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

“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+