Archive for January, 2010

Fire Mountain Steam Powered

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I’d never heard of Fire Mountain Brewery until…. 11 hours and 40 min ago. Apparently Roth’s in North Salem now carries both their Steam Powered Stout and Oregon Pale Ale. Apparently these are also the only t2o beers they produce as I can’t find any info on others. Their bottles though say they make lagers. I poured their Steam Powered slightly warm. As it’s date night and I’m already making Rachel wait while I write this I’ll review OPA at a later date.

Aroma

Lots of roasted grain but no burnt/black patent aroma Nothing to distinct on aroma.

Appearance

Black with dark head. Definitely stoutish. Opaque

Flavor

Good lord that’s not what I was expecting. Strong hop bitterness followed by roasted grain flavors and a slightly sweet medium body. Was expecting a Guinness, instead I got something much more substantial and extremely palatable. It doesn’t stick to your mouth like other medium bodied stouts. Clean and good.

Overall

While not the best stout I’ve had it’s definitely one I would stock and serve. Good flavors, even if it’s a bit one dimensional. I’m hoping their OPA blows me away. Definitely not what I expected for a stout from a small unknown brewery. In fact I may have to visit Carlton someday. Sometimes a good, clean, well executed beer can be more impressive then something unique.

25 Best Beers in America??

Monday, January 25th, 2010

I was just given a copy of the February issue of Maxim magazine yesterday. The person who handed it to me told me there was an article I needed to see. The Article? The 25 Best Beers In America. The verdict? Fail.

In order to understand the fail you need to know the 25 best. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Porkslap Pale Ale
2. Drifter Pale Ale
3. Hass Rye Lager
4. Hoptober Golden Ale
5. Haywire Hefeweisen
6. Helios Ale Saison
7. Ten Fiddy Imperial Stout
8. Samual Adams Nobel Pils
9. Sierra Nevada Torpedo
10. März Hon Märzen
11. Brew Free Or Die IPA
12. Indian Brown Brown Ale
13. Old Stock Ale
14. Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout
15. Green Lakes Organic Ale
16. Upslope Pale Ale
17. Blue Ball Porter
18. Calico Amber Ale
19.Fat Squirrel Brown Ale
20. Local 1 Pale Ale
21. Tumble Off Pale Ale
22. UFO White Wheat
23. Union Jack IPA
24. Phoenix Pale Ale
25. Bud Light Wheat

First off, Haywire and  Bud Light wheat as 2 of the best 25??  And if you needed more proof that the writer has no clue about beer 8/25 are pale ales. Also of the 25 beers only three are from Oregon, where as five are from CA and we CO has four. So much for Oregon being lightyears ahead in the beer scene. Looks like if we go bye numbers alone CA is Beervana…. Hmmm Maybe the Doc was right. Wait, scratch that. According to Maxim Philidalphia has stolen the best beer city crown. Oh look, only two beers on the list come from the city of brotherly love, and one of them is called intercourse. Wonder if it made it in the mag because of the name.

Anyways, who buys into these beer lists that mens magazines are constantly putting out? Let’s see if we can do better?? It shouldn’t be hard after all. So together let’s come up with 25 regularly available beers that one could find distributed at least regionaly. Up for the challenge?

Corks Are Evil!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I know the Doc doesn’t like these diary style posts, but I’m tired, cranky, and hating my new bottle corker.

Back in August I made a wine from all the extra summer squash in the garden. The final recipe looked something like this.

21 lbs of squash
10lbs of sugar
1/4 cup peppercorns
1 can of Grape Concentrate
2 tbl black tea leaves
And alot of orange and lemon slices

The resulting wine is interesting to say the least, and tonight was the night I bottled this interesting concoction.

Thinking I’d try to make my wine look nice I decided to bottle most of it in 750ml Champagne bottles and 12oz green bottles and cork all of them. Doug at Homebrew Heaven store made corking sound easy after all. “The synthetic corks slide into the bottle fairly easy,” he said. Well here I am 1.5 hours later smelling like a Frenchman.

I easily spilt a 12oz bottle worth of wine on myself, sweated like a pig, and my hands are killing me. All in all though I’m happy with the final product. Now I just have to rack these bottles for awhile to let the wine mellow. That pepper flavor is a bit intense.

Bah Humbug!

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I know there’s alot of reviews lately. Especially for a guy who didn’t want his blog to be about reviews right? To be honest I’m having alot of work and family issues at the same time and finding a hard time balancing. This means ending the night with a new beer has become a high point in my life. Hence no research, and more reviews. Up now is Old Humbug from Southern Oregon Brewing.

Aroma

Nose consists of some coffee, dark malts, but still has a sweet smell. Sniffers down tonight so it’s hard to get subtle notes.

Appearance

Pours like a flat bottle of rootbeer. Looks about the same too. Rootbeer might be a little thicker and darker on the pour. Not looking up for a big winter beer. No head retention.

Taste

Wow, there’s alot more going on then I expected. Sweet toffee like flavor followed with lot’s of heat. Definite Caramel flavor,some licorice and molasses like flavors, but not distinctly either. A great spicy note that plays well with the heat. Coffee like bitterness on the finish. Sweetness holds out till the very end, but is subtle and not overpowering.

Overall

Not a bad beer, and for tonight it hit the spot. I’m sad this wasn’t one of the bottles opened at Saturdays tasting as it would have preformed well. I’d give it an A for no other particular reason then this beer ended up being just what I wanted tonight. not even the ’08 Old Rasputin or the W ’10 could satisfy my palate today. The complexity and variety of flavors combined with the heat just hit the spot. Really though this beer should score a little lower simply for appearance. I’d say it should be marked down for aroma as well, but my sniffer isn’t up to snuff. So reality is a B – B+ beer that is enjoyable. The heavens won’t open up and you won’t feel the hand of God when you drink it, but if you drink it at the right moment it’ll leave an impression.

Blue Pepper

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

logo

When I started this whole idea of listing Salem’s best beer places I never thought it would be this hard. I figured I’d put out feelers, especially to the bar hoppers, and just review the results. The problem was everyone submitted the same results. Every single time I got a combination of Venti’s, Browns Towne, F-Stop, and Capitol Market for purchasing beer. Normally I would have decided I was wrong about Salem’s beer selection and givin up, but consistantly La Capitale was missing, and I know Browns Towne sucks (a rotation of Widmer and Ninkasi only doesn’t equal a true rotating tap). With this knowledge I was certain there were more places hidden away outside the scope of Salem’s art crowd (Salem’s art crowd makes up a large chunk of it’s beer crowd).

This was confirmed when Rachel and I swung by the Blue Pepper for coffee last week. I’d known the Blue Pepper had a bar, but had always assumed they served wine and a traditional import beer selection. This idea fit with the vibe of the place and the fact that their bar isn’t open that late. However this day the comfy seats up front were taken so we decided to go goof off in the computer chairs while we drank our coffee. While we were back there I decided to check out the bar.

To my surprise they had a decent bottle selection with some variety to it. There were some imports, but also some decent domestics. Granted they only had beer in the bottle, but still, this got me excited. A new beer place to visit in the evenings I thought. I was all set to go try it one of these nights and then rant and rave. I called up the Blue Pepper to get the bars hours and was stopped cold in my plans. The bar is open from 6am-3pm on weekdays only. What the heck???

So while Blue Pepper may have a decent bottled beer selection it’s a fail on the best beer in Salem list. What place seriously keeps those hours?

My 2 Cents On W ’10

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

widmer

A big deal seems to be being made of Widmers ’10 Brewmaster Series release Pitch Black IPA. Personaly I’ve never been a fan of black IPA’s as I’ve always thought they were more poorly executed novelty then a distinct style. Anyway, here goes.

Aroma

Imagine that, lots of hops. Very floral with some herbal and pine notes. Not really getting much in the way of malt aromas.

Appearance

Looks black in the class but is a deep maroon color when held up to the light. Somewhat translucent for a beer that looks this black in the glass. Khaki head. I love the color of this beer when you pass light through it.

Taste

Lots of piney and herbal hops but not as overpowering as I expected. Widmer was fairly restrained with this one.distinct bitterness up front that shifts slowly to a charred grain flavor. Finishes with biscuity and grainy malt flavors.

Overall this wasn’t what I expected. I was thinking this beer would be a dark colored IPA that was a hop bomb like Widmer’s other Northwest IPA’s. This beer wasn’t. The hops and the biscuity malt flavors went well together. The charred malt flavors didn’t quite fit and felt out of place, but they didn’t hurt the beers drinkability at all. The IBU’s and ABV are restrained for a northwest IPA coming in at 62 IBU’s and 6.5% ABV. Even though I enjoyed this it’s not a beer I’d keep stocked. My personal rating would be a B. I don’t have alot of experience with this style though. This is only my third black IPA and all of them seemed to be blending beer flavors that just don’t harmonize. I will admit out of the three I’ve tried I liked this one the most which is why it got a B. Also this beer had alot of elements I liked. It was just the dis chord between the dark malts and the rest of the beer that ruined it for me.

’09 Bourbon County

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Bourboncounty

I’ve been torn over whether to crack a bottle of ’09 now or wait till at least 2011. Based off the title you can guess if I waited. Luckily I have a couple more bottles stashed. Just keep in mind this beer is young.

Aroma

This thing smells like a bourbon barrel through and through. Tons of toffee aroma, bourbon, and charred wood. The aroma seems a bit sweet, which makes me dread the flavor.

Appearance

Pours a thick muddy black brown. Very thick, with a toffee colored head. Completely opaque.

Flavor

Boy that’s alot of bourbon. I love my whiskey, but bourbon isn’t my favorite style. Flavor is slightly charred. Fairly one dimensional. Very thick and malty with some roasted malt flavor. Sweet bourbon finish. Not as dry as I’d like, but it all blends together well.

Drinkability

As of today not really worth another purchase. As it ages though this beer tastes like it would improve greatly. The bourbon is possibly too much for some, but I like it. This is deffinatly a whiskey drinkers stout as it tastes pretty much like a boiler maker in a bottle. As a beer it’d be a B+, possibly an A in my book. As for stylistically?

A barrel aged beer should have both elements of wood flavors from the barrel and alcohol flavors from what was stored in it previously. These flavors though are there to support and harmonize with the base beer, not bowl it over. All incarnations of Bourbon County I’ve tried lack that subtle support of the base flavor. Instead the whiskey overpowers and over runs. Also Bourbon County is a bit hot in it’s younger form which is off style as well. Stylistically this would be a B beer.

The Research Continues

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I hope this is the last of my filler posts for a bit. When school starts back up for Rachel this next week I’ll have more time to write. Also with the clients back in their programs they’re calmer and therefore I can write during brief breaks at work. Still wont have internet though.

studying

I’ve been doing some more research on the origins of the IPA, and the more I research the more things I begin to understand about export beer.

Often when we discuss beer we view it through a lens tainted by our modern beer. We either assume that people in the 1800’s could, and did, produce consistent high quality beer using technology they didn’t even have, or we assume they needed some magical ingredient or method to make good beer. We often forget that tastes were different then, and also forget to factor in the flavor properties aging hoppy beers imparts. We live in a time when it’s all about fresh from the brite tank, highly hopped, high alcohol beers. If we step were to step into the 1800’s though we’d get a much different view from people about what beer was.

In order to understand the IPA it helps if we look at domestic Strong Ales of the time. Strong Ales were brewed both in the US and in Britain. In fact Capitol Taps (He doesn’t get enough link love from me) found an interesting article on a bottle of Strong Ale unearthed while workers excavated on Mission St in Salem. Apparently the bottle was discovered in 1909, and workers described the bottle as sound and having gained in quality. The article also states the bottle was at least 20 years old. If this is the case it shows that strong ales were not just an export beer brewed in Britain for the India market.

Another development is an email I got from a drinker in the UK. He recommended some books on the matter, but also mentioned that in hopping records from the time most beers for export at various places around the world were heavily hopped, not just IPA’s. They also mentioned that many beers at the time were apparently drunk aged, not young like most people assume. If IPA’s were in fact ment to be aged, and not drunk when they hit India’s shores, then this would greatly change the view of the IPA myth. The high hops in IPA’s would be less of a unique transport feature specific to the India market and more of a flavor issue. This would also strengthen the connection many people make between maltier “October Ales” and the IPA.

Welcome to ’10

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I wish this was a review of Widmer’s ’10, then I could rant about this stupid black IPA fad. Sadly this is one of those obligatory New Years posts, and it’s threefold

’09 in review

Last year I was approached by Paul about writing for him, and started blogging about beer. Prior to all this beer was a much smaller part of my life. Once I started writing though it required I learn something. I delved into books on beer and brewing, especially history. The more I’ve learned about beer though the more it has changed my view of beer. This year saw the change from beer cheerleader to a more narrow view of Oregon’s beer scene. This last year I also joined Capitol Brewers (Salem’s homebrewing club) and was able to network more then ever before with not only Salem’s homebrewers, but also with Willamette Valley brewers who are located outside of the Portland area.

Looking Ahead

I’ve been asked many times by Dr Wort about what I want this blog to become. The problem is I’ve wanted my readers to participate in that. I’d love if you guys would contribute and make this blog yours. Ask questions, send me articles, send in pictures. You guys see things and hear things I don’t. To help encourage this I’m going to push the ads for schwag a bit harder. Try to get breweries and pubs to give away stuff via this blog. Speaking of that I need to get to the pub more. I’ve always been a bottled beer guy. I prefer drinking at home with a few close friends or family. Also bottled beer gets aged the way I want. Still pub culture is something to be enjoyed, not avoided. I need to remember that.

My other goal is to take the all grain plunge. I’ve never had the space or equipment to do all grain, but in order to take my beer to the next level I have to start tweaking grains more. I’ve experimented with herbs probably to the greatest extant I can. Sure there are more beer styles to explore with, and more herbs to try, but there wont be vast improvements to be gained in that department anymore.

Venti’s Is 14

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

vtweetVenti’s is now turning 14. I know what your wondering, “If their 14 then why did you right a 1st anniversary post?” Ok, maybe you aren’t wondering that. Venti’s is now 14 years old, and in ’09 celebrated their 1st anniversary in their new location. Venti’s has some of the best beer rotation in the valley considering they only have 8 taps. Thaine does an amazing job. That’s why they have my loyalty and support.

In honor of turning 14 Venti’s is asking their fans to leave comments on their blog of your favorite memories and will pick their favorite and give the commenter a $20 gift certificate. Here is what I wrote.

Venti’s is special to me not because of the fries or food, but because of the people involved with it. I’ve known Conrad and Bobby since highschool, and there always seems to be old friends and acquaintances there. This makes it hard to pick a favorite memory so I’ll go with two.

1. Venti’s 1 year anniversary at the new location occured shortly after I started my beer blog. For awhile I’d been trying to catch Dino at Venti’s when he wasn’t busy working so I could do a interview about the tap selection. About this time Leslie sent me an email about me possibly writing a small piece for my blog on the 1 year anniversary. I grabbed my friend Bill, my laptop, and we headed in on our way to a football game that day. Of course everyone was busy as usual so we grabbed some food and headed to the basement to eat. I figured I’d just make something up since it looked to busy to talk to anyone. Next thing I know Leslie and Jack are at the table with us. We had a great time talking and Dino even managed to snag some free time for a bit before they all went to another table to eat with family. Since then Jack and I have emailed and commented back and forth about beer as he continues what he calls his beer education. That short chat in Venti’s basement snagged me not only a loyal reader, but I met an awesome guy who I enjoy discussing beer with.

2. After a stressful day at work I headed into Venti’s for a pint to help me wind down. I’m used to only having enough time to order one pint on work days because I’m off at 10pm, and by the time I get to Venti’s it’s usually last call. This day however Thane was bar tending, and it was busy enough he was keeping it open a little later. In between his serving drinks Thane and I spent what felt like hours discussing great beer. In reality it was probably only an hour. Thane is one of the most knowledgeable people in Salem when it comes to beer, and is more knowledgeable then probably 95% of the Portland crowd. It was great to talk with the man behind Venti’s great beer taps.

Notice my 2 favorite memories involve geeking out over beer??? 🙂