Monday, January 31

Sad Day

R.I.P. Don Younger. Tonight I raise a glass of Younger's Special Bitter to you. A craft beer pioneer.

Tuesday, January 25

Full Sail Brewing Releases Black Gold Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

"Hood River, Or – For the past year bourbon barrels and time have been working their magic together deep in the cellar at the Full Sail Brewery. There are absolutely no shortcuts with this beer, as it all has been aging in rich bourbon barrels for twelve months. A 100% commitment to excellence results in a truly special beer – complex, elegant and supremely balanced. Now we’re finally able to taste the delicious results as the Full Sail crew releases Black Gold Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout 2011.

According to Jamie Emmerson, Full Sail’s Executive Brewmaster, the Imperial Stout was racked into 18 and 20 year old casks from Schenley Distillery back in January 2010. “This extended aging presents hints of vanilla and allows the Stout to pick up the flavors of the wood, bourbon and oak. The aging combined with the robust character of the Imperial Stout make for an extraordinary and wonderful taste experience. It has a strong roasted malt character and a full body. Chocolate and caramel nuances blend with the hops for a smooth Imperial Stout,” described Emmerson.

“Wood barrel aging is an art form. When done right, it’s a wonderful thing. Our barrel aged beers have been a Full Sail tradition since 1998 when we joyfully discovered what happens when you pair vintage barrels, dedication, and patience. Every year since, we’ve brewed an imperial style dark ale, filled roughly sixty oak bourbon barrel casks, and then aged them in our cellar for a year. We rack this special beer in small batches, available in only very limited quantities. It cellars well, so if you store a few bottles in a dark, cool place and be patient, you will be rewarded for your effort and restraint. You should get some while you can,” added Emmerson. To help the beer aficionados that have the self-discipline to cellar this beer, Full Sail marks the bottle label with the reserve year. Black Gold will be available in 22 oz bottles and on draught. (ABV 11.4%, IBU 37.5)

Full Sail is planning two special events to celebrate the release of Black Gold. The brewery will be offering a vertical tasting of three versions of Black Gold to highlight the flavor components of this special brew. “Since Black Gold is a blend of our Imperial Stout aged for a full year in both 18 and 20 year old bourbon barrels, we thought it would be interesting to try a bit of each before blending. We kegged off a very small stash from each vintage for the initial release. Join us to celebrate the unveiling of this very special beer and taste the nuances between the two vintage years and the final version,” added Emmerson. The special tastings will take place simultaneously at Full Sail’s Tasting Room and Pub in Hood River and at their Riverplace Brewery in Portland at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1st. For more information call the Full Sail Riverplace brewery at 503-222-5343 or the Full Sail Tasting Room and Pub at 541-386-2247.

In the February issue of Men’s Journal, Black Gold was named one of “the best” barrel aged beers in the US. Previously Black Gold was awarded a silver medal at the 2009 World Beer Championships and at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival® (wood-aged strong beer category).""

I really look forward to this release, and I love how Full Sail releases the standard and awesome Imperial Stout before it goes into the barrels to create this beast. Last Black Gold I had was loaded with bourbon flavor. I wish I had sat on those bottles much much longer. It was hot, messy, and all up in your face! I plan on getting about four of these to age...  and maybe others to have hot and fresh. I would have to say though...  their standard Imperial Stout is hard to beat..  even if it is bourbon barrel aged!


Diacetyl in Bottles, and Distribution

Diacetyl via Wiki

I've read a lot about diacetyl and the off flavors that result. In many many years of drinking tap, and buying bottles in the northwest, I hadn't ever experienced this nasty buttery flavor in beer until recently.

First, I snagged a bottle of Rocket Dog Rye IPA at Bottles in NE PDX. At home, I noticed it was a bottle that they had previously purchased from some other location and ripped the price off, and put their own on. No big deal, many respectable bottle shops do this. What wasn't on the bottle was a bottling date. Cracked it, and I immediately thought I was watching a movie, and was forced to smell the big guys popcorn breath behind me...  as he munched, and munched the whole 5 gallon bucket gone. It was foul...  makes one gag. I blame this outburst from them buying from another shop.

Later I traded for some brews that were brewed a few towns away from the 'wine' AND beer store. Not just one style, but two were loaded with the buttery funk. If you haven't experienced bad diacetyl, you will know it when it hits. I blame this outburst from poor distribution, and poor bottle rotation from the store.

Now I stopped by a local 76 gas station and grabbed a couple bombers of Red Hook Big Ballard IIPA, and Ninkasi Tricerahops IIPA. Both I find to be rather decent, and a good buy at most places. Nice to find at a local gas station. But there sits the problem. Remember when these gas stations all over hell and back never carried a lot of these craft beers? I noticed the Big Ballard was 6 months old..  which for an Imperial IPA.. that is much too old to buy, and actually enjoy. These bottles just sat in one spot too long. And I would guess that many in the area don't often buy good craft beer. That is the problem. I blame that outbreak on bad location for distribution, poor distribution maintenance, and poor practice at a mini mart.

When distributors slack, and when stores slack on bottle rotation..  breweries need to know. If you get some bad bottles, let them know. Most I have talked to are very kind, and offer replacement beer. I usually turn these gestures down because I don't want to come across as some sort of free loader. I just want to let them know when someone is tarnishing their name by selling old disgusting beer.

This is where I don't find fault in large mergers and share acquisition with distributors. Widmer Hefe can be found fresh, in a 76, in Florida. If it gets past its prime..  it is pulled. Widmer uses AB's distribution because it works. Smaller breweries tend to stay local, and in local bottle shops because the turnover is much greater and there is a smaller chance their beer will spoil.

I see a big problem with local craft breweries who try and over distribute without a real functional distributor. There are local small guys who do a great job, but they have favorites. Certain brewers are higher up on their snob lists. I know Ninkasi has some AB distribution, but they didn't hand over 40% of their company. Maybe they should have, because now I see a trend of bad bottles in many stores. I would bet that some bottles of the original Tricerahops recipe, or first batches...  are still sitting on the shelves...  somewhere. It pays to go to higher turnover shops... even if you pay an extra buck a bomber.


Monday, January 17

My Two Favorite & Recent Imperial IPA's

I'm going to jump right in and start with Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum which I have only thus far had on tap at By the Bottle here in Vancouver (and the keg was blown in a couple days flat).

I haven't always been a huge fan of Sierra Nevada, and think many of their beers are over hyped. I may get a lot of fanboy flack for that, but it's just the case with me. Like many, I was first introduced to their pale ale when I was in high school. I loved the hop bite it offered, but thought it was much too filling at the time, and over carbonated. To me, it lacked in drinkability.

Another well overrated beer is their Celebration. While tasty, it just doesn't live up to the hype for me. While winter warmers are not my style, either are funkily tweeked IPA's. When Widmers Brrr came out...  I liked it at first, but was rather worn out from it after only a couple of 6-packs. I didn't buy any this year. I did get one 6-pack of Celebration to try and change my mind about it...  but it didn't work. Seirra Nevada's Torpedo as well just doesn't come across as all that good to me. Of the few 6-packs I have purchased...  all tasted different. The consistency just wasn't there.  My second purchase of it changed my mind about the beer briefly because it was just a darn good 6-pack. But still too filling and bubbly..  and more malty for my taste. To me a good west coast IPA should be light on the malts, and high on the hops and bitterness. The malt flavors should be very light and semi-sweet caramel, and biscuity and bready. I've even had Pliny the Elder's that came across with two completely different malt profiles.

My favorite beers from Sierra Nevada have always been their fresh hop series, and their Anniversary Ale. I was royally pissed off when they gave up on their Anniversary Ale. To me that was their best 6-pack to date, and I loved that beer. I am glad they made up for it with Hoptimum.

While slightly too sweet, I understand why. While most imperial IPA's sit between 7.5-9% alc. by vol., this bad boy is sitting up at 10.4%. It must be super dry-hopped as well as it used only whole cone hops. The super hop madness, and sweet caramel malts balance it out very well for the hop enthused lover of IPA's. Dangerously drinkable is putting it lightly. Grapefruit, citrus, pine, grassy...  hop hop hop...  a great release.

Next on my list comes from a well known brew pub to locals in Portland, OR, but is not very well known to those outside of the city. They have always remained rather small, and have very limited and local bottling. I grew up within walking distance (to me walking distance is a couple miles or so) from the NE Portland brewpub Alameda Brewing. I am rather partial to the El Torero IPA, and the flagship house favorite Blackbear XX Stout. While their history goes way back, and the owners had a falling out back in the day.. they have remained, and are still cranking out great beers and good food. I believe one of the original owners still resides in Washougal, WA where he still homebrews some great beer.

This brings me to their latest Imperial bottle release that I had first seen at Bottles, a newer bottle shop and taproom that is just a few doors down from the brewhouse.

 I will just flat out say that this is my favorite beer from them to date. Smooth, bready and hop packed brew. Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA is dangerously smooth and full of wile citrus, grapefruit, and pineapple flavors. I have pounded about 4 of these in just the last couple weeks alone. I honestly think this beer could increase the entire brewhouse's production x2. The price shocked me as well. Rather inexpensive for an imperial at around $5.

I sincerely hope it sticks around as a year around brew. I have a feeling Alameda Brewing will get a little more crafty here in due time. I look forward to more of their fine offerings.

Hop on!


My Beef with Release Parties

Every year, our favorite new and old breweries usually release some new beers. Perhaps special seasonal beers make up most of them, and that is what we beer geeks like. We always want to try the latest and greatest. Not even 5 years ago did so many breweries and pubs release special series imperials and seasonal beers. Look at how long it took Widmer Brewing in Portland to start releasing their Brothers Reserve series beers (Which since the 25th Anniversary Double Alt, I have one of each in the cellar for a vertical at a later time). Craft Brewers started to realize that this was a huge market. Craft beer advocates have their regulars, but they want to venture out beyond the tall grass every once in a while, and climb the snow covered mountain. This inspires much more competition and creativity which really incorporates the best of both worlds. That being the brewers being able to express their skills and creativity much more, thus creating much better beers for the consumer.

I have no beef at all with new releases. I always try a couple of new beers at least each and every week. But I have a complaint.

I don't know if is just me, but as I recall, when a brewery or pub created a brand new beer, they had a release party for it. A party celebrating the release of a new beer! "NEW"! Now it seems every time the same beer gets released annually..  there is a party for it! Why? It's not new anymore, and I don't remember breweries and pubs ever doing this. Is it because of a trend? Is it to stir up the hype machine more so they reach out and snag greater sales volume from other bottles on the shelves? I just don't get it. I can understand a nice special tapping when it's ready to go..  but organizing a release party for an old beer seems like an oxymoron to me. It's been released before.


Tuesday, January 11

Moose and Squirrel Russian Imperial Stout Release Set For 01/19/11

"Inspired by our good friend Glenn, this beer is dark as night, thick and rich. Big roast and coffee flavors dominate Moose and Squirrel. Enjoy!"

Haven't yet had the luxury of trying this brew. A little light in my eyes at 8% for an imperial, but I have read that the flavors are very fruity, and are full of esters..  which to me are a great trait in a Russian Imperial style. 

How long has it been since they have bottled their Barleywine? That's the one I really am looking forward to trying...  as it seems very few kegs got spread around a few months or so ago. I always manage to miss it. 

Learned that this RIS will not be bottled this time which is sad...  but at least get over to either of their two locations left...  on 51st NE Sandy Blvd. in Portland, or out in Battleground, WA.

I hope in the future Laurelwood will bottle more of their special brews again. Is bottling really that expensive?


Friday, January 7

E.lvis’ S.pecial B.eer Release Party

"Join us at the Laurelwood Brewers Din for the 2011 E.vis’ S.pecial B.eer release party! This beer is brewed every year in honor of the Kings birthday! We will have Elvis inspired food specials, swag giveaways and of course Elvis Kennedy will make an appearance! This is something you do not want to miss!"

Not a bad beer at all...  and especially not a bad tribute! Always cool to talk to Chad and have some great eats...  and many different Laurelwood Brews...

.... if you like smooth tasty ales, this is one of those beers. A great session brew too! Over hyped? Just a little..   Workhorse please!


Monday, January 3

Oregon beer lovers help a dozen new pubs, breweries open in 2010

Oregon brewers are forecasting significant growth in 2011, including plenty of new projects, such as the long-awaited expansion of the original Deschutes Brewery Pub in Bend.

"We've been looking at the property next door for 20 years or so," said Deschutes president Gary Fish, "and we were finally able to put together a deal that made sense and will probably double the size of the current pub." They hope to be in the new building by the 2011 Holiday season, though it could be first quarter 2012 when the expansion opens, Fish said.

Fish said Deschutes, Oregon's biggest brewery after Widmer Brothers Brewing, grew at about 12 percent during 2010 and made about 202,000 barrels (6.26 million gallons) of beer. He expects to grow at about the same rate in 2011.

"I think Oregon craft beer is really well situated as the rest of the country starts to catch on," Fish said, "and I see breweries such as Ninkasi (whose production grew 50 percent in 2010) continuing to grow as they reach more markets."

Nice read and article by a very well known beer writer. Take a read at the rest of the story here:

Click Here for some Oregon Live Beer Diggage

I look forward to getting over to Coalition, Migration, Columbia River, and Burnside Brewing very soon. And if visiting, and haven't yet had the luxury of Upright Brewings fantastic brews...  you must try them! Cheers!


Cascade Brewing to Host Portland's first annual Scottish Ale Festival

PORTLAND, ORE. - Jan. 3, 2010 - Nine regional craft breweries will serve up their best Scottish and Scotch ales at Portland's first annual Scottish Ale Festival.  The event will take place on Saturday, January 29 from 3 to 11 pm on the production side of the Cascade Brewing Barrel House at 939 SE Belmont St. 

The beer lineup includes Black Raven Brewing's Splinters Bourbon Barrel Aged Strong Scotch Ale, Cascade Brewing's McShagger Scotch Ale, Coalition Brewing's Brigadoonery Scottish Ale, Fearless Brewing's Strong Scotch Ale, Lucky Lab's Scottish Holiday, Migration Brewing's Old Silenus, Rock Bottom Brewery's Highland Courage, Schooner EXACT Brewing's Hoppy the Woodsman, and Upright Brewing's House.  
The event will feature traditional Scottish music by Cascade Brewmaster Ron Gansberg's band, Stone Porridge, plus a few bagpipers thrown in the mix.   The Cascade Brewing Barrel House will serve its regular menu, as well as a few Scottish specialties.  There is no cover charge for the event.

Both Scottish and Scotch ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a color ranging from deep amber to dark copper, and a higher level of unfermentable sugars that creates a rich mouthfeel and malty flavors and aromas. In Scottish ales, overall hop character is low, light floral or herbal, allowing the signature malt profile to be the highlight.  Scotch ales are sweeter and fuller-bodied, with a much more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavor.

About Cascade Brewing Barrel House

The Cascade Brewing Barrel House is the barrel and blending house and tasting room for Cascade Brewing's award winning Northwest style sour ales.  The Barrel House is open Sunday through Tuesday 11 am to 10 pm, Wednesday & Thursday 11 am to 11 pm, and Friday & Saturday 11 am to Midnight.  Minors are allowed daily to 10 pm.  For more information, call 503-265-8603 or visit For daily updates, follow the Cascade Barrel House on Facebook and Twitter.

Sounds like a blast...  would love to see Ron jam out! Scotch Ales are a style I am very much wanting to try more of and get into. Cheers!


Laurelwood Brewing to Close its NW Public House

This is interesting news! After all, they just remodeled and decorated it recently.

"After much consideration and many months of debate we must announce the final closure of our NW Public House, our last day of business at that location was Sunday December 26th.  We informed all the staff on Wednesday December 22nd and will be able to give many of them full, or part time positions in our other pubs.  With declining sales and the economic conditions in certain parts of town, we had a hard decision to to face and we know that it is the right decision for our business at this time.
We had a great 6 1/2  years at that location, a lot of great memories and made a lot of friends-for that we will be forever grateful.
We would like to take a moment to thank you our guests, for your loyalty and patronage to our establishment.  We would also like to say that we have an amazing staff that we are proud to work with and are grateful for all that they have done for us.  As mentioned before we are doing our best to accommodate transfer opportunities.

We do hope to open another location over the next year or two, in a nearby neighborhood here in Portland.  In the meantime please visit us at our Laurelwood Public House & Brewery location on Sandy Blvd in NE Portland, Battle Ground WA, or either of our locations at Portland International Airport.
Again, we will miss our NW pub and know you will too.  Thanks again for all your support."