Full Sail Hop Harvest Tour '14

Earlier this week, I attended a tour of Sodbuster Farms sponsored by Full Sail Brewing. This is an exciting time of year in the Northwest beer community, because it's hop harvest season!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit a hop farm during harvest, I highly recommend it. The process used to pick, sort, dry, and package the hops is an amazing combination of hands-on labor and mechanized automation. This was my third hop harvest tour. Although the process doesn't change, it's always fascinating to see.

Throughout the day, I shared updates on Twitter. I think my tweets did a decent job of providing a sense of what I experienced, so I've included them here, in order, on a single page.

Another highlight of the day was sampling Full Sail's beers. Cascade Pilsner, originally released last year to celebrate the brewery's 26th anniversary, has now been released as a year-round beer. It's light, crisp, and packs plenty of citrus hop flavor. Best yet, it's available for the first time in six-packs. I hope to post a review shortly.

Thanks to Full Sail Brewing and Sodbuster Farms for a great day!  If you'd like to see a video of the hop harvest process, check out this three minute clip I made a few years ago.

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Inspiration From the Photo Roll

In recent months, my blog has taken taken a backseat to other priorities in my life. Posts have been sporadic, and when I do have time to blog, I've been uninspired. When I started this project four years ago, I never thought it would last this long. But somehow it has. As I was scanning through three years worth of pictures on my iPhone the other day, I remembered why.

You might think it's because of the beer. It's not. Don't get me wrong, the beer is great. Oh yeah, beer samples are pretty cool too! The joy of seeing a box of beer delivered to your doorstep never gets old. But at the end of the day, I could buy the beer without having to blog about it.

One of the reasons I've kept this going for so long is because of the people. Through this blog, I've had the opportunity to meet so many genuinely nice people with whom I would not have otherwise crossed paths. These are people that I'm now proud to call my friends.

Knowledge is the other. I've learned a heck of a lot about beer! Most of what I've learned has come from people who generously share their time, experience, and knowledge. I can even make a respectable beer as a result. There is still much to learnand that's what keeps it interesting.

My photo archive also reminded me that there are so many stories that I wanted to tell, but never got around to telling. So I'm going to make a concerted effort to bring of some of my favorite never-shared experiences off my photo roll and onto my blog. Stay tuned....

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BridgePort's Trilogy Closes with Brewer's Class

BridgePort's Trilogy Series is coming to a closesort of.  Trilogy 3 Brewers' Class begins shipping this week. A collaboration between Jeff Edgerton, BridgePort Brewmaster, and Oregon State University's Fermentation Sciences Program brings us a dry-hopped session Brown ale.

Now you, beer loving public, have the opportunity to determine which of the Trilogy beers will return in 2015 as a year-round offering. If you'd like to sample all of the Trilogy series beers side-by-side, you're in luck. BridgePort has just released the Beervana's Voter's Box which includes the entire Trilogy series plus BridgePort IPA.

For more details about Trilogy 3, check out the the brewery's press release below.

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Trilogy 3 Brewers’ Class, a Collaboration with Oregon State University, Premieres this week

PORTLAND, Ore.—August 28, 2014 — The third and final beer in BridgePort’s anniversary series, Trilogy 3 Brewers’ Class, starts shipping this week in all markets where BridgePort is sold. 

Designed as a collaboration with students enrolled in the Fermentation Science Program at Oregon State University, Trilogy 3 Brewers’ Class looks to the future of craft brewing in Oregon and nationwide. Conceptualizing the liquid started over three months ago when the students, alongside program director Thomas Shellhammer, joined brewmaster Jeff Edgerton at the brewpub for a beer and some great conversation.

“We weren’t given many parameters, aside from that it needed to be a beer that the students would want to drink,” commented Shellhammer. “Knowing that BridgePort’s end goal was to sell this beer in all of their markets, we also tried to avoid anything too ‘out there’ that wouldn’t scale well.” 

After a productive brainstorming session and review of Bridgeport’s current lineup, the Oregon State students dreamt up an easy-to-drink brown ale with a blend of dry hops that lend a unique aroma. Over the following months, there were multiple rounds of test brews at the OSU lab before landing on the final product: a sessionable dry-hopped Brown ale with an ABV below 5-percent.

“We used several classic Willamette and Yakima Valley hop varieties for this one” commented Edgerton. “Centennial, Sterling, Cascade. The unique hop flavors present themselves on the finish of this smooth, mellow beer and blend very well with the delicious flavors from the dark Caramel and Chocolate malt.”

It is now up to BridgePort fans to determine which Trilogy release will return as a year-round beer in 2015. Fans can compare each of the Trilogy beers, all available in the upcoming Voter’s Box Variety Pack, and then cast their vote on BridgePortTrilogy.com, on Instagram, or on Twitter.  The BridgePort Voter’s Box will start to hit shelves in early September.

About Trilogy 3 Dry-Hopped Session Brown Ale or Brewers’ Class
IBUs: 30 ABV: 5.0% OG: 13.0 Color:  Brown 
Ingredients: Centennial, Sterling, and Cascade hops, dark caramel malt 
Description: Easy-to-drink brown ale with a blend of dry hops give this beer a unique aroma character. Dark caramel malt is used to give this beer a decidedly brown color. Low alcohol but still retains a malty backbone. 

About BridgePort Brewing Company
Celebrating 30 years in 2014, Oregon's oldest craft brewery continues to evolve from a microbrewery to a regional leader committed to producing high quality craft ales. Lead by Brewmaster Jeff Edgerton, the team of BridgePort brewers prides itself on using hops from an hour away and clear glacial water from Mount Hood. The BridgePort family of ales includes the Trilogy Series, IPA, Hop Czar IPA series, and Kingpin. BridgePort Brewery is located at 1313 N.W. Marshall. For more information, call 503-241-7179 or visit www.bridgeportbrew.com.

Portland Brewing's Noble Scot Returns

Summer is quickly coming to an end.  While it was a great season in the Northwest,  I'm ready for fall and some malty autumn beers. With great timing, Portland Brewing sent me a pair of Scottish-inspired seasonals to sample. Noble Scot returns for the third year as the brewery's fall release.  I originally reviewed Noble Scot during its debut season. You can read more about it in the brewery's press release listed below.

Imperial Mac's is a an amped up version of MacTarnahan's Amber Ale. It's in very limited release and sports screenprinted label artwork complete with shiny foil.

Winter beers are coming (some are already here), so make sure you enjoy the short fall beer season. In closing, it it ain't Scottish, it's crap!!!

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Sound the Bagpipes — Noble Scot Has Arrived 
All Hail Portland Brewing’s Fall Seasonal

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 15, 2014) — Get a taste of Scotland without the jet lag in Portland Brewing’s Scottish-style fall seasonal. Portland Brewery has brewed up the highlands — minus the haggis and kilts — into a pint with Noble Scot. 

Filled with notes of toast and caramel, this ale promises to send even the most dour Scotsman into a joyous jig. Brewed with a merry match of Northern Brewer, East Kent Golding, and Willamette hops, Noble Scot is complex and full-bodied. Its sweet, subtle smokiness is provided by the addition of 2-Row Pale, Smoked, Carapils, Roasted Barley, and Melanoidin malts. At 6.5% ABV and 25 IBU, Noble Scot fits between the dog days of summer and the crisp fall weather like a kilt on a tartan-clad Scotsman.

“Most brewers use spring and autumn to move between the light beers of summer and the heavy beers of winter,” says head brewer Ryan Pappe. “Seasonal beers at this time often dial the body back up a bit, so there’s more sweetness and lingering malt flavors. The beers of autumn can cover a wide range of styles and flavors, from pumpkin beers with notes of spice, to sweeter ales like our very own Noble Scot.”

Noble Scot is available at the Portland Brewing Company Taproom, in stores and bottle shops, in 22 oz. bottles, 12 oz. 6-packs and on draft. Raise your glass to Noble Scot, but do so quickly, it’s available for a limited time — from August 15 to October 15. Make haste, just like a Loch Ness Monster sighting, this beast will disappear before your eyes.

Find Noble Scot and other Portland Brewing brews through the beer finder at http://www.portlandbrewing.com/finder/.

Stone Introduces Coffee Milk Stout

It's a new week, so it's time for a new beer release from Stone. This one, a Coffee Milk Stout, is probably a bit different from what you might expect from the San Diego brewery. You also might be wondering why anyone in their right might would add milk to beer. Well, actual milk isn't used in the brewing process.

Instead, lactose milk sugar is added to provide a light sweetness and a creamy smooth mouth feel. I've profiled several milk stouts including releases from Widmer Brothers, Left Hand, and Odell and have enjoyed all of them. If you've never tasted a Milk Stout, you should give one a try. Stone's release adds coffee to the mix.

Look for Stone Coffee Milk Stout in 12 oz. bottles and on draft this summer and fall. I'll be sure to share my tasting notes soon.

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Stone Brewing Co. Introduces Stone Coffee Milk Stout:
A Bittersweet, Creamy, Coffee-Laced Stout

ESCONDIDO, CA (Aug. 4, 2014) – Stone Brewing Co. is showcasing (yet again) the outstanding skills of its Brew Crew by releasing a special beer that stems from a homebrew recipe developed by Brewery Trainer Brian Gallagher. Dubbed Stone Coffee Milk Stout, the 4.2 percent alcohol-by-volume stout is brewed with lactose and whole coffee beans to enhance the session ale’s hearty, sweet flavors. Beginning today, Stone Coffee Milk Stout will start arriving in 12-ounce six-packs and on draft at retailers, restaurants and bars in select markets nationwide.

Originally named Gallagher’s After Dinner Stout, the recipe was formulated and brewed on the 10-barrel pilot system at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station as a one-off, limited-release offering. A passionate and competitive homebrewer, Gallagher chose to revisit one of his medal-winning recipes for a milk stout with coffee beans when given the opportunity to brew at Liberty Station with Brewing Manager Kris Ketcham. The beer was an instant hit with Team Stone, Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele and company Co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner.

“Brian did a wonderful job developing this recipe and was able to artfully overcome the challenge of brewing a low-alcohol beer without it tasting too thin or watery,” explains Steele. “Because of the positive response from Team Stone and those lucky enough to taste the small-batch brew, we decided to brew it on our 120-barrel system and make it more widely available for craft beer enthusiasts across the country.”

To produce a full-bodied and silky mouth-feel, lactose was incorporated, creating a creamy sweetness that balances with the mild coffee flavors made possible by adding whole coffee beans from San Diego-based artisanal roaster Ryan Bros. Coffee. Mild ale malt was used as a base grain to help create a rich, roasty character, while other specialty grains contribute cocoa, licorice and subdued coffee flavors. Magnum hops bring a clean bitterness, brilliantly contrasting with the beer’s malt-forward qualities. Together, the ingredients make for an easy-drinking beer that is robust yet smooth.

“I was thrilled to find out that my ‘little beer’ would go on to be part of the Stone lineup and be distributed nationally,” said Gallagher. “To make this beer stand out from others, I added coffee beans at a very early stage in the brewing process, which helped bring out the roast character from the coffee, while eliminating bitter acidity and astringency.”

On the beer’s dedicated webpage, the company is sharing recipes for culinary enthusiasts to create and pair with the beer. Fans are also encouraged to explore and prepare their own dishes to pair with Stone Coffee Milk Stout, then share their favorites by tweeting and posting photos using the hashtag #PairedWith on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and the Stone Coffee Milk Stout webpage.

Stone Coffee Milk Stout will only be available during summer and fall. To fully relish the subtle touch of coffee flavor, the beer should be enjoyed within 120 days of its kegging or bottling date, which can be found on the shoulder of the bottle.

Stone Coffee Milk Stout Quick Facts
Name: Stone Coffee Milk Stout
URL: stonebrewing.com/coffeemilkstout 
Stats: 4.2% ABV, 40 IBUs
Availability: Limited 12-ounce bottles in six-packs and on draft, beginning August 4
Hops bill: Magnum
Distribution: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA and Puerto Rico

Rare Beer Club August Selections (Funkwerks Saison & Weizen Double Bock)

The Rare Beer Club's August selections include a Saison from Funkwerks and a Weizen Double Bock from Meantime Brewing Co. Here are the club's descriptions of each:

  • Saison, Funkwerks, Fort Collins, Colorado:  Funkwerks’ Saison is a quintessential Belgian-style saison: snappy, crisp, and dry with a focused peppery yeastiness—just what we look for in the style. Lemony yellow with a nice haze and plenty of off-white foam, this saison delivers aromas of white and black pepper, with complex accompanying notes of vanilla, almond, tangerine, and even the delicate tartness of passion fruit. Fresh oranges fill out the aroma as a last bit of plushness: juicy, spritzy, and like an actual jolt of fresh-squeezed juice. The tightly bubbled, vibrant CO2 lifts up the detailed flavors: black pepper, almonds, even a hint of cola. Additional juiciness is provided by splashes of tangerine, an aroma-fulfilling orange jolt, along with pithy, citrusy lemon verbena. There’s a nicely firm bitterness to this beer fresh, but plenty of room to accommodate the soft, caramelized qualities of oxidation that would come from a year or so in the cellar. 

  • Weizen Double Bock Ale, Meantime Brewing Co., London, England:  A limited edition which has come to the US in a very small volume, and very little of that has seen distribution; we’re excited to have been able to secure enough to be able to share it with our members. During our tasting panel, we kept returning to this impressive and complex brew. Pouring a deep and murky-dark brown with golden edges, this weizenbock offers up deep caramel to fill out the aroma, joined by a robust clove-like note, red fruit, green apple, pear, and vanilla to deliver a fresh, ripe-fruit character which works great beside those caramel and brown sugar notes underneath. On the palate: caramel, clove, brown sugar, and fresh fruit including pear, apple, and banana—all fitting perfectly. The deep notes tend to pull the hardest, with viscous caramel that seems to coat (but never does; hat tip to CO2) and vanilla fitting naturally and seamless beside the fruits.

Funkwerks distributes in only three states (Colorado, Arizona, and Nebraska), so if you've been looking to try their beer, here's your chance. For detailed information about these beers, browse through the club's August newsletter. To learn more about The Rare Beer Club, and to see pictures of a beer shipment I received from the club, click here.

If you'd like to try out the club, you can receive a discount by using the codes shown below during the checkout process. Memberships start at $32.95 per month plus shipping and handling.

  • NOTSOPRO5: $5 off any membership
  • NOTSOPRO10: $10 off any prepaid membership of 6 months or longer.
  • NOTSOPRO20: $20 off any prepaid membership of 12 months or longer.

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Hop Valley Brewing: More Beer, More Jobs

Here's some great news from Eugene. Hop Valley Brewing Co. is expanding production capacity by 75% and has signed on with Columbia Distributing to help them expand to new markets. Even better, new jobs will follow.

I don't have a lot of experience with Hop Valley's beers, but I've enjoyed the few (541 American Lager and Citrus Mistress) I've tasted.  For more details about the expansion, check out the brewery's news release below. What are your favorite Hop Valley beers?

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EUGENE, OR. Hop Valley Brewing Company is increasing production capacity by 75% to keep up with growing demand fueled by a new distributor and expansion into new geographic areas.

Four new tanks ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 gallons arrived yesterday, with five additional even larger tanks scheduled to arrive in October. The increased capacity allows Hop Valley to expand distribution throughout Washington and Idaho, including Seattle and Boise.

“We are extremely excited to have Columbia Distributing as our new partner,” says Hop Valley co-owner Charles Hare. “Columbia’s world class sales execution combined with their strategic focus will provide us the spark we have been looking for in our Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and Central Oregon markets. 

Hop Valley is projecting 25% growth above current trends in each of these markets with its new distributor. According to Hare, “Columbia has 85 years of experience with 535 area employees focused daily on craft beer sales, which provides Hop Valley the launch pad to brew more beer, create more jobs and meet customer demand throughout the west.”

Hop Valley is one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 2009, earlier this year the company expanded into Northern California.“We’ve added sixty jobs since our Whiteaker neighborhood tasting room and production brewery opened and we anticipate 20 additional new jobs before end of the year,” according to Hare.

At the recent World Beer Cup® awards Hop Valley was the only local brewery recognized with international awards. Hop Valley’s Double D Blonde and Citrus Mistress IPA brews were both named top 3 beers in the world. A total of 4,754 beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries competed.

On Monday evening Hop Valley hosted a Community Thank You Celebration at its tasting room in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood with more than 500 people in attendance. The event included special ‘roll back’ pricing on pints of beer, Hop Valley prizes and a contest to name a new beer being introduced later this year.

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Photo courtesy of Hop Valley Brewing Co.

Review: Stumptown Tart '14, BridgePort Brewing

Stumptown Tart '14
BridgePort Brewing Co. — Portland, OR

  • Style:  Belgian style w/ fruit
  • Bitterness:  21 IBU
  • ABV:  7.8%
  • Malts:  Pilsner malt, white wheat malt
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Special Ingredients:  Blueberries and cranberry puree
    • Sampled:  22 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)

    Description:  Brewed with two row pale malt and malted white wheat, the 2014 edition of this big Belgian-style ale features the crisp sweet and tart balance of Oregon blueberries and cranberries. The hazy brew is double fermented and only lightly filtered to retain the fresh fruit flavor. — BridgePort Brewing Co.

    Random thoughts:  I originally tasted 2014 Stumptown Tart at a Bridgeport media event in June.  A lot of TLC went into the creation of this beer. In this short video, Jeff Edgerton, Bridgeport Brewmaster, explains how it was made.

    The tasting:  Golden orange with reddish highlights. Hazy, with a white head that dissipates slowly. Aroma is full of spice—coriander and white pepper. Flavor starts with tart cranberry. It's fairly light and is a nice start to the drink. In the middle, biscuit malt emerges through the spice along with some light grassy notes. Alcohol is not noticeable in aroma or flavor, and hop bitterness is low throughout. Tart cranberry returns in the finish. The fruit provides a light touch of sweetness and melds well with the spice. Stumptown Tart is light bodied, has a crisp mouth feel, and finishes with notes of tart cranberry and white pepper.

    4 star.  Really Good.  I want this again!  This is my favorite Stumptown Tart release to date. In general, I think cranberry works exceptionally well in beer. They provide a solid tartness without adding much sweetness. Blueberry is also used in this year’s edition, but I didn’t taste it. Summer is winding down and so is the season for Stumptown Tart. It’s still available, but probably won’t be for long. 

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    16 Beers at Oregon Brewers Festival

    I attended OBF on Thursday afternoon. In my five hours at the fest, I managed to taste 16 three ounce samples. Since I only sampled ~18% of the beers, I don't think it's appropriate for me to publish a list of beers to try and avoid. Instead, I'll share some of my random thoughts and observations about OBF '14:  

    • Slightly overcast days (as long as it's not raining) are ideal for beer festivals. It was cloudy for portions of the afternoon, and the lack of excess heat and sun worked for me.
    • Beer geeks like to take notes. I was surprised by the number of people that were carefully recording their thoughts as they tasted their beer. 
    • I love drinking beer out of glass (rather than the plastic mugs of yore)!  I missed OBF last year (the first year glass was allowed) due to the Beer Bloggers Conference. So this was my first time drinking beer at OBF with a glass. It really enhanced the experience! Not only does plastic obscure the beauty of the beer, it smells.
    • SOUR BEER RISES! I think three Berliner Weisse beers were served this year. This tart style was virtually unknown to most beer drinkers a few years ago. In addition, several beers used sour mash techniques, and a few were made with Brett (short for Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that is the mortal enemy of the wine makers). These developments make me happy!
    • More water = more beer.  I carried a re-fillable water bottle with me and drank about 6 oz. after each sample. Good hydration also means no hangover. Win-win.   
    • Lines were virtually non-existent until 5pm. Once lines are about 10 people deep, I'm outta there!
    • OK, if you MUST know, my favorite taste of the day was Oakshire's 7. This Baltic Porter was aged in barrels with tart cherries. Simply amazing! This was served in the Speciality Tent and is likely long gone. If you ever come across it again. Don't miss it!
    • Overall, I enjoyed all of the beers I tasted. I usually dump a few. But not this year.
    • There were so many others I wanted to sample. Unfortunately, my time and liver are finite.

    Until next year...

    What were your favorites tastes? Any unique OBF observations?

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    Evening at McMenamins' 13th Annual Roadhouse Brewfest

    I've been visiting McMenamins' Cornelius Pass Roadhouse frequently over the years. It's located close to my work, and is a convenient spot to meet co-workers for Happy Hour. However, in all that time, I've never visited their annual on-site beer fest. That finally changed this past weekend when I attended the 13th Annual Roadhouse Brewfest.

    They had 10 beers on tap. Not a large number compared to most brewfests, but the taplist was well thought out and offered a broad diversity of styles. Also, for the first time, they invited breweries from outside the McMenamins' family to participate. Vertigo, Heater Allen, Two Kilts, and Three Mugs were some of the guest breweries.

    The space is what surprised me. Although I've been visiting the Roadhouse for years, I never ventured outside behind Imbrie Hall. They've got some large open spaces and beautiful landscaping in their backyard! This was a family-friendly festival and my kids had a great time playing on the grounds, while we supervised (with beers in hand, of course).

    I enjoyed all the beers I tasted. A few of them are shown in a photo below. A special shout-out goes to my favorite beer of the day, the Roadhouse's own Grapefruit Session Ale brewed by Chris Oslin and Brady Romtvedt. This 4.6% ABV light-bodied blonde ale had plenty of bright grapefruit hop flavors, but without overwhelming hop bitterness. I don't know if grapefruit was actually used to make this beer, but I could taste grapefruit rind. My wife doesn't like overly hoppy beers, and she loved it.

    Overall, it was a great evening! I'll be adding future Roadhouse Brewfests to my crowded summer beer fest calendar. If you'd like to learn more about the McMenamins' brewing philosophy, check out the short two-minute video at the end of this post. If you're into small-batch beers, it's definitely worth a view.

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