Portland International Beerfest

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

I don’t drink except for special occasions and the occasions I think are special are beer festivals (beerfests). Beerfests are fun and they are a way to try a lot of different beers without getting drunk or drinking more than I want to. One of our favorite beerfests is the Portland International Beerfest. We always meet the friendliest and kindest people at the beerfests. This year I tried a lot of different beers that were excellent and a couple that just weren’t to my liking.

The runaway winner for me was Nostradamus by Brasserie Caracole Brewery in Belgium (I do love Belgian beers). I got 4 tasters of it over the course of the day. Nostradamus is a Belgian Strong Ale and it is crisp and delicious with a hint of anise on the finish. The Belgian yeast comes through but is not too assertive. It’s perfect for a summer day.

Another excellent beer I tried for the first time was from Epic brewery: Epicurean Coffee and Fig stout. I’ve had quite a few coffee beers because I like stouts rather a lot. I’ve never had a coffee beer that was so faithful to the flavor of coffee. I could smell espresso in the aroma before I even took the first drink. The flavor did not disappoint, I tasted coffee with just a hint of sweetness from the fig. The fig was rather overwhelmed by the coffee flavor, which I am ok with because I love coffee.

I also tried Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. Chocolate is another flavor that I’ve had in a lot of beers, once again because I favor stout beers. I’ve never had a beer that preserved the flavor of the chocolate like this one though. It wasn’t just a hint of dark chocolate in the finish of the beer, it was a chocolatey beer. It really tasted like chocolate and it was delicious. Cool, smooth, a bit malty and chocolaty; I really enjoyed it. I got 1.5 tasters of this one (the .5 involved a trade).

Next up: Mad Viking Night Raid (Cognac Barrel). I have to say I really enjoyed this beer. It was a heavy beer but then it is an Imperial Stout. It was really yummy with a bit of a bitterness on the finish. With an alcohol content of 11% I had to keep to just one taster of those–there were a lot of beers to try and I didn’t want to be too tipsy.

The beer that I tried and traded was Olvisholt Lava, a smoked Imperial Stout. It really did taste like liquid smoke. Thankfully my soul mate liked it a great deal so he traded me for his Organic Chocolate and that’s how I got .5 of a taster of that.

Feeling adventerous I tried the Dutchess de Bourgeon which is a Flander’s Red beer but this one was made with bourgeon and boy could I taste it. It was one of the most interesting beers I tried at this beerfest. The first taste was really delicious and a bit sweet but a good kind of sweet for beer. Then the middle taste was this weird flavor that made me think of roast beef and I realized it was the bourgeon that I was tasting. My brain kind of got all confused because my tastebuds wanted to like it but there was a funky finish that made my brain think of something that’s gone a bit past its good to eat date. I think it would be worth a try and it did get better as I drank more of it.

Brainless On Peaches Label from Epic website

Brainless On Peaches Label from Epic website

Sadly I made a tactical error in following this very strong flavored beer with a lighter beer. I went back to the Epic table and got their Brainless Peach beer and unfortunately it did not follow the Contessa very well at all. I found it disgusting but that could be because of the way the two beers mixed on my palette. A drink of water between those two tasters could have saved the day for the Brainless Peach beer. It was light and summery and I could get a hint of peach but it didn’t beat you over the head with it.

From there I moved on to Andech Brewery’s Dunkles Weissbier. That was delicious, smooth, light and just a wonderful beer. If I hadn’t been so taken by the Nostradamus I would have gotten another taster of this one.

Saison brewing caught my attention next with their Saison the Beach which was a Saison made with candied ginger and peppercorns. Now I have only myself to blame for this one because I know I don’t like pepper very much. I just thought there would be more ginger flavor in this beer and I really like ginger beers. A good, strong ginger flavor could be highlighted by a little bit of a peppercorn flavor but this beer was a strong peppercorn flavor. I couldn’t taste the ginger at all. There was almost no sweetness and no ginger flavor. It was smooth but not to my taste at all. Please note this is not a flaw of the beer, it is just that I don’t like peppercorns.

I tried to get a taste of Thor’s Hammer Barleywine but they sold out the first day. Alas. Another time. The nice thing is that this whole beerfest was sponsored by John’s Market and they’ll likely have a lot of these brews for sale. The Portland International Beerfest remains our favorite in 2013. K.

The Rose Festival, Portland Fruit Beer Festival and A Local Artist

Mt Hood from the Marquam Bridge

Mt Hood from the Marquam Bridge

Mt Hood from the Marquam Bridge

Saturday was a huge day in Portland. First there was the Rose Parade, which was gorgeous. Then we stopped by the Saturday Market for a few minutes while we waited for the Rose Festival Fun Center to open up. Note it was a picture perfect day in Portland. The sky was clear and blue, I got some spectacular pictures of Mt. Hood and it was warm without being too hot. After we grew weary of the carnival we went to the Portland Fruit Beer Festival. It was yet another of those days when it you are bored in Portland, you’re working at it.

Now I’ve been known to play a hand or two of Texas Hold’em. In fact there is a funny story about finals week, Thermodynamics, Mother’s Day and Texas Hold’em. Finals week and Mother’s day coincided one year. Now I’m not one of those people who can cram and have it do any good. I have to study the whole way through a class. This is good in that I am usually very prepared for tests because I’ve done all the work before the night before the test. So our Thermodynamics final fell on the Monday of finals week and my dear and wonderful friends were all studying, burning the midnight oil and everything because of finals week.

I spent Mother’s Day playing games with my family and mother-in-law. So what happened is that one of my dearest friends in all the world called me that Sunday to ask about a particularly thorny Thermo problem. I happened to have just gotten my queen on the river and hit my full house. So I said, “Hang on a second, I have to go all in and then we can work the problem over the phone.” Which we did and I enjoyed working that thermo problem with my friend as much as I enjoyed that big pot I won.

All of this to say that we met a charming gentleman with a booth at the Portland Saturday

Portland Sign Ace from Illustrated Cards

Portland Sign Ace from Illustrated Cards

Market named Aaron Voronoff Trotter who makes illustrated playing cards. He does pen and ink drawings of the iconic landmarks and places of interest of a variety of cities and turns those drawings into a deck of cards, which he then sells. He’s extremely talented and I had to get a deck of Portland cards. We chatted for a bit and he said he is going to do New York City next. I bet that will be a gorgeous deck of cards when he’s finished with it. Check him out at Illustrated Playing Cards I should have picked up the Seattle deck while I was there.

The Rose Festival Fun Center was fun. I rode the Vertigo ride, which is a swing that goes 90 feet up into the air. It was so much fun and the view was incredible. No one else would ride it with me. Those who were at the festival with me cited fear of heights. Oh well, at least they didn’t mind waiting a few minutes while I went on it. It was fun! I played skee-ball, which I play terribly but love to play. Then—then we discovered the Rogue Brewery tent. I was unaware that Rogue was branching out from beer to distilled spirits. I also never knew that vodka could be good. They had a single malt vodka and cranberry on the menu so I got one, figuring, you know—why not? Whoa. It was the best vodka and cranberry I’ve ever had. I’m used to vodka not having any flavor at all, just kind of that alcohol burn. This had a flavor and it was good! So I had two.

Once we grew weary of the fun center we boarded the light rail to go back to the car, tired but happy. It was on the MAX that we discovered the Portland Fruit Beer Festival was happening over on the East Side. Well, that certainly changed things. I was all set to go home and write more on War In Flesh. Inspiration had struck on the MAX ride in and I’d been busily typing notes on my smart phone so I wouldn’t forget. Now that would have to be put on hold again. Once we got to the car we drove to the Portland Fruit Beer Festival. The MAX didn’t really get close to it at all, so we felt it was better to drive.

Fort George Brewery Forbidden Wonderfruit Beer

Fort George Brewery Forbidden Wonderfruit Beer

I met some of the most lovely people there. The lines were huge by the time we arrived, having spent the better part of the day elsewhere. I would try to get in a line and people would direct me to the line I wanted and offer me spots in front of them. One group of four or six people just guided me right around them in line to stand in front of them. They were not the exception at this beer festival. And it still took me three tries to hit the line I wanted. But I found some lovely beers while I was seeking. One does not simply waste a spot in a beer line.

My first beer was a collaboration blend beer between Bushwhacker Cidery and Upright Brewing. It was a delicious first beer to taste. It was a very yummy, summery and fruity beer but not overwhelmingly fruity. I liked it.

Now the beer I wanted to try was the Fort George Forbidden Wonder Fruit brew. So I tried to get that line again. What I ended up with was Breakside Brewery’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie beer. Apparently they brew it with whole baked strawberry rhubarb pies. You can tell. The beer does take on that sweet fruitiness of the pies. Dessert beer? Yes but I found it just a touch too sweet for my taste.

So I have my taste of my second beer and I haven’t had a bad one yet and with the lines being so long I try again for the Forbidden Wonderfruit Beer line. This is when all of those people started just moving me from line to line and up in line so that I got my beer. I splurged on a full glass of this since I wanted to find some shade and relax a bit and enjoy the beer. Fort George is turning into one of my favorite breweries. I seem to recall liking their offering at the Cheers for Belgian Beers Brewfest too. Well the Forbidden Wonderfruit beer is brewed with kiwi. I found it to be quit delicious, refreshing, not too fruity and with a pleasant sweetness that wasn’t too assertive.

We shared our shady spot with a lovely couple, Jenny and Nicholas who kindly listened to us tell stories: Like the one about The Queens of the Stone Age. True Story. When my husband and I were first dating he took me to see Fishbone. He said they were this really great band and I’d love seeing them. Well they were playing the Blue Note with two other bands, Biohazard and this strange Klingon sounding named band called Kyuss. Well Fishbone was just awful that night. They didn’t play the music my then date was used to them playing and the strange metal stuff they did play wasn’t very good. But the worst band that evening was Kyuss. They were just awful. I don’t know if they had jet lag or what was going on but it was awful. My date was just horrified.

Well fast forward seven or eight years and we’ve since been married. We hear that Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age are playing a local venue and we decide to go see them. We like both groups and it’s a fun date night. Well Queens of the Stone Age, however talented they are when sober, are awful when falling down drunk. And the lead singer almost actually fell of the stage he was so drunk. They stopped in the middle of a song and had to start over. It was kind of sad to watch and I hope they got a handle on that kind of drunkenness because that’s just not good.

Anyway NIN was fantastic but the funniest thing happened when I was writing up my review of the concert and discovered that Queens of the Stone Age used to be a little band called Kyuss. How’s that for coming full circle? Plus it gives us a great story to tell, which makes it all the better.

So Jenny and Nicholas listened to our little stories and told us some of their own and we had just a wonderful time drinking beer and making new friends. All of that and there’s still one day of weekend left. Yay!

Today I have to get to work on War In Flesh, I have notes from yesterday and I want to work a little more in my garden. Also if I don’t get Mt. Laundry under control everyone is going to have to go naked next week. No matter how much laundry I do, there is still more to be done. It’s almost as if the pile regenerates when I’m not looking. 😉 K.

Cheers for Belgian Beers and a Day Off

Fort George Brewery Banner

Fort George Brewery Banner

Fort George Brewery Banner

Cheers for Belgian Beers
Metalcraft Fabrication

Yesterday I took the day off from writing and went to my first brewfest of the season: The Cheers for Belgian Beers. Belgian beers are some of my favorites. I like the buttery smooth flavor the Belgian yeasts tend towards and Belgian beers tend to lean towards lighter brews. Because we intended to spend a good part of the day sampling a wide variety of brews, we took public transportation to the festival. It’s just the smart thing to do. That allowed us to ride in comfort after the festival and enjoy the post festival buzz without all the stress of trying to drive, which one should not do after drinking.

We got our tasting glasses and this year they were beautiful little goblet style glasses and our ticket for tastes of beers and entered the vast warehouse of Metalcraft Fabrication to a crowd of happy people and a myriad of tables with beer venders and their offerings for our festival enjoyment.

My first choice was a cheeky little beer called The Fez brewed by Solera Brewery. It used Wyeast 3726| Farmhouse Ale with an alcohol content of 4.2%. Of course I had to try it because Fezzes are cool. Unfortunately I did not find Solera’s The Fez all that cool. It was quite sour.

Thankfully my friend really likes sour beers and she had chosen for her first beer a Saison from pFriem Family Brewers that used Wyeast 3711| French Saison with an alcohol content of 6.5%. It was hoppy but not in that bitter hoppy way, more in a citrus peel way where the bitter isn’t so harsh.

After tasting each other’s beers we happily traded glasses and enjoyed a first beer that we each liked quite a bit. That is one of the really nice things about going to a beerfest with friends. Not only do you get to taste even more beers, because invariably when someone gets a good beer they insist you try it, but if you get one you don’t particularly care for you can give it to someone who probably really will enjoy it.

For my third beer I was drawn into the pFriem Family Brewers table once more by the description of their Belgian Strong Dark beer. It was made using Wyeast 3538| Leuven Pale Ale with an alcohol content of 10%. They described it as having fig and chocolate flavors. Now I’m all over any chocolate beer. This one was so delicious. This one was quite strong. The aroma was fruity and I found the flavor to be very much that of dark chocolate with a fruity fig under-flavor and strong malt finish. I found it slightly bitter on the back end and very much like a dessert beer. I liked it quite a bit. I enjoyed both offerings by the pFriem Family Brewers.

At this point it was time for some lunch. I was four beers in and I needed some food to join the party. There were tents and tables set up outside along with several vender trucks and we wandered out into the delicious smells to find something to eat. I chose a mushroom and pepper Philly Cheesesteak sandwich from Philadelphia Steaks and Hoagies who had a set-up there. It was really good and a generous portion that made a good base for the drinking to come. The people were very friendly and fast. The horseradish sauce was spicy and creamy and the cheese all melty and yummy on a soft hoagie roll, it was very nice.

Next up for me was the Agrarian Ales Saison called Coalescence Spring Saison. It was brewed with Wyeast 3655|Belgian Schelde with an alcohol content of 5.9%. Now this is the yeast I really love when it comes to Belgian beers. Unfortunately this offering was very hoppy and I felt the hops got in the way of an excellent yeast.

From there I tried Ambacht Brewery’s Belgian Specialty: Ginger Farmhouse Ale. Brewed with Wyeast 1762|Belgian Abbey II with an alcohol content of 6.5%. This was my first find of the brewfest. I really love the Belgian Abbey yeasts and this beer was just amazing. It smelled so good. I took a minute to just enjoy the ginger aroma. They managed to brew it without compromising the spiciness of the ginger and that overlays the buttery smooth flavor of the Belgian yeast.

Brewmaster Brandy of Ambacht Brewing

Brewmaster Brandy of Ambacht Brewing

Also Brandy, who is one of the brewmasters responsible for this remarkable brew was manning the keg at the table and he was happy to answer a question or two. We asked him how he came up with this brew.

Brandy smiled and said, “Well Tom and I tasted a lot of others before we made ours.”

He also said that he likes to make beer can chicken with this particular brew and I can imagine why. The ginger and flavor of the Belgian yeast would be divine with chicken.

At this point the Bee Gees Jive Talking came on and I was dancing through the crowd. I was not the only one; my friends and I made a lot of people happy. People who wanted to dance but needed someone else to do it first were happy to join in. I ran into, not literally, a lovely couple named Casey and Shawn who had interesting looking beers in their glasses and I asked them what they were drinking. Casey told me it was a Fort George fruit ale that tasted a bit of Kiwi. Well I was sold so I made my happy way over to the Fort George Brewery table for a sample of their fruit ale named Forbidden Wonder Fruit Ale. It was brewed with Wyeast 3463| Forbidden Fruit and had an alcohol content of 6.7% and let me tell you, the volunteers were giving good solid pours on Saturday. 1 ticket later and I had a beer with a subtle fragrance the color of fresh pressed apple cider—the really good stuff that’s a little cloudy with a beautiful caramel color. I could smell the good Belgian yeast and the first taste did not disappoint. It was smooth without being watery, subtly flavored with just a whisper of fruitiness and very carbonated. This is a good beer for when you just want to relax and enjoy a casual evening after work or something. Many thanks to Casey and Shawn for suggesting it.

I ran into an old friend and while we were catching up my husband was approached by Ryan Pappe, the head brewer of Portland Brewing, which just reclaimed the name after being MacTarnahan’s for 15 years. The reason Mr. Pappe spoke to my husband is because he chose to wear his 15-year-old Portland Brewing ZigZag Lager t-shirt to the brewfest and of course the people of Portland Brewing are always pleased to see longtime fans. Ryan Pappe asked my husband if he’d had that shirt since the original Portland Brewing had existed and of course my husband said yes. This made them both very happy.

Next up I tried Caldera Brewing’s Dubbel named Dubbel and made with Wyeast 3787|Trappist High Gravity. It was a smooth, malty brew with a bit of a caramel flavor on the back end. It was so delicious it could be my favorite of the brewfest. It delivered great taste with no bitterness and a modest alcohol content of 7.5%.

Which brings me to Rock Bottom’s offering: a Low and Light beer named A Stunning Indictment of the Establishment. It was brewed with Wyeast 1214| Belgian Abbey and had an alcohol content of 5.1%. This was a sharp, crisp and slightly bitter brew up front but finished smooth and buttery. It demands attention from your taste buds with a kaleidoscope of flavors and does not disappoint. This was possibly the most fun beer of the festival to have in your mouth, constantly providing something different for each part of your tongue.

At this point I was down to 1 ticket and needed to choose wisely. After browsing the offerings I selected Occidental Brewing Co.’s Dubbel named De Keuze. It was brewed with Wyeast 3942|Belgian Wheat and had an alcohol content of 7.5%. This was ever so slightly sour and very smooth, almost silky. I found it to be an excellent beer and could easily see this as a wonderful palate cleanser or finisher after a meal.

My husband is a huge fan of Hair of The Dog Brewery and he got a taste of their offering, a Belgian ale they named Belgian Beer Geek. Hair of the Dog Brewery has a distinct base that comes through in every one of their brews. It is very fragrant and has a strong flavor. Whatever it is, is very fresh smelling and tasting. This was an excellent example of their style of brewing.

At this point a gentleman named Pete came by and noticed I had no beer in my glass. He said that could not be allowed to stand and gave me a ticket. I was delighted so I gave him a hug, which made him happy. Then my friend came by and Pete gave her a ticket too. She gave him a hug and I gave him a second hug. At that point we introduced ourselves and complimented one another, shared some pointers about beers and my husband came over. Pete gave him a ticket too but alas no hug. So I raised my final taste to our new friend Pete—May you live long and prosper.

This made my true final beer an offering from Old Market Pub & Brewery Blood Orange Lambic called The Devin. It was made with Wyeast 3787 + Brettanomyces + Wild Yeast and had an alcohol content of 9.1%. It was a good solid beer, crisp, slightly bitter.

Rogue Brewing's Beard Beer

Rogue Brewing’s Beard Beer

My husband, a man of true courage, tried the Beard Beer. Yes Rogue Ales took trimmings from brewmaster John Maier’s beard, cultured the results, separated out the yeast and used it to brew a beer. I know it’s sterile by the time they get to use it for brewing but I just could not get past the “ick” factor. My husband said it was actually pretty good. It was brewed with Beard Yeast and had an alcohol content of 5.6%. This is what you call an experimental beer.

I took many notes on my iPhone so I have to say thank goodness for autocorrect when you’ve been drinking beer all day. I met a lot of wonderful people and had a fabulous time. K.