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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Great Beers in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste some fine beers during a recent visit to the Beaver State.

In Portland, with approximately 30 breweries and a gaggle of great beer bars, it feels as if beer is a cultural obligation. You could travel far and wide to try to find a city where beer in its many forms is taken as seriously by as many people. France can have its wine as long as they leave ale to the residents of Portland.

I had the chance to explore Portland a bit during a recent trip to the city for the Oregon Brewers Festival. I was in town with my friend Barron Boyd and we were committed to staffing the Pints for Prostates booth at the OBF. We also decided it was as good a time as any to each develop painful knee issues (both to our left knees, go figure) which slowed us down and found us using up some evening sampling hours at our hotel with ice bags and Motrin. We did manage to limp our way to get a few samples and the beer was worth the painful journey.

In addition to sampling beer at the OBF, we had the chance to hit some great locations around Portland: the Rogue Distillery and Brewery, Horse Brass Pub, Rock Bottom Brewery, Lucky Labrador Brewpub, Henry's 12th Street Tavern, Deschutes Brewpub and McCormick & Schmick's Pilsner Room. Even so, we did not even make an appropriate dent in what Portland has to offer beer enthusiasts. We did get a good cross section of very nice beers, thanks in large part to the OBF.

The Oregon Brewers Festival celebrated its 22nd anniversary. It is held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette River. Admission to the festival is free, but you pay $5 for a plastic tasting mug and either $1 for a tasting sample or $4 for a full mug of beer. The crowd was moderate and mellow on Thursday, grew larger on Friday, huge on Saturday, before shrinking to a small gathering on Sunday. Overall the event is well run, offering 80 different beers -- one each from mainly northwest brewers, live music and food.

The following beers were tasted over a five day period at the event, unless otherwise noted.

Alaskan White Ale: With temperatures in the 90s this slightly cloudy Belgian witbier-style was the perfect answer. A touch of sweetness in the aroma, with a hint of citrus and spice in the overall flavor. When they ran out of this beer on Sunday, they started pouring Alaskan Smoked Porter. That's a sign of a great festival.

Bayern Brewing Dragon Breath Dark Heff:
This Montana beer has a very nice balance of hops and malt sweetness. Just a hint of fruitiness in the finish.

Bear Republic Crazy Ivan: More than a slight hint at an altbier, but different. Copper color and some spicy clove notes also make you think of a Belgian country ale, but this is brewed in California wine country.

Bison Organic Chocolate Stout:
From California, this is a dark brown ale with a rich roasty grain quality. The cocoa powder that is added to the mash is clearly present. Nice substantial stout that is not too thick.

Boundary Bay Amarillo Double Dry: If you love hops, this Washington brew should be on your list. Full hop aroma and a flavor that is a complex floral and herbal blast. I was amazed to hear it was just 45 IBUs, but it shows the brewer's skill in adding Amarillo hops four times during the brewing process.

Chuckanut Dortmunder: Golden colored beer with a clean crack of hops in the initial flavor. The malt quickly balances things out, leaving a refreshing aftertaste in this Washington brew.

Laht Neppur Naddy's Brown Nut: Good overall example from Washington of what a nut brown ale can be. Nice malty flavor with a hint of roasted grain.

McMenamins Hot for Teacher IPA: This Oregon brew had a slight amber orange color. Full hop aroma and a long lasting pleasing bitterness. Just a passing note of pine at the finish.

Ninkasi Radiant Summer Ale: A bright and flavorful brew from Oregon. Golden amber color with plenty of hops that emerge and control the direction of the beer and give it a mix of floral and spice notes.

Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout: What can you say about a beer that knocks you down, but keeps you up. This Oregon beer has plenty of coffee aroma from cold-pressed organic coffee, which also comes through in abundance in the flavor profile. Extremely rich.

Port Townsend Hop Diggidy IPA: A pretty straightforward golden IPA. This 70 IBU beer features three hop varieties and is dry hopped twice. Did I mention you can taste the hops in this one?

Rock Bottom Eat a Bale o' Hops IPA: The name says it all for this Oregon ale. Rated at 80 IBUs it's said that the brewer decided to use a surplus of hops on hand because of the weak economy to bulk up this beer. Herbal hop nose and layered hop delivery with each taste.

Track Town Ales 200 Meter: At 90 IBUs this Oregon ale is actually lighter and more aromatic than you might expect. Golden orange in color, this is very drinkable on a summer day.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout: Amazing draught at the company's downtown Portland brewpub. Rich roast coffee notes. The big head worked for several minutes before settling, churning up roasted grain aromas and flavor along the way.

Rogue Mocha Porter: Poured from a firkin at Rogue this was a real treat. Pours black with a thin tan head. Plenty of roasted grains, with hints of cocoa and coffee.

Deschutes Back Butte XXI Porter:
This 11 percent alcohol by volume beauty was served up perfectly at the Horse Brass pub. Large amounts of cocoa and coffee that finishes with more than a hint of whiskey from the barrel aging. A world class beer.

Pliny the Elder Double IPA: Also enjoyed at the Horse Brass, this has a huge big hop aroma and a flavor that while hoppy is not overly bitter.

Stone 13th Anniversary Imperial Red Ale: Also sampled at the Horse Brass, a burnt umber color with a fresh cut pine nose. The beer delivers some very satisfying malty notes and direct hop flavors from double dry hopping.

Hales Mongoose IPA:
Enjoying this Seattle cask conditioned ale at the Horse Brass was like being transported to a pub in the English countryside. Floral hop nose, nice smooth flavor that lingers.

Amnesia Desolation IPA: This brew accompanied a cheese burger at Henry's 12th Street. Copper colored with a thin head. It gave off a herbal nose with a citrus and slightly hoppy bitterness.

Lucky Labrador Alt:
Enjoyed at the brewery, this copper colored beer had an off white collar of foam. Nice level of malty sweetness with balancing hops.

Cascade Lip Smacker:
This German-style gose had a hazy gold color and a clean crisp wheat flavor profile. It was one of the beers at the Oregon Brewers Guild Brewers Dinner on Wednesday night.

BridgePort Hop Czar Imperial IPA: This triple hopped beer was also enjoyed at the Oregon Brewers Guild event. There is a good level of malt in the background, but the beer is a hop delivery system. A good example of Portland brewers' love affair with hops.

1 comment:

Wine Clubs said...

Nice, thanks for the reviews. When we get tired of local brews from San Diego we always look to Oregon for comparable(or better) quality! Thanks for giving us some to look out for.