First Taste: OBF 2008

I requested to have Thursday off back in May. Opening day of the Oregon Brewers Festival? What better way to beat the crowds and try the beers I want with no lines?

I met Alan and Kathleen shortly after 2pm, and we sampled a number of beers before the rest of the world reached the end of their working day. I can’t speak for their preferences, but here are the few I tried that I’d recommend to other festival goers.

  • Rock Bottom Congo Queen: another Sorghum beer, but this one takes the delicate flavor of sorghum and uses that flavor void to highlight the yeast and a number of spices. Really quite nice, though maybe not what my celiac grandfather has been looking for.
  • Bridgeport Hop Czar: A robust imperial style IPA. Lots of malt and lots of hop. Would be better in about 3 months.
  • Boundary Bay Crystal Pale Ale: A single hopped beer using crystal hops. This beer is subtle, delicate, and delicious. I love crystal hops though, so the slightly spicy noble hop creates a nice head-to-toe beer. Probably one that non-hop heads would enjoy too.
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid: All sorts of good. Great body, great flavors, and great sweet to bitter shotgun of hop flavors. I’ve not had this for a year, but it’s really fantastic.

I’ll be heading back with friends on Saturday too, but I feel like I got a good head start. The atmosphere was nice, the weather great, and I got to meet Jimi Hendrix and the owner of Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. Not the real Jimi, of course, but the real owner of Boundary Bay. I sent a picture of myself with him to a friend in Bellingham to show off.

edit: Jimi and I at OBF.

You never know who you\'ll run in to
You never know who you'll run in to

Fermentation Friday: July

July’s Theme: What one tip would you give a beginner homebrewer before they brew their first batch and why?

When I first read this topic, my immediate answer was “sanitize twice!” However, I’ve just brewed with someone for the first time and I think the most reassuring thing is that the brewing process is really quite simple. Sure there are lots of rules, but overall, once you see the process, it’s really easy to brew. And, once you know the process, you can try new things, make tweaks that suit your setup and more.

Here’s a snap shot of the process. Maybe calling it simple is misleading, but maybe a road map will help the first timer.

Brewing Process road map
Brewing Process road map

Here’s a PDF as well.

Concordia Cup 2008

Lindsay, Joe and I rode over to Concordia Ale House to participate in the Concordia Cup, a blind tasting of Oregon Imperial (double) IPAs. We each ordered a tray and set about tasting. I started at #10, a beer infused with or aged in a wind barrel (Pinot we guessed). It was excellent. Continuing on, there were more traditional IPAs, lots of malt, strong hop (though only one was truly bitter).

After all the beers were sampled, we all ended up voting for #2, an abundantly citrusy and floral beer with a great balanced sweetness that I found the most pleasing. I wonder if the results are in.

Hopping NA beer

NA beers have suddenly become of interest in my household again, and as generalization, I think they’re just not good. Luckily, it doesn’t matter what I think. Dave Eryn at BS Brewing has a great review of NA beers, and while I differ from her on Kaliber, I agree that O’Douls Amber is about as close as you’re going to get to a decent beer sans alcohol. Still, it’s not great, but there might be a way to improve on it.

My wife is as big a hop head as I am, and one thing consistently missing from NA beers is discernible hoppiness. Buckler at least gets the slight skunk of a green bottle correct, but that’s a pretty lame distinction. So here’s what I tried.

Hop reduction

Bert Grant used to carry an eye dropper of hop oil with him to add to tame beers. Hop oil is extracted using alcohol, something we’re trying to avoid, so why not create a hop tea? I’ve got a lot of hops, so boiling an ounce of Summits seemed like a good use. I boiled the hops in a small stock pot for about 5 minutes, then strained off the cones and continued to boil the tea for another 10 minutes to reduce the volume. The resulting brownish sludge didn’t look too great, but it smelled nice. A reckless sip and I was startled at how bitter it was. Better be careful.

A small addition to a pint of beer definitely made the beer more bitter. Sadly, it was impossible to get the right mixture of the reduction to get the desired hoppiness without making it too bitter. Maybe a hop variety with a lower alpha acid percentage would be better, but this just didn’t work.

Hop Oil

This stuff contains alcohol. To get the hop oil, you have to use alcohol to extract the oils from the glands. But, as it turns out, you only use 2 drops per 12 oz bottle, something that is well within a safe consumption level. I tried two drops in a bottle of Widmer Drop Top, and the beer suddenly became much more to my liking. For the first couple sips. Then it was time to re-drop. I think I used a total of 5 drops over the course of the beer. This is promising though.

Michelle tried it in an O’Douls and the flavor is markedly improved. It’s almost drinkable. The body is now the missing link. I wonder if there’s a way to add unfermentables to bolster that….

In the mean time, it looks like tonic & lime is the preferred alternative.

Revisiting the Trinity

Ella and I spent the long holiday weekend in Nebraska with family for a wedding and my grandparents’ 60th anniversary. As part of my wedding gift, I took my cousin a bottle of Laurelwood’s Tree Hugger Porter; a gift I felt would convey both the appropriate image and flavor of beer out here. I told him to wait until fall to drink it too.

It’s been quite some time since I last had any Macro lagers – “pilsners,” if you will. I may have had a Hamms or two this year, but nothing from the “Trinity” of American beers.  I know it’s now a misnomer to call them the “Trinity” since SABMiller and Molson-Coors are now essentially one, but I find it hard to break the habit.

Over the weekend, I had Budweiser at the rehearsal dinner, Coors Light and Bud Light at a 4th of July party, and Bud Light and Miller Light at the wedding itself. In a non-scientific rating, here’s how I feel about them:

  1. Budweiser
  2. Bud Light -tie- Coors Light
  3. Miller Lite

I was really disappointed to put Coors ahead of Miller, but Miller Lite was just bad. I’m also really displeased with light beer in general. It was such a sad exercise in refreshment. Granted, it was 80F and humid, so any beverage was nice, but there was no flavor and no satisfaction, and definitely no palate satisfying bitterness. I could see drinking Budweiser again since there is some flavor and a smidgen of body, but the other three just don’t seem like beer, and frankly, I hate Coors. At least other Macro lagers get some flavor from adjuncts like corn.

Ella and I were stuck in the Denver airport for roughly 5 hours yesterday so I had a Mojo IPA with dinner. It was glorious. While I was gone, Curtis dropped by for a beer trade, so I’ve got a few nice east coast brews coming my way as well.

Tags: , , , , , ,