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Portland Wows, Upright Stuns And Le Pigeon Haunts My Dreams

Four Play teases my better senses. Want to steal, need now.

Sunday was quite the trip. It lingered through Monday, but no regrets. Upright Brewing rocked my world. Le Pigeon made me redefine the word “burger.”

Upright Brewing was celebrating their 2nd Anniversary, so we made it a point to get their early to taste the new release. But, we couldn’t help but to shuffle around the city to visit some other favorites.

 

Top of the Morning with Imperial Workhorse

 

I won’t jump right into Upright’s display of greatness, because we had some other amazing visits that I’d like to share. First off, we visited Laurelwood’s production brewery in NE neighborhood of Hollywood.

Laurelwood Brewing recently released its first ever batch of Imperial Workhorse, a larger than life version of its iconic Workhorse IPA. The big brother is 9.9% and almost 100 IBUs. At first sip, it immediately wakes you from whatever slumber you might be residing within. The beer is incredibly flavorful, sharp and non-boozy. Lots to like about that beer, and the brewery will be bottling a limited amount in swing-top bottles that will be available at the brewery. Hint: Do not miss the Bourbon Barrel Aged Moose & Squirrel Russian Imperial Stout – I actually preferred this beer to the Imperial Workhorse.

 

Upright’s Rise to the Top

 

We left Laurelwood to head over to Upright Brewing, where we spent an hour crying in the last drops of each beer. Its that good. Watching it reduce to nothing was so incredibly painful.

Upright Brewing decided to release a sour version of its Four, a 4.5% wheaty farmhouse ale. The beer, appropriately named “Four Play,” uses a combination of fresh Oregon cherries, brettanomyces and lactobacillus yeasts aged in Pinot Noir barrels. This beer is right now, my beer of 2011. Drinking this beer reminded me of standing in front of Jean Van Roy in Cantillon’s tasting room, drinking one of their more celebrated Lou Pepe lambics – its that good. Incredibly smooth, yet refreshingly tart, the cherry flavor is subtle enough to keep this from being a kriek, but pronounced enough to not be forgotten. Do not miss, if you can find it.

To prevent a one-sided affair, Upright also decided to pour its last remaining portion of its christmas ale, Noel. This spiced farmhouse ale is aged in Pinot barrels and spiked with cherry juice. The wood really works well on this beer, because the alcohol is barely noticeable and it goes down very smooth. The spice is unforgettable, hitting you with concentrated dosages of black pepper and herb. Had Four Play not knocked me out of my boots, Noel would have stole the show.

To end our visit, we had a great talk with owner/brewer Alex Ganum. If you want to meet a great brewer and better guy, chat with Alex. Ganum hails from the ballyhooed ranks of Ommegang and certainly knows how to make incredible beer. Despite his incredible success (they made the Rate Beer Top 50 Brewers in year 2), he remains a normal guy, more than happy to stand and chat with his customers over a beer.

 

Some Old Favorites

The remains of duck wings, flanked by Fred.

 

After leaving Upright, we had quite the whirlwind trip around the east side. We visited renowned bottle shop Belmont Station, who was holding its 14th Anniversary sale (Congrats). There we got our first tastes of Corvallis brewers Block 15 and Flat Tail Brewing. Block 15 poured several bourbon barrel aged brews, including the rare Pappy’s Dark Ale. Pappy is a Strong Ale aged in 10 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 2-4 months. While a few other Block 15 barrel aged beers were surprisingly unimpressive – this one blew our minds. The Pappy wood is noticeably more rich and flavorful than other bourbon barrels, and we agree its worth the extra dough.

After Belmont, a visit to Hair of the Dog was simply nostalgia and routine. Why the hell would you ever go to Portland and not get indulge in Alan Sprints’ craft? The house flight of Greg (a spiced pilsner?), Blue Dot, Fred and Adam, will warm the cockles.  If you are lucky, Alan might be serving the duck wings, a stack of 3 full wings smothered in a rich gravy. Get it.

 

A Burger for the Ages

 

Last but not certainly not least – a visit to Le Pigeon. While we were waiting for this renowned eatery to open, we ran over to Burnside Brewing and tried the Oatmeal Pale. I was surprisingly impressed by that beer, as Pales typically do nothing for me. The oatmeal was absolutely noticeable and really changed the body of this otherwise simple beer. But, 5:00 PM rang and we ran back to Le Pigeon.

Nothing to say. Look and admire.

Why are we running? Rumors of Le Pigeon‘s incredible burger have haunted my dreams for weeks. I have seen glaring images of this burger in nightmares in the previous few nights. It was seemingly stalking me – and for good reason. Le Pigeon makes 5 of these bad boys each night. Thus, its incredibly important to get in there when they open at 5 PM. By 5:15 PM, all 5 orders had been placed.

Le Pigeon has an earthy, classic gastropub feel. Sitting at the bar, you feel part of the kitchen and the decor makes you feel right at home. It only took about 60 seconds to order our burgers with greens ($13) and our $4 Pilsner Urquells (they also have $2 High Life – got to love it).

The icon of glory arrived before me in less than 15 minutes. I had ogled at its creation, built from the implements of success, beauty and wonder. Its time. I sliced the perfectly charred ciabatta bun in half and dig in. What followed was a protein orgasm smothered in pickled specter. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best burger I have ever tasted – and my companion agrees. The meat is top notch, cooked to a perfect medium rare, maintaining its juiciness. The pickled slaw on top is such an added treat that you barely notice the perfectly melted cheese that covers 100% of the burger mound. Perhaps most important is the fresh powdered ciabatta roll that was charred to perfected, giving the burger an “off the grill” flavor.

Its not often when a Sunday in March results in my favorite beer of the year and my favorite burger of all time (and that is saying a lot). This past Sunday, Portland floored me. Well played, PDX.

 

 

Thanks to Timperial Stout – No Thanks to Cruise Lines

February 7, 2011 2 comments

Your best option at sea? We can do better.

2/3 of the team was away last week on a much needed vacation. We are now back in the saddle and ready to alleviate an immense pressure on Mr. Timperial.

We want to take a short moment to thank him for holding down the fort and offering some great content on bottle shops in the Seattle area. We got some good comments and emails on the topic and we greatly appreciate the dialogue.

Over the past week, I had to sit victim to an array of 15 identical beers on a cruise ship through the Caribbean. While this type of travel is not personal fave for me, it was a nice relaxing excursion away from the rigors of work. This is especially true for Jessica, the pregnant one of the bunch.

The reason I mention 15 identical beers is because its a rant-worthy topic. A few years back, I took a cruise through the Greek Islands and was met with 2 beer options – Nastro Azzuro (Peroni to most of you) and Franziskaner. Not good. But I read up about Royal Caribbean and found out that they offer as many as 15 beers! Hooray. Must be a few ales in there, eh? Not.

15 types of beer meant 14 lagers and 1 ale that might as well be an amber lager (Bass). 14 lagers includes all major US crap, Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, Stella Artois, and a number of other disappointing beers that make me remember my life before good beer. The only savior was an Irish pub on board that poured Newcastle Brown Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Unfortunately, the stout was out for most of the trip and lets be honest – I don’t like the other two very much. Little to no hops and no real flavor. Boring.

Where is the micro? I mean really, not even a Sam Adams? Not that I would be excited about a Sam Adams, but it would be better than what they have. The Irish pub provided about 20 choices – none of them an American Ale.

It seems that one of the larger craft brewers is sitting on a gold mine here. Cruises and airlines have got to begin offering some sort of tasteful beer option. While Alaskan Airlines offers Alaskan Amber – its the lone gun on the market (I believe). A brewery like Alaskan, Boston Beer, Pyramid, or Red Hook has got to make an overture. While I would love to see New Belgium or Dogfish get that contract, its probably too pricey for companies that charge a premium for cheap filth, anyways.

What do you think? Better beer on your next flight or cruise?

Belgium: The Beer Trip of a Life Time

January 21, 2011 1 comment

Cantillon: A Must Stop in Brussels

Now, I know our readers are well aware of our excursion to Belguim in March 2010 (I can’t believe it has already been 10 months!) but a recent article in the NY Times conjured up all those wonderful memories.

The article reviews Belgium as an educational trip abut beer. A place where you can sample endless styles, visit age old breweries and settle down at some of the best beer bars in the world. Its true. Its totally true. I have done quite a bit of travelling especially around Europe and even beer aside, Belgium stole my heart.

The article touches on the key places you should go in this tiny country. Of course, there are so many amazing places, the article couldn’t mention all of them.

IF YOU GO

In de Vrede (Donkerstraat 13, Westvleteren; 32-57-40-03-77; indevrede.be)

Moeder Lambic (Place Fontainas 8, Brussels; 32-25-03-60-68)

Cantillon (Rue Gheude Straat 56, Brussels; 32-25-21-49-28; cantillon.be)

’t Brugs Beerje (Kemelstraat 5, Bruges; 32-50-33-96-16; brugsbeertje.be)

De Dolle Brouwers (Roeselarestraat 12B, Esen; 32-51-50-27-81; dedollebrouwers.be)

Brouwershuis (Trappistenweg 23A, Watou; 32-57-38-88-60; brouwershuis.com)

We were fortunate enough to visit the top four places listed. De Dolle is one of my favorite breweries in Belgium and the 1998 Stille Nacht at the Kulminator (another amazing beer bar in Antwerp). Next time, that will be at the top of my list!

Other honorable mentions from our trip include:

Pater’s Vaetje ( Blauwmoezelstraat 1, Antwerp, http://www.patersvaetje.be/)

Kulminator (Vleminckveld 32, Antwerp)

Eetcafé de Gans (Diephuisstraat 6 (zijstraat Korreweg, bij het Noorderbad),Groningen, http://www.degans.nl/index.php?page=contact-locatie)

Brasserie Thiriez (22 rue de Wormhout, Esquelbecq, France) Although not in Belgium, it is a mere 4 miles from the boarder of Belgium and if you are in West Flanders, it is worth the trip!


For the full NY Times article, click here.

Photos From The Road: Cleveland Beer

December 21, 2010 1 comment

Smutynose Imperial Stout!!!

 

Some pictures from the road.

 

The Tremont Taphouse is a cool spot in a little known neighborhood called Tremont. They have about 40 taps, half of which are constantly being turned over. We reviewed this place last year, but they are improving. Its a must visit beer spot in Cleveland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Lakes!

 

Great Lakes Brewing will always have a special place in my heart. Their Christmas Ale is the thing of legend and lore. In the above picture is a pint of Cleveland Browns Ale and Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA. The monster has alluded me in its first year of circulation. This is an amazing beer! Make sure you can track it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More GLBC

 

Here is the current list at Great Lakes. Salivation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Market Brewery is coming soon....

 

This is the most exciting news going round Cleveland beer. Market Garden Brewery will be located right around the corner from Great Lakes and directly beside Cleveland’s famous West Side Market. The Brewery is being run by Andy Tveekram, a famed former brewer of Dogfish Head and Great Lakes Brewing fame. I cannot wait for this puppy to open.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who said this was vacation?

 

Just because we left Seattle – doesn’t mean that we left our love for brewing. Got to love my pop’s little stovetop setup. Some Simcoe IPA on its way.

Hope you all enjoy the Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington Whiskey? Distilleries Taking Over Woodinville

November 24, 2010 3 comments

Sound Spirits is starting to pour in Seattle, but Woodinville has a nice fivesome.

Today we racked a 5 gallon keg of a new beer that Timperial and I brewed together. Our Imperial Cranberry Saison is not completely done yet, but with Thanksgiving making an appearance in less than 48 hours, we needed to pull a young version to compliment our Turducken.

As I tasted the young, incredibly sweet saison, I couldn’t help but wonder what this beer would taste like after sitting in a white wine or zinfandel barrel. Barrel-aged beers are all the rage these days. Adding a woody, boozy, tart flavor to your beer makes a rather simple beer more complex. I became intrigued.

To my computer I ran. I did a little searching for barrels and found that it takes a sizable investment to grab a wine or whiskey barrel. Online merchants often charge upwards of $200-$300.00 for wine barrels. Used whiskey barrels often come cheaper, but must be purchased in large volume. There are options to get newly crafted white oak barrels at reasonable prices, but you would have to condition the barrel yourself.

A solution: tap into Washington’s booze producing neighborhood. Take a look for instance at Seattle’s backyard wine country – Woodinville.

Woodinville is about 20 minutes from Seattle and houses more than 50 different wineries. From massive Chateau Ste. Michelle to tiny Mark Ryan (our favorite, by the way), there is something for everyone. Remember, you can even grab a beer (or many) during a quick tour of RedHook.

But, it was the distilling that got me giddy. Imagine, no trip to Bourbon County is required! I have whiskey in my backyard.

Distillers starting popping up in 2007, when laws made it possible. By 2010, regulations had been loosened to allow distillers to finally sell their own product, making tasting rooms a possibility. Now, we finally have a craft distilling industry.

While I don’t expect any distillers to be willing to hand off a barrel to me (most whiskey requires several years of aging – and these guys are young), I do hope to start seeing more of this amazing addition to the wonderful Washington craft booze industry.

We are starting to see a few pop up on the streets of Seattle (Sound Spirits is really good!) But, Woodinville already has a collective worth discussing.

Here are 5 distilleries that grace the streets of Woodinville. Check them out, next time you have a holiday weekend (oh wait, thats this weekend!):

 

Soft Tail Spirits

 

Soft Tail has been making grappa for some time. Now, they are producing vodka – and doing a damn good job. Soft Tail recently won a  medal at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.

 

12280 NE Woodinville Dr. Suite C.
Woodinville WA, 98072
Tasting Room Hours: Mon. – Sun. 12-5pm

 

Woodinville Whiskey Co.

 

Yes, Yes & Yes. Woodinville Whiskey Co. – thank you.

I have dreamed of consuming Washington sourced whiskey for quite some time. Oregon has been producing barley whiskey for some time – now we have one of our own.

NW whiskey is starting to carve its own niche. Typically, un-aged and un-oaked, the clear version of whiskey served by WWC is the base for a wood-aged bourbon that will sit in barrels for 4 years. They are also producing a vodka made from Washington wheat. This place is first on my visit list.

 

16110 Woodinville Redmond Rd. NE, Ste. 3
Woodinville, WA, 98072
Wednesday—Sunday
Noon—5:00pm
Tours at 4pm or by appointment

 

Pacific Distillery

 

Would I joke about Washington made absinthe? Hell no. Its true. Just visit Pacific.

One night we were drinking bourbon at Zig Zag Cafe when legendary bartender, Murray Stenson, told me about Pacific. He poured me a whole drink of straight Pacific Absinthe and told me – its the best I can get. It was.

Pacific is also making a dry gin, which I am eager to get to try. Check them out, but make sure to e-mail first (no regular hours).

 

18808 142nd Ave. NE #4B
Woodinville, WA 98072

mbernhard@pacificdistillery.com

 

Project V Distillery & Sausage Company

 

Sausage. Thats about all I needed to know.

There is only one other booze and sausage place that I know of – and I’m in love with it. If you have ever been to Dick’s Brewing’s NW Sausage & Deli, you know what I am talking about. Smoked meats and craft booze is just plan good.

These guys are making vodka from Washington wheat. Check out their website (its a facebook page) for more information on when they are open. For now, it appears that they do not have hours.

 

19495 44th Avenue NE
Ste A130
Woodinville, WA 98072
206-947-3667

 

 

JP Trodden Distilling

 

These guys are just off to the races, but about to do something amazing. JP Trodden will be making bourbon-style whiskey. Of course, they can’t call it bourbon since its not made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. But they are going to try and replicate the style.

They are still a few years away from pouring their first batch in 2012. I’ll be waiting.

 

18646 142nd Ave
Woodinville, WA, 98072
206-399-6231

 

If anyone makes the trip to enjoy these fines beverages – please let us know by emailing us at jess@beerblotter.com or by commenting below!

 

Back in Seattle, The San Diego Hangover Lingers…..

November 15, 2010 2 comments

starting your day right - lots of cold water & Alpine's Bourbon Barrel Barleywine & Chez Monmee Kreik

We had a hectic weekend, bouncing from wondrous beer excursion to the next. San Diego had its way with us. We will need some recovery time to get over having to leave that beautiful place.

But quickly, I wanted to check in and thank those of you that followed us during our excursions, via Facebook and Twitter. I realize that the updates trickled off by Sunday. That’s for good reason, as our energy had faded.

San Diego Beer Week was a smashing success, according to most of the bartenders, brewers and owners that we spoke with during our trip. But, I’m fairly sure the 10 day event wore them thin, and they were pleased to see it end.

We met some pretty amazing people, including Marin Brewing’s Arnie Johnson, Allagash Brewing’s Rob Todd, and the wonderful bar staff duo of Steph and Bob at Alpine Beer Co. During the next week, we hope to discuss more about where and what to do next time you visit San Diego.

For now, my favorites from our visit:

 

Coolest Place to Have a Pint –  Hamilton’s Tavern – Awesome atmosphere, excellent grub and just an amazingly cool place.

 

Best Staff to Cure a Hangover -  Alpine Beer Co. Brewpub – Steph and Bob helped us out of our slumber, thanks to amazing sour beer, the best IPAs and some smoked chicken wings.

 

Best Bar Experience –  Blind Lady Alehouse – Serving flights via amazing bartenders will hook you everytime.

 

The Full Day –  Stone World Bistro – The first place I have visited (since Water Street – RIP) where I could spend 12 hours. Not the hippest place, but a world of its own.

 

Best Brewery to Visit –  Port Brewing/Lost Abbey – No food, little culture – all brewing. Check out the barrel room and die.

 

Best Place to Eat (and drink beer) –  Small Bar – Something called Pork Desayuno (eh?) rocked my world.

 

Stay tuned for more on San Diego Beer Week 2010.

 

Eureka! We Found It: Send Us Video From Belgium!

.92 cent Westmalle. You ain't seeing that in the US of A!

We finally located over 60 videos of our time in Belgium. During our March visit, we did some pretty goddamned amazing things. Its great to remember (duh, we forgot) that we captured it on video.

So, its time to kick out the vids and see if we can make something from them. I am excited to see Flaming Trappists at De Gans, super rare lambics at Paters Vaetje, and a mess of imperial stouts under a windmill at De Molen. What else will we stumble upon? Hopefully, forgotten treasures of late night!

We located ours – find yours! As part of our transition to the new, more media hefty, website, we are starting to utilize much more video on BeerBlotter.com.

If you have videos of you drinking in Belgium – please send them our way! We would love to share you amazing experiences with the beer public and maybe help someone find their way to an incredible venue.

Feel free to email everything over to jess@beerblotter.com. We cannot wait to see what you found!

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