Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CTBB Marks 10th Year

2016 marks the 10th year for Cheers to Belgian Beers, a festival that was started to help introduce Oregonians to the breath of style and flavors of beers brewed in Belgium. Taking place Friday, May 13th and Saturday, May 14th, the festival will feature close to 70 beers from brewers whose beer color and strength was determined by a dart throw the first of February at Horse Brass. While there's plenty of room for interpretation, the results of the dart throw are a glimpse at what each brewer will be bringing.

As the festival nears the festival website will be updating the list with the specific beers, many of which utilize the featured yeast strain, Imperial Organic Yeast 58 Lioness. For the regular drinker the specifics might be more than they need to know but homebrewers may appreciate knowing the details, including temperature range, flocculation and attenuation. For drinkers the important parts are the dates, times, location and knowing that discounted advanced tickets are on sale through 5pm Friday, April 29th (make sure to use the code CTBB2016).

Friday, May 13th 1-9pm
Saturday, May 14th 12-8pm
North Warehouse, 723 N Tillamook St

Another thing to note is that parking is a bit challenging in that area so finding alternatives to driving and parking is recommended. Last year I walked to and from which offered a good chance to build up my thirst beforehand and a gentle transition after the festival to the rest of my day.

In general Belgian beers are not my favorite style, mostly because of the characteristics the yeast tends to impart to many of the beers. However that's exactly why this is a festival I (and others in the same boat) shouldn't miss. Here I have the opportunity to try a bunch of beers I'd probably never consider ordering in a larger format and there's a good chance I'll find a few that surprise and delight my palate. Then there are ones, Flanders Reds in particular and a couple using ingredients like peppercorns and papayas, which are likely to hit higher notes with me. Either way it's the spirit of a beer festival, of trying a variety of beers, that is what's important. Perhaps I'll see you there and we'll compare notes on favorites.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

22nd Annual Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest

Now in its 22nd year, the Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest sets itself apart from the myriad of other beer festivals for one big reason and no, it's not because there's wine (and cider and mead and distillers), it's about the people.

The craft beer community is as much about the product we enjoy as the people who made that product and the Spring Beer & Wine Fest is one of the few places where you'll have the opportunity to talk to the people who made the product that you're sampling. For some of the more established breweries, like Coalition, it's a chance for me to chat with folks I don't get to see often enough but for others, like Bent Shovel, it's a chance for me to hear first hand how they came to be and what they're making. While I'd love to relay all the stories I heard at yesterday's media preview instead I encourage you to go to the festival today and hear them yourself.

In addition to being a great venue to try all manner of liquid libations, there are also tons of food booths - from chocolates and nuts to hummus and cheeses - and five food carts. Perhaps you don't need to bring home some of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters but delicious, unique products like this make for great gifts, especially for hard-to-buy-for people (i.e. parents).

Held inside the convention center the festival is immune to weather issues with the biggest challenge being parking but there's plenty of public transit that services the area or if that's inconvenient, consider parking a little ways away and walking. Unlike many festivals this two-day festival runs Friday and Saturday only so if you have to choose, say between this and Saraveza's Farmhouse & Wild Ale Festival, go to this one today and save that for Sunday.

Oh, and if you're considering not going because basketball, they've got you covered there, too. Where the presentation stage has been in past years there are TVs and plenty of chairs. Wander around for awhile enjoying the fest, take a break to watch some hoops and repeat until you've gotten your fill.

Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest
Oregon Convention Center
Saturday, March 26th Noon-10pm

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Grab a Bit of the Devil Thursday

Spirits are making a big comeback these days, craft spirits in particular, and as illustrated by StormBreaker's recent Brewstillery festival and with beer and whiskey pairings being a regular sight on drink menus - StormBreaker and Migration Brewing being just two examples. So even though I'm a beer lover through and through I'm gaining an appreciation for spirits. Recently I had a chance to try out McMenamins Devil's Bit whiskey alongside a beer that spent time in the same barrels.

Every year McMenamins produces and releases a limited number of Devil's Bit whiskey on St. Patrick's Day. In response to demand and thanks to the arrival of a new still that is four times larger than the original one, this year there will be more bottles available than ever before (approximately 1,600). Nonetheless Head Distiller James Whelan expects lines at each of the retail locations where it will be available and to sell out of the hand signed 200ml bottles before the end of the day. The $17 bottles will have a two bottle limit per person.

This year's release sports a redesigned label with the Black Widow Porter spider replacing the clover in the center, harkening to the whiskey-to-beer-to-whiskey shared barrel aging process for this four-year-old Hogshead whiskey. This process, a collaboration between the brewery and the distillery is something that is made easier being that they are all part of the McMenamins family. Once the whiskey barrels were emptied they went to the brewery to be filled with the beer, then when emptied of beer, back to the distillery where whiskey sat in one of the barrels for three weeks and for six weeks in the other. The two barrels were then allowed to vat (marry) for six weeks to produce the final product.

The Black Widow Porter that spent time in the barrels between the whiskey fillings, called Widowmaker, was released last October. It's nearly gone but there's rumor that there's still one keg of it around so if whiskey barrel aged beer is your thing, keep your eyes open for it. In the meantime, if you hope to get your hands on this year's Devil's Bit, clear Thursday morning and make plans to get to one of the locations selling it early (opening times vary by location).