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!

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