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.]

Fort George Festival of the Dark Arts

This weekend Sara and I made a ‘quick’ (~7 hours each way) trip to Astoria, Oregon to attend the Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts, “A Carnival of Stout.”

Fort George, along with other breweries, has declared February as Stout Month. Seeing as February is my Birthday Month I consider this a wonderful declaration! They have many of their own stouts on tap all month along with having quite a few guest taps. But it all comes to an orgiastic head during Zwickelmania when Fort George hosts the Festival of the Dark Arts. Forty-seven stouts (47!) all housed in one brewery campus! They had 14 of their own stouts and the rest were guests. There was also lots of arts and artists present, tarot card reading, tattooing, blacksmithing, music, fire dancing, music and other diversions.

The Fort George Public House during the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Public House during the Festival of the Dark Arts

Art on the Taproom wall at Fort George

Art on the Taproom wall at Fort George Brewery

The event was hosted across Fort George’s brewery and public house and went from 2 – 10 pm on Saturday. We got up early on Saturday morning—well, not really as we always get up early, but we did get moving and left the house early and drove up to Astoria. We left around 7 am and arrived about 2 pm. We checked into our Air BnB and got our stuff together and walked the 12 blocks—mostly downhill—to Fort George.

Our Festival of the Dark Arts glasses

Our Festival of the Dark Arts glasses

Entrance was free but a cool glass mug for drinking from was $8 so we each dropped a $20 bill on a mug and 12 tokens. Some of the stronger and usually the barrel-aged stouts were 2 tokens per 3 oz. pour but most were only 1 token.

Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts token, both sides

Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts token, both sides

Sadly, we seem to have lost our Festival map which had descriptions of all of the stouts. The webpage announcing the lineup does at least profile the Fort George beers. I do know which ones we had and in what order as I was writing them down. Some people thought that was too organized but they also usually thought I was making tasting notes. I knew better than that! I simply recorded the names.

Almost all were good but there were one or two I wasn’t overly fond of, and there were a couple of the bourbon barrel-aged ones which tasted more like someone had poured a shot of bourbon in a stout; not all, just some.

Barrels at Fort George Brewery

Barrels at Fort George Brewery

The following list comprises the 21 (out of 47 available) stouts that we sampled, all in 3 oz. pours:

  • Bison Organic Chocolate Stout
  • Fort George Squashed Stout
  • HUB Army of Darkness (bourbon bbl-aged)
  • Fort George Kentucky Girl
  • Fort George Viva La Stout
  • Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Imperial Stout
  • Block 15 Super Nebula
  • Fort George Meeker’s Mark Stout
  • Fort George Polish’s Black Walnut Stout
  • Astoria’s Bad Ass Stout
  • Laurelwood Bbl-aged Moose & Squirrel Stout
  • Boneyard Bbl-Aged Suge Knight
  • Elysian Omen
  • Fort George Three Wisemen
  • Stone 2008 Imperial Russian Stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Burnside Red Light District Stout
  • Lucky Lab Pavlov’s Russian Imperial Stout
  • Fort George Bourbon Bbl-Aged Cavatica
  • Fort George Coffee Girl
  • McMenamin’s Whiskey Bbl-Aged Terminator
  • The Abyss

I liked the Bison and I quite enjoyed the Fort George (FG) Squashed. It had a sort of “bright” taste to it the I liked. The FG Viva La Stout was a Mexican chocolate stout with cinnamon, vanilla and almond. If you had told me it was a milk stout with almonds I may well have said, “This is interesting.” All I could taste was sweet almond and stout and perhaps a hint of vanilla; no chocolate or cinnamon. It really needed those flavors to give it some balance. The Block 15 Super Nebula we had last year at The Little Woody and were disappointed when it was recently released but not sent to Bend (I emailed Block 15 to enquire) because we both thought it was the best beer at The Little Woody. Thus, we were happy to get to try it again. Sara still thought it was amazing; I thought it was excellent but have since had 2 to 3 better stouts in the intervening months.

Fermenters at Fort George Brewery

Fermenters at Fort George Brewery

Astoria’s Bad Ass Stout was quite drinkable but I wanted more from it with a name like that. The Laurelwood Bbl-aged Moose & Squirrel was quite tasty. The Boneyard Bbl-Aged Suge Knight wasn’t hitting the right notes for me this weekend. I have tasted this version in a small taster before and enjoyed it a bit more and I have spent a (very) recent evening nursing a non-barrel aged Suge Knight in a large snifter, which was exquisite. [And what is with the name of this beer? I have seen it spelled in probably 6-8 different ways, including a couple of different ways from the brewery.]

Tap Handle for a Fort George stout

Tap Handle for a Fort George stout

I would say that the Elysian Omen let me down but that’s only partly true. I generally like Elysian beers and I find their Dragonstooth to be quite toothsome. But the Omen is one of their 12 Beers of the Apocalypse from last year (2012) and I have had 3 of those so far and have not been impressed by any of them. The Omen is a Belgian raspberry stout. I am not a big raspberry fan but I have had a couple raspberry stouts that I found incredible. I am also a huge Belgian beer fan, having lived there for over 3 years. This just did not work for me, though. I do have a sad over the whole 12 Beers of the Apocalypse as if you’re going to go all out and have a line with that name then they best be incredible beers. The Stone 2008 IRS was incredible! The Burnside Red Light district, a strawberry stout, was quite drinkable but definitely a once in a while taste. The Abyss was, well, The Abyss; appropriately named.

Fort George Brewery courtyard at night with blacksmithing and fire dancers

Fort George Brewery courtyard at night with blacksmithing and fire dancers

Fort George descriptions:

  • Squash Stout, — 6.7% butternut and acorn squashes
  • Kentucky Girl — Coffee Girl on bourbon barrels, ONE KEG LEFT; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/kentucky-girl/
  • Viva La Stout — 7.6%, mexican chocolate stout, cinnamon, vanilla, almond
  • Meekers Mark — 8.0%, oatmeal stout on Maker’s Mark barrels
  • Polish’s Black Walnut Stout — 6.4%, 6 lbs of walnuts – nutty, toasty
  • 3 Wisemen — 9.9%, whiskey, rum, and tequila barrels Oatmeal Stout; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/three-wisemen/
  • Bourbon Bbl. Cavatica — 2 months on Makers Mark barrels
  • Coffee Girl — “strong malty chocolate profile” oats, malts, molasses; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/seasonal/coffee-girl/

These are the Fort George ones we did not try:

  • Campout Stout — 7.0%, dark chocolate, caramel, marshmallows
  • Rye Whiskey Bbl. Cavatica Stout — 9.2%, barrels for 6 months, special for festival
  • Long Dark Winter — 5.8%, milk stout with oatmeal
  • Murky Pearl — fermented with oysters, salty ocean; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/murky-pearl/
  • Cavatica — 8.8%,
  • Spank Stout — honey malts and 30 lbs of roasted peppers – Spicy!

We had a grand time, met some folks, got our tarot cards read, got some brewery/festival clothing, and brought home a four pack of the 2013 Barrel Aged Cavatica Stout which has been aged in Heaven Hills Rye Whiskey Barrels, some of which will be cellared.

Fort George Cavatica Stout aged in Heaven Hills rye barrels

Fort George Cavatica Stout aged in Heaven Hills rye whiskey barrels

We are hoping to make this an annual tradition for us—weather depending, it is a 7-hour drive in February—although we hope to extend it a few days for a more leisurely pace and to allow for more sightseeing and experiencing of the local culture(s) along the way. We also are thinking of trying to volunteer at the Festival next year.

One of the many volunteers hard at work

One of the many volunteers hard at work

And on that note a big “Thank you” to Fort George and their staff and another even bigger one to all of the awesome volunteers who made this thing work so smoothly!

A few more photos follow. FYI: photos are not in the order taken.

A very important sign in the courtyard the next morning

A very important sign in the courtyard the next morning

The Fort George Brewery courtyard the morning after the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Brewery courtyard the morning after the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Public House façade and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George Public House façade and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George building, 1924, home of the Fort George Public House and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George building, 1924, home of the Fort George Public House and the Blue Scorcher bakery