April 11, 2014

A pizza looks at 40

Before I relocated for a bit from Portland to Amsterdam, I was invited to do a collaboration beer at Old Town Brewing. All brewer Bolt Minister asked me was if I wanted to brew an IPYae with him since, as I love pointing out, my son's initials are I.P. and his last name is Yaeger. He has a soft spot for stuff like that since he and his wife, Amy, have a son not much younger than our IPYae. Brainstorming about what this IPA would look and taste like, I confess that the results could've been less than stellar since the recipe I suggested was conceptual, perhaps not practical. I wanted an OG of 1.0612 (IPYae's b-day is Jan. 6, 2012). I wanted the early hop additions to be Nugget since he is our little nugget and that's what I have growing in our yard. I wanted two middle additions to be Zeus to match the double-Z's in Izzy's name. I seem to recall we finished and dry-hopped with Cascade so that the last hops I tasted before we moved would be classic West Coast/Northwest flavor.

Anyway, the resulting beer was truly delicious. It had a light/medium body, earthy/floral first sip but strong grapefruit finish that lingered pleasantly. It's my understanding that the house IPA, now called Shanghai'd, was redesigned shortly after and that it bears some similarity to that pro-am batch. I mention all of this because A) I can't wait to return and try a pint of Shanghai'd. And I'm bummed that I'll be missing Old Town's pre-Pro lager called Nina that will be tapped to commemorate Old Town Pizza's 40th anniversary. (The brewery opened in 2012.) The anniversary party is this Tuesday. To commemorate the occasion from afar, I'm actually going to share two passages from my chapter on OTB in my upcoming guidebook, Oregon Breweries (even though something like this is simply not done.) Because the story of any brewery is really the story of the people behind it, here are the passages about the owner and the brewer.
Old Town Pizza owner Adam Milne didn’t have a hand in establishing the company back in 1974. Heck, he was just a kid then. In fact, the original location is the one in Old Town Portland but the owners had opened a few others—now all gone. Little Adam held his ninth birthday party at one in Eugene. Imagine what you’d do if you found out a beloved place from your childhood was about to shut down. If you were in a position to save that ice cream parlor or bowling alley, you’d salvage it, which is what Milne did in 2003.
After that paragraph, I add ominously, "He wasn't alone," but let's save something for those who buy the book. Fast-forwarding, I write about brewmaster Bolt Minister. And maybe I could mention here that I'm up for some focus-grouping. Do y'all like the music break in the middle? Lemme know if that stays or should end up on the digital editing-room floor.
Bolt (Bolton is a family name) says his philosophy is, “Like what you drink, drink what you like.” He’s not one for crazy beers because drinking beer is something you should “enjoy with your friends, your community, your bar mates. It shouldn’t be a self-indulgent activity where you take yourself too seriously.” The philosophy carries over to all facets; he’s a fan of Classic Country a la George Jones, not steak-less sizzling New Country. (He put on a George Jones Tribute beerfest as a wake for “The Possum” and we’ll see if I’m successful in getting him to host a Tom Jones Living Tribute beerfest for “The Voice.”) Bolt’s previous brewing experience at a few other Northwest breweries came at pubs that likewise emphasize community and casual dining. I agree with him in that a pizzeria is not the kind of place you come with your family or buddies only to ignore them while paying exclusive attention to what’s in your glass. “When you geek out you miss out,” he added.
So I raise my glass from afar and wish old Old Town Pizza and new Old Town Brewing continued success over the next 40 years.

April 1, 2014

BridgePort launches HOP CZARINA WIPA aimed at women

I don't generally repost press releases from breweries, but sometimes they say what I'd otherwise shy away from. Almost a year ago, I tongue-in-cheekily blogged about the death of IPAs because of how fractured the marketing had become. Numerous more "series" of hop-forward beers from larger craft breweries have not made me drink my words. Yet...little did I foresee where future marketing efforts would lead:

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Miley Papazian, Q/West
503.401.8888 / miley@q-west.com


Brand Celebrates Intensely Hoppy “Double-you” IPA and Showcases Girlish Hop Figures

PORTLAND, Ore.—01 April, 2014 – BridgePort Brewing Company, Oregon’s oldest craft brewery, has added a new Hop Czar IPA Series to its lineup of handcrafted brews. The original Hop Czar Imperial IPA, first released in 2008 as a limited edition brew, was an adventurous and boldly hop-centric brew for BridgePort. But as the enthusiasm of hop-happy beer drinkers grew, it quickly proved to be much more than a niche ale among men and women but mostly men. Hop Czar soon became the brewery’s flagship beer. Inspired by the original Hop Czar’s arousing phalanx of experimentation, the Hop Czar IPA series will feature three hop-forward craft beers, each brewed in Portland and released sequentially throughout the year.

“The original Hop Czar was born out of virile experimentation, pushing limits of hoppy flavor and aroma,” said Jess Edgerton, BridgePort’s brewmaster’s wife. “With the new Hop Czar IPA Series, our brewers have the chance to continue experimenting with the Willamette Valley’s incredible hop varietals to engender three new and gender-specific IPAs this year.”

The second offering in the series after the Citra Guy-Hopped IPA that showcased the intense musk and flavor of the Citra hop varietal is the Hop Czarina Women’s IPA, a curvaceous WIPA. This new brew adds a decidedly feminine twist to a masculine original, combining the intricacy and intimacy of seductive malts with a buxom dose of Sparkly Crystal, Xena, Warrior Princess, and Lady Liberty hops from Paradise Island. Belgian candi sugar and spice were added in the whirlpool.

Although Brewmaster Edgerton and his team of brewers are creating three adventurously hoppy IPAs in the spirit of the Hop Czar Imperial IPA, Jess Edgerton continued: “This Women’s IPA is the only one makes beer more approachable for the ladies. The candi sugar and spice lends a nice, sweet balance. Overall, it’s a little bit smoother, less rugged, a little more approachable.” Jess added, “Today’s beers are designed for a dudelier dem-bro-graphic that intimidates gals away from craft beer.” Evidence lies in actual beers made with bull testicles, cod pieces, and sausage fests. “Other beers are designed to go with male-centric activities like social engagements with friends, attending sporting matches, and life-affirming celebrations. This WIPA pairs perfectly with cute shoes, and totally cute tops.”

About Hop Czarina Double-you IPA
IBUs: 36-24-36
ABV: 8.008135%
SRM: 2 (platinum blonde)

Ingredients: The Hop Czarina Double-you IPA contains Sparkly Crystal, Xena, Warrior Princess, and Lady Liberty hops for a dainty citric taste and seductive malts and velvety oats for a more sweetly, if top-heavy, flavor.

Description: With lower alcohol content designed to reflect women’s shorter statures and oodles more sweetness than the original, Hop Czarina Double-you IPA is a safe and approachable ale, featuring a range of complex ideas and qualities marketers never imagined in female customers.

To taste this release in the Hop Czar IPA Series, visit BridgePort Brewery, located at 1313 N.W. Marshall Street in Portland, Oregon or look for it wherever BridgePort beers are sold.

About BridgePort Brewing Company Celebrating 30 years in 2014, Oregon’s oldest craft brewery continues to evolve from a microbrewery to a regional leader committed to producing high quality craft ales. Lead by Brewmaster Jeff Edgerton, the team of BridgePort brewers prides itself on using hops from an hour away and clear glacial water from Mount Hood. The BridgePort family of ales includes IPA, the Hop Czar IPA Series, and Kingpin as well as a forthcoming Queenpin, an Empirical Ruby Ale. BridgePort Brewery is located at 1313 N.W. Marshall St. For more information, call 503-241-7179 or visit www.bridgeportbrew.com.

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March 3, 2014

Beer Birthday: Jay Brooks

Today is the 55th birthday of beer writer Jay Brooks. His guidebook, California Breweries - North (Stackpole Books), came out last year (even though we started our respective tomes around the same time.) Jay is a veteran beer writer (Celebrator Beer News, All About Beer, BeerAdvocate, etcetera etcetera) whose column Brooks on Beer appears in the San Jose Mercury News. He has contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer as well as Playboy Magazine.  He is the co-founder of SF Beer Week (and it breaks my heart missing it even if it was because I live in a foreign country now). To anyone who follows the brewing industry, none of this is news. But for years, a convivial component of his Brookston Beer Blog has been celebrating brewers and those in the beer community on their birthdays. So please...join me in wishing Jay a very happy birthday.
Brewmaster Craig Cauwels, yours truly, the Beer Chef Bruce Patton, the birthday boy

Beer bloggers Jay Hinman, Chris Cohen, Steve Shapiro, Jay Brooks, moi, Bryan Kolesar
Outdoor Speakeasy: Me, Brian Lenzo, Jay Brooks (whose blog I copied this from), and Meg Gill

October 21, 2013

Farewell Beervana, Hello Biervana

This is my last week as a Portland resident. For just a couple of years, give or take. I basically love everything about living in Portland, not the least of which is the dynamic beer culture. And what I've discovered firsthand is that it isn't relegated to just the city nicknamed Beervana but the entire Beaver State, given that in the last year I've visited literally every single brewery big and small near and far for my forthcoming guidebook, Oregon Breweries (Stackpole, 2014).
John Harris had a lot to juggle to open Ecliptic on time. Photo: B Yaeger
Having said that, there are a few I've missed. Not missed so much as not been able to return to every corner of the state since production breweries, nanobreweries, and brewpubs are opening at a gut-busting rate. Forty this year so far, and it's only mid-October. Yesterday I attended the soft opening of Ecliptic Brewing from one of the most vaunted veterans in Oregon brewing, John Harris (Starting with McMenamins in 1985, then launching Deschutes in 1988, and brewed at Full Sail for the last 20 years.) Given that some of Oregon's best-known brands--Hammerhead Pale, Mirror Pond Pale, Black Butte Porter, Top Sail Imperial Porter--have his signature all over them I can't wait to see what he'll concoct at his brand new brewpub. Whether or not his Procyon Pale and Arcturus IPA, the first two beers from Ecliptic, enter the Oregon canon of ales is anybody's guess, but unlike those halcyon days, the canon is also open to anybody (and seemingly everybody).

Which brings me to Biervana. My family leaves Friday for Amsterdam, where of course The Netherlands borders two of the greatest beer cultures the world has ever produced: Germany and Belgium, Reinheitsgebot and anti-Reinheitsgebot, respectively. I cannot wait to start exploring regions where centuries-old brewing heritage is starting to meet 21st century innovation. I'm not huge in Kölsch, but I still can't wait to experience stange after stange of them in Cologne. Similarly, I've become a Lambic lover, and will be in celestial sour celebration in Brussels.
IPYae's favorite part of visiting breweries! You think he hits a lot stateside, wait 'til
"Irresponsible" pics of him start posting across Europe. Photo: B Yaeger
But that will have to wait until I finish the aforementioned guidebook. It's gonna be weird, bittersweet, writing about Oregon beers and breweries from overseas. Though doing such will help alleviate one of my greatest challenges, which is including chapters on every single brewery in Oregon. The first of my Achilles heels was Tandem Brewing out in Ontario, Idaho, er, Oregon. It's the dangling participle of Oregon's state line since it's the only town on Mountain time, not Pacific. And even though I schlepped out there for Beer Valley Brewing, it's now home to a 10-gallon (yes, ten Gallon, not barrel) brewery tucked inside a juice bar crammed inside a coffee shop. And like I said, there are a small handful of other Tandems on my list now.

Moreover, while it was a treat to visit Ecliptic that opened in Portland right before I blow this bacon-wrapped, barrel-aged popsicle stand, I'll miss the grand openings of Portland's next newest breweries. In Sellwood there will be Arbella Brewing, delayed due to an auto accident involving one of the founders. Goose Hollow is possibly going to be receiving Culmination Brewing from Tomas Sluiter who recently left Old Market Pub to launch this high-tech nano pub. A pair of nonprofit breweries are coming for altruistic beer lovers: Ex Novo (I met the founder, Joel, at a crawfish boil and he happened to mention that soon his homebrew wasn't going to be just homemade beer) and of course the brewing arm of the Oregon Public House. Speaking of ten-gallon breweries, Late Addition Brewing is looking forward to outgrowing theirs and up to a two-barreler, meaning six-times the batch sizes. But there are so many more, too: Moonshrimp from the guy who sees the success Harvester and its brand new pub expansion are having in the world of gluten-free beers, Royale from the guys behind Green Bottling, the Crooked Bottle from the team behind the Homebrew Exchange, and in the same vein, the homebrew shop/taproom Uptown Market on the Portland/Beaverton border is scratching and clawing to get their brewery going. And let's not forget our friends from Ohio, Fat Head's, who are headscratchingly leapfrogging over the Midwest and Rockies to open a pub in "a pretty hip area" we call the Pearl.

And those are just the ones around Portland from the list of FIFTY new breweries-in-planning...that I happen to know of. Bifrost in Corvallis. Awesome Ales in Silverton (well, contracting out of there for starters, but aiming for Portland). From Bend to North Bend (which is actually Coos Bay on the coast), and from Roseburg to Rhododendron (take that, Bunsenbrewers in Sandy!), the beer culture of Oregon knows no bounds. And that means I'll be extremely busy visiting them all once we're back in late 2015 for Oregon Breweries, 2nd Ed.
Since we can't take liquids with us and besides, bringing beer to Amsterdam is like
bringing coals to Newcastle (or, y'know, Heineken)
Until then, I'll miss all the IPAs and fresh hops and NW Sour ales and braggots and organic Brett'ed cider hybrid ales that will be tapped around here in the near future, but they're not going away so long as y'all promise to not drink it all before our return. And considering Portland already enjoys the most breweries, highest consumption of craft beer per capita, and other impressive stats, may just happen. But I'm keeping my frites dipped in mayo crossed, just in case.

July 8, 2013

The Session #77: What's the Big Deal with IPA?

Ballast Point Sculpin. Bell’s Two Hearted. Weyerbacher Double Simcoe. Russian River Pliny the Elder...Russian River Blind Pig.

Just typing those words has Pavlovially created a shaker glass’s worth of saliva thinking about all that delectable, hoppy elixir. The reason is so simple. I, like most beer lovers who predominantly patron the smallest 99.8% of the brewing industry when and where I buy beer, enjoy hop-forward beers in much the same way oenophiles take pleasure in fruit-forward (grapey) wines. Hops are beer’s domain. Plenty of other drinks contain malt or have flavors nuanced by yeast, but only beer genuflects at the altar of hops. So it’s quite natural that the hoppiest of the hoppy—IPAs and Double or Imperial IPAs—get the shiniest pedestal.

But Justin Mann over at Justin’s Brew Review, who is a confessed IPA drinker yet has noticed a splintering in the craft beer world by some like Adrienne So who deem today’s craft beers “just way too hoppy,” asks for the July installment of The Session and in his best Jerry Seinfeld blog-voice, What’s the big deal with IPAs?

It’s a subject I’ve spent time thinking, discussing, and writing about, most recently over at The New School wherein I facetiously proclaim IPA is Dead.

Obviously, it’s anything but. In fact, here in hop heaven Oregon, the IPA category accounts for 25.2% of the Oregon beer market. More than 1 out of every 4 beers bought and drank in the Beaver State—total, not just among craft beers—is an India Pale Ale. Nationally, at the GABF, American IPA has been the most-entered category for a dozen years. No. 2? Imperial IPA. 4th? American-style Strong Pale Ale, which is scarcely different that IPA. And rounding out the top 5 is American-style Pale Ale, which, let’s admit it, is still more IPAesque than a British IPA.

Clearly, the IPA category is the behemoth of the craft beer industry, and is only picking up speed. Just as the three rules of real estate are location, location, location, it’s fair to say the three rules of craft beer are IPA, IPA, and IPA. For the sake of variety, maybe you could say IPA, Double IPA, and Imperial IPA. See, drinkers are hop-silly for IPA and as such, brewers make more and more of them. Maybe it’s due to the blessings of living in Beervana, but it’s not uncommon to enter a brewpub that has multiple iterations on tap, or walk into a beer bar and find out that it’s IPA tap takeover week where well over a dozen handles are devoted to IPAs. For serious.

To hop breeders, this is music to their beers. Despite dozens of existing magnificent flowers on the market ranging from classics such as Goldings, Saaz, and Cascade along with fresh new aromatic faces including Citra, Mosaic, and perhaps my favorite Simcoe, dozens if not hundreds more will become available and the result will be that hop-forward beers like IPAs will remain fresh. God bless all the single-hoppped IPAs that allow brewers to showcase the breeders' work and give consumers the chance to drink something educational and, ideally, tasty.

On the flip side, I wonder if the oft-hybridized style won’t sound its own death knell if too many producers obfuscate what IPA even means. I’m sure the BIPA (Bacon IPA) is in someone’s fermenter as we speak. But between that other BIPA (Black IPA) and White IPA and Smoked IPA and Coffee IPA and Apricot IPA and...it’s safe to say India Pale Ales can get out of hand.

But that’s to be determined in the future. In the now, IPA dominates the better beer biosphere. Every style says something different, be it stouts, saisons, or sour ales. (Stouts say “chocolate or coffee in beer is awesome.” Saisons say “sophistication.” Sours say “extreme in the way IPAs were years ago.”) And then there’s Pilsners, which say “easy-drinking refreshment.” Of course, Pilsner is also rapidly becoming the anti-IPA and I think its current surge in popularity (among craft brewers, not among global industrial breweries, mind you) is due both to newcomers to the craft beer table as well as wizened IPA drinkers who are ready to mellow out on over-hopped beers. But for now, and likely forever, IPAs say “hops! Because a world full of hopheads who love the citrusy, piney, fruity, earthy, resinous, and herbaceous flavors and aromas that are made possible through Humulus lupulus can’t be wrong.”

June 3, 2013

Billberries and Blauw van der Jon Berry

Two and a half years ago, I'd started to blog about the last of our (Half Pint's and mine) beer dinners. They were always great fun. Ostensibly focusing on the pairing of beer and food to fit some goofy theme, but as with all dinner parties, really just about enjoying great company for a sit-down meal. I'd started to blog about it as I did all or most of them, but somehow only got so far as three paragraphs. So I'll start with those and then wrap it up somehow, since I'm never punctual, but I always finish writing my stories:

"Until just a few weeks ago, I was in possession of not one, not two, but three bottles of Cantillon Blåbær. (Apparently, a blåbær isn't a blueberry after all but a billberry.) It's a beer that uber beer geeks go bonkers for except that most of them haven't had it--it's that rare. As part of a story I did on beer trading where the mag assigned me to track down 3 near-impossible to obtain beers and then write about the experience, I obtained bottles of the 2005, '07 and '09 vintages from a "ticker" in Copenhagen who I sent 2 large boxes of beers he's never had from small American markets. Who knew driving through Arkansas for the first time would pay off?

So, before we moved out of San Francisco, I had a few friends over to open 'em all side by side and suggested that they should each bring a dish made with blueberries. The vegetarians brought blueberry lasagna! Two other chefs brought duck confit w/ 2 different blueberry sauces and another couple prepared grilled chicken (and salmon) with blueberry-jalapeno sauce. I made a blueberry-lemon buckle. I've never had buckle before.

Oh man was it awesome. The beers (including other blueberry beers; there was one that Half Pint and our friend Gail made over a year ago that Gail later added blueberries and wild yeast to it...and it was great). The food. The friends. Good times."

Not sure why I never hit publish. Probably because I intended to write up the beers themselves! So I'll cheat now and past Tiila's review from her now-defunct blog (she did get pregnant and just gave birth to a daughter, Aurelia--congrats Tiila & Dave!!--so that's perfectly acceptable). In her words:

The 2005 Cantillon Blåbær poured a clear, golden orange amber. It looked like beautiful sparkling resin. It smelled like slightly sweet grapes, touch of berry, touch of cereal and horseblanket funky sour. It tasted incredibly sour, pucker lemon, funky-cole-madina, lots of oak with a touch, and I mean a touch of berry. It was good. I was aching for a bit more fruit; but don’t get me wrong, Cantillon has an amazing capacity to create incredible back-of-your-throat sour puckers, which a lot of people love and crave. And it was good; I just wanted a bit more complexity and fruit flavor like in some of their other beers like their Lou Pepe Kriek.
The 2007 Cantillon Blåbær Batch II poured the most beautiful color I have ever seen in a beer. I wanted to just stare at it all night long. It was this incredibly sparkling, brilliant ruby red with a touch of aubergine. Absolutely gorgeous. It smelled like a bucket of tart blueberries. It tasted like tart cranberries, tart blueberries, oak and back of your throat pucker sour. This had the complexity I was looking for. The beer starts tart to sour and then metamorphose into ripe and tart blueberries with the oak rounding out the transition. Beautiful. Elegant.
The 2009 Cantillon Blåbær was the weakest link of the evening. It poured a cloudy, murky mahogany. It smelled like mulled cider mixed with berry pie. It tasted a little apple cider-y, with hint of cinnamon, sour green apple and cranberry. Was there a touch of bandaid as well? Hopefully, this was just an off bottle. It was not much to my liking, but I didn’t want to pour out this rare beer. It actually helped when it was paired with the blueberry buckle. The spices in the beer helped to bring out the crumb topping in the buckle.
How can one top a Blåbær vertical? Well, you probably can’t but next we had Dark Horse Brewing Company Tres Blueberry Stout. This beer poured a deep, dark chocolate. It smelled like blueberry pie and roasted malt. It tasted like sweet blueberries, melted dark chocolate and roasted malt. Blueberry maple syrup malt- tasty.
As a post script, right after moving to Portland, the notorious House of Sour, Cascade Barrel House, released a blueberry beer that seemingly took a stab at our friend Blåbær that they called Blauw Van Der Jon Berry. Fruitier, less complex, but overall amazing and I have a few vintages of Cascade Blueberry now that another blueberry-themed dinner might not be far off.

May 14, 2013

Portraits of dead soldiers left in yard #2: Blackberry Sparks

On the heels of introducing this new series of snapshots of discarded malt beverage vessels from my yard, here's a rather more expected discovery. See, ever since moving into a house on a corner across from a Fred Meyer, beer bottles and cans of every style and price point appear out front. Such is the inspiration behind this new series.

Here we have something a bit more expected, Sparks brand malternative, with a twist. A twist of blackberry that is. It seems the intoxicatee minds not the ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, and since this souse can't obtain 4Loko, he or she but most likely he fell back onto a pint-sized can of Sparks Blackberry brewed by Steel Brewing Co., a subsidiary of MillerCoors. Classy, Adolph Coors and Frederick Miller.