April 30, 2014

My Oregon Beer Trail -- Part 3

Part 2 of this trail was day one in Portland. We took a day to go out to Hood River and then returned to drinking in Portland before a brief non-drinking detour to Seattle before heading to Bend. I'll post on Hood River separately just to keep the Portland stuff together. So more Portland we go...

Breakside Brewery

Breakside is a small brewery with a brewpub location in north Portland. Their lineup is a mix of classic craft styles mixed up with both straight forward, classic presentations and some unique takes on the styles with various inclusions. The beers are solid, prototypical examples of classic American craft styles. They were good beers and beers I would be happy to hang out and drink but not necessarily the beers I was trying to hunt down or spend time discussing here. The food was delicious and there were a few of the beers that stood out and I found worth mentioning:

  • Gooseberry wheat: A simple American wheat with gooseberries, just like you think it would be. Nicely tart with clean fruit flavor. We don't get gooseberry in Texas so maybe I liked it an extra helping because it was a new flavor for me. Interesting mix of grape, apricot and fig. Nicely placed in this beer.
  • Wanderlust IPA: This was a well constructed IPA with huge grapefruit notes. It includes five hop varieties but the cascade-like grapefruit punch really dominated the hop profile. It was like a big brother for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
  • Ice Smoked Doppelbock: This was a smoked doppelbock freeze concentrated down to a stronger beer. It was full of malty complexity and a balanced amount of smoke that was present but not overwhelming. They did a good job of freeze concentrating an already big beer without making the alcohol too present. It drank way, way too easy. 

Upright Brewery

Upright was a must-see brewery for me because I was crossing off every saison and sour brewer I could find and I had heard good things about Upright. The brewery is located in the basement of a mixed use building near where the Trailblazers play and I strongly got the impression that the brewers decided to fit themselves in a small area with little room to expand specifically to capture that foot traffic. The taproom is sort of clunky and there's not a lot of seating. You're just sort of thrust in the brew house if you can't fit in the small taproom section. There's no bar. It's just some guy standing in the corner with taps sticking out of the wall. It's ok, I don't need glamor, just good beer. It was just a strange place. The picture below is the brew house but off to the left is some seating.

Upright focuses on farmhouse style beers but also produces a set of other beers that include an IPA and a few German beers. I found the combination of farmhouse ales and German beers (both lager and ale) a very common combination in Portland. I'm not sure what drives the desire to put those two together but it seemed to work well. At any rate, I wasn't nearly as impressed by these beers as I had expected. Some were pretty good but others seemed rough around the edges. Anyway, there were some beers we liked so let's get to those:

  • Four: Four is a wheat-heavy saison. It's sour mashed, so there's some tartness to it but it doesn't reach the level of a bracing acidity of a sour beer. Lots of noble hop character going on with it as well. 
  • Seven: Seven was somewhere between a tripel and a saison, with the more refined and clean fruit character of a tripel although it's still saison yeast driving the beer. The hops are more restrained but not completely subdued.
  • Four Play: Four Play is Four soured in Pinot barrels with cherries. A really great beer. The base beer was lost among the sour, funk and cherries but what was revived from the barrels was everything I was looking forward to from Upright. Great fresh fruit flavor going on. 
  • White Truffle Gose: Probably the best gose I've had. It's a saison yeast fermented gose with a bunch of white truffle dropped in. The salty character mixed really well with the earthy truffle flavors. The truffle was a very mild flavor so I'm not sure these guys got their money's worth out of them but the end product was very good. I often find gose a little flabby from the excessive salt (which promotes maltiness, sometimes too far) but that problem didn't arise here. Good stuff.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Hopworks wasn't on our list of places to visit but we drove past it to get to Breakside and I had heard some good things so we decided to stop in. They have a couple locations: the main brewpub on the east side of town and the second BikeBar on the north side (where we went). Hopworks focuses on producing beer "as sustainably as possible" including the use of local and organic ingredients. Hopworks, which also markets itself as H.U.B., has an extensive lineup of beer and like many local brewers there were plenty of hoppy beers on the list. Hopworks receives fairly strong reviews on the beer rating sites but IMO the beers were mostly average to slightly above average. I guess they just weren't my cup of tea. Not necessarily bad beers but in a city full of brewers pumping out IPAs and variants of IPAs they didn't stand out. I would rather see them pair back the selection and focus on improving the quality of the beer. I didn't find flaws in the beers they just tasted like beers a few iterations short of a polished recipe. All that said, we were impressed by one of the beers:

  • Survival Stout: More an american stout by style, this stout features seven grains (barley, wheat, oats, amaranth, quinoa, spelt and kamut) plus coffee. It has a nice depth of flavor both from the coffee and the grains. What I found most impressive about this beer was the balanced approach to using some of these more obscure grains. Often when I find beers with those types of grain the recipe tends to push forward the unusual character of the grains to the point that it sticks out in an unpleasant way. Here the unique profiles of the amaranth, quinoa, spelt and kamut were restrained and well-integrated into the beer. Interesting but still easily drinkable.

The Commons Brewery

The Commons was another brewery we were on the hunt to find because it fit our saison-and-sour focus.The Commons Brewery is located just east of downtown across the river in what looks to be one of those warehouses-turned-mixed-commercial-use buildings. The set up was somewhat similar to Upright with a small bar, a smattering of seating and open access to the brew house in that same sort of open concept space. However, unlike Upright, it was more spacious with a larger bar.

The Commons Brewery primarily focuses on Belgian farmhouse ales and German beers, which is a strange blend for a line up. On one hand, the farmhouse beers have an anything goes attitude while German beers are considered highly precise and focused. We were told by our excellent bartender that the brewer has experience brewing German styles but wanted to branch out into the farmhouse styles. Various other styles, mostly English, also appear among the taps. I found it impressive that the brewery did such a good job producing technical German beers and turn around and pull out farmhouse beers with a lot of rustic character. We actually found this combination of Belgian and German beers fairly common around Portland. I'm not sure of the actual motivation across all of the breweries but it had the feel like the Belgian beers were the crazy side of the lineup while the German side played the safe card without being the nth brewery to dump out blonde and brown ales to satiate those disinterested in weird beers. So although it is a strange mix, it certainly wasn't unusual for the local scene.

We enjoyed the mix of beer and were overall very impressed by the line up. We were quickly won over by the saison but found the rest of the beers kept standards high. Overall, the beers were not the most exotic but did an excellent job of generating complex flavor profiles while keeping the beers drinkable. I found it refreshing that the beers were not overly hoppy to satisfy the local celebrity of American hops. Instead, restrained noble hop profiles carried through and it was a refreshing change from the vats of C hops I was drinking everywhere else (not that it was a bad thing). Here were our favorites from among the beers we tasted:

  • Urban Farmhouse Ale: A straightforward saison with a gentle hop profile and lots of yeast character heavy on the phenolics rather than a fruit bomb. This is the flagship beer for good reason. It is easy to drink at 5.3% without the bold flavors often crammed into saisons (something I am often guilty of) but enough complexity to make it worth slowly enjoying. 
  • Biere Royale: A one off for the taproom, this beer is a blonde sour with black currants. Currants are known to play well in sour beer and this one was no exception. Punchy sourness and a hint of funk helped round out the earthy currant flavor. Fruit character was present but not overwhelming. Like the other beers, well balanced.
  • Putin Riot: An excellent example of a baltic porter. This was the hoppy option on the tap wall, which isn't saying too much in the pacific northwest with its noble hop profile and deep malty character. It's an excellent baltic porter, easily among the best I've come across. The hops were fresh and complimentary to the dark malt flavors. There aren't many breweries producing great baltic porters so it's nice to find one when you can.
  • Flemish Kiss: A brett-spiked belgian pale ale heavy on the brett. The brewery's website claims the beer begins life as an american pale ale rather than a belgian pale ale that develops a flavor akin of Orval and other bretted pale ales after five weeks of aging. What I liked most about this beer is how well integrated the brett character was after so little aging. The funky brett character was similar to what you often see in brett beers after a year or more of aging with a smoother funk and less of the more offputting brett notes like wet dog or mouse taint. 
Ok, that's the end of Portland. We hit a very small number of breweries but we had a long road of drinking ahead of us and you can only hit so many places. Portland traffic is pretty bad so that played a role in how many places we could hit. We wanted to drive out to De Garde and Block 15 along with several other Portland breweries and bars but we just didn't have the time. We'll certainly be back, so there's plenty of time to visit more. On this trip we also hit Bend and Hood River, so there's at least a couple more posts on this trip to write. I have a busy work schedule early next week and I'm in California for more brewery visits the latter half of next week and most of the following week so I need to try to knock out posting the rest of this journey this week. 

April 23, 2014

My Oregon Beer Trail -- Part 2

My wife and I first hit Portland on our Oregon alcoholiday. It was the easiest airport to hit and an easy place to start drinking. The flight in was incredible. We came in over the Columbia River with massive snow capped mountains, such as Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens, on either side. Outside of the large number of breweries in Portland, the city is probably most known for its eclectic and liberal identity. In addition to the enormous number of breweries, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Portland. There's great food (we enjoyed excellent meals at Andina and South Park as well as great brewpub food at Deschutes) and we took a nice hike in the forest park on the north side of town. We hit Voodoo Doughnuts, which were good donuts but maybe not so fascinating that I would have stood in line for more than the twenty minutes it took us to get through the line on a Friday morning. They flavor combinations are interesting and although the lemon chiffon crueller was among the best donuts I've ever had, I wouldn't stand in the hour plus lines on the weekend to get them.

Ok, enough non-beer ramble. Let's get into talking about beer. With so many breweries to choose from but limited time, we decided to focus on enjoying the places we wanted to go the most rather than trying to go for breadth. We breweries we chose to hit were primarily sour and saison based but we made our way around to a few other places. Overall we were pretty happy with the beers we enjoyed and I would happily go back for more.

I drank an enormous amount of beer on this trip and rather than discuss each beer, I'll just highlight my favorites. I only had time for one tour but I picked up a few odds and ends so I'll try to share what little brewing knowledge I picked up along with discussing the breweries and their beers.

Deschutes Portland Public House

Deschutes maintains a spacious brewpub in the upscale Pearl District in Portland, which both sells beers imported from the main Bend production facility as well as brews several of its own beers. Deschutes allows each of its pub locations (the other is in Bend and we'll get to both Bend locations later) to experiment and sell its own beers that are developed outside of the main Deschutes line of beers. The food is excellent and worth the visit even if you aren't a huge Deschutes fan. (The Thai Wings made with Fresh Squeezed IPA are alone worth the visit.) Thanks to our friendly connection at Deschutes we were allowed into the brew house to chat with the brewer. They brew on a brewhaus system modified to include a hop rocket in a tightly fit brewhouse. I found it surprising that even with a brewhouse the same size as many production craft breweries they had to bring in beer from Bend to supplement their production of the main lineup but that is just a testimony to how much business they do out of that brewpub. We were told they sold 56,000 taster trays last year. Crazy.

Here's a picture of the brew house. It's not the smallest brew house I've seen (Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs is basically a closet) but it's probably the smallest brew house I've seen pumping out as much beer.

So here's a few beers I picked as my favorites from the Portland pub:

  • Fresh Squeezed IPA on cask: Fresh Squeezed is probably my favorite IPA (and I have so few I really enjoy) but putting it on cask kicked it up a notch. I always prefer IPA by cask because the warm temperature and gentle carbonation helps subdue the bitterness and brings out the hop flavor in a more rounded profile. Here the cask made the blueberry and peach notes really stand out. You're really getting your money's worth out of the mosaic and citra hops that way.
  • Mirror Mirror: It's hard not to put a barrel aged barleywine on a list of favorites but it deserves its place. It's deep and complex without being bowled over by the barrel character, which is present but subdued, exactly the way I like my barrel flavor in a barleywine. 
  • Double D imperial spelt ale: This is a weizenbock made with spelt in place of the wheat. It was a really interesting beer. It had all the familiar characteristics of a weizenbock but with that nutty, creamy flavor of spelt rather than the tart and bready character of regular old wheat malt.
A couple other beers that weren't favorites but worth mentioning:
  • Experimental Pale Ale: This one off beer was made with one of the experimental hop varieties with very accurate description of mint, tea and grape. I had mixed feelings about the beer. I liked it on some sips and hated it on others. It was a really interesting hop character just not one I really think of as a pale ale profile. Maybe something better suited for a quirky saison or matched up with noble or english hop varieties. I know I have read the description for this experimental hop somewhere but I wasn't able to track it back down to label it here. If you know which variety this is, please add it in the comments below.
  • Unnamed imperial red ale/india red ale/whatever we are calling them now: When we were given a brief tour of the brewing facility the brewer was kind enough to offer us samples of this beer he had just created and was still clearing out. It was his first attempt at brewing a beer with the hopbursting method and in spite of the yeasty character of the unpolished beer it had a really pleasant hop flavor. I hope that beer gets some time on the taps. It will be excellent once it's clear and carbonated.

 Hair of the Dog

After brewing an adambier of my own and having long desired trying HOTD's Adam. HOTD has been around since the 1990s and has cemented its identity as a cornerstone of Portland's beer identity. However, I was really surprised by how many people told us (after we told them we had visited) that HOTD is largely overrated. I have to say, I kind of agree. They were really out there in the mid-90s but today most of their beers are well within the scope of the average brewery's line up. All that said, I think it's still worth a visit to try out Adam and some of the variants on their beers. I am less negative about their beers than others (my wife included) although the hype exceeds quality. I thought several of the beers were better than average but not the stunning beers I thought I was getting.

Adam is an interesting beer and I can see how they built a reputation out of it. I didn't particularly love it because it's heavy on the peat malt and I just don't love that iodine character in my beer or my scotch. There's a lot of malt complexity going on behind it but it wasn't worth getting through the iodine to find it.

On the other hand, we also had Adam aged three years in barrels and that is a very different story. The iodine character is lost to a subtle smoky remnant and all that malt complexity comes shining through, along with some barrel character. It easily stacks up against some of the best barrel aged barleywines out there with pleasant smoothness in spite of the 10% ABV but an avalanche of flavors to explore. I would go back to HOTD for the barrel aged Adam but I'd probably pass on everything else.

The other most well-known of their beers is Fred, a Belgian golden strong ale. I liked it but wife hated it. It had a nice yeast profile but it was on the cloying side of the style. Not among the best I've tried but I would drink it again if offered.

So in summary, worth the visit if you are really after the adambier and you have appropriate expectations.

Cascade Brewing/Cascade Barrel House

You bet your ass I'm not going to overlook the big sour brewer in Portland. We hit the barrel room on the north side of town, which features sour beers, over the taproom on the south side of Portland that features their non-sour line up. They do some pretty interesting stuff at the barrel room, with plenty of sour beer on tap along with a few non-sour options. The craziest thing is Tap It Tuesday, where they allow two lucky patrons to tap an actual barrel that goes into the taproom's lineup. The time we spent at Cascade was among the best experiences of our trip. We loved the beers and our server was really cool. We don't have anything like this in Texas, so that made it a really special occasion.

For those, like myself, who do not have access to Cascade in your local bars and bottle shops, Cascade's sour program is largely made up of various sour beers that are blended, often with fruit and/or spices. It is often reported that Cascade relies solely on lactobacillus for souring their beers. That would make sense if you want to add spices to the beer and control the phenolic part of the flavor profile that would often be dominated by brett. Not to mention brett's desire to manipulate the phenols coming from spices into something different. However, several individuals with home yeast labs report seeing brett floating around in the dregs of Cascade beers. Perhaps it is coming off the fruit. I believe the official word from Cascade is that they are still lacto-only. There's not an obvious brett character in the beers so I'm willing to buy into it.

It's hard not to like the wide range of sour beers from Cascade, if you like sour beer, but the beers really command respect for the level of blending and careful flavor profile construction that goes into each beer. While many brewers are still struggling to produce quality kriek or frambroise, Cascade is putting out a quality line of fruited and/or spiced sour beers that add complex flavor profiles on top of the sour base. Maybe they have figured out leaving brett out of the picture makes it easier to construct that complex flavor profile but I don't see that as taking the easy way out, just making the right decision to produce the best beer within the brewer's target.

There were so many beers I loved that the lengthy list that follows is the short list of my favorite beers. So many of the beers at Cascade deservedly placed on my list of exceptional beers that I had a hard time trying to pair down the list for publication.

  • Frite Galois: Let's start off with one of the more complex brews to show what I mean about Cascade's level of blending and flavor profile construction. Frite Galois is a blend of a wheat-heavy sour beer aged for three months on apricot pits and then blended with an unaged gose. There's sourness but also the malt character of the young beer mixed together. The apricot pits give the beer a subtle amaretto-like character. Surprisingly complex for a sour beer missing the crazy flavor additions brett normally brings to the table.
  • Figaro: This is a twelve month old blonde sour aged in chardonnay barrels then supplemented with white figs and lemon peel for up to an additional twelve months. Punchy acidity mixed with the chardonnay character, sweet but earthy figs and crisp lemon. Again just really complex fruit flavors but nicely restrained so the beer doesn't get lost underneath all of it. This was probably our favorite of all the beers.
  • Sang Noir: A blend of sour red beer aged in bourbon and pinot noir barrels for 12-24 months and then blended with "bourbon barrel aged bing and sour cherries". An interesting take on the usual Flanders red style missing the brett funk but taking on a deep fruit character from the cherries and bourbon that emulated the typical brett cherry pie character but without the funky side of it. 
  • Noyaux Apricot and Raspberry: A blended sour blonde ale aged in white port barrels and then given generous doses of raspberry and toasted apricot pits and further aged for a total of 2-3 years from brew to packaging. The raspberry wasn't overwhelming but asserted itself. The apricot pits add sort of a creme brulee kind of sweetness that makes the beer bring sort of a raspberry jam flavor but with far more acidity. It wasn't the usual framboise beer that can be fruity but extremely acidic.
  • Vlad the Imp Aler: A blend of various strong Belgian blonde ales soured in bourbon and wine barrels for up to two years. Sounds like your run of the mill high ABV blonde sour but it had a lot of interesting fruity character where sours normally have the brett funk, which made it a very different beer from a lambic or other brett-assisted sour beer. 
  • Diesel: A bourbon barrel aged stout with molasses, Belgian dark candy sugar and vanilla beans. There are plenty of beers like this around the national market but it was a really well constructed version at a very reasonable price. The inclusion of molasses seems to be strongly preferred in the Pacific NW (Deschutes' Abyss includes it as well) and it does a really nice job of tempering the sweetness from the bourbon barrels that can sometimes be a little cloying.
  • Oblique B&W Stout: This is a coffee-infused white stout. It is the color of a blonde ale but the first thing you smell is that coffee. It's very confusing to look at but the taste is harmonious. Can we agree that a white stout and a blonde barleywine are the same thing? Just a lot of pale malts (e.g. two row, white wheat malt, pils malt, etc.) with little to no crystal malt (to prevent it from being too english barleywine-like) and no roasted malts (to prevent it from being a regular stout). The coffee infusion gives that impression of roast that would come from the roasted malts but without the color because the amount of coffee used isn't enough to make a big color impact. It's the first I've come across and regardless of whether the whole white stout thing is a gimmick it's a pretty good beer.
Alright that's most of Portland. I have more Portland to go, as well as Bend and Hood River. I'll try to get the next clump of breweries up in the next few days.

April 21, 2014

My Oregon Beer Trail -- Part 1

I've been looking forward to traveling to Oregon for a long time. Obviously the pacific northwest has a long history as an important part of the American craft beer movement but it isn't a place trapped in its history. There are certainly plenty of brewers putting out solid examples of the beers that built American craft beer but there are also plenty of brewers dropping a wide range of beers across a multitude of styles and techniques. I'm always interested in what new things are going on in brewing but I was also really interested to experience the modern reflection of the craft beer obsession with hoppy beers that flowed east from the west coast.

In Texas we don't have much of a craft beer culture in the way states like Colorado, California, Oregon, Massachusetts have developed through decades of exposure to craft beer. I am something of a history nerd and I find the development of those different cultures very interesting. Our craft beer culture is relatively young and still searching for an identity (or set of identities). In the Austin area the craft beer culture has embraced the broader German heritage of the area with several breweries developing a German beer-forward line up. That is undoubtedly the closest to a native craft beer identity we have in the state, although it is not an identity particularly well-shared among other parts of the state, such as here in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, or El Paso. In time I am sure we will develop our own cultures but for now our brewers are mostly putting together a disparate mash of whatever they can sell plus whatever individual identity they want to express.

What I expected to find was an abundance of IPAs amidst a pile of avant garde beers. I didn't quite a bit of IPAs and some avant garde beers but what really surprised me was how closely tied to beer culture was to the larger identity of Oregon as a state. Oregon as a whole did not seem quite as embracing of the extreme beer phenomenon that drives many brewers to produce IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPAs and beers with crazy ingredients. Instead, I found a beer culture that closely associated its beers with the massive amount of farming that goes on in the state. The wide appeal of IPAs didn't seem to be attached to a desire to brew extreme beers but to showcase the fresh ingredients of the region. Certainly a lot of the hops in the pacific northwest come from Washington but they are far more local to those Oregon brewers than they are to us down here in Texas. There were plenty of other beers featuring local ingredients but surprisingly also a large number of sour beers and saisons. That seemed to identify a connection to the farming communities of the state, even if the connection was somewhat (but not always) artificial since those styles are hardly native to this country. 

I had a tremendous amount of fun drinking my way across Portland, Hood River and Bend. I have a lot to say and plenty of breweries to discuss but I also have plenty of work to get done so I'm going to stop here for today and pick up the next piece of my Oregon Trail tomorrow or the day after.
April 1, 2014

Some updates

2014 has shaped up to be a busy year although we're only a quarter of the way into the year. Fortunately, I've been able to keep up with most of my brewing goals although I am maybe a beer or two behind where I'd like to be on my brewing schedule but I'm sitting on around twenty gallons of bottled beer and another twenty or so in fermentors. I'm trying to kill off the end of the black IPA I brewed last fall and the last few bottles of a handful of other batches. A significant volume of my supply of bottles includes beers that I don't mind aging, like my sours or big beers, but most of my brews going forward for 2014 are best fresh so I want to be able to start enjoying those beers right away. Clearing out the ends of these other beers will make room for more brewing, which means more meaningful content here. However, right now the fermentation chamber is filled with saison that's clearing up before dry hopping so today's post is just going to throw down some updates on smaller issues.

The hop garden

I've had a terrible time trying to grow hops in Texas. It's blazing hot during the summer and where I live is apparently open season for locusts, who can strip down a hop bines in hours. Admittedly, over the past four years that I've tried growing I have done a bad job of trying to water the hops daily and that's a recipe for dying plants in continuous time periods over 100F. This year I am committed to keeping out the locusts and watering the hops daily. I've rigged up a drip hose to fit over the raised bed where I grow hops so I can connect it up to the faucet and water the hops without having to stand there and try to spray water through the netting I constructed to keep out the locusts. Last year I only got like seven small hops off one of the cascade rhizomes so that was disappointing. This year I am hoping for better results. Here are the plants so far:

Sterling: There's one rhizome in here that's on its third growing season. It's a little slow to start off but once it gets growing it really gets moving. It's progressing nicely.

Nugget: There are actually two rhizomes planted together working on their second growing season. Last year this was a vigorous grower so I have high expectations for these plants.

Cascade: Like Nugget, there are two rhizomes in here on their second growing seasons. One of the rhizomes barely grew last year but this year it looks like both are growing happily.

Mt. Hood: One rhizome here and also on its third growing season. This plant takes off really early and each year it has produced plenty of bine growth until mid-summer where all the plants started dying back.

Hopefully I'll get a nice harvest off these plants this year. I'd like to do a harvest beer with a mix of all four, like a pale ale or maybe even a hoppy saison. We'll see.

The Petrus Pale Ale Clone

My last update on this beer was in July 2013 and not a lot has changed since then. In the early fall I added some extract and maltodextrin to feed the beer in hopes that some extra food would help move the beer along. It seems like it has although shortly after secondary fermentation seemed to start picking up steam it began developing an unpleasant taste, like a hot trashy kind of taste. I'm not sure what it is. It's probably some acid that hits the taste buds the wrong way. I tasted the beer last week and it's developing an acetic edge but the trashy flavor is starting to mellow. It reminds me of a saison I have from 2012 that developed a similar hot trash flavor that I've been sitting on in the bottles to see if it ages out. Part of me wants to dump this sour beer (and the saison, quite frankly) but it's not even a couple years old and I might as well see what happens.

Beer Travels 

In addition to my trip to Austin in February, my wife and I have some spectacular beer vacations lined up in the next couple months. We're hitting Portland, Bend and Seattle next month in a continuous eight day drink-a-thon. In early May we are hitting L.A. through San Francisco (up to Russian River). We're also hitting Las Vegas for my birthday weekend at the end of April but that won't be the all-out beer hunting of the other two trips. That will make for some fun adventures and some more posts in my string of vacation reviews.

Upcoming brews and various other upcoming posts

I have a backlog of beers I need to post reviews for, such as the year three lambic, gueuze, Lying Scorpion hatch chile blond and the Black Samurai Canadian Whiskey "Barrel"-Aged Dry Stout. I also have a few small projects and other things I want to post about so that's some upcoming content. Depending on my ability to clear out some of the brews as I discussed at the top of this post, I have a few good summer beers to brew. There's a couple saisons for the summer, a gratzer, an apricot blond and a kellerpils. We'll see if I can actually get all those beers brewed this summer. There's nothing wrong with holding on to some of those grains for next year but I'm sure by fall I'll have a completely different set of beers I'll want to brew for 2015.