Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Epic Weekend

An epic weekend is one where you move from event to event, place to place, seemingly at random but somehow perfectly orchestrated for doing as much as possible at an easy pace. It's a weekend that when it's over you say, "That was great." You don't have to go anywhere and it doesn't have to be expensive. You can do it all pretty much (or literally) in your back yard. It's a weekend where there are no glitches, no complications, no chores except ones you want to get done, and no regrets. Just fun.

Last weekend was just that.

Friday was brought to you by the letter P. We started with ping pong and pints at Ghost Runners Brewery. I had the Pre-HOPtaine while Hubby had the Running Up Pils. We moved on to pinball and pints at Doomsday Safe House while we ordered pizza from the beautifully remodeled Vancouver Pizza. I enjoyed the Bunker Brown while Hubby had the Agent Orange.

Saturday was the B.I.G. Holiday Brew Fest in Hood River where we discovered a number of delicious beers.

Sunday, we stopped in at McMenamins Edgefield where we both enjoyed the Oatmeal Pale and another round of pinball. (This time, I won.)

Also, on Sunday, my sister-in-law (Lynn S Dot) received her 50th WABL stamp at Lost Canoe in Snohomish. Congratulations! I'm so proud!!

In the evening, we were back to the letter P. We started with a Mosaic Pale from Everybody's Brewing at Thai Orchid. Then we moved on to popcorn and pints at Kiggins Theatre. We watched the early showing of Please Stand By and enjoyed Half Cocked IPA from 54°40' Brewing Company and Broken Hose from River Mile 38 Brewing Company.

Since it was still early, we finished off the growler of Hop Lion we got from Double Mountain Brewery the day before in Hood River. We got to bed at a reasonable hour and were well rested for Monday and the week ahead.

All that, and the weather on Saturday and Sunday was nearly Springlike. Buds appeared on shrubs, bulbs pushed through the sodden earth, and cartoon birds encircled us with melodic song.

Okay, maybe I got a little off track there but, really, it doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, January 29, 2018

B.I.G. Holiday Hangover Brew Fest 2018

The second annual Holiday Hangover Brew Fest, hosted by the Breweries in the Gorge (B.I.G.), was held last weekend in Hood River, Oregon. Breweries represented were:

Last year, my aim was to try beers outside my comfort zone. I favored the Manage a Quad (Belgian Quad) from Everybody's, the Rauchbier (Smoked Marzen) from pFriem, Christmas Cranbozen (Sour Cranberry Brown) from Thunder Island, and High Road (Scotch Ale) from Walking Man. Keep in mind, it was cold last year and there was a foot of snow and ice on the ground in Hood River. Dark, boozy beers were comforting as well as delicious.

This year, it felt more like Spring and I tried to take a more scientific approach in my beer selections. I studied the list, broke it down into various categories, and progressed light beers to dark, thusly:

Pilsners - My favorite was the Pilsen from Big Horse Brew Pub. It was the darkest of the three and had the most hop presence, in my opinion. However, I felt the Natural Born Keller Pils from Sedition Brewing went very well with the pulled pork sandwiches provided by Apple Valley BBQ.

Pale - Our favorite was the Mosaic Pale Ale from Backwoods Brewing. Light in alcohol (at 4.7% ABV), it was rich in flavors of tangerine and papaya. Sadly, they ran out before the night was over. We would have had more, given the chance.

Coffee - There were two coffee offerings that were so different from each other, they can hardly be compared. One was a Golden Coffee Pale from pFriem and the other was the 10 Speed Coffee Stout from Big Horse. Here, Hubby and I differed. I preferred the pFriem. There was a sweetness that was subtle but I like my coffee strong and black. I want to taste the coffee whether it's in my cup or in my glass. It had a creamy mouthfeel and good coffee flavor but OHSO's Morning Brew is the gold standard in golden coffee ales for me - crisp, coffee, and nothing else.

The 10 Speed from Big Horse was dark in color as you would expect from a coffee beer but a thinner mouthfeel than I expected. I don't know what kind of roast they used from 10 Speed Coffee but I didn't get chocolate and smoke from the coffee. In short, not enough coffee for me. Hubby preferred the 10 Speed to the Golden Coffee Pale. (Everybody's Cold Press Coffee Porter is my favorite in the dark roast category.)

Lager - Again, these two were very different. Hubby and I both preferred the Freebridge Brewing's Bakeoven Black Lager. The chocolate, toffee, and fig were right on. The pFriem Rauch Helles was gold in color but the combination of smoke and sweetness that suggested smoked salmon to me and once I got that in my head, I couldn't couldn't get the fish out of my beer!

Mecca Grade Estate Malt - There were two beers that used 100% Mecca Grade Estate Malts. We didn't know what that was so we tasted Ghost Town from Dwinell against Mecca Grade Maibock from Everybody's. 

Mecca Grade Estate Malt is a place - a farm in Madras, Oregon, a mere 100 miles from Hood River - where the grain is mechanically floor-malted. Just because two beers both get their locally-sourced malt from the same place doesn't mean they are using the same malt. 

If I had to guess, Dwinell used Pelton. Ghost Town was light, crisp, and lemony. Pale yellow in color and a very low 3.2% which contrasted with the Maibock, dark in color and 7.1% ABV. If I had to guess, Everybody's used Metolius and/or Opal 44. This beer confused us both but I can't say why. Sweetness of the malt? I'm a fan of Everybody's so someday I'll ask them about this. 

IPA - There were five offered and at this point my notes degraded somewhat. From what I can discern, we both liked Full Sail's Session EZ IPA best. It utilizes classic IPA hops - Equinox, Citra, and Cascade - but isn't in your face. At 4.5% ABV, it truly is EZ. Trespasser NE IPA was a close second from Walking Man - big and juicy with Mosaic hops and oats in the mix.

Last call - Hubby opted for the Zero B.S. Monastery (Smoked Belgian Dubbel) from Walking Man. Hubby is a whiskey drinker and liked the flavors imparted by whisky soaked oak that aged the beer. I had the Oregon Pony CDA from Thunder Island. "Deceptively smooth" is right at 9.9% ABV. Rye, Simcoe, and Citra are ingredients I can't resist.

Best of Show - We didn't get to everything; we could't. We didn't get to the Saisons, Cider, Red, Sour so my apologizes for excluding those entries. 

Best of Show goes to the brewer where we liked at least two entries. Again, we didn't get to everything; there were only five of the 13 breweries where we tasted more than one offering. Given that, Best of Show went to Walking Man Brewing for their Zero B.S. Monastery and Trespasser NE IPA. 

Newcomers - The newcomers are Dwinell Country Ales in Goldendale and Sedition Brewing Company in The Dalles. Welcome! We'll be sure to put your on our next road trip list so we can get to know you more.

Thank you to B.I.G. and the Elks Lodge #1507 for hosting this great event and DJ Magnetwork for the music See you next year!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sometimes you want a beer you can count on.

About Miller High Life, Kyle Kastranec says this on Banquet and Chill (And You May Find Yourself...):
" But the beer I consumed most last year, by both volume and frequency? Miller High Life. By far, hands down, bar none. (What can I say? I contain multitudes.) That may come as a surprise, but I really love the beer. I love the taste. I love the girl in the moon. I love the champagne tagline. But what I love most about High Life is that I don’t have to think about it. "
That's his go-to beer when he's not thinking so much about what he's drinking and is, instead, focused on the people he's with. Because, it's reliable.

Say what you will about "big beer," inconsistent it is not. You can rely on the fact that your next Bud Light (or Miller High Life or Coors...) will taste exactly like the last one. You know what to expect every time.

Even craft brewers will enjoy a macro beer from time to time.  "...Sometimes we like to go home and have a High Life or we like to have a PBR or something," says Brian Pawola, co-founder and brewmaster of Pollyanna Brewing. He and Jim Cibak of Revolution Brewing, and Matt Gallagher of Half Acre Beer Company were challenged by Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune to a blind taste test of the biggest selling beers to determine which was the best. The results are reported here:

What's best macro beer in America? 3 craft brewers taste test 16 (Chicago Tribune)

The scale was as follows:
5: Sure! I'd be happy to drink this after work and keep it in my fridge at home.
4: Not bad. Works fine for a ballgame or a barbecue.
3: Meh. Not egregious, but macro beer's flaws are starting to show.
2: Bad. This is why I got into craft beer.
1: Abysmal. Someone hand me an IPA, quick! I need this taste out of my mouth!
The best of sixteen beers was (*drumroll*) Hamm's. Second and third places went to Miller Lite and Pabst Blue Ribbon, respectively.

I confess to having enjoyed a Michelob Ultra myself and Hubby has been known to have a Rainier from time to time. Hamm's and the like sell well because not everyone likes hoppy beer. (*gasp*) While sales are falling for beers in the domestic premium category (like Budweiser), sales are on the rise for Hamm's.
" Hamm’s finished 2017 up 74.6 percent on an 87.3 percent jump in volume, according to Nielsen all-outlet and convenience data through Dec. 30. And it’s off to an even hotter start in 2018. Sales of the beer are up 96.9 percent on a 105.8 percent rise in case volume over the four weeks ending Jan. 13, enough to vault Hamm’s to Nielsen’s No. 8 growth brand in beer. " 
Fast-growing Hamm’s looks to stay red-hot in 2018 (MillerCoors Behind the Beer)
 What's in your fridge?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bud No Longer in Top 3

Just in time for Beer Can Appreciation Day . . .

For the first time, the three best-selling beers in America are light beers. Can craft brewers catch up? The Washington Post

The top three selling beers are Bud Light, Coors Light, and Miller Lite - all light beers. And, craft brewers are taking note:
" Golden ales — also known as blonde ales — have been tipped to be “the next big thing” for years, thanks to astonishing year-on-year growth rates, including a 62 percent increase in 2015, and a 41 percent gain in 2017. "
Consider Kahana Blonde Ale from Kona Brewing which is, in itself, a light beer at 99 calories. Here's how it stacks up against the top three:

  1. Bud Light - 110 calories
  2. Coors Light - 102 calories
  3. Miller Lite - 96 calories

I don't remember which brewery I was in but the brewer was acknowledging the aging of brewers and craft beer aficionados alike. Of their beers, he said they were reconfiguring their fathers' beers - mostly lagers. Besides nostalgia, a brewer wants to sell more beer. "Session" beer is key - a lighter beer (both in terms of calories and alcohol) gives rise to ordering a second beer.

I appreciate that. I like to drink beer, and more than one. Having something easy to drink makes drinking easy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This Week Only (Until Next Year)

The 62nd American Hop Convention is taking place right now in sunny Palm Desert. 62nd! As incredible as that seems, we - and by that I mean, Americans - have been growing hops commercially for much longer than 62 years. According to USA Hops, "The first commercial hop production was a 45-acre garden established in 1648 to supply a brewery in the Massachusetts Bay settlement."

Now, 99% of the United States' hop crops are grown in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho with Washington producing 75% of the nation's crop according to the USDA National Hop Report. Production in 2017 for those states totaled a record 104 million pounds valued at $618 million.

Subjects at the hop convention cover such topics as Quality Control, Food Safety and Best Practices Programs, and Succession Planning for Family Businesses and feature speakers such as Dr. Eric Snodgrass, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign. With that lineup, I don't know why I'm not in Palm Desert right this second.

Here's one reason: according to the convention Schedule of Events, there is only one scheduled coffee break and that's not until Friday. I know the week's focus is on hops and, as a related topic, beer but no coffee's not going to work for me. I can see from the Sponsorship Form that beer will be served at various convention events, meetings, and breaks so at least there's that.

The other might be the price although we are talking about a four day conference here. $765 was the pre-registration pricing. (Is the coffee included?) One of the week's events, "Hops and Props," will take place in two rented hangers at the Palm Springs Air Museum which sounds like fun. It will include music from Company B (an Andrews Sisters tribute group) as well as plane rides and exhibition. That's practically worth the price of admission right there! (That event can be purchased a la carte for $200.)

Aside from the coffee and the price, I would be there except I'm not. I'm in Washington, in the rain, about 200 miles from Yakima where the hops are grown. There are more than a few breweries there, too. This summer, I should make a trek that way to see the hop crop for myself. There's a video of what the production cycle looks like here, produced by the Oregon Hop Commission. Looks interesting.

I'm telling you, beer is serious business. Speaking of which, I think succession planning for not only hop farms but breweries will be a hot topic in the coming years. If I were planning a convention, that would be the topic. And, while I would necessarily need to serve beer, I wouldn't skimp on the coffee.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Just in time: Tomorrow, Peddler Brewing (Seattle) is hosting Babies in Arms Happy Hour, Sunday January 7th from 4:00-7:00pm, offering $1 off if you order a beer while holding a baby. Talk about family friendly!

You have until January 14th to help Beardslee Public House (Bothell) name their new Pilsner. Stop by the brewery, pick up a form, and (optional) taste the beer. One would think tasting the beer would be a requirement but considering the names breweries sometime come up with, it might not be essential. In any case, the winner will be selected January 16th and be awarded a host of goodies in additional to fame.

We are headed north today and, since I don't have a baby or a clever name for a Pilsner, plan to do some beer hunting in the Lake Stevens area. (There's actually a lake there!) I hope to bring you details of our adventures soon.

I also noticed my links under Good Beer Reading aren't all working so I'll try to get that straightened out (eventually).


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jesus in a glass

I don't mean to blaspheme but when I zoomed in on the glass (on my phone), I thought I could see a bearded man. Who else could it be?

This espresso stout, from Oakshire Brewing (Eugene OR), has my number: beer and espresso - no better combination in the world. This beer is all about roasted malts blended with cold brewed coffee. Roasted coffee, roasted malts - heavenly.

I like dark beers, especially when it's cold and dark outside. What could be better than something cold and dark inside? This beer is only 5.8% ABV so it's not an especially heavy beer. The oatmeal creates a slightly creamy mouthfeel but the flavors are primarily espresso and roasted malts. 

I'm almost positive we picked this up at Smitty's Food Mart & Deli in Sutherlin OR on the way home from getting our first McMenamins Passport stamp in Roseburg OR. (We were spending the night in Sutherlin.) We bought a couple bottles of beer to bring back to our room and picked, no doubt, based on hunch since we weren't familiar with most of Smitty's offerings. With "espresso" on the label, I figured, I could not go wrong with the Overcast.

I don't remember what else we selected but the Overcast ended up coming home with us and has been living a quiet, chill life in our refrigerator for about six months. We finally cracked it open last night.

Next time I come across an Overcast Espresso Stout, I won't wait so long to open it!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Star light, star bright, I wish I may, I wish I might . . .

. . . have me some beer tonight.

We spent the first day of 2018 goofing off, mostly. However, by mid-afternoon, we were ready to get out of the house.

East Fork Lewis River, Lewisville Regional Park
We drove up to Lewisville Regional Park in Battleground WA and hiked the trails along the East Fork Lewis River until we worked up a thirst. From there, we ventured to the two closest breweries not knowing who would be open on New Year's Day: Northwood Public House (home to Little Dipper Brewing Company) and Barrel Mountain Brewery. Luckily for us, they both were both open!

While both have full food menus, we opted for Northwood Public House for our après trail snack. We ordered nachos from the Happy Hour menu and that was plenty for two of us to share: home made chips with black beans, tomatoes, guaclamole, and jalapeños. Hubby selected the Crux Pilz (from Crux Fermintation Project, Bend OR) which paired nicely with the spicy jalapeños. It had a nearly white head, a clear, light golden color and small, light bubbles rising up from the glass. The Pilsner malts tasted like sweet crackers or biscuit with with just a hint of honey. The Sterling and Czech Saaz hops added complexity, keeping the sweetness in check, without overwhelming the malts. Delicious and smooth.
Starlight IPA, BCB/LDBCo Collab

I selected the Starlight IPA which is the collaborative effort of Brothers Cascadia Brewing with Little Dipper Brewing Company.  This beer was gold/orange in color with little to no head although what was there clung nicely to the glass. The carbonation was light on the tongue but otherwise not noticeable in the glass. The aroma was floral, spice, pine, and citrus as if it couldn't make up its mind! Fresh in the glass, I smelled more pine. As it warmed up, citrus became more prevalent. Flavors of resin dominated this hoppy beer which was a good compliment to the nachos for me (since I didn't eat the jalapeños).

Starway Stout, Barrel Mountain Brewery
At Barrel Mountain, Hubby had the Silverstar Session IPA, a recent addition to their beer menu. (It started as #5 ISA on their Brewmaster Series.) Brewed with Mosaic and El Dorado hops it had light, tropical, and citrus flavors. Medium gold color with a nearly white head and only 4.5% ABV, this is easily an all-day sipper. Geremy was there to serve us and said this was the beer in his kegerator at home. Can't beat that for a recommendation! We took a growler full home. (We met Geremy at Trap Door Brewing's Brewers Invitational Cornhole Tournament last summer where Barrel Mountain Brewery took second place. It was good to see him again!)

I had their award-winning Starway Stout which is an opaque, black beer with a nice head the color of dark cream/light milk chocolate. I loved the flavors of burnt toast and smoke. As it warmed, I tasted bittersweet chocolate and raisin/dried prune. It was absolutely delicious.

It was not intentional but three of the four beers we ordered were stars: Starlight, Starway, and Silverstar. If we are to make wishes on stars, here are three on which to make yours for 2018. May all your beer wishes come true!

On tap at Barrel Mountain Brewery

Monday, January 1, 2018

What was I thinking?

Despite the shout out from 76003.1414 (thank you, btw) I cannot shake the feeling that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I'm not a beer writer. I'm merely an enthusiastic beer fan.

Thinking about this, I concluded I must drink more beer. Content is my problem as well as my solution. To have content, I must drink beer.

Not an unwanted problem.

In 2018, I resolve not only to drink more beer but to assiduously study it. (h/t 76003.1414 for the word "assiduously.") I would like to tour a hops farm, tour a barley farm, tour Great Western Malting, become an ambassador for Ghost Runners Brewery (a recently conceived idea of one of its owners, Jeff), and take a brewing class at Bader Beer & Wine Supply. In February, ...

Just kidding, that should should keep me busy for a while.

2018 will also bring a new locations for Everybody's Brewing, Dick's Brewing, and McMenamins. I'll be sure to check those out. In 2017, Doomsday Brewing moved into their new facility which I have yet to visit. (Is it noon yet?)

There's a list of things to do around the office as well: setting up email, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Probably should have done that earlier, like before launching a blog. (What was I thinking??)

There's no time like the present so I might as well get started. I'm headed to Battleground for a hike in the sunshine, while it lasts. Then, to Northwood Public House and Barrel Mountain Brewing to see who's open on the first day of the New Year.

Here we go, 2018. Let's see where this takes us.