Archive for the 'Beer Culture' Category

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Adventures in Denver, part 1

I recently went to Denver for a conference. The conference info billed Denver as the Napa Valley of beers, and as a person who lives in Portland, I felt that it was probably worth doing my due diligence to see if any of it was founded. The short answer is yes. The longer answer follows. However, before I start, I want to pose a question of Colorado brewers. People went out of their way to warn me about the affect of altitude on the body’s ability to process alcohol, and that I should drink more water than usual. Yet beers in Colorado seem to have a higher average gravity than what I’m used to. The bartender at FreshCraft even referred to several 5%-6% ABV beers as “session beers.” Maybe it’s not the altitude, Colorado…

I arrived in Denver on a Sunday afternoon, and after a bizarre encounter on public transit, checked in to the hotel. I had some time to kill before the conference kicked off, so I wandered around LoDo, or Lower Downtown. I accidentally came across Freshcraft, so I stopped in. It was rather quiet, being a Sunday evening, so I scanned the chalkboards for Colorado beers and set on a pint of Bristol’s Compass IPA (on Nitro). It was bright, delicious, and dangerously smooth. An early indication that these folks know what they’re doing with beer. Next I had a half-pint of Odell’s St. Lupalin, billed as an XPA on the board. It was fresh, fine, though not what I’d expected from a beer with this name. Last I had a half-pint of Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout (also on nitro). It was fantastic and went eerily well with the Bruschetta.

A shorty of Avery Milk Stout @ Freshcraft

Out of pure awesome luck, the conference kick-off was at the Wynkoop Brewery. After checking out the raging South Platte river and Confluence Park, I headed over to Wynkoop. My first beer was their Schwarzbier, a lovely black lager. It was a great beer to have after walking some distance, and as a compliment to the dinner. Then, after ogling the various oak casks aging in the basement, I tried the London Calling IPA on cask. It was very authentic and reminded me why I love cask ales. One of the activities that the conference arranged was a “meet the brewer” event where two brewers were on hand for questions and samples. I chatted with Josh for over 45 minutes and got to sample their chili beer (very nice – bite in the right place) and a sip of the pilsner (it kind of tasted like pepper, which was my fault). Josh was an almanac of beer and brewing knowledge and shared some recommendations on where to visit in the area. I’m pretty sure my coworker Rebecca was bored silly by us, but I was getting a lot of great info – both on their process, and on some behind the scenes info on the various breweries in the area. Sadly, I had neither the time nor inclination to leave Denver proper to see some of the neighboring beer clusters.

That wraps it up for Sunday. What a great start.

BrewCycle ride at NAOBF

Michelle and I took a spin on the BrewCycle at the North American Organic Brewers Festival this afternoon. It was fun, it was exciting, and it was great to see what the enterprising couple was doing with the venture. Fun stuff, and despite the bumpy lawn, I was still able to enjoy a sip of my YerbaMate IPA.

King of beers?

"Is this the king of beers?"
Ella saw this sitting on the back steps (in the recycle pile), picked it up and asked me “Is this the king of beers?”

I said “Trademark aside, yes. Pretty much.”

Hopworks Bike Bar

We got word from my sister that Hopworks’ new Bike Bar on Williams was “open.” After a long weekend of yard and playhouse work, we were definitely happy to go have a brew and have someone make us dinner. Sure enough, the place was open and we walked in and got a seat. The place is lovely and has some nice bike decor that differ slightly from the original. The most noticeable – to me anyway – was that the bikes above the bar were all new. And awesome. I ran in to Dave from BS Brewing who said that they were there so that you could learn more about the different manufacturers. I’m most curious about the lovely bamboo framed bike that is closest to the front.

I’m glad they opened the place in NoPo. Driving to SE was an ordeal, and you’d often drive for 30+ minutes only to wait for another 30+. The good news is that even on a pre-flight opening, the food and beer was great. The service was nearly there and will improve. We’ll be seeing more of the place, I’m sure. Especially since they have toys.

Dang, he made it.

I’m impressed that not only did J Wilson make his lent commitment to subsist on doppelbock, he did some interesting and thoughful writing along the way. This is not one of the thoughtful posts, but it’s entertaining none the less.

Doppelbock for lent

I appreciate a challenge, but my money is on this Lent beer stunt ending by end of day 4. Back in ’02 or ’03 I followed the blog of a guy trying to do the same with only Guinness. He hated his life by the 4th day.

Holiday Ale Fest 2010

Michelle, my dad and I made a quick visit to the Holiday Ale Festival last night to take in some big winter brews. We were a little later than expected, which was entirely my fault. I had to stop at Steinbarts for some grain and traffic was wretched. We got to the event just after 5pm, usually about when I’d be wrapping up. The crowds were out in full force, and it was a bit of a challenge (as usual) to get yourself up to some of the beers. Luckily, there were several that were well worth the wait.

My favorite pour of the evening was the 2007 Baltic Porter from Cascade Brewing. It was rich, thick, smokey, liquory, and just a smidge tart. Maybe it was the 2-ticket cost, but this was no line for this beer. Cascade Brewing’s Sang Noir was tops again this year as well, though I think my next favorite might have been 10 Barrel’s Pray for Snow. Their Sinister is probably one of my favorite beers of 2009, and this was also deliciously dark, rich and robust.

My least favorite was Widmer’s Black Dynamite. Initially I thought there was mint in it, but have learned otherwise. I feel bad mentioning it since I deeply appreciate that Widmer takes consistent risks on beers at festivals. Some have been bad, but some have been the most memorable beers. Tis’ better to try and fail than to Hell or High Watermelon.

Yeah, so, that’s about it. Loved Lost Glove, Ill Tempered Gnome and that pretty much wraps up my festival for the year.

Thank you Oregon Craft Beer Month

I love Oregon’s Craft Beer Month, but this year I was a little busy and missed both the North American Organic Brewers Festival and the OBF. I was able to get in on one night of Saraveza’s IPA festival (great), visited Terminal Gravity’s Pub,  and managed to score a few delicious pints around town, but I missed out on so many other events because July was just overbooked. I did my best to drink only Oregon brews during the month of July with a few exceptions.  The exceptions were a few Trumer Pils when in the Wallowas (it was with Carne Asada), Illinois beers when in Chicago, Maharaja IPA at Saraveza, and Walking Man when I stopped by the brewpub on Friday night. Otherwise, I revel in keeping my beer dollars in state.

However, that’s not saying much when the immense variety, high quality, and all around goodness of Oregon brewers. Thanks.

Beer Stimulus Bill

There’s some proposed legislation dubbed the “beer stimulus bill” would give tax breaks to craft breweries. This is a boutique bill, but the economic ramifications are very real to Oregon brewers. Linds pointed me towards a Eugene TV report on the matter that features my buddy Joe raking spent grain out of a mash tun.

Holiday Ale Fest 2009

I like my space, so the Holiday Ale Fest each year means that I need to simply get used to bumping in to people and spilling some beer for a little while. Like most festivals, I’ve made a habit of taking some work time off to visit before the crowds get too massive. This year was a quick affair; Michelle and I were only able to attend for about an hour before taking MAX home to pick up kids. We were fortunate to meet up with Curtis, Liz, Kevin, Ryan, and Michelle’s coworker Tim for several samples. Nothing we had was bad, and thanks to the early-ish arrival, no beer was bumped and spilled.

My favorites were Cascade Brewing’s Sang Noir, HotD’s Jim 2009, and possibly Oakshire’s Very Ill Tempered Gnome or New Belgium’s La Folie. Each was very different, and surprisingly good out of a plastic cup. The last beer I sampled was Upright’s Holy Herb, and it was unlike anything I’ve had before and I’m still not exactly sure what happened in my mouth. I meant to get over to Saraveza and try it again, but I think I may have missed it. I’m not going to try and describe it until I get a second opinion that doesn’t come at the end of 6 big-beer samples.

We meant to get back and burn up our last tickets over the weekend, but alas, the furnace broke and thesis work needed doing.