Laurelwood's Portlandia Pils Puts a Bird on It!

Laurelwood Brewing just received label approval for Portlandia Pils, a 5.5% ABV Northwest Pilsner that packs an un-lager like 50 IBUs. Here's the description:

"When creating this beer, we set out to create a lager that has its heart in the Northwest. This beer has a firm bitterness with flavor and aroma impressions of pine, citrus and fresh cut grass which is the signature of American hops while still on their best behavior. A new classic, a NW Pilsner will all the implied contradictions."  Laurelwood Brewing Co.

In what appears to be a nod to the International Film Channel's quirky (and strange but true) Portlandia TV show, Laurelwood "Put a Bird on It!" If you don't know what this means, watch the clip from Portlandia below. In the meantime, I'll try to get a release date for Portlandia Pils.

Have you seen Portlandia on IFC? What do you think about it?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Black Cauldron, Grand Teton Brewing

Black Cauldron
Grand Teton Brewing Co. — Victor, ID 

  • Style: Imperial Stout
  • Bitterness:  43 IBU
  • ABV:  8.0%  
  • Malts:  Idaho 2-Row Brewers, CaraMunich, Carafa Special & Beechwood Smoked 
  • Hops:  American Chinook & Styrian Goldings 
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "There are few styles of beer more flavorful than Imperial Stout. Our thick, rich version was brewed with plenty of caramel and roasted malts and subtly spiced with American Chinook and Styrian Goldings hops. We've accentuated the natural smokiness of the brew by adding a small amount of beechwood-smoked malt. At 22 degrees starting gravity and 8.0% alcohol by volume, this beer boasts flavors of chocolate and coffee, along with raisins and dried fruit soaked in sherry.— Grand Teton Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  Grand Teton's beer is not available in Oregon. I found this bottle of Black Cauldron at Total Wine & More in Arizona and am tasting it as part of my Stout Month series.

The tasting:  Black in color with a dark tan head that dissipates fairly quickly. When held up to the light, nothing passes through. Aroma of espresso, chocolate, raisin, and a molasses-like sweetness. All aroma elements are present in flavor with the addition of roasted malt, plum, and smoked malt. The roasted malts and the herbal hops provide a solid bitterness in the middle. Black Cauldron is medium bodied, very lightly carbonated, and finishes with flavors of plum, smoke, and warming alcohol.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  I enjoyed Black Cauldron's many layers of flavor. The smoked malts also gave it a unique twist. If you like Imperial Stouts, give Black Cauldron a try. If you're new to the style, this is one of the few that are available in 12 oz bottles. So consider it a low-risk way to sample a great beer!

Have you tasted Black Cauldron or any other beers from Grand Teton Brewing?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Elysian's Tangletown Brewpub

We made a trip to Seattle over the weekend. It's a great craft beer town and I was looking forward to sampling some of the local brews. Seattle-based Elysian recently launched 12 Beers of the Apocalypse and Manic IPA.  We decided it to sample these beers at the source, so we visited Elysian Brewing's Tangletown brewpub for lunch.

I ordered the Dragonstooth BBQ Pork Sandwich and of course, the sampler tray which included the beers listed below (pictured left to right). Elysian's descriptions are in italics. My comments are in bold.

  • Rapture: “A pound per barrel of high country heather tips in both the mash and toward the end of the boil give Rapture herbal and piney notes..."   The 2nd installment in 12 Beers of the Apocalypse, I noticed mainly citrus flavors with a nice light bitterness in the finish. The 7.7% ABV was not noticeable. I didn't notice herbal and pine notes from the heather, but I liked it just the same. Very nice! 

  • Men's Room:  “Brewed for the KISW radio program of the same name, Men's Room is amber in color with a light hop aroma and a toasty malt finish."  Aroma and flavor of bready malt and light citrus hops. I was surprised that this "Red" ale didn't look very red in color. Good beer, but my least favorite of the bunch. 

  • Avatar: “Bittered with German Northern Brewer and finished with Glacier and Amarillo hops. Dried Jasmine flowers are added in the boil and hopback."  The jasmine flowers provide an amazing floral aroma to this Jasmine IPA! The subdued hop bitterness allowed the jasmine to shine. A must-try, even if you're not a IPA fan!

  • Perseus Porter: “Named for the slayer of the Gorgon Medusa, and rescuer of Andromeda. Perseus Porter is slightly smoky with Black and Chocolate malts."  Loads of roasted malt, espresso, and chocolate with a silky smooth mouth feel!

  • Backhanded Compliment:  “Brewed in the tradition of American-hopped Belgian ales brewed in the tradition of American IPAs brewed with Belgian yeastgot it?" Has the pepper and clove aromas typical of Belgian-style ales plus the grapefruit hop aroma and bitterness common in IPAs.  A nice melding of the styles! 

The beers, as expected, were great! The food was equally good. My sandwich was delicious and my dining companions enjoyed their meals as well.

Sadly, our visit was bit rushed because our two young sons decided to have atypical simultaneous meltdowns. Fortunately, the brewpub is family friendly and the wait staff was great.  My most sincere apologies to the other patrons....

Have you visited any of Elysian's brewpubs?  Which is your favorite?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Velvet Merlin, Firestone Walker

Velvet Merlin
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. — Paso Robles, CA 

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  5.5%  
  • Malts:  Maris Otter, 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, Oats (15%) 
  • Hops:  100% US grown Fuggle
  • Fermentation: 100% Stainless then partially aged in bourbon barrels.
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "A decadent Oatmeal Stout brimming with cocoa and espresso aromas. Partially aged in bourbon barrels, this beer features a rich, dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish. The addition of U.S. grown fuggles hops contributes the perfect amount of bitterness to this exceptionally balanced beer.— Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  Velvet Merlin is Firestone Walker's winter seasonal. I'm a big fan of FW's beers. They're consistently excellent! I'm sampling this beer as part of my Stout Month series.

The tasting:  Near black in color with a dark tan head that dissipates fairly quickly. Aroma of roasted malt, espresso, and a touch of smoke. Flavor mirrors the aroma with addition of bittersweet dark chocolate and some mild earthy hops. The roasted malts provide a nice bitterness and the alcohol is not noticeable in aroma or flavor. Velvet Merlin is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and has a wonderful smooth creamy mouth feel—compliments of the oatmeal. It finishes dry with notes of coffee and chocolate.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  If you have access to Firestone Walker's beer and like stouts, this is a must-try. In my view, the  incredible mouth feel that comes from the oatmeal puts this beer over the top. I recently brewed my own oatmeal stout (Stone's 12 Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout). If it turns out half as good as this, I'll be thrilled!

Have you tasted Velvet Merlin?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Zwickelmania '12 at Vertigo & Ambacht

Zwickelmania 2012, Oregon's state-wide brewery open house was held on Saturday. I took the opportunity to visit two Hillsboro breweries—Vertigo and Ambacht.

Since launching Vertigo in 2008, Mike Haines and Michael Kinion have brewed on a one barrel system. They recently upgraded to a shiny new seven barrel brewhouse. With the old system, brewdays at Vertigo Brewing were very long days which required the guys to brew five separate batches to fill a fermenter. Now one batch on the new system does the trick! With their new found "spare" time, Mike and Michael have been experimenting with new brews.

Vertigo's 7 barrel brew system
Big Bottom Stout is aged in bourbon barrels which come from neighbor Big Bottom Whiskey, located just two doors away. In April, Vertigo will debut La Saison de Vertige, its first entry in Portland's Cheers to Belgian Beers. Dried orange peels were added to the mash of Vertigo's first-ever saison.

If that wasn't enough, the guys have expanded the brewery and are planning to open an on-site taproom this spring! It will feature Vertigo's beer and possibly a guest tap. As a resident of the taproom deprived westside, I'm really excited about this development!

At Ambacht Brewing, Brewer Tom Kramer pulled a sample of his Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers entry straight from the Zwickel! I also sampled Ambacht's new ginger beer. It was light, refreshing, and full of spicy ginger flavor. Its bright effervesce reminded me of a sparkling wine. Ambacht's Belgian-inspired beers include Golden Rose Ale which features organic rose hips. Their Matzobrau is made each year after Passover with leftover Matzah! 

Ambacht's Tom Kramer

Ambacht is also experimenting with barrel aging. They recently picked up a few Heaven Hill whiskey barrels used by Hair of the Dog Brewing to age Adam. Ambacht filled each barrel with Honey Triple (their 2011 Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers entry) and 35 pounds of honey. I didn't get a chance to taste this beer, but Tom said he was pleased with the subtle flavors these barrels have imparted to Honey Triple after three months of aging.

Great beer is happening in Hillsboro!

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Vertigo's future Taproom Bar

Fallout: Elysian's Third Beer of the Apocalypse Revealed

On Friday, Elysian Brewing Co., received label approval for the third installment of their year-long Twelve Beers of the Apocalypse series. It's a Green Cardamom Pale Ale called Fallout.

I'm familiar with cardamom because it's commonly used in Indian cuisine. It's quite fragrant and has a distinctive flavor. Of the beers released so far, Fallout is the most intriguing to me. I'm curious to see the approach Elysian takes with balancing the cardamom and the hops. If I had to take a guess, I'd think they'd keep the hops light and crank up the cardamom. Time will tell...

Earlier this week, Matt Thompson from Elysian, explained why they started the 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series. In the same interview, we also talked about their new Manic IPA series. If Elysian follows their normal schedule, I expect Fallout will be released on March 21st. The second beer, Rapture Heather Ale will be released on Tuesday, February 21.

Have you tried the Niribu or Rapture? What did you think about the first two beers in the series?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Beer Run: Stout Month

Someone in the craft beer community, I'm not sure who, deemed February to be Stout Month. Sounds good to me! I think stouts are the perfect beer for winter. They have loads of rich roasted malts and often hold many layers of flavor that are revealed as the drink warms.

There's also quite a bit of diversity within the style.  Each of the six stouts I will be sampling offer a unique twist.

I think I'm going to like Stout Month. What's your favorite stout?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Chicory Stout, Dogfish Head

Chicory Stout
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery — Milton, DE

  • Style:  Stout
  • Bitterness:  21 IBU
  • ABV:  5.2%  
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Cascade and Fuggle
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Chicory was one of the first beers we started brewing at our pub back when it opened in 1995. It's a dark beer made with a bunch of roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort and licorice root. We use whole-leaf Cascade and Fuggle hops, as well as pale, roasted and oatmeal grains. Back in 1995, we had a teeny, tiny brewing system and had to brew all day, every day to keep the bar stocked. Brewing with the same four ingredients got really boring really quickly. That's when Sam's ADD kicked in and he started adding some non-traditional ingredients.— Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Random thoughts:  Chicory Stout is Dogfish Head's winter seasonal. According to Wikipedia, both the leaves and root of the Chicory plant are edible. Chicory is often used an additive to coffee in many parts of the world. I'm not sure what it should taste like, but I'm expecting it to be coffee-like. This is part of my Stout Month series.

The tasting:  Dark brown in color with a frothy dark tan head made of fine bubbles that dissipates very slowly. When held up to the light, reddish hues are visible. Aroma of roasted malt, dark chocolate, and espresso. Flavor of roasted malt, coffee, and chocolate. Alcohol is not present in aroma, but its flavor is noticeable in the middle. Chicory Stout is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and has a smooth mouth feel. It finishes with roasted malt and bitter coffee notes.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  I'm not sure I could distinguish the chicory—probably because I don't know what it should taste like. However I loved the rich coffee flavors and the smooth creamy mouth feel. If you want to try Chicory Stout, go find a few bottles soon —or you may have to wait until it's released next November.

Have you tasted Chicory Stout?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Review: Kalamazoo Stout, Bell's Brewery

Kalamazoo Stout
Bell's Brewery, Inc. — Kalamazoo, MI

  • Style:  Stout
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  6.0%  
  • Malts:  Not specified
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Kalamazoo Stout represents stouts in the Bell's year-round roster, offering a blend of dark chocolate and coffee flavors with just a hint of brewer's licorice. One of our oldest recipes, it balances a significant hop presence against the roast malt body.— Bell's Brewery, Inc.

Random thoughts:  Kalamazoo Stout is part of my Stout Month series. It's also the Bell's beer I've ever tasted. According to the Brewers Association, Bell's was the 8th largest US craft brewery in 2011. They don't distribute in Oregon. I picked up this bottle during a trip to Arizona. 

The tasting:  Black in color with a dark tan head that dissipates fairly slowly leaving a ring of foam around the edge of the glass. Aroma of roasted malt, coffee, and vanilla. Flavor of roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and a touch of black licorice. It has a light malt sweetness, little hop aroma or bitterness, and the alcohol is not noticeable in aroma or flavor. Kalamazoo Stout is medium bodied, has prickly carbonation, and finishes with roasted malt and light licorice.

Rating:  4 star.  Really Good!  I want this again!  I thoroughly enjoyed my first Bell's brew.  I'm not a huge fan of licorice, but it blends perfectly with the other flavors in this stout. Now I need to go find some more Bell's...

Have you tasted Kalamazoo Stout?  What's your favorite Bell's beer?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

Elysian's Manic IPA Series: Behind the Brew

In late January, Elysian Brewing announced the launch of their rotating Manic IPA series (full press release at the end of this post). Matt Thompson, Director of Sales & Marketing at Elysian, was kind enough to give me some behind-the-scenes insights into the new series.

Why did you launch this new IPA Series?

Matt Thompson:  We wanted a vehicle for showcasing our brewer's creativity and our love of hops. That led to the development of our Manic IPA series.

How long have you been serving Idiot Sauvin, Prometheus, and Valhalla at your pubs? 

MT: We first brewed Idiot Sauvin in 2010.  Dick Cantwell, our owner/ head brewer, had come across Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand so he ordered a box and we brewed it up to showcase the unique flavor of these hops. Prometheus is a longtime favorite that we've been brewing for over 12 years.  It’s got a beautiful hop aroma and embodies the essence of what is typically referred to as a "Northwest-style IPA".  Valhalla has been around for about five years.  It started out as a Christmas release and has evolved over the years.  It is reddish in color and showcases Sorachi Ace hops.

Is Manic IPA replacing any of the beers in your core lineup?

MT: No.

Will these be distributed to the same locations as your other beers?  Will they be priced similarly?

MT: Yes, it will be broadly distributed. The pricing is about $1 more than our standard 22oz. 

Do you expect the Manic IPA series to continue into 2013 with different IPAs?

MT:  I do expect it will continue into 2013. We're not sure yet about brewing other IPAs, but yes, probably.

On a different note, you also recently launched the 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series with some very unique brews.  How did that get started, and did the first release meet your expectations?

MT:  The 12 Beers of the Apocalypse came about one evening back in September (after I had had a few pints).  We really wanted to push the envelope when it comes to creative brewing.  Since the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar, is December 21st 2012, it seemed imperative that we celebrate what could be our last year with beer.

One beer release per month on the 21st of each month, each very limited in 22oz and draft. We collaborated with our friends at Fantagraphics to find an artist who's work would pair with our concept. Charles Burns' graphic novel "The Black Hole" features artwork that is absolutely perfect for the series. He was kind enough to allow us to use his art. So far the reception has been beyond our expectations.  Nibiru, our first release, a Belgian Tripel brewed with Yerba Mate was very well received.  Bars and bottleshops are getting into the spirit of it all.  What would you brew or drink if you knew it would be your last beer?

The IPA is a great style that allows lots of room for creativity. Last year, Widmer Brothers eliminated their full-time Broken Halo IPA and replaced it with their “Rotator IPA” series. Currently in its 4th release, Rotator has been a big hit for Widmer Brothers and I expect Manic IPA will be the same for Elysian.  A big thanks to Matt for taking the time to provide the background!

Have you tasted Idiot Sauvin or Niribu?

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook

We Are Hopping into 2012 with an Exciting New Line-Up of IPAs!

January 23, 2012

So many IPAs, so little time... Elysian Brewing Company is planning to make brewing life a little more challenging by kicking off its IPA Specialty Series in February of 2012 with Idiot Sauvin, an IPA both fiercely fruity and floral, made with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops. The beer has appeared before only at Elysian's pubs, and will be issued in both 22 oz bottles and draft. 

Then in June will come Prometheus, an aggressively aromatic blend of Northwest classic Chinook, Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops fondly familiar to Elysian regulars. 

Rounding out the year will be Valhalla, a reddish fall-into-holiday IPA using Sorachi Ace and Citra hops, scheduled for release in October. Too many IPAs?  Bah, humbug!

- Dick Cantwell

Idiot Sauvin: FEB - APR
Prometheus: MAY - AUG

Not So Ordinary New Beer Releases!

I love sampling new beers, and try to taste as many as I can get my hands on. In the Northwest, it's possible to only drink only new releases, given the sheer quantity of new beers on the market. However, the variety of new styles and flavors is just as impressive. Craft breweries across the country are constantly experimenting with new ingredients and unique combinations. I thought I'd whet your appetite by highlighting some intriguing upcoming releases.

Cigar City Brewing's El Murciealgo is a double cream ale brewed with lime peel, cumin, and aged in tequila barrels! It's named in honor of the bats that pollinate the blue agavewhich is used to make tequila. For more details, check out Beer Street Journal.

Epic Brewing, from Salt Lake City, Utah is releasing Elder Brett in collaboration with Crooked Stave Brewing, who specializes in sour and brettanomyces beers. This golden ale was brewed with a Saison yeast, transferred to wine barrels, and dosed with four strains of brett. More details from

A collaboration between Russian River Brewing and Sierra Nevada will bring us Brux. Named for the brettanomyces bruxcellensis strain, this wild ale (more tart than sour) will be available this summer in 750 ml corked & caged bottles. More details from

Collaborations are all the rage. Dogfish Head Brewery has upped the ante by teaming with Googleyes, the internet behemoth, to bring us URKontinent. We're used to seeing unusual ingredients in DFH beers. This time they've thrown in wattle seed, amaranth, rooibos, myrica gale, and honey. I have no clue what most of these are. Check out this video at Huffington Post for details about its making.

Magic Hat's Elder Betty is made with elder berries. Pistil is brewed with dandelions. I've been cursing these weeds whenever they spring up in my yard. Looks like I should have been throwing them into my homebrew.

Samuel Adams has several in the works. First is Belgian Session. Norse Legend and Verloren appear to be part of the Small Batch Series what was launched in 2011. Norse Legend is a Sahtia Finnish-style beer brewed with juniper beers. Verloren is a Gosean unfiltered wheat ale spiced with salt.


The big guys have been busy as well. Blue Moon's Farmhouse Red Ale is blend of two stylesFarmhouse Ales and Belgian Reds. I'm very intrigued by this one!

Not to be outdone, our friends from Anheuser-Busch will bless us with Bud Light Lime -a- Rita. Don't forget to serve it over ice. This is one you'll want to drink cold, ice cold...

Follow this blog on Twitter or Facebook