroma)

OG: 1.068  TG: 1.015  ABV: 6.84%  IBU: 76  SRM: 15

Buzz Words: Robust, Hoppy, Festive

I popped open this very fresh “winter warmer” on Monday and quite enjoyed it. More on that in a moment.

Photo of bottle, glass of beer, and postcard for 2015 release of McMenamins 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.

This is NOT one of those winter warmers. McMenamins is claiming that there is still some ginger and cinnamon in this and I believe them. But the level of spicing is perfect! I had to keep asking myself whether it was spiced or not. Subtlety is the operant word. Never once did I think of this as a spice beer but only as a tasty beer that might have a small amount of almost undetectable spicing. As it should be.

In the aroma I got a medium caramel, very light cocoa and light herbal earthiness when cold. As it warmed, a very light woodiness, light nuttiness and very light vanilla notes came through.

While I did not have a strong light source at hand and the sun had set, I’d say the color was a dark copper-orange with a creamy off-white head.

The beer was creamy and medium bodied, with medium-light caramel notes, and a very light sweetness until the finish when a mild bitterness came along and cleaned up any lingering sweetness.

If this is what a winter warmer can be then I may have to reconsider my stance. But then most pumpkin beers are pie beers and I fear most winter warmers are, in my opinion, spice bombs also. No thanks.

I’ll be picking a couple bottles of this up and you should to. Only available until Christmas Day.

I also tasted our local McMenamins (Old St. Francis School) version on the previous Saturday while there for their birthday. The primary difference I noted was less carbonation and a thinner body but still tasty.

FYI: FTC. And all that: This bottle was provided to me by McMenamins.

McMenamins 2nd annual High Gravity Extravaganza

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto of the McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, now in its 2nd Annual instantiation, 17 January 2015 in Bend. [We missed the 1st last year due to attending the Big Woody in Portland that same weekend. No true regrets but wondering what happened to the Big Woody.]

Since I haven’t attended I can only pass along the details and promise you that we plan on being there for certain. High-alcohol beers, music, fire pits, and more.

In the spirit of Central Oregon and the uniqueness of the High Desert in January, step out and celebrate big, bold beers while basking in the crisp winter air at the High Gravity Extravaganza at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF). This second annual “Go Big or Go Home” event brings together high gravity ales from some of Central Oregon’s top breweries (list below) and McMenamins around the Northwest with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains while huddling around blazing firepits. With live music by Mark Ransom & The Mostest and Down North,  you can also stop by the brewer’s corner to meet the makers, discuss technique or just share a couple pints with friends.

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Music begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701

Beer: Joining 10 McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest are 12 local Central Oregon breweries [see below].

Cost: Free to attend, special taster pricing.

We welcome these Central Oregon Guest Breweries, pouring their bold beer samples:

  • GoodLife Brewing
  • Three Creeks Brewing
  • Bend Brewing Company
  • Solstice Brewing Company
  • Worthy Brewing Company
  • Sunriver Brewing Company
  • Wild Ride Brewing
  • Crux Fermentation Project
  • Riverbend Brewing
  • Deschutes Brewing Company
  • Boneyard Beer Company
  • Silver Moon Brewing

Participating McMenamins Breweries pouring their big and bold beer samples:

  • McMenamins on Monroe
  • High Street Brewery
  • Thompson Brewery
  • McMenamins on the Columbia Brewery
  • West Linn Brewery
  • Edgefield Brewery
  • Concordia – Kennedy School Brewery
  • Crystal Brewery
  • Old St. Francis Brewery
  • Roseburg Brewery

We are looking forward to it, as are many of our friends. We hope to see you there.

McMenamins Black Widow Porter

Short review: Both the Black Widow Porter in 22 oz bottle (via production brewery in Troutdale) and the Old Saint Francis School version from Mike White are darn fine tasty porters. Get yourself some and drink them!

Do it soon as it won’t be available for long!

A few weeks ago I got a bomber of Black Widow Porter along with an embossed pint glass and a sticker from McMenamins via FedEx. On thanking @captainneon on Twitter, he suggested I do a horizontal tasting of it along with our local version. I thought this was a grand idea so I waited until I could get a growler of Mike “Curly” White’s version from McMenamins Old Saint Francis School.

I finally made it over this past Monday where it was also the growler fill of the week so I got it at a little discount. A few hours later I got out four 5 oz. taster glasses, opened the bomber and the growler after letting them warm up about 20 minutes, and poured the wife and I each a glass of both.

McMenamins Black Widow Porter - bomber from Troutdale, pint glass filled from growler, growler of local Old St. Francis School version

McMenamins Black Widow Porter – bomber from Troutdale, pint glass filled from growler, growler of local Old St. Francis School version

Production batch (22 oz. bomber)

Aroma: light chocolate, barest hint of rye, biscuit

Color: Almost black

Taste, etc.: Coffee and the barest hint of rye spiciness also makes it into the flavor [note: there doesn’t seem to be any rye in the recipe]. This is a fairly traditional porter. Almonds brought out more of the chocolate in the finish, and a little Ghirardelli 70% dark chocolate was quite nice with it.

Old St. Francis School batch (growler)

Aroma: Hint of licorice, dark fruit (plum/grape)

Color: Far less head (see carbonation below); more deep mahogany tints among the almost black.

Taste, etc.: Sweeter and fruitier than the bottled version. Slightly boozy in a grape must way. For some reason this was under-carbonated. The growler was sealed well and we drank it just 3-4 hours after filling … so ? This was not a bad beer but it was not what we expected nor was it a traditional porter, by any means.

I then switched to a pint glass for a couple reasons. What does it actually taste like in a more proper serving size? I wanted a picture of the beer in the glass McMenamins sent along with the bottle. This was the local version from the growler though. Aroma was pretty much the same. It had a slightly better mouthfeel (towards style) but was still under-carbonated. Was also still quite fruity along the plum/dark grape spectrum.

The next night I had about half a pint from the growler and it was now a little thinner but far less fruity and less sweet. It tasted a bit more like a traditional porter.

Clearly there seemed to be something wrong with the growler or the beer it was filled with. So Wednesday I went to McMenamins and tried the local version on site by the pint.

Old St. Francis School version at McMenamins

Aroma: Coffee and chocolate

C: Black with a nice dark tan head. I had to verify that it wasn’t on nitro as it was so beautiful looking in the glass with tiny creamy bubbles.

Taste, etc.: Creamy, medium-plus-bodied. Chocolate, hint of coffee, hint of vanilla. Quite tasty!

This was an exquisite traditional porter. Just to verify my perceptions I had a second pint. Yep. Damn fine job, Curly! Thankfully I got a chance to tell him while I was sitting there. We also discussed the growler issue but neither of us came to any real conclusions. I would have stayed and had a third pint—I rarely come across a traditional porter that good and that inexpensive (was happy hour)—but I had to meet the wife.

Bottom line: Curly at McMenamins Old Saint Francis School outdid the production brewery for this year’s batch of Black Widow Porter in a not entirely fair match up. [That is, Curly’s brew got a second chance and I did not taste the Edgefield version at the pub on draft but from a bottle and only in a taster glass.]

Either way, both beers were quite tasty! Thank you, McMenamins.

By the way, this Wednesday at O’Kanes at Old Saint Francis School there will be a firkin of Whiskey Widow tapped at 5 pm as part of O’Kanes Cask Series Release. This is Curly’s version of Black Widow Porter aged on oak spirals soaked in Hogshead Whiskey. Get over there on Wednesday if you are interested. I plan on being there!