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.


Fort George Brewing Co – Cavatica Stout

A few years ago my brother decided he would be joining the Coast Guard.  I’m not entirely sure I would blossom and flourish in that Cavaticaparticular setting, but he seems to be enjoying it.  One of the nice things about his job is that he gets to travel and live in a bunch of different areas.  He went to boot camp in Cape May NJ, was stationed in Boston for a time, and now lives in Astoria Oregon.  Since being officially stationed there he’s managed to take the boat to various islands, travel through the Panama Canal, and hang out in Guantanamo Bay for a little while.  I love to travel, so some of those actually do get me jealous.  Well he is about to move again from Astoria to Seattle, and we’ve never made it out there to visit him.  My wife and I change that next week.  Next Wednesday we fly into Portland to spend a couple of days in and around hipster paradise.

Being an avid beer lover, it sounds like Oregon could be a bit of Mecca for me.  My brother and Megan Vs Beer have managed to give me a few different examples of that.  I’ve received different beers from Deschutes, Ninkasi, Rogue, Hair of the Dog, and a variety of others.  Since we of course have to check out where my brother has been living the past few years, and it’s a free place to stay, we’ll definitely be heading back to Astoria.  One brewery I know I’ll be visiting while in Astoria is Fort George Brewing Co.

My brother informs me it’s right around the corner from his place.  It’s a brewery he had been telling me about for a while, and he made it even more interesting when he brought a variety of their beers back to the east coast for me.  I previously reviewed their Oatmeal Pale Ale, which I really enjoyed.  But I’ve worked my way through a few other beers from them as well.  I didn’t review it, but their Vortex IPA was really good too.  Since it is stout month, and I’m looking for a few ideas of what to do while in the Portland area, I figured it was about time to dive into their stout.

My brother has told me this beer is definitely his favorite, so I was holding on to it for a while waiting for the right time to enjoy it.  Fort George apparently has an affinity for spiders, so there are quite a few spider facts and pictures surrounding the can.  Although intrigued their love became the artwork for this particular beer, I’m not especially a fan of particularly large arachnids.  I’m trusting that they didn’t use them in the brew, so I was really looking forward to it.

This beer has a super dark oil appearance to it as it hits the glass.  Fort George goes as far as saying this beer will stain your cavatica glassclothes.  I didn’t really feel like giving that a test, so I’ll take their word for it.  There is a light brown/tannish head that develops on the pour.  There is certainly great lacing and residual sticky residue left on the sides of the glass after a nice little swirl.  Agitating the beer builds the thick and creamy head right back up.  Of course it was far too dark to get a sense of clarity, but you can see a little carbonation around the edges.

As a good stout should, both chocolate and coffee seem to dominate the aroma of the beer.  One nice thing is that they list the malts and hops they use in the brew on the side of the can and on the site.  There are no chocolate malts in the brew, but they use Munich which I suppose help give some of that nice dark chocolate smell.  There are some light roasted aromas that come off the beer as well.  These combine nicely with rather fragrant coffee scents.  The sweet malts are quite evident, but the hops seems to get swallowed up on the nose.  There is a slight woody earthy quality to the smell as well.

While there are certainly stouts out there that take it easy on some of the big stout aspects I love, I’m glad to see this beer features some nice bold stout qualities.  The beer has a typical sweet malt intro that is accompanied by some of the rich dark chocolate I pulled out of the nose.  The bold coffee flavors come in and are quickly met by huge roasted notes.  The big roasted flavors reach a peak towards the end of the brew.  Right near the end I get my first taste of some hop that could be hiding behind all that chocolate and coffee.  The beer ends with a nice sweet and chocolate flavored finish.

The beer borders on having an almost milk or oatmeal stout quality.  The big thick and creamy mouth is always nice for a bold stout like this one.  Thankfully they provided just enough carbonation to keep it slightly lighter; however, the bold roasted notes towards the end still keep it heavier throughout.

I’m definitely looking forward to finding my way over to Fort George brewery sometime next week.  I actually just saw that they will be offering this very beer aged in rye barrels.  I will certainly be on the lookout for that one.  If you’re familiar with the Portland and Astoria area, let me know some things I should be looking out for out there.  Maybe I’ll bring some good beer back for you.

Teacher Grade: A

Fort George Brewing Co – Sunrise OPA

I have recently been loving the hook-ups I’ve been getting from my very few connections I have on the West Coast.  My brother brought me some Ninkasi, I did a beer trade with Megan VS Beer, and now my brother brought me a sweet set of five tall boy cans from Fort George brewery.  When my brother last visited me, he brought me a bottle from Ninkasi, one from Rogue, and one from Pyramid.  While they are all good breweries, he was emphasizing that he loves this little brewery that is around the corner from him in Astoria, Oregon.  According to him, Astoria is known for only really one thing.  It’s the location where they filmed The Goonies.  While that is a pretty high feat, I suppose, I can assure you that Fort George Brewery is helping give Astoria something else to be known for.

Looking up details on Fort George, it sounds like they have actually only been in existence since 2010.  They only distribute their beers in the Northwest, so I’m glad to have had a brother who can make sure I’m hooked up. If you ever visit Astoria, you’ll find they house a 30 barrel brewhouse, canning line, and taproom.  Sounds like one of the best spots to check out in the little town.  I will point out that they have a beer featured on their site that I really want to try.  They had their customers pick the wild hops that are growing in their yards and on their own property and bring them into the brewery.  Fort George took those hops and produced a beer called Co-hoperative.  Ultimately it sounds like they have some fun ideas working over there.

There were five different beers I could choose from to do this first review.  I’m not sure I’ll do another one because I don’t want to bore my readers, but I knew I needed to start with this one for a review.  As far as I’m aware, this is the first ever OPA I’ve consumed.  The O in the OPA stands for oatmeal.  Therefore, this is an oatmeal pale ale.  I’ve certainly had oatmeal in beers before.  I really enjoy oatmeal stouts, but I was really interested to see what the oatmeal did to a very different style of beer.  I was highly doubtful it would do much to the taste of the brew, but I was sure it would have some affect on the appearance and the mouth.  I was really hoping the effect would be something surprisingly delightful.

This one pours out a nice yellow color with a slight orange tint.  There is a really big bubbly white head that develops on top of the beer.  The head has a super sudsy and soapy look to it.  As the bubbles subside you see a ton of really sticky lacing left on the side of the glass.  I think the super sticky nature is certainly due to the inclusion of the oatmeal.  Swirling the glass gives you some more sticky lacing and residue.  The beer is super hazy and it only gets more hazy as you pour out more of the beer.  There is lots of visible carbonation in the glass as well.

The aroma is dominated by really big bold hops.  There is some apparent tang to this beer as well.  The bold orangey citrus smell blends with some nice tropical fruit.  The tropical fruit aroma is dominated by big pineapple and light mango scents.  There is certainly a slight herbal smell to this one, and you get a slightly wild yeasty smell as well.

There are some really interesting aspects to the taste of this beer.  The hops are certainly at the forefront of this beer; however, it is also packed with lots of citrus and tropical fruits.  The beer starts out with some light sweet malts that only get a momentary chance to shine.  There is some very light pine notes that kick up to squash the sweetness right away; however, there is some light pineapple notes that lead the hops from light pine to big bold hop flavors.  The second stage of the hops have lots of big tangy pine flavor.  The big pine and tang linger slightly as the beer leads into a more dominant citrus flavor.  The beer ends with some slight citrus and lingering pine flavor.

The oatmeal component really plays huge into the mouthfeel of this beer.  The beer is by no means syrupy, but it has quite a heavy feel due to the use of the oatmeal.  There is a lightness in the flavor profile to counteract the thickness.  There is also an ample amount of carbonation to help fight the heavy nature of the beer.  The overall flavors all work great together.

The first sip made me question whether I really liked this beer; however, I realized it was a really nice fall OPA.  Fall tends to bring the thicker and heavier beers, and this is simply following suit.  It is a bit of a meatier hoppy beer.  I’m glad I have four other cans to check out from this brewery.  If you happen to find yourself looking at an OPA in future, I would certainly suggest giving it a shot.  This one is a little thick, but they did a great job still keeping it well-balanced.

Teacher Grade: B

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+

“Wildwood” by Colin Meloy

Since I was drinking mixed drinks and Red Stripe all last week, I really don’t have a beer to talk about just yet.  That, however, doesn’t mean I can’t still do a review of something.  If you know the name Colin Meloy, you may be thinking this has to be some kind of solo album he put out that you didn’t notice.  You my friend would be wrong.  Colin Meloy tested some of that writing ability that we have only seen in Decemberists’ songs by putting out a novel.  I saw something about this book shortly before Christmas this year, and it managed to make it on to my list of desirable gifts.  Thankfully my parents got it for me, and I managed to finally get around to reading it on this vacation.  I’m a reading teacher, but I rarely get to read things I want to read.  I am rereading material I give the kids, grading papers, and getting my posts up here.  So, I was really happy to finally find the time to get around to doing a little reading of my own.

There were a few things that led me to wanting to read this book.  First of all, I love the Decemberists, which means I have a hard time passing up anything they put out.  Secondly, I thought the story actually sounded interesting.  The synopsis on the back of the book told me that this is a story about a girl, Prue, who heads into the Impassable Forest outside of Portland, Oregon to rescue her brother who has been kidnapped by a murder of crows.  How does that story not sound interesting to someone.  That has hipster written all over it.  Finally I was interested in reading it because it’s written by Meloy and illustrated by his wife Carson Ellis.  So the book is a family affair too.

The plot overall is an interesting one; although, I think it is somewhat formulaic.  Meloy has decided to employ the use of fantasy throughout his story.  “Wildwood” doesn’t start outright like a fantasy story; instead, we follow Prue around her Portland neighborhood.  A hipster child, she rides to the library on her bike which tows a wagon containing her little brother.  Later she rides to the park where she allows her brother to play while she draws wildlife.  While distracted, she doesn’t notice the murder of crows that comes in until it’s too late.  There is a bike chase scene all over Portland, but the crows eventually fly over this mysterious Impassable Forest.  The forest is an interesting component of the story.  It resides on the side of the little town, but no one goes there or even talks about it.  Prue has been very interested in it for years; however, she now has to go in after her brother.

The parents are one of the parts of the story that kind of annoy me.  They just seem a little too dumb to be realistic characters.  Prue goes home and is able to make it through a whole night without her parents realizing that the little brother is gone.  The next day she heads into the forest on her adventure.  While going that way, she is followed by her schoolmate Curtis.  Curtis isn’t exactly the popular kid in school because he continues to draw superheroes when everyone else gave that up ages ago.  None-the-less they head into the forest together to find Prue’s lost sibling.

I, of course, don’t want to give away too much of the rest of the plot.  I would hate to ruin the rest of the story for anyone who is interested in reading it; however, once inside the forest the story begins to take the real fantasy twist.  The Impassable Forrest is divided into 3 areas.  There is Southwood where all of the government and intellectuals live.  There is Northwood where all of the farmers and free thinkers live, and then there is Wildwood in-between the two civilized areas.  Wildwood has coyotes, bandits, crows, and all other sorts of feared wildlife that makes Wildwood the scary part of their community.  Curtis and Prue manage to get separated once inside the forest.  They encounter talking animals, birds, and an evil Governess as well.  A long and crazy journey occurs where Curtis and Prue must find each other, find Prue’s lost little brother, and defeat the evil Governess that is looking to take over the forest.

I really did like this book, but I can’t help but feel like it follows a little too closely to the formula of popular stories like “The Chronicles of Narnia” and even Star Wars.  The talking animals of course is one thing; however, you also have the character who is barely seen that is the symbol for all that is good.  The Governess of course can be compared to the evil queen found in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”. I’m not saying it’s bad that he followed a similar formula, but it felt like I could predict what would occur in certain parts of the story.

Regardless of its similarities to other stories, I do think it’s a really good story that has some surprises to it as well.  This was a really easy beach read for sure.  Even though it is over 500 pages, I still managed to get it done and start a new story before leaving Jamaica.  The full title of this book states that is The Wildwood Chronicles: Book 1, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to read book two at some point.  If you’re looking for an easy and entertaining read, then you definitely need to pick this one up.

Teacher Grade: B+