Friday, May 27, 2005

Rogue Review, part two

After a week-long rain delay, we were back. Another Thursday, another softball game, another Rogue visit.

Suffice it to say, our great beers there two weeks ago were not a fluke. Ken started out with his beloved Mocha Porter. I was debating between the Juniper Ale and the Half-e-Weizen, both of which have won awards in various beer competitions. But since they were out of the Juniper, the Half-e-Weizen won out. I was happy... good refreshing flavor right off the bat, full mouth, nice spice (they say coriander and ginger)... definitely Brian Hawkins' spices. Not your run of the mill 'lemon'ish hefeweizen. The girl next to me (who declared her hatred of spicy beers last week), ordered the Chipotle Ale I tried last week. Classic. The girl on the other side of me, who prefers lighter, sweeter beers, ordered the Honey Cream Ale. I tasted it -- rich creamy flavor without being heavy. The creaminess was akin to Beamish or some other nitro beer, but it wasn't. I don't know how they did it. In terms of flavor, it was nicely sweet without over doing it. Perfect beer for people wanting a summer beer that isn't a lager or hefeweizen.

For seconds, Ken ran down the list of dark beers.
"I've had them all", he says.
"Ooh, but not that one" I reply, pointing to the Russian Imperial Stout at the bottom of the menu. An XS next to the name.
His eyes light up. "Ooooooooh, I want that one. What does the XS mean?"
The waitress informs us that it means "extra small, extra strong". With 12.4% alcohol (plato number 26), they're not kidding. They serve it in a small draft glass (like the draft glasses at the Bambi bar in Tucson). I accidentally tasted it before Ken even got to it. Oops. XS is definitely true. If you're expecting it to be beer, it will make your eyes roll back in your head. If you're not expecting anything, then you'll get to appreciate it's robust flavor and good mouth-feel. Our waitress, Krista, recommends cutting the Imperial Stout with other beers for a fun twist, although I can't remember which she recommended (perhaps the chocolate stout or the mocha porter?). I would try anything she recommends; she tends to be right on.

For me, I flip through the menu before deciding on the Morimoto Soba Ale. Mostly sucked in because everything about the name sounds like food. As their description says
Soba (also known as buckwheat) is not a type of wheat but a member of the rhubarb family (a fruit, not a grain!)
And it's made in collaboration with the Iron Chef. Yep, I was sold and orderded the pint. It definitely has a familiar flavor yet one I can't place. Everyone around the table tries it. Most seem to like it; you can definitely taste the fruit in there, so even the "light and sweet girl" liked it (but didn't prefer it to her Honey Cream Ale). Again, nobody could quite place the flavor. Then it was nailed, square-on. "If Snapple made a beer, this would be it". So true. It tasted exactly like snapple iced tea. Everyone took another taste and agreed. Very bizarre.

It was now last call, so we picked up a case of mocha porter from their 'garage sale' for 20 bucks. All cases are 35% off until the end of the weekend. Can get the big 22 oz bottles in case form too.

Look forward to next time and trying the Juniper. I love Rogue Thursdays.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Oregon IPAs

IPAs have always made me a bit nervous. They're more hoppy and bitter than most beers I tend to drink; finding one I like tends to be a crapshoot with a fine line between love and hate. However, I know that Brian loves a good IPA, as do many homebrewers and microbrew fans.

I have taken solice in the idea that IPAs may be the "acquired taste" of the beer world. People who love them will always love them. People who dislike them may learn to appreciate them (much like the desert, but I digress).

There's usually one thing that gets me to like beers outside of my comfort zone. Taste test. Imagine my delight when I read an article in yesterday's Oregonian food section about a Northwest IPA taste test. 6 Oregon IPAs. Panel of experts and amateurs. Blind. Now we're talking.
BridgePort IPA
Terminal Gravity IPA
Deschutes Quail Springs India Pale Ale
Widmer W'05 India Pale Ale
Full Sail IPA
Pyramid IPA
To read the article and the IPA reviews(without logging on or sifting through Oregonian ads), check out their "printer-friendly" version here.

I think I may recreate their little taste test at some point. Either way, the article gave me a new appreciation of IPAs -- especially when they talked about how they pair so nicely with fattier and spicier foods. Good to know.

Monday, May 23, 2005

It Begins

So the summer trek begins.

I'll start out from Atlanta on Wednesday. On Thursday, I shall visit the New Glarus Brewery in New Glarus, Wisconsin. There will be much rejoicing.

Seriously, I'm dying to try their Belgian Red.

I'll take pictures if they'll let me. It may be several days before I can post.

Any suggestions for breweries in or near Minneapolis? I'm there for my brother-in-law's wedding and we're staying a few days before I head out to Montana. How about in South Dakota, especially near Rapid City? How about a web site with such information? Surely we need a good link or two over there on the right.

Sustainable Drinking?

I have mentioned my dream of growing hops for use in my/someone else's homebrew. The dream has become a little more viable today thanks to Craigslist:

free NW hops variety and trellis
Reply to: (deleted) Date: 2005-05-15, 1:05AM PDT

I am moving from this house that I've been renting and have a homemade trellis to go with a hops plant for free. The trellis is supported by a closet rod and can be attached by brackets (also free) to your house. The idea is to get a south or west facing window on a tallish house (the trellis is about 12 feet tall) and provide this trellis so that the hops grows over it quickly in the summer and to shade out the hot light. I've done this for 3 years now and it's been great. The trellis is not very structural - it is made of vertical ropes and horizontal bamboo spacers - but 3 years of hops growth has left structural support in the way of old hops vines. It's kinda nice. It needs a good home. Consider this as a great little project. Bring a tarp or some plastic for the hops - it is currently residing in a large clay pot that I'm going to keep. Let me know when you'd like to check it out my email, or call (name and number deleted). Thanks.

this is in or around (deleted)
no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I emailed her about it, but doubt it will work out. However, it makes me realize that I know very little about what types of hops make great beer. Oh wise pundits of suds, please teach me about hops and what kind a girl should grow.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Maybe There's a Reason

Miller is lowering prices to match similar cuts by Anheuser-Busch.

The article cites lower demand. Probably true considering the stuff I learned about equilibrium price in Econ 1001. I blame the lackluster "hit" Sideways. Not that wine consumption had been slowing in the recent past before the movie, it just helped it achieve fad status, sort of like the rubber bracelets.

But first, we probably really need to blame the fact that these guys have been providing us with horsepiss for decades. Anheuser-Busch brags that they have since 1864. Well, except for that prohibition period.

I'd like to know the stats on microbrew sales. It'd be nice if people were actually starting to pony up for some of the good stuff instead. If so, then maybe we can finally get some Fat Tire down here in the sticks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Fear not... my ceasless effort to stay at the forefront of both science and drinking, Brian's Kudzu Ale is in the recipe development stages as we speak.

(Hat tip to Dave H.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Whiskers on Kittens

Drinking. Cooking. Gardening. Science.

My favorite things. Especially when their stars align to make my dream Venn diagram... behold the beauty of beer making (or distilling spirits for that matter). I haven't attempted the spirits yet for fear I will produce methanol instead and render myself blind; however, I have been watching Brian over the years (and now Ken) brew the brew.

It's a beautiful thing.

Tons of questions only beget more. I guess that's why Brian always puts a beer in my hand before he starts brewing; an extremely effective method of distraction. I love why and how little variations in ingredients and technique produce such dramatic shifts in the final product. It separates the beginners from the amateurs and the amateurs from the truly great beer craftsmen.

And every so often a person gets to taste a mindblowing beer worthy of next tier -- which is why drinking microbrews is so damn fun.

So thanks for inviting me to be a part of this. I'm looking forward to it.
Yes bartender, of course I'll have another one. It is for research purposes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Lisa has posted a great little write-up of their recent visit to the Rogue Brewery...which I would say is probably my favorite of the Portland brewpubs (Bridgeport is a very close second).

Maybe we can get her to repost it over here? A female perspective wouldn't be such a horrible thing around here, would it? I hear girls like beer, too.

The cool ones do, anyway.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Summer Plans

I teach, therefore I don't work summers. Not for real, at least. And the fun part is that I still get paid. (technically, I was already paid and I'm being screwed out of interest, but whatever)

So, what to do? ... hmmm...

Well, last summer I volunteered at a local Atlanta brewery, the Sweetwater Brewing Co. Probably the most successful in the area and for good reason, they make a mean extra pale ale also known as Sweetwater 420. And their porter, IPA, brown ale,... well all of those are of substantial quality as well. And volunteering makes you really popular when everyone finds out that you have a home basement filled with enough bottled beer to stock multiple parties. A few pails of ice and you're good to go.

But I want to turn it up a notch. The problem is, I've got to take this class in late July. Who'd want to pay someone to come and work for 6 weeks and then leave? So, I'm probably stuck in the volunteering position again. I prefer to call it an internship, but that seems a bit too pompous for even me.

But... there's this place called Montana. It's a mythical place supposedly in the northwest somewhere, at least until Yellowstone gets really pissed off. And in Montana they also have breweries. hmmm....

I think you know where I'm going with this. If I'm going to be working for free, and I have no other obligations from June 1 - July 11, three guesses as to where I'm going to do it. And the answer most certainly is not Atlanta.

Now all I have to do is find a place willing to accept a labor for beer agreement.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Beer Blog Bleg

I know, I know, this place has been dead lately, so both of you who read this probably quit bothering to look a long time ago.

(Thanks, BTW, to Chris for getting the ball rolling once again.)

Anyway...I will be going to Germany next month. Only for a week, and I will be working the vast majority of the time. Still, I hope to take in some of the local beer culture while I'm there (obviously).

I went to Germany for a conference a couple of years ago, and found that my knowledge of German beer (specifically, of regional German beer styles) was sorely lacking. I got more than a few raised eyebrows asking for styles particular to southern Germany while in the northeast.

I'd rather not make this mistake again. The Germans, after all, do take their beer rather seriously.

So...if anyone out there knows anything about the styles particular to the western-central (i.e., near the Dutch border--I'm going to be in Munster) region, I'm all ears. Obviously, I can look this sort of thing up on my own...I'm primarily looking for personal experience.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Beer Under the Big Sky

I'm sure somewhere in east Montana, where the horizon stretches for more than 180 degrees because it's so damned flat, there's more than enough reason to call it Big Sky country. Where I've been in the Livingston / Bozeman area, there are almost enough mountains to blot out the sky entirely. But that is exactly why the mountain region of West Montana has beauty beyond any flat, treeless plain in eastern Montana. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that's very nice, too. As nice as nothingness can be, which it can.

Mid-April, my wife and I made an unexpected trip to Livingston (her hometown) for the funeral of her grandfather. A great man who had a great impact on the entire community in the town of 7000 or so. He was 88 so I guess you could say it was "expected" but you probably understand how weightless that statement is in the face of such a loss. At least he went peacefully and in his own home. And by the way, the funeral was beautiful as expected for a funeral director from his funeral director son (my father-in-law).

So, during and after most of the tears had been shed, of course we had a few drinks in honor of Jack Davis's passing. And while the brewing industry seems to be relatively "new" to the area, there are certainly quite a few gems among the local brews that are worth mention, and a few that might not be but I'll rap about them anyhow.

First, my favorite of all of the Montana brews.

Moose Drool
Big Sky Brewing Company, Missoula, MT

They call it their brown ale. The only thing keeping it from being a porter is it's lack of sweetness. It's dark, and I love dark beers. It's the best selling beer in Montana for one major reason. It's fantastic. Definite flavors of caramel and chocolate malts and a powerful but far from overwhelming hops character. Apparently it's available all along the northwestern region and it's even good out of the bottle. The name sounds disgusting, but that's probably what made me try it in the first place. I figured with a name like that, if it tasted like it's name they wouldn't be selling it in the first place. I'd put it in the top 15 beers I've tasted, but it's only so low because I love those damned Belgian abbey ales so much. Of course, like the next beer, it's not available in Georgia. Of course, I can buy it on Sunday with no sales tax so it's like a double extra bonus when I'm actually up there.

Fat Tire
New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins, CO

Okay, so it's not a Montana brew. But it's the only place I've ever had a Fat Tire. The bottle label says the name was inspired by the bike the brewer was riding when he crafted this beer as he rode on a tour of Belgian breweries. It's an amber ale and it has a malty taste like my MawMaw's biscuits. Beautifully hopped and just slightly sweet. I almost mistook it for a lager the first time I tasted it before I realized it wasn't dry enough and it definitely had just enough ale yeast character to knock that idea down. My second favorite beer in Montana, it's good enough to make you slap your grandma.

Neptune Cream Ale
Neptune's Brewery, Livingston, MT

A pretty new brewery popped up in this fine little town. It's so new it didn't exist when I was there 8 months ago. I admire the boldness of the move, but unfortunately I didn't admire the beer. I did feel like it deserved mention since it is brewed in my wife's hometown. I liked the Neptune name at first when I was thinking of the planet, but apparently they went with the guy from The Little Mermaid. Why was the beer bad? Extremely unremarkable. No malt flavor, no hops flavor. It was weird water. Bud Light has more flavor. Maybe not that bad, but the brewmaster definitely needs to reformulate at least this recipe. There was a Toad Back Ale they offered as well but I was afraid to try it with Moose Drool available on tap.

Bozone Amber Ale
Bozeman Brewing Company, Bozeman, MT

I'd love to move to Bozeman. It's awesome. It's where you fly into to get to Livingston which is a 30 minute drive away. A treacherous drive in the winter due to the mountain pass between the two cities, but not too bad if the plow has been through recently and you have a decent car.

I'm not 100% fond of the name, but it's okay. The beer is actually pretty good. Not as tasty of an amber ale as Fat Tire, but if this one's cheaper, I'm going with it. Or if I'm looking for something a little sweeter. Nice golden red color. I guess we'll call it "amber." Gives good head. Sweet, caramelly malt and lighter malt flavors, too. Hops are subtle but add to the beer's simplicity, a simplicity that makes it highly drinkable. It's easy to see why it's a local favorite.

Speaking of local favorites, it seems like Montanians cling on to local products with a fervor unfamiliar to this Atlanta suburbanite. The bar keep said that the locals love the Neptune brews for instance. Of course, it was cheaper and it probably has something to do with the relative non-abundance of other selections. In metro Atlanta, the tastes change almost as fast as you can get cut by an NFL player in Buckhead. So local brews, with the exception of Sweetwater brews which has their flagship 420 (an obvious drug reference so of course you'll get a following, don't buy their bogus first batch story), really haven't caught on. (see also: Atlanta Bier Garten, Dogwood Brewing Company, et al.)

So, to wrap up, I leave you with two morals to this story.

1. If you're hawking a decent product, you might want to produce it in Montana.

2. If you're in Montana, you must try Moose Drool. Especially if you're drinking in honor of someone special.