Archive for October, 2008

Bottled Beer Tastings Will Be Monthly Event

October 29, 2008

Last week’s bottle tasting was such a big success that Geoff has decided to do it again! We’ll be cracking open the majority of our menu’s bottled beers in future monthly tasting events.

For fans of imperial stouts, old ales, and Belgian style beers, this will be a fun opportunity to get a sense of what we offer and how some of the best breweries across the United States have interpreted these stronger, higher gravity styles.

More information on our next event as it becomes available…


Hopworks Survival Stout on Cask!

October 29, 2008

Hopworks’ Survival Stout aka “Seven Grain Stout” is our cask beer of the week, and I’m psyched to see how it turns out. This is a beer that I absolutely loved when I was first introduced to it at the Spring Beer Festival last year, but when we had it on tap at Bailey’s a few weeks later, my adoration for it cooled just a little. It was still a delicious beer, but I resented the fact that you couldn’t taste many of those lauded seven grains beneath all the heavy coffee flavor.

Here’s hoping the cask version will let some of the complexities emerge, so that I can go back to being a total fanatic for it again.

Barleywine Bottle Tasting Tomorrow!

October 22, 2008

Anyone who’s ever accidentally flipped the draft menu to discover that we also sell bottles knows that there are some strange brewery names back there from places where it doesn’t rain nearly as much. For anyone who’s been curious to taste these alien beers but hasn’t been able to garner up the courage in the past, come on in tomorrow for a bargain bottle tasting session.

Here’s how it’s going to work: from 4 PM to 8 PM tomorrow, we’re going to give away four 5 oz. samples of the following delicious barleywines for just $10 total:

  • Alaskan Barleywine
  • AleSmith Old Knucklehead
  • Avery Hog Heaven
  • Green Flash Barleywine

As anyone who’s ever sat down with any one of these beers already knows, they are complex, nuanced… and strong enough to strip the enamel off your teeth. This is a great way to compare and contrast different breweries’ interpretation of the barleywine style and to learn a little about that neglected section of our beer menu.

Well, and it’s also a pretty cheap way to get blitzed…

Leavenworth Nosferatu on Cask

October 22, 2008

Leavenworth’s Nosferatu Red Ale is ready to bite you in the mouth. It’s on cask today.

I haven’t tried this beer yet, but I’m intrigued how a malty red ale will show up on cask. It’s only 5.5 ABV, which means you could stand to throw a couple of these back. It seems like it’s been awhile since I’ve had a red that I really enjoyed, so fingers are crossed that this one succeeds.

If nothing else, the cask treatment should result in a far more full-bodied and complex brew, allowing more of those caramel and rich toasted malts one would expect from the style to come through. Leavenworth’s track record on these lighter style beers is also pretty impressive. This is one vampire that shouldn’t suck.

Get Bend!

October 22, 2008

By complete coincidence, both Geoff and I have visited Bend, Oregon recently. I went last weekend and Geoff visited the weekend before that. There is a lot of very good beer being brewed out there and we decided to bring some back for the bar so that you folks could get a little tour of the Bend brewing scene (and surrounding outskirts) without all the unnecessary driving.

So what beers did we pick up? Here’s a quick list:

  • Wildfire Anniversary Strong Ale (on tap)- super-fruity and boozy with a nice hop aroma, but minimal bite.
  • Bend Dark Lager (on tap)- clean lager with just a little roast; great session beer when you’re feeling like a dark beer but can’t stomach all that dense coffee and chocolate.
  • Three Creeks Organic Golden Ale (on tap)- light version of the style, refreshing with just a hint of honey sweetness.
  • Silver Moon Hop Knob IPA (on tap)- a very nice session IPA with a well-balanced mix of malts and aromatic hops, plus a ton of citrus and some spice.

Fresh Hopped Leafer Madness On Cask!

October 16, 2008

That title is what we in the business call “’nuff said.” But because I’m a wordy fellow, I will add that I had a glass of this last night after work and it was indeed different from our last cask of Madness. It’s actually a little sweeter than I remember and the fresh hops have brought a whole new dimension to the beer, giving it a far more grassy characteristic and imbuing it with some of the hop plant’s texture as well as all the normal flavor byproducts.

We don’t have a lot of this one left, so be sure to stop in early today to get your pint’s worth.

A Site for Sore Eyes

October 13, 2008

If you haven’t seen our new website already, go right now to the all new

Nick Rivers, our tech maestro, not only put a whole new coat of paint on it; he completely rebuilt it from the ground up. Blog and Twitter updates now update automatically on the main page to keep you up-to-date on what’s new and worth checking out. And our new Events section will help you remember the date for the next mega-tasting or cask tapping session. Plus, there are a ton of new photos with more galleries to come; check out the construction snapshots for an idea of what your favorite bar looked like back when it was just an abandoned, empty hole in the wall.

But of course the best pages of the new website are the Draft List and Bottles List sections. Run your cursor over a beer’s name and you’ll get a quick snapshot of the style, location of the brewery, and (sometimes) ABV. We’re hoping to keep these pages better updated than we have in the past, so that no matter where you are, you’ll know exactly what’s on tap.

Be sure to let us know what you think of the new design and feel free to suggest additional features you’d like to see in the future.

Respect Your Elder

October 7, 2008

I don’t blog here very often about IPAs. There are a few reasons for that. For one, by the time I get around to talking about one, the keg’s usually already blown. For another, I don’t really feel like I need to open people’s eyes about IPAs; everyone already knows what they are. And finally, while some IPAs are certainly better than others, I think it’s safe to say that most of the IPAs you get at Bailey’s are pretty solid, often very good. Distinguishing one from another is certainly possible, since IPAs have a decent range of variations, but there are so many good IPAs available, that it is rare that I find one that is truly great and really worth endorsing here.

To be a great Baltic Porter, a great Pilsner, a great Oktoberfest? That stands out. To be a great IPA, it has to pit itself against so many other very good IPAs and somehow bring something new. How do you do that? How do you bring something unique to a style that everyone brews? And that most everyone at least does capably?

I don’t know. I have no idea, as a matter of fact. But every once in awhile, you run across an example that just makes you stop and wonder. What did they do differently? How is this IPA unique, and why does that difference improve it? And why hasn’t anyone else ever done this before? That’s what you should be asking yourself when you have a truly spectacular IPA in hand.

That’s what Russian River’s Pliny the Elder is like. As much hype as this beer gets, I’m afraid to tell you that it’s entirely justified. For the first half of a sip, you might say that it tastes like a very capable, very solid IPA, something along the lines of any number of other very nice versions of the style that you’ve had before. But at that half point in the sip, something changes. The beer that you’re expecting to finish kind of cloying and sweet, dirty and thin just doesn’t. It somehow balances, neither leaning too sweet nor too bitter. And somehow that last taste ends with a flourish, as if you had just started the sip rather than ended it.

What’s so intriguing about this beer is that it doesn’t rethink the wheel. In so many ways, it is a purely conventional IPA, but its subtleties, its balance, and its finish improve on everything that a good IPA would do. I think its name clues us into its intentions: it is an Elder wise beer, stuck in its ways to a certain extent, but more thoughtful, careful, smarter. It knows a little something about sophistication and craft while all those eager young upstart beers are just going crazy with random hops and hastily assembled recipes.

Of course, this is a beer that has just been pouring non-stop since we put it on. We had been after a keg of it for a very long time and now it’s probably going to leave us really soon. If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, you really should. I fear this Elder isn’t much longer for our world.

A Fine Whine

October 3, 2008

Way back during our 1-year AnniBREWsary celebration, I was working my way down the list of barrel aged beers but never quite reached number 15—the Cascade ’05 Yarley Whine aged in barrels with pinot grapes (I think I was comatose by number 12). Fortunately, we had some remaining and decided to put it back on tap for anyone else who might have missed it the first time or tried it on August 2nd and has been pining for a repeat ever since.

It was worth the wait. As you lean in, you’ll get a blast of perfume to the face. That should be your first hint that you’re in for something special. On your first sip you’ll notice there’s a cider-like consistency, resulting in a light carbonation with tiny champagne bubbles and a fruitiness that is neither sharp nor syrupy. Finally, here’s a beer that knows how to be sweet without tasting like liquid candy.

Even better, the Yarley Wine evolves on the taste buds rather than repeating its initial great taste, changing flavor notes and switching between sweet and sour with such smoothness that you won’t even notice the transition. I picked up hints of apples and grapes, but I’m sure there are other fruits here as well that a more refined palate could probably identify. There’s a tiny bite to this beer in the booziness department, but it’s quiet enough that you probably won’t even notice it once you really get involved. And trust me, you will get REALLY involved. Even fruit beer haters need to give this one a shot.

The Horizontal Showdown

October 2, 2008

When you find a beer that is really special, sometimes you just want to hold onto it for a little while and let it get even better. You see, the funny thing about beer—at least the higher alcohol strong styles, like barleywines, Imperial stouts, and almost anything Belgian—is that they evolve over time, just like a bottle of wine. After a year or two, flavors that may have been originally dormant awaken on the taste buds, simplicities turn into complexities, and harsher elements, like bitterness or booziness, usually recede, resulting in a far smoother brew. A fun exercise can be cracking open a favorite beer that’s been aged for 1 year and comparing it to the same beer aged for 2 or 3 or 4 years. The differences can be so great, you may find yourself thinking you’ve got completely different beers.

That exercise is what’s known as a “vertical.” Well, I’m introducing the “horizontal.”

The best thing about the horizontal is that you don’t have to wait nearly as long to start drinking that favorite beer of yours, and it doesn’t have to be a high alcohol beer that ages well. It can be any beer you want it to be. The trick, though, is having access to the variations.

A “horizontal,” as I’m defining it, is taking the exact same beer and comparing it on different gasses. As you folks should know well enough by now, there is definitely a difference between a beer in the bottle and how it tastes on CO2. And there is a dramatic difference between how it tastes on CO2 and what it’s like on Nitro… or cask. Well, what if you could get all those variations together of the same beer and try them, head-to-head-to-head-to—you get the idea?

After closing last night, Geoff and I tried it with the Bridgeport Hop Harvest. Although we didn’t have a Nitro version handy, we did have a bottle, the draft CO2 and our cask firkin, which had just been tapped earlier than evening. We tasted them against one another and a winner was declared.

Here’s how it broke down by serving choice:

Bottle—The harshest of the bunch; there was a taste of very dry malt, like rye almost, that scrapes the tongue as it goes down. The hops are strong and sharp, cloying and coating the tongue. The beer is still solid, but it’s a punch to the mouth. Tons of aroma, though, and the flavors definitely linger.

CO2 draft—Far smoother. I was surprised by how much, actually. The difference between bottle and draft was like the difference between draft and Nitro, to give you some idea. On tap, less flavors emerged; whereas the bottle was what I would call a 5-D beer, hitting you 5 different times with alternating flavors, the draft was maybe a 3-D beer. But with the loss of some flavors and complexity also comes a smoother ride. This is far more palatable and easier to drink and the hop flavors weren’t as overwhelmed by those dry, scratchy malts.

Cask—Whereas the bottle version was the driest of the bunch, the cask was the sweetest and the smoothest. The body was not as dense as in the other two, and I think this had to do primarily with it not being as carbonated. Flavor-wise, the cask beer holds its own against the bottle and possibly even surpasses it; what’s absolutely certain is that it is far more subtle than either of the other two choices and lingers in a way that finally washes away without leaving that cloying, rough, scratchy taste in the mouth. Somehow, the cask version manages to balance a really drinkable, very mellow character with an incredible amount of complexity.

The winner was the cask, hands down. I have never considered myself a huge fan of cask beer, but this little experiment, as well as the growing number of really great cask beers we’ve had on recently, is making me reconsider. I wouldn’t argue that all beers are better on cask, but I do think that for these stronger, sharper, bigger beers, the cask flavor is just superior. It manages to evoke so much flavor without tearing up the inside of your mouth.

I wish we were selling the Hop Harvest in the bottle so that you folks could try out a horizontal for yourselves, but even just a head-to-head with the cask vs. the draft ought to open your eyes to the big differences. And to think, just a little thing like gas can change the character of a beer so dramatically.

Maybe when we talk about beer from now on, we ought to consider it a fifth ingredient after malts, hops, yeast, and water.