Monday, October 31, 2011

Oregon Brew Crawl

Oregon, ah Oregon, the beer lovers favorite state.  Yes, I know I'm biased but 97 breweries in 54 cities makes Oregon a true beervana.  Oregon has the largest number of breweries in the U.S. and the largest number of breweries per capita.  ALSO it has the largest craft brewing production AND craft brewing consumption!  Do I have you convinced?  Yes?  Alright then, let's move on.

I started my trip in Eugene, Oregon.  An hour after leaving the airport, I was within the walls of a brewery, Eugene City Brewery.  I came with a question "Does anybody care about Eugene City Brewing anymore?"  I definitely received an answer from the people of Eugene that night.

The next morning the race around Southern Oregon began:  3 breweries, 2 days, 1 birthday.  Interest piqued?  Awesome, tell you all about it later, we're trying to do a summary here for goodness sake.

Ok, so now that I've asked questions in Eugene and ran around the bottom of Oregon, it's time to visit Beertown herself, Portland.  How many times do I need to go to Portland before I've written everything you need to know?  A million.  Seriously.  First of all, mine and Jonah's family live in Portland so it will be a frequent stop for us.  With that aside, Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world and is constantly gaining more so it's definitely a great place to explore.  This visit I stayed entirely on the Northside: reapeating some favorites and finding some new ones.

Check back this week and next to hear about each brewery I visited on my 10 day/ 8 brewery (+ 1 beer bar) Oregon tour.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Season of the Wet Hop

Fall is here.  To a great portion of the country, especially up here in Alaska, fall is harvest time.  Time to hunt, gather, and store your food for the long cold winter.  The hop farming business has a similar schedule, September is time to harvest the hop fields.  Since fresh hops have a quick expiration date, most are dried then vacuum sealed or turned into pellets to ensure we have freshly brewed beer all year long.  HOWEVER there is a small batch of hops that are not dried and packaged but instead sent to those who ask to make Fresh Hopped or Wet Hopped ales.  The wet hops need to be used within 24 hours (quick expiration date) of being picked which makes October not only fall, but the season of the Wet Hop.

Are Fresh Hopped ales worth all the trouble?  Well, that's really up to you.  Wet hops do add definite variety to ale recipes.  When done right, they add a fresh, grassy, hoppier taste and have a strong hop bouquet.  Sierra Nevada is credited with introducing this style to craft brewers in 1996 with their Northern Hemisphere Harvest ale.  Since then it has become a phenomenon.  In the Northwest, the arrival of the posters for all the Wet Hop Festivals is one of the signs of fall.  In Portland, the Green Dragon chalkboard is filled with breweries' wet hop/ fresh hop concoctions.  This time of year I definitely miss living in the Northwest.  Oh well, when I'm in Portland next week I am going to concentrate on fall seasonals and maybe bring a few home with me!

Here's a few to look out for in your local market.
Merry Fall!

Wordless Wednesday - Deschutes Brewing Company

Photo by Jonah Dart-Mclean

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oregon - Still Deciding...

Two trips in two months, going to the same city?  Yes it's true, I'm headed to Oregon again.  Just last month I was in Beervana to attend Emily and Alex's wedding.  Not only did I find time to hit some breweries (all East-side, both North and South), Jonah and I also jetted out to the coast to sample the wonderful breweries of Astoria. 

This trip revolves around my work for Copper River Salmon.  As luck has it, I was able to stretch 3 days of training near the airport into 9 days of the Great Northwest including a road trip down to Northern California. 

I'm hoping to make a few brewery visits: Mt Shasta Brewing, Dunsmuir Brewery Works, Breakside Brewing Company, Hopworks Bike Bar.

I'm still trying to decide my Friday night dinner brewery: Widmer, Bridgeport, or MacTarnahans?

Also, what brewery should I go to on Saturday?  Burnside Brewing or Upright Brewing?

Let me know where I should go!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Perseverance Ale

Jonah came back from his trip to Juneau with some goodies, beer and yarn (he knows how to keep his wife happy).  When our friends Shelly and Heath invited us to dinner, Jonah suggested we bring over the Perseverance Ale by Alaskan Brewing Company.  The more people in on the tasting, the better I say!  

The Alaskan Perseverance Ale is a Russian Imperial Stout (holy cow!) that was brewed to mark the 25th anniversary of the brewery.  It is part of ABC's Pilot Series; therefore it is only served in select bars and bottled in 22oz bombers with a small distribution.  The beer was as big and bold as I expected it to be, but didn't have an overwhelming alcohol presence.  Perseverance was thick and sweet, like molasses Shelly pointed out, but kept a dry, clean taste.  The aftertaste was rich and the sweet flavors lingered then moved on, not overstaying their welcome.  It was a great beer, especially on it's own.  When I finished my glass after starting in on the sushi, the flavor pronounced was licorice!  

When tasting this beer, I used my new book The Beer Journal by Chris Wright.  It was pretty handy with the single tasting (although I did tear a sheet out so I wouldn't have to carry the whole thing).  We'll see how it works with multiple tastings when I take it to Portland in a couple weeks.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alaskan Brewing Company - Guest Blogger

5429 Shaune Dr.
Juneau, AK 99801

Guest posting by Jonah Dart-Mclean.

After enjoying many (many X 10³) glasses, cups, pitchers, schooners,  bottles, etc of Alaskan Brewing Co.’s liquid offerings, I had the good fortune to visit their home base in Juneau.  ABC is a great example of a beer company that has found its niche.  Their mainstay beers  (Amber, IPA, Summer, Pale) are all very drinkable and accessible to those whose microbrew palette might not be ready for something as complex as say, the Smoked Porter, a delicious and deep “rauchbier” that has the pleasing rich taste of a dark porter and an amazing smoked flavor that doesn’t overwhelm.  Innovative as well, ABC was apparently the first brewery in the US to release a rauchbier (which means smoked beer in German).  

Photo by Jonah Dart-Mclean

The brewery is located about 5 miles north of downtown Juneau in an industrial area.  It has the typical small-big-brewery look to it, a warehouse looking building that has the expansion of brew equipment hanging off of it.  The tasting/souvenir room was not large, probably with enough room for thirty people crammed in.  They recently expanded to a taproom downtown to cater to the hordes of tourist that the cruise ships disgorge regularly in the summer.  I visited the original location with my friend Ariel Rolfe who has the good fortune to be from Juneau.  We got to the tasting room around 5pm and immediately started in on our 6 free samples.  
Photo Jonah Dart-Mclean

Straight away, we both ordered the Perseverance Russian Imperial Stout, one of the ABC‘s pilot series (an ephemeral program that tantalizes one with amazing, out of the ordinary beers and then snatches them away after a too-short period of time).  This happens to be my favorite variety of beer and this particular example of it was no disappointment.  Rich, smooth, dark, just a hint of sweet, and lots of hops.  I honestly don’t know how a person would want to drink a different beer.  Unfortunately, or perhaps prudently is the word, the tasting room has a one drink maximum on the Perseverance, probably because it’s 9% alcohol.  So, moving on to the other delights, we chose next the Marzen, which is currently available in honor of Oktoberfest.  I will admit that prevailing beer tasting etiquette is correct in suggesting beers be sampled lightest to darkest because after the Perseverance my taste buds only had eyes(?) for that dark beauty (once you go black….).  Nonetheless, the Marzen was very good, light and with rich malty flavor that was surprising for a light colored beer.  Besides the two above mentioned beers I only sampled the Smoked Porter, it being a beer I can’t usually get on tap at the local watering hole (the Reluctant Fisherman, Cordova Ak).  After four glasses, I was sure that I liked Smoked Porter and reaffirmed in my suspicions that Alaskan Brewing Company knows a thing or two about brewing good beer.

Photo by Jonah Dart-Mclean

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Jonah!

What a day!  Today is the birthday of my husband, my love, my beer partner.
The man who fills this blog with beautiful photos and my life with love.
Happy Birthday Jonah!

North Coast Brewing Company - Fort Bragg, CA

21st Amendment Brewing Company - San Fransisco, CA
Downtown Brewing Company - San Luis Obispo, CA
Wedding Pints - Photo by Jonah Dart-Mclean
Cordova, AK
Cordova, AK

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conflux No. 2 White IPA

No matter the occasion for a trip to the big city of Anchorage, one must bring back beer!  I wasn't able to join Jonah on the last trip "over seas" (the little town we live in has no roads connecting it to the outside world, to reach Anchorage we must take a ferry or an airplane), but he did bring me back a beer I was dying to try since I researched it in May.

Photo by Jessyka Dart-Mclean

First of all, you have to feel special drinking this beer because it was and only ever will be brewed once.  It's a very dry beer and lived up to the description I read of it being a Belgian IPA.  The No. 2 had had the dry crispness of an IPA with the coriander and lemongrass flavoring of a Belgian.

What a great gift!  Thanks Jonah!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Amnesia Brewing Company

Amnesia Brewing Company
832 N Beech Street
Portland, OR 97227

As we got closer to the weekend, the wedding events began.   With the venue set up and the rehearsal dinner over, we headed over to North Portland to stay at Jonah's sister, Dana's apartment and meet up with friends who had come into town for the wedding.  As we drive closer to the apartment, I begin to get excited.  I’m realizing that Dana lives near N Mississippi that happens to be where (drum roll please) Amnesia Brewing Company is located.  ABC is a familiar brewery to me, habitually visited with friends when I lived in Portland.

It's a great place to be with mostly outdoor seating.  The seats that are inside are practically outdoors as well with the front of the building opening as garage doors.  The atmosphere is relaxed and beer-centric.  Even on a Friday night with all the picnic tables on the porch packed, the vibe was spirited but mellow.

I had the Desolation IPA, which is one of my favorites there.  All their beers are very appealing, they stay true to the English styles and have quite a line-up of IPAs.  Everyone else got the cream ale (Cream-of-the-Crop Ale?) that was a great compliment to the warm evening that followed a hot day.  We only lingered for one beer, needing to get some rest for the festivities of the next day, but were glad to experience a Friday night at Amnesia Brewing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coalition Brewing Company

2724 SE Ankeny 
Portland, OR 97214

So, we're back in Portland after our early escape to some coastal breweries. We're sitting around Jonah's mom, Debra's house trying to think so something to do.  What should we do to get out of this crazy hot Oregon heat? (We have TOTALLY adapted to living in Alaska by the way.)  Racking our brains... racking our brains... wait, doesn't Portland have 39 breweries?  And don't we love going to breweries?

So we hitched up the bikes (?) and set out, our destination was Coalition Brewing Co.  This was Jonah and my second visit to Coalition, our first trip really struck a cord and I was anxious to see if it stayed true to all the hype I had built up in my head.  Bingo.  Coalition, though a small brewery, has brews with big flavor.  The Kitty Kat Red was again my favorite brew of the night while Jonah voted for the WU C.R.E.A.M. Ale (the brew he always recommends whenever the brewery comes up).  There was talk of riding out towards another brewery, but we decided to stay put and enjoy the warm evening with Coalition's cool session-ales. 

Photo by Jessyka

Photo by Jessyka

Photo by Jonah Dart-Mclean

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fort George Brewery

Fort George Brewery + Public House
1483 Duane St.
Astoria, OR 97103

I have traveled to a few handfuls of breweries across the United States.  When asked which are my favorite breweries I always have a hard time deciding, but visiting Fort George Brewery I gained some clarity.  Of course the top requirement of one of my top breweries is amazing, unique, drinkable beers but what pushes a brewery to the next level?  What makes it become a best brewery?  For me it's  having an amazing space to drink amazing beers.  Fort George Brewery fits this bill.  

The building where FGB is located is fantastic from it's large windows to the coloring to the hop logo.  The land is the original settlement of Astoria which was renamed when it was temporarily taken over by the British (and King George III) as Fort George, hence the name of the brewery.  The building was built in 1924 as a auto repair shop and still has that warehouse/ industrial look today.  The industrial look is mirrored in the interior with really amazing metal fabricated stools and booths.  Breweries like Fort George is why I like visiting breweries instead of being satisfied with enjoying their brews at bars or at home.  When breweries take the time to create an incredible place to drink their brews, I'm happy to think of them in the best brewery category.

Well enough about decor, let's talk about beer!  
The Nut Red Ale was hands down my favorite FGB brew.  The play of hop and malt makes red ales usually high on my list and the balance in the Nut Red Ale is perfection.  
The Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale was a close second.  Nutritious & delicious!  The smoothness the oatmeal adds to a usually hoppy style adds intrigue and drink-ability.
The Vortex IPA is the brewery's flagship beer and can be found in cans at the store (big plus for this blogger).  It's an easier to handle IPA so non-IPA drinkers there is no need to pass it up.  The Vortex also comes with a great story of the owners almost being swept away by a tornado while migrating all the brew equipment to the West Coast.
Oh, did I mention they give you all the beers on tap in the taster, THEN explain all the styles to you.  Definite A+ since the waitress was also quite entertaining.

All in all, go to this brewery.  Seriously!  Go, it's totally worth it.  Not only would you get to drink great beer, you feel really cool just being in the space.  And who doesn't want to feel cool?  I definitely felt it when I snapped this awesome picture of William.


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