KLCC Microbrew Festival in Eugene

Several accomplished beer writers (John Foyston, Lisa Morrison and Abram Goldman-Armstrong), bloggers (Portland Beer) and somehow BS Brewing were invited by Travel Oregon and Travel Lane County to visit Eugene for the KLCC Microbrew Festival and spend Zwickelmania with local brewers.

I give this fest high marks, more than 50 breweries and 110 beers, a homebrew competition, vendors selling classic vinyl records, live music and a People’s Choice Award (won by Hop Valley’s Alpha Centauri). The lines and crowd were very manageable, hardly waited more than 30 seconds for a fill and it’s a pretty standard $1 ticket per taste and your $12 admission gets you an actual glass taster. Proceeds benefit the listener-supported station.

KLCC Brewfest

Definitely the most interesting aspect of the festival was the inclusion of a collaboration brew, where participating brewers each developed their take on a (get this…) Belgian Style Cascadian Dark Rye Ale. In the description of the beer below they used the phrase “Because we can,” perhaps because some said “Oh no, you didn’t?” Overall, I think each of the beers suffered from being a bit of an over-engineered concept, any two of the three (Cascadian Dark, rye malt, Belgian yeast) would have been fine, but all three together created some odd flavors regardless of the skill of the brewer making the beer. A good thing to remember is just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

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Dave in his quest to drink 999 different beers over 999 days reviewed Ninkasi’s entry here.

Aside from the collaboration brew, there were handful of seasonals but most brought beers that are available in some form here in Portland. That didn’t crush our enthusiasm for seeking out old favorites like Maui Brewing’s IPA and breweries we’ve never tried such as Wakonda Brewing’s Imperial Pilsner.

As our Twitter post summed it up that night, it’s like a mini-GABF but instead of beer geeks there are college girls and old hippies. I would definitely recommend checking the festival out in future years, either on its own if you’re in the area or as a part of of a beer weekend to check out the all great breweries in the area.

More on our Zwickelmania trips later…

Would a ‘Warm Beer’ Sign Make You Stop In?

A good way to develop your taste in beer is to keep drinking and try new beers. Yet, you should make sure you’re getting everything you paid (or brewed) for. The temperature of the beer and the glass can have a large impact in the amount of flavor exposed to your palate.

Last week, I performed a simple taste test to compare a flavor of cold beer in a cold glass to the flavor of beer in a glass that approached the ambient temperature. I used Total Domination IPA (6.7% alc./vol. 65 ibus.) from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon in both tastings. My results are as follows; I encourage you to try a similar test and confirm my results.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Cold Glass + Cold Beer

I used a freezer mug for this test. This mug had been inside the freezer overnight and the fluid inside the mug kept the beer frosty cold.

  • First, the beer tasted cold (obviously, but I need to state this for completeness, right?)
  • I could tell it was a carbonated fluid, but not much more.
  • There was little, if any, flavor on the sip.
  • The beer raced through my mouth, not much time to savor.
  • I tasted bitterness upon swallowing; when back of tongue reaches the roof of my mouth.
  • It also exhibited a bitter aftertaste.
  • This reminded me of the macro-brews consumed during my college years. The point was to drink this one and then move on to the next one. Not much thought was put into enjoying the experience.

Ambient Glass + Near Ambient Beer

Now that I write this, I wish I would have taken a temperature measurement with Dave’s sweet laser thermometer. I didn’t think about it, so maybe I’ll have to re-do the test. Ha!

  • This warmer beer was thick, with a full body which bloomed into a slight citrus taste after a few sips and more time in my glass.
  • This beer was more savory and definitely more chewy than the cold glass I had earlier. I could chew on the bubbles that make up the head.
  • The beer exhibited a more malty finish too.
  • I could tell the bitterness was more of an after-thought than the primary flavor present in the cold glass.
  • I could sense a slight pine flavor; other beers like Pliny the Elder (the beer, not the ancient Roman nobleman) have a bold pine flavor, but this was more subtle.
  • I stuck my nose in the glass and smelled a real craft beer.

Based on my results, I experienced a much broader flavor when the temperature of the beer neared the ambient temperature of the room. I wasn’t missing nearly as much as I did with the ultra cold beer. Even after burning a fair amount of my taste sensation on the cold, bitter beer, I could still enjoy the flavors present in the warmer beer.

You might be asking yourself why some beers actually highlight the coldness of the beer and/or the can. That’s a good question. My guess is that (1) you were watching a commercial for mass markets and (2) the beer advertised was not a craft beer.

I don’t have anything against big market beer with less flavor, it has a time and a place too. And I’ll still get a lot of enjoyment out of my Blazer mug with embedded super-freeze technology. I’ll just put the right beer inside it and enjoy the day. Its a close analogy to mixing Seagrams 7 in a glass of Coca-Cola and pouring Woodford Reserve in a tumbler with a little water to open up the flavor. I enjoy both beverages, but there’s a time and place for each. When you select one, make sure you’re getting all the flavor available to you.

Holiday Ale Fest 2009

Ah, Holiday Ale Fest, how we love thee… I suppose it’s fitting that I’m the BS blogger who ended up writing this review, since I’m probably the one with the strongest predilection towards big, and often dark, beers. As a lover of stouts, porters, barleywines, and the venerable “winter warmers,” I look forward to freezing my ass and warming my belly in Portland’s living room every December.

Before I get to the beers though, a warning: most of these beers are strong. Some of them are very strong. Please make responsible transportation arrangements (it shouldn’t be hard, given the fest’s location at the confluence of all four MAX lines) and go easy. Also, drink at least a pint of water when you get home. My head is none to happy with me this morning, but these are the things I do for you, our loyal readers. On to the beers…

[Sorry, forgot my camera. Imagine a slightly blurry picture of a bunch of people standing around in a huge white tent, drinking beer from small plastic mugs.]

Jim ’07 – Hair of the Dog For those who don’t know, Jim is an annual collaboration between HotD brewer Alan Sprints and Ale Fest organizer/host Preston Weesner. It is a blend of several HotD beers (Adam, Fred, Doggie Claws, and Blue Dot) as well as a few others. The ’07 variety featured Adam (an “old ale”) prominently but you can also easily taste the sweet spiciness of the Doggie Claws and the floral hoppiness of the Blue Dot, all perfectly balanced. This is my favorite of the Jims, and one of my favorite beers ever. If you’ve never had this beer, you really must try it. What? It’s all gone? ALL of it? In the whole world?!?! Oh, well, nevermind then.

[picture of dark beer in a small plastic mug]

Jim ’09 – HotD Sorry about the ’07 tease. On the upside, there should be plenty of Jim ’09. While Adam was in the forefront in ’07, ’09 is all about the Blue Dot and Doggie Claws. Well, not ALL about those two. Much as those added key flavors to Jim 07, now Adam and Fred provide the hints of chocolate, toffee and other notes that make this year’s Jim equally well-rounded, if totally different. Getting to see what treat Alan and Preston have concocted each year has come to be a highlight of the Holiday Ale Fest.

Barrel-aged Baba Yaga – Bear Republic Don’t let the 110 IBUs fool you, this is actually not an especially bitter or hoppy beer. The sweetness and alcohol combine to balance out the bitterness and you’re left with a smooth, sweet, smoky, maltiness that lingers nicely in your mouth.

Wassail Holiday Blend – Full Sail Usually Wassail is not one of my favorites of the local winter ales, but here they’ve combined it 65/35 with some of their bourbon barrel aged porter. To taste it, you’d think that ratio is reversed. The malt and bourbon flavors of porter actually end up coming through strongest, and the hoppy notes of the Wassail end up as pleasant accents. It does end up a bit thinner than many of the beers here, but that can actually be a bit refreshing, given how full-bodied and heavy things can get.

North III – Fort George I’m normally not a big tripel drinker either, but this was a very different tripel. They’ve added a ton of maple syrup and sugar plums to give the beer a great sweet maply flavor. It’s possible that if you ARE a big tripel fan, you’ll find this a horrible bastardization, but I loved the way the fruit and spiciness balance out the hops. This was one of my favorite beers.

[picture of slightly less dark beer in a small plastic mug]

Sang Noir – Cascade If you like sour beers, you’re going to love Sang Noir. If you don’t, stay far away because this is one of the sourest sours I’ve had. It’s also fairly dark and has some nice oaky notes from the barrel-aging. It reminded me in some ways of Russian River’s Consecration (those who know me will know that this comparison is one of the highest compliments I can pay a beer), though most of the flavors are a little more in-your-face. Another really great beer.

Spiced Baltic Porter – Eel River The name really says most of what you need to know about this beer. It’s really just what you’d expect, a rich, full-bodied porter (though definitely a bit less coffee-tasting than many) with some hefty flavors of cinnamon and vanilla. Not too much though. This was also one of the better beers I tried.

Oaked St. Nick – Block 15 I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t actually familiar with Block 15 before several folks recommended this beer (there, I gave them a little linky to make up for the oversight). Anyway, apparently they’re doing some really nice things down there in Corvallis because this is a really solid beer. It has a great dried-fruit flavor with plenty of spiciness, and also just a touch of floral hoppiness. A really nicely balanced beer.

If it sounds like I was really impressed with the vast majority of beers I tried, that’s no accident. There were way more triples and home runs this year than I remember in the past (a baseball metaphor for Dave). Not to say I didn’t find a couple strikeouts. I didn’t care for the chocolate huckleberry stout from Laughing Dog. Some of you are probably shaking your head, wondering why I even thought that would be a good idea. Well, I do believe it could be done, and be good, but this wasn’t it. There was just a bit too much bitter coffee-ness that didn’t mesh with the berry sweetness. Or, at least it didn’t work for me. YMMV. I also wasn’t a big fan of the Son of Santa from Southern Oregon. It had some nice spiciness, but overall I found it a bit thin and not especially well-balanced.

I’ll also throw in a word or two about two beers that were only available yesterday, but unlike the incomparable Jim ’07 (yes, I’m still an asshole) you might be able to find them elsewhere. Braggot from New Old Lompoc is, well, a braggot, which is to say it’s beer mead. Or mead beer. Or something like that. Anyway, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from such a strange beast, though I guess I should’ve known. It tasted like mead mixed with beer. Duh. It also worked a lot better than I expected. Give it a try if you happen to see it around, just for the uniqueness if nothing else. Also, I got to try some Scaldis Noel ’07 which had aged REALLY nicely; a very complex mix of fruity flavors, spiciness, malts and floral notes. It really made me wish there were a few more beers that had been given a few years to mellow and mature.

Well, that brings us to the end of my Holiday Ale Fest wrap-up. One last note for those who made it all the way to the end, do try and warm the beers up a bit with your hands before you drink them. Preston says he turned the coolers up to 44 degrees (from the OBF standard 34), but it’s still damn chilly out, particularly at night, so hold that beer close and warm it a bit to get it to ideal sipping temperature for beers like these (which, contrary to what the American macro-beer industry tells you, is not actually a tenth of a degree above freezing).

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not promote the wonderful little book that allowed me to take notes on these beers to share with all of you. Yes, I tried out the 33 Beers beer sketchbook, and I must say it pretty much rocked. I took much better notes than I ever have at previous beerfests. So, go order some online at 33beers.com or pick them up wherever fine beer is sold (well, at least a few places in Portland where fine beer is sold, specifically Saraveza, Bailey’s Taproom, and Belmont Station).

Bacon Week 2: Bacon Soap

Bacon Week Logo

I thought I would smell like bacon.

I’ve been using Bacon Soap for a week, and really, I smell a bit savory, but I don’t smell anything like bacon. No more than any other person that’s been cooking pounds and pounds of bacon in a short period of time, anyway. Not smoky, not salty, not … bacony.

It does smell a little bacony when you use it, though. Actually, it smells a little like other fake bacon products do when you use it. Having sampled a wide variety of bacon-inspired products in a short period of time, I am now highly attuned to that unique blend of industrial dyes and spices that some companies use to mimic the smell of my favorite salty meat. Bacon soap smells like bacon gumballs. Bacon soap smells like bacon mints. Bacon soap smells like bacon air freshener. Bacon soap smells like trying too hard. And it kind of stings my eyes.

bacon-soap