Wednesday, November 16

Lompoc Brewing 2011 Holiday Beer Release Party

I was fortunate to attend the Lompoc Holiday Beer release event last night at their well know Sidebar location at 5:00 PM. Those of you who know good beer in Portland, know that this place can't be left out of a good beer venture whether a local beer geek, or out-of-towner scoping the goods in one of the best places on Earth for amazing craftbeer.

I first stopped in at the next door Hopworks Bike Bar and had a delicious Secret Alt before I ventured over at 5:00PM with fellow local PDX Beer Geek and co-founder Michael Umphress. Also co-founder of Emily Engdahl popped in right after. Of course I was sporting my #pdxbeergeeks T-shirt to represent our awesome community of craftbeer loving peeps and bloggers. There was a fantastic turnout of some of the better known bloggers, writers, and faces in the business. It was a great time shared by all.

There were 9 amazing holiday beers to be had, and we got right to them. I think one of the most amazing things about this tasting event was the fact that the Lompoc owner, and brewers were so very open to let us all in on the ingredients, blends, brewing processes, and stories behind the beer. Nothing was kept a secret. I think I speak for us all when I say that we felt a really close connection to the people, the beer, and the art. It was very educational. In school my attention span lasted about as long as head on a flat beer. When discussing the beer.. my attention was latched on like a thick barleywines lace about the glass.

Let's start off with the first beer in the lineup shall we? Blitzen.

Blitzen is a spiced golden infused with cinnamon, clove, lemon zest, and fresh ginger. It weighed in at about 4.6% ABV which made for a wonderful drinker that one could enjoy a big glass of, or more.

This I think was my favorite of all the beers. The aroma alone made me want to soak large pine cones in the stuff, and scatter them about the house. Wonderful clove, cinnamon, and spicy aromas resting in a fantastic bready golden brew. Certainly a top notch brew. Light citrus in the finish, and some smooth sweet vanilla character appeared for me as well.

Cherry Christmas is a blend of four different beers. A golden fermented with sour cherries, a golden fermented in Port barrels with sour cherries, a brown ale inoculated with a Lambic blend yeast aged in Merlot barrels for four years, and a two year old Gueze. Still rather light at 5.6% ABV.

This beer too was a light drinker, and had wonderful sour characteristics. A clear light red to brown ale with a spotty white head. Light grain and sweetness with a lot of lovely barrel and dry wine qualities. This was a great blend, and for me it almost came out with some apple juice qualities. It was tart and not overly sour. Certainly a refreshing brew, and one I could see drinking in the Summer months as well. 300 lbs. of cherries were used in the goldens, and another 40 lbs. in the barrel. This certainly got a lot of it's tart character from the wonderful sour cherries.

Brewdolph is a Belgian red ale with some heavy malt character and creamy body. Brewed with the Belgian Ardennes yeast strain, the spicy clove and ester flare really shined. The yeast really made the beer.

Not many hops were used. The intent was to really get a nice red malt backbone, and let the yeast do its thing. I think it worked perfectly. I feel red ales are kind of the forgotten red-headed step child playing the Nintendo in the back room. This beer really turned out great, and should be a huge hit even for those who are not big hop-heads.

Holiday Cheer is a standard porter, or robust porter with a creamy body, chocolate malt flare.. and brewed with whole vanilla beans.

This is the first one I grabbed before the tastings. I'm glad I did. I allowed it to warm up over the couple hours of the tasting, and the whole vanilla beans truly shined. This was one smooth puppy. They focused on using the whole vanilla bean to avoid any extract-like flavors, and it worked. Nice dry, earthy, and solid vanilla flavor without being overpowering like so many can be.

Jolly Bock is a German style lager brewed with lots of Munich malt which developed a lovely dark amber to brown color. Lovely dry bitter hops were used, as well as a Bavarian lager yeast which added some very nice roasty and dry grainy character to it.

I felt this beer was really true to the style, and was created by one of Lompocs newest brewers who has been at it there for about the last 6 months. I would seek her out, and try to get in some good discussion, and see what beers of hers might be on tap.

C-Sons Greetings is a bigger version of their C-Note Imperial Pale brewed with even more "C" hops. Seven different varieties to be exact. Crystal, Cluster, Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus, and Challenger. 8% ABV

I had last years, and this one wasn't quite as heavy as they explained. They were aiming for better drinkability and a super good hoppy brew that won't get a person totally tossed after just one. This was also dry-hopped much more than the regular C-Note. I think they nailed it. What huge resinous and pine-like hops.. perfect bitterness, and huge aroma/flavor hops. I tried to pick out what was used for most the dry-hopping, and my guess of Cascade was pretty much right although others were used as well. The malt was great and not too caramel sweet. Bready, grainy, biscuit.. floral, spicy, pine green hops.. like a fresh cut Christmas tree. Wonderfully chewy and dry.

Bourbon Barrel Aged C-Sons Greetings was brewed this year in February, and aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels for seven months and cellared for one more. 8% ABV

I loved it. Easily my second choice. It was a calmer, smoother, more rustic bad boy with fantastic oak character, and light vanilla. The majority of this beer was all barrel aged by for one later batch added in. What a treat. The barrels weren't fresh, and had been used previously, which I think was a great move, because as they stated, they wanted more of the lighter qualities of the barrel aging process which was to give it a more woody, dry, light vanilla flavor. They nailed it. Easily might be my second favorite there.

Old Tavern Rat is their beloved barleywine which was aged for almost a full year prior to its release. 9.4% ABV

This beer was first brewed back in '97-'98, and adopted the name in '01 to commemorate the late Don Younger who used the nick "Old Tavern Rat" as an email or contact handle. Brewed on their old 7-bbl system, this turned out to be one amazing example of a true English style barleywine. Sometimes I get a little frusterated with some barleywines because I think of them more as an American Barleywine. This bugger was good. Wonderful molasses, and toffee character. Sweet grain, caramel, and light spice. Lightly cloudy and brown.. with some tobacco, spicy hop, and light smokey character. This is a tough one for me as a close 2nd favorite.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat was originally brewed in December of 2009. Then it was aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for 10 months, and then cellared for an additional 13. 9.7% ABV

A treat. A real treat. I am a huge fan of BBA barleywines, and this hit the spot. I did however like the later regular version better. This would make a nice night cap for any holiday though. Big robust bourbon character, vanilla, wood, tobacco, earthy spice, and vanilla. Butterscotch candy almost. Sticky sweet bad assness. Darker character, and more cloudy for sure than the regular. Compared to other BBA barleywines that I have had.. this one came out swinging, and got itself a KO. If you're not careful, you'll get yourself KO'ed.

I did also get to try the 8 Malty Nights. It was a bit young still, and had a little more sitting time needed, but it was still a treat, and really showcased the malt, grainy character, and roasted qualities within.

My focus on the tasting is... well, the tasting. I wanted this article to show a focus on what they showed the focus on. Though a great meet with many popular faces, brewers, bloggers and more.. I left out a lot of that info to show my determination for the art of craft beer. I had a great time, and hope that I will soon enjoy many more tastings, and events with my fellow beer geeks, bloggers, friends, and masters in the industry.

Get over to the multiple Lompoc locations, and grab yourself some of these goodies. Maybe next year we will all be able to enjoy the 12 beers of Christmas at Lompoc Brewing.

Lompoc Brewing

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