This year’s annual Independence Day backyard blind beer tasting challenged palates and flaunted the vaunted German beer purity law of 1516. If you’re not familiar with the law, it basically limited 16th Century German brewers to three ingredients: malted barly, hops and water. Turns out they hadn’t figured out what yeast was at that point, so it wasn’t listed.

Here’s the relevant text, translated to English:

… We wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.

I’m guessing the Court authorities never, ever paid for beer. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I taste some cassis in this doppelbock. I’m going to have to confiscate it. For my belly.


I selected beers that all included something funky. Each beer was poured behind closed doors; tasters (aka our party guests) were asked to identify the Reinheitsgebot-violating ingredient from a list. I’ll be honest – I thought this would be the easiest challenge to date. But identifying some of the flavors proved difficult, especially in the berry department. Here’s what I poured:

  • Jasmine: Avatar Jasmine IPA, Elysian Brewing
  • Espresso: Overcast Espresso Stout, Oakshire Brewing
  • Chocolate: Imperial Chokolat, Southern Tier Brewing
  • Blueberry: Bluebeery Ale, Marin Brewing
  • Raspberry: Wild Raspberry Ale, Great Divide Brewing
  • Honey, Basil: Organic Honey Basil, Bison Brewing
  • Chipotle Pepper: Chipotle Ale, Rogue Brewing
  • Apricot: Aprihop: Dogfish Head Brewery

Of the bunch, I’d say the Aprihop (beer review at 999 Beers), Jasmine IPA and Overcast are in the category of “beers I’d definitely drink again.”

The Chokolat was widely imagined as “delicious over ice cream,” and I think that would be a good combo, if infrequent.

The Bluebeery tasted a little too artificial for my liking, but the Wild Raspberry had the real flavor of raspberries in every sip (I compared it to fresh-from-the-bush raspberries between pouring sessions!).

If you’d like to replicate the tasting menu, here’s the ReinheitsgeWhat?! tasting ballot, designed by yours truly.

Previous tastings:

  1. 2009: Us vs. Them (Domestic and Foreign examples of Sours and IPAs)
  2. 2008: Red States vs. Blue States
  3. 2007: Red, White and Blue Beers

Porky the Pork Pig in a Bacon Blanket

All these beer reviews lately, you’d think this blog was about … beer. Au contraire, my friends (French for “nuh uh”). If you’ll point your attention to the navigation over there on the right side of this page, you’ll note a mysterious, delicious category called “Meat Stunts.” That’s where you’ll find instructions for home made bacon, the legend of the curiously named “La Caja China,” and our last Superbowl centerpiece, “Snack Stadium XXXL.”

After last year’s surge in post-game web traffic, I knew we had to do something spectacular this year. This time, inspiration came in the form of a slab of shelf-stable Broadbent pepper bacon I acquired from (now owned by The predictable thing to do would have been to chunk it up into lardons (French for thick-ass pieces of bacon) or simply slice it thick for superdelishtstic BLT’s. But the meat stuntman in me wanted to stuff it with something.

Slab O'Bacon, Stuffing elements.

So of course I went to the best stuffing of all: more pork. I picked up a whole pork loin from Gartner’s, along with some pork sausage-stuffed pork tenderloins. If you’re counting, that’s four types of pork product so far.


I had a plan going in, but it was just a bit of stray cholesterol until I actually opened up the slab. I had no idea how much room there was in there! I got so excited I forgot to take photos of the assembly process, so instead I’ll let you digest the photo below, and describe what’s going on after the break.


Back? Not what you were expecting, was it? Heh. So the body’s the pork loin, sliced at one end to form a mouth. Inside the “mouth” are two garlic cloves acting as incisors, and the traditional apple. A couple more garlic cloves form the eyeballs, and two apple slices form the sow’s ears. The legs are those sausage-stuffed tenderloins I mentioned, with garlic toes (Mmm, garlic toes). Now, I wanted this thing to actually be tasty, and I was a bit concerned about overwhelming samplers with a lot of grease. This creation was going to be wrapped in bacon for a few hours, after all. So before I tucked her in, I sprinkled her back and legs with fresh rosemary “bristles” and lots of chopped up garlic “garlic.” Beneath the sow, I cut some drainage slits in the bottom of the bacon blanket.


I set the oven to 350, and tried not to open it every 15 minutes to see how my monster was developing. The house smelled … so delicious it was actually almost sickening. Imagine a foggy morning so thick you have to turn your headlights on. Now imagine that fog in your nose, and the whole thing smells like bacon, rosemary and garlic. It was difficult to concentrate. But four hours later, I pulled the pig and … wow. I wish you could have tried it. It was delicious, and those that could get past its eerily lifelike appearance were able to taste all four meats in one bite. Best of all, no one got sick, despite the Russian Roulette-like meat game we played. Four chances to get trichinosis, but all cylinders came up empty.



Dinner With the Widmer Brewers

It’s great to have a beer blog and an excuse to drink beer, but I guess we should actually add some content more than once a month.

A couple of weeks ago, the fine folks at Widmer invited us over for dinner to celebrate the release of W’10 Pitch Black IPA. Due to the enormous success of Brrr, W’10 was already in stores, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm for this Cascadian Dark Ale.

Rob and Kurt

I’ll leave a more detailed review of the beer to Dave at 999 Beers but I really like W’10, easily my favorite in the series, challenged only by W’07 that eventually became Drifter.  I think it’s a safe bet we’re going to see a lot more Cascadian Dark Ales this year and that style will be the choice of backyard BBQs and camping this summer. It’s a great blend of roasted malt flavor and hops without being too heavy.

33 beers and bottle

I was joined for dinner by brewer John Eaton who generally works the overnight shift at Widmer. I was a great opportunity to discuss the entire W series at Widmer, the collaborative creative process and the success of 07 and 06 turning into Drifter and Brrr in the company’s line. In general, the brewers get together and discuss a few different styles and then they work together to hash it out and determine what that year’s W beer will be. It’s a great opportunity for the brewers to flex their creativity outside of the company’s standard brews.

It also seemed some at Widmer were a little miffed/disappointed at the lack of success of W’09, the Belgian Golden Ale and to a lesser extent 08’s Crimson Wheat. In thinking about the Belgian Golden, it reminded me of Bridgeport’s Supris and a similar tepid response.

It makes me think that major production brewers such as Bridgeport and Widmer become well known for certain styles and the consumer just doesn’t think of them as an outlet for something so different. I’m certain that in addition to letting brewers create new styles, the W series also helps Widmer stretch the consumer’s mind and while a certain year may not sell as expected, it can help open the door for future, more commercially successful new styles.

You can learn more about W’10 and the W series by going here and can find Widmer Brothers on Twitter and Facebook.

33 Beers: A Beer Notebook

We’ve been to a lot of beer festivals. A LOT of beer festivals. Mostly in Oregon, but earlier this year we made our way down to San Francisco Beer Week, and took on the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this fall (photo below).


I’d like to say that the recap blog posts are forthcoming, but as every festival attendee can attest, the details tend to get hazy as the samples take hold, and SMS/Twitter reconstructions can only go so far toward recalling the flavor profiles and production details on some of the more obscure or original microbrews tasted.


Our first product, 33 Beers, is an attempt to solve this “memory problem.” It’s a beer journal we designed for rapidly taking down the important details of a beer. A unique “flavor wheel” is included on each of the 33 pages of note-taking area, and it provides a quick, visual way to describe a beer’s flavor (and recall it later). Simple check-boxes for serving method (draft, can, bottle, etc.) and other key information further speed up the process. The idea is to take notes for later recall, but do so rapidly so you can, you know … enjoy the actual beer?

Best of all, it’s highly portable, unlike the 11×17-sized, color-coded Excel spreadsheets we used to tote around to beer festivals. It easily fits in the front or back pocket of a pair of jeans, and is thinner than most mobile phones. It’s printed in the Northwest on 100% Washington-recycled paper using US-grown soy ink, so it should satisfy even the hippiest of hippie beer drinkers.


We’ve set up a web site to sell the book at, and it’s available in a few stores in the Portland, Oregon area (Saraveza, Belmont Station and Bailey’s Taproom as of this writing). It’s been largely a labor of love, and we’d love it if you’d help us spread the word to the other beer geeks in your life. It’s pretty inexpensive, too; it retails at $4 each or a three-pack is $10. Wouldn’t these look great under your tree?