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The Hop Brief: Avery Brewing Maharaja

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Caramel dipped hop nuggets.

Enjoyed on 11/23/2010

Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.

Location: Boulder, CO

Beer: The Maharaja

Web: http://www.averybrewing.com/

Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped

Vintage: 2010

Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale

Barrel: N/A

ABV: 10.24%

IBU: 102

Hops: Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Chinook

Malt: Two-row barley, caramel 120L, victory

Commercial Description:

Maharaja is derived from the sanskrit words mahat, – “great” and rajan – “king”. Much like its namesake, this imperial IPA is regal, intense and mighty. With hops and malts as his servants, he rules both with a heavy hand. The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence.

Beer Advocate: A- (4.2)

Rate Beer: 100 (3.95)

Timperial’s Notes:

Background.

The Maharaja is no. 3 on ratebeer.com‘s top 50 summer seasonals for a reason… it’s an amazing IIPA.  As part of Avery’s Dictator’s Series, along with The Kaiser (Imperial Oktoberfest) and The Czar (Russian Imperial Stout), this beer demands respect and admiration, and you’d be silly not to dole it out.  Before I moved out west, this was my number 1 favorite impy IPA.  I haven’t had it in about a year and a half so I’m really excited to sit down with it tonight.

Appearance.

This stately beverage pours into my pint glass with a pretty regal, cream-colored head that, as it slowly recedes, proves to be very sticky.  The edges of the lofty crown pull down, leaving a rocky dollop of bubbles on the center of the surface.  The lacing is so thick, I think I could write “Tim was here” on the inside of my glass.  The liquid itself glows with an opulent radiance, much brighter than I expected, taking into account the high lovibond crystal used in the mash.  I’d say there is a bit of an orange hue to the amber-colored fluid.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this beer was filtered after fermentation and then dry-hopped in the bright tank.  The beer is not cloudy, per say, but there is a lot of floaters in there.  It actually looks slightly similar to the Green Flash IPA that I most recently reviewed.  It’s less cloudy but still noticeably permeated with minuscule bits of hop love.  Suspended hop chunks pretty much exude sex in every way if you ask me.  Uhh…in beer that is.

Odor.

Well, the odor is a perfect fucking 10.  It’s enough to make me just shout “OH MY GOD!” I’m weak in the knees.  I’ve already dropped in praise of the righteous Maharaja, without a single sip drank.  I’ve just been body slammed from the height of, I dunno, Mars, with a pure hop-tipped warhead, while simultaneously being lifted from the soil by the most maliciously rising volcanic peak of molten malt madness.  I’ve been pressed so intensely hard together at the impact that I’ve formed into diamond.  In fact, a five diamond score of perfection.

The hops are being poured from a dump-truck, directly into my nostrils.  The collaboration of hops used seem to meld into a cocktail of your most notable lupulin attributes.  Pine, herbal, woody, floral, citrus…you name it, it’s there.  Most notably, the caramel maltiness.  This is the biggest hop bomb that I can think of that is righteously balanced with malt.  Just plain silly!

Mouthfeel.

The MF (don’t hate) is, yet again, obnoxiously dead-balls accurate.  It’s syrupy, slick, sweet, cloying.  The body is stout like Schwarzenegger at his prime.  It dominates my moth like Conan the Barbarian, or wait…sorry your highness, like the great dictator Maharaja.  So far, this is the best rated IPA I’ve ever reviewed.

Flavor.

The flavor is layered like my famous dip.  Each sip is like being wiped about beneath the unrelenting seas at high tide, but here, fear shifts to joy as a slight lack of oxygen mingles with a sudden realization of the underwater beauty.  It’s an (only slightly) unnatural high.  Semantics…

Initially, there is a bitter firecracker explosion on the back of tongue, and then, the sound catches up with a mighty **CRACK** of sweet, caramely maltiness.  The inspirational soundtrack floats on in full orchestration when the finish brings boozed fruit and baked deserts.  When fully blended, the celebration is majestic, befitting of a king.  The perfection continues.

Might I add, in plain English, that this beer is the epitome of balance, as in, pushing extremes of both bitter hops and sweet malts in equal parts.  I’m awestruck.

I don’t find the hops to be too bitter, I don’t find the sweetness too overwhelming, I don’t find the heat to be overbearing.  I’m in a good mood, yes, but I’m seriously searching for flaws, in a devil’s advocate sort of way, and I’ve got nothing.

Aftertaste.

I’m a discriminating IPA drinker.  I realize that.  My best friend in the world, DSR, fellow BBB (beerblotter brethren), fellow homebrewer, fellow IPA lover, finds great comfort in bitterness.  A dry finish is a part of that game, and I know that many PNW beer drinkers play on that field, but it’s not my bag.  I like hop FLAVOR and minimal bitterness.  This beer’s aftertaste is precisely where I tread.  I’m happy to continue to tread there, that is, until there is no more sips to take.

Summary.

I was recently asked, by someone in the beer community whom I respect for his knowledge, what, other than the obvious ones (Pliny, Double Jack, Wisdom Seeker, etc.) was amongst my favorite IPAs/Double IPAs.  I responded with Avery Maharaja.  I paused, as I often do after stating such a revealing answer, for the resulting reaction.  I was greeted with apathy.  Indifference.  He was unimpressed.  I was embarrassed.  Maybe too much time had passed since I had last tried it.  Had it changed?  Had my respect for it need be diminished due to the current market of boldness?  Tonight, my stance has been solidified with complete and utter surety.  Avery Brewing has always been up there for me when it comes to the best breweries in the world, and tonight is just one more weight-bearing brick in the mortar for the dynasty that Adam Avery had born.  Respect!  

Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00

Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 1.00

Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.91

Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 2.00

Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.99

Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.89

The Good, The Not So Good and The Awesome from Pumpkin Beer Fest 2010

Pumpkin beers @ Elysian's Great Pumpkin Beer Fest 2010

As soon as I flipped my calendar to October, I immediately began to have thoughts of pumpkin beers. The countdown began to the weekend of October 16 and Elysian Brewing Co.’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. High profile names were released a couple of weeks before the event- Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, Avery and Allagash. I could barely contain myself as thoughts of pumpkins danced in my head.

Pumpkin beers are an interesting breed. I find that people are disappointed when the beer doesn’t ooze pumpkin flavor. Although the juice of this large gourd does tickle my taste buds, I find the balance of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice just as tantalizing. Pumpkin beers are experimental and open for innovative interpretation which is why this particular beer fest is one I cannot miss.

Dick Cantwell, head brewer and owner of Elysian Brewing Co. is at the forefront of pumpkin beers. Not only does Dick host this event at his brewery’s Capital Hill location, he brews not one but eight (or more) pumpkin beers for this special weekend.

Elysian Pumpkin beers:

Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, The Great Pumpkin, Dark o’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout, Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner, Kaiser Kurbis Pumpkin Hefeweizen, PK-47 Pumpkin Malt Liquor, Jack-O-Bite and Mr. Yuck Sour Pumpkin Ale

Enough introduction, the time has come and gone. We have enjoyed, tasted and conquered all that is the Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. There were beers to remember, beers that didn’t live up to our expectations, glorious weather and hassles of space. The Good,The Not So Good and The Awesome of Elysian’s 6th Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Fest:

The Good

     

  • The event takes place outside and today it was sunny and crisp out. Elysian was decorated with mounds of hay, pumpkins and corn stalks. If this doesn’t put you in a festive autumn mood, then there is something seriously wrong with you. SERIOUSLY.
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  • The taster glass is a 4 oz (glass) snifter with an evil pumpkin face. This creative glassware is coveted by beer fest goers all around Seattle.
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  • Beers from all over the country: California, Michigan, Delaware, Massachusetts, Washington and more!
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  • Silver City’s Punk Rauchen - a pumpkin rauchbier where instead of smoking the barley like a traditional German style rauchbier they smoked pumpkins for 6 hours over apple-wood. This beer tastes like sausage, as most rauchbiers do, but also has an earthy smoothness that I attribute to the pumpkins.
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  • Snipes Mountain Pumpkin Death Stout- first of all, I am really into Snipes Brewing Co. and think they produce only top-notch beers. This is no exception. I always get excited when I see pumpkin infused stouts because I love stouts and I am always curious to see if the brewer is able to bring the pumpkin flavors and spices to the forefront of a style that is already overwhelmed with roasted malt flavors. Pumpkins do not inherently have a lot of flavor and here, in the Pumpkin Death Stout it is minimal. The beer however is very enjoyable, smooth and creamy.
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  • Elysian Brewing Co.’s Jack-O-Bite- we were pleasantly surprised by this beer which is  a pumpkin ale aged in Jack Daniels barrels. This beer had a bite and lived up to its name. It had warming qualities and the spices were reminiscent of a winter ale. Delicious.
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The Not So Good

     

  • Planning  a huge event is no easy task. Debriefing is proactive and there is always room for improvement. We hope that the Great Pumpkin Beer Fest will someday celebrate its 25th Annual fest. The Great Pumpkin Fest has outgrown the parking lot of the brewery. Within 30 minutes of opening the flood gates, there was barely room to stand. Problem solver: expand to all three Elysian venues, although this might complicate the logistics, it would spread the crowd. Another option would be to expand to the park across the street or to some other space that is connected to the brewery.
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  • Long lines-Due to the large number of people, there were very long lines to get your beers. Although these lines moved rather quickly, the lines, no matter what station, were around 30 people deep. A lot of people I spoke to would just get a beer and get back on line for the next one on their list. Problem solver: Instead of having 1 person pouring 2-4 beers, have 2-3 people pouring at each station. People love to volunteer to pour at events- tap into these willing beer lovers.
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  • Confusion about what line led to what station. Due to the small space, lines crossed each other and merged into the masses. I found myself accidentally waiting on line for the wrong station on a couple of occasions. This would be alleviated by the two suggestions above.
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  • No food outside. Now, I understand that it would be too much to staff the outside area.  Problem Solver: Instead of sending wait staff out to take and deliver orders, hire an outside vendor. Something simple will do, such as a sausage stand or roasted corn.  People are there for the beer, not food necessarily. However, it would be nice to stay outside, enjoying the fest while getting something in your stomach, especially because the inside was packed full of people sitting and enjoying their meal.

The Awesome

 

Besides the Good and the few tiny Not So Goods, there are some AWESOMES! Please note: all of the awesomeness are beer related. I did not get to try all of the beers, as I am only human and not all of the beers were pouring during my visit.

  • Elysian’s Great Pumpkin- If you recall earlier in this article when I discuss the average beer drinker’s expectations of pumpkin beers having an easily detected pumpkin flavor, well this is the beer that hits it out of the park. One sip and its as though you are drinking pumpkin juice. It isn’t very sweet, it is slightly bitter, thick in texture and pumpkin to the core. No wonder this festival is named after the beer (or vice versa).


    The beers provided all of the awesome highlights!

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  • Iron Hill’s Bruce Camp Ale- their Imperial Pumpkin Ale aged in bourbon barrels was my introduction to this Pennsylvania brewery and man, am I impressed. Caramel in color with a bubble gum, sweet liquor scent. The thick mouth-feel creates a sensation as if there are sugar crystals are melting into your taste buds. As the flavor profile develops, the bourbon sweetness transitions into a slight funk. As the beer warms, the transition become smoother, just like a stiff bourbon drink.
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  • Russian River’s Pumpkin Sour- As I crossed the threshold into the pouring area, I quickly scanned the signs for Russian River. A quintessential Vinny sour with a citrus scent, it tasted like Temptation infused with spices. The sourness was bold and the spices complemented the citrus tartness.
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  • Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela- this sour beer aged in American oak with added coco was more earthy than tart (I generally expect more tartness from a sour ale. The smell was hypnotic with a combination of cinnamon and apples warming my soul. A smooth body with mellow flavors that begin to intensify as the sip develops. A harvest spice paired with earthy flavors followed by a subtle sweetness.
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What a great day– one that will go down in infamy. There were unexpected breweries that produced exemplary beers, weather was on our side (for once) and the love of beer in the air was palpable.

 

Events for Week of October 11, 2010

October 12, 2010 1 comment

 

Home of the Great Pumpkin Beer Fest- T minus 5 days.

 

Written by Jess R.

A low key weekend began with a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale at Whisk(e)y Bar (my new favorite, local watering hole), several Firestone Walker Union Jack IPAs, a New Belgium/Elysian Trip III and several Fresh Hop beers (it was a rough week at work, ok). Other beer highlights include Port Brewing’s Old Viscosity, an imperial stout worth a moment of silence and a couple of tall boys of Rainier. And now for your week in beer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

” I Love New York” Beer Week Begins: New York, New York

All week @ the Spring Lounge

Start spreading the news, its All New York, all week, with beer from Brooklyn, Ommegang, Captain Lawrence, Ithaca Brewing Co., Greenport Harbor, Coney Island, Sixpoint, Southern Tier, and more. Check out www.beermenus.com for details on the special events this week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Flash Night: Whittier, California

7:00PM-9:00PM @ The Bottle Room

Not only will all patrons receive discounts on beer, the first 36 guests will receive a complimentary Green Flash Brewing Co. pint glass with the purchase of a regularly priced draft (minus $1 for LA Beer Week). From there, bring your pint glass in and receive a $1 off Green Flash drafts until the kegs are kicked. Green Flash flights will be available–4-4 ounce pours for $11. Expect some special Green Flash beers not available elsewhere to the public.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Avery Rumpkin Release: Boulder, Colorado

6:00PM-9:00PM @ Avery Brewing Co.

AN IMPERIAL PUMPKIN ALE AGED IN RUM BARRELS. Stop by Avery Brewing Co. (where the magic happens) and experience the release of what sounds like am amazing, seasonal brew. Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewed with pumpkin puree and a blend of five spices. Aged in extremely fresh Gosling’s Rum barrels for six months. Consume fresh and often, preferably with a pumpkin pie and/or s’mores.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unibroue Beer Tasting: Cincinnati, Ohio

6:00PM-8:00PM @ Catskeller

Just $10.00 and you get beer from Unibroue paired with small plates. What a deal! The menu reads as follows:

Maudite: with bruchetta
La Fin Du Monde: with bacon scallops
Ephemere: with brie and apricot phylo
Don de Dieu: with smoked turkey club with feta cut in fourths
Terrible: with sharp cheddar quiche
Trois Pistoles: with rich chocolate brownies

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cleveland Beer Week Begins: Cleveland, Ohio

From the website:

The second annual CLEVELAND BEER WEEK will take place from October 15-23, 2010. A celebration of craft and import beers, CLEVELAND BEER WEEK features plenty of tastings, dinners, activities and more at more than 100 venues throughout Cuyahoga County and beyond. We hope you will join us as we celebrate the world of craft and imported brews at CLEVELAND BEER WEEK.

This beer week will not disapoint with participating breweries such as Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and more. As if you weren’t excited enough, 12 breweries who participated in the largest known collaboration of its kind in the world, creating six brews. Family members have already agreed to mail us a six pack. Oh man! For more information, visit the event site.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Great Pumpkin Beer Fest: Seattle, Washington

(Saturday and Sunday) 12:00PM – the beers get tapped and the place shuts down @ Elysian Brewing Co., Capital Hill Location

I know we already did a write up about this event, but I am so damn excited, I had to mention it here- click here for details about the event from bb.com. Expect a crowd, a well-deserved crowd of people thirsty for pumpkin beers from Elysian, Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin and so many more. Sour pumpkin beers, pumpkin stouts, spiced ales and possibly beer brewed in a pumpkin. Also, get there early and you might get a sweet little taster glass (at least we did last year).

Sunday, October, 17, 2010

Farmhouse Ale Dinner: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

5:00PM-9:00PM @ The South Philadelphia Taproom

All you can eat harvest foods and beers for $50.00 (includes tax and tip). Featured beers include: Ommegang Hennepin, Sly Fox Saison Vos, Saison Dupont, St. Feuillien and more!

If you go to an event, want to talk about an event or a beer you had at an event, leave a comment or email us at beerblotter@gmail.com. Cheers!

52 Weeks: Cascade Brewing Barrel House

October 6, 2010 2 comments

The view as you approach the Barrel House

Week 36 of 52:

Cascade Brewing Barrel House
939 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97214

(503) 265-8603

Rank: 4.5/5

Type of Establishment: Barrel house, blending facility, taproom, house of sour…

Visit: A Sunday day trip to Beervana, U.S.A. Our very first of many beer related stops of the day.

Beers on Tap (at time of visit):

Funk III

Beck Berry

The Vine

Nightfall

Noyeaux

Sang Rouge

Sang Noir

Bourbonic Plague

Vlad the Imp Aler

Amber

Fresh Hop Porter

RyIPA

Mid Summer’s Pale

Summer Gose

Winter Gose

Razberry Wheat

Kriek

What can I say, it's beautiful.

Bottles (available to go): Apricot, Kriek, The Vine, Sang Rouge

Food Options: Small plates/appetizers/soup/salad/sandwiches.  The owners wanted the Barrel House to be open to families with children, so local law states that food must be served to allow for those under 21 to enter.  The menu is fairly small and simple, but if you need a nibble whilst sampling the stellar brews, the option is there for you.  Considering that almost all of the sours are in the 8% to 12% range, a little substance in the belly is highly recommended.  Our visit did not include food, so we are not able to comment on the quality.

BAR OPINION: About a year ago, when Beer Blotter first heard that one of our favorite sour brewers in America would be opening a brand new tasting room in Portland, we all just sort of looked at each other with wide eyes and growing smiles and knew that we would be there as soon as it opened.  The simple reason: Cascade Brewing is just downright exciting.

This brewery exists in a niche of State Side breweries that is occupied by a very elite few.  An elite few that have the know-how and brewing facilities to allow for mass production in purposely infected beers.  Sours.  This art is not for the faint of heart, especially for those that also brew “traditional” ales and lagers that could easily be tainted with all those hazardous bugs crawling around.

If you’ll allow me to speak for all North-westerners for one moment, it feels really good to have a brewery that is unafraid to tackle this challenging but incredibly rewarding style of production in our own backyard.  An Oregon brewer that can be spoken in the same breath as Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, Avery, Allagash, New Belgium. It feels good…a pleasant sigh of relief.  Cascade Brewing’s brewmaster is Ron Gansberg.  That name should be remembered.

Not my ideal use of a barrel, but still pretty clever.

The Barrel House opened its doors to the public on September 27th, and less than a week later, all three of us were inside.  Let me tell you, we had the highest of hopes for this place, and we were not disappointed in any way.

From the outside, the building, which used to be a produce warehouse, looks a bit like one of those newfangled fire stations.  Very sharp-looking indeed.  There is a very sizable outdoor area that offers both picnic tables and high-top tables fabricated from steel and actual wood barrels (see picture).

The seating is fairly similar inside, consisting of picnic tables, traditional booths, small circular tabletops resting on top of large barrels, and brushed metal bar stools.  If you are able to peel your eyes away from the alluring bar back for just a moment, you will notice the three flat-screen T.V.s strategically placed around the room.

Naturally, we wanted to be as close to the beer as possible, so we pulled up a few stools at the bar and got acquainted with the menu.  We were quickly greeted by one Cody Bottorff, Pub Keeper/Blender.  This was my first time meeting Cody, but the rest of the crew had met him a little while back when he was still at The Horse Brass.  He was expecting us, so after a short bit of banter and the choosing of beer number 1, we had the distinct pleasure of getting a tour of the facility.

Our first stop was the beer cooler, directly behind the bar back.  This little gem has been meticulously constructed to make your beer experience as good as it possibly can be.  To put it simply, the temperature and CO2 pressure regulation is painfully exacting.  You can always be assured to get a perfect glass of beer. One small example of how much care went into the development of the cooler is that they went as far as to assure that the water used to clean the glassware prior to the pour is the same temperature as the beer.

The most fascinating element of this leg of the tour was the sight of the two barrels that have been inserted directly through the cooler wall.  Yes, that’s right, they cut two circular holes in the wall and stuck barrels in them.  This allows for two special beers to be served to the public directly from the barrel.  This is freakin’ sweet!  They used the tube of a bike tire to insulate the space between the wall and the barrel.  That’s some real deal MacGyver action right there.

The next stop of the tour was the space that will soon act as the fruit infusion/secondary fermentation site.  Remember, this place is still really new and there is still work to be done behind the scenes, thus my use of “soon”.

We then ventured to the small side room that is currently housing the fruit infusion/secondary fermentation.  Though this room was fairly boring to actually look at while we were there (just a few barrels and a few recycled dairy fermenters), it was captivating to imagine what it must look like when they are filling the containers with outrageous amounts of fresh fruit.  Or even, what it must smell like when there are hundreds of pounds of Bing and sour pie cherries, apricots, raspberries, blackberries, dates, etc. being generously dumped into oak barrels.  I very much wished that I had x-ray vision and could see what wonderful fruity delights existed within those vessels.

The final stop in the tour was the barrel room.  This was a sight to see.  I can’t even tell you how much this room reminded me of Belgium, specifically the attic at Cantillon in Brussels.  Oh man, I’m getting emotional just thinking about it again.  All I can really say is, there is a little piece of one of the greatest beer cultures on the planet hidden in the back room of the Cascade Barrel House in Portland, OR.

Cantillon?

From here it was back to the bar for more beers, but first, further reflection on our first round choices.  For me, the Funk III was an absolute must.  This was the one ‘straight from the barrel stuck in the wall’ option.  Naturally, it was still un-carbonated, but it was chilled just as much of the rest of the beers.  For me, this had a very strong traditional Belgian gueuze like quality.  Maybe the lack of suds brought this thought on, but it was damn good and again, sent my memory reeling with thoughts of the Belgium trip.  Any beer that causes that to happen is a winner in my book.

Nightfall and Noyeaux were also sampled in round 1.  Nightfall is an oak aged sour blonde wheat beer with blackberries added.  If that doesn’t sound good to you, you probably should have tuned out a long time ago.  If you aren’t into fruit beers, it doesn’t matter, there is so much more to it than that.  But, if you really want to talk about complexity, Noyeaux can pretty much be used as a synonym.

Noyeaux
Noyeaux: 8.5% ABV / 13 IBU / $6 Glass
This one-of-a-kind NW sour is a blend of Belgian strong blondes aged in white port barrels with raspberries, then blended with select barrels of strong blondes that were aged on the toasted meat from the apricot nut, or Noyeaux.

Noyeaux has so many layers of brilliance that I don’t know where to begin.  I’m not going to allow this article to turn into a Notes of a Beer Nerd so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it’s breathtaking and that you must go get one for yourself.

Our next round saw us order four beers to be sampled amongst the three of us – Beck Berry, the one and only Brett beer that they make/will ever make (apparently Ron gave it a whack and decided that once was enough, he uses Lacto), and the three bourbon barrel aged beers: Bourbonic Plague, Vlad the Imp Aler, and Sang Noir.

I have, ever since it won gold at GABF in the wood and barrel aged sour beer category in ’09, been hoping to try Bourbonic Plague.  It is a very hard one to get a hold of.  Well, it finally happened and it did not disappoint.  Truthfully, none of the beers disappointed, but Bourbonic Plague, of all the beers sampled, most played to my tastes.  It’s essentially a sour imperial porter with strong bourbon wood notes and some spicing.  Just plain insane.

Just before we made our way to our next destination we realized that it was completely dumb of us to leave without tasting the Fresh Hop Porter.  You know, because it’s a fresh hop porter…who makes that?!  Guess what?  It was delicious.  Go figure.

Seriously people, Cascade Brewing Barrel House is well designed, comfortable, and full of mind numbingly unique, complex and delicious beers.  If I lived in Portland, I have little doubt that I would go completely bankrupt because of this place.  No matter where you live in the world, consider it an absolute, 100% can’t miss beer location.  Go there, you will thank me.

I’d also be insane if I didn’t mention that the staff is crazy knowledgeable and super nice.  The world’s biggest high-five and a heart-felt THANK YOU goes out to Cody for EVERYTHING that he did for us.

Our gracious host. Thanks again Cody!

52 Weeks: Saraveza, Portland, OR

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

An alternative beer bar for your bottle buying, food needing and beer drinking needs.

32 out of 52

(still getting caught up. We are such slackers!)

Saraveza

1004 N. Killingsworth St.

Portland, OR 97217

503-206-4252

Rank: 4/5

Type of Establishment: Beer bar, trendy Portland hangout, Bottle shop, Pasty Tavern

Visit: After a 5 hour, yes 5 hour, drive from Seattle to Portland (this drive normally takes 2 hours, at most) preceded by a long day at work, I was practically out of my mind once I arrived at Saraveza. Knowing there was an IPA festival awaiting me kept me alive during the grueling drive.

Beers on Tap:

HUB (a.k.a. Hopworks Urban Brewery) Evelyn Sunshine

HUB Ace of Spades

HUB Galactic

Avery Maharaja

Cascade Imperial Wheat IPA

Stone, Victory, Dogfish head Saison du Buff

Weihenstephaner “Korbinian” Doppelbock

Bottles: Saraveza serves over 200 beers in bottles stored in glorious light filled coolers calling you into the depths of beerdom. Some highlights: Ommegang Chocoate Indulgence Chocolate Stout; The Bruery Saison Rue; Mikkeller It’s Alive Belgian Wild; Mikkeller Beer Geek Stout; De Ranke Kriek; Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus and more!. Click here for a complete list.

Food Options: For the full menu click here. I personally tried the picked deviled eggs. It was a jazzed up version of a childhood, summer picnic favorite- a must have for the table! They are known for their pasties. Potato, veggie, cheese and meat are cooked in a light, flaky crust; kind of like a calzone for woodsmen and Germans. I had the vegetarian option and it was flavorful, but slightly dry. It could have used some stone ground mustard on the side or another dipping sauce.

BAR OPINION:

I was basically silent the entire cab ride from the hotel to the bar. I was starved and needed a beer to take the week’s edge off.

We arrived to a packed bar. People to my right standing at tall boy tables and glowing coolers full of bottles to my left. We keep walking – no time to gawk – we need a table, stat! Past the bar is a small dining area with a few booths, all wooden with tall backs. Holy crap, we get a table. The gods know what I just went through, a hellish ride on Interstate 5. Crawling for 100 miles. The table tops are made of bottle caps covered in glass- always a nice touch.

Despite the intensity of the crowd, the waitress was extremely attentive. We order a sampler tray of IPAs- 5 10poz pours for $8.00- done deal and an order of the pickled deviled eggs. Okay now that I am satisfied with my first sip of beer, I finally take a moment to soak in my surroundings.

Portland: organic, adventurous, wilderness. Words that come to mind when I think of the city and those that inhabit it. Saraveza’s decor captures the essence of the city- Paintings of outdoor scenes, mountains, forests. Heads of wild animals hang from the walls. The added kitschy adornments gives Saraveza a warm, welcoming feel.

All in all Saraveza is worth a stop. It felt out of the way, but to me, almost every neighborhood in Portland feels “out of the way.” A small space with a cult following, expect to fight for a table. But once you sit down with a beer in your hand and an egg or sausage on your plate, the crowds will just melt away.

Note: Sorry for the lack of pictures- I was on a serious mission that night- beer + food.

Beers in the Hood: Phinney Ridge

August 24, 2010 2 comments

Phinney Ridge, a Seattle Neighborhood- check it.

Over the past three years, I have done my share of research on beer spots in Seattle. Every neighborhood has a beer bar, a bar with a decent tap list or a bottle shop to offer those that search the land for all that is fermented yeast. One of the things I love most about Seattle is the variety of neighborhoods (reminiscent of Manhattan) where you step out of one and into the next…almost immediately it becomes obvious that you’re in a whole new world.

Each hood offers distinct characteristics and charm. So in order to give each neighborhood their 15 minutes of fame, I will focus on one at a time.

Tonight: Phinney Ridge.

I’ll start with a nice wiki excerpt:

Phinney Ridge is a neighborhood in north central Seattle, Washington, USA. It is named after the ridge which runs north and south, separating Ballard from Green Lake, from approximately N. 45th to N. 85th Street.

I know for those of you who are not from Seattle or do not live in Seattle, the above quote means little to nothing. Phinney is a quaint neighborhood, very residential with your random spurts of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. Ballard’s subtly hip vibe seeps into Phinney, yet Phinney remains the more reserved, less frequented of the two. Here you will find beer.

The Dray

If you read Beer Blotter, then you have heard of The Dray, located on NW 65th right off of 8th and across the street from a massive Goodwill. This bar has so much to offer on any given day. First off, their “brand” is a squirrel, so expect to see some taxidermy on the shelves next to epic and rare Hair of the Dog and Dogfish head bottles.

Photo creds to phinneywood.com. Nice pic!

This tiny space is decked out in wood with slabs of polished tree trunks acting as your bar and table tops. On a cold winter’s night, you couldn’t be cozier. On a warm, sunny summer’s day you are guaranteed a breeze through the open garage doors/windows. The Dray molds to the weather outside; its like some kind of vortex.

Food options include some paninis, landjagers and pretzels with amazing stone ground mustard. I still haven’t figured out if you get charged for the pretzels, but I really doubt it.

But we also go here for beer- 12 taps at any given time. Yes, there are times I have stopped by here and been slightly disenchanted by their beer list, but 9 times out of 10, they will have something unique, something seasonal and something that your heart desires.

Off hand, Ommegang Zuur, New Belgium Love, Dogfish head Immortal Ale and Cascade Apricot come to mind as beers I enjoyed in the past. For that one time out of ten, The Dray has an impressive (and reasonably priced) bottle list, so be sure to check it out!

A gem of a bar, a comfort zone and a beer lovers day well spent.

Sully’s Snowgoose Saloon

Every time I  walk up to Sully‘s it reminds me of a lodge at a mountain resort in the Alps. With a pitched roof and a Bavarian facade, it couldn’t be more welcoming. Inside, it is a dimly lit, eclectic place with quirky decorations, as well as your quintessential Irish pub signs regarding how drunk, humorous, silly and stupid people get. This is another venue where I can spend an entire afternoon shooting the shit over a few pints of beer.

Props to seattleweekly.com for visual insight into Sully's

Like The Dray, Sully’s offers limited menu options. The items they do have include grilled cheese sandwiches, random snacks and some damn good chili. Other than that, throw a buck in the box and grab a bowl of peanuts.

You can always count on Boundary Bay IPA to be served on cask here, as well as several Deschutes taps and a decent IPA selection. I wouldn’t go here if your looking for a unique or rare beer, but quality brews such as Victory Hop Devil and New Belgium Ranger IPA have graced the stage here at Sully’s.

I remember sitting at Sully’s, drinking Boundary Bay IPA with the other 2/3 of Beer Blotter – we were sitting in a booth by the window and it started to hail, hail the size of golf balls. Just a sign from the gods that it was time to order another pint.

The Park Pub

Directly across the street from Sully’s, The Park Pub took much longer to get on our beer radar then the previously mentioned joints. This bar serves as a place to listen to live bands, play pool and grab some dinner.

Overall the ambiance is less comfortable and intimate but one glance at the tap list and all is well in the world. Arranged in a half circle, the taps glisten behind the bar.

Two times to phinneywood.com for having the neighborhood covered and taking great pics!

Note worthy beers currently on tap here: Boundary Bay IPA, Avery ‘Maharaja’ Imperial IPA, Stone Smoked Porter, Lagunitas ‘Lil Sumpin Sumpin’, Laurelwood ‘Hop Monkey’ IPA, Deschutes Organic Amber, Double Mountain Kolsch, Big Time Black IPA
and Rodenbach Grand Cru.

I would recommend this place for a Friday or Saturday night hang out session with a group. Good beers, music, activities and once in awhile, the neighborhood magician will amaze you and stick a card to the ceiling. Take a look next time you are there.

So that’s Phinney Ridge’s beer scene in a nutshell. I have many fond memories and have drank damn good beer at all three of these places. If you have a place that you love in this neighborhood, leave a comment or email us at beerblotter@gmail.com.

Next up: Ballard.

Archives of a Beer Nerd – Forth Installment

Fourth installment already? My oh my how time flies. Just in case you are new to the blotter, here is the link to follow if you need an explanation of what in the hell this column is all about. In a nutshell, the archive is a time machine that takes us back a few years to the initial days of my beer journaling. I’ve drank a lot of good beers through the years, and I’d like to share my thoughts on how they tasted. Hopefully I’ll whet your appetite and you will give these beers a try for yourself. If I’m lucky enough to make that happen for you, please tell us about your experience and how it tasted in your words.

The last installment found us nearing the middle of December, 2007. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Photo by Phil Hirlehey

12/8/07

Unibroue (Chambly, Quebec, Canada) – Ephemere

5.5% ale brewed with granny smith apple juice, coriander, and curacoa.  Golden color, decent head – telling of its potent bubbly.  Apple sour and sweetness relevant in smell and taste.  Yeast also pronounced in the nose.  Spices come out on the back of the tongue.  Very pleasant aftertaste lingers for a while after each sip.  I probably should be drinking this outside in the sun, but it’s December and we are in Seattle.  A little bit too fruity, but for a fruit beer it’s classy and sophisticated.

Timperial Commentary: I must admit, I’m a huge fan of Unibroue’s work, Ephemere notwithstanding.  This beer is very unique and refreshing.  I buy a bottle of this on a pretty regular basis.  I do agree with my 2007 self that it is a great summer, outdoor kind of beer, but the apples and spice also have a holiday season feel to them.  About as many happy feelings rush into my mind when I drink this beer as flavors I find on the palate.   If you like the saisons, fruit or spiced beers, and Belgian beers with high effervescence, this beer is for you.

12/14/07

Stone Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA) – Double Bastard

10%.  Seasonal release to much acclaim that honestly, I don’t fully understand.  Very dark brown, not much sustaining head at all.  The nose is, in my opinion, by far the best quality of this brew.  It has a hoppiness, sweetness, smokiness… Hops come out in the flavor, a dryness and…barley…something.  Hard to explain.  I have had this before and didn’t like it very much, and with the flood of excitement and positive press, I felt I must be mistaken.  I even let it age a few months.  I couldn’t drink too much of this.

Timperial Commentary: Yeah, I’m dead serious when I tell you that I don’t like Double Bastard.  I find it to be so odd that a large percentage of the beer nerds out there go ga-ga for it.  This type of stark polarity is incredibly rare for me when it comes to highly respected beers.  I do have a very high respect for Stone.  I like almost all of their beers, and love a decent amount of them.  DB just doesn’t do it for me.  Oh well.

Photo by shyzaboy

12/15/07

Avery Brewing Co. (Boulder, CO) – Collaboration not Litigation

8.99%.  Avery and Russian River both have a beer called Salvation, and to get around potential legal action they collaborated.  This is the mix of the two, both of which are Belgian golden ales.  Dark brown color, smells of yeast and caramel.  Doesn’t leave much lace on the glass but the head sustains throughout.  Alcohol present in smell and taste.  Maybe if I didn’t know it was a blend… but I feel like I can tell.  There is a contrast on the tongue.

Timperial Commentary:  I must admit that I didn’t read this review before I stated typing it.  This beer is so damn good that I figured my review would express more elation.  That is a piss poor review 2007 self.  You’ll just have to take the word of 2010 self when I say, this beer is awesome!  The blend works really well.  For a long time this was the only way that most people could taste Russian River in any way.  As always, their work does not disappoint.  And Avery…well, theirs never does either.  Without a doubt, two of the country’s best breweries.  Drink this beer!

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