May 29, 2014

Purchasing an Erlenmeyer flask in Texas

I've seen a few threads about the homebrewing forums discussing an alleged bizarre law in Texas the requires individuals to have a permit to purchase an Erlenmeyer flask, commonly used to make yeast starters. I first heard about this alleged law a couple years ago at a homebrew shop in Fort Worth when a group of engineers from the local highway department lab stopped in looking to purchase some equipment and one made a comment about being surprised that the flasks and other equipment were sitting out in plain view for sale. I figured since the topic has recently revived I would take my skills as a Texas lawyer into play and address the subject.

It is fact. In Texas, an individual must obtain a permit from the Texas Department of Public Safety to purchase an Erlenmeyer flask, among other equipment typically used in the production of meth and other illegal drugs that can be produced from commonly available ingredients. Many of the other pieces of equipment regulated under the same statute include the kind of equipment you saw in Breaking Bad in the original RV lab.

As an aside, if you have a Bunsen burner to heat flasks and/or to create an upward draft for your home yeast lab, that is also regulated under the same statute.

In 1987 (and amended in 1989) the state legislature passed a law regulating the purchase and acquisition of chemicals and equipment commonly used in the production of meth and other illegal drugs. Under this law, businesses and individuals who purchase identified equipment and/or chemicals must obtain a permit prior to placing an order or accepting delivery of such items. The seller must report the transaction to the Texas DPS who records the transaction in a database. The permit requires the holder to perform certain security measures to prevent theft. The permit is free to acquire so long as the applicant agrees to the security measures and authorizes the DPS to inspect the location where the equipment is used and stored. A permit lasts one year, after which a new permit must be issued before new purchases may be made.

This statute would require homebrewers acquiring Erlenmeyer flasks to first obtain permits and for homebrew shops to report any transaction to the DPS. Because the homebrew stores take delivery of the equipment from their wholesaler, they must also have a permit and store the equipment appropriately. 
I've seen comments from people that people who make meth do not shop/steal from homebrew shops so there's no reason for the homebrew stores to be concerned. I know personally that one of the local homebrew stores has a sign out that the Idophor is not the type of iodine used to make meth so there's no reason to steal it. I asked about it and they told me they have had some bottles of the fairly cheap sanitizer disappear out the door. Even if the premise of the comments was correct, it still isn't a good idea for stores to expose themselves to liability under the statute for keeping the Erlenmeyer flasks on the shelves. Who knows when a DPS officer might walk in, even if it's just to buy some brewing supplies.

In all likelihood, the DPS probably isn't going to come bust down a homebrewer's door for buying an Erlenmeyer flask without a permit but with the DPS who really knows. Better to get that permit than face the long list of penalties in the Health & Safety Code. If the crackdown comes it will most likely fall on the stores, who are more of a risk of selling to the wrong people or having their inventory stolen.

May 19, 2014

Yellow Umbrella Apricot Blonde Recipe

This beer was among my intended brews for 2013 but I never got around to brewing it but I already had the grains so it needs its turn. It's a really light blonde ale with some apricot tossed in, which will make for a nice, tart summer beer. It's based on Dry Dock's apricot blonde but stocked up with Belma hops and a little lighter on the ABV. I thought about subbing in saison yeast over a clean ale strain but with several other saisons for the summer I wanted something a little different in the pipeline. Nothing too exciting here, just a straightforward blonde ale as a backdrop for the apricots.

The name? One of the last few HIMYM references I can pick up since the series ended last month. Blonde=yellow. Yellow umbrella was the visual icon for the mother. Kind of phoning in this name. HIMYM fans: love/hate the finale? Lots of twitter fury about it. I dunno, I thought all the characters ended up where they should. I mean, not the mom, but the main characters. Anyway, let's get to the recipe.

Yellow Umbrella Apricot Blonde Recipe

Batch size: 1 gallon
Est. ABV: 6.5%
Est. OG: 1.065
Est. FG: 1.016
IBUs: 29.6
SRM: 5.5

The Grist

89.6% 2 lb. 4 oz. US 2 Row [2 SRM]
5.2% 2 oz. Crystal 20 [20 SRM]
5.2% 2 oz. Carapils [2 SRM]

The Mash

Single infusion of 3.14 qt. of water at 164F for 60 minutes at 152F
Sparge 0.91 gallons at 180F
Water profile: Yellow malty (Bru'n water)

Mash Water

0.784 gallons

Gypsum 0.2g
Epsom salt 0.2g
Calcium chloride 0.4g

Sparge Water

0.91 gallons

Gypsum 0.2g
Epsom salt 0.2g

Calcium chloride 0.5g
Lactic acid 0.5ml

The Boil

60 minute boil
0.03oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] first wort hop (6.8 IBU)
0.10oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 60 minutes (18.7 IBU)
0.10oz. Belma [12.10% AAU] at 5 minutes (4.1 IBU)

The Fermentation

1/2 packet US-05 fermented at 65F for ten days
Add two pounds of apricots for three weeks
Bottle to 2.5 volumes

Brew Notes

Decided to give this beer a sour mash treatment so I mashed half of the grist and water, sparged and brought it to a quick boil. Cooled to 120F and added some uncrushed grain in a half gallon growler. Strapped on the heating belt and set it for 90F. Let it sit for approximately 2.5 days. Sour portion was incredibly tart.

Topped up kettle pre-boil to account for some boil off from sour wort preparation.

5/21/14: Pitched yeast around six p.m. Sunday. Active fermentation began Monday evening with peak activity reached Tuesday evening. Definitely a delayed fermentation due to the inhospitable ph.

5/25/14: Beer is still cloudy with yeast and there is a little airlock activity continuing. Surprised that the massive overpitch wasn't enough to produce a faster fermentation.

5/28/14: Beer cleared up around 5/26. Added 1 lb. apricots to beer. Expect to let ferment and soak up all the apricoty goodness for 3-4 weeks.

May 18, 2014

California Alcoholiday -- Part 2

After thankfully avoiding a hangover from all that delicious beer, we hit the road to travel from Anaheim to San Francisco. By taking the 101 we could hit both Firestone Walker locations along the way. On our last evening in San Francisco we drove out to Russian River before sadly returning to Texas. San Francisco is a fun town with lots to see and do so we didn't do much drinking in favor of eating delicious food like the legendary San Francisco sourdough. My wife had some actual business work to do in San Francisco so we didn't have time to trek around to breweries although we would have loved to have hit 21st Amendment and Rare Barrel. I'm not disappointed that we hit Firestone Walker and Russian River. That's a pretty good trip by itself.

Firestone Walker Barrelworks

Barrelworks is the second Firestone Walker facility and manages two barrel programs for Firestone Walker. One is the strong ale barrel program that produces the anniversary ales (and presumably some of the other barrel-aged strong ales) and the other is the brett and sour program. The anniversary ales see limited distribution across the Firestone Walker distribution map but the brett and sour beers have extremely limited distribution, some never making it out of Barrelworks. It's definitely worth checking out. There are eighteen taps that assemble various sour and brett beers along with several of the Firestone Walker strong ales plus random one-offs and vintage releases of different beers. You can also buy a few beers to go, including some of the anniversary ales if you are willing to pay a hefty sum. The oldest anniversary ale for sale is 13, which sells $110 per 750ml. They sell a boxed set of 13, 14 and 15 which goes for a cool $300.

Barrelworks is located in Buellton a little north of Santa Barbara on the 101. It appeared to be a wine-heavy area of California (but not quite Napa or Sonoma) which makes a lot of sense for a brewery with a strong desire to acquire wine barrels. It's a cool location, you enter the tasting room directly through rows of barrels. I guess they trust that nobody is going to open a barrel and take a straw to it. (Sorry for the terrible picture quality.)


Right now they are remodeling the restaurant but the tasting room is still functional. The tasting room only pours tasters. No regular-sized pours. I get it. You don't want to serve a 6oz pour of a limited beer to somebody who takes one sip and hates it so you end up pouring it out. Plus, most of the people stopping by were tourists and it's not the wisest idea to load people up on alcohol and send them packing, especially when you can't at least give them the option of eating a meal with it. It worked out well because we were able to try everything we wanted and take an extra swing at our favorites. So in no particular order, here comes our favorites:

  • 2013 Lil Opal: Lil Opal is the barrel/sour/brett version of what is now being sold as Opal, Firestone Walker's saison. The regular version is bright and citrusy but a touch too sweet for my tastes. (Big Opal is a wheatwine used in the anniversary blends.) Lil Opal is aged with brett lambicus and lactobacillus and produces a beer that is tart but not full on sour and adds dryness and funk that makes Opal my kind of saison. The 2013 is a blend of two year old American oak-aged beer and eight month old French oak-aged beer. The oak is present but not oppressive. The tannins help dry out the beer. For what it's worth, we also tried the 2014 which is a one year old blend of 75% American oak and 25% French oak. It was more oaky and lacked some of the brett complexity of 2013. We took a bottle home and expect to let it linger in the cellar for a while.
  • Agrestic: Firestone Walker bills this beer as a Flemish red but I'm not so sure I agree. It is a sour beer with a red color but the flavor profile is very different from any Flemish red I have experienced. It begins life as DBA which is then transferred to a tank and soured with lactobacillus. Then it moves to oak with brett lambicus for fourteen months in barrels that are 40% American oak and 60% French oak. It is pleasantly sour with some brett funk but the flavor profile is largely nutty, woody and spicy, rather than the typical cherry pie and barnyard character in Flemish reds. A really interesting rendition of a sour beer.
  • Sour Opal: As you can imagine, this is Opal given a full sour treatment. I'm not entirely sure how the process differs from Lil Opal but it is full on sour thanks to a two year aging process that I assume is also lacto and brett (maybe also pedio) but with more opportunity given to lacto to bring more sourness to the table. It has a unique flavor profile with lots of tropical fruit with a little cherry and white wine. It's aged in Viognier barrels, which is a chardonnay-like white wine. Probably my favorite of all the beers.
  • Feral One: A crazy blend of sour beers. This is a blend of "Sour Opal (American Sour Ale - 30%), SLOambic (Fruited Sour - 14%), Agrestic (American Wild Red Ale - 16%), and Lil' Mikkel (Bretted Saison - 40%)." Really complex stuff. The first two beers bring a lot of fruity flavors while the latter two bring earthy, funky notes. When you think about how much blending of barrels went into each of the component beers you realize just how much blending really went into this beer. It shows. It is layer and layer of flavors. I wish I could have ordered a full pour of this just so I could continue to taste it as it warms to see how the flavors develop. 
  • Saucerful of Secrets: Something in the Belgian quad area, this beer was brewed back in 2008 as a production-scale version of Sean Paxton's (The Homebrew Chef) same-named beer and barrel aged. I believe I recall the bartender saying the kegs they were serving were brandy barrel-aged but information online suggests the beer was only bourbon barrel aged. At any rate, it was velvety smooth and full of molasses, toffee, chocolate, maple syrup, stone fruit and a bucket of other flavors. You can tell this beer used to be far sweeter before time and barrel aging tamed it into a drier beer. Honestly, this is what I imagine Sam Adams Utopia wants to be. Utopia is like a sugar coma wrapped in a bottle of white dog whiskey. This is smooth and pleads you to drink more. Sean Paxton makes the recipe available on his blog so I might have to take a swing at brewing my own and giving it years of aging. Maybe a sour version as well?
Barrelworks really encouraged me to think about my own anticipated blending projects and how I want to brew going forward. As much as I enjoy experimenting with brewing different styles I find myself increasingly wanting to pair down to a smaller set of recipes and putting together a similar library of vintages and variants on those recipes that I can then blend back into even better beers.

Firestone Walker (Production Facility)

Firestone Walker's main facility is located in Paso Robles, getting deeper into Coastal California's wine county. Unfortunately we didn't get to Paso Robles until the evening so we didn't have a chance to take the tour. I was disappointed because I wanted to see the union system but not too disappointed because I was so enamored by the beers at Barrelworks. Firestone Walker has built out a very nice restaurant across the street from the brewery in addition to the tasting room inside the brewery. The tasting room was also closed so we helped ourselves to the restaurant. We helped ourselves to some more beer and food. The food portions were very large but we were a little disappointed that the food was a little bland. Service was very good and if you buy a tasting tray they will give you a discount on beer to-go or merchandise so I bought an awesome shirt. I had a laser-like focus on drinking one of the beers at Paso Robles and it didn't disappoint:

  • Unfiltered DBA: Unfiltered DBA is Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Ale, fermented in the Firestone Union system. While regular DBA is 20% union-fermented and 80% steel vessel fermented, the unfiltered version is 100% union-fermented. It is far more vanilla-oaky than the standard version and there's more complexity thanks to bypassing filtration.

Russian River Brewing Co.

You know you love beer when you go to wine country to drink beer (and no wine) and you're far down the rabbit hole when you hit Russian River. Russian River is in Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County. Sonoma is next door to Napa and they are similar communities. Russian River is in the downtown touristy area but inside it is relaxed and you quickly forget you are in the middle of pretentious wine country. Everybody was friendly and several people on the bar were excited that we were there for the sour beer.

Does Russian River need any introduction? RRBC is well known for their infamous Pliny the Elder IIPA (Double IPA? What are we calling them now?) and their stunning sours. Half the line up in the taproom is Belgian/sour while the others are a mix of hoppy beers and various American beer styles. I found good stuff to enjoy on both sides of the menu. Let me get this one out of the way: I tried Pliny but it wasn't one of my favorites. I'm not big on IPAs and even less on double IPAs. I can appreciate the hype. It's Simcoe and Columbus on overload and that's an interesting earthy/dank combination. Not my favorite though. I preferred Blind Pig, which is more citrus-forward. Anyway, these were my favorites:

  • Janet's Brown: I know, the recipe is everywhere and it seems like everybody but me has brewed it. Clones continue to win awards because it's an excellent beer. Complex chocolaty malt meets an interesting mix of Northern Brewer's pine/mint and cascade's grapefruit. 
  • Defenestration: A hoppy Belgian blonde. Unmistakable Belgian yeast esters mixed with fruity hops. An interesting fruit salad with a refreshing hop herbalness.
  • Rejection: A Belgian black ale. It's their Valentine's Day beer. Smooth with fruity esters and dark chocolate malt profile. 
  • Sanctification: Sanctification is billed as a 100% brett fermentation beer, although that's not entirely true. It's fermented with brett B, C, L plus 30% of the pitch is their house culture (the funky bunch) that adds more brett plus lacto and pedio. It's citrus and funk with a little sourness. It's the mildest of the sour beers from Russian River but the flavor profile is complex.
  • Consecration: A dark ale soured in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants. It has a sharp acidity and a flavor profile full of spice, chocolate, red wine, currant, funk, tobacco and a hint of leather. 
  • Supplication: The winner of the night, a brown ale soured in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries. The cherries are assertive and rounded out by the fruity Pinot flavor. The caramel malt survives in the background while lots of brett funk fills the void between the two. Delicious stuff.
Here's a few pictures of the barrels and the brewhouse to close out the adventure. Good times at all places. After this trip  I will be stuck at home for a while so I will return to posting about homebrewing. It's good, we are developing too much of a backlog of beer in the house so this will give us some opportunities to drink down the supply.






May 15, 2014

California Alcholiday -- Part 1

My wife and I are packing in some serious alcoholidays this year but we have had some great opportunities come up that we couldn't pass up. Our California trip was centered around The Bruery's anniversary event, Sucreversary. We joined the Reserve Society this year and since we're not sure we'll get back in next year, we wanted to hit it. Sucreversary was a five hour beer fest with unlimited pours of twenty-one Bruery beers plus a stable of other California brewers that brought some tasty beers. It was pricey to get into but the lineup was so incredible it was worth it. Sucreversary was by far the best beer fest I have been to. After rolling through Orange County for the Sucreversary and a post-fest stop at The Bruery, we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Firestone Walker's Barrelworks location, followed by the main Firestone Walker location in Paso Robles and up into San Francisco where we drank at Russian River. We did some touristy things in Los Angeles and San Francisco but let's get into the breweries and talking about beer.

The Bruery/Sucreversary

If you know anything about The Bruery then you probably know that they are best known for making a collection of expensive barrel aged beers that generally center around high gravity styles and sour beer. That mostly explains The Bruery's line up. These beers include a multitude of stouts and barleywines that reach the high teens in alcohol, such as Black Tuesday and Chocolate Rain, and some of the beers are highly sought after on the trading market because they are only released to the Reserve Society or even the invite-only Hoarders Society.

The Bruery tap room

The Bruery is highly regarded by most but like any brewery they have their detractors. There are those who dislike the pricing and sales methods of The Bruery (and they are expensive beers). A growing number of people are bemoaning the occasional infection among the beers. (A recent collaboration with Three Floyds produced two infected beers.) These are legitimate critiques. I would be more than a little offended to spend $30 on a bottle of infected mess. I have been fortunate to have avoided an infected bottle so far but I understand where people are coming from. I have mixed feelings about the rising costs of beer but as homebrewers we at least have that opportunity to brew some of these exotic beers at considerably lower costs so often I buy one bottle and incorporate it as research into my own projects where I can make five gallons of a beer in the general vicinity of the $30 bottle.

Between the beers at Sucreversary and our post-fest debriefing at The Bruery proper, here are the beers that won the most love:

  • Motherfunker: We split a bottle of this rare beer with some friends we made at the beer fest and I was really glad we nabbed this one. It's a sour blonde ale aged in chardonnay barrels. Although I am not much for chardonnay by itself I really enjoy it in sour beers. This beer is intensely sour and the subtle chardonnay character adds a fruity almost sweetness that helps round it out.
  • Pure Oreo Black Tuesday (cask): Black Tuesday is a beast of an imperial stout and one of The Bruery's best known offerings due to its impressive ABV. It is a huge beer with incredible depth of flavor. I had a hard time not loving it on cask but with the addition of oreos in the cask, well, how could you not love it? The cask pour seemed to help mellow to alcohol and the oreos added an interesting cream and chocolate aspect to it.
  • Grey Monday: Grey Monday is Black Tuesday aged on hazelnuts. It's everything Black Tuesday is, which is everything you could shove into a stout, plus the smooth nutty flavor of hazelnut. If they had put this on cask I probably would have loved it even more than the Pure Oreo Black Tuesday.
  • Sour in the Rye with Nectarines: I love Sour in the Rye to begin with. It's a light sour beer mixed with spicy rye. It's two of my favorite things in beer put together. The addition of nectarines gives this beer a peach-like flavor that blends well across the acidity and spicy rye that made it a very smooth sour beer.
  • Griffon Bruxellois: This is a sour brown ale with cherries aged in barrels. The cherry flavor was dominant but not in a sticky, artificial way; it was a big version of the cherry pie funk people aim for with sour beer. This beer contains more roast malt than is usually used in sour browns (which often include little or no roasted malt) so it was short on the caramel notes usually present in this style in favor of toast, toffee and chocolate. 
  • Rum Barrel Aged Mrs. Stoutfire: The base beer is an imperial stout using malt smoked over three types of wood: apple, pecan and white oak. Then it was aged on the same three types of wood. Then this variant was shoved in rum barrels. The beer is about a year old and the smoke had mellowed into the background, creating a beer with an interesting smoky, woody flavor. The rum brought out some molasses and toffee flavors, creating something that overall tasted like a smoked dessert. 
  • Oui Oui/Rueze blend: This doesn't exist as an actual beer, it was just something I convinced one of The Bruery employees to pour for me. Rueze is their gueuze, itself already a blended beer with lots of funk and moderate acidity. Oui Oui is a sour blonde ale with chardonnay grapes and aged in chardonnay barrels. It is strongly acidic with an obvious chardonnay character. The blend together punched up the acidity on Rueze but brought more funk complexity to Oui Oui, creating a beer with a very assertive profile with the chardonnay character in the background adding more fruit into the flavor profile.
In addition to the delicious beers from The Bruery at Sucreversary, there were a few standouts to call out:

  • Monkish Brewing Seme Della Vita: A Belgian tripel with vanilla beans and pistachios. It sounded like a really weird combination but really delicious and unusual. The combination of flavors was similar to an Italian cream cake but without the coconut. It tastes a lot sweeter than it actually is. I'm not sure whether I could kill off multiple pints in one sitting because of the sweetness but it's definitely one I would happily drink again.
  •  Rare Barrel Fields Forever: A flemmish red with strawberries from one of the new "it" brewers from the west coast. The base beer was bright and complex and surprisingly the strawberries were noticeable. Strawberries usually don't fair well in beer without a lot of residual sugar but they managed to capture a gentle but obvious strawberry aroma and flavor.
  • Rare Barrel Egregious: A sour blonde ale dry hopped at least with Amarillo. I only got one sip of the pour we snagged (wife drank it all) so I didn't have a chance to roll through it and figure out what other hops might be in there. I'm a sucker for dry hopped sours but this one deserves mention on this list. The hops come through with a fresh flavor and aroma and are bold enough that they don't get lost among the base beer.
That's a good starting point. I'll pick back up with our Firestone Walker adventures and Russian River in a second part. If you're getting tired of these I apologize. This will be the end of our beer travels for a while and I already have another brew scheduled for Sunday so I'll get back on the brewing posts shortly.

May 8, 2014

Black Samauri Stout Tasting Notes

It's been a while since I broke into some homebrew but I snuck in this beer before heading out to a party where my options are boxed wine and gin. (No, I don't know why I'm going either.) This low ABV stout (recipe here) came in a little low on gravity, resulting in a small 3.1% beer. I gave it a dose of some oak aged with Canadian whiskey and it's been in the bottle for a couple months. I tasted a very raw bottle a couple weeks after I bottled it but decided it needed a little extra time for the carbonation to settle in and some of the oak character to integrate. So this is a review based on the most recent taste.

Appearance: Predictably dark but a little more brown than black. The head is tan but enormous. It has a fluffy lasting head that takes a while for the 12oz. bottle to settle into an imperial pint glass. Produces excellent lacing, so there's that. Head lasts in a thinner form until the bottom of the glass.

Aroma: A predictable mix of roasted coffee, some chocolate but a surprisingly strong but not entirely welcoming grainy-whiskey aroma.

Flavor: The flavor is strongly roast and bitterness. I obviously went overboard on IBUs in this beer because it's too bitter. It's almost oppressive in such a small beer. Some chocolate comes across among the oak and whiskey character. The aftertaste is much better because the bitterness fades and some of the sweetness comes through. The bitterness is accentuating the roast in an unpleasant way. Chocolate comes out more as the beer warms.

Mouthfeel: It's certainly on the thinner side of stouts but it should be at 3.1%. The aftertaste has an interesting heavy feeling on the tongue. It's strange but not offensive.

Overall: I think the beer would have turned out a lot better if I hadn't overshot the volume and ended up with too much beer. It probably needs more flaked barley to make up for the typical thinness of a smaller beer. I could go either way about the oak and whiskey. A little more would have made the flavors more obvious but at the risk of thinning the beer back out. I dunno, it has potential. I probably should have made the first run at the beer without the interference of the oak and whiskey.


Update 6/22/14: Opened a couple more bottles and the beer has actually evolved into a nicer beer. The bitterness and roast has mellowed so the flavor is a little more in line with a dry stout although the biscuit malt is really notable now, which I don't entirely love. Gives it a little of a biscotti kind of flavor. It's not bad just too prominent in the flavor profile. The whiskey has integrated a little better and adds a nice caramel note. The biscuit malt should go and maybe a better whiskey like a blended scotch would be a better fit.

My Oregon Beer Trail -- Part 5

We concluded our trip in Bend, home of Deschutes and a number of other breweries. Bend has long been a hub for vacations due to its proximity to multiple climates. Lots of visitors means lots of drinkers which means plenty of opportunities for breweries. There are currently a dozen breweries in the small town (depending on how you count them). The downtown area is a picturesque blend of new and old multi-use buildings aside the Deschutes River. It's friendly and walkable. The rest of the city looks similar to any other smallish town, minus the mountainous scenery.

Bend has taken advantage of its numerous breweries by promoting the Bend Ale Trail, in which you obtain a brochure (called a passport) and take it around to each of the dozen breweries and get it stamped. Upon completion you take it to the Bend tourist agency and they give you a silicone pint cup that acknowledges your ability to drink at twelve breweries. I had read around the interwebz that many people found the Bend Ale Trail insurmountable. It is a challenge if you attempt to drink a lot of beer at each location. We hit taster trays at most places and split them so we didn't drink too much beer but honestly it's still a lot of beer. One place gave us a taster tray with eleven beers. We managed to knock out the Bend Ale Trail in twenty-five hours which included sleep time, a workout and about three hours at the main Deschutes brewery. We know how to put down some beer.

Many of the breweries in Bend are older breweries that offer a lot of the typical brews: the obligatory IPA, pale ale, yellow beer and dark beer, plus a few seasonal IPAs. Not all of them were great but we didn't come across any terribly flawed beers. Lots of mediocre beers that I only drank because I wanted to declare victory over the Bend Ale Trail. However, there were lots of great beers and interesting locations so on balance it was a great experience. Let's get to it.

10 Barrel Brewing

10 Barrel is one of the ever-popular brewpub with pizza joints. They have a production facility in Bend along with pubs in Bend, Portland (to open this year) and Boise. We visited the Bend pub, which featured excellent food along with an interesting mix of beers that spanned the conventional to more unusual beers. The business has only been around since 2007 but is obviously doing very well. I couldn't tell for sure but it seemed like there wasn't an actual brew house in the pub. (I do know the Portland location opening later this year will have its own system.) Overall we found the beers solid. Some of the beers weren't our preference but they do a good job of balancing new styles/trends with classic beers. A couple really stood out for us:

  • Night Ryed'r: You can probably guess from the name that this is a rye porter. I couldn't find much info about it online so I think this was a one-off batch. A solid porter and not afraid to let the rye shine through.
  • Cucumber Crush: Hands down the best beer we had from 10 Barrel. It is a cucumber infused Berliner weisse. I'm not a huge BW fan but it seems to be a great canvas for interesting flavors. The cucumber brought some fresh earthy flavors and a little sweetness that worked well with the tartness. The overall result was a very refreshing beer with a lemon/cucumber flavor profile. Among the top two or three BWs I've ever had.

Good Life Brewing

Good Life maintains a lengthy list of beer options that focus around hoppy beers and a smaller set of malty options. The flight we ordered had eleven different beers! Good Life had a laidback tap room which made it an inviting place to pour through an extensive set of beers. We killed off all but a few ounces. Definitely a place I'd go back to get some full pours. Here's our favorites:

  • Sweet as!: This beer is labeled a "Pacific Ale" which I expected would be just another way to call a beer an IPA without calling it an IPA, but this beer fit more in the XPA category (which itself is just an older model of IPA...) with fruity AUS/NZ hops. Nice bright flavors and a nice change of pace from the piney/citrus/floral C hops all over Oregon.
  • 29er Brown Ale: There's a lot of bland brown ales out there but this isn't one of them. It's a little bigger than the typical 4% brown ale. There's lots of English malts putting together a nice mix of caramel, chocolate and coffee flavors along with a mix of hops that is noticeable and complimentary. 
  • Belgian IPA: This seemed to be a one off batch but maybe it is part of a seasonal rotation. It's hard to say because I can't find a lot of information about their beers online. The whole Belgian IPA fad may have passed but it's still a good style and a few breweries have done a good job representing why that trend became popular in the first place. Unmistakable Belgian yeast character shines through a complex hop profile.

Cascade Lakes Brewing Co.

Cascade Lakes started in 1994 and you can tell by their line up. Their core line up is the classic standards from the 1990s: porter, IPA, brown ale, blond ale. They also mix in several seasonals and that list is heavy on IPAs as one would expect in the Pacific NW. We visited the lodge location, which looks a lot like a ski lodge. The taster flight came with (I believe) seven beers in six ounce pours so it was a lot of beer. Unfortunately, we didn't really care for the beers. Not awful just very mediocre. I recognize that older breweries have an established customer base who have a preference for the line up as it is and that means the brewery has to stay loyal to those beers that were novel in the 1990s as they established themselves. However, the seasonals are pushing more modern styles but still have that tempered feel. There are just better versions of the same beers around town.

McMenamins 

So McMenamins is a chain business in the pacific northwest with locations that mix lodging, brewing, dining and concert hall together. The Bend location, Old St. Francis School, is a 1930s Catholic schoolhouse turned into a hotel with several on-site bars. I don't believe there is brewing at this location although they serve their own beer. McMenamins did a great job restoring/remodeling the building. They kept a very old feel to it and at very least it's worth seeing it from the inside. I heard a lot of bad things about the beers from people, ranging from bland to severely flawed. I only had one beer here and found it decidedly mediocre. I wasn't willing to roll the dice and pick a flawed beer so I left it at that. Probably not a place I would hunt down again.

Silver Moon Brewing Co.

Silver Moon is a little outside of downtown in the non-touristy part of town. It has the feel of a working class kind of bar in a working class neighborhood. The service was very pleasant and helpful and the beer lineup was predictably hop-forward. Another place where the beers were average but not the best example of the styles around town.

Old Mill Brew Werks

Old Mill Brew Werks appears to be a newer brewery in Bend but by looking at the beers in the standard line up I'd guess they opened doors around 2010. They need a lot of work. The beers were barely drinkable. Flawed and boring.

Worthy Brewing

Worthy Brewing has an interesting business model. They are owned by the people who run Indie Hops and they have designed Worthy's location to be one part environmentally friendly brewery and one part a place to experiment on hops, with the eventual goal to develop proprietary hop strains for their beers. It's smart because the brewery gives the hop farming a natural audience to test new strains. The picture to the right is some of the hops being grown on site. It's definitely a developed business strategy.

The problem, however, is that the beers don't reach the same high level as the brewery's planning. We hit the tasting tray and found a lot of the beers really boring and some slight fermentation flaws showed up among the line up. The have a huge portfolio of beers they brew between their regular brew house and their pilot system. They would definitely benefit by scaling back the portfolio and improving the quality of a smaller number of beers.

Bend Brewing Co.

Bend Brewing is another lodge-like brewpub that is one part restaurant, one part sports bar and one part a really nice way to enjoy a beer while enjoying the view of Mirror Pond. Bend Brewing has good food and decent beer. Their line up, like so many others, features a typical core portfolio plus a rotating seasonal line up that is hop-forward. That I found unusual was that the regular line up features an old ale, which was pretty decent. One beer really stood out so let's get to it:

  • Ching Ching Berliner Weisse: This beer is a pomegranate hibiscus berliner weisse. A radiant pink color with an inviting fruity aroma. The clean sourness makes the subtle flower and cherry-berry pomegranate flavors pop. It's a good job of getting fruit into a BW without turning it too sour or too sweet. On the other hand, I think the name and logo are racist.

Boneyard Brewing Co.

Boneyard is located in what looks like Bend's roughest neighborhood (which really isn't saying that much) but they have a rough around the collar attitude so maybe that was intentional. Boneyard doesn't do a tap room although they should. Instead, the customer area is a small space with beer to go but you can get 2oz. tasters of each beer. You can get very reasonably priced growler fills but I could have gone for a couple pints. Boneyard is doing interesting things, both with their regular line up and their limited runs. Boneyard is well regarded for good reason. A couple of the beers we got stood out:

  • Black 13 Black Ale: Can we agree that a "black ale" is just a stout with less body? We have come to think of stouts as roasty and thick bodied and porters as thinner and more chocolaty (let's save the legitimacy of a distinction for another discussion) so it feels like "black ale" is just a way to market a beer that is somewhere in between without offending the expectations of consumers. This rendition was interesting. It had some sweet notes to it, like a milk stout, but it was really smooth like a schwarzbier. This is one of the few renditions of a black ale that really felt like a crossover beer that didn't quite fit into any particular style for style's sake. This is what more black ales should try to be.
  • Diable Rojo Fuego: This is an imperial red ale with habanero. Habanero is a tricky chile because it has great fruity flavor but it is intensely spicy. I've only had a few beers with habanero and most of them have been entirely too spicy. Lots of people review this beer as being overwhelming in the heat but I didn't find that to be the case. Instead the beer brings some sweetness and alcohol to help temper the heat. It's definitely there but you can enjoy the bready beer flavor and the fruity habanero flavor along with a jolt of spicy heat. The heat is present enough that I probably wouldn't drink more than one at a time but not to intense that I couldn't easily polish off a pint. It's a good balance with a pepper that could easily make the beer undrinkable. 

 Crux Fermentation Project

Crux is a unique little brewery born out of the mind of a former Deschutes brewer. The brewery is located in a tricky area to find but with a great view of the mountains.  The tap room features an excellent kitchen to go along with great beers. The tap room is surrounded by barrels and the brew house with easy access to view the slumbering beer and the active brewing system. Their beer portfolio includes Belgian styles, German styles and unsuprisingly a few hoppy beers. All good stuff going down but I had to pick out a few favorites so here you go:

  • Hefeweissen: A really solid version of a hefe. It's big on the banana, rather than the clove. I like a hefe with a big banana kick so this was right up my alley. Not everybody loves the nanner as much as I do (including my wife) but you can't have all hefes tasting identical.
  • Freakcake Oud Bruin: Freakcake is brewed along the lines of a flemish red but features some different specialty malts. It's also heavy on the brett and low on the acidity which made for an interesting take on oud bruin, which usually are the other way around, and produced a pleasantly complex flavor profile with a tartness that helped add contour and definition to the flavors.
  • Banished Tough Love: Tough Love is Crux's imperial stout and the Banished version is aged in bourbon barrels. It's everything you expect in a bourbon barrel aged stout but with some unique vanilla and cherry flavors. Tough Love includes some rye and oak-smoked wheat malt and that adds some unique character to a style that seems everywhere these days.

Deschutes Brewery (Production Facility)

Thanks to my wife's professional relationship with the Deschutes folks we were treated to a long and up close tour of the production facility in Bend. The new brew house they have build is incredible. The whole system is huge, as you would expect for a brewery of its size, and incredibly industrial. In a good way, if that makes sense. The brewers still seemed like they had an intimate understanding of the brew they were working on and although the system was being controlled by computers they seemed just as connected as interested in their work as I am on my crappy home system. The new fermentation space is really cool. The fermentors are sunk into the floor on the second level so all the controls on the bottom of the fermentors are accessible without having to climb under equipment. Probably the coolest piece of equipment is a sink. Yes, really. Every fermentor feeds into the sink and they can hook up a nozzle to each output to test for gravity and clarity, play around with blends and even transfer beers across one fermentor to the other (although it would seem incredibly slow given how narrow the lines are into the sink). The production facility offers free tours and it's a good opportunity to see a well run brewery on a bigger scale than the 7-30 BBL systems at most start ups. They also give free samples and it's not just their regular beers. They had Mirror Mirror and some other gems available. Worth peeking in for the 45 minute tour.

Deschutes, like Sierra Nevada, has a real commitment to whole cone hops. When they use pellets, which they do rarely when whole cones aren't available, they only use T45 pellets which are made using a process that avoids the amount of heat generated in producing the T90 pellets, what we usually find as homebrewers, which is important because as you know heat degrades the oils we need for that delicious hop flavor and aroma. They insist that the use of whole cone hops and T45 pellets are crucial to the production of their hoppy beers like the deservedly vaunted Red Chair and Fresh Squeezed IPA. Something to think about if you're shooting for a clone.

As an aside here, even if you're not a Deschutes fan you should check out their website and scan through the pages. They keep some basic recipes for their beers on the website plus a lot of excellent recipes using beer (obviously theirs). They are particularly generous with the food recipes. I am waiting for the day the Portland pub releases the recipe for their amazing Fresh Squeezed Thai wings. Best wings ever.

Just a few beers worth pointing out here:

  • Armory XPA: I'm still a believer that XPA is really just the old school IPA rehashed but it's more up my alley than a tongue-scraping DIPA. Armory is probably my favorite by far. Light in body and moderate bitterness so the classic American hops shine through with a little new character from Citra.
  • Mirror Mirror: A barleywine aged in a combination of red wine barrels. The red wine character comes through nicely but it's well integrated. It's a nice change of pace from the typical bourbon barrel aging. It's on the short list for my favorite barleywine. It's very complex and surprisingly smooth. 
  • Big Red: Big Red is a pub exclusive; it's an imperialized version of Cinder Cone Red then aged in red wine barrels. You wouldn't think the red wine character would play well with all the hops but there's enough crystal malt character to help create a integrated malt-wine flavor and the wine actually works really well with the combination of fruity and grassy hops. You would be surprised how well red wine works with hops. It works really well here.

Deschutes Brewery Bend Pub

Yeah, more Deschutes. The Bend Pub is the original Deschutes location but they have expanded it out to accommodate more brewing and more seating. The pubs are given decent latitude to brew their own beers and venture outside of the core lineup but the Bend location seems far more out there than the Portland pub. They had stuff I had no idea Deschutes even had an interest in brewing. It's good for the company because letting the pubs develop their own identities encourages people to visit multiple locations and it allows the company to basically develop three different brewing ideologies, which means more variation among the distributed beers. Here's a few standouts for me:

  • Trees of Doom: Ok, here's an interesting beer. It's a dunkel lager dry hopped with strisselspalt and served on cask. It could have easily passed as a very clean English mild dry hopped and served on cask. The big difference was the absence of a little yeast character but it had the light crystal character similar to a darker English mild and earthy hops that aren't quite the same as English hops but strisselspalt is a mild hop with a grassy hop character not far from EKG. I first ordered it because I'll hit anything on cask and then I was surprised when I read what I had ordered. An excellent beer on its own but bonus points for an interesting idea.
  • Lil Blitzen XPA: This XPA features an experimental hop, I don't know which one, but it was fruity and piney like a mix of Chinook and several of the newer fruity hops. Whatever it is, it's a hop that should be made available to everybody. It's delicious. 
  • Black Butte Porter with Belgian yeast: I know, the whole Belgian stout thing came and went but I still like it. Usually Belgian stouts are low on the roast so it doesn't conflict with the phenols from the yeast but this beer was left with its big roast note and the yeast still worked really well. The roast downplayed the phenols but made way for the esters. 
  • Onder de Trapp Abbeyweisse: I have no idea what the heck that name means but it is a sour Belgian dark strong ale. Very similar to a flemish red but with a lot more fruit character and less caramel. It was stunningly sour and really made me want to explore brewing this style. I know a lot of people rave about the sour BDSAs out there and I can see why. This is my first chance to put one down (ok I put down more than one) and I was glad I did.
Sadly, that's all the brewery experiences I had. I wish I had time to wrangle some brewers into technical conversations but we had so much to hit that we had limited time at each place, except for Deschutes where we spent quite a bit of time. I have some interested tidbits from Deschutes but I don't want to share them just yet because they relate to projects that may never come to fruition and I would hate to cause grief for people who were so generous with us.

We heard whispers in Portland of a place outside of Bend called Ale Apothecary and those whispers turned into thunderous insistence that we find their beers. Even the people at Deschutes couldn't shut up about how interesting and unique the beers are. It didn't surprise me too much when I discovered Ale Apothecary is owned by yet another former Deschutes brewer. Ale Apothecary has some really interesting sour beers but they don't do regular tours so we didn't have a chance to get out there. We did track down a couple bottles in Bend and enjoyed drinking them. They were incredibly expensive (think Bruery prices) but honestly some of the most interesting beers I've had and quality-wise worth the price in my opinion.

I am mystified by their explanation of their brewing process. As I understand it, they open ferment with a house culture of wild yeast (including brett) in barrels for an extended period of time and often dry hop for a month right in the barrel. I am not sure whether I understand that the beers are open fermented and then transferred to closed barrels or spend their lives in open-topped barrels. The beer, which may or may not be hopped, is then blended with beer fermented only by lactobacillus to generate sourness. The is bottled still but primed with various sugars. I'm surprised they get the level of complexity they do out of blending but these beers are crazy complex. We tried two.

Sahati is one of the greatest beer stories ever. They took a two hundred year old spruce tree and turned the trunk into a lauter tun. They use branches as a filter. The mash gets dumped in and the needles on the branches act like a filter. The heat from the mash extracts oils from the spruce tips and needles, resulting in a spruce character in the beer. It's sour and full of crazy yeast flavors. When cold there is a subtle spruce character. As it warms the spruce becomes more evident and a slight oiliness develops. I liked it right around what I guess was 55-60F where the spruce became a little more noticeable but the oiliness hadn't shown up.

The other beer we tried was El Cuatro. This is a bizarre beer. It's brewed with no hops at all and run through their typical mixed fermentation process in brandy barrels. One of the two beers we tried was bottled with some unique sugar and I seem to think it was this one. The website says the beer is cut with another one of their beers that is hopped (sahalie) at bottling but by digging a little deeper I found the most recent batch wasn't blended with another beer. It has zero hops in it. Surprisingly, we did not die. There is an obvious plum character from the brandy but an avalanche of fruit notes are present as well. It isn't a fruit bomb in the same way as a Belgian beer or even a fruity IPA. It's sour and the fruit is cut by a lot of earthy/leathery/funky yeast character. One of the best beers I've ever had.

Ok folks, that's Oregon. I'm actually heading to California to drink in thirteen hours so I'll have some new drinking adventures to share shortly. Then it's back to brewing.

May 5, 2014

My Oregon Beer Trail -- Part 4

In the middle of our time in Portland we took a detour out I-84 to visit Hood River because people in Portland couldn't shut up about how great it was out there. It's a pretty awesome drive. You have the Colombia River on your left and the mountain range beginning on the right. There's Multnomah Falls not far out from Portland. Best of all, while we were driving out a bald eagle came off the river and flew right over our car. I stuck my hand out and it gave me a high five, which was awesome. (Ok, no high five occurred but the eagle really did fly over the car.)

Hood River itself is a really nice place. It's a small town on the banks of the Colombia River at the juncture of the Colombia and Hood rivers. It has that small tourist town feel to it but it's a lot smaller than Bend, which is a more common vacation spot. (It's not far from The Dalles, which I only know from being the place in Oregon Trail before you float the Colombia River to get the Williamette Valley. We had a lot of fun making Oregon Trail references in Hood River.) Most notably for us beer folk, Hood River is the home to Full Sail, which has a large brewery on the edge of downtown facing the highway and river and another operation on the other side of the highway where the city is expanding closer to the river. There are other brewpubs in town along with some smaller breweries not far from the town but deeper into the state. We mixed it up, hitting a few spots in Hood River and a couple really impressive places outside of town.

Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom

Double Mountain is one of the smaller breweries in the downtown area. They are actually right across the street from Full Sail, which doesn't seem to bother either brewery. Double Mountain has that classic craft brewery beer line up with several hoppy options (it wouldn't be Oregon without it) mixed with the usual mix of American light and dark beers. There are rotating taps that include some Belgian beers as well. Although the line up was admittedly dated, I am not one to disparage a brewery for putting out good beer in simple styles. They have put together a solid lineup and given the amount of business they were doing on a Thursday afternoon they have no reason to deviate. They do the occasional hype beer, such as a sour or a bourbon barrel aged beer, but they have carved out a niche that is working for them and they are doing a good job filling it.

The pizza was tasty and worth stopping for but you should stop by for the beer, too. Here are the beers that stood out for me:

  • Cluster dry hopped pale ale on cask: I can't avoid a good cask beer and they were kind enough to do a cask pour for a taster flight. I believe this may be a cask variant of their standard pale ale but I don't recall for sure. The underlying beer was pleasant and what one expects from a pale ale with a little more grainy character. The most interesting part was the cluster dry hopping. It's rare to see cluster used in a predominant fashion these days. It's sort of a throwback hop that isn't used much anymore but used to be grown a lot for bittering the big industrial light lagers like Budweiser. It has an interesting mix of Fuggles-like earthy character, American hop citrus and hints of tropical fruit. I don't know that I loved it enough to want to make it shine so much in a beer I would brew but it was interesting to get a taste of a hop that was as commonplace in American brewing in the past as cascade is today. 
  • Sinister 7 bourbon barrel aged brown ale: Stouts and porters (whatever the difference) are common subjects of bourbon barrel aging but brown ales deserve their place in bourbon barrels, especially when done right. This beer is an excellent example of how to bourbon barrel age a brown ale. It's a bigger brown ale (10.8%) so it's really somewhere in between a porter and a barleywine more than the usual under 5% ABV brown ale. However, without the overload of specialty malts and adjuncts the beer beer is a little easier to drink while retaining some body and plenty of bourbon-fueled complexity.
  • Carrie Ladd Steam Porter: I am real hit or miss on the whole steam beer/california common style. This was my first experience with a steam porter and I really enjoyed it. It's a robust porter fermented warm(ish) with a czech lager yeast. It's a good base beer with nice chocolate and roast undertones but the unusual fermentation produces a unique layer of bready notes and an unmistakable cherry flavor that was the real star of the beer. It's the kind of cherry flavor people are desperate to find in their flemish reds and other brett-fueled fermentation. I wonder what this beer would be like soured. Probably pretty good. 

Pfriem Family Brewers

pFriem (the P is silent) is located on the opposite side of the highway from downtown in a newer development near the Colombia River. Pfriem has a nice, modern facility (and it is very new) that focuses primarily on Belgian styles plus the obligatory IPA. There's also a very solid food menu that honestly outshines the beer. Overall, the beers were well-produced and absent obvious flaws but there just wasn't anything memorable about them. They were sort of like kit versions of Belgian styles but brewed really well. Nothing wrong technically with the beers but just generic versions of the styles that feel like bland attempts to clone iconic Belgian beers. What we disliked most about pFriem was the pricing. Growler fills, although we didn't get any, were 2-3 times what fills of comparable beers are elsewhere.

There were a few beers that stood out that I would be happy to enjoy again, especially with some of their food:

  • Belgian Strong Blonde: A Duvel-like beer with less hop character and more clove character.
  • Belgian Stout: Belgian stouts were en vogue a few years back during the throw-belgian-yeast-in-everything fad but it's actually a style I really enjoy when done right. This is probably where pFriem deviates most in its Belgian lineup from feeling like a set of clone beers. Nice mix of fruit and chocolate.
  • Hoppyweizen: Not the best hoppy hefeweizen I've ever had but a good rendition of a beer style rarely seen. It's a style that has to be extremely fresh to keep the weizen character robust and the hops lively and aromatic. This rendition captured the freshness and created a nice profile that allowed both the yeast and hop character to shine equally.

Logsdon Brewing

Logsdon is tucked away a few miles south of Hood River in a little barn. Yes, the whole brewery fits in the barn. Well, actually that's not entirely true. They dug out a cave off to the right where they are aging some barrels. But everything else is in this building. To get out here, you drive down some country roads and it's easily missed unless you know to look for the red barn. GPS will tell you that you have reached your destination but there is no sign. Just awesome scenery. Unfortunately there's no tap room where you can sit and drink. They will give you samples of all the beers they have on hand but it is primarily a sales location rather than a bar. They don't encourage you to leave but they don't keep giving you beer so don't plan on spending your day out here. However, everybody is very friendly and happy to talk about what they are doing.

Logsdon is a partnership named after Dave Logsdon. Logsdon (the feller) owns the property where the brewery resides. He's also a former partner and initial brewer at Full Sail. After he left Full Sail he opened Wyeast Labs in the right side of the barn. The original yeast lab is used in the brewery. Hard to imagine a yeast lab had its origins in a barn. They have turned the barn into a small brewery. The brewing space is a fairly tight fit but they are doing good things with it.

For those of us who don't have access to Logsdon beers, these guys are making a small run of various Belgian beers ranging from clean to funky to sour. The flagship beer is Seizoen, the most tortuous spelling of saison to spell. All of the beers are pretty damn good and each beer deserves a spot on this list but here's what we loved most:

  • Seizoen: The flagship beer is a damn good saison. It's made with four different yeast strains along the same vein as Saison Vieille from Dupont. It's also bottle conditioned with pear juice. There's an incredibly complex fruit profile going on. Lots of other flavors on the edges. Floral, bready, phenolic, etc. Everything you would expect from a saison jammed into one saison and well balanced.
  • Seizoen Bretta: Seizoen gets a brett strain that adds a crisp dryness and an added layer of funk. The fruit is subdued by the brett funk which adds more complexity on top of more complexity. I actually slightly liked the non-brett version a little more but I enjoyed this one a lot as well.
  • Straffe Drieling Tripel: This is the newest beer going into the lineup and deserves a spot among these other great beers. Again a lot of yeast complexity shows up. It's not as complex as the seizoen but has enough complexity from the yeast and hops to make other tripels seem boring and bland. Heck, it's making many saisons seem bland. 
  • Cerasus: This flemish red is soured and then dosed with two pounds per gallon of cherries, using a blend of sweet and tart cherries. It's obviously huge on the cherries but the brett funk and transformed malt character is still readily apparent. The best thing about this beer is how fresh the cherry flavor was in the beer. Often sour beers end up showing up with a aged fruit character but this one was bright and vibrant. 

Solera Brewery

If any brewery accurately captures the idea of "saison" it's Solera. Solera is located a little deeper south from Logsdon in Parkdale, a small community surrounded by apple orchards. The people drinking in this small brewery are working class and many clearly work among the farms/orchards in the area. The people sitting around drinking sour saisons had come right out of the field for a drink after work. I'm not one to romanticize beer but it was hard not to in that moment.

Solera was recommended pretty much everywhere we went. Even the Icelandic feller at Logsdon recommended it.  We were told the beers would be great but it's also worth going just to sit on the patio and drink here. Yeah, you can see why. The below picture came from the patio. That's Mount Hood up in your face and apple orchards below.


Solera is not a large operation. It's basically just a brewpub. It isn't fancy but it doesn't have to be. Aside from the tourists, it's serving good beer to local people. The view on the patio makes up for the unimpressive interior. The brew house is a small space. It's not quite the tiny space that makes up Trinity Brewing's brew house but it isn't much bigger. The picture to the right is a shot into the brew house.

Solera does lots of farmhouse beers and puts out a regular line of sour beer. I found it surprising that these exotic beers sold so well in a community that you would guess would be dominated by Coors or Budweiser. I guess that just goes to show how established the craft beer industry is in this state. The beers are as good as the scenery and here's a few that placed at the top of our list:

  • Long Division: Long Division is a sour farmhouse ale with a prominent honey note. It could be passed off as a mix of sour beer and mead (with a small amount of mead) but it was straight beer. Maybe there is some honey in the beer itself but that honey note actually can be coaxed out of a sour beer with the right kind of blending of young and old sour beer. Maybe it's just some honey malt.
  • Half Naked: Another sour farrmhouse ale. This one is brewed with no hops so it's really open to whatever got into the wort. As a result, it was very earthy rather than boldly sour as Long Division. My guess here is that there is a lot of incidental fermentation from enteric bacteria and other bacteria usually held at bay by hops and the flavor contributions from those bacteria were chewed up by brett into earthy flavor.
  • Good Smoke: A smoked imperial porter with a nice integration of smoke into the porter. It was a deliciously chocolaty porter and the smoke was well-balanced and created a nice smoky chocolate flavor. 
Whew, ok. That's the end of Hood River but I still have all of Bend to hit. And we hit all of Bend. I am going to try very hard to get the rest of this trip posted by Wednesday because Thursday I leave for California for more drinking and surely I am going to forget some more details from Oregon if I don't get it locked down beforehand. (We're heading out for The Bruery's Sucreversary and then driving up to Firestone Walker's Bottleworks and regular facilities and then on to Russian River.)