Slake your thirst

I was down at the Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer Festival this past weekend, hustling my guidebooks and also running the PhotoLounge with friends. At the same time, i was also enjoying a wide variety of limited-release barrel-aged beers from breweries such as Deschutes, Oakshire, Boneyard, and a dozen other Oregon favorites. In addition, I really enjoyed some well-crafted hard cider, spending some time chatting with the good folks behind Carlton Cyderworks.

 

It’s impressive how cider –  real cider – the staple of colonial America, has become a new resurgent market. It was once a drink of farmers and Presidents, from the Shenandoah Valley to the Western Frontier (Johnny Appleseed wasn’t in the food business, you know). However, after crop blights, cheap rum, immigration, temperance, prohibition and unfamiliarity…cidermaking in America had all but vanished until recently.

 

Wineries and breweries have entered the cider business. Small cider mills are opening all across the country, especially in the Pacific Northwest and New England; such upstarts as Carlton or Wandering Aengus. The drink has begun taking over tap handles at pubs. N/A, low or moderate alcohol, sparking or unfiltered – an entire subset of new well-crafted ciders has emerged!

 

I received a couple bottles from Carlton and will try to do a blog review on them this week 🙂

Eugeneward ho!

 

It has been quite a few months since the wife and I both had a day off – a weekend day specifically – together. And on these rare occasions we sometimes don’t realize it until nearly the last minute. Of course, the first thing we ask eachother when such a situation arises… is “so what should we do?”

 

Sure enough, we found ourselves in such a situation this past weekend. There wasn’t enough time for an overnighter, and she wanted to at least sleep in a ‘bit’. So the options for a destination narrowed down to something less than 3 hours away and – because we po’ – ideally something on the cheap. Portland and Hood River were ruled out early on, and since the dog’s been sore lately, so was any sort of adventurous hiking expedition. It took only a few moments before Eugene was suggested, and immediately all combined eyebrows raised without objection.

 

Highway 20 towards SistersOur destination was now set and in no time we were jumping in and out of the shower, delightedly clicking through Beer Advocate, and perusing events and attractions in the Eugene area.

 

With a cursory agenda set, we saddled up the Fitty, corralled the exuberant dog, and hit the road. Rolling out of Bend northward, we stop quickly for a huge iced tea and some greezy breakfast items at Sonic Drive-In, before striking Hwy 20 towards Sisters. We ended up leaving town by 10 and aside from getting stuck behind a house being moved, we enjoy the wide open road.

 

There are several routes to consider, when driving from Bend to Eugene. All of them pretty, but the McKenzie Pass takes the prize as the most awesome. It’s a scenic byway only open and snow-free for a few months, lined with stunning viewpoints, remote trailheads, waterfalls and all sorts of Oregon’y goodness. We make a couple brief viewpoint stops on the eastern (dry side) before eventually passing westward down the winding narrow road towards Eugene.

North and Middle Sister MountainsMount Washington from McKenzie hwyMcKenzie pass, near proxy falls

The McKenzie Pass is one of my old haunts from years ago, and is featured prominently in my book. We discuss pulling off and taking a stroll. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s a shady cool forest on a bright sunny day, and just around noon. My first thought goes to Proxy Falls. It’s easily in the top 3 falls in Oregon and is a staple in everything from calendars to advertising…very picturesque. The hike in is 3/4 of a mile, through both forested and rocky/sunny outcrops, before the whisper of the falls meets us. I coax the wife down the rocky scramble to the base of the falls, where we take our time wading out and exploring the crystal clear pools and eddies. I neglect to mention all the little craydads (my own term for crayfish/crawdads) that are surely dancing about our wiggling toes.

jaeda dog jumps from the creek up onto a logcuuuuutest everproxy falls (photo taken in 2009)

 

The falls canyon is cool and relaxing, but with the thought of delicious craft beer, we scamper back up to the trail and enjoy the stroll back to camp, chatting with some other visitors, making recommendations about nearby attractions. I don’t think we told them I wrote an entire book about said attractions, haha.

 

The landscape has already transformed into a lush forest of ferns and mosses, primeval almost in its vibrancy. We cruise slowly down the road until it finally levels and straightens into rolling timber hillsides and farmland.Around Blue River or Vida we spot a farm advertising produce and turn around to investigate. We are not disappointed. In addition to you-pick and hand-picked blueberries, they’ve got a little petting zoo, homemade blueberry popsicles, and enough tasty organic produce to make us squee with delight.

We polish off almost the whole pint of blueberries in ten minutes, and were soon seeing signs of civilization and are fast approaching Eugene.

 

Eugene- Whitaker neighborhoodIt had been more than two years since either of us had spent any time in Eugene. It was basically just as we remembered. There’s a lot that I can say about the place, and a lot that I can’t quite articulate. It’s unique in a number of ways, specifically a rare and powerful sense of community and diversity. On one hand, it’s a city that seems old and worn…soggy and dirty. Yet there’s no trash, tons of development, and a young population. It’s a haven for the homeless and destitute, yet a vibrant college town. Home to anarchists, hippies and environmental protesters…but also the birthplace of Nike and a mecca for track running and outdoor recreation. It’s a beautifully green town, tree-lined and gardened, with a burgeoning craft-beer scene. This last fact did not escape us, and for this specifically we decided to visit Eugene on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Hop Valley Brewing was our first stop. A nifty little brewpub restaurant, technically in the adjacent Springfield, not far from I-5. Their beers are great, their branding and atmosphere just as spot-on. It’s got a decent food menu and the staff knew the beers well. We shared a sampler and a special limited-edition ‘saison’ that was tart and tasted more like a fruit beer – just look at how neon red it is! We also destroyed a sausage plate, which featured their own meats and three different sauces/mustards.On the way out, we also bought a pair of can koozies for home…because well…it keeps cans cold, perfect for camping, and sometimes you just need to hide the shame of that PBR or Rainier.

hop valley brewing sampler trayHop valley brewing saisonSasquatchi

Ninkasi Quantum PANinkasi sampler flight
– Stop number two was the amazing Ninkasi Brewing Company. These fellows don’t mess around and are already brewing multiple-award-winning elixirs, while also supporting tons of awesome events, charities and earning a place in my list of all-around great breweries (tied somewhere in top 5!). We shared an epic flight of their best stuff.

 

 

Kulmbacher PilsBier Stein...one of many coolers

– Our third stop was the venerable Bier Stein. We wanted to pace ourselves (I did have to drive afterall) so we sipped and relaxed, browsing their huge bottle selection like kids in a candystore. I went with a light Kulmbacher, a german pils I hadn’t had in maybe five years. It was delish. The Misses went with an IPA.

 

falling Sky Brewing samplerOur final stop was the new Falling Sky Brewing. This was the surprise underdog stop, as we hadn’t had their stuff really and had just looked it up on the fly before the trip. What we did know, was that their menu seemed the most impressive…so we wanted to save them for dinner. The clock was creeping past 6, so we pulled down the alley and were glad to see this vibrant outdoor patio and a bright modern gastro/brewpub. We went with a cloud-shaped flight of their very tasty brews. We also split a BLT with a side of their delicious poutine…which I have a craving for again…being a cheese n’ gravy aficionado as I am.

 

Jaeda; patio vacuum and part-time dog, joined us for our long relaxing meal at Falling Sky and we spooned at delicious homemade ice cream as a band setup for the evening. The sun was quite low however, and being a Sunday night, we reluctantly groaned to our feet and made our way to the car. We topped off the gas, and hit the road, back east over the pass.

 

TwilightCascades Sunset w/full moon

Aside from a stop to water some trees, we also somehow timed some perfectly serene and beautiful sunset views all along the way. We rolled into Bend around 9, unlocking the front door of our house with just a hint of fading twilight to guide the key in.

 

What a day!

 

 

Pair ‘o Brews

Recently celebrated my glorious day of birth, and – among the various mathoms – I received a pair of interesting brews.

Up first is E.S Bam from Jolly Pumpkin. I seemed to recognize this one, and sure enough, I found a review I did on BeerAdvocate (back when I was active) on 12-16-2008. I gave it a good review, here included in its original un-spellchecked wonder:

Had this and Bam Bier 750's back to back over 2 evenings. I actually think I liked the Bam Bier a bit better. This one just seemed a bit less complex, and a bit more unrefined. Poured a dark amber into my Church BrewWorks tulip glass. Craggly white head sits aloft. Immediatly getting a big ole yeasty farmhouse brett funk, which I definitely dig. Some other earthy grassy aromas in there too as the hops show up. I totally love the open fermentation and the tasty saison funk, but this just didnt meet my apparently high expectations.
It;s basically funly yeast with some hops dumped in. It's just kind of flat...not carbonation wise...but flavor wise, compared to other JP brews ive had.

So with this bit of 4-year old nostalgia revealed, We’ll be cracking this beer open tomorrow…look for the exciting update!

 

The second brew was by Upright Brewing, a very excellent brewery in Portland. This one’s a “strong lager” and inspired/tribute to The Clash (and/or punk rock in general).This brew poured with very tenacious carbonation, tart and crisp like champagne. The taste was more tart, also a bit peppery and floral. The carbonation added a lot of effervescence to the mouthfeel, and also brings out a bit of boozy heat (though it’s fairly tame at 6.75%). Overall a really cool style and very good brew. If you can find a bottle (limited release), grab one uppp!

IPApril

Cruised up to Sisters Oregon, for their IPA tap-takeover, dubbed IPApril. The lineup was 10 Oregon IPA’s, and Three Creeks Brewing presented them as a nice sampler, with a scoring-sheet and all.

  • Caldera IPA
  • Ft. George Vortex IPA
  • Boneyard RPM IPA
  • Lompoc Valley of the Hops
  • Double Mountain Hop Lava
  • Laurelwood Gearhead IPA
  • Three Creeks Hoodoo Voodoo
  • 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA
  • Terminal Gravity IPA
  • Beer Valley Delta 9

My favorite was the Double Mountain, but between the wife and I, the standouts included: Boneyard RPM, Caldera, DoubleMountain, and the Laurelwood. The Beer Valley and Terminal Gravity were disappointing. The rest were great but not world class.

Abyssal

Last night we visited The Abyss, a three year vertical flight to be specific. The wife and I had a handful of friends over for the momentous occasion, along with a full flight of other fancy brews from the cellar. Also drank this evening was a bottle of Deschutes 2008 Dissident, ’09 Mirror Mirror, Black Butte XXI, Jubel2010and two rare reserve series brews from Nebraska Brewing Company; their Melange A Trois and Fathead Barleywine.

Of the Abyss flight, the general consensus was that the ’07 was the best from a style standpoint, and the ’09 had some brett funk that actually made it fairly remarkable.Of the other brews, the Dissident aged very well. It was one of those beers I was expecting to turn into vinegar or be too funked.

Omaha Beer Week

This week, Omaha breweries, home brewers, and beer bars show off for Omaha Beer Week, a celebration of locally-brewed craft beers. I’ll be making the rounds with the wife and some beer geek friends, but if you’re in the area, check out the full list of events over at OBW’s website.

 

Favorite brews so far, included the Biere de Mars from NB and some excellent homebrews from the S.O.B’s

Bendward Ho

Update: Had a gooood time in Bend. Managed to pack every day with all sorts of activities, focused around beer, food, and catching up with friends.

Oh, and also the mountains!

Original Post:

Having a great time in Bend, so far I’ve hit up the following attractions…in less than 3 days:

GoodLife Brewing

Silvermoon Brewing

Dudley’s Bookshop

REI

McMenamins (Fireside bar)

Parilla grill

McMenamins (O’kanes)

Mt Bachelor

Cascade Lakes Brewing Lodge

Platypus Bar

Pizza Mondo

Pho Viet Cafe

Rockin’ Dave’s

 

 

Ho Ho…Hic…Ho!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas (or Hanukkah, Festivus, New Years, Paid Day Off, Kwanzaa, etc.).

Spent Christmas Eve with the wife’s family, then had a friend come visit and we did a little roadtrip down towards the Kansas City area. I’ll be writing some backlogs of posts real soon, but here’s just a sampling of what Santa brought.

Stoic

 

Yum, so got a bottle of Deschutes Brewery’s Stoic last night, which is a Belgian Quad. Though it doesn’t really have too many Quad attributes, it’s a damn fine brew, with lots of character.

I was surprised to see that BeerAdvocate has this beer listed as a B, which is kinda nuts…really low for a rare reserve beer, let alone a Deschutes. Looks like the haters (those folks giving it a D and whatnot), cite its diversion from style. Personally, I think this aspect of the beer should gain it extra points. Sure it’s a lot greener and sharper than a Quad is expected to be (not to mention the light color), but this beer is in no way lacking, bad, or in any way D worthy. Oh well.

 

 

A busy weekend or two

Here’s a hodgepodge recent photos from a couple different activities.
1. People’s Choice BBQ competition that was tied to the RiverCity Rodeo
2. Few Iowa wineries
3. Upstream and Nebraska Brewing Companies
4. Ditmar Apple Orchard

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that probably all these photos were shot (and in some cases edited) by Lindsay, not I.

holy coke

There’s a supermarrket here in Omaha that has easily become our favorite. They’ve got a lot of good things going for them, including their own tortillaria and smokehouse, as well as an impressive deli, meat, produce and beer department. Lots of strange hard-to-find items and local stuff.

As we walked in, we were greeted by this: the biggest wall of coke products i’ve ever seen. It’s like 20 feet tall. The diet boxs spell out “Super Saver Boystown” (plus i think thats a football on the far wall). I’d say that they have too many employees with free time on their hands, but the rest of the store was so impressive that I don’t know what to think now.

 

Another thing we saw was an entire section of vegetarian TVP (textured vegetable protein) canned ‘meat’. They appeared to be in the form of either soild masses that can be cut for burgers, or cans of hotdog-like things. They all had interesting names, like “Skallops”, “Choplets”, and “Prime Stake”. We had already bought a million-dollars worth of stuff by this point, so decided to give their veggie stake loaf a go next visit 😉 Here’s the company website that makes these canned meatish foods.

The reviews are (starting to come) in

 

Cigar City Brewing’s Guava Grove (or with an extra guava: Guave Groove)

Would I consider this a fruit beer? BA has it listed as a saison, which is curious. Poured into my Anderson Valley goblet and it shows a very hazy brass-yellow, with a good bit of head thanks to my overzealous pour. Foam didn’t go down and I had to suck it away after a few impatient minutes.

Fairly tart and tanic, with some fruity juiciness. I get the guava in there as it warms up. Bit of fusal alcohol heat in this one, especially noticed when I was chowing down on the foam, but also as it continued to reach room temp. At 8%, it’s a bit hot.

Flavors were exceptional, lots of citrusy fruit that sat ontop of a bready yeasty Belgian characteristic that showed up in the late taste. Only a mild funk, bit of cardboard must, apparent right away but in no way offensive.

Overall this was a really good drinking fruit/saison brew. On my patented rating scale, I will give it a 3.4 out of 4.

Troegs Brothers’ Perpetual IPA (perpetual ipa, perpetual ipa, perpetual ipa, perpetual ipa…)

What we;’ve got here is a now-classic American IPA, a nice hoppy offering from one of my old favorite east-coast breweries. It’s been a good long while since I’ve had a Troegs, and I wasn’t expecting to be disapointed. Sure enough, I wasn’t. It pours a nice copper orange with a bit of dirty haze.

Hoppy aroma, with a bit of soggy tea and pine hiding behind plenty of crisp citrus oils. Caramel biscuity in the finish and all around very well balanced and with a nice solid body to it. It’s got good drinkabilty and only a faint alcohol presence in the taste or smell when it’s on the colder side. Warming it up makes it a bit hot and the hops become slightly harsh and the mouthfeel gets a bit cloying. Overall, it’s a very well-crafted beer, but in the current IPA-soaked landscape, I would’ve liked this offering from Troegs to really stand out a bit more. On my patented rating scale, I’d give it 5 and half thumbs up.