Friday, December 20, 2013

Base Camp Brewing Company - In-2-Tents Double Wet Hop Imperial IPL

Brewery: Base Camp Brewing Company
Beer:  In-2-Tents Double Wet Hop Imperial IPL
Style: Imperial India Pale Lager
ABV: 7.7%

Basecamp brewing had no information on this beer on their website, perhaps because it is part of a new "small batch" series as indicated by the bottle... can... whatever.  After some digging I found some website claiming it uses both Centennial and Meridian hops.  In what order, and which was wet hopped is a mystery. The bottle also indicates you should "Soak in a mountain river.
Chill in the snow. Cool off in a lake. Refrigerate if you have to." Kind of a cool marketing campaign for such an outdoorsy beer company.  The 22 oz. bottle is made of aluminum so you can take it hiking or camping or whatever other outdoor activity you like.

I miss my plastic bag

A:  The first thing I notice about this beer when poured into my "micro-weizen" glass is the beautiful cream colored and densely frothy head.  Unfortunately it is gone before I can even snap a picture of it. Once I pick myself up off the floor and recompose after the loss of something so beautiful I start to move down the bodacious curves of the glass.  I finally begin to admire the attractive, lightly hazy, deep orange colored beer.  When swirled a small cascade of tiny bubbles fall like snow against the glass, returning to the beer leaving behind only minimal lacing.

S: A sweet, malty aroma with with a very present backbone of grapefruit and pine. From memory similar to the non-imperial version of this beer but with a more malty profile.  

T: The first taste is overwhelming with vegetal wet hop flavor, in a bad way.  I let the beer sit there and think about how it wants to greet me for a second and then try again.  This time much more pleasant.  You can definitely observe the wet hop character but once the initial shock is over it is quite pleasant.

M:  A medium mouth feel with a creamy body and light carbonation.  Very easy to drink while not feeling like a light beer.

O: Overall a great beer, the standard In-Tents IPL is a fantastic beer and this is a similar but improved version of it.  The additional alcohol is not noticeable enough to comment on although I think this has a lot more malt character than the standard.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Widmer Brothers Brewing Company - Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout Review

Brewery: Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
Beer: Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.3%          IBU: 70

Part of the Brothers Reserve series, this beer was a gift from a friend.  I Poured  into a pint glass and immediately realized that I need to have some better glassware if I am going to start doing reviews.  This beer had a dark brown foamy head on top of the incredibly dark brown beer.  Not black but you wouldn't be able to tell unless held up to a light.  The smell is roasted chocolate and raspberry that favors the raspberry as the beer level goes down.  A sweet and upfront chocolate flavor with a background of raspberry is pleasant although not incredibly complex.  This beer has a light to moderate alcohol flavor its not a major detractor but it is definitely present, as you would expect with a 9.3% beer.  The longer I drank this beer the more that the raspberry was present in both aroma and flavor. A full bodied beer with a bit of alcohol burn, again not overbearing but it is present.  Overall a pretty good beer I would probably not drink it again but only because I know the Brothers Reserve beers are around $10 for a 22 oz bottle.

As you can see I am going to start to review beers on the site whenever I have new, unique, rare... to be honest I'll probably just end up doing them when I have time and I remember.  If you have any suggestions on the format or content please leave a comment below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival 2013 Day 2

Holiday Ale Fest Mug
Another Holiday Mug
Day two of the Holiday Ale Fest I was joined by my wife and some friends to amplify the merriment.  We took the MAX down again and jumped right off racing for the line since there were many other plastic beer mugs in our fellow MAX patron's hands.  We got to the door just in time because the line was non existent but as we walked in a horde of people began piling up behind us.  Another frigid day so it was pretty miserable to even be waiting outside in the line while they checked our wristbands.

Slanted Rock Brewing Co. - Pantyhose Porter - Imperial Baltic Porter - 8.4% - 28 IBU - C+
The frothy burnt orange head sitting on this black beer is probably the most amazing thing about this beer. The frothy foam is a very unique color and gets you interested in the beer if for no other reason than how it looks.  The smell is light with molasses and toffee and even subtler undertones of brown sugar and vanilla. The first drinks leaves a shockingly full bodied and sweet chocolate flavor in your mouth, but finishes slightly chalky.

Crux Fermentation Project - Oud Freakcake - Oud Bruin/Flanders Style - 10.5% - 35 IBU - C
This clear dark copper colored beer had a moderate cookie aroma from the malt and a light vinegar scent as well as a little grape.  The taste was lightly sour with a little more sweet characteristic than the smell would lead you to think.  The body of this beer was light with an above average carbonation level.  This beer also had a noticeable alcohol flavor to it but surprisingly not as much as the 10.5% should have given it.  Definitely a holiday ale, not super spiced but it just said Christmas beer to me.

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers - Erotic Cake - Chocolate Milk Stout - 6.8% - 20 IBU - C+
An average creamy head which was saying a lot for this festival. Sitting in pitchers and being poured into mugs does not always facilitate the best head for a beer.  This beer looked extremely thick, motor oil thick and extremely black.  The aroma coming off the top was that of Coffee and chocolate, exactly what the color makes you think it smells like. The taste was very strong coffee but lighter on the chocolate. a medium body was not what I was expecting from this beer though, much thinner than it looks.  Overall this beer was neither cake-like or erotic, it was OK though.

Old Town Brewing Co. - Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum - Rum Barrel Aged Old Ale - 7.5% - 30 IBU - C
This dark copper colored beer with an average fizzy head was very opaque.  A light caramel aroma rose from the beer that prepared you for the similar flavor when drank.  The texture was thick and fizzy, it may have been because I've been drinking so many dark beers but it seemed light.  There was nothing really wrong with this beer I was just not crazy about it.

I carefully chose all my beers the day before and did a lot of research to make sure I got the ones I wanted to try. Today however, I kind of was just following my friends around and drinking what seemed interesting in the vicinity.  To this point it had not proved very enjoyable and I was starting to get disparaged because I haven't really liked anything yet today.

Lagunitas Brewing Co. - Hairy Eyeball (2011) - American Strong Ale - 9.0% - B-
A beer I have been wanting to try for some time, this seasonal release from Laguintas is an annual tradition, apparently running out of their cappuccino stout this 2 year old beer was a welcome substitute.  A foamy head topped this hazy brown ale.  The malt profile gave an aroma that  hinted at cookie molasses and caramel and then threw in some light pear after a couple whiffs.  It smelled about what it tasted like with a medium body and soft carbonation, I don't know what I was expecting from this beer but it did not deliver it. I liked it but it was just not the beer that I was expecting.

Collaborator - Collaborator Hallucinator Blend - Specialty Blend - 7.7% - 31 IBU - C
Light foamy bubbles circled the perimeter of this clear copper beer in the mug, releasing the pleasant molasses and caramel aroma.  Cherry and vanilla also came through once you took a drink of the medium bodies beer.  The beer was sweet, a little too sweet for my pallet at this point.

Widmer Brothers Brewing - Biere De Noel - Biere de Garde - 9.5% - 41 IBU - A-
Like almost every other beer at the fest a light diminishing head topped this beer.  I look at this light brown ale and prepared myself for another bouquet of molasses and caramel.  To my surprise this was not what I found at all.  An incredible citrus and grapefruit nose-splosion greeted me and I have make sure I'm still drinking the same beer.  The taste was incredible I can only assume this is heavily dry hopped with Citra or some other citrus hop.  A medium body  with average carbonation and a very smooth finish.  Aggressively aromatic and incredibly well balanced with the malt profile.  Best beer I tasted the whole day, not what I was expecting from Widmer Brothers, but a welcome and pleasant surprise.

Deschutes Brewery - Sage Pumpkin - Pumpkin Ale - 7.5% - 24 IBU - B+
This beer took a couple tickets and was not available the day before.  The Deschutes website said that this is a "pub exclusive" so in leiu of driving to Bend I tried it.  This beer was a very clear light amber with a moderate herbal pumpkin aroma, a hint of cherry was also detectable.  A medium body finished smooth and pleasant.  I could pick up the sage but it was not overbearing, it kind of tasted similar to my pumpkin saison. A pretty good beer all around like any other pumpkin beer great for one but not to drink all night.

We left to go see my friend Jim's Dad in a local bar and I ordered a seasonal beer so I thought, screw it I'll continue my reviews.

Double Mountain Brewery - Fa La La La La - Winter Ale - 7.5 - 85 IBU - B
Finally I get to a bar where they will be pouring a beer from a draft into a real glass I got small but lasting head on the beer which was nice.  A very lightly cloudy amber beer that smelled of bread and caramel from the malt bill and pine with a hint of celery when agitated from the hops.  It was moderately sweet and lightly bitter with a medium body.  This was a good finish to a day of drinking nice smooth caramel-y beer almost like an amber.

This years Holiday Ale Festival was substantially more fun than years past.  I think this was because there was substantially fewer people than years past.  This had two great benefits shorter lines and there was no overbearing claustrophobia that the crowded atmosphere inspires.  I think this may have been caused by the below freezing temperatures and the fear of waiting in a line that wraps around three sides of the block for up to an hour.  Whatever was the reason the effect was very welcome, I only hope the weather is this miserable every year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

18th Annual Holiday Ale Festival 2013 Day 1

On Friday I went down to the Holiday Ale Fest to try this year’s selection of yuletide ales.  After being released from work a little early I took the MAX with a co-worker down to Pioneer Square, all bundled up and prepared for the hour long wait to get in.  It was especially cold this day and I was prepared for the worst case scenario.  After getting off the max though I was amazed to see no line at all, we just kept walking to the entrance to expecting to see hoards of shivering patrons, but none were to be found.   
After walking in I got my cup and tickets I found out that the cups where the standard plastic mugs from years past. This year there is a map of the various locations inside the tent which was nice.  I was a little disappointed that they did not decide to go the route of the Oregon Brewers Festival and use glassware but I understand why.  If a glass drops on the grass and dirt of Tom McCall Park it will probably be ok, but on the brick floor of Pioneer Square, there is little chance of survival. 
10 Barrel Brewing Co – Beernog – Spiced Winter Ale – 7.5% – 28 IBU –
This beer has an average, but quickly diminishing, deep chestnut head.  The aroma that comes off is boastful with the raisin and chocolate and hiding a hint of spice.  The first drink transfers the raisin aroma onto your tongue and the chocolate is not far behind.  The medium body leaves either a hot alcohol or slightly gritty, metallic feeling that stays with you.  Overall the beer was very drinkable and pleasant, in spite of the less than amazing finish.

Cascade Brewing – Cherry Diesel – Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – 11% – 50 IBU – A 
A great name for a great beer, a black muddy beer with a sparse dark head smells almost like a barley wine on first approach.  Upon closer inspection hints of molasses, raisin and chocolate come through with a backbone of bourbon to justifying its heavy alcohol aroma.  Upon the first sip you are engulfed in the chocolate and cherry flavors that are followed up by slight vanilla on exhalation.  This full bodied behemoth is thick but effervescent.  Stylistically it may be a little too lively with the carbonation but this does not detract from the beer in the least, only enhancing the chocolate and cherry.  This liquid cherry cordial lasted me a long time it was very easy to savor.  A desert beer definitely, and one I would choose over any chocolate cake.

I was about to go grab my next beer and low and behold who did I see?  Not one, but two Santa Clauses.  Of course I had to get a picture with the old saints, they both seemed pretty busy and didn't regale me with a story of lying to Mrs. Claus in order to get out of the North Pole like in previous years.  Just time for a photo op then back to the drinking, which I can respect. To be fair these guys were kind of phoning it in with the Santa outfit. Previous years Santa had a real beard and a real back-story for his costume.

Alameda Brewing Co. – Long Beard’s Baltic Porter – 6.4% – 30 IBU – C+
A sparse and fleeting head was on top of this surprisingly see-through black beer.  One whiff and the chocolate and lightly smoked and burnt aroma beg you to take a drink.  When you concede the result is a pretty standard porter with a hint of smoke and a bit of alcohol burn.  The medium mouth-feel was surprisingly light for such a dark beer.  I consumed this beer rather quickly I don’t know if that was because it wasn’t my favorite or what but it did leave a toasty aftertaste for you to remember it by.

Base Camp Brewing Co. – White Squall – Wheat Wine – 10.7% – 60 IBU – B-
This light amber beer monster of a beer had a floral and spicy, light clove, smell without the detectible alcohol aroma you would expect from such a big beer.  The flavor was definitely showcasing the malty wheat flavor.  A light body and above average carbonation gave this beer a unique perspective on a traditional barley wine.  It almost tasted like a darker beer but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why it gave me that impression.

Deschutes Brewery – The Abyss (2009) – Imperial Stout – 11% – A
A nice surprise I discovered while exploring the Holiday Ale Fest was The Abyss Vertical booth.  They were pouring vintages of The Abyss from 2009-20012, although these cost 2 tickets for a taster pour I decided I would try it. An excellent head topped this murky black beer deserving of its name.  The bouquet that was erupting from the top of my glass was that of all things dark, toasted, coffee, roasted, toffee.  Upon drinking you can almost feel the oak barrels that this was aged in and a light raisin flavor gives pops in to say hello.  A fully developed thick creamy body with soft carbonation finishes smooth and makes you understand why it was worth the two tickets.  This is all-around great stout and beer.  I only wish I could have had 24 tickets to spare so I could have tried full glasses of each vintage next to each other, but alas I must move on.  
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. – Luponic Merlin – Oatmeal Stout – 5.5% – 30 IBU - A+
This dark black ale gave off light toasted chocolatey, hidden behind the belligerent citrus and grapefruit aroma.  A thick full bodied beer with a smooth finish immediately jumped up to the top of my favorite stouts ever list.  The very aggressive and up front hop aroma balances well with the roasted flavor of the stout.  I would like to make a clone of this beer.  I think this is probably Velvet Merlin dry hopped with a load of Citra to give it that characteristic hop nose.

Stickmen Brewery – The Twerking Elf – Northwest Sour Brown – 7.2% – 21 IBU – B+
I actually decided to try this beer on the warning that it "tasted like shit" from a girl that I can only assumed was drawn to the name more than the description.  A sparse but lasting head covered this dark brown ale that gave off a slight sour peach aroma mixed with some acetic acid.  The mild vinegar fragrance was not strong enough to burn your nose but it was enough to let you know it's presence. Having a medium body this was a pretty good sour beer.  

While walking to get my next beer I found this fellow who was wearing a pretty sweet sweatshirt.  Fake ugly Christmas sweater vest printed on a sweatshirt.  He had a British accent and said he got it from Macy's so I don't think he was just another Portland hipster but who knows, the accent could have been ironic.

Lagunitas Brewing Co. – High West Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout – Stout – 12.5% – 30 IBU – B
With an eighth of an inch of lasting dark creamy head this black beer gave off a light toffee and raisin aroma with a hint of brown sugar hiding behind the bold whiskey smell.  When you try this cappuccino stout you can pick up the coffee flavor but it is the whiskey barrel taste is much more present. A fully developed thick and creamy body that finishes smooth makes this beer very pleasant to drink .

Ryan                         Me                              Jachin
When going to grab my final beer of the night I felt a tug on my scarf from the side.  I looked over and saw two gentlemen spouting gibberish at me.  After talking with them for a while I found out that they thought I was someone else and the gibberish was nicknames of houses in Corvallis.  The color of my scarf, I can only assume, led them to believe I was a Beaver fan.  I found out their names were Ryan and Jachin, who were brothers and had attended OSU.  We started talking about majors and I found out Ryan was a biology major and I told him I was an engineer.   Jachin quickly began the "ahhhh NEEEERD" and then he asked if he could be my butler because he apparently thought engineers make "Butler Money".  I decided to get a picture because I was drunk and thought it would be a funny anecdote.  As we were taking the picture a girl walked by and Jachin asked if she would be in the picture, using the photo op to hit on her.  She took a couple pictures and informed him she was married.  This was obviously not satisfactory to Jachin because he promptly kicked her out of the picture and she moved on.

Elysian Brewing Co. – Doom – Golden Treacle Pale – 7.4% – 67 IBU – B
This beer had little in the way of head, like most beers here being poured from pitchers instead of direct from the tap. The light amber color was a nice break from all of the dark ales that have consumed the festival.  With a smell of caramel citrus and grapefruit you could detect a light pear aroma hiding somewhere.  A light body with a creamy texture and a soft carbonation this beer was very different from most other offerings at the festival.  Overall a pretty good bear definitely a nice beer to finish up with.

Closing thoughts:
I love beer fests, these are my people; drunk and friendly I can talk to anyone about beer and make recommendations to complete strangers and, for the most part, they know what I am talking about.  I had a really pleasant time at the Holiday Ale Festival this year.  The weather outside was frightful, but the beer was so delightful.

Stay Tuned for Day 2 of Holiday Ale Fest 2013.