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.

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Russian River Brewing Company – Pliny The Elder

One of the biggest problems beer lovers have is attempting to find beers brewed by companies that don’t deliver in their area.  
Russian River and Three Floyds are two of the brewing companies I can think of off the top of my head that are really frustrating living in this area.  Three Floyds sounds like one of the more interesting breweries out there today.  They always seem to come out with interesting flavor combinations, and you hear people say a lot of good things about them.  However, Russian River would have to be the most regrettable one that we don’t get in our area.  I have managed to enjoy an occasional brew from them every once in a while, but it is definitely rare.  I managed to have the Collaboration Not Litigation collaboration brew with Avery last year, and I had their Redemption beer at a bar in Philly just last month.  Evidentially you can find Russian River in Philly.  Well that leads me to my latest hunt.  Actually, I can’t take credit for that, all of the hunting was done for me.

There is one beer that comes out of Russian River that every person seeks out: Pliny the Elder.  Somehow, occasional guest reviewer John managed to find a bottle online that could be shipped to your house.  It was through a distributer, and although shipping wasn’t cheap, he didn’t pay through the nose through a site like Ebay.  Since he lives in Maryland, he couldn’t get it shipped to his house.  Therefore, I had the joy of receiving it, and a few other beers, at my domicile.  Since we do enjoy sharing most important beer, and beer is better when you have someone to discuss it with, we finally cracked it open this past weekend after we got home from a long day of teaching.

Pliny the Elder is the double IPA coming out of Russian River, and it is regarded as one of the best beers around.  It has a rating of 100 on Beer Advocate in both the bro and pro categories.  People love this beer!  According to the Russian River site, the real Pliny was also one of the first people to reference hops. I guess that would make him the perfect subject to use to name your beer after.  They tell you Pliny has to be enjoyed as fresh as possible, and even though the bottling date was in January, we were hopeful that we would still get a good experience after waiting till February to consume it.

The beer pours out a very amber yellowish color. John, or someone, said it resembled sunset.  We may have been getting a little too poetic in the face of such a high profile beer.  There is an ample white fluffy head that develops on top of the beer that sticks around for an extended period of time.  Swirling the beer gives you some nice lacing and a lot of sticky residue clinging to the sides of the glass.  The beer has a lot of haze to it, but it actually doesn’t have any real visible carbonation in the glass.

One thing really stuck out to me in the smell of the beer, it really wasn’t as potent as I was expecting.  There is only one thing you do when you hear about a beer for so long and “pine” after it: build up expectations.  We managed to build up a ton of excessively high expectations, and this is where I was scared our expectations might not be met. There was definitely a lot of light floral hops proceeding out of the aroma.  There is a lot of pine and typical hop aromas associated with the smell.  I definitely do pull out some of the grapefruit and other citrus flavors, but I wouldn’t say they dominate the profile.  Overall it does have some slight sweetness and earthy undertones as well.

I was slightly surprised by my first sip of this epic beer.  I really thought I was going to be blown away by hops like a lot of double IPAs I’ve enjoyed in the past, but I soon came to realize Russian River decided to do the unexpected.  This one starts with a surprisingly sweet malty introduction.  The surprisingly sweet introduction is followed by a rather subdued bite of bitter hops.  These hops give way to some well-balanced citrus and grapefruit flavors.  The really pleasant pine and floral hop flavoring continue all the way to the end of the taste.  The surprising part is the high amount of sweet flavoring that flows throughout the tasting of this one as well.  John tells me there are 40% more malts in the recipe as well, which I can assume can be to blame for the sweet quality.

There was plenty of carbonation on the mouthfeel and not much syrup to it at all.  Overall, I felt that it has a clean and crisp nature to it, but it has a slight thickness brought on by the sweet flavors as well.  This might be one of the most drinkable double IPAs of all time, and I think that is why people love it so much.  It displays both skill and restraint in brewing it.  The strong pine and citrus is met by enough sweet malts to create a really well-balanced beer.

You may never have the opportunity to purchase this one based on where in the country you live; however, if you ever see it, you have to get one.  Despite building up my own expectations, I was still really happy with this beer.   It’s definitely far more drinkable than I was thinking, but don’t let drinkability be a four letter word.  Russian River know how to brew a good beer, and they definitely did it here.

Teacher Grade: A

The Thrill of the Hunt

The thought for this post was actually inspired by my experiences on Christmas eve this year.  My long time friend, and now sister’s

The Rotting Skulls

boyfriend, is a hunter.  Recently he went out and shot both a deer and a bear.  He was of course beaming with pride and showed us multiple things that resulted from his kills.  The very first thing I was shown when I got to his house was two deer skulls that were rotting in his basement.  He had not only boiled them, but he had also purchased special bugs to consume the rest of the remains.  They smelled awful, but they were his trophies to display.  Both animals were broken down into various forms of meat.  We enjoyed a “deer stick” while we were at his house. The Bear is currently being turned into a rug.  He has done various things to not only enjoy his triumph, but he is taking certain measures to display to others this pride as well.

I, likewise, brought my own product from my hunt.  Of course my version of hunting is much less violent, but I felt some pride in sharing it with everyone as well.  I want this particular bottle to remain a secret for now.  Monday I will have a little review on the bottle, so I will leave you in suspense for now.  However, I spent months tracking and searching for a particular bottle of beer.  I heard it existed, I tracked down its hiding place, and I took the proper steps to bring it in.  Just call me the beer hunter.  Perhaps slightly less manly, but I had quite a few members of the Christmas Eve party who wanted to partake in my “kill”

I, and other beer geeks across America, hunt different beers down all the time.  A perfect example is the beer I reviewed on Monday.  Canadian Breakfast stout was in high demand; however, there was a limited quantity available.  When I went to pick up the bottle I had on reserve, the guy behind the counter remarked how he did have a bottle for himself here, but he was glad he had managed to “hunt” down another bottle at another local store.  We are involved in the hunt all the time, and sometimes, it’s a lot harder to actually come home with our prize. If you live in the wrong area of America it can be downright impossible.

the hunt is on

Of course we have trophies as well. How many rare beer bottles could you not part with?  I brought one bottle home from Italy because it was not only rare, but it also had some significance to me sentimentally.  Christmas eve I had to keep an eye on my bottle to make sure no one threw it away.  It was my trophy and, despite enjoying it in NJ, it would make the trip all the way back to DC.  It needed to take its rightful place on my bookshelf of other trophies.  Coincidentally, it will take up residence right next to my bottle of CBS.

The hunting I do may not seem as manly, but I find joy in it.  There is always something new to hunt.  There is a bottle that wasn’t released in your area, or there is something so rare that only a small quantity can be found.  The thrill of the hunt sometimes only makes the beer taste better.