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Amateur Hour: Hops Schmops

August 10, 2010 2 comments

Amateur Hour falling in love with Consecration at Apex in PDX.

**Amateur Hour is our new (first) column, written by wordsmith Erik Baldwin. When Erik is not writing, he’s playing in Seattle band, The Beats, Man. After a way too long and irritating departure – Erik is back to talk about his journey to beer.***

Most people start to realize at some point that beer with flavor is preferable to the alcoholic bilge water your grandfather drank. What they don’t realize, however, is that there is more to flavor than just hop intensity and bitterness.

I can’t tell you how often I hear from people who jump on the microbrew train and constantly tell people “I’m really into hoppy beers”. Well, friend, I’ve got some news for you. There’s more to life than Pales and IPAs.

Here are a couple styles that usually don’t have an over-developed hop profile that I’ve been experimenting with lately.

 

Saison

 

This antique Belgian style originates in Wallonia (The French-speaking half of Belgium) and is typically known as a “farmhouse ale”. That is to say, the farmers pretty much kept it to themselves for a long while. It’s a lighter, low ABV style that goes down nice and easy after a hard day plowing the barley fields. You could call it the Gatorade of beer, but even I would cringe.

Look for a bubbly, smooth golden brew with strong yeast flavor and hints of peppercorn and citrus. Outstanding examples include Dupont’s mysteriously smooth-yet-bitter Avec les Bons Vœux and the always impressive and delightfully spicy Double Mountain Bon Idée.

 

Sour

 

Now, before I get ahead of myself, I have to admit, I’ve become completely obsessed with sour ales. The depth and variety of sour beers increases everyday, and brewers keep finding ways to make them better and more creative. So what’s the story?

The sour style is at its heart a “happy mistake” that Belgian cellar-dwellers stumbled upon ages ago. At some point, an unhappy brewer realized his batch had been inoculated by wild yeast floating around his caveau. He was in luck, though, because it turns out wild yeast turns the Belgian red or brown ale into a delicious, effervescent delight of a beer.

Expect sours to run a range from bright, golden strong ales to deep, rich browns and ambers. Most have a shockingly flavorful front, full of berry and wine notes. Some are much more tart than others, so experiment a bit and find out where your taste lies.

Some outstanding examples include Cascade Summer Gose, which, incidentally has salt added at some point during the boil, and Russain River Consecration. Now, I could write an entire post about Consecration alone, so I’ll save the majority of the details, but let me just say this: it is brewed with red currants and aged in oak Cabernet-Sauvignon barrels, weighs in at 10% ABV and drinks like champagne.

So, who needs IPA anyway?

 

Next week: IPA: the world’s greatest beer.

 

Portland on the Horizon: Apex, Saraveza, County Cork – Oh My!

Saraveza's Imperial IPA festival is on tap for this weekend

You might have seen our editor’s “24 Hour Guide” to drinking in Portland. Its pretty incredible, so please check it out.

But we are at the dawn of a new trip to the PDX playground of beer. After visiting the city several times over the past few years, we are running out of new places to visit.

Now hold up quick before you start the attack: we know that you could visit a Horse Brass, Concordia Ale House, Belmont Station, Green Dragon, Deschutes, and Henry’s Tavern about 1000 times. I could stand another trip to Hopworks Urban Pub (HUB), The Beermongers, or New Old Lompoc’s barrel room – Sidebar. Seriously, we know.

But I thrive on new experiences and I am going to be in one of the best beer cities in the U S of A. So what are a few other places we might explore?

 

Saraveza – Imperial IPA Fest

 

Ok ok ok – this one is not new at all. I’m somewhat ashamed that I have been to Portland at least a half-dozen times without even a “pop in” to this Northeast Portland spectacle. Saraveza is one of the more celebrated Portland beer pubs and deserves better than a “Trip #7″ scheduling.

But, as it turns out, we might be right on time. This week Saraveza is holding Imperial IPA Fest. The festival began yesterday (July 14) and runs through Sunday, July 18. It features over 30 different imperial IPAs, including offerings from Oregon brewers Laurelwood, Deschutes, Beer Valley, Oakshire, Alameda, Ninkasi, Lucky Lab, Double Mountain and even Gilgamesh (making a debut). Thursday showcases Pike Brewing and our boys from Everett, WA – Lazy Boy Brewing.

We’ll be there on Friday, tasting favorites from Hopworks!

 

County Cork

 

Another classic Portland beer bar that has escaped us – County Cork. The Cork is a classic English-style pub with a rumored connection with Columbia Distributing. Because of the connection, they appear to have Russian River beers on tap the majority of the time. A pint of Pliny or a pint of Blind Pig are generally in the cards.

On top of those beers, the Cork has an excellent menu. I’m fairly excited to try their scotch egg, hoping it exceeds the fried and battered monstrosity over at Horse Brass.

We’ll be by there tonight.

 

The Mother Load – Apex – A Beer Bar

 

Last, but certainly not least, is Apex. Apex is an attempt at creating the perfect beer bar experience for the NW. Tons of taps, incredibly rare beers, outdoor hanging space, and bike-centric, Apex meets the needs of the new world beer bar.

What built our immense excitement for this place? Its real-time tap list, which currently shows me that I should be there drinking their beer – right now! Hair of the Dog Blue Dot, Alameda Yellow Wolf 2x IPA, Double Mountain Vaporizer, New Belgium/Elysian Trip III (this still exists!!!) & Orgone Peppercorn IPA (what!?). Its pretty damn impressive.

A great description of Apex and its aura was posted at the Beer Cave recently. We also received a glowing endorsement from Seattle Beer Week & Brouwer’s Cafe‘s Ian Roberts, one of our most respected beer sages. Its safe to say that we will be visiting Apex this weekend. Expect a 52 Weeks writeup on this grog spot soon!

Anything else new? Please let us know at beerblotter@gmail.com

 

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