The Believer is Back!

The holidays are over. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Emperors Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Saint Nicholas Day, Three Kings Day, New Year’s…Whatever you celebrate, it’s over. It’s now time to focus on the New Year and whatever new goals you’ve established for yourself.

fullsizerenderWith a new year comes the opportunity to try new things, such as new beers, it also gives the chance to revisit old favorites. I was at the recently pleased to find an old favorite of mine on the store shelf: Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale. I love this beer! Believer was my first introduction Ninkasi Brewing Company a number of years ago and I was instantly hooked.
It’s pours a deep, clear ruby color with a light off white foam cap. The aroma is that of sweet bread and toffee with some brighter citrus hop notes. The flavor is in line with the aroma with rich toffee and soft bread. Firm hop bitterness pierces the sweet malt adding a bright fruit component creating an easy drinking, delicious beer.

This beer used to be readily available and then one day it was gone. And I was sad. Well now it’s back as a winter seasonal (according to their website) from December to April. So get it while you can.

Ninkasi is hardly a new brewery. They’ve been brewing up tasty beers since 2006 and made an immediate spash into the craft beer scene with favorites like Total Domination, Tricerahops  Double IPA and of course Believer. Since they’re headquartering in Eugene, Oregon, a 2 and a half hour drive from me, I don’t get the chance to stop in regularly. I have only been there once when I happened to be in Eugene for an unrelated event, but it’s worth a trip. They have a very cool, contemporary tasting room complete with an outdoor fire pit that kept me warm on the drizzly day I visited. The staff is enthusiastic and nerdy enough to answer even the more technical brewing related questions. There are a number of beers to try there, all of which were well made and enjoyable.fullsizerender-1

If you are in Eugene, which incidentally is a fun place to visit, you need to stop in and check them out. If Eugene is too much of a trek, then look for the various beers at your local retailer.

 

Cheers!

Where Are All the Brown Ales?

The cold has crept in and winter has descended upon us.   As such it’s time for barley wine, spiced ale, Russian Imperial Stout and other boozy beers to keep us warm and cozy. I always enjoy the big beers of winter but sadly this winter feels rushed. It’s like we went right from summer to winter and skipped autumn. I feel this way due to the absence of one of my favorite beer styles, brown ale! Yes, I went to the Vancouver Fresh Hop Festival (which was fun and interesting) and was pretty autumn-ish (autumny?), but the lack of brown ale offerings from local breweries and brew pubs and bars was noticeable this year (at least to me).

Each time I stop into one of my favorite local beer bars like Caps N’ Taps, A Beer at a Time, or Grapes n’ Growlers, all really good spots incidentally), there’s usually few to none to be found amid the throng of IPAs. I recently made a trip to a Bev Mo and was surprised there was so little brown ale on the shelf. Is it possible I am one of very few beer drinkers who seek this style out?

So what is Brown ale exactly? After all there is a lot of ‘brown’ colored beer out there: Dusseldorf Altbier, Old Ale, Belgian Quad, Scotch Ale, Belgian Dubbel, etc.  What I’m talking about are the brown ales of British origin. These beers are balanced and dance beautifully between malt and bitterness with flavors of toffee, chocolate, and a nutty character that rounds out the profile…At least that describes some brown ale. Maybe the difficulty with brown ale is the variety found among them. A good example of this might be a comparison between New Castle Brown Ale and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. Both are considered examples of a (Northern) British Brown Ale but are dramatically different. New Castle is copper colored whereas Sam Smith is a darker mahogany. Samuel Smith has a deeper malt character and fuller mouth feel, while New Castle has brighter fruit character. Both are highly drinkable and delicious but, very different.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) offers an extensive guideline to all beer styles (or at least most). The BJCP made a departure from previous years with the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines. 2015 BJCP Guidelines Brown British Beers, they lists 3 beers: Dark Mild (Category 13a), British Brown (Category 13b), and English Porter (Category 13c). Prior to this, there were also 3 brown types; however they were denoted as Mild, Northern Brown, and Southern Brown. “English Porter” was included with the Porter section and labeled Brown Porter. Currently there is also American Brown Ale, Category 19c.

The obvious commonality within the British Brown category is the color.  Each style contains a degree of brown ranging from copper to dark brown. Additionally, crystal malt adds a sweet toffee flavor that is also a common theme within the styles. American Brown Ale is the only style that has any significant hop presence, but even with more apparent hop notes, it is still in concert with the malt character.

Brown ale has a deep history in England. In fact, most beer up to about the 1700s, was brown. As malting technology improved maltsters discovered ways to kiln grain without adding the darker color. As lighter colored beers became en vogue, brown ale’s popularity waned in the shadow of pale ales and light colored lagers.

In the U.S. brown ale traces its history to Northern California homebrewers who in the 80’s began brewing bigger, hopped up versions of their English cousins. Thanks to a homebrew competition in Texas, the American Homebrewers Association eventually created a category for the style, which eventually became American Brown Ale.

Though there are a number of brown ales on the market today, the shelves and taps are still jammed with IPA. I love IPA like the next craft beer nerd but what I love more than the best IPA out there is variety.  Brown Ale is another style to explore and should not be overlooked. Maybe it’s because the name sounds bland, or that it doesn’t boast the newest, sexy experimental hop variety available. Whatever the reason for its lackluster reception, I just find it odd. Who doesn’t like a toasty, biscuit, toffee, chocolate flavored anything?

When you consider it’s easily one of the most food friendly beers on Earth this should be a go-to style for beer lovers everywhere. Try brown ale with hard cheeses, grilled meats, harvest time vegetables, you name it. In discussing the flexibility of pairing brown ale with sushi, Ray Daniels, author of “Brown Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes” had this to say, “Years ago I did a pairing exercise in Japan where we were looking for beer to go with different types of sushi. While there were some cases where other beers were better, I remember that for many of the pairings brown ale was about the best we could do. That was really the point that I realized brown ale’s ability to pair decently with a lot of different things.”

I’m with Mr. Daniels. I can’t think of much it couldn’t go with; plus it’s fantastic on its own. So the next time you are contemplating your next beer purchase, make it a brown ale. There’s Sierra Nevada’s Tumber, Big Sky’s Moose Drool, New Castle Brown Ale, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, AleSmith Nut Brown Ale... The list is long.  If for nothing else, drink these beers to keep the style alive. We need to show retailers there is a demand for this amazingly drinkable beer, and not just in autumn, but all year round.

The Bourough has Forded the River!

Nothing is worse than moving. It is its own type of slow torture.  I say this having just done so. Yup, the family and I migrated north across the Columbia River to the great state of Washington.

We are now in Camas, just east of Vancouver. Save all the smelly mill jokes if you know the area…Although it does smell pretty bad on certain days if you are in town. Fortunately we are far enough away to not to have to deal with the odor. The good news about the move is a bigger house, a great neighborhood, better schools (no more PPS, Yay!), and of course new breweries to explore.

I’ve had the chance to taste the beers at Mill City Brew Werks in Camas which has some tasty beers. It’s the only brewery in Camas, however there are a couple of good craft beer bars in or near town: Caps N’ Taps, A Beer at a Time, Grape and Growler to name a few. I look forward to checking them all out.

Vancouver, Washington has become quite the beer town. Per Visit Vancouver’s website, there are, “12 breweries within a 2- mile radius. Most of them are in downtown within blocks of each other.” Sounds like a pub crawl waiting to happen. The city offers the Brewcouver Brewery Passport. It’s similar to Bend’s Ale Trail map. When the wife and I went to Bend, I thought the passport was sort of cheesy but I became a believer. It’s like having a ready-made checklist of places to go.the stand

As we continue to settle in, I’ll be sure to chronicle my discoveries. Aside from checking out breweries in the vicinity, I’ll be rebuilding my home brewery. standAs you can see, I dismantled the old wooden set up. I’ll need to assess the new space but I think I’ll be putting together a single tier set up. More on that to come.

 

Who Cares About Clarity?

cloudy-beerAfter reading the list of Portland’s 73 best IPAs in Willamette Week’s February edition I, (and seemingly every beer nerd in PDX) began making my way around to try what IPAs I hadn’t yet. Due to Willamette Week’s wide circulation, a lot of the beers featured in that article were unavailable as the throngs of curious and thirsty hop lovers descended upon the breweries. Especially those in the top 5 positions, 4 of which were held by relative new comers Fat Head, and Great Notion Brewing. The most notable beers on the list I think were from Great Notion Brewing. While many of the beers featured on the list are outstanding examples of IPA, I love the huge tropical fruit flavors and softer bitterness that come from the beers at Great Notion.  I found their Ripe IPA to be just amazingly…Well ripe, as the name suggests. Its full of juicy, tropical fruit character in the nose as well as palette.

Great Notion,though based here in the Northwest, has made a departure with their style which is more akin to the Northeastern type IPAs  Breweries like Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist have been making fruit forward, juicy beers packed with late kettle additions and a huge dry hop additions. The Alchemist has been making the sought after Heady Topper since 2003 so the style is definitely not new. Now with the success of Great Notion, I wonder if the style will make its way west?

While listening to The Brewing Network’s latest episode of The Session I found it interesting that the guys; (Justin, JP, Tasty, Beardy and even their guest Peter Symons), dislike the Northeast style IPA. The main complaint was the cloudy appearance. I kept waiting for additional critique on the aroma or flavor but no one had any to offer. I find it interesting that the appearance of a beer can have such an affect on the overall perception. While I have to admit, I was surprised by the cloudy appearance of Great Notion Brewing’s Ripe IPA, Juice double IPA and Juice Jr., all my initial misgivings due to the appearance faded with one sniff of these beers. These beers are loaded with hop aroma and flavor so its hard for me to imagine how any hop head could possibly not like this style of beer.

Maine SqueezeI recently went to 10 Barrel Brewing’s Portland brew pub to check out their roof top addition, (which incidentally is amazing on a sunny day). One of their latest offering is called Maine Squeeze. It’s an IPA made in similar fashion to Northeastern style. It pours gold and cloudy and its about as clear as a glass of orange juice. The aroma is bright citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor follows the aroma with tangerine and papaya notes and a  soft and round bitterness. Its delicious!

I do agree that appearance matters to a large degree. Nobody wants to drink a murky, unattractive beverage. Still I don’t think one should dismiss an entire style because of it. Think hefeweisen and American wheat. No one complains about the appearance of those beers. Yes the West Coast has been a leader in the craft beer scene, but that does not mean its the last word in IPA. If you are a sucker for a bright clear beer, I get it. Its pretty. But don’t discount these balanced beers from the East Coast. We have already seen a shift from over-the- top bitterness to hop flavor and aroma. As that trend continues, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of this style out west very soon.

BrewCycle Birthday Party

Ok breaks over. Its been a while since my last post but I’m back at it. This is about my birthday a few month back in December, but I’ll have some new things coming up soon.

As of December 8th last year, I officially became middle aged. Ugh. I really hadn’t given much thought as to what I wanted to do for my birthday. Fortunately my wife thought of it for me. That evening, the Mrs. told me to get ready to go out and wear something for the rain. A taxi arrived to pick us up and a short ride later we were at 10 Barrel Brewing.

Upon entering I spotted my Dad smiling at a table and sipping a beer. Since Dad was alone but at a good size table, I assumed more people were to show up. It was Tuesday night though. How many people were willing to celebrate on a work/school night? Well, apparently my friends are party people and soon a various assortment of friends began to trickle in to 10 Barrel Brewing.

We ate appetizers and had a BIG taster tray of beers at 10 Barrel. They offer large variety of beers. After we were stuffed with food and beer, Deanna suggested a spot next door called BackPedal Brewing that we should check out. BackPedal is a tiny brewery housed within a place called Brewcycle. They have several house-brewed beers made on a tiny 3 barrel brew system, as well as several guest taps. There are also huge multi-person pedal powered vehicles housed there. We had passed by many times and each time I said, “That looks fun. We need to get a group together and do that.” No better time than my birthday!

High fives and hugs to the posse for making it happen! I think the love must have magically affected the weather. The temperature remained warm and the rain almost completely stopped. It was breezy but it was a warm breeze that felt almost tropical. I couldn’t ask for more on a December night in Portland

We all found a seat on the brewcycle for the orientation from our driver. The plan was to pedal to three brewpubs and spend about 20 minutes at each location. Once the rules were outlined (i.e. no alcohol on the vehicle, no jumping off, etc), we embarked for the first destination, Pints Brewing Company. Pints2

Pints Brewing Company is a small brewpub in Old Town on 5th between Flanders and Glisan.  The bar is small but welcoming. It is in an old brick building which makes for a cozy and warm feel. The small brew house in the back of the restaurant is fun to see. The size of the brewery is sure to ignite any homebrewer’s imagination. It’s a professional system to be sure, but not so industrial or huge that it’s unfathomable for a homebrewer.  They maintain 10 beers on tap at Pints, each really well made. They of course have the usual NW favorites, IPA, a red and stout; but they also keep it interesting with tasty seasonals like a bière de garde and brown ale among the others. One thing I especially like at Pints Brewing is their rotating single hop pale ale. Each time they brew it they utilize a different hop variety giving the beer nerd and hop lover good reason to return.

After sipping a pint at Pints, our guide called us back to the big bike. We climbed aboard, turned the music up and pedaled to our next location: Old Town Pizza.
oldtown1As the name suggests, Old Town Pizza is located in old town on SW 3rd Avenue and SW Davis. It’s a good stop. Their beer is well made as is their pizza. The added bonus is that its supposed to be haunted. You can hear the story of the building’s sordid past on the Haunted Pub Tour with Beer Quest PDX which is a lot of fun.

Old Town Pizza brews their beer at their northeast location. Since the beer only travels across the river, the draft selection at their tap room is always fresh. They recently began bottling their beer too so its nice to see their GABF award winning Shanghai’d IPA around town.

It wasn’t long before we were climbing back onto the bike for our 3rd stop. It was a tough uphill climb to our next destination, Fat Head’s Brewing.fathead2 Its no joke, we worked up a sweat! The bike is harder than it looks but it made the beer taste better. Of course at Fat Head’s the beer doesn’t need help tasting any better. They have won a number of GABF medals for their beers, and if that wasn’t enough; their Semper FiPA and IBusive IPAs were just ranked the number 1 and number 2 Portland brewed IPAs in Willamette Weekly this month. In a town like Portland I think that’s saying quite a lot.

After sipping on the beers at Fat Head’s, we slowly made our way back to Brewcycle where our excursion ended. A huge thanks to my wife Deanna for making it happen and the crew for making it out! You guys made it a beautifully perfect milestone birthday.

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Pacific City and Pelican Brew Pub

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The beach at Pacific City from the top of Cape Kiwanda

A lot of press has been on the Oregon coast beer scene thanks to breweries like Rogue in Newport, Fort George and Buoy in Astoria, and Seaside Brewing Company in Seaside.  I had the pleasure of taking my family on a short camping trip to the coast to escape the unpleasantness of sweating in Portland’s 90 degree weather. I am aware that by the rest of the nation’s standards, temperatures in the 90’s might not constitute excessive heat, but for my temperate temperature loving NW family and I it’s a bit much. The cool breeze of the Oregon coast was exactly what we needed to avoid various body parts sticking to the furniture. We pitched our tent in a campground just outside of Pacific City. Upon our arrival we reveled in the immediate relief from the 90 degree Portland weather. We gladly embraced the high 60 degree day, set up camp and hiked the grounds.

Full-Sail-ESB-BottleThat night we allowed the kids to subject their teeth to the sugar onslaught brought by s’mores, while my wife and I enjoyed an ESB courtesy of Fully Sail Brewing. It’s one of their seasonal beers I look forward to. Bright, fruity esters from English yeast are a welcome departure from the usual clean, neutral yeast strains found in the U.S. It is a good beer. Plus the cheapskate in me likes it too since its less expensive than some of my other favorite beer on the market at right around $8.00.

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The kids about to slide down the sand

The following of days were spent hiking and climbing Cape Kiwanda which is amazing! If you have never been to Cape Kiwanda it is one of the coast’s must see places. The mildly arduous hike/climb to the top is worth it for the view and the decent. Lots of visitors slide down on sand boards, some use cardboard, and some (like me) just enjoy running/leaping down in the soft sand. The view from the top is breath taking. Steep orange sandstone cliffs beg to be explored and the sound of the waves crashing against the cape is tranquil and melodic.IMG_1870

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Wife Deanna and Charlie on Pelican Brew Pub patio with a Flock Wave pale ale

IMG_1865 A beer lover’s reward for ascending the cape (or for simply trekking to Pacific City), is a beer at Pelican Brew Pub. Even if for some reason you don’t like beer (unlikely I’m sure), the view and atmosphere at Pelican Brew Pub is worth the trip. The outdoor patio looks right out onto the Ocean. Cape Kiwanda stands a yellow and orange wall of rock to the north while from the ocean Haystack Rock stands watch over the beach, a huge silent beacon. The scenery alone makes for a spectacular day, but add to it the excellent beers available at this 4 time GABF winner of brewer and brewery of the year, and it makes for a little parcel of paradise. Since it was right before 4th of July weekend and the weather was near perfect, the pub was busy. They usually have 6 mainstays on draft plus some seasonal offerings.They had sold out of a couple of their seasonal beers but one the remaining seasonal beers  was an unfiltered pale ale called  Flock Wave. Its a delicious pale ale with lots of hop flavor, medium bitterness and a crisp finish. Per Pelican Brewery, they are releasing it in 6 packs so I’ll definitely be on the look out.

I have never had a lackluster beer from this place. Their Silverspot IPA is delicious. It’s made in the English style and leans more toward herbal and woody flavors than the typical big fruity West coast IPA. Kiwanda Cream Ale is a light bready thirst quencher, perfect after a hike on the cape. I also really like the Doryman’s Ale. Its an American Brown with a perfect balance between sweet toffee malt and hop bitterness.IMG_1858

I’ll stop gushing over this place now. You really should check out Pacific City and Pelican Brew Pub though. If for some reason you can’t make it to Pacific City and can wait until spring, you will be able to try their beers in Cannon Beach. Per their website, they are under construction on a brew pub there. I can’t wait. It will save me a 1/2 hour drive time!

Pfriem Family Brewers Beer Now in Bottles

pFriem-Family-Brewers-bottlesI had the pleasure of visiting Pfriem Family Brewers in Hood River a while back. I think it’s one of the Northwest’s best breweries to visit, both for the beer, which is excellent, and also the atmosphere. The tasting room is filled with reclaimed wood warmly embracing a collection of large gleaming stainless fermenters. It’s a comfortably elegant mash up of modern and rustic with a front row seat to the brewery.

It’s evident the beer is part of the inspiration for the décor. They brew fantastic traditional Belgian beers solidly rooted in the Northwest. It’s a delicious blend of old world style and contemporary flavors. My favorite of their beers is the Belgian Strong Blonde. I first found it served on draft at Tasty and Alder in Portland and loved it. It’s malty but crisp, with pear and spice flavors that beg for another pint despite the 7.5% ABV.

I was happy to try their IPA on tap at my local Fred Meyer where it’s available by the growler. I spoke with the guy working the bar and asked if he knew whether or not Pfriem had any bottled selections. He wasn’t sure. Then a couple days later, to my delight, I went to Zupans on Burnside and saw 4 different Pfriem beers! They currently have a pilsner and IPA in sleek 500 ml bottles, and a Belgian dark strong and a saison both corked in 375 ml bottles.

Although I love making the trip and spending time in Hood River, I’m glad to see Pfriem Family Brewers reaching out to their fans outside their local market. If you have never tried their beers, you should. They are among some of the most artfully made beers in the Northwest. Keep your eyes open for them and check out their website to read their story and to find out where their beers are available.

Arts and Crafts

kettle etchingIts been pretty cold in Portland as of late and since I brew outside, I haven’t felt much like brewing. I know, I’m a baby. Whatever. Anyway, since I haven’t been up to braving the cold, I opted to tinker with my brew equipment instead.

 It’s difficult to find a project that will dramatically improve your brewery without costing any money. I had been looking online for a sight glass prior to reading the article Matt Bates wrote in the July/August edition of Brew Your Own. I already had everything I needed for this project: vinegar, salt, a 9 volt battery, some wire, q-tips, tape and stencils. Even if you don’t aleady have everything, none of the necessary items will set you back more than a few bucks.

kettle taped

I’m not going to give detailed how to instructions for this. You can hit the link above and check it out from the source. I do want to be sure to stress preplanning your design. You will be permanently marking/drawing on your precious kettle so make sure you are going to put something aesthetically pleasing to you. I like my results, but I think if I were to do it over again, I would have used a different stencil. The stencil I used was from my kids’ craft drawer and more of a whimsical font, so the results look a bit like I free hand drew it. I would recommend using something with cleaner lines.

The good news is that I can finally retire the cpvc pipe I used to dip into the boiling wort to find out what my volume is.

If you are considering buying a sight glass, you might consider this as an alternative and fun project.

 

The Beer in Bend

I knew Bend had a vibrant beer scene with a bunch of breweries, but somehow I failed to comprehend the scale of it until my wife and I went there last month for our anniversary. The population is just about 80,000 but there are 19 breweries. It gives Bend the highest number of breweries in Oregon per capita. If you live in Oregon and are a beer lover, you have no excuse not to go to Bend. Its an amazing beer locale. If you are going to Bend, make sure to check out the Visitor Bureau’s website. It has a ton of info on things to do. I recommend the Bend Ale Trail. It has an app you can download. I admit I thought it sounded a bit hokey at first but it served as a nice pub crawl guide right on my phone with directions to each brewery.

We stayed only for the weekend but we were able visit a number of breweries. The first place we went was actually not in Bend, but in Sisters. We had stopped in Sister for gas but when we saw Three Creeks Brewing, we had to stop in. Its a nice pub with a fun, old west theme. The bar area has a pool table, comfy seats and a cozy bar. The beers are really enjoyable. Their fresh hop red ale and imperial IPA were amazing. A few of their beers, like Knotty Blonde, and Hoodoo Voodoo IPA can be found in and around Portland, but if you have the chance, the pub is definitely worth checking out.

Our full brewery tour did not begin until the following day. One of the best things about Bend is that all the breweries are close to one another. It makes going to several places in an afternoon an achievable goal. We lucked out with a  beautiful sunny day. What better way to tour the town and breweries than on bike?

CruxOur fist stop was Crux Fermentation Project. I love this place! The bar is in the brewery so you get a peek into where the action takes place. They have a large outdoor patio with picnic tables to enjoy an afternoon pint in the sun.  We didn’t eat there so I can’t comment on the food, however the beer is fantastic! They brew a LOT of beer. It would probably take an entire weekend to sample all their beers…Or at least a full day and designated driver. If you are a beer geek interested in tasting the effect a different yeast, hops, wood aging or other variables can have on the same wort, then you need to stop by Crux.

Next on our tour was Rat Hole Brewing. Rat Hole in contrast to Crux, is a very small brew pub. It has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and the staff were friendly. We arrived hungry and were happy to try their beers and some food. We had lunch.The food was decent. The beer… As a homebrewer I compare my beer to commercial beers. There were two different beers that tasted flawed and reminded me of what I made before I had temperature control. They had banana and butter flavors. I spoke with the owner and asked about their brewery. He said the brewery is in a converted barn on his property (hence the name). I asked how they control their temperatures. He said I should speak with the brewer. The brewer was present but entertaining some visitors. I never had the chance to speak with him. They have some interesting beers, a hoppy red, lemon wheat, a couple different porters, IPA and a big pale ale . I feel like we’re going to have to return to give them another try. They have good reviews so I hope it was just a fluke.

Brew WerksWe left Rat Hole feeling our exceptations for Bend beer may have been too high. Then we happened upon Old Mill Brew Werks. First of all, the location is fantastic! Their bar and dining room has a wall of windows to take advantage of a beautiful river view. It has a comfortable, contemporary style and felt very new. Upon inquiry about the newness of the place the bar tender informed us they had recently relocated there. Ironically their previous location was where Rat Hole Brew Pub currently resides. The beer at Old Mill Brew Werks is really tasty. They didn’t have anything particularly different. No barrel aged, sours, or odd ingredients. Just some really well fermented, clean and delicious beers. My favorite of their beers was their Rabble- Rouser Red. It instantly became my new favorite red ale. So good! There is a unique malt flavor I haven’t encountered in any other red/amber ale on the market. It had a sweet toffee and lightly toasted character with an herbal, dry finish. Its 8.1% ABV but you would never guess it. I could drink that beer by the gallon! So good. I wish I could get it in Portland. I e-mailed the brewer hoping to get some tips on making it or something similar at home. Haven’t heard back yet but my fingers are crossed.

Silver MoonIt was a little late when we left Old Mill Brew Werks so we opted to make our way to our hotel. Of course Silver Moon Brewing was sort of on the way. We decided we could drop in and make it our final stop for the day. Silver Moon distributes a few different beers (Snake Bite Porter, Hob Nob IPA and a few others) so I have tried them in and around Portland. The few beers they distribute feel like a drop in the bucket compared to the variety they offer at the pub. I believe it was around 15 taps with various styles to include a few different IPAs, and pale ales, a pumpkin ale, stout, porter, a fresh hop ale and even a couple of lagers, (pilsner and schwarzbier). All the beers at Silver Moon were well made. My wife said it was her favorite brewery of the day and in particular really like their Get Sum Pale Ale. Nice place to end the day.

Sadly we had limited time in Bend. We were however able to check out Good Life Brewing before leaving the following day. I think we were pretty beered out when we got there but its a cool place. You can sip a beer and look into their 30 barrel brewery. These guys definitely make some good beers. Look for Decender IPA, Sweet As Pacific Ale and Mountain Rescue Pale Ale in cans. Really solid beers.

Bend. Lots of good beer. Go there. Nuff said.

 

Wet Hop Bust

This summer I grew a good amount of herbs and vegetables in my small backyard. I had broccoli, cauliflower, kale, basil, tomatoes, lettuce and more. There is nothing like making a meal (or at least supplementing one) with food grown in your own garden. I was particularly excited to get home grown hops from a Centennial hop rhizome I planted. Its also why I was so disappointed my sad little hop bine produced zero hops for me. So much for the wet hop IPA I was planning.

backyard

This was the 3rd year for this plant. You can see it in the background of the picture. It looked pretty good right? The first year I got enough hops to throw into a pale ale. I thought I would get even more the following year. Unfortunately year 2 produced only a hand full of hops. I thought for sure 2014 was the year for this plant. Maybe I should have actually read the copy of “Homegrown Hops” by David R. Beach that my wife got me a while back…

Due to my complete and utter hop failure, I’m forced to find my wet hop fix commercially. Each year there seems to be renewed confusion around the terms wet hops, fresh hops, and harvest ales. It seems there are 2 schools of thought. Some say they are all interchangeable terms describing the same thing. Others say there is a distinction. Personally I like what Sierra Nevada has to say their website: “Wet Hops are un-dried hops, picked and shipped from the growing fields within 24 hours. Fresh Hops are the freshest dried hops to come from the fields, typically within seven days of harvest.”

That makes sense to me. I think of herbs in cooking. You can make the same dish with equally tasty results using dried or fresh cut herbs from the garden. If you did a side by side comparison, you would notice a slightly different flavor. Both might be delicious, but just a little different. That being said, I understand that not all breweries market their beer the same way which perpetuates the debate. Really the only thing we need to know as consumers is when you see the words, fresh, wet or harvest on a bottle between August and October, chances are it contains hops picked within 24 hours.
Luckily there are plenty of options and there is still time to find these beers.  As mentioned earlier, Sierra Nevada released its Harvest Wet Hop IPA in bottles. I recently went to Deschutes in Portland and tried their wet hop Mirror Pond Pale Ale as well as Hop Trip. It was nice to compare the wet hop Mirror Pond and the standard version side by side. There is a distinct green, herbal, mown grassiness to the wet hop version that I really like. It adds a freshness that is not in the standard Mirror Pond.

Wet Hop Mirror PondThis time of year almost any brewpub or brewery you go to around here has a wet hop beer. Sasquatch Brewing Company has Perles Before Swine Fresh Hopped IPA, McMenamins has their Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale, Laurelwood does a fresh hop version of Free Range Red. The list is long, as it should be. Yakima Valley alone provides 75% of the hops to US breweries. We have easy access to the freshest hops in the country so it should be no surprise we so many of these beers.

I’m already planning next year’s garden to insure a decent hop harvest. I’m looking forward to making my own wet hop beer from home grown hops. Now I just need to find and read that book…