Friday, November 27, 2009

Tangelo Porter Bottled

Smallish batch of Tangelo Porter filled 36 bottles (mostly 12oz, but including 2 bombers and 3 grolsch) while watching Dallas stomp all over Raider Nation.
Chocolate Stout is still bubbling away in the carboy, but will probably move to a keg for secondary so we can get another porter going before Christmas.
I'm ready to begin tasting the winter seasonal ales produced in this fair city, starting last week with Laurelwood Brewing's Vinter Varmer: A smooth balance between their fresh hop Hooligan ale and the darker, velvety Space Stout, the Varmer features earthy flavors and a warming 6.4% ABV.
Picked up a six of Deschutes Brewery's Jubelale, a beer I had previously written off for no reason I can remember, and found that it's perfect for this season. As the beer warms, the malt and hop characters open up and there's a great complexity here, good evening beer, seeing as evening starts about 4:30 now.
In addition, New Belgium has begun to redeem 1554, a bottle caught between genres, colors, flavors and a general anachronism, by producing a beer they simply call Abbey. It's certainly drinkable, and although it features none of the New Belgium signature papery flavors, I wouldn't confuse it for an actual Abbey ale.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

OBC Fall Classic--Judgement Day!

The detailed results of the Oregon Brew Crew's Fall Classic came out by email yesterday, and I am proud to say that the Saison marked 32 on a 50 point scale, or "Very Good: Beers in this range may have a minor flaw (technical or sylistic) or may be lacking in balace or complexity"
The beer was judged by two people (one a novice, the other certified), who gave almost entirely positive feedback regarding the appearance, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel.
In the Overall Impression section, the certified judge remarked, "A drinkable beer, more like an IPA with Belgian yeast. Aroma and flavor should reflect more of the Saison yeast phenols and fruitiness," and the other guy said "Nice flavor, peppery, spicy, not too tart."
The results were exciting, no major off flavors or unpalatable responses, but the real learning experience was in the judging rather than the judgement for me. From the master and certified judges I worked with, I learned how to pick out off flavors and know their sources, as well as how to judge with the perameters of style.

OBC Fall Classic

The earliest I have roused myself from bed this month was 7am, in order to make it to judging registration at the Oregon Brew Crews recent Fall Classic Homebrew Competition. We tucked into the first flights of the day at about 9, in the chilly barroom of Roots Brewing Company.
I judged Light Hybrids, including California Common Beer (think Anchor Steam) and dusseldorf altbier. Unfortunately, there are about a dozen different weird off flavors that can affect a finished beer, and a few of these were prominently featured in most of the beers I tasted. There are so many variables to brewing, that examples that nailed down malt character left hops out in the cold, or a beer that looked awesome and got full marks for appearance--a thick creamy foam, correct color and clarity--would taste weird or weak.
We broke for lunch and I considered the fate of Kazoo's best of the year, Hot-Head Saison, as it awaited judgment. The high-ranking judges at the Belgians table would certainly pick out the subtle off flavors, and, to make matters worse, they had received the very last bottle existing...
(As we neared the end of the Saison bottling process, it became clear that I had miscalculated the number of bottles we would fill, so everyone in the room naturally pitched it by opening a beer, decanting it into a glass and sanitizing the bottle)... and the last bottle I would have picked for judgement.
The rest of the day rolled along smoothly (if a bit chilly), officially tasting American Ambers and participating in a taste-off for that category, then meeting some other brewers and unofficially tasting some ciders and meads.
I picked up some advice on dialling in keg carbing, bulk grain deals and the merits of secondaries and the members of the Oregon Brew Crew were very encouraging, welcoming and supportive.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My New Friends: Adam, Ruth & Fred

Unique is a much abused and overused adjective, co-opted in the 90s by savvy marketers and born-again hippies, but it was the the first word that came to mind as I tasted Doggie Claws, a barley wine created by Hair of the Dog Brewing.

My first thought as I entered the dog house, however, was this must be the wrong door, because there was a forklift blocking the way, a giant white vessel standing in the middle of the room and cases upon cases of brown boxes. We stepped tentatively around the boxes, uncertain whether we were welcome in this esoteric beer temple. Hair of the Dog is serious stumptown underground--the hybrid of two essential Portland loves: a DIY anti-corporate attitude and craft brewing--and complete with an impossible to find clubhouse and odd beer names like Ruth, Fred & Adam we had to wonder, Are we worthy?

Perhaps. Busy like the Wizard of Oz, Founder Alan Sprints walked out from someplace among the boxes and without ado poured three tastes of Ruth, then walked off to check on some kegs, leaving us to contemplate our clear, golden glasses. After tasting Fred and Fred from the Wood (both somewhere around 11%), we began to feel much more comfortable in the noisy warehouse, and Alan offered to show us around the operation.

Hair of the Dog makes old, odd, forgotten recipes from authentic ingredients. Adam, the original Hair of the Dog, is made only with the ingredients and procedures available to the 19th century brewer, and produced according to a long lost prescription (for more on Adam, a fascinating beer, I recommend this article by Fred Eckhardt). Doggie Claws makes an incredibly smooth transition from winter beer to blush to port and back again with every sip. I could almost feel the warehouse tilt and disappear, to be replaced with a hearth wholly of my imagination, roaring fire, Christmas lights ablaze, big old dog warming my feet, then back to the cement floor with the malty beer finish. We also tasted Fred Flanders, a very interesting version of Fred aged in wood with Brettanomyces wild beasties whose flavor I could not begin to describe here.

Hair of the Dog's operation is compact, milling grains to mash tun to water-jacketed fermentation vats all within about 10 square yards, but the beer, produced in miniscule batches and bottle conditioned, is truly unique.