September 30, 2010

Flying Dog Week - Part 3

Today's beer is Double Dog Double Pale Ale. This is the doubled version of the Doggie Style Pale, with a website-reported 'insane amount' of dry-hopping. Crystal malt, several types of hops (with Cascades getting the lion's share), 85 on the IBU range and . . . woof, 11.5% on the abv. On paper, this is not timid. I'm expecting good things here.

Much like the others, not a great deal of head. Flying Dog does not appear to have fondness for carbonation. It's a pretty beer. Cloudy, reddish/golden hues - I liked the look. By comparison to the other beers this week, this is big on the nose. Hops. Wait, let me try that again: HOPS. There, that's better. It's the sweet-smelling, flowery version that you tend to find with red ales and it's not shy about letting you know it's in the room.

The smell is legitimate advertising for the taste - hoppy, fruit-like front end that starts a roll toward the bitter finish. Ah, but hang on, we've got a delayed blitz. The bitterness is de-freakin'-railed by a blast of alcohol. The 11.5% is definitely saying hello. I wouldn't say it's a bad thing (you're drinking a double-digit beer - alcohol is kind of the expectation), but just know what you're getting into.

If you gave this to me blind, I'd say it was something from Lagunitas. Their roster is heavily loaded with shotgun blasts of alcohol and hops and Double Dog would fit in without a problem. If that combination matches your desired tastes, this will float your boat.

September 28, 2010

Flying Dog Week - Part 2

Today's beer: Flying Dog's Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale. 5.5% abv and 30 IBUs, says the bottle. Wait, thirty? That seems a bit low for a Pale Ale, but we'll see. I know that you can't always take the IBU rate as gospel, but it IS a metric that tends to be correct more often than not.

The head . . . well, there is no head. Zero. Nada. None after pouring and only the faintest island of white hanging around the top of the liquid during drinking. Are you a person that enjoys a hat on your beer and lacing down the glass? This might not be the best call for you.

Sweet malt and citrus in the nose, neither of which is painting the other into a corner. It's not a overpowering smell, even after letting things warm up - although the citrus note does start raising its hand first as the beer heads to room temperature. Front end of the taste is a bit on the blank end before a beat of sweet, near-peach flavor that gives immediate-way to hoppy back-end. Crisp, definitely crisp. Kind of surprised by the sharpness of the bitter finish - those 30 IBUs are some false advertising.

It's a decent little Pale Ale - this would be a suitable beer to have stocked in a cooler for a cookout with friends. Just make sure said friends enjoy an unexpected bite.

September 27, 2010

Flying Dog Week - Part 1

The first craft beer I had was a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA.

My step-father had hosted an event during the previous weekend and a friend of the family left some beer in the fridge. He asked me to bring him a couple at the grill and I had my first taste of legit IPA. To say it knocked my palate on its ass is an understatement. Bitter . . . but with a flavor component that I dove into. Ahhhh, memories. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to take a roll back through a few beers on the Flying Dog roster to see how they compare with my current tastes.

So this week, I'm taking one Flying Dog beer a day. First up in the rotation, the return to the originial: Snake Dog IPA.

Golden orange, light head, and the nose is definitely on the 'earthy/mulch' side of a hop smell vs. crazy citrus or floral. Taste is a medium-shot of hop flavor, kind of creamy in the body, and with an expected bitter grapefruit finish. I have to say, this is better than run-of-the-mill, but this is nowhere near the monster I remember. Ten years is a piece of time to move through, so it's not surprising that opinions and taste patterns have changed with experience. Red wine was like that for me - the first time I tried it, my taste buds couldn't take it. A few years down the road, and it's not a problem.

I hold a spot in my memory for this beer. I simply never had an idea that beer could be like this. In hindsight, it's not such a bad thing to have waited that long - the odds of me being able to handle this stuff back then? I'm thinking, "very, very low."

Anyone else remember the first craft beer they tried?

September 21, 2010

Bridgeport Hop Harvest Ale

Bridgeport was the second brewpub I visited in Portland during our Trial Weekend (Alameda Brewhouse gets the 'We Were First!' award since it was closest to the airport and we got in past 9pm). Their Ropewalk Amber was the first sixer I bought the week we officially moved here. I like them, but I'd admit that they tend to fall by the wayside when I'm out browsing around. I tend to be a fan of their Big Brews series vs. their regular lineup, but don't get me wrong: everything in the year-round stack ranges from Perfectly Acceptable to Pretty Good.

The Big Brews lineup, however, has three killers on the roster that I dig. Stumptown Tart, a beer I've mentioned before, has been wonderful the last three years with the fruit rotating from marionberries to cherries to raspberries. Highland Ambush is another good one and I'll be jumping on the next version that drops for a review. And then there's the newest edition of Hop Harvest Ale - advertised as a metric ton of Centennial hops only off the vine for an hour before being used. I had a chance to try this last night after picking up a bomber from John's over the weekend.

Great look to the beer - orange/gold, slightly hazy, about a finger of head that stayed for awhile. Hops aplenty in the nose and the intensity increased as it warmed up. Smooth blast of near-sweet hoppy flavor on the front end, bitter white-grapefruit finish that I'm starting to associate with Centennials. This is a "My DB9 Is Only In Third" sort of hoppy. Yes, it's smooth and moderate and strolling along, but you can feel that there is some backbone here that would blow you off the road if it felt like doing so. Frankly, I like the relaxed nature of this offering and enjoyed it being well-flavored without trying to strangle my tongue. Definitely a recommended pickup if it's in your vicinity.

September 20, 2010

The Weekend +1

Hit Hopworks on Saturday (needed to start up a new punch card) and had a pint of the Gayle's Pale, their fresh hop beer. It's another good showing, the flavors are very much in line with the style. I did find that the hops feel . . . muted? Which is slightly unfortunate since the fun of fresh-hop beer is that the bite is sweeter than normal. Still - worth a try. Brought a growler of the Seven-Grain Survival Stout home. It's such a great little stout - only 5.3% - and packs a lot of flavor with the additional espresso kick. This weekend just felt like 'dark' weather, and so the stout and I enjoyed some college football and the sampling from friends.

Sunday evening, I cracked open Great Divide's Smoked Baltic Porter. Alaskan is still king with me on that front, but this is a more-than-acceptable stand-in. Smoooooooke everywhere in this beer and baltics are just perfect for this kind of treatment. Solidly black, tan head that held for a bit, good lacing - odd, since it's not a 'thick' beer. Warming it up brought some peat-like smells to the front of the line. Believe me, people who enjoy scotch would likely love this stuff. Definitely worth locating, but only if they're out of the Alaskan.

I was feeling a little under the weather today, so I called in sick and got some rest. It did wonders. Felt good enough to finish my evening with Oakshire's Harvest Ale. This is the finale to the Seasonal selection they began to lay out with Ill Tempered Gnome last year (O'Dark:30 and Line Dry Rye being the other two). Personally, I've enjoyed all three releases so far and went into the Ale with some expectations.

They were met.

It's fairly unique for my experience, but I'm sure more knowledgeable drinkers could rattle off 20 that taste just like it. Slightly cloudy, orange and gold, light head and not a lot of lacing. Nose is faint, some dough, more in the way of hops. Warming it up a bit pulled some yeast to the front of the line, giving it more bread than the hoppy scent. The taste is where the needle scratched on the record. Opens with some sweet malt, a tiny hop note, and a spicy bite from the yeast strain. This lingers. You're halfway through the experience and are thinking, "Okay, well, not bad," when your eyes widen . . . when did all these ninja hops get here? Seriously, that transition is remarkably awesome. Bitter hop finish, very well done. It took me a couple of tastes to get the pattern down - my first few attempts involved me staring into space with an expression of, " . . . que?"

Excellent weekend. Another fresh-hop ale and one of the better barrel-aged imperial stouts you can get are both in the on-deck circle.

September 17, 2010

Miles Probably Would Have Enjoyed It

This was delayed since I had another go at the remainder of the bottle last night. My thoughts:

Bitches Brew (Dogfish Head) - right out of the blocks, you cannot find fault with the bottle design. This is one I'll be keeping around and I'm sure DFH paid some fees to get the album art licensed.

It poured smoothly into the snifter glass, no over-carbonation here. Visually, we're talking a dark brown/black body with a pretty thin head. A few times during my sessions, it took on the appearance of cola - dark middle, brown edge, a few bubbles. On Monday evening, I was even asked why I was drinking coke "like it was port or something". Clearly, I was not the only one thinking this.

There's a lot to like with the nose. The molasses/licorice/tobacco scent that usually comes with imperial stout is in there, but there's also a bit of plum or prune along for the ride. I'm leaning more toward 'prune' - there were more than a few times where "I'm getting Dr. Pepper here" would have been an apt statement to make. Warming it up forced the imperial stout smell to the forefront.

From what I've read, this is 3 or 4 parts imperial stout to one part honey ale. All I can say is that the honey ale must be crammed to the gills with flavor since it handles it's share of the load despite being 20-25 percent of the product. The sweetness of this beer - and I want to clarify I don't mean sugary-overload like, say, Southern Tier's Creme Brulee - was unexpected, but not unpleasant. There is little in the way of alcohol burn (you feel the 9%, but you don't really taste it) and you get all the good flavors from a stout. Tobacco, a little coffee, a little licorice, a little smoke, and so on, but there is usually a bitter bite to some degree on the back end - not the case with the BB. It's well blended (which I would credit the anti-bitter finish to), thinner on the mouthfeel than you'd probably guess, and worth a taste at the very least.

My one drawback on this is I will admit uncertainty on where this beer is going next. With most of the aged beer I've had, the major difference between point A and point B is a reduction of alcohol burn and a smoothness of flavor. I feel like this is already there . . . sort of. Just not entirely sure what a year or two will do to this. However, I do look forward to seeing how it goes.

It's a firm B+ for me.

September 13, 2010


My first taste of true, fresh-hopped ale was three years ago. I'd arrived back into Portland after finishing a business trip and, with the rest of the day off, hit the Full Sail tasting room. The Lupulin Ale (humulus lupulus is, of course, the scientific classification for hops) that I had that day was eye-opening. I'd never tasted anything quite like it - the hop flavor was exploding out of the glass.

Since then, I've made it a point to get back there during the first few weeks of September when the new batches are released. Really enjoyed tasting the different variants with the varieties of hops involved. While I would not be able to tell you in a blind-test which one is which, I can definitely taste the difference in Centennial versus, say, Cascade.

This year, as far as I have been able to tell and as I indicated in my last post, the newest batch was made with First Gold and it's got a much more pronounced bitterness to the front end than some of the other varieties I can recall. The next few seconds are all hops and citrus flavor and it finishes clean. But yes, more of your bitter citrus (white grapefruit comes to mind) instead of your sweeter types - I will be very interested to try the Centennial in a week or two and make a comparison.

Events of the weekend blocked other trips to other locales, but I should be hitting them in the next week. Also: tonight I'll be getting into Bitches Brew and seeing if the fuss is worth the . . . um, fuss. Write-up on that tomorrow.

September 10, 2010

Hop Harvest Time

Oregon is in the homestretch of harvesting the hop crops for this year and brewers from all walks are rolling into farms across the Willamette to get orders in. Websites are rife with tales of harvesting, hauling the bags of hops back to the ranch as fast as possible, and dates and times of the newest creations dropping all over town. If you've never had true, honest-to-god, fresh-hopped beer before, you are missing out on something unique. The nose and 'brightness' of a "these-hops-were-off-the-vine-for-60-minutes-before-going-into-the-brew" IPA is eye-openingly awesome. Consider yourself a Hophead? You should be finding this stuff with all available speed.

I intend to hit a few of these this weekend. Full Sail's Lupulin Ale (a version with First Gold and a version with Centennial) has been my kick-off for the last three years and has already arrived in the Pilsner Room on the waterfront. Rock Bottom has their version out and initial reports are "GOOD!" And I may even hit Deschutes to complete the Southwest loop. They are not bringing out Hop Trip (their fresh hop style) until closer to the end of the month, but I still haven't been there in more than a few weeks and I'm starting to keep an eye out for the '10 version of The Dissident. AS SHOULD YOU.

September 7, 2010

Finding Beer

My weekend began with the sound of a gauntlet hitting the ground. Several friends from the East Coast had made a trip to their local bottle shop and picked up a few items. These items were then photographed and put on Facebook, with a tag for me in the photo to ensure that I saw the haul. The crown jewel of their trip was obvious: Dogfish Head's Bitches Brew.

I had seen the bottle in my last trip to John's, but had not obtained any since I didn't know the limited backstory and had not yet seen reviews. New School dropped their knowledge last Thursday and the beer immediately moved to the front of the line in my purchasing plans. Sadly, the Friday trip to John's had me starting at an empty shelf and the impending mockery from the East Coast crew was looming large.

But this is Portland. Five minutes of on-line work and bottles were located at Belmont Station - which made for a perfect next-day plan. I swung into Southeast on Saturday before the Michigan-Connecticut tilt started and pulled up with excellent timing: they were just finishing up the taps on their Imperial IPA-fest for the weekend! Score! After picking up a few bottles at the store, I had just enough time on the clock to enjoy a glass of Laurelwood's Organic Green Elephant IPA. Wonderful blast of sweet citrus on the nose and a very flavorful bite to a great IPA. Just the sort of Saturday-afternoon beer you'd want to be sipping on.

Belmont is a legend in PDX. So quintessentially "Portland" - you have a bottle shop on one half of the building and a small bar on the other. Knowledgeable staff, friendly consumers, and a quiet location (Saturday at noon, anyway) make for a lovely trip. While not as extensive into the foreign market as John's is, the lineup at Belmont should satisfy damn near anyone that walks in the door. I downed the last of my beer, hefted my purchases, and rolled homeward - snapping off a picture of my own to send back East.

And that's a great thing about Portland - it's always here. Always. Unless there is some distribution blockade (Bell's would make a killing in this area), you're going to find what you're looking for at a dedicated bottle shop, alehouse, taproom, or supermarket. That last option is normally an eye-roller . . . until you're minding your own business at a New Seasons and realize - yes - that IS the 2008 version of The Abyss sitting on the shelf. These are the kinds of things that happen out here and just a part of what makes it so utterly unique.

I have yet to crack open the BB - would expect to do so at some point in the next week or two. In summary - Portland is awesome. Just thought people should know.