March 31, 2012

Neglected Portland Breweries: Broadway Grill & Brewery

Portland has some 40 breweries and counting. Many are world-class, even out-of-this-world. Many ain't.

Sometimes I beat myself up for not having been to every single brewery in town (or in the outskirts). I intend to visit them all, but if we're being honest, the ones I haven't checked out yet are the ones that generally have no Beer Geek Brownie Points. So here's Pt. IV in an ongoing series: Neglected Portland Breweries.
You're easily forgiven for driving down NE Broadway by the Lloyd Center and not realizing that the Broadway Grill & Brewery is a brewpub. For two reasons: 1) There are neon signs for Widmer and Pabst in the window but none for their own beer. 2) It isn't technically a brewpub; it's the sister pub to The Old Market Pub & Brewery near Multnomah Village deep in SW PDX, which is where the beers are brewed. Why the different name? Beats me. Why is their URL instead of, oh, say, Again, Michael Jackson, beat it.
Onto the thing that truly does matter: the beer (all organic, I might add). Yeah, it's OK. Well, it varies, wildly. So let's start with their flagship, Mr. Toad's Wild Red Ale. Neither toady nor wild, it's a malt bomb that remains drinkable if you're actually in the mood for a Brown ale. Maybe that's the point, instead of taking you to Redsville, the road veers off course to Browntown? I had a few samples (there were at least a dozen house beers!!) including Great White Wheat (good thing the folks at Lost Coast Brewing aren't litigious) which I found underspiced, Old Granny Smith which was not unlike the acetaldehyde I found in the last Coors Light I ever had, meaning it is certainly apply, but not quite Unibroue Ephemere, but cider fans should still dig it. I also couldn't resist and had a sip of the Hot Tamale. I actually like some hot, chile beers. But this one, that they're upfront about it being spicy, is en fuego. Por que?

So what beer did I like? Well, the sample of Bombay IPA was decent in that it wore a nice floral dress on its medium bodied figure. But the Hop On, described simply as "splendid," truly is. Great body, ravenously perfumed with hops, and tasty enough it warrants more than a one-night-stand.

Whoa, what's with the sexy talk? I don't know where that came from, and besides, it's inappropriate given how family-friendly this place is. How do I know? The third neon in the windows reads Families Welcome All Hours near a hanging sign that says Family Dining. Indeed, there's a good li'l kids menu our li'l I.P.Yae will feast from in years to come. But the kicker is that it's mostly a generic sports bar inside yet with a side-room solely inhabited by an unused billiard table and plenty of video lottery machines playing host to elderly women like the ones I saw at the video poker machines at a Denny's in Vegas. But the flipside is, there are Diaper Decks in the bathrooms.
Finally, on the pubgrub side of this brewpub, they cast a wide swath with this multi-paged net menu. There are burgers, pizzas, sandos, finger foods, and the like. Half Pint got some sorta grilled chicken Chinese salad. Scanning their lunch special menu, I got the "3-Way Chili," which the classic Cincinnati specialty. There are variations and riffs, but it's usually 1: chili, 2: spaghetti, 3: cheese. You can have 7-way and add beans, tomatoes, onions, etc. Or just as often, 3-way subs pasta with a hot dog. Excuse me, with a Coney, as is the case at Broadway. The lunch special is $5.95 and included a soft drink (Half Pint wanted some lemonade, but it was far too sweet for her to drink). So imagine my surprise when my plate arrives and it's three of the most massively-topped chili-cheese dogs. I could barely get through two. Luckily, chili's just as good the next day.

March 26, 2012

Widmer Bros.'s Gluten-free Omission Beer:

Once again, burned by the embargo. So, whatevs, here's the boring ol' press release from Craft Brewers Alliance, a week ahead of their "preview" event. I won't bother writing any thing myself.

Coming Soon to Oregon, Drinking is Believing

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 26, 2012 This spring, Craft Brew Alliance will launch Omission Beer, the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great-tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten-free. Omission beers are brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., which uses a proprietary brewing process to reduce the gluten levels to well below the widely accepted international gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million (ppm) for food and beverages. (The international gluten-free standard was set forth by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.) Omission Beer is expected to release the first beers in its portfolio, which will be available only in Oregon, on April 2.

Developing great-tasting, authentic craft beers that happen to be gluten-free was a personal mission for our brewmaster and me, and it’s a mission that our team really got behind. The launch of Omission Beer is a game changer for celiacs and the craft beer community,” said Terry Michaelson, CEO of Craft Brew Alliance. “As a 12-year celiac and longtime craft beer enthusiast, I’m thrilled to introduce two delicious craft beers that can be enjoyed equally by those who are affected by gluten sensitivities and those who are not.”

Unlike many other gluten-free beers currently available, Omission beers are not brewed with sorghum, rice, tapioca, buckwheat or quinoa; they are brewed using traditional beer ingredients: malted barley, hops, water and yeast.

Omission Beer has been a work in progress for the last six years,” said Joe Casey, brewmaster at Widmer Brothers Brewing. “My wife was diagnosed as a celiac in 2006, and since then, we’ve made it our mission to brew a great-tasting craft beer using traditional beer ingredients that everyone of legal drinking age could enjoy. After years of hard work, mission accomplished.”

Gluten-Free Guarantee, Every Batch Tested:
Each batch of Omission Beer is tested by an independent lab to ensure that all Omission beers contain well below 20 ppm of gluten. Gluten levels in Omission beers are tested using the R5 competitive ELISA test. Beer will not be released to consumers until test results are received and after an extended quality assurance hold.

About Omission Beer:
Omission Beer is a new brand of gluten-free craft beers, available only in Oregon. Brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great-tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten-free. Each batch of Omission Beer is tested using the R5 competitive ELISA test to ensure that it contains gluten levels that are well below the international standard for gluten-free of 20 ppm. Drinking is believing.

About Craft Brew Alliance:
Craft Brew Alliance was formed with the merger of leading Pacific Northwest craft brewers Widmer Brothers Brewing and Redhook Ale Brewery in 2008. With an eye toward preserving and growing one-of-a-kind craft beers and brands, CBA was joined by Kona Brewing Company in 2010.

March 25, 2012

Beer scoops

A little over two years ago, right before I started doing the beer writer thing full time, I blogged about my first visit to Creekside Brewing in San Luis Obispo. It was a brewpub I'd been waiting to open for months, having regularly driven down Hwy 101 through Central California and happened to discover while pulling off the highway for a bite to eat. So when Half Pint & I were visiting friends nearby, we popped in for a bite and pint during its grand opening. I used to be better about writing up each new brewpub I hit; I blogged about visiting Creekside. As an aside to my thoughts on the beer and the food, I casually mentioned that the brewing system was behind NSA-mandated terrorist-proof glass, which, when you think about it, is ridiculous.

Jay Brooks evidently agreed and wrote about it on his infinitely more popular blog. So imagine my amusement when, a month later, Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell also covered it and credited me for being the "first (to) report" on it. I didn't think I "reported" on it. I thought I merely blogged it, shared my experience and observation. I've never considered myself a reporter. I never went to journalism school. But that's just semantics, so I guess I am. I did get a master's in writing if you can believe that. My thesis was on beer and the personal stories within the industry.

Anyway, the Creekside incident was the first time I recall breaking a beer story and the few other times I've done it since were mostly incidental. Being the first with a scoop in this day and age is highly unlikely. (You have to be the only one in the right place at the right time with the right person and then tweet like the wind.) Equally so in the beer world, what with the 1,000 or so beer blogs out there. Even just right here in Portland, OR, there are well over a dozen.

I love including myself in the community. I suppose for some there's an element of competitiveness in breaking a piece of news, but that's kinda silly given the poor odds. Personally, I don't distinguish between beer "writers" and "bloggers." There are huge benefits to both. One thing we all share is a love of beer and the industry. One of the things we love writing about are all the collaboration beers. Far be it for us to not bring that same sense of fraternity into the reporting side as we respect on the actual creation side.

All of this is to say, Adam Nason, whose BeerPulse is the most comprehensive site for disseminating brewery news from coast to coast, chimed in on the issue of breaking beer news and whether or not it's any particular writer/publisher's duty to rapidly be the first to report on an item or honor the request of a brewing concern to withhold it until given the thumb's-up. His post, it appears, was at least partially inspired a tweet of my own mentioning (OK, yes, "humblebragging" in good fun, self-aware that I'm not a traditional source for you-heard-it-here-first) that I'd learned the name of a brewery in Bend, OR heretofore known as Yet to Be Named Brewery. The name, as I'd hinted at by tweeting it was "central to their mission," is Crux. Hardly earth-shattering stuff, but inquiring beer minds wanted to know.

As Nason pointed out, I'd foolishly accepted the "embargo" on unveiling the name until I had the go-'head. Believing my column in Willy Week's Food & Drink blog would break the news later this week, Crux took it upon themselves to do so, and their release was quickly picked up by some of my friends in the beer writing realm. C'est la vie.

I agree with 99% of Nason's post about reporting--beer related or otherwise. He concludes by saying:
Your job, as a journalist, is to disseminate information to your audience. It is perfectly acceptable to be a little selfish, look out for your own interests and do everything it takes to report information first (and accurately).
What you report and whether you are first matters. A lot.
What you know and whether you know first matters very little.
On The Daily Show recently, Jon Stewart mocked CNN for humblebragging that they'd "bring you the results from (the contests in MS & AL) before anyone else," when in actuality their reporting coach turned into a giant pumpkin it arrived so late. Such a whole lot of fuss just to be first. I still think credibility matters most, but beyond that, do we turn to news sources to scoop other outlets by a matter of seconds or minutes, or do we read or tune in to sources that are merely local or in other ways germane to us? If I'm wrong in that belief, maybe that's why I'm really not a reporter.

Then again, stay tuned for a story "TK" that, according to the source who personally promised me the exclusive first-look at something that he guaranteed to be a "game changer" in the beer world...;-) Now I can't wait to find out who'll post the news before me.

March 24, 2012

Yet to be named named Crux

The beauty thing about blogs is that it allows bloggers to break news instantaneously. Reflexively, the bad thing about writing for someone else's print or online publication is that you have to wait for them to publish it. Hence, I've been scooped by my friends like Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess, and Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site, in regards to the official name of Larry Sidor's new brewery, crux Fermentation Project. The kicker is that while I didn't get the press release they evidently sent out, I was told I was the first to hear the new name and see the new logo by one of Sidor's partners, Dave Wilson, while at the new brewery. (I had been to the site--a former Aamco station--the day before but returned to retrieve a baby blanket I'd left there when taking pictures of my baby Izzy with the 3 owners, also including Paul Evers.
Dave asked me not to tell anyone yet, but that I could include it in my Mar 30 post for Willy Week. OK, so I kept my word and didn't break the story--fine--but I DID snap the first and only photo of, L-R above: Wilson, Sidor (former brewmaster at Deschutes), and Evers. Take that. Hence, this is now going on my blog instead of WWeek this week, where I hope to vaguely-somewhat break another OR brewery story. Anyway, here's what I'd written about cruz Fermentation Project based on my visit this past week:

...We’re looking at a yet to be named brewery going by the moniker Yet to Be Named and operating as 856 Brewing Co., LLC (see Dave's hat, left), also from a Deschutes alum. This time its brewmaster Larry Sidor, and one of his two partners—like a volcano overstuffed with magma or Diet Coke that’s had Mentos introduced—couldn’t contain the pressure to keep the official name a secret and spilled the secret name: crux Fermentation Project. Not Crux Brewing Co, mind you.

Sidor, Dave Wilson and Paul Evers provided a tour of the 10-hectolitre (8-point-something barrels; it’s really high time America goes metric) brewery still under construction but with a target opening date of “mid June.” Located at the very center of Bend near Arizona Ave and Hwy 97 (at the crux of town you could say), the pub will open with 10 taps—only three of which will be house beers (and even when they reach their goal of 20 taps, a variety of guest beers will always be available). As for those house beers, Sidor didn’t disclose exactly what they’ll be, but did proclaim his love of variety and experimentation. They will eschew rigid styles, but will approximate farmhouse saisons that espouse open fermentation, Northwest hoppy ales, and a cornucopia of barrel aged projects. Indoor seating will be limited (given that the brewpub is housed in a former Aamco station) but the outdoor area is spacious enough for the planned Bocce court. Fear not if you just can’t make it down to Bend, offerings will make their way to Portland via corked-and-caged 375-mL, 500-mL, and 750-mL bottles (again, very metricsexual). As for the name which succinctly captures the crucial core of what they believe a brewery should be about, crux also gets to what their offerings are all about: Primarily using the four basics of brewing (malt, hops, yeast, water), as well as exploring their possible directions (um, I believe they were gravity, color, flavor, and maybe IBUs). As for "Fermentation Project" over "Brewing Company," the partners want it to be an ongoing experiment creating unique art, more than a factory producing a never-changing unit.

Can't wait to check 'em out later this summer. And another thing not contained in the official release but a topic of conversation I particularly enjoyed and also gets to the heart of what this project is all about, all three of the owners are devoted family men. All would love to see their kids grow up in the brewery, learn the ropes, develop a passion for the business, and lead it into a second generation company (far, far down the road). For Izzy's part, I vowed to return with him to crux on his 21st b-day and buy him his "first" beer.

March 10, 2012

Neglected Portland Breweries: Max's Fanno Creek

Portland has some 40 breweries and counting. Many are world-class, even out-of-this-world. Many ain't.

Sometimes I beat myself up for not having been to every single brewery in town (or in the outskirts). I'd like to visit them all. I intend to. But I guess if I'm being honest, the ones I haven't checked out yet are the ones that simply have no Beer Geek Brownie Points. So here's Pt. III of an ongoing series: Neglected Portland (area) breweries.

Half Pint, I.P.Yae, Dunkel and I found ourselves running errands around Tigard (it happens), so I seized the opportunity to check out a brewpub no one from Portland really makes the effort to head out there for. Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub basically is a big ol' family-style pizzeria/sports bar, but with a shiny brewhouse in the front and visible through windows to the right of the entrance. Will you ever see Max there brewing or gladhanding regulars? Evidently not. But while there's no Max, there is a Fanno Creek, which runs to the left of the pub as you're facing it.

Having arrived on a rainy, winter night, the plentiful picnic tables out front weren't asappealing as they'd be on a long, warm, summer eve. Promptly after being seated in the back, our server kindly brought the following flight of six beers (out of nine):
  • IPA: Seems like a British IPA down to the use of English hops. Dry and grassy but I wanted some citrus.
  • Pagan Pale: Medium-bodied, balanced, I enjoyed more than the IPA.
  • Dry-hopped Red: Savory and makes me think I could actually like a Red. Great companion to pub grub.
  • Reverend's Daughter Belgian: Fantastic spice. Wouldn't fool anyone, but would appeal to fans of Orval and De Ranke XX Bitter.
  • Vanilla Porter: Sweet, creamy, would be good for a float.
  • Raspberry Stout: Umm... syrupy.

To eat, we shared a pizza and a salad. It was just OK. But now that we have a kid, if we lived in the area, I'm sure it'd be in our regular rotation. Between the pale, the red, and the Belgian pale--and I've reason to suspect at least two of the other three plus which I know include an imperial IPA, plus constant seasonals--I could be quite happy supporting my local brewery.

On our way out, I noticed the selection of T-shirts. They were basic almost to the point of boring, but good colors and only $3. I shoulda bought one. That's basically a free brewery shirt minus three bucks. Why don't more breweries realize how brilliant it is to sell swag on the cheap since you're essentially a walking billboard for them? In lieu of that, I'll blog about them.