Monday, July 22, 2013

The Oregon Brewer's Festival

Some may think it suspiciously coincidental that my two week return to Oregon from my sabbatical in Brazil coincides with the Oregon Brewer's Festival (OBF).  I call it a happy accident.

So, despite my extended stay in Brazil (where, try as I might, I could not find much beer to blog about), I will attend the OBF this year.  As is my tradition, I will attend the afternoon of the opening day which is now a Wednesday (July 24).  No idea how the Wednesday opening will affect this, but in the past it was the only time one could enjoy the fest without the hooting hoards - and even then you only had about 3-4 hours of peace which seemed to shrink each year.

What I am looking for this year as always are nice hoppy session ales (not a contradiction as Widmer has proved with their Citra Blonde).  I also look for pilsners and other lighter lagers.   I am glad to see many low ABV beers on the list representing a number of styles.

There are many great beers to try but here is a short list of ones that have caught my eye all but one below 5.5% ABV:

10 Barrel: Swill.  Their take on a German Radler beer might be the perfect thing if the fest gets really hot.

Alameda: Huckleberry Hound.  Low ABV and fruity - could be interesting.  Must say that their description of fruit and malt-forward makes me think overly sweet - so this will be an interesting experiment.

Boulder: Blueberry Wheat.  Bleuberries are hard to brew with in my opinion (formed from some less than stellar experiments) but David Zuckerman might just be the man with the magic touch.  Proving that that Lewis & Clark education didn't go to waste.

Boundary Bay Brewery: Double Dry Hopped Bravo Pale Ale.  I am especially excited about this.  One of my favorite breweries that never fails to impress me at the OBF with a new (to me) hop - Bravo.  Might just be my first stop.

Breakside: Float.  Breakside + lager = yum.

Bridgeport: Long Ball Ale.  Meridian are one of the new 'it' hops and I suspect many have tried this one brewed for the Hillsboro Hops, but it'll be new to me.

Cascade: Raspberry Wheat.  Because no one does fruit beer better than Cascade, this one is a must-try.

Eel River: Cali Pale.  Meridian, Citra and Simcoe all in one pale?  Sounds like it will be squeezably citrusy - and that sounds pretty good to me (disclaimer - I am in thrall of the new citrusy hop varietals).

Epic: Hop Syndrome Lager.  I know Jeff is interested in the hoppy lager trend and this will no doubt be the subject of discussion.  Aramis hops is enough to get me to taste.

Gigantic: & Juice.  Because it is Gigantic.  Do you need any more reason?

Ninkasi: Bohemian Pils.  The hop masters have proven that they can make a damn good pils, I expect that this will be no different.

Occidental: Occidental Dortumunder.  Occidental has bucked the trend in Oregon breweries and is planted solidly in the German tradition.  Look forward to finally getting a taste of their beer.

Speakeasy: Tallulah.  This one features El Dorado hops, a hop I have just brewed with for the first time but my beer won't be ready for a couple of weeks so I can get a glimpse of what I have in store with this beer.

Upright: Offen Kölsch.  Kölsch is one of my favorites and Upright is almost always a sure bet. 

Vertigo: Key Lime Tropical Blonde.  I predict this will either be sublime or terrible.  Will be fun to see which.

Wild River: Kölsch.  Another Kölsch from a brewery I have not yet sampled.

Wildwood: Organic Ambitious Lager.  One more lager again from a brewery that is new to me.

That's more than I would typically get through but this year the pours will be 3oz rather than the 4oz of years past, so maybe I will...  Besides with all of them pretty low ABV by American standards, it should not be too much.

Enjoy the fest!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Consumer Reports and Craft Beer

Consumer Reports has had a go at craft beer...with predictable results.  Over at Beervana, Jeff has a go at them, pointing out the myriad problems in their analysis. 

This doesn't surprise me, I love CR and have subscribed to their digital version for years and I always consult them for purchases where objective tests and ratings convey real info.  But they always fail when it comes to food.  Tastes are subjective and personal.  A restaurant critic, or beer critic for that matter, can discuss what they liked and did not like about a food or beer, but trying to create a subjective evaluation, which is the CR method, is always going to fail.  I'll just add the little amusing anecdote that they seem to have taken the electronics template and put the beers in it as they refer to different beers as 'models.' Oops.  Check out the ratings of the 'models' below:

You'll find lots to hate about this list, probably beginning with the presence of Shock Top, Kirkland and other not-quite-what-we-think-of-as-craft beers. 

But I'd like to make the rather obvious point that this endeavor is yet another milestone in the popularizing of craft beer.   If CR is doing it, it is because of the widespread and growing appeal of craft beer.  And I can tell you from my experience with my in-laws that these ratings will send a whole bunch of folks past the macro lagers and into the craft beer section of the local Safeway.  

The fact that their first taste of 'craft beer' will be Stone IPA may set the whole movement back, however - Stone IPA is not a gateway beer.  It is a full on face melter for the uninitiated - but I digress.  

Craft beer is full-on mainstream now and that means lots of good intentioned if misguided efforts like this and we all should welcome these clumsy embraces.  The far greater crime would be to dismiss craft beer as a niche enthusiasts occupation and ignore them.