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.