Beer Touring Oregon

As I said a few weeks ago, I traveled out to Oregon over the weekend to visit my brother who lives in Astoria, Oregon.  Having neverhaystack gone to visit my brother on the west coast, I was really excited to get out to the west for a much-needed visit.  I’ve only been as far as Colorado before, and I wasn’t able to drink at that time, so I was just as excited to finally get some of these west coast brews I can’t find back east.  Ironically, I’ve actually had and enjoyed quite a few beers from Oregon, but I quickly found out I hadn’t really had anything yet.

We got into Portland around 8 PM their time.  That of course meant it was already feeling like 11 PM our time.  I’m a night owl so it wasn’t a big deal for me, but my wife was certainly starting to hit the sleepy wall.  Since we were most likely heading back to Astoria pretty quickly, we decided to catch dinner in Portland before our hour and a half trek back.  Lacking imagination, we tried to head over to Rogue for something to eat and drink.  For some reason they were painting the place that night, so we had to find another Sleighrplace to go.  They recommended we head over to Cassidy’s.  Cassidy’s was alright on the beer realm, but it was great for food.  I had Sleigh’r Dark Double Alt from Ninkasi and Working Girl Porter from Fort George Brewing.  Don’t get me wrong, I can’t find either of these breweries over on the east coast, but I am actually quite familiar with both of them.  Therefore, I was really looking forward to getting something from some breweries I hadn’t had.

The next day we were off in the Astoria area and visiting some of the places around him. We first headed over to see the Pacific Ocean in Seaside Oregon first.  My brother informed me of a new brewery over there called Seaside Brewing Co.  Of course I had to go in!  While there I had some great brews.  Their imperial stout Black Dynamite was actually being brewed homebrew style right as you walked in the front door.  I of course had to have that one first.  Both Black Dynamite and their Lockup IPA were quite good.  If I lived over there I’d be there all the time.  While there I noticed a pamphlet for something called the North Coast Craft Beer Trail.

Evidently, while on the trail, you move up and down the Astoria area trying out different bars.  There are 11 bars on the list, and if you go to 9 of them, you get  a commemorative glass for your efforts.  Of course a glass may not seem like a big deal, but it gave me a goal to shoot for.  Not all of the bars were the best, but I had a lot of good beers.  Some of the beer highlights from the trail were the Black Bear XX from Alameda Brewing, Double Daddy Imperial IPA from Speakeasy Ales, the Roguenbier Rye from Rogue, and the Polish’s Black Walnut Stout from Fort George Brewing.

One of the biggest beer activities from the weekend was visiting Fort George Brewery’s Dark Arts Fest.  When I first heard about it I Festival glassmade fun of my brother for dragging me to a witchcraft festival.  Thankfully, I found out that instead it was a big stout festival featuring 40 different stouts from the Oregon area.  I was actually quite impressed by the way it ran.  They had different areas in their restaurant, on their porch, in their tasting room, in a performance area, and in the actual brewery for tasting of different beers.  They also managed to get some crazy big and amazing beers in as well.  Here are, once again, some of the highlights.  The Abyss from Deschutes, Super Nebula from Block 15 (aged in Pappy Van Winkle Barrels), Suge Knite from Boneyard (14%), and Spiced Old Baba Yaga from Bear Republic.  Fort George also put together 10 or so great stouts and barrel aged stouts for the event.  It was certainly one of the highlights from the trip.

One of my other favorite things to do while in a different area is go bottle hunting.  Thankfully one of the stops on the craft oregon bottlesbeer trail was at a bottle shop you could also drink at.  While there I purchased a Vertical Epic 2008 from Stone Brewing, Fred from Hair of the Dog, and Consecration from Russian River.  The man running the store was striking up some good conversation, so I asked about a bottle of Pliny the Elder.  Thank goodness I asked because he walked in the back and brought one right out for me.  Later in the week we found another shop run by a much less knowledgeable, but very nice, older woman.  Perusing around I found a bottle of Abyss and The Dissident from Deschutes.  Knowing I had to make a choice, I decided to go Dissident because I already have a bottle of 2012 Abyss.

Finally, after a few days of bumming around Astoria, we headed back to the big city of Portland.  My big goal while there was a toHair of the Dog glasses hit up a few breweries I couldn’t find back home.  My wife was controlling the lunch decision, so I brought up a bunch of different menus from brewpubs located in Portland.  She ultimately landed on Deschutes which meant I had to taste drive just about everything they had to offer.  In fact, I didn’t drink anything more than a 3 oz pour the entire day.  On the menu Deschutes did have a collaboration with Hair of the Dog called Collage.  I wanted to taste it, but it only came in bottles, so I had to buy one for the ride home too.  Finally, later that night, we ended up at Hair of the Dog for a tasting of the 7 beers they had available.  I enjoyed just about everything I had, but I loved the Fred, Adam, Doggie Claws, and Otto from the wood.  Certainly made me wish I could get a few more of their things around here.

Overall I had about 45 different beers over the course of the 5 days I was in Oregon.  Over half of them came in 3 oz tastings, but it helped me realize I had only touched on the tip of the craft beer scene in Oregon.  It was a great trip, and I hope to go visit my brother at his next location: Seattle.

Ninkasi Brewing Co – Maiden the Shade

As summer winds down, I am really trying to push through all of my summer beers I have remaining in my collection at this moment. I guess there would be nothing wrong with popping the top on a summer ale in January.  Sometimes it’s nice to have the option of drinking something a lot lighter.  However, I don’t want to be left with any misfit beers this year.  Anyway, I received this beer in a recent beer trade with Megan vs Beer.  As I’ve already reviewed one of the beers from the trade that immediately caught my eye, I jumped to this one second because of the style.  Friday I got home from school, looked through my big bottle options that were cold, and I went with the most refreshing looking one.  As this is my 4th different bottle from Ninkasi I’ve reviewed, you’d think this was a really easy brewery for me to get a hand on.  Guess I just have some awesome people helping me.

Ninkasi describes Maiden the Shade as a salute to the playful side of summer.  I am personally not a big fan of the summer.  As a teacher, I love that I get time off from work and can travel a bit more; however, I find it to be a miserably hot experience most of the time.  I love the winter.  None-the-less, I’m glad to see this particular playful side coming out of Ninkasi.  Typically when I brew, I try to make sure I have a variety of hops in my beer to give it character.  Ninkasi decided to really add some depth and character to this beer with 7 different variety of hops.  They have included  Summit, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, Crystal, Palisade, and Amarillo.  It seems like it would be a crazy double IPA or hop bomb with that many different competing hops.  Instead, they used a light hand to create a well balanced hop forward summer IPA. Since I’ve really never had anything other than hoppy beers from Ninkasi, I’m not terribly surprised by the hop forward take on this summer beer.

This one poured out a very light golden coppery color.  There was certainly a very nice fluffy white head that built on top of the beer that lasted and lingered for quite the extended period of time.  There was some really great lacing that developed on the sides of the beer with a ton of sticky residue.  There was some very clear clarity working here, and you can see a very ample amount of carbonation in the glass as well.

The most significant aroma you get is a ton of really fresh hop scents.  The hops have a slight pine smell with a lot of the floral scents as well.  The tropical fruit aromas are quite big here.  You get light pineapple, citrus, and other more topical aromas.  The maltiness takes a back seat for big hops; however, you do have some slight sweetness.  Overall it smells quite fresh and crisp.

While the sweetness of the malts doesn’t really come across on the aroma, you certainly get it at the onset of the flavor profile.  The sweetness is quickly overrun by some great pineapple, citrus, and topical fruit flavors.  This helps to bring a nice summer freshness to the beer, and it also helps to transition into the plentiful hop flavors.  The hops have an overall big fresh taste to them.  They start a little piney and are actually a little jarring.  The pine might be a little strong for a “summer brew”.  Regardless, I’m quite a big fan of the flavor.  The hops move from that jarring pine to a much more subtle floral flavor.  The hops mellow toward the end of the beer as the citrus kicks back up for a floral citrusy hop finish.

The mouthfeel starts somewhat syrupy; however, the carbonation builds as the hops gain momentum.  The carbonation and the hops reach the pinnacle at the same time.  It finishes with a lot of hops to help it feel fresh from nearly start to finish.  While there is a section right in the middle of the tasting that seems a little too piney for the style, I’m quite a big hop head, so I’m certainly pleased.

I have a feeling I say this almost all the time, but I’m sure this one will be hard to find if you’re on the east coast.  If you happen to know where some is, rescue it from potentially being left behind some big malty pumpkin beers.  I have a feeling this one could make a great beer for a warm labor day!

Teacher Grade: A

Ninkasi Brewing Co – Tricerahops Double IPA

Last week I was with family at Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos.  Since we are there with family, I try to cater to their taste buds, so I bought a six pack of Bell’s Oberon and a variety pack of Brooklyn Brewery to try and make sure I got something in there for everyone.  Ultimately, it means that I really didn’t drink anything that I wanted to blog about.  Therefore, I had to have something good this week to talk about.  Then, to top it all off, I got an email from Beer Advocate telling me today is IPA day!  If you’re a regular reader here, you have to know I am quite a big fan of hops.  I would have loved to devote an entire month to the style like I did stouts last February; however, I’m plenty happy with recognizing it for at least one day.  Of course I’ll be having a couple other IPA’s today to celebrate, but here is a review to say happy IPA Day!

I’ve done a review of the regular IPA from Ninkasi before; however, I don’t remember being 100% impressed with it.  Going back and thinking about it again, I’m not sure why I was kind of down on it.  I’ve realized that I hold beers I can’t get in my area on a pedestal.  It’s not that they are a second-rate brewery, it’s just that they are a good brewery in a different area.  I guess I’m just saying I need to make sure I’m fair and not think every hard to find beer is going to be Pliny the Elder.

I’ll also let you know that I am eagerly awaiting a beer trade with fellow blogger Meganvsbeer.  She is sending me a few things from her area of Oregon and she is getting a few things from me in DC. Therefore, I may have another one out of Ninkasi coming to you pretty soon.  Looking at their line up, there are definitely a few beers out of Ninkasi I would be interested in trying.  For now I just wait in great anticipation.

Talking about the pour is kind of a two-fold story.  The initial pour has a really nice reddish auburn color with a kind of copper hue.  This of course doesn’t really change too much throughout the various pours it took to fill my new Victory Brewing tulip glass.  Additionally, you consistently get a nice fluffy head, light lacing, and very slight sticky residue.  The big difference from the first pour to the last is in the clarity.  The first pour was really clear; however, the final pour was super cloudy.  I know DC Brau tells you to give their Imperial IPA a little shake to mix up that sediment before you pour their beer.  Cloudy or clear, it doesn’t really make a difference to me, but it was just something I noticed.

The smell was dominated by a nice floral hop aroma with some very light pine scents to it as well.  The floral is certainly more dominant on the nose than the pine.  Mixed in with the hops are some nice sticky sweet malts. The big sweetness of the malts almost challenge the big hop smell, but it is clear we have an imperial IPA with the hops winning out.  Mixed in there is some very rich citrus and tropical fruits as well.  The hops seem to go a little tangy in the aroma as well.

Just like with the pour, you kind of have a tale of two stories with the flavors as well.  This is set again not all that different from some other beers in the style.  If you drink this while it’s cold, you have a clear malt start and a clear hop finish; however, if you let it sit a little while, the two distinct flavors start blend together.  Most of my tasting was done cold.  There is a big hit of sweet malts at the start of the beer.  The hops start somewhat floral as they mix with the malts.  The floral flavors combine with the citrus and tropical fruits as the hops begin to develop.  As the citrus and floral drops off, the big pine comes in.  The pine has a slightly tangy flavor.  Cold the malts really back off and let the hops in the driver seat for the finish, but as I worked my way through the bottle, the malts come back to create a nice blend of hop and malt finish when warmed.

The mouth has lots of carbonation at the start of the beer to help give a little bit of body to the big sweet intro, then the sweet syrupy nature comes in to do battle with the hops.  They really got the composition right with the hops and malts.  Overall there is some really nice balance.  The flavors all work really well together, and the big malts work with the big hops to create a fairly easy drinking imperial IPA.

This isn’t really available on the east coast, so I think a lot of my readers will have a tough time finding this.  If you happen to come across something from Ninkasi I would certainly pick it up.  I’ve really enjoyed the few beers I’ve had out of this Oregon brewery, and I’m hopeful to experience a few more.  But, if you happen to find this particular bottle, you need to let it warm up a little to really let the malts and hops blend.

Now go out and have an IPA to celebrate the holiday!

Teacher Grade: B+

Buy Me a Beer Online

Recently a few different breweries have become available in this area that you couldn’t get here.  These distribution deals are killing me.  I dream of the day when I’ll go to the store and have Russian River, 3 Floyds, or various other breweries to peruse amongst the various other beers we currently receive in the area.  Don’t get me wrong, we have some pretty good breweries already available here. I appreciate that I can find various releases from Founders, Bells, Victory, and other really good breweries.  I guess I just can’t be content knowing there are great brews out there that I have to work extra hard to find.  I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt, but I also enjoy being really lazy.

A couple of weeks ago I did a review of Ninkasi’s Total Domination IPA.  I had to have my brother bring it with him when he visited from Oregon.  It was of course nice of him to do this, but I would appreciate not having to burden him with the job of bringing me beer when he comes.  Anyway, this post also resulted in another blogger making me aware of an online site where I could find some Ninkasi along with a few other brews I can’t get in this area.  Suddenly there seemed to be a new world available to me.

I in no way get any kickback from the site for reporting on this, but I wanted to share it incase anyone was interested in trying it out.  Anyway, letspour.com is a site that pretty consistently updates their site with different beers you can order.  I have tried ordering beer once before from a different website; however, the shipping seemed so insane it really didn’t seem cost efficient to continue to use it.  One nice feature I found from Let’s pour is that they offer free shipping when you purchase 6 bottles or more.  That still sounds like a lot of money; however, I also played spin the bottle on the site with them (gross I know) and managed to get an additional $10 off my order.  I ended up ordering their predetermined 6 bottle Imperial IPA set.  This was initially $49, but I got 10 off and I got free shipping.  So I got each 750 ml bottle for $6.50 a bottle.  Now I have gone back to try to spin the bottle a few more times; however, I have consistently lost ever since then.  Maybe they rig it so you get a deal the first time you try, but you won’t get it again for a while.  I’m actually almost certain this is possible.  Anyway, it was a good one time deal.

The other online store my friend John purchased from, which I also reaped the benefits from, was certainly more expensive; however it did have some pretty good selection.  It’s where we eventually enjoyed our bottle of Pliny the Elder from.  So, I’m wondering if there were any other good online beer stores to purchase from.  I really want to continue purchasing different beers that are hard to find around here; however, I want to find another one to start looking into.  Are there any good online stores I’m missing out on?

21st Amendment Brewing Co – Allies Win the War!

It’s actually been a few months since I sat down to do a review of a beer produced by 21st Amendment.  I have probably reviewed most of the items they have in their line-up right now.  I can’t help it!  I have different breweries I tend to gravitate towards when I go to the beer store.  I get an email once a week, and random Facebook updates during the week, of things that will be available at the beer store on Saturday.  The Facebook emails give me an idea of what rare things will be there.  Every time I get suckered into the same breweries.  In a way I feel bad about it.  I don’t want to throw Stone, Dogfish Head, Mikkeller, and other major brewery reviews up here all the time, but I can’t stop myself.  As I speak, I still have a Stone to review and a Dogfish Head collaboration to review.  So, while I try to keep the variety up here, I do tend to repeat a lot of the same breweries.  I guess that bodes well for those breweries.  Even if I don’t adore what they have produced every time, they at least got me to buy a bottle.

While I’m apt to buy certain breweries concoctions pretty often, I am definitely guaranteed to purchase collaborations all the time.  I almost don’t need to know about the breweries at all.  I hear collaboration and I interpret that to mean rare.  This isn’t always true.  I can go to the beer store week in and week out and see the same brews sitting on the shelf that I jumped at right away.  Regardless, they manage to hook me right away.  This particular brewery collaboration is with Ninkasi Brewing Company.  I have become quite frustrated with Ninkasi as of late.  It’s not that they brewed something I didn’t like.  It’s that I can’t find them anywhere in the Washington DC area.  Thankfully, I have a visit from brother this weekend who lives in Astoria Oregon.  He has agreed to check a bag so he can bring me a couple of beers, and I have requested Ninkasi to be on the list.  Fingers crossed!

This beer is considered an English-style strong ale brewed with dates and all Northwestern aroma hops.  The style gets me slightly worried before even consuming it.  I tend to not enjoy English style beers.  If anything, I think I may need to look into giving them a really fair chance.  Regardless, it is the names on the can that got me interested.

This one pours out a dark brown color with a little reddish hue in it as well.  There are lots of nice fluffy brown head that develops on top of the beer.  I didn’t really think it would be quite as ample as it ended up being.  When I think of an English style ale I tend to think of something that is void of carbonation.  Like I said earlier, I think I need to give this style a little bit more of a chance.  When you hold the beer to the light you can actually see through it, so it seems like it has pretty good clarity for a really dark beer.  You also can actually see the carbonation in it as well.  Swirling the glass results in a ton of lacing, but it doesn’t have much sticky residue left over at all.

The beer has a very sweet aroma to it for sure.  You can pull out lot of sweet caramel dark malts.  It has an almost sticky sweet aroma to it overall.  You can definitely smell the rich dark fruits.  There are a lot of fig and raisin aromas that come out of here.  There is a little surprising coffee aroma that I wasn’t quite expecting.  You can also pull out some really slight hops as well.

I was quite pleased with the well-balanced flavors.  The malts definitely overpower the hops in the flavor profile.  You get some really big sweet flavors at the start of the beer.  The malts have a kind of rich caramel and molasses quality to them.  As the malts invade your palate, you get a big surprising hit of a little bit of clove and yeast.  I typically expect to get this more out of Belgian beers, but I like the little spicy addition here.  It’s light, but it is there.  The hops come in closer to the end of the flavor profile.  The fig, dates, and raisin flavor comes in at the end of the tasting.  It is definitely ample, and it mixes with some really soft roasted coffee notes.  Some of these flavors sound a little bizarre to put together, but I promise they somehow blend well.

The mouthfeel is pretty syrupy overall.  You get some big carbonation and yeast in the middle to help mellow out the syrup in the middle, but it comes right back in for the finish.  All of the flavors work really well together, so you don’t really have any lingering off tastes to throw you off.  I also appreciated the slight warming quality it had.  It was nice for the chillier weather we have had lately.

21st Amendment hasn’t really managed to disappoint me yet, and while I do really like this beer, I wouldn’t say it’s at the top of their line-up for me.  I couldn’t imagine having too many of these, but I think one every once in a while is great.  If nothing else, it has inspired me to give some English beers another chance.  I think this collaboration is still available, so you should check it out if you happen to come across it.  You’ll be happy you did.

Teacher Grade: B+

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