December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

As I sit sipping the new Widmer '11 (KGB - Russian Imperial Stout . . . full review later, doing a very good job of masking the 9+ abv, for what it's worth), I'm currently thinking back over the good beer I've had this year and the fun I'm having finding new locations, new creations, and new discoveries. Definitely been an enjoyable year in terms of what I got to drink.

Last year's 'First Beer Of The New Year' went to Elysian and their Dragonstooth Stout. This year, I'm pulling out my bottle of Jubelale 2010 and breaking it open for my toasting glass for midnight. This is their once-a-decade creation (granted, only done a couple of times thus far) of a double version of Jubelale aged in pinot. It's a month away from the "best after" date on the bottle, but I'm willing to take a risk.

I'll have the San Diego visits up over the weekend. For now, please have a safe and fantabulous New Year.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I've finally hit a break in my schedule and here are the plans for the next few days:
  • Holiday party this evening in the neighborhood - this is usually the event that I pull out a fun bottle of beer that 1) I've never tried and 2) I've had on hold until this point on the calendar. Today's selection will be Pelican's 2008 Le Pelican Brun and I'm fairly confident some others will be brining other good things to try.
  • My wife and I are flying out tomorrow toward Coronado to see some of my family for a few days. There have been indications that several brewing visits are on the agenda - including a potential run to Pizza Port in Ocean Beach (Pizza Port has been taking home repeated GABF medals for small brewpubs over the last few years).
Santa greatly enjoyed the Bump In The Night (Full Sail) that I put out for him.

Part of the reason that some people are turned off by the flavor of Cascadian Dark Ales is the sharp contrast between the hoppy bite and the dark malt. It's something that appeals to me, I'll admit, but I can completely understand where the other side of the fence is coming from. Full Sail did a very, very good job at the blend of the two poles and the reception for this has been across-the-board positive. I still think the Widmer '10 was the best CDA I had this year, but this and Hop In The Dark (Deschutes) are both ones that you are recommended to try.

Hopefully Santa hooked you all with enjoyable beverages to sample this Holiday season. More as I'm travelling in Southern California next week.

December 14, 2010

Oh, right. Work.

The actual job that pays me money is cramping my blogging style at the start of this week. I'll try to have some thoughts on Hopworks' two versions of Noggin Floggin (the '09 and '10) later this week.

But if you ever thought about hitting the Barrel House and have yet to do so, the two cask beers they are now serving are incredible: the NW Sour Red is reportedly the backbone to a large number of their creations and it's a treat-and-a-half. But the Raspberry Infused Tripel was so in my wheelhouse (a favorite fruit, perfect mix of sweet/sour, eye-popping color) that I had a hard time believing this was beer. Sheer delight in a glass - if this is the only time they're going to have this available, you need to get a move on. Big time high-fives to Cascade for this one, WOW.

December 10, 2010

Wired Tournament into the FInals

Ninkasi's Believer Double Red has made it to the finals of Wired's 'October Madness' bracket. It will take on Full Boar Scotch Ale from Devil's Canyon.

I've been occasionally following along with this tournament and, as with all head-to-head competitions, there have been both defeats and wins met with cries of "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?" I was happy they matched up two-per-brewery in the first round, but am still confuzzled over how Kellerweis took out Black Butte Porter in the second. Weirdness.

Anyway, fun to look over, but not anything to go nuts over or to anoint the winner with praise. Unless Believer wins. Then it's plenty of "OREGON! WOOOOO!!" in the comment section.

December 9, 2010

Inglorious? Not quite.

Bad spelling. Strong beer.

Ah, Arrogant Bastard. Stone's unapologetic strong ale with a name that fits better than most. I suppose Obnoxious Twit, Condescending Jerk, and Inconsiderate Dick were all taken, but it's still pretty well identified. They've done the occasional variant (Oaked and Double), but today, we're trying the just-recently-released blend of all three: Lucky Bastard.

Finding info on this beer is difficult, least of which because Stone likes to get cute and attach "CLASSIFIED" to the basic stats, publishing the alcohol amount and that's about it. So we can't target the hop variety, the IBU's, the gravity, or even the type of blending that went on. I've poked around and online searches have done nothing to help. Minus the 8.5%, the bottle itself has a typewriter-esque rant on the back with intentional misspellings everywhere. I would've appreciated a bit more info to go on.

It's definitely from Stone: hop smells galore, predominantly citrus with a pungent, almost musty-scent. There is the occasional whiff of sweetness, but you only start picking that up as the beer warms in the glass. It's a beautiful shade of red, this stuff - the color completely matches what the devil on the front would be sipping.

The taste is a front-end shove from the alcohol. I admit to some surprise - with my taste buds, I tend to pick up heavy alcohol toward the finish of the beer, not the start. But this is the reverse: malty burn to start, but like a wave receding into the ocean, the burn fades and leaves an incredible amount of hoppy oils on your tongue. Excellent finish on this for an ale. Try it, but pack food along for the ride. It does a good number on cutting out the flash of booze and leaving the rest of the flavor.

December 7, 2010

A Bud By Any Other Name . . .

In a conversation with a co-worker, the topic turned to beer (shocking, I know) and the changes to his drinking habits since he arrived in Oregon. He brought up the idea that his 'fallback option' at bars completely evolved since he had been used to "Bud, Bud Light, Coors, something else" as his draft options from college on up. The first available non-macro was now his baseline when only a few years ago, his options were purely macro-brewed lager.

I remember having the same kind of thought when I touched on the Fat Tire stranglehold in Orange County, but as we kept talking, he termed Mirror Pond Pale Ale as 'the Budweiser of Oregon' since it was now his 'All-Things-Being-Equal-I'll-Have-That' pick with a given draft list. I liked that terminology - what IS the Budweiser of Oregon?

Because, if we could take the stigma out of Budweiser for just a second, you need:
  • A near-ubiquitous run in the immediate market (we're talking bars and non-official drinking locations like bowling alleys and restaurants, not brewpubs)
  • Immediate name-recognition by beer lovers and neophytes alike
  • You can have several without issue (abv and flavor both allow for that)
  • It's not a beer that divides opinion - ordering a pitcher for the table would work out fine
Frankly, you'd be hard-pressed to find something better that Mirror Pond to fit the bill. Is there another one I'm missing? Or a different fallback option that you gravitate toward?

December 3, 2010

Abyss Flight

On Wednesday, I visited Deschutes (Portland) and picked up a few bottles of The Abyss '10. Much different than The Dissident release: there were people there, sure, but not everyone coming in the door was there because of the new release (unlike a few weeks back where patrons entered and made a beeline for the stock). Most of humanity in the bar-area, however, was either drinking a snifter or jumping on what I ended up having: the Abyss Vertical Tasting.

For twenty bucks (still ongoing as of today), you can snag a flight of 4 oz. tasters of 2010, 2010 on Nitro, 2009, 2008, and 2007. If you plan on going this route, get some water and go slow. I ran into a bit of a time crunch and flavors/opinions started to run together, so don't be me. It's an enjoyable run through the versions of the beer and, based on my feelings and asking opinions both in front of and behind the bar, here's how it shakes out.
  1. 2008 - one of these things is not like the other / one of these things just doesn't . . . well, wait, it definitely belongs, but this is the black sheep of the set. Less bourbon in the smell but definitely there in the taste, this is also packing a nice, dry, bitter-edge to the back end. It was the go-to for snifters while I was there and people who had the vertical were pointing to it and nodding.
  2. 2007 - much stronger nose - probably the best of the bunch, much more flavor with the alcohol dialed down. Slightly bitter back-end, but not like the '08. Really enjoying the evolution on this.
  3. 2010 (Nitro) - with the carbonation sucked out, this is more creamy, more flavorful, and sweeter than the stock version. The sugary-nature/caramel-flavors of the bourbon is firmly in command here. The beer is definitely less 'green' with this variant.
  4. 2009 - second strongest nose of the bunch, almost as strong as the '07. It's coming along well, but I caught a bit more alcohol burn than I was expecting. Nothing that kills the beer, however. This is still a good mix.
  5. 2010 - Good, but young. Strong on the booze, but power in the flavors. I was getting a weird BBQ-scent vibe, but I think it was the combo of catching some smoke and sweet at the same time. I truly don't think they are adding KC Masterpiece to the process.
It's not looking like I'll be able to make it down to the Holiday-Ale Fest, which is a bummer, but I'm not torn up too badly about it. I'm hearing reports of great options, but also with logistical drawbacks ($25 entry? Lose the mug, wristband, or wash your handstamp and it's a full re-buy? So multi-day attendees have to wear the wristband for days?) and there's just too much on the plate this weekend to make it down. Especially when you consider the swell of people on the Friday/Saturday/Sunday of festivals instead of the "calm" earlier in the week. Hopefully some of the offerings will wander over to local taprooms later in the month.

December 1, 2010

Nietzsche Says Good Morning

Music? Check:

Picture? Check:

Owly Images

Info? Check:

In a little over an hour, the Deschutes' Portland location will have the 2010 version of The Abyss ready for sale. They will also be serving up: 2010 Abyss, 2009 Abyss, 2008 Abyss, 2007 Abyss AND 2010 Abyss on Nitro.

Now, it's not going to be as thin on the ground as The Dissident - Deschutes usually comes correct with a good amount of The Abyss available for purchase. But if there's any yearly-offering I try to drag people to try, this is it. And with this kind of roll-out, there are some incredibly sexy options of vertical tastings, vintage samplings, and there appears to be a gift pack that you'll want to pass along to Santa with a note reading "THIS" in large letters.

It's going to be a good day.