Friday, July 27, 2012

OBF Review

Yesterday I got a full dose of the OBF starting with the parade and ending with a dinner at the House of Louie in Chinatown.  Here are my thoughts and recommendations [note that they coincide fairly strongly with Jeff/Beervana as he and I agree on a lot of things beer-wise and share each others beer choices to broaden our samples without getting falling-over drunk].

Parading through scenic industrial SE PDX

First off the parade was a mild amusement but not more than that.  Fun once, but I don't think I need to do it again.  Jeff mused that if you had arrived in Portland for the first time to attend the OBF and this was your first look (a march through the gritty industrial inner SE) you might have a skewed impression of our fair city.

Ah, this pic could be from any of the last 15 or so OBFs, but it was yesterday.  This is the absurdly long Dogfish Head line for a decidedly unimpressive beer.  Once again the Dogfish hype-machine at work in the service of poor beer - they do have some great ones but too many are total duds.  This is not a total dud, but no where near the best of the fest.

Second, it just keeps getting earlier and earlier.  I used to be able to count on a few relatively peaceful hours on Thursday afternoon before the chaos started, but this year, the first big whoop I heard came in just before 12:30pm.  Bummer.  Still, it is a pretty well oiled machine at this point and I never had to wait long for beer, toilet, or water.  On the latter, it really is time to improve these facilities.  More water stations and better flow rates.  Many have figured out that to stay hydrated you need to drink lots of water which leads to long wait times at the water stations as the little dribble fills up a big water bottle.

Third, the beer selection was good and quite varied.

Some of my favorites:

Uinta IPA - This is a pretty big IPA but very well well made with a delicious hop aroma and flavor

Sierra Nevada Pilsner - Not too big but full of American hops.  This is similar to the Laurelwood Pils in that sense but I thought a bit more successful.

Prodigal Son - I liked it a lot but it was not universally admired. 

Odell St. Lupulin Pale - Very, very nice hop aroma on a non-aggressive well-balanced beer.

Occidental Kellerbier - Perfect for a hot beerfest day.

Gigantic Dynomite! - What else is there to say?

Flat Tail White Light/White Ale - Beautiful use of white peppercorn to give some spice and flavor.

Epic Lager - Wonderful hop flavor in a lighter session ale.


Russian River - too much of a good thing, Simcoe, it turns out.  A little agressive and one dimensional.

Ninkasi  Pils - A dark pilsner?!? I'm sure some love it but I don't want roasted noted in my pils.

Dogfish Head Wheat Beer - Overdone, and way too many banana esters fro my taste. But if you like you them banana-y wheat beers, and many do, try this.

Boundary Bay Pale - A well-made beer but it turns out that the Delta hop is not one of my favorites.  I don't think it has enough character to stand alone.   

Ooops - ones I missed but wished I hadn't:

Pelican Wit.

Eel River Pale.

Fort George Wit.

Lompoc Saison.  Figure I can try this locally at the Oaks Bottom.

Summit Abbey.  If this was last year this would have been my brother's contribution to the Unchained series, now he has moved on to Renegade in Denver. 

Finally, a bonus.  With I-5 across the river closed this weekend, the fest should afford a rare opportunity to enjoy the waterfront park without the din of cars.  Now if we could only do something about the ever-increasing "whoop".

Enjoy the fest folks!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beer Review: Widmer Citra Blonde

 The Widmers do love the Citra hop...and so do I.  Citra, which started out as the experimental 114 hop that gives X-114 IPA its name tastes just like the name suggests: a citrus explosion, more orange and lemon than others on my palate.  As I have made plain in these pages, I absolutely love X-114 (bring it back please!) and the main reason is the wonderful Citra hop note they achieve.

But I also love sessionable beers and am a big proponent of lower alcohol beers with lots of flavor.  And so it is that the Widmers (a brewery which as recently as a few years ago I hardly gave a second thought) have brought out a beautiful new beer, the Citra Blonde for the summer. 

At 4.3% ABV and only 20 IBUs you might be tempted to believe that the beer will be watery and tasteless.  You would be very wrong, the beer absolutely sings with the Citra hop while not overwhelming you with bitterness.  It has a very simple malt base, mostly pale malt with some caramel for color and a touch of sweetness.  It pours out a beautiful golden with a slight hint of amber and has a generous head - it definitely looks the part of a summer thirst quencher.  Then it hits the nose with a gorgeous aroma of Citra hops and has the flavor to match.  For those that think you need a 7%ABV hop bomb to get hop flavor in spades this is the perfect rejoinder.  Yes it misses that bracing bitterness but it also wont put you right to sleep in the middle of the day.  I give it a super-big thumbs up, this is the beer I have been waiting from from NW brewers - a hop infused summer session beer.

Once again, time to give it up for the Widmers - they have definitely found their mojo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in Time for the OBF!

I failed to mention on this blog, mea culpa, that I was going on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but I am back now (both physically and spiritually) and ready to resume blogging and beery things.  The good news is that I have timed my return with the Oregon Brewers Festival!  The OBF just keeps getting bigger and bigger and, unfortunately, more of a scene and a bit overrun (they anticipate nearly 80,000 attendees this year).  But if you are wise like me you have a nice afternoon on Thursday before the crowds get too crazy and enjoy the hard to get beers on offer.

[It is also worth noting that they do an very good job handling the crowds: the porta-potties are plentiful (this is a beer fest after-all, you are going to need a LOT of toilets), the lines get long for some popular beers, but are generally not too bad, and there is ample free drinking water]

This year I am even planning on joining the parade from the Cascade Barrel House to the OBF.  For me I always enjoy getting to sample great breweries like Boundary Bay that are not available in Oregon.  This year, Boundary Bay is offering up a Double Dry Hopped Delta Pale Ale which is right in my wheelhouse.  I was also happy to see that SF's 21st Amendment is finally bringing something other than the uber-popular Watermelon Wheat.  Kudos to them.

Some of the beers that piqued my interest (this being summer, I am particularly interested in lower ABV beers):

10 Barrel Brewing, Bend: Raspberry Crush.  A 5.2% ABV Raspberry tart beer with lacto and rice syrup.  Could be a great summer session beer.

Laurelwood, Portland: Portlandia Pils.  Apparently Van Havig (of Gigantic fame) had a hand in this pilsener brewed with Columbus, Cascade, Ahtanum, Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops.  Wha?  This is a must-try.  No word on the yeast - ale or lager, would like to know - but at 5.5% it could be the hit of the fest. 

Boundary Bay, Bellingham: Double Dry Hopped Delta Pale Ale.  A 5.6% pale single hopped with Delta, a hop of which I am unfamiliar.  I'll know it intimately after this.

Ninkasi, Eugene:  Lady of Avalon. Ninkasi, masters of the hop bomb, rolling along with a 5.2% Pilsener that they lagered for four months.  Nice!

Russian River, Santa Rosa: Story of Simcoe.  Like the BB above, a single hopped adventure into the world of the Simcoe hop.  5.8% ABV.

Flat Tail, Corvallis: White Light / White Ale.  Okay so this is a 8% ABV bomb, but combining Flat Tail and Velvet Underground has got to be a sure winner.

Gigantic, Portland: Dynomite!  It is Gigantic and it is dynomite, what more is there to know?  At 8.9% even JJ would call it dynomite!, by the way,

There are surely many more that will pique yours, so go have a look at the list of the beers.

Here are the essentials:

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon Main entrance at S.W. Oak Street and Naito Parkway

July 26 - 29, 2012 — "Always the last full weekend in July"

Thurs through Sat, taps are open from Noon to 9 p.m. Sun, taps are open from Noon to 7 p.m. Token & mug sales close one-half hour prior to the taps shutting off

Admission into the festival grounds is free. In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2012 souvenir mug is required and costs $6. Mugs from previous years will not be filled. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens. Tokens cost $1 apiece. Patrons pay four tokens for a full mug of beer, or one token for a taste. The festival is cash only; there are ATMs on-site.