Coming soon: Slaughter County Brewing, Alaska trip, The Hub Grand Opening in Gig Harbor, and seasonal beers now available! Stay tuned!!! September 22, 2013
So Cal beer for the PNW shores August 5, 2013
My last couple of trips back home to So. Cal did not, unfortunately, include a visit to San Diego. There are many a great breweries in San Diego and the county has quite the reputation for producing some of America’s finest craft beers. About a month or two ago the very generous owner of Oceanside Ale Works, Mark Purciel, sent me a special package filled with “liquid sunshine.”
Elevation 83 Extreme Pale Ale (8.3% ABV) is a nicely hopped, well-balanced pale ale. Medium to full-bodied, this extreme pale ale is no lie! The aroma is hoppy yet has a touch of hard alcohol. Syrupy mouth feel. Toasty, very hop forward, and a bit of a whiskey finish. The overall taste reminds me of a crisp, autumn day. It would be a perfect ale for those cool summer nights on a Southern California beach, or a great fireside beer in the PNW. I really like this beer.
Thanks again to Mark and the great folks at the brewery! I know one thing: I need to get my butt down to Oceanside!
Beer 101 – IPApril, the conclusion May 8, 2013
As IPApril came to a close I have to admit, I was a bit sad. IPA has long been my nemesis beer but after spending a month focusing on that particular style I have grown a bit fond of IPA. Over the last month my I have grown to enjoy the flavor of IPA’s a bit more, especially British IPA’s. I’m still not a huge fan of high IBU, “blow your head off” IPA’s but I do have a better appreciation for them.
For those new to craft beer, here’s a bit of info…
HISTORY: There is some debate regarding the history of how IPA came about and who was the first brewer to create it. Legend has it that George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery in London was the first person to create IPA. But it’s just that…a legend. Though Bow Brewery’s “pale ale for India” was the top seller there is no evidence proving that he was the first to brew IPA.
The short story that most beer geeks agree with is that IPA was first created in England in the 1700’s. Beer shipped to British troops in India would often not survive the voyage to India and would spoil. Brewers discovered that adding more hops helped preserve the beer during the voyage. And viola….India Pale Ale was born.
CHARACTERISTICS: IPA’s of today are a bit different from the IPA’s of days gone by. Americans were drawn to the crisp, citrus notes the hops added and decided to blow the flavor out of the water. A typical American IPA is going to be extremely high in grapefruit aroma and flavor whereas English IPA tends to more on the sweeter, malty side.
IBU: “International Bittering Units” is a very important tool of measurement for IPA’s. Basically, it is a scale used to measure the bitterness of the beer once the hops are added. The higher the IBU’s the more bitter taste is created. IPA’s with high IBU’s are going to have a very strong grapefruit flavor and aroma. Many IPA drinkers in the PNW prefer their IPA’s to have at least 80 IBU’s. I lovingly refer to these folks as “hop heads.”
I tasted many IPA’s during the month of April and enjoyed a majority of them. Others, not so much. So below is a list of my favorites. You can find the complete list of IPA’s I sampled on my Facebook page.
Boneyard Brewing RPM IPA (7% ABV, 50 IBU’s) – sunny orange color, floral aroma. Subtle hop character w/orange sweetness. Crisp, sparkly. Well-balanced, medium body.
The Pike Brewing Space Needle Golden Anniversary 2012 Vintage IPA (6.5% ABV, 58 IBU’s) – Sticky/resin body. Cloudy. Candy-like aroma. Full-bodied, sweet, malty, with loads of honey character. Smooth, English-style IPA.
Alameda Brewing El Torero IPA (7.2% ABV, 88 IBU’s) – THICK! Unfiltered. Clover honey aroma, full-bodied, lots of sediment. Complex hops but they don’t dominate. One of my favorites!
Mad River Brewing Jamaica Sunset IPA (7% ABV, IBU unavailable) – Spicy, nutty, dry hops. Crisp, clean finish. Quite tasty!
Lagunitas IPA (6.2% ABV, 45.6 IBU’s) – Very hoppy! Malty with floral notes. Very crisp. Nice hop finish.
Deschutes Hop Henge IPA (10.6% ABV, 95 IBU’s) – Hoppy aroma. Honey/vanilla sweetness. Nice hop finish without the bitterness. Malty and well-balanced.
For those of you just starting out in the craft beer scene, I would NOT start with an IPA. This is the stronger of the beer styles and may be too hoppy and bitter for beginners. Start slow and work your way to it.
What’s on tap for May? How about fruit and flavored beers? I shall call it “The Flavors of May.”
Beer Styles 101 – The intro April 13, 2013
A few weeks ago I announced on my Facebook page that I was going to do a little something different for the next year. As many of you know, I consider myself a “forever student” of beer. I never want to stop learning about beer and the beer culture I have been a part of for the last 20 years. So, I have decided that each month I will focus on drinking one style of beer and at the end of the month will compose one blog to talk about my experience and the top five beers in that style. Why am I doing this?
Well, over the last 30 years the beer style doors have not just opened, they’ve been blown off the hinges! No longer is an IPA or Hefeweizen beholden to one particular taste, aroma, and experience all together. Brewers are experimenting and tweaking beer styles and taking them to new levels. You can take two Pale Ales and get two different experiences from each. It’s exciting and fascinating!
I will continue to write about breweries, beer festivals and special beers. But for my Beer Styles 101 I will write short entries about each beer I have on my Facebook page and will write my final analysis here on my blog. Check out my Facebook page to see what’s up. This month…IPApril. Yes, IPA’s are on my beer menu for the month and so far it’s been quite a ride.
Catching Island Fever April 10, 2013
Here in the PNW sunny days are few and far between. When the sun does come out the best thing to do is get into your car are drive somewhere with a gorgeous view. Bainbridge Island is one of those places. Just a ferry ride from Seattle, the island is quaint, picturesque, and laid back.
There are a couple of places I like to hit when I visit. For lunch, I usually stroll into The Harbour Public House. Just steps from the village this hip public house serves delicious, organic cuisine and some of the freshest craft beers on the island. 12 on tap and 1 on cask to be exact! You won’t find Coors or Bud Light in here. You also won’t find children. The Harbour is 21 and over.
Located in a fully restored 132 year old house, The Harbour prides itself on using only fresh, locally grown ingredients in their dishes, pouring local craft beer, and showcasing local artists in the decor. On a clear day the famed Seattle skyline is visible from the back patio along with a lovely view of the harbor below. The Harbour is a “must see.”
Another “must” is the Bainbridge Brewing Co. Just off the beaten path, the brewing company captures the laid back spirit of the island. The tap-room is pretty, open, and welcoming. The beer? Well, it’s pretty darn tasty!
Kommenter Kolsch (4.8% ABV) – Golden Grahams aroma. Sweet, crisp, effervescent. Lightly malted. Sweet finish.
Northwest Pale Ale (5.4% ABV) – Malty. Very nicely hopped. Smooth, caramel notes throughout. Very easy to drink.
Eagle Harbor IPA (6.0% ABV) – Hoppy aroma, soft citrus. Tart grapefruit finish. Only 60 IBU’s so very easy IPA to drink.
Puget Sound Giant Hoptopus IPA (8.8% ABV) – Hop/floral aroma. Sweet and malty for an IPA. Lovely grapefruit finish. Another IPA for the IPA fearful!
Battle Point Stout (6.6% ABV) – Smokey aroma. Rich, malty, dark chocolate bitterness. Smokey finish. Definitely a sipper.
Bainbridge Island is a great place for a day trip. To get there from the peninsula you can cross the Agate Pass Bridge just outside of Poulsbo. From Seattle you can hop on the ferry. And you don’t need to wait for a sunny day to enjoy it, because let’s face it…it’s the PNW!
looks like I need a friend in wisconsin! February 21, 2013
I have never been to Wisconsin. I don’t know a lot about the state except that it’s beautiful in the spring, hot in the summer, a large portion of the population stems from Swiss and German immigrants and Native American tribes, milk is huge there, before prohibition there were over 200 breweries operating in the state, and Oktoberfest is a hell of a lot of fun. Why this sudden interest in “America’s Dairyland?”
My old friend Matt (from my Disneyland days) was kind enough to send me a little bottle of joy from New Glarus Brewing Company. Fat Squirrel Nut Brown Ale is a lovely English Brown Ale with a ton of hazelnut flavor and aroma. Dark brown, think, full-bodied, rich, with a touch of sweetness Fat Squirrel drinks almost like a desert. New Glarus chose hops from the Pacific Northwest, Bavaria, and Slovenia to give this beer a nice little kick. And at 5.8% ABV you can enjoy more than one without being sent over the edge. I really enjoyed this beer and was sad that there was no more to be had.
New Glarus rarely distributes outside of Wisconsin so if you’re lucky enough to find one in your area, pick it up!!
Coming soon…New Glarus Brewing, Rogue Brewery, Puyallup River Brewing Co, and Lagunitas! February 14, 2013
Give the gift on knowledge! November 21, 2012
With Black Friday just days away, I’m sure many of you are thinking “What do I get for the beer lover who has everything?” How about something to read while enjoying his or her holiday pint? Over the last few years there have been many great books published about everything in the craft brew culture from what to drink, where to drink, and what exactly are you drinking. There is a book out there for every level of beer enthusiast.
For the craft beer newbie there is The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer (2009). Written by the original “beer chicks”, Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, The Naked Pint is a wonderfully comprehensive and humorous guide to the history of beer, various beer styles, flavors, characteristics, beer by regions, and even recipes to try your hand at making some home brew. This book is perfect for anyone just starting out in the craft brew scene or even the beer connoisseur who just wants to learn a bit more about the beer culture. Fantastic read!
Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (2011) is a great book for the beer lover who has never been to the Pacific Northwest but would like to make the trek. Lisa Morrison (AKA the Beer Goddess) put together a wonderful book for the beer traveler. She discusses the PNW micro-brew culture that exploded into the craft brew culture the region is known for today. Lisa lists the breweries that are worth a looksy and what to have once you get there. She shares stories of her visits and what special pub crawl or bottle shop to hit along the way. This book is a must have for your next road trip to the PNW!
For the beer historian in your life Brewing in Seattle (2012) offers a glimpse into the history of Seattle breweries and where the Seattle beer culture is today. Beautiful, rare photos, vintage advertisements, and interviews from some of Seattle’s best-known brewers saturate this little paperback. From the earliest brewery established in 1864 through Prohibition and then on to the beer mecca Seattle is today, Brewing in Seattle is a must have for any beer historian near or far.
For the well learned beer enthusiast there is The Craft of Stone Brewing Co: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance (2011). Stone Brewing Company shares the history of the company along with a behind-the-scenes look at what has made the company the fastest growing brewery in the USA. Homebrew and food recipes, beer & food pairings, and gorgeous photos are just some of the wonderful features in this hardcover.
Does your home brewer want to make a business out of it? Well, Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, has written the book on it. Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (2011) tells Sam’s story about taking his home brewing kit and turning it into one of the country’s best craft breweries. He discusses his successes and failures, strategies in marketing, competing and keeping up with other companies, and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. This is a must have for anyone starting a new business.
I own all 5 of these books and highly recommend them. There is more to beer than just drinking it. Knowledge truly is power and the gift of books will never go out of style. Feed your brain and always continue learning more about your hobby or craft.
Beercation 2012 (part 4) October 29, 2012
By the time we made it to Eugene, OR my liver was screaming for mercy! Six days of breweries and beer and I still had two days to go…my God. Well, as the famous saying goes “the liver is evil and must be punished.” So off I went.
Eugene is the largest of the cities I visited on my beercation. There are plenty of breweries and beer taverns to go around. I stayed in a lovely hotel, The Inn at the 5th, which provided free shuttle service within the city limits. Let me tell you, there is nothing better than showing up to a brewery in a Mercedes S Class with my own driver!
My driver dropped me off at a little lesser-known brewery: Falling Sky Brewing. This very casual brewery and gastropub offers really good food and even better beers! Ever had pickled cherries? Really tasty stuff. But back to the beer. 42 Dry Hopped Ale is a malty, sweet, well-balanced ale with a nice hop finish. Skipping Stones Kolsch is a lovely buttery beer. Caramel and malty with a sweet finish. Bare Hands NW Bitter is very balanced and very yummy! Nice Belgian lace, malty, toasty and a slightly hoppy finish. And for my little “hop heads” there’s the Reckless Abandon IPA. This beer is a true hop beast! Unfiltered, high hop aroma, with a thick and sticky mouth-feel. Very complex for an IPA.
Next stop on our Eugene jaunt was to Hop Valley Brewing Company. Another nice brew pub with some pretty tasty food and brew. Pollination Honey Ale was very crisp and clean. The flavor was comparable to a pale ale but with a touch of honey and flowers. Czech Your Head Pilsner was another gem. Light golden color. Malty, sweet, wheat characters with a buttery/honey body and a lightly sweet finish.
A little ways outside from downtown Eugene is Oakshire Brewing. I took what was probably one of the best brewery tours I have ever experienced. And the beer is not too shabby either! Watershed IPA has a lovely hop flower aroma. Nicely hopped body with a light hoppy finish. Next up was Oakshire Amber. This nutty, toasty gem is perfect for the autumn season. Malty body and caramel finish. Overcast Espresso Stout is really something special. Imagine chocolate covered espresso beans and you have this beer. Lovely, malty, thick, and just the right amount of dark chocolate bitterness. Try it on nitro for a real treat! Another one of my favorites was the Line Dry Rye. Brewed with Oregon blackberry honey, this well-balanced beauty has the bitterness of the rye in perfect harmony with the honey. Quite nice. If you are looking for a different type of IPA then look no further than Goatshed IPA. This interesting beer is aged with coffee giving this hoppy beer a little something extra. Very interesting beer.
Another stop I made was not to a brewery but to an awesome beer store/restaurant. The Bier Stein is more than just a beer store, it’s a beer Valhalla! Twelve beers on tap and over 1,000 bottled beer from all over the world are cooling against the wall for your pleasure. Just grab one, sit down and enjoy! The beer selection is one of, if not the best, I have ever seen. Just make sure you check the price before grabbing one, there is nothing worse than beer sticker shock!
Last but not least, the last brewery on my Beercation 2012 was the ever popular and most beloved Ninkasi Brewing. A pretty brewery inside and out, Ninkasi staffs itself with folks that know their beer! Everyone was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. And the beer, well if you have never had a Ninkasi beer you are missing out! Taster trays are available so I loaded up on a few beers that aren’t readily available in my neck of the woods. Quantum Pale is a very well-balanced ale with honey characteristics. Malty and crisp with a touch of honey sweetness. Radiant Ale is a Northwest style pale ale. The taste is like drinking flowers. Malty with citrus notes round out the floral characters. Believer Double Red Ale is a great autumn beer. Dark red color and toasty aroma. Nice malty body with notes of caramel and hazelnuts. Great beer to enjoy next to a fire on those crisp autumn nights.
Oregon is one of the best destinations for anyone from the beer novice to the connoisseur. Each brewery has its own personality and there are so many to choose from. The countryside is some of the most stunning I have ever seen and the people are very friendly. Book a vacation and see what I mean. You will fall in love with Oregon, trust me!
Beercation 2012 (Part3) October 18, 2012
Having never been to Bend, OR I was very surprised out how big it is. I guess what I was expecting was a tiny little town nestled on the edge of the Deschutes River. What I experienced was a large, pretty city with a huge appreciation for beer. There are ten breweries in Bend, OR each with their own style and character. There is even a “Bend Ale Trail” map that you can download onto your phone with directions to each brewery. Most are within walking distance of each other but I highly suggest spreading your visit out over a few days. I hit as many of the breweries as I could in the two days. Although I could not visit all of them I did make a bit of a dent in the map and will tell you about my favorites.
I took up residence at the Old St. Francis School; another of McMenamin’s historic and lovingly restored hotels. Every McMenamin’s location pours their staple beers such as Ruby Ale, Hammerhead Ale and Terminator Stout. But each location also carries a beer or two that is unique only to that one. And boy was I glad to be at the Old St. Francis School during this particular week. Black Scratch Special Porter was a ridiculously awesome beer! Brewed with Mexican vanilla bean and cinnamon this porter delights as soon as you raise the glass to your nose. The aroma is a smack of cinnamon. Full-bodied and ink black color. Sweet vanilla hits the palate and the finish is dry cinnamon. This beer was like drinking a cinnamon roll! Another treat on tap, but opposite side of the flavor spectrum, was the Shade Day American Wheat. Light golden color with a soft honey aroma. Hints of caramel and wheat hit the palate. The finish is sweet with honey. This was a perfect beer for the hot day.
Making our way down the block we hit the most famous brewery from Bend: Deschutes Brewery. I started with something light. Spencer’s Gold was exactly what I was looking for. This filtered beer has a light hop aroma with a hop, citrus bite in the body. It finishes clean and floral. The Summer XPA was up next. Caramel and grapefruit are very present in the body. Bitter top notes with a hoppy finish. Very nice and not too hoppy.
About a block away is a little brewery overlooking the Deschutes River. Bend Brewing Company is very low-key and quaint. Blink and you may miss it as you pass by. But the beer is definitely worth the stop. Ludwig Pilsner is light gold in color. Flowers and caramel with a buttery body and a light hop finish. Elk Lake IPA was quite a surprise. Normally I don’t drink a lot of IPA’s but this one I could have had over and over. Pretty hop flower aroma and flavor. Well-balanced and malty, this IPA was very soft and easy to drink. Eclipse Black IPA was another great surprise. Dark brown color with toasty flavor and body. The hops are present just enough to remind one that this is still an IPA. Nice beer. And of course for the “hop heads” out there there’s the Hop Head IPA. At 100 IBU’s this is the strongest of the batch and not for hop wimps (like me). Very hoppy aroma and flavor. Strong hop finish but, like the two other IPA’s, it was very easy to drink.
My favorite brewery in Bend was also the smallest: Boneyard Brewing. A little more difficult to find (located in a residential neighborhood) but well worth the search. Just look for the vintage hearse sitting in the parking lot! But be prepared for an incredibly small, very punk rock/skater inspired tasting room (guys after my own heart). The brewers had the gals in mind when they created Girl Beer. This delicious wheat ale is re-fermented with a blend of dark, sweet, and tart Oregon cherries. Fresh cherry aroma. The first sip may make you pucker a bit, but it is quite a spectacular beer. Gentlemen, don’t let the name fool you! Most of the guys in the tasting room were asking for seconds and thirds of this little darling! Diablo Rojo is a lovely, malty red ale. Tasting a bit like dry, autumn leaves this beer is perfect for the season. for those of you who like a little “kick” in your beer, try the Diablo Rojo En Fuego! These crazy kids infused the Diablo Rojo with habanero and chipotle chilies! Talk about a crazy-good beer! But be sure you have your fire extinguisher on hand.
Bend, OR is a great place for beer enthusiasts to spend a long weekend. Again, most breweries are in walking distance of each other but a couple of them lie in the outskirts of town so I would recommend a cab. After spending two lovely days in this historic city, hubby and I packed up for our final destination on our beercation: Eugene, OR…