Archive for July, 2008

Official AnniBREWsary Glass!

July 31, 2008

Check it out, ladies and gents! Here’s the special souvenir glass we’ll be handing out on Saturday for our AnniBREWsary shindig. Based on our snifter design, this glass can hold up to 12 oz of beer and features a measured line right underneath the Bailey’s logo to identify where the 4 oz limit lies. It’s a great glass for enjoying a big beer like an imperial stout, barleywine, or Belgian style ale. And the best part is that you’ll be able to take yours home with you after the festival!

Be sure to check back here tomorrow for the names of several other beers we’ll be tapping this Saturday!

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A Peek At Some AnniBREWsary Beers

July 29, 2008

Are you guys and gals still hanging in there? After the deluge of Portland beer festivals in the past few weeks, are you primed for the best one yet? Then get your party hats on, beer fans, because we’re only FOUR days away from Saturday’s One-Year AnniBREWsary, and as you should already know, we’re rolling out barrel-aged beers to celebrate.

But which ones, you ask?

Here’s just a quick peek at SOME of what we’ll be tapping for your drinking pleasure:

  • Fort George Illuminator (Bourbon Barrel) – Doppelbock
  • Full Sail Top Sail (Bourbon Barrel) – Imperial Porter
  • Hair of the Dog Fred from the Wood – Barleywine
  • Lucky Lab 5 Ton (Whiskey Barrel) – Strong Ale
  • Laurelwood Moose and Squirrel (Bourbon Barrel) – Imperial Stout
  • Roots 2006 Epic (Pinot Noir) – Imperial Stout

Stay tuned to this blog all week for a few more reveals on the barrel aged list. And keep in mind that we’ve got a couple EXTRA SPECIAL MYSTERY BEERS that we’ll be keeping quiet until the big day itself. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I’ll just say that one of these beers breaks our rule of only keeping west coast beers on tap by our longest distance ever and the other beer won’t be on CO2.

Conclude of those vagaries what you will…

Hail to the Jefe

July 25, 2008

A lot of beer fans just don’t like Hefeweizens. They perceive them as weak styles of beer, all fruit and sweetness and not nearly hardcore enough for their sophisticated palate. I can understand why some people hate on it: it’s low in alcohol, the hops are subdued, it’s usually reeking with fruity aromas… and it’s not even sour. The style is so approachable, so refreshing, so inoffensive that it actually scares away the macho beer fans out there who pride themselves on drinking IPAs with enough hop astringency to burn a hole in your trachea or barleywines with ample alcohol to sanitize your tongue as they pass over. Plus, there’s the whole lemon-slice-on-the-side-of-the-glass thing going on; that’s the kiss of death for any self-respecting beer drinker. It’s like a Scotch drinker sitting down with a strawberry daiquiri.

But if you’ve never had an authentic German hefeweizen, it’s not really a fair comparison. While there are a ton of American hefeweizens, most of them are as much a blasphemy to the style as any of the macro beers are to the good name of Pilsner. Practically every available hefeweizen made in this country has been filtered to remove any trace of the yeast, has a thin, watery body, and tastes mostly of citrus. A true Hefeweizen has a much bigger body, is cloudier than a January day in Portland, and is bursting with flavors of bananas and cloves.

I’ve been searching for a very long time for an American hefeweizen that lived up to the German versions, and I’ve finally found it in Hale’s El Jefe Weizen. It’s everything the style should be—delicious and refreshing first and foremost, but complex and authentic to its origins, as well. I’m convinced that a pint of this beer on a warm day could convert even the most dubious of beer drinkers.

And if it makes you feel any safer, we won’t put a lemon in it.*

*Well, actually, we don’t even have lemons.

I Hate A Mystery

July 24, 2008

Remember that entry I posted a month ago about 20-year old stouts in the bottle? Yeah, me neither. So, let’s refresh some memories here: back in June, one of our loyal customers came in with several bags full of bottles that had been sitting around on a shelf since the early 90s. They were all various stouts, from cream to double to Imperial and the breweries were an eclectic mix of domestic microbreweries like Rogue, North Coast, and Red Hook and a bunch of foreign ones like Samuel Smith.

Well, we got the wild idea yesterday afternoon before work to crack open some of these bottles and try them out. Would beer that was almost older than I am actually taste good?

Yes! As a matter of fact, the Rogue Shakespeare Stout from 1993 was one of the best—No, not really. I’m lying.

The anticlimactic resolution to this mystery was that beer really oughtn’t be left on a shelf somewhere in somebody’s office for nearly twenty years and then opened. It’s sort of like taking the lid off the Ark of the Covenant… except that instead of lightning and ghosts so ugly your face melts, we filled up the whole bar with rancid vinegar smells and spent the next half hour coughing and grimacing and regretting our idiocy.

Geoff tried to convince me after a sip of the first beer that he could actually taste the chocolate and coffee underneath all that putridity (no doubt a trick to try and get me to chug my glass’ worth). I took a sip small enough to barely wet my lips and said something best not repeated here.

There is one upside to all this, though. We cleaned out the bottles and added many of them to our windowsill collection. Some are from breweries that either don’t exist any longer or don’t still brew the stout labeled. Check them out the next time you come in, and just be grateful that you’re experiencing beer history with your eyes rather than your taste buds.

Secrets of the Taproom

July 22, 2008

Part Five: Onehelluvawholelotta Bottles of Beer On The Wall, Onehelluvawholelotta beers…

The Man (aka Geoff) has kept a lid on something for a long time now, so I figured that while his back is turned, I’ll clue you folks in on it: Bailey’s has a bottle list.

“WHHHHAAAA???” you say?

Not so loud, I say. The Man might hear us. Let’s just keep it to whispers, ‘kay?

Despite the fact that our draft menu doesn’t mention bottles and that you have no reason to believe those bottles behind the bar counter are anything more than decoration, ala the bottles along the windowsills, it’s the honest-to-beer-god truth: we do, in fact, sell beer by the bottle. And, best of all, our selection actually stretches a little farther across the country than our tap list. For the geographically challenged out there, here’s a fun fact: the United States actually continues east of Washington, Oregon, and California and aside from the occasional stretch of No Beers Land (Mississippi comes to mind), contains some perfectly excellent breweries that you may have never heard of before.

Let’s just put it this way. If you haven’t indulged in a beer from Ommegang, Victory, Allagash, Jolly Pumpkin, Great Divide, and Avery (just to name a few of our inventory), you’ve been missing out on some excellent stuff. Fans of BIG beers—the stuff of double digit alcohol by volume percentages—and Belgian styles like Grand Cru, Tripel, Saison, or Quadrupel shouldn’t miss out on our selection, especially since we rarely, if ever, get those types of beer on tap.

Oh, and here’s another thing to keep in mind: if you’d rather take the bottle to go, we’ll brown bag it and offer you a discount off the bar price. On most bottles, we’ll take anywhere from 20% to 30% off the regular price for those beers you’d rather enjoy in the comfort of your own home… or outside around the corner in some smelly gutter somewhere.

So, now that you know about our secret bottle list, how do you go about ordering one of them the next time you stop in? Pay close attention to the pass phrase. Memorize it. Recite it to yourself in the mirror if you have to. Ready? Here it is: “Can I see your bottle list?”

Geoff (aka The Man) may get a little suspicious, but if you look him square in the eye without blinking, he might even dust off the cobwebs from the menu before he hands it to you.

Just Close Your Eyes And Drink It

July 18, 2008

For those of you who haven’t figured it out already, American craft brewers have no shame. They brew up something that tastes good and then sort of arbitrarily call it something. “Hey, look. Our 84 IBU, 7.9 ABV beer is kind of yellow colored. Let’s call it an Imperial Blonde Ale.” “What’s an Imperial Blonde Ale?” “Hell if I know.” This trend would get a little aggravating if the beers didn’t turn out so damned delicious.

As it stands, you can’t really fault these guys for bucking tradition and swaying way the hell off course of the conventional recipe. As craft beer drinkers, it’s sort of what we expect from our brewers in the first place. But every once in a while, you get a couple of beers on tap that you just don’t know what to do with. At first, you decide you’re not going to like them, because they aren’t what they say they are. You’re all ready for a pilsner and then you sip it and it tastes like a stout and it just gets you so angry you want to run to your blog and tell everyone not to drink it because those brewers fooled you again and you’re feeling embarrassed and betrayed and vengeful all at once.

But then you take another sip of it and, damn it, you can’t help it. Okay, so maybe it looks like a pilsner, it smells like a pilsner, and it’s called a pilsner, but it tastes like a brilliant stout. At that point, you need to just close your eyes and drink the beer and forget you thought you knew what you were getting yourself into.

That’s the case with two of the beers we’ve got on tap right now. The first is the Fort George South, a beer that’s been described to us as a Witbier (or white ale) aged in barrels with raspberries. Now, there are all sorts of things wrong with that statement. Namely, what the hell is anyone aging a white ale for? And why are they doing it in barrels with raspberries? Then you actually taste the beer and you’re about to do a spit-take, because, well, damn it, it doesn’t taste anything like a white ale. It’s light bodied, sure, but none of the normal subtleties of the white ale style are coming through: where’s the coriander, the orange, the spices, the wheaty backbone? It’s a beer that has more in common with a sour beer or lambic than a white ale. There’s a big raspberry punch to the face which mellows out and smoothes into a cidery, carbonated, slightly bitter finish. It’s sweet and sour, a little bitter, but ultimately clean. And for my money, it’s really delicious and a great thirst quencher. But is it a white ale? No way.

We’ve also got the Heater Allen Schwarz on. A Schwarzbier is another name for a dark lager; it should have an initial roasted quality that fades into a slightly sour but mostly clean lager finish with barely any hop presence throughout. It’s refreshing, mostly clean… but dark. I sometimes say that it’s like a light brown ale, if a brown ale were a lager. So why is it is that this Heater Schwarz tastes almost entirely—but not exactly—like a porter? There are huge chocolate notes in the beginning of this beer and the body is far chewier and thicker than the style permits. It totally breaks your lager prejudices in half. If you’d told me it was a porter, I would have said, it’s got kind of an odd lager-like finish, but okay. Yeah. I like it. Good porter! But telling me it’s a Schwarzbier just makes me question my memory, my sanity, and my taste buds.

Take it from me, beer fans: it’s best to leave preconceived notions at the door. The next time you drop in, keep an open mind and check out these beers and see what you think. The first test should be, does it taste good? Only after that should you then ask, does it taste like what it says it is?

Beer Styles Defined

July 16, 2008

Part Four: Vienna By Way of Mexico City By Way of Healdsburg

It’s been awhile since I posted a new beer style for you folks. The delay is due to the fact that while there’s almost always something interesting and delicious on tap, it’s rarely a beer style outside the familiar categories (IPA, stout, porter, amber, pilsner, hefeweizen) or it’s just a variation of a known style, or it is a quirky weird obscure style that no one’s ever heard of before, but it, well, kinda isn’t worth writing about, either because it’s not very good or because it strays so far from the original style of the beer that it isn’t authentic.

That was the case with our last Vienna-style lager, the “Imperial Vienna” from Walking Man called Sasquatch Legacy. While it was a solid beer, it was hopped so aggressively that you could barely taste the Vienna qualities of the lager; it tasted like an IPA to me, if an IPA were a lager, that is. For the record, Geoff said I was crazy.

Luckily, right after the Sasquatch blew, we put on the El Oso from Bear Republic. Now, this, I reasoned, must be a Vienna lager. Smooth and clean, yet very complex in the malt character with a toasted honey kind of taste and a subtle hop backbone. Granted, I have not had many Vienna lagers in my time, but this beer had all the hallmarks of a solid European lager with great drinkability and a complexity to its sweetness that American brewers (including craft brewers) all too often can’t replicate. For a brewery known for such big hopped beers (Racer 5, Hop Rod Rye, and Red Rocket, to name a few), Bear Republic is the surprising exception. The El Oso is a terrific session beer and perfect for anyone who wants something richer than a Pilsner, but nothing as “crazy” as an amber or pale ale. It straddles a part of the fence that we beer drinkers don’t usually see, between what is too light (flavor-wise) and what can be too heavy if you’re not in the mood for hops and ale fruitiness.

Although the Vienna style lager should be copper or red hued, the El Oso (which means The Bear in Spanish) is actually golden. That sentence should have given you pause for two reasons. Vienna, right? Austria. First of all, why the hell is Bear Republic using a Spanish name for an Austrian style… and second, how could an otherwise authentic tasting Vienna lager be a different color?

As it turns out, the color of this beer style is mostly unrelated to its flavors; slightly darker malts were traditionally added to give the lager its distinctive color, but in such an amount that they wouldn’t interfere with the primary tastes (derived from the Vienna malts, of course). And the name is Spanish because Bear Republic is doing the Mexican version of an Austrian Vienna Lager. Let me explain: apparently, the Vienna style has mostly faded from its home country and is far more popular in Mexico, where a group of Austrian brewers emigrated in the 1800s to revitalize it. (Meanwhile, a very similar style of beer from their Bavarian neighbors/rivals is still very popular in Europe: the Oktoberfest beer.)

Traditionally, the Vienna lager style matches up pretty well with Bear Republic’s version, although if we’re to compare it to the Mexican Vienna lager category, I’d have to say that BR’s version doesn’t have much in common with Dos Equis (which is probably the best known version) or Negra Modelo. In my mind, that’s a good thing. Other Vienna style lagers are few and far between in this country (and especially on this side of it), and chances are, you probably haven’t heard of them. But if you find yourself on the East Coast, look out for Eliot Ness from Great Lakes, Sam Adams’ Vienna style, or the Aviator Amber Lager from Old Dominion. And don’t miss out on Bear Republic’s El Oso while we’ve got it on tap.

Belgian Beer Finally Sucks

July 14, 2008

For all of you out there who haven’t already heard the news, Anheuser-Busch, the King of American Beer, has just been forced to take a kneel before their new master, Belgian giant InBev. AB has now joined formerly American rivals Miller, now a part of South African Breweries, and Coors, owned by Molson in Canada, in the ex-patriot club by selling out to foreign companies. I can’t wait for Budweiser’s next commercial about how much more patriotic they are than anyone else.

While this news shouldn’t affect you or I as craft beer enthusiasts, it is nice to know that the next time some pompous red stater with his bottle of Bud Light in hand gives you a hard time about drinking beer with flavor, you can quip back that at least you’re drinking American beer.

It’s What’s For Breakfast

July 10, 2008

I love unusual styles of beer, and Terminal Gravity’s Breakfast Porter certainly constitutes. The first time I poured this beer, I thought I had done something wrong when hooking it up to the tap: it came out brown! Only after sitting down with a pint of it did I realize the change in color was not the only odd thing about this “porter.”

Nowhere near as roasted as most versions of the style, it struck me as a cross between a brown, a red ale, and a traditional porter. And yet, it’s not really a very complex beer; as the name suggests, it’s the kind of beer you could imagine drinking for breakfast (if you were an irreconcilable alcoholic, that is…. or Irish). It’s mellow, a little sweet, and has a biscuity base to it with an oatmeal texture and just the slightest hints of coffee, chocolate, and maybe even a little brown sugar. Body-wise, it’s about medium, but the texture is fairly chewy, which is a pleasant and rare combination in a beer (and something I’m always happy to find in a porter), and at the very end, you get just the slightest hop bitterness.

For fans of medium bodied, medium colored beers, this is a solid choice; perfectly sessionable and ideal for those who want something just a little dark and roasted in the warmer weather.

AnniBREWsary Countdown Has Begun!

July 8, 2008

Set your watches, mark your calendars, start counting the seconds, beer fans, because the Bailey’s one-year anniBREWsary is almost upon us. As readers of this blog know, the date’s been set: Saturday, August 2nd from 4 PM until midnight. Barrel-aged beers that are older than Bailey’s will be rolled out and tapped for your drinking pleasure, and so far the list of breweries on tap for this event is a veritable who’s who of Oregon brews: Cascade, Double Mountain, Firestone, Fort George, Full Sail, Hair of the Dog, Lucky Lab, Lompoc, Laurelwood, Mia & Pia’s, Rock Bottom, and Roots.

But here’s what you may not already know: for a measly $10, you’re going to get your first five 4 oz pours of these very rare, specialty beers PLUS your very own souvenir Bailey’s beer snifter to take home with you after you break it in that Saturday. Additional 4 oz pours are just $1 each.

While we’re not quite ready to give you the final list of beers we’re making available for this mega-event, we can tell you that it won’t just all be one style of beer. As has been our philosophy since day one, Bailey’s is all about the variety. Expect barleywines, imperial stouts, and IPAs for starters, but don’t be surprised if you stumble across a few styles you’ve never heard of before (including Belgians!) or haven’t had a chance to sit down with yet, especially in a barrel-aged condition.

For any of you scratching your heads over just what “barrel-aged” means, here’s a quick primer: breweries take their strongest beers and throw them in wooden barrels that previously held wine, bourbon, whisky, and all sorts of other delicious alcoholic drinks. They sit in there for awhile and then the beers are transferred to kegs, where they’re aged over the course of a couple years to a few years to many years. During that time, the beer picks up the flavors of the wood and the liquor from the previous step and seamlessly melds those diverse tastes with the malt, hops, and other beery ingredients. Flavors that were initially very strong become quieter and more subtle, fading just a little to let others emerge. In short, a really great aged beer offers an incredibly diverse range of flavors while maintaining a balance and promoting a remarkably smooth drinking experience.

Sounds good, right? Three-and-a-half weeks and counting…