Archive for November, 2008

Givin’ Thanks

November 24, 2008

Plenty of turkeys out there will be closing down shop for the days surrounding Thanksgiving. Fortunately, we won’t be one of them. While we will be closed on Thanksgiving itself, the taps will be flowing the rest of the week as usual.

The blog updates this week, on the other hand, won’t be as… bountiful. But if you’re looking for some fun beer reading, there are a couple of things I’d love for you folks to check out. The first is a piece I just wrote on the origins of Nitro for the Portland Tribune. You can pick it up in paper form or see it online at http://guestontap.com.

And for anyone scrambling to find a good beer to go with their Thanksgiving meal, I’ve written an article about pairing the two for Beer NW’s Fall issue. You can pick up your complimentary issue at Bailey’s the next time you’re in, assuming we still have copies left.

There are a couple of beers I plan to blog about tomorrow that I’m pretty excited about, but in case I don’t get the opportunity to return here until after the holiday, I want to wish all of you readers a terrific T-giving with family or friends. This year, Geoff and I are especially thankful to YOU for your continued loyalty to Bailey’s.

Events Reminder

November 19, 2008

Howdy, beer fans! Remember that tonight is our Lompoc Lager Night, and that Thursday, from 4-8 PM, we’ll be offering tastes of the following Belgian-style bottled beers:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otono
  • North Coast Brother Thelonious
  • Midnight Sun La Maitresse du Moine
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers
  • Avery The Reverend

If you haven’t delved into some or any of these beers before, it’s a great opportunity to explore styles that are especially tough to find out here on the west coast and on our normal draft menu. These are beers that are fruity, spiced, sour, and strong. And because we’ve chosen a couple of different styles of Belgians, you’ll get a little added variety to give you a broader picture of the Belgian beer experience.

Belgian beer is so different from what most of us often think of when we imagine our favorite beverage that it has converted many a wine, champagne, or cider lover to beer. It also has a knack for opening the eyes of even the most blinded Hopheads to the possibilities of a beer that relies more heavily on its yeast and malt choices.

Anyone who stopped by for last month’s bottled barleywine tasting already has a good idea for how this works, except that Geoff has decided to add an extra beer this time around to increase the variety. The price remains the same, though. Just $10 for 4 oz tastings of all five Belgian-style beers.

So after you’ve sobered up from tonight’s Lompoc Lagers, get ready for some of America’s best representations of Belgian beer tomorrow.

Speaking Of Lagers…

November 18, 2008

I don’t know how many times a week some beer noob comes in and stares at our menu like he’s trying to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. After he or she has gotten past the initial couple rounds of confused face contortions, eye-squinting, and head-shaking, said stereotypical customer always says the same thing, “So… have you got anything that’s light?”

Inevitably, a pull of the Pilsner tap is due, and most of the time, a bit of chagrin and regret accompany the action. With all the great beer we have on tap, all the intricate styles and varieties, why would anyone choose a beer based on its lack of flavor?

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m usually not a fan of whatever the lightest beer we have on tap happens to be. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, not enough microbreweries toy with lagers and the majority that do only try to replicate their macro cousins’ recipes for bland, boring, and yellow. We’re always on the hunt for the best lagers at Bailey’s, but we’re not always successful at finding them.

But this week, we nailed it by bringing back a light beer that I can be proud to pour: Caldera Pilsner.

I sat down with a tray yesterday to catch up on some holes in my Bailey’s beer knowledge and revisited the Caldera, which was on previously many months past. I remembered enjoying it then, but was surprised just how consistent my opinion of it remained after a second helping. It’s certainly a very hoppy Pilsner, but it’s also got this really subtle sweetness behind all its tidy cleanliness and dry character. It manages to be remarkably simple in broad strokes, but subtly complex the more time you spend with it. It’s balanced on a razor’s edge between malt and hops, making it easily one of the best examples of the Pilsner style to be found in this country.

I believe it also surprises a lot of light beer fans by redefining for them what their favorite style can actually taste like… that is, flavorful. And that makes my inner beer snob smile just a little.

This Blogger Is For Lagers

November 17, 2008

This week at Bailey’s, we’ve got two fun events that we hope you’ll attend. As Geoff mentioned last week, there’s a Lompoc Lager Night this coming Wednesday, followed by a bottled beer tasting on Thursday. Today, we’re going to talk about the Lompoc Lager Night.

For anyone who missed the previous post, Lompoc brewers Jonathan Berry and Bryan Keilty will be joining us at Bailey’s to tap five specialty seasonal lager kegs that will showcase Lompoc’s best lagers of the current year. Here’s how the brewers describe their beers:

  • Heaven’s Helles (5% ABV)-  Bavarian-style pale lager
  • Saazall (5.5% ABV)-  Bohemian-style dry-hopped Pilsner or lager
  • Oktoberfest (5.0% ABV)-  Bavarian-style Maerzen or amber lager
  • OktoBock (6.7% ABV)-  Bavarian-style Bock or amber lager brewed with 5 lbs/bbl of fresh picked Crystal hops
  • Saazilla (7.6% ABV)-  Bohemian-style double Pilsner or pale lager brewed with over 2 lbs/bbl of Saaz hops

My hat’s off to Lompoc. If I have one complaint about the state of American microbrewing, it’s that we don’t see enough breweries taking the plunge into lagers. The result is that most microbrew fans remain skeptical about any and all versions, thinking that the difference between good beer and bad beer is the difference between an ale and a lager and that the latter all mostly taste like the swill Anheuser-Busch and Coors churn out. The truth is that there are a number of fantastic lager styles out there that just don’t get much exposure outside of Germany and the Czech Republic, but are just as good as any ale. Plus, if you’ve only been drinking ales, you’ve been missing out on a whole other half of delicious beer options.

What should make this night even more special is the presence of the Lompoc brewers, who will be stopping in to support the event. I sat down with both of these guys recently for an article I was writing about Nitro, and they were incredibly gracious with their time. If you get the chance, be sure to introduce yourself and ask them a thing or two about lagers.

Though these will be some pretty special, rare beers, we’re selling them at the normal price, in all the normal glass sizes. That means full 20 oz imperial pints and 10 oz glasses, plus your best bargain: the $7 taster tray. With the tray, you get to try all five of these back-to-back to taste the differences between the various styles and decide which is your favorite.

So, on Wednesday, come on in and resolve to hold off on the stouts and the IPAs and ambers for a night and give these Lompoc lagers a chance. You’ll have taken your first step into a much “lager” world.

Jubilant for Jubelale

November 13, 2008

Continuing our coverage of winter beers this week, it’s time to touch briefly on the Deschutes Jubelale on Nitro. While many of you have already knocked this beer back in the bottle or on draft at other bars, there’s just something extra special about it off the Nitro tap.

But before we get into that, I think it’s best to make something abundantly clear: Jubelale is not a particularly complex or nuanced beer. I had a couple of them on both draft and Nitro over the past week, but when I was sitting down yesterday, hoping to include a description of it for you folks, I couldn’t remember what it tasted like. I had pleasurable memories of consuming it (twice!), but I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it. So, after work last night, I sat down with it again and tried to pick up what I was tasting. There wasn’t much. It’s all caramel sweet and cream. I looked for hops, bitterness, coffee, or roast, but there are really no rough edges to this beer smoothie. Finally, I discovered the roast at the end of the sip, but the odd thing is that it doesn’t accompany the caramel as a primary or secondary flavor; instead, it makes its presence known through the beer’s aftertaste and moutfeel. In other words, instead of actually tasting the roast, your mouth just sort of picks up its echo while the beer’s already on its way down your throat.

Without those sharp edges you’d normally expect in a beer–whether it’s from hops or bitter coffee–your first instinct is to drink a little faster, to try to pick up what you feel you’re missing, and also because your taste buds, which are used to a good pummeling, are feeling pretty safe. The result is a ridiculously easy and drinkable pint. Just be careful, because at 6.7% ABV, all that chugging could lead to some bewildered drunkneness sooner than you’d think.

No Cask Conditioned Beers for Three Weeks!

November 12, 2008

I’m sorry, I screwed up for this week, next week we have two separate events, and the following week we are closed for Thanksgiving.  December 3rd we will put on Laughing Dog The Dogfather Imperial Stout, so all will be right with the world soon.

The upcoming events include:

Wednesday, November 19th – Lompoc Lager Night

Heaven’s Helles 5% ABV Bavarian-style pale lager Saazall 5.5% ABV Bohemian-style dry-hopped Pilsner Oktoberfest 5.0% Bavarian-style Maerzen OktoBock 6.7% ABV Bavarian-style Bock brewed with 5 lbs/bbl of fresh picked Crystal hops Saazilla 7.6% ABV Bohemian-style double Pilsner or pale lager brewed with over 2 lbs/bbl of Saaz hops.

Flights of Five will be served as well as individual pints.

Thursday November 20th – Bottle Tasting

North Coast Brother Thelonious, Ommegang Three Philosophers, Avery The Reverend, Midnight Sun La Maitreese du Moine, Jolly Pumpkin Fuego Del Otono

$10 – Five 4oz pours

Winter Warmers!

November 12, 2008

What marketing genius came up with the term “Winter Warmer?” Regardless, it’s considered a style of beer now, even though it’s hard to pin down exactly what it means. There are any number of beers which fall under the category, and I suppose the majority of those beers usually share most of the following flavors: caramel sweet, roasted, and boozy and maybe some chocolate or spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. For the most part, though, a winter warmer is somewhere on the taste scale between an amber and a strong ale (which is already a pretty vague style).

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we’ve tapped several winter warmers for you folks looking to get out of the rain and wind and settle down with a beer that’s got a little heat to it. Here are three of those beers for your consideration:

Alameda Papa Noel— Technically, this beer is an “old ale,” but with the holiday name and the already pretty loose defining parameters of a “winter warmer,” I think you could call it either. An “old ale” was traditionally an English beer that had been kept (or aged) for a year, but nowadays, it pretty much constitues anything that’s a little stronger than your typical ale and usually darker in color. The Papa is surprisingly sweet at the beginning with what tasted like a little banana flavor (though that could have been residual from the Doppelweizen I had before it), a very prominent roasted character, and a fairly dry finish. It clocks in at 7.2% ABV, but the only hint of alcohol comes from the sweet begining; this struck me as a pretty sessionable beer, despite the higher-than-normal ABV.

Ninkasi Sleigher— So, this one’s been called a “Dark Strong Alt,” but again, it’s clearly in winter warmer territory. An Alt is a beer with an ale yeast that can take colder temperatures, so that after fermentation, the beer can be lagered (refrigerated) for a while. This results in a cleaner flavor that still retains some of the fruitiness and spiciness of an ale; think of it as an ale-lager hybrid. A Dark Strong Alt is essentially a higher alcohol version where some roasted malts have been thrown in. The result is pretty interesting, at least in this beer. The Sleigher has a ton of caramel and roast, and depending on the sip you take, it seems like one flavor becomes more prominent on the taste buds than the other; take another sip, and the opposite one shows up more. Strange! Anyway, you pick up a little of the booze in the caramel sweetness, but it’s restrained, and the finish is just a little sour. Pretty freaking delicious, but be careful; this one is 8% ABV.

Anchor Christmas— Ah, the traditional holiday winter warmer! This year’s variation cuts back on the caramel and the roast and delivers the nuttiness. If you’ve been looking for a really good brown ale, I’d recommend this as a pretty close substitute. It’s the driest of the bunch we’re discussing today and the lowest alcohol as well at just 5.5% ABV, resulting in a very light finish with just a tinge of sourness. Great for knocking back, although admittedly not as “warming” as the other choices.

I hope this gives you a sense for your winter choices on tap right now and a good preview of the style moving forward. Best to understand what you’re in for, because there will be plenty more of it in the coming months.

Autumn? What Autumn?

November 11, 2008

Holiday beer season is upon us, folks!

What’s that? You say it’s been with us since September? Well, maybe at some beer bars, but at Bailey’s, we’re just finally indulging in the winter warmers now, with several taps dedicated to beers like the Ninkasi Sleigher, the Anchor Christmas, Deschutes’ Jubelale (on Nitro!), and Alameda’s Papa Noel.

So, what took us so long? Autumn beer, of course! I mean, it’s still technically autumn, but for some reason, we’re already talking about Santa Claus, winter sports and the New Year. Thanksgiving is still weeks away! Halloween just ended! What’s the big rush to start winter all of a sudden? Can’t we just indulge in the fall a little longer?

Personally, I’m a little sad to see Oktoberfests and Fresh Hop beers fading away in the rear view so quickly. I had some excellent versions of both styles in the past couple months or so, but not as many as I would have hoped. And I just don’t know if I’m ready yet for the heartier, boozy, darker beers. I’m still in kind of a medium-bodied beer state of mind. Plus, now that winter beer season has started, it won’t end until the spring, which seems like a very long time from now.

I can take at least a little solace in the quality of the winter beers we have on right now, though. Not a one of them is disappointing. They are each pretty exceptional, and after sitting down with a tray of them last night, I was beginning to feel swayed a little to that holiday spirit… although I still don’t know if I can get over the nagging impression that we are all getting to open our presents just a little too early.

More on these particular beers later…

Double the “Double”

November 7, 2008

“Which beer is better?”

I get this question often, especially when we have multiple beers of the same style on tap at the same time. Sometimes it’s easy to answer; sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes there is one IPA, for instance, that’s just heads and shoulders above everything else; other times, there’s a lot of good stuff on, and it’s all very different.

Ever since we tapped the winter ales, Dick’s Double Diamond 2007 and Dick’s Double Diamond 2008, beer fans have been seeking my advice on which one they should choose. But the problem is in their question. It leads me to one of my own: why only choose one?

To get the full experience, sit down with a taster tray or a couple of 10 ouncers and pit the two Double Diamonds against one another. That’s really the fun—and the whole point—of having both of them on tap at the same time. You may recall that I’ve talked about “verticals” on this blog before; as a quick reminder, a vertical is two or more of the same beer, but aged at different intervals. It’s a pretty rare thing to find at a bar, so whenever you see it available, don’t miss out. Especially if you’re never tried a vertical, it’s worth doing at least once to taste the vast differences in flavors between differently aged beers that are otherwise identical in their preparation, ingredients, and conditioning. It’s amazing how just that extra year of aging can have such a profound effect on the flavors.

To give you an idea, here’s what I experienced with both the ’08 and ’07 Double Diamonds:

The ’08—This newer batch of beer has a sharp caramel flavor with a little roast in the background and a rich tartness to it, somewhat similar to a red wine. The body is fairly thin with a slight booziness present. While I wouldn’t necessarily call the finish “clean,” the flavors do fade from the taste buds pretty quickly.

The ’07—The first difference you’ll note between this and the ’08 is the aroma. The ’08 has a very slight aroma of caramel sweetness; this beer’s smell is strong with muskiness and a little perfume. On the taste buds, this one starts out far more balanced between the caramel sweetness and the roasted qualities; both flavors actually work in tandem—one fading as the other one rises, and then the reverse. Both are also stronger and more prominent, resulting in a thicker bodied beer and a smoother drink that lingers on the taste buds long after sipping.

Vote Bailey’s!

November 4, 2008

Confession time, folks. I’m not the biggest sports fan. I can get moderately excited about the World Series or the Super Bowl, but I’m no fanatic. At the end of the day, I probably won’t be too upset if the team I’m rooting for loses (unless it’s to the Yankees or the Cowboys, those bastards). Disappointed, maybe. But really, it just doesn’t matter that much to me.

You see, I save my fanaticism for other things. Beer, movies, music, and occasionally… politics. While Geoff has done his best to keep that subject out of his bar (and I’ve done my best to follow suit), there are some things you just can’t ignore. And tonight’s election is one of them.

For me, it’s ten times more exciting than any sporting event. I mean, the result will shape the future of our country for at least the next four years, but possibly (and probably) longer. So, we’re going to be keeping up with the election at Bailey’s as unobtrusively as possible for those scant few who just don’t care what happens. There will be no giant flat screen televisions, no election paraphernalia streaming from the rafters, no cover charge or champagne toasts or local politicians dropping in to spout acceptance or concession speeches.

In other words, it will be the same ol’ Bailey’s that you’ve come to expect, except that we’ll have a laptop set up to stream live coverage of the election results. And unlike most of those other places hosting election parties, we’ve got great beer to keep you company. After all, what’s better than celebrating your candidate’s victory with a patriotic pint of Rogue Independence Ale or finding solace in a stout as dark as your crushed heart should things go amiss?

We’ll even make a special offer to you: One free beer for every state Ralph Nader wins!*

*Disclaimer: Bailey’s is in no way endorsing Ralph Nader, and if Oregon ends up going for Nader because you cheapskates just wanted the free beer, we’re blaming you for the coming apocalypse.