Beers I had in Portland

Fort George – Vortex IPA – on a scale of 1-10, 6

Deschutes – Red Chair IPA – 6

Laurelwood – Hop Monkey – another 6

(Oregon IPA’s are getting less hoppy or my tastebuds expect more hops now)

Caldera – Pilsner – 7 1/2

Amnesia – Pale Ale – 5

Fort George – Spruce Ale – 6

Deschutes – Ocho Negro – 8

Deschutes – Armory XPA – 7

From Los Angeles to Portland

Los Angeles to Portland by car seems foolhardy. You can be at PDX in under 3 hours by plane and be going from brewery to restaurant to brewpub tasting all that you can.

The problem for me is that when I am up there, I see all kinds of bottles that I want to bring home and try at my leisure. And the TSA thinks it is strange to want to bring 5 or 10 bottles of great beer on a plane. So driving it is. And to make the most of it, I decided to stop along the way at the great beer places in California and Oregon.

My first stop was Paso Robles. The home of Firestone-Walker and lead brewer Matthew Brynildson. I chose a stool in the tasting room and ordered a glass of their Bavarian Wheat and Li’l Opal.

The Bavarian Wheat is a lovely hefe. Great clove and banana aroma. It pours a hazy golden with a spicy bite at the end. Very refreshing. It really cools a person down. The Li’l Opal is a saison. Very similar in color to the wheat. Has a sweet, malty aroma as well as a touch of the farmhouse funk. Just a touch sour with yeasty notes to it. Then I asked for a quick tour before I got back on the road. Veronica was kind enough to show me around and halfway through we ran into Matthew and he passed over a sample of their new Imperial IPA, Double Jack. It wa great to try something that hadn’t even been released yet! Just from that taste, I could tell that Double Jack will be a hit with the hop crowd. But I like that the malt was balancing all that bitterness.

I bid adios and headed for San Francisco, and after getting through some typical Bay Area traffic, found myself at 21st Amendment Brewery on a night that the Giants were playing just down the street. I had a glass of the Dahm Kolsch which was a lovely straw color. It is a very crisp beer. No soft edges on it. An uber-pilsner. Then I had the Rathskeller Alt. Not much aroma on it and unfortunately not much flavor either. Little malt sweetness. All of the beers were lower alcohol which is great.

I headed over to ThirstyBear to re-try one of the beers that started me on this journey to beer consultant. The Valencia Wheat. A California wit bier. Alas, it was not as good as the memory of ten years ago. Perhaps, I have had too many great beers since then and this one has faded to middle of the pack.

Then I found by serendipitous chance, the awesome City Beer Store that I will talk about in a separate post because I loved it so much.

The next day it was on to Chico, California. The home of Sierra Nevada. After a couple of wrong turns, I found the huge complex that houses their brewery operations, gift shop and restaurant. I had their new Kellerweis, served in the traditional glassware. It was a hazy orange/yellow color with an aroma more banana than clove with a little sourness at the end. Good Stuff. I also sampled their Southern Hemisphere IPA which was delicious. So delicious that I bought a bottle of it.

Then it was on to Ashland. After walking around the town, I headed for Standing Stone Brewing and ordered up their beer sampler. I received their Cream Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber, Rye, IPA, DIPA and the Oatmeal Stout. My favorites were the Cream ale which was golden and clear with fruit tastes to it and the Oatmeal stout which was a lovely, mild roasted coffee stout.

My last stop before Portland was Eugene, Oregon where I stopped at the McMenamin’s on High Street. I ordered up the Ruby Ale. My sister-in-law’s favorite beer and thanked the gods that the driving was close to the end. I also tried the Jalapeno Wheat. I could not even finish it. I am a pepper wuss and this was peppery.

Guest Review of Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

“First taste is smokey followed by pretty strong alcohol ending in a biting bitter. No real chocolate taste. Complex and full but for a chocolate stout give me the Rogue. Drank it over three days while doing input for work. ”

This beer usually retails for over $12.00 if you are lucky so this sounds like a thumbs down to me.

Unibroue Tasting

If you weren’t at Bottle Rock in Culver City on Monday then you missed a treat. Unibroue was pouring 7 beers plus a special for only $15.00. Here are my thoughts…

Blanche de Chambly
– bubbly and carbonated. Light straw in color. Had a wine aroma. Easy to drink. Not as spicy as I would like in a white beer.

Ephemere – bubbly as well. Apple taste was not as pronounced as in previous bottles. Nice farmhouse aroma. One of favorites.

Don de Dieu – caramel smell. Triple Wheat ale. Lovely orange-golden color. A little spice on the back end. Probably my second favorite.

Maudite – very alcoholy even though less ABV’s than the Don de Dieu. Complex but not in a good way. Flavors seemed to fight each other.

La Fin du Monde – very similar to the Don de Dieu but with much more of an alcoholic bite to it. Beautiful golden color.

Trois Pistoles – lovely dark color. Not much aroma. Better balance of flavors than the Maudite.

La Terrible – biggest ABV of the bunch but also very lovely. Nice lace on the glass. Dry.

As a special treat, there was a Unibroue beer served up that you cannot get here in Southern California. La Seigneuriale. What they call a Belgian Strong Pale. In English it means, Lord of the Manor. Very nice amber with lots of competing flavors that don’t get in the way of each other. It is my bronze winner of the night.


Tasting notes

Here are my notes from my tasting at 55 Degree Wine & Beer Store and from BJ’s.

The Foret really was alcohol from aroma to taste. Kind of tinny and not as complex as Saison Dupont which is the gold standard for Saisons. Between the two, I would always go for Dupont.

Ahh! St. Bernardus. Their Wit is the gold standard in this category. Sparkling. Effervescent. Tasted like oranges. Pitch perfect. In comparison, I also had BJ’s seasonal Nit Wit. Great name. Mediocre beer. Not much flavor. Just sort of sat there. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the same review I could give for every BJ’s beer. Nothing remarkable.

The McChouffe Brown was good. Nice and solid. Not much aroma. Nice earthy flavor though. A little chewier than most browns.

Mission IPA. I saw that it was made in San Diego and thought HOP BOMB! But this is restrained. You can really smell the hops but when you take a drink, it is a balance of malt and hops. Very nice.

Lastly, the St. Peters Old Style Porter. Very nice Porter. I liked it. Nice and drinkable. Not too smoky but not too light either. Another balanced beer.

Sour Wench

I was in the celebratory mood because Eagle Rock Brewery passed another permit hurdle today so I went over to the nearby Verdugo. I tried the Sour Wench from Ballast Point.

This is a beer brewed with blackberries. Sam Adams also has a new Blackberry Wit so I guess that blackberries are the hip fruit. This offering isn’t particularly sour nor is it super fruity. It is right in the middle. Thanks to the berries it is more interesting than other beers and it does have an awesome red look to it.

Not really to my taste however, but I can see how this would be an excellent starter for someone who wants to try fruit and/or sour beers.

new Abita beer

This is a nice looking red-amber ale. As you may have figured out by now, I am a sucker for brewery special releases. This one is a nice Belgian dubbel. With part of the proceeds going to the St. Joesph Abbey. Not much aroma but it does carry an alcoholic punch. Not bad but it could use a little more spice to counteract the alcohol and malt.

Craft Beer Fest LA

Yesterday was the 1st of hopefully many more to come of the Craft Beer Fest Los Angeles. I was there as both fan and volunteer from 2pm to 10pm so this will be a longer than usual post so find a comfortable chair. I will break it up into sections to make for easier reading.

Section 1 – The beer!!

Not a bad brewery in the bunch. And most importantly for me, new stuff that I really wanted to try plus new stuff from some of my old favorites. Here is what I had…..
1. Siamese Twin from Uncommon Brewers
Light golden ale, very different fruity taste to it. This beer really grew on me.
2. Automatic # 1 from Blind Lady Ales
Light Belgian ale. Had a bit of a tinny taste to me. A little astringent.
3. Scotch Isle from Craftsman
Very nice. Dark and malty. Not my favorite style of beer but this is well done.
4. Black IPA from Stone
Very good. I love IPA’s and this is an excellent beer.
5. Golden State from Uncommon Brewers
Hazy color. Light and flavorful. Great on a summer day.
6. Cuvee Jeune from The Bruery
Had this at Blue Palms a week ago and had to get some more. Excellent sour taste.
7. IPA from Hangar 24
Another really solid IPA. Not a hop bomb but citrusy and not too acidic.
8. Warm Water Wheat from Port Brewing
This was a really good banany hefeweizen. I hope they bottle this it is one I would like to have more of.

What I didn’t get to try and wanted to..
TAPS – Belgian White (which was really popular)
Port Brewing – Pig Dog Pale Ale

Section 2 – The Beer Panel
Moderated by Christina Perozzi with Mark Jilg from Craftsman, Ryan Sweeney from The Verdugo, Larry James from Wine Warehouse, Steve Grossman from Sierra Nevada and Victor Novak from TAPS Brewery.

Quite the interesting cross section of the beer community. They were all quite optimistic and passionate about making craft beer and where we are compared to the past and where we may end up.
It was so heartening to hear what they were saying and I wish they could have gone on longer. One thing that I took away was that there seemed to be a feeling that it was inevitable that craft beer would do to BMC (BudMillerCoors) what Starbucks did to Folgers. To that I say Amen!

Section 3 – Behind the Bar

All I can say is, I had great fun being behind the bar. I had never done it before and I am sure it showed but it was great to hand beer over to the smiling faces on the other side. It was not long before I was sweating from avoiding fellow volunteers and going all the way from one side of the bar and back with four beers trying hard not to spill. Thanks to Kevin, Alex, Liz, Bob and Ben for allowing a rookie to help out.

Section 4 – Who was there
Jeremy from Eagle Rock Brewery
Tomm from the Celebrator
Tony from Craftsman
Joel from 826LA
Patrick from The Bruery

All in all a really great time. If you weren’t here this year plan on it next year.

The Bruery @ Blue Palms


I and my intrepid beer buddy/connoisseur traveled into Hollywood for the Blue Palms “The Bruery Night” They had 8 of their beers available for small tastes or large ones. Patrick Rue and his cohorts from The Bruery were there to mingle and talk to people about the beer. Tomm Carroll from the Celebrator was there as well. A great way to spend a Wednesday evening. I did not try all of their beers. I just tasted the ones that I had not had before.

white zin
Reddish/pinkish. Not the usual beer color for sure. A
combination of the cuvee jeune and lots of grapes. Very light
and soda pop-py. You could drink a lot of this. Refreshing

humulus blonde
favorite beer of the night. Solid hop presence mixed with a
Belgian golden ale. Another gorgeous looking beer. Gold and hazy.

humulus amber
probably my second favorite of the night. I am not a big amber
fan but this one had great hop taste but was very smooth.

melange # 3
you could certainly tell this had been aged in bourbon barrels.
You could smell it from a mile away. Not a lot of beer flavor.
A slow sipping beer for sure. Great beside the fire on a long, cold
winter night.

cuvee jeune
I got quite the barnyard aroma and taste off of this. A little
sour and quite funky. To me this is another beer to sip.