Friday, December 31, 2010
I had no idea what would become of the blog. I certainly did not think anyone would read it. I didn't even know how long I would keep doing it. I didn't know much about Twitter at the time and did not think to create a separate Twitter handle for the blog - I just went with my personal account that I had set up beforehand - @jwall4. Oh well.
Funny thing is that somehow people found the blog and a few of you decided to actually read it. I have to thank Angelo at Brewpublic and Jeff at Beervana for helping spread the word about my blog from the beginning and throughout the year. The best part of this blog has been getting to know the great people within the Portland craft beer community.
As the blog took shape, I made an effort to post 2-3 times a week. Looking at the archive numbers on the right side of the screen, I did a pretty good job of sticking to that. The only exception is September and October, which coincides with the birth of my second daughter in September. It certainly took a couple months for my family to catch our breath but we are humming along now.
The music has taken a backseat to the beer. I figured that might be the case when I started the blog. I find it much easier to review beer events and new beers than I do to review concerts and albums. The average beer geek has a pretty wide range of styles of beer they are willing to drink, but more often than not a more narrowed approach to music. Not everyone is going to have the same taste in music as I do. While you might be willing to read about a style of beer or a brewery that is not your favorite, you likely do not care as much as I do about a Brooklyn based Indian rap duo that may or may not be a joke. Regardless, I will try to bring back more music posts into the mix. Hopefully I have turned a few people on to the music that inspires me.
Big changes are in the works here at Portland Beer & Music. I am not quite ready to announce them, but will do so in the coming month. I am excited to have welcomed on a great contributor in Nicole K. who has written some fabulous articles and will continue to do so. She has developed friendships with a number of brewers, bartenders, and other industry folk which is a great addition to the blog. I can tell by the numbers that readers have connected with her posts.
No big party for the anniversary. I plan on celebrating with my family tonight by letting my oldest daughter stay up late to watch the East coast NYE celebrations on TV at 9:00, sharing a bomber from the cellar with my mom, popping a bottle of champagne for my wife, and getting my dad one of his beloved ambers. Have a fun, safe night and we will see you in 2011. Cheers!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Another place I was eager to visit was Fremont Brewing Company. This relatively new brewery is located in my brother's old neighborhood. My first visit was this summer just before he moved to West Seattle. I really enjoyed the beers I tried on that visit and was eager to return. However, they were closed on the 24th and 25th. With a full plate of activities on the 23rd, I new I was not going to be able to make it to the brewery. Several places had their excellent Interurban IPA on tap during my visit, but I was hoping to get my hands on their winter seasonal Abominable (I knew I was unlikely to find a wood aged version outside the brewery). I was stoked when I walked into Elysian Capitol Hill to find Abominable as a guest tap. This dark, roasty winter ale with chocolate flavors has a nice pop of hops. It was thoroughly delicious and went down smooth, which was a good thing as we only had a short stop at the Elysian before dinner at nearby restaurant Crush (good but not outstanding).
I made up for ordering a guest tap at Elysian by stopping into the Elysian Tangletown on Christmas Eve for lunch. I enjoyed a decent Belgian IPA called Backhanded Compliment before they decided to close up and handed me my check without asking if I'd like another. I cannot blame them though. It was Chistmas Eve and it was dead in there.
After lunch, I had about an hour before Naked City Brewery and Taphouse opened a little further north. This is where I gripe about the insufficient use of Taplister. In that hour, I managed to visit 3 respected craft beer bars and find nothing exciting on tap. Now, I am not blaming the bars for not having good beer on tap. They all had respectable taplists just nothing I wanted to waste my limit liver space on. I checked all 3 bars on Taplister before leaving the Elysian and none of them had updated taplists. Disappointing to say the least. I just do not understand why craft beer bars would not take use of this application, which would steer traffic to their store (I am looking at you Latona Pub, Bottleworks, and 74th Street Alehouse). Well, I did get some last minute groceries at Safeway before standing outside Naked City waiting for them to open the doors.
Naked City opened after we had moved to Portland. Intentions to stop in on previous visits to Seattle were never fulfilled. This time I was seated right at opening and had about an hour before I had to meet my wife (shopping of course) and head back to the house for dinner. They had about 6 house beers on tap and a sampler tray would have been a perfect way to introduce myself to the brewery, especially since I was rolling solo and with limited time. Sadly, they do not offer samplers. Still not sure why certain breweries decide not to offer these. I would have gladly paid a little more for the chance to try each beer.
Oh well. I had a small taste of several of the beers and decided on small glasses of the smoked porter and the cherry ale. The smoked porter had a good, strong smoke flavor over a well built base porter. It just lacked a little balance. I am glad I only had a glass. A pint seems like it might have been a bit much. The cherry ale sure had the appearance of a cherry stout to me. However, more than one person who ordered at the bar asked for a "stout" and was asked if they wanted the stout on nitro (a guest tap) or the Everybody's Brewing Oatmeal Stout. Not once was the cherry stout offered. Anyway, it was decent. The cherry flavor was a litttle thin and seemed as though it was from an additive. It did not come close to one my favorite beers - Walking Man's Dark Cherry Stout. I only had small tastes of a few of the other Naked City beers but based on my limited experience it seemed like the lineup was solid but not stellar.
All in all, a great visit to Seattle. If I learned one thing, it is that West Seattle has a great craft beer scene with one of the best pubs (Beveridge Place Pub) and bottle shops (Beer Junction) in all of Seattle. The only thing missing in West Seattle is a great brewery. And a movie theater.
Monday, December 27, 2010
They were having a small rare beer event with about a half dozen special beers in addition to the lengthy regular taplist, and I was glad to see La Petite Mort from Black Raven Brewing. This dark Belgian Stong Ale has a nice yeasty aroma with good spice and dark fruit flavors. Black Raven is putting out some great beers. I wanted to try and make the trek out to Redmond to visit the brewery but just didn't have the time. I went with another Black Raven beer - the fantastic Trickster IPA - when we returned to Beveridge Place on Christmas night. The place was packed and full of life. My favorite part of this place, besides the great taplist, is the liberal attitude towards "service" dogs. After being confined to the bottom floor of the house for several days, my dog was so happy to join us at the pub for some beers. I look forward to visiting BPP whenever in West Seattle.
My brother had me open one of my gifts early on the 23rd. It was a case of varied beers from the local West Seattle bottle shop - Beer Junction. He knew I would head straight there on Thursday and buy a bunch of beers that don't make it to the Portland market to enjoy over the holiday. It was a great gift. The owner had selected the beers and did a great job of mixing seasonals and regular standouts, mostly from Washington brewers. Just like any beer snob, I had to exchange a few bottles - a couple are available in Oregon and a couple were from breweries that are not my favorite.
A couple of other places on West Seattle deserve a quick mention. I managed to steer the crew towards Porterhouse for lunch, knowing that it has an extensive taplist. Alas, the room was really cold and the smell of gas from the adjacent gas station was just too much. We ended up down the street at Circa Neighborhood Grill and Taphouse. This cozy little bistro had a surprisingly well crafted taplist and even offered a great sampler: 3 beers for $5. The samplers seemed to be close to 8 ounces each. It was a great way to get familiar with a couple of beers from Seattle brewery Schooner Exact and try Port Townsend's winter beer. All were solid. Meanwhile, my brother was really impressed by the 21st Amendment Fireside Chat. The food at Circa was very good and the portions were huge. I have not seen Circa mentioned much in the craft beer press but it should be.
Up next: A mix of new and old. Good and bad.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
First off, let me award the inaugural Portland Beer & Music Yule Log Awards to Portland's The Beermongers and Seattle's Beveridge Place Pub for being open throughout the holidays, including Christmas day. Apex in Portland may get added to the list as they said they might be open on Christmas day. Everybody else is closed Christmas day so I won't repeat that information below. Feel free to use the comments section to add additional establishments.
The BeerMongers: No closings (see above). Open 11 am - 11 pm on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
UPDATE: Roscoe's: According to Snob Ritch, they are open both Chistmas Eve and Day.
Belmont Station: The store is open on the 24th 10 am -6 pm. Bier Cafe closed on 24th.
Horse Brass: Closes at 6 pm on the 24th.
Saraveza: Normal hours on the 24th.
Concordia Alehouse: Closes at 10 pm on the 24th
Apex: Normal hours on the 24th. Closed on the 25th but may change.
Hop & Vine: Normal hours on the 24th. Closed 25th-27th.
Bailey's: Normal hours on the 24th. Closed New Year's Eve and Day.
Beveridge Place Pub: No closings (see above). Open 6 pm - 2 am on Christmas day.
Brouwer's: Closed 24th & 25th
Fremont Brewing: Closed 24th & 25th
Naked City: Normal hours on the 24th.
Elysian: Fields closed on the 24th. The other Elysian locations have reduced hours on the 24th.
Bottleworks: Normal hours on the 24th.
Beer Junction (West Seattle): Normal hours on the 24th.
Black Raven: Open 12-6 pm on the 24th.
Latona Pub: Closed early on the 24th.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
On December 23rd from 4-11PM, The BeerMongers will be tapping five holiday ales just before the frenzy of family gatherings, wrapping paper and food comas. All beers will be available in 6oz and 12oz pours, except Fa La La La La which will also be served in 20oz pints. I’m keeping this short, so here’s the important stuff:
Block 15 Figgy Pudding This is the beer that inspired the event. A complex English Barleywine, aged in freshly emptied Brandy Barrles with mission figs, Ceylon cinnamon and nutmeg. 11% ABV, 43IBU
Double Mountain Fa La La La La One of my favorites each winter, Fa La La La La will satisfy the hopheads in true to form Double Mountain fashion. 7.6% ABV, 83 IBU
Hair of the Dog 2010 Doggie Claws A classic west coast style Barleywine, Doggie Claws is brewed with British crystal malts, Mt.Hood wild flower honey, as well as Amarillo and Simcoe hops. 11.5% ABV, IBU 70
Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza A Belgian Dark Christmas Ale aged in oak barrels with characteristics of dark fruit, malt sweetness along with the expected Jolly Pumpkin funk. 9%ABV
Lompoc Bourbon Barrel 8 Malty Nights This chocolate rye porter was brewed for Hanukkah in 2009 and then aged in bourbon barrels for nine months. 6.5%ABV
Monday, December 13, 2010
Ten months after opening Mt. Tabor Brewing, brewer and “beer pimp” Eric Surface is producing more beer than he planned. There has been such a demand for the flavors of Mt. Tabor Brewing that expansion is already on the horizon. There are restaurants and bars that have dedicated tap handles to the brewery, but for other establishments, they are just taking what they can get. The plan is to get more beer to the regular customers while expanding the current customer list.
Each beer has a unique story that goes with the names. For example, the Asylum Ave IPA is named after a nickname given to Hawthorne Blvd. The first time that Flathead IPA was brewed a screwdriver fell in the tank. Eric’s personal touch is not only in the name, but also in each beer. Asylum Ave IPA, currently the most requested Mt. Tabor Brewing beer, does stand out among Northwest IPA’s. That is a difficult thing to do considering the availability of highly hopped beers in Oregon.
At first thought, three stouts seem like too many, but if you design them well and each with a unique flavor, then the more the stouts the better. In order to get the Calf Stout, Little Bull Stout, and Siberian Bull Stout right now, it is a little tricky. Eric has to brew it on a one-barrel system, self-distribute and then as a customer, you have to get it during the right season and at the right place, whether it is one of the regular restaurants or a specialty beer festival. Therefore, with small batches of product and the increase in demand there is nowhere to go but out. Not up, but out to more people demanding Mt. Tabor Brewing beers.
Mt. Tabor Brewing is currently investigating an expansion with a larger brewing system and a tasting room. The quick success is making national attention with an article in American Brewer, a publication about “The Business of Beer.” Eric is hoping to, “right some of the wrongs about nanobreweries,” in the feature. I spoke with Eric about how he is doing now and how his is feeling about the current success of the brewery. As with many nanobrewers practicing in Oregon, Eric has a full time day job, besides being a full time brewer. Brian Maher, owner and “beer taster,” is in the same situation. Sometimes they have had to email recipes back and forth, while on the road for work. Even when a recipe is final, there has to be a brewing schedule. The brewing schedule works around day jobs and family activities, early morning and late night brewing is common. However, they knew that flexibility would be part of their new lifestyle when the brewery opened. With Eric brewing and Brian keeping up equipment, and their day jobs and kids activities, there is no better example of teamwork during the start–up of a brewery working on a one-barrel system.
Since Eric knew from the beginning that he would need to be flexible, it is not shocking the hours that he works. He is also realistic about how much product he can put on the market. Eric says to, “undercommit and overdeliver.” This way he is able to have control over what goes out to the public. He says, “I want to make good beer,” and ensuring that he does not overpromise on what he can deliver, he can stand behind the quality of every keg that leaves the brewery. Mt. Tabor Brewing is one of many breweries that have opened in the last year. When asking Eric about where he sees the Oregon craft beer scene in two years, he has a hopeful answer. “I see the European style. Every neighborhood will have a brewpub and there will be smaller breweries to serve the neighborhood.”
Look forward to more beer from Mt. Tabor Brewing. The reason that demand has increased in such a short period is the planning of each beer and the quality control measures that Eric uses with every batch. Because of Eric’s process and talent as a brewer, Mt. Tabor Brewing beers have amazing depth, but are meant to be enjoyed.
Friday, December 10, 2010
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
The National - High Violet
The Black Keys - Brothers
Wolf Parade - Expo '86
Beach House - Team Dream
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Roots - How I Got Over
Cloud Cult - Light Chasers
My top 5 concerts of the year:
LCD Soundsystem - The Roseland, Portland
Arcade Fire - Memorial Coliseum, Portland
Sufjan Stevens - The Schnitz, Portland
Local Natives - SXSW, Austin
Broken Bells - parking garage and Stubb's at SXSW, Austin
Most anticipated albums of 2011:
Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, Cold War Kids, Fleet Foxes, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Shins, Beastie Boys, Okkervil River (?)
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
By: Nicole K.
The Beer Mongers recently celebrated their first anniversary and they are doing better than ever as far as special events. Besides the ever changing bottle line up, more uncommon kegs are showing up. The Beer Mongers did a wonderful job during Oregon Craft Beer Month setting up Meet the Brewer events. Now there is an even stronger focus on providing beers that are not offered in Portland on a regular basis. On Saturday December 4, they created a unique event that coincided with the Civil War. The Un-Civil War pitted two beers each from Eugene and Corvallis in a battle of the beers. I am not sure if there was a clear winner, but the competition was great.
Eugene featured Ninkasi’s Oak-aged Total Domination and Oakshire’s Belly of the Beast Imperial Red. From Corvallis were Block 15's Nebula, Naked Oat Stout and a wit from Oregon Trail. Even though you may have had some of these beers in the past, you probably have not had all of them. Starting with the wit, because of the low gravity, it was surprisingly drinkable, with few flaws that generally occur in American Wit beers. A special thanks to The Beer Mongers team that not only drove to Corvallis to pick up the kegs for the event, but who are driving back there to return them. Regardless of how anyone judged the four beers, the concept was excellent and the execution perfect.
Cascade Barrel House has another beverage that defies the norm. The Glueh Kriek or Glowing Cherry is served hot with a clove-poked orange slice and a sugar cube. The first thing that you think of is apple cider, because of the clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Cherry cider would be a fair comparison. It is another must try from Ron Gansberg, who continues to push the envelope with unique brews, and it warms your body as you sip the hot liquid.
Belmont Station hosted the owner and brewer of Barley Brown’s out of Baker City, Oregon. The beer featured that evening was a horizontal tasting of their Sled Wreck winter ale, but perhaps more compelling was the number of fans who came out to enjoy the beer and meet brewer Sean Kelso. I met Sean during Oregon Craft Beer Month and had plenty of time to talk to him, as there were was not a massive showing of people. However, after the GABF medal and increased distribution to the Portland area, his fan base has dramatically increased. The Biercafe was packed before 5:00pm, which was the official start time of the event. Eager people were discussing the variations of the Sled Wreck with the original, original with Belgian yeast as well as 2009 versions with wood chips and whiskey wood chips and when Sean made his entrance, all eyes were on him. Congratulatory comments drenched Sean, while he smiled and was courteous to every patron. People were telling their tales of the trips they have made to Baker City and were thankful to have him in Portland. This is a true story of success and based on the turn out, Sean will be maintaining his celebrity status for a long time.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Promptly at 11 am the doors opened. After picking up my limit of the 2010 release and a few vintage bottles for a friend (I am lucky enough to still have several vintages in the cellar), I took a seat at the bar. The pub was offering a vertical draft tasting: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2010 on nitro.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Lucky Lab - Pavlov's Russian Imperial Stout: a thick, black complex stout with a twist from the Pinot barrels.
Oakshire - Very Ill Tempered Gnome: a great boozy winter warmer with some fruity/citrus hints
I heard good things but didn't get around to trying: Hopworks, Collaborator, and Jewbelation. And there are my earlier picks from the media preview.
Unfortunately, that was it from the regular lineup that I can really recommend. I had 4 other regular beers and they were not great. The Fort George North IV is all spruce tips. The Deschutes Streaking the Quad was acetone, acetone, acetone. The Firestone Walker Union Barrel Fermented Porter had good flavors but was thin bodied. Update: I forgot I tried a little bit of Lagunitas' Brown Mashuggana which was a cross between a drain cleaner and a digestif. Another to avoid.
The two special tappings I did get to taste were both great - Firestone Walker 14th Anniv. and 7 Brides Dark and Dangerous stout. The FW 14 is done. Not sure if the 7 Brides might be available again on Thursday.
I had some real issues with the festival after the first day. The scheduled special tappings didn't make it. They were wheeling kegs into the festival and into position while the festival was opening, which lead to certain kegs not having settled adequately. Once they secured other special tappings, they were not announced and even the twitter announcement was well after they were tapped. They didn't even have a sign to let you know where the FW 14 was on tap.
The whole issue surrounding keeping your wristband on all weekend was trumpeted over and over again at the festival, which to me just cheapened the experience. I have never before been asked to show my wristband at a beer festival. It happened to me twice yesterday. It made me think it was not about the OLCC but about the organizers wanting to get the outrageous $15 entry/mug fee out of each and every person that walks through that door. I think that is a poor decision. Fewer people on the fringe of craft beer will be willing to pay that exorbitant fee and thus will not walk through that door. Which means less tasters or full mugs will be sold and some people will not return as much as they normally would.
I will be interested to see how this new approach (I don't remember all this trouble in previous years) will work for the organizers. On a final note, if you are going to force people to keep a wristband on for a full 5 day festival, how about you make it less obnoxious, not force the staff to put it on as tight as a tourniquet, and maybe spring for a little nicer wristband? Now excuse me while I put on a Brewpublic wristband and long sleeve dress shirt to cover my HAF wristband at work today.