Week 36 of 52:
Cascade Brewing Barrel House
939 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97214
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):
Vlad the Imp Aler
Fresh Hop Porter
Mid Summer’s Pale
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.
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.
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: 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.
Russian River Brewing has been the topic of discussion on this blog on several occasions. But none was more read and reviewed than our post on the 2010 release of Pliny the Younger, Beer Advocates, previous #1 beer in the world. (now #2)
Last spring, Vinnie sent some specialties to Philadelphia, including some of that delicious Pliny the Younger. Because the beer had not been registered with the state, officials raided bars that had it on tap and confiscated the goodness.
This is not going to happen again.
With Philly Beer Week in full bloom, Russian River made sure that their beers were registered this year. In fact, Vinnie is even poking a bit of fun at the ridiculous raid that probably resulted in a bunch of state troopers getting drunk on amazing beer that they didn’t even enjoy.
BeerNews.Org published a story that Russian River has registered “Registration Ale” and will be pouring it this week. From their site:
Earlier this spring, Russian River Brewing and a host of other breweries were caught in the middle of some controversy in Philadelphia. Officials raided some beer bars for unregistered beers and some brews were confiscated as a result. For Russian River Registration Ale, Vinnie Cilurzo made sure to properly register this one with the local liquor governing body. He asked me to keep this a secret back in April and I obliged. Not sure if it is new or a re-label of an existing beer in the catalog as he was pretty tight-lipped about it. People can enjoy it on tap around the city this week.
Who knows what’s in that keg – who cares. That beer is golden. I hope that everyone in Philly enjoys – it cost them $75.00 to get that puppy registered.
Seattle’s sustainable brewer, Fremont Brewing, is making a big splash. Amidst increasing exposure and growing popularity, Fremont Brewing is finally rolling out a canning line. Even more exciting (to us) is that Fremont has begun the process of producing sour beer, right here in Washington state.
Both of these items were disclosed by way of a blog post today at the brewery’s website. The blog post states that the brewery acquired a used canning system that will allow them to put beer in a can at impressive rates.
From the post:
The used caning line Matt scored for us arrived yesterday! It’s a manual system capable of canning 20 cases an hour. Now we just have to buy some cans (minimum order: 85,000) and soon you’ll see us in grocery stores — and elsewhere…
This is some pretty exciting stuff. If Fremont moves quickly, they will be the 3rd (2nd?) canner in the state of Washington. Whats great about this news is that shows that Fremont has fulfilled its dreams.
When the first announcements of Fremont’s launching were released, the press release promised canning – now they have fulfilled that lofty goal. Congrats Fremont, we cannot wait to crack a beer.
More interesting to many of us at BeerBlotter.com was the claim that Fremont began barreling its Universale Pale Ale in Cabernet barrels this week. That beer will be fermented using wild yeasts to create sour ale. Yum.
Washington brewers and sour ale have not historically joined forces. Minuscule batches of sour ales have been brewed in the past for super-limited releases from Elysian Brewing and Big Al Brewing, but nothing consistently produced and available to the public.
Fremont’s sour ale endeavor involves using a pale ale, aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels. The concoction may closely resemble that used to create Russian River Brewing’s Consecration (though no fruit was mentioned).
Lets just hope that Fremont sticks with this trend. Sour beer is a great seller and something that can raise a brewer’s profile considerably.
Hey, maybe they will even entertain the idea of canning their new sour creation? Its highly doubtful, but its been done – just ask Rodenbach, who’s Grand Cru can be found in cans throughout Belgium.
We cannot wait to try both of the new products from one of Washington’s finest.
Here are some sexy shots of recent interesting pulls from the cellar. We are going to be brief, but wanted to let you all know what we liked, and what some bottles are tasting like right now.
Great Lakes Blackout Stout (Imperial Stout): Cleveland, OH
ABV – 9%
Vintage – 2010
RateBeer – 100
Commercial Description –
A Russian Imperial Stout with a hearty malt body and bold hop flavor. Named after the infamous “Blackout of 2003” that left the northeastern United States in complete darkness, but resulted in old-fashioned neighborhood porch parties and fun.
Available in February & March.
One Sentence Note –
This high octane moster has a lot of mocha, coffee, and cinnamon flavor at a smoothness that you expect in your 5% stout, but at 9% you get so much more bang for your buck.
Cigar City Jai Alai IPA: Tampa, FL
ABV – 7.5%
Vintage – 2010
RateBeer – 99
Jai Alai India Pale Ale pays tribute to the original extreme sport. Jai Alai, a game native to the Basque region of Spain, is played on a court called a fronton. Jai Alai players attempt to catch a ball using a curved mitt, whilst the ball travels at speeds of up to 188 miles per hour! Proving they have a sense of humor the Spanish dub this game, with its ball traveling at race car speeds, “the merry game.” Tampa was once home to a busy Jai Alai fronton but sadly all that remains of Jai Alai in the Tampa Bay area is this India Pale Ale that we brew in tribute to the merry game. The India Pale Ale style of beer has its roots in the strong ales sent from England to thirsty British troops in India during the 18th century. To survive the journey the beers needed more alcohol and more hops (which act as a natural preservative). This “big” brewing practice made India Pale Ale one of the first “extreme beers” and a favorite among the Queens military men in India. Eventually it became a favorite style of the new crop of American brewers seeking more flavor and complexity than mass-market brewers were willing to offer.
One Sentence Note:
Sweet sugary hop monsoon batman – this malt goddess has a syrupy complexity with intense hop aromas, while remaining incredibly smooth drinking.
Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught Imperial IPA: Chicago, IL
ABV – 9.5%
Vintage – 2009
RateBeer – 100
A hophead’s dream beer. This Imperial India Pale Ale has an opening salvo of mango, peach and citrus hop aromas that sit atop a pronounced caramel malt backbone. Although Dreadnaught is a strong and intensely hoppy ale, its complex flavors is both smooth and memorable. 9.5% ABV, 100 IBUs.
One Sentence Notes:
In October we bought two, consumed one immediately much to our hop-fiendish delight, and saved the other for 6 months to let the malts develop – a decent idea but its beginning to reach its bitterness decline, so drink up on this incredible beer! (we pushed that sentence a bit)
Russian River Temptation Oak-Aged Sour Blonde: Santa Rosa, CA
ABV – 7.25%
Vintage – 2009 (1st batch of year)
RateBeer – 100
Is it beer, or is it wine? “Aged in French oak wine barrels for twelve months with distinct characteristics of fruit and subtle oak” sounds more like a description of wine than beer. But, of course, Temptation is indeed beer. Actually, Temptation is a Blonde Ale Fermented with a special strain of yeast, then aged in French oak chardonnay barrels. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout twelve months of aging. During this aging process, a secondary fermentation occurs using a yeast strain disliked by most brewers and winemakers called Brettanomyces. The “Bret” gives Temptation intriguing characteristics and a pleasant sourness. Temptation is re-fermented in the bottle to create its carbonation–a process commonly used to make fine champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment to remain in the bottle.
One Sentence Notes:
We touched on it before, then re-sampled this champagne of beers (seriously, not High Life) whose sourness is not overpowered with intense malt flavors, making it perfect for the purist.
Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic Survival 7-Grain Stout: Portland, OR
ABV – 5.3%
Vintage – 2009
RateBeer – 98
Beer of the Ancients! Barley (Egyptian), Wheat (Mesopotamian), Oats (Egyptian), Amaranth (Aztec), Quinoa (Incan), Spelt (Mesopotamian), and Kamut (Egyptian) sustain the soul with a nutrients cultivated through the millennia. Finished with 15 pounds of cold-pressed Stumptown Hairbender espresso. Unlock the mystery entombed in darkness.
One Sentence Notes:
Holy smokes (literally) we were surprised by how incredibly well-crafted this NW stout could be with SEVEN ancient grains in the mash and a dump load of special Stumptown espresso – top NW single stout in my book, gets you your breakfast HOTD and pick me up.
Any new beers you have been drinking? Pulled something from the cellar that has been there a while and want to share how its doing these days? Please add a comment below.
Well our friends over at Brouwers Cafe in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood never cease to amaze us. They can fill a calendar like no other.
Thanks in large part to manager and Seattle Beer Week founder Ian Roberts, Brouwers Cafe has an amazing array of innovative and intriguing beer-related events.
Of course, none are more exciting than the Seattle Beer Week lineup. This event needs little introduction and has been the topic of Seattle beer conversation for some time. If you want all the information on this amazing affair, showcasing 10 days of unbelievable beer extravaganza – check out the new and improved Seattle Beer Week website.
For now, we wanted to mention to upcoming events for this month.
Honk! Fest is coming……
One event that we are very excited about is Honk! Fest. This event is a get together of 20 street bands from around the US and Canada who gather in front of Brouwers Cafe to play an excellent array of street tunes.
You can certainly expect to see brass bands, jazz bands and all sorts of other sounds during the street festival. But at the conclusion, several of the bands are slated to appear inside Brouwers Cafe for a stage show, while you enjoy a pint off their incredible tap list.
Honk! Fest is set to kick off at 5 PM on April 9th, 2010 in Fremont on N Phinney Ave. and 35th Street. The following nights, Honk Fest takes over the Central District (April 10 10 AM) and Georgetown (April 10, 10 PM), before ending at West Seattle on April 11 from 12 PM-6 PM. Don’t miss out.
Sour Beer Blending Class? Yep, its real……..
Someone at Brouwers Cafe masterminded a sour beer blending class set for April 27, 2010 at the bar.
Why someone has not done this before is beyond me! Also, this is perfect timing with Sour Beer Fest (in our opinion the best beer event of the year) set for May 20th during Seattle Beer Week.
Anyone who enjoys a nice schooner of lambic, gueuze, kreik, oud bruin or some of the more American sour stylings put out by Russian River, Avery, or Jolly Pumpkin will not want to miss this event.
Stay tuned in to Brouwers Cafe’s website for more details. At the time of our posting, their are no details for this event.