The Beer’s Best at Fred Fest 2014

It’s a fundraiser, a tasting of highly unusual beers—not to mention a chance to drink with a founding father of Northwest craft brewing.  It was the 9th running of Fred Fest 2014, on May 4 at Hair of the Dog Brewing in inner SE Portland. The Fred Fest 2014 edition celebrated the 88th birthday of Fred Eckhardt, one of the first widely known American Beer Writers who helped grow the Portland brewing culture.

Why did I pony up the not insignificant sum to show up? It wasn’t Fred’s favorite beer pairings, namely cereal and chocolate bars. And I could have donated directly to the charities Fred Fest supports: Guide Dogs for the Blind, International Medical Corps and the Oregon Brew Crew’s OSU Bob McCracken Scholarship for Fermentation Sciences.

No, the star attraction (after the man Fred himself) was the selection of beers donated by select west coast breweries. They rolled in with their latest standout experiments in honor of Fred and the charities. I can’t give them all a proper review here. After an entire afternoon with these big brews, I was glad I took notes to recapture the highlights:

Sour Power: Our craft breweries continue to perfect belgium-inspired styles, especially sours. The crowd favorite was the Super Cherry Vlad from Cascade Brewing in Bend, a wild yeast-sour blend that popped in your mouth like a sour candy, warmed your soul like wine due to its barrel aging, and kept all those flavors in balance. There were other power sours from 10 Barrel Brewing and Craftsman Brewing, and more subtle tongue puckerers like Stone Brewing’s Cali-Belgique and Breakside Brewing’s Apollo and Dionysus Saison (which was aged in gin barrels). And let me throw special “cheers!” to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales for its spicy, complex Trippel Straffe Drieling.

Barreling Along: When brewers are asked to donate a special beer, we are thankful when they roll out the barrel-aged beauties. A big surprise was the Bourbon Abominable from Fremont Brewing, with a huge bourbon nose balanced by just the right amount of sweetness. We spent some time comparing its depth to Full Sail 2009 Black Gold Bourbon Stout and Deschutes Black Butte XXIV. McMenimans had a sleeper hit with its Vityaz Russian Imperial Stout, which we found sweet enough for dessert.

Don’t Stop the Hop: It wouldn’t be a Northwest beer celebration without hop bombs. Fort George North VII led the way, with a sophisticated bourbon-barrel-aged Belgian IPA called North VII that showed off every side of the hop—from first floral sniff to the pleasing citrus linger. Hair of the Dog rolled out Beer Week, a big lager with all the bitter satisfaction of an IPA and a surprising little sweetness at the end. There were others but my notes get a bit fuzzy by this point. You understand.

I think of Fred Fest as a kind of TED talk for the brewing cognoscenti. You get to taste new ideas that will inform the brewing and enjoyment of beer lovers for the next few years. Who knows, maybe we’ll find the answer to that annual question: What would Fred drink?

David is a Portland-based creative director and writer who brews occasionally and writes about beer now and then and drinks beer for research nearly all the time. Find me at about.me/DavidSmithPDX.

Portland Fresh Hop Fest 2012

Hello from Team Boston!

I will be the first one to admit I don’t like hoppy beers.  That being said, I love beer festivals!  Any excuse that allows me to hang out with friends and try new beers sounds like a reason to celebrate in my book.  Last weekend, my roommate Jeffrey, our couch surfer Pamela and I hit up the 2012 Portland Fresh Hop Festival.  A festival all about celebrating fresh hopped beers, duh!

What’s a “hop”?

Hops are the female flower clusters (called cones) of a hop species, Humulus lupulus.  They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer.  Hops give beer the bitter, tangy flavor that people love (and that I dislike).  Hops were cultivated continuously around the 8th and 9th century AD in Bohemian gardens in the Hallertau district of Bavaria and other parts of Europe.  Although the first documented use of hops in beer as a bittering agent is from the 11th century.  Before this time brewers used dandelion, burdock root, marigold, horehound, ground ivy and heather. Hops have many benefits in the brewing process, the balance the sweetness of the malt, add flavors and aromas and have an antibacterial effect that favors the activity of brewing yeast over less desirable microorganisms.  Plus, they make the beer last longer. Another thing to note is the important production centers for hops include Hallertau in Germany, Yakima (Washington) and Willamette (OREGON!!) valleys. The one thing I will say that I love about hops is the way they smell and look.  They almost smell like evergreen needles, campy, herbal and fresh.  Yummy!   Hops are climbers too and are usually trained to grow up strings across fields.  Hopefully, next spring I’ll have some hops growing in my backyard across my garden. Now you know a little bit about hops and why we celebrate them.  Here is what we drank at the 2012 Fresh Hop Festival!  I should note that we all had samples of these beers (4 oz.) and shared with one another.

Jenna:

  • F.O.T.M. Brewery – Magnum P.A. – Fresh Hopped Pale Ale featuring fresh Magnum and Cascade hops.  Yet another new brewery in Portland I want to check out!
  • Falling Sky Brewing – So Fresh, So Green – Wet Hop Lager featuring 172 pounds in 8.5 barrel of wet Centennial hops from Goshcie Farms.  A new brewery to town, definitely on my list to check out the next time I’m in Eugene.  Anyone who can make a lager is a friend of mine.
  • Klamath Basin Brewing Co. – Fresh Hopican Pale Ale – American Pale Ale featuring Cascade hops
  • Sasquatch Brewery – Fresh Hopped Healy Heights – Pale Ale featuring Centennial hops
  • Silver Moon Brewing – Hoppopotamus IPA – Indian Pale Ale featuring Centennial hops.  This was my personal favorite of my selection.  Probably the only IPA I actually like!?

Jeffrey:

  • 10 Barrel Brewing Co. – Crystalt – Alt beer featuring Crystals hops
  • BridgePort Brewing – Hop Harvest – Imperial Pilsner featuring Tettnang hops
  • Burnside Brewing Co. – Sterling Pub Draught – Pub Draught featuring Sterling hops
  • Crux Fermentation Project – Crystal Zwickel – Fresh Hop Ale featuring Crystal hops.  One of Jeffrey’s favorites, which was recommended by a friend of mine.
  • Deschutes Brewery – KING CONE – American Pale Ale featuring dry Cascade hops and fresh Centennial hops.  Another one of Jeffrey’s favorites.  Definitely one I enjoyed as well.
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery – Give Me Liberty – Fresh Hop Bitter featuring organic Liberty hops
  • Laurelwood Brewing Co. – Fresh Hop Free Range Red – Organic NW ESB featuring Cascade hops
  • Oakshire Brewing – 100 Hops – Pale Ale featuring Centennial hops.  I’ve been tweeting with them a lot lately, can’t wait to check out their brewery.  Once again, need a reason to go to Eugene.
  • Portland U-Brew – Freshy Foyston Hopbacktimus – Yes beer featuring “John Foyston Sumpremes”.  Done by my boy, Aaron, who was also doing a home brew demonstration at the Festival.

Pamela:

Like hoppy beers?  What is your favorite?  Have a favorite type of hops?

Portland International Beerfest 2013

My (former) roommate Tiffany and I went on a “froommate” (friend + roommate) date to the Portland International Beerfest 2013.  This was Tiffany’s first ever Oregon Beer Festival and my first time at the Portland International Beerfest.  Lucky for us, we ran into my friend, Jay from Portland U-Brew and his friends and we all had a great time.

Here is what we tried:

  • Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lager
  • Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
  • Hof Ten Dormaal Barrel #3 Madeira
  • Nebraska Brewing Barrel Aged Hop God
  • Hofbrau Original
  • Hofbrau Dunkel
  • Schneider Aventius
  • Schneider Hopfen-Weisse
  • Young’s Double Chocolate
  • Vicaris Generaal
  • Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout
  • Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050
  • Weltenburger Kloster Pils
  • Mad Viking Night Raid (Cognac Barrel)
  • Maui Brewery Lemongrass Saison
  • 21st Amendment Brewery Imperial Jack
  • Class of ’88 by North Coast Brewery
  • PranQster by  North Coast Brewery
  • Brainless on Cherries by Epic Brewing Company
  • Wookey Jack by Firestone Walker Brewery

What is your favorite international beer?

Samai Distillery – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Samai Distillery’s Manhattan

I recently checked out Samai Distillery, Cambodia’s first and only premium rum distillery. They create hand-crafted, premium rums using high-quality, locally grown ingredients and a process that pays tribute to age-old rum making traditions.  Samai Distillery rums are complex and full of character, displaying a flavor profile that reflects the uniqueness of the Cambodian offerings. It is rum that Cambodians can take pride in.  “Samai” is the Khmer word for ”modern,” a new generation, looking towards the future. Samai Distillery is the first generation of rum in Cambodia.

Samai hosts lots of events in their distillery space.  The fundraiser my roommate and I attended was for a local NGO, Animal Mama, that works with animals – specifically street dogs / cats and the rehabilitation of retired de-mining dogs called, Home of the Heroes.

While at the event, we tried two of Samai’s rums:

Samai Gold Rum

Identity: Fine Cambodian Molasses
Origin: Cambodia
Alcohol: 40% alc/vol
Aging: Special French & American oak barrels and Sherry Casks.
Tasting notes: This handcrafted rum has natural hints of vanilla, dark chocolate, and caramelized honey, balanced with a touch of Asian influence.
Awards: a Silver medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2017 in London and a Silver medal at the Barcelona Rum Congress 2017.

How to enjoy: Best enjoyed when sipped neat or in exceptional cocktails.

AND:

Kampot Pepper Rum – This was my favorite of the two.  I love Kampot Pepper so a rum with a little bit of a kick was right up my alley.  Definitely going to pick up a bottle in the near future.

Identity: Fine Cambodian Molasses. Made exclusively with Red Kampot Pepper from La Plantation
Origin: Cambodia
Alcohol: 38% alc/vol
Aging: Matured for 6 months in stainless steel tanks.
Tasting notes: Considered one of the most aromatic and delicious pepper in the world, Kampot Pepper gives this rum a crispy sweet aroma with overtones of guava and eucalyptus. Spicy, fresh, and elegant, Kampot Pepper adds just the right kick to this exceptional rum.
Awards: a Double Gold Medal at the Madrid International Rum Conference 2017 and a Bronze medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2017 in London.

How to enjoy: best enjoyed when sipped neat or in exceptional cocktails
Find your Samai Kampot Pepper Rum: 5cL, 20cL, 70 cL.

How Samai Rum is made:

It all starts with locally-grown sugar cane – nurtured by a warm Cambodian sun and fertile Cambodian soil. Only specially selected, high-quality sugar cane is used to produce the rich, caramel molasses that defines the complex base of all Samai premium rums.  Their fermentation step involves molasses and select yeast and takes place in specialized stainless steel vats, under carefully controlled conditions. The result is a mineral-rich mash at 10% alcohol/volume, full of character and ready for distillation.  They use a handmade, 1800’s-style copper alembic pot for distillation (which we actually saw in action during the event!)  A rectifying lentil enables a purer distillate at 75% to 90% alcohol/volume, while keeping the rich character of the raw ingredients intact.  The distilled spirit is brought down to 65% alcohol/volume, aged in French & American Oak barrels and Sherry casks. These barrels impart delicate flavor characteristics into the rum, whose character evolves in complexity, with each passing day.  The best part – they taste each barrel carefully. Only rum from select barrels is expertly blended, brought down to 40% alcohol/volume and then allowed to rest.  When Samai’s distinctive flavor profile is achieved, the rum is hand-bottled in-house and ready to be experienced – complex and intriguing rums, born of Cambodia’s natural riches.

Have you ever been to Cambodia?  What is your favorite drink there?

Espacio Mexican-Style Lager by Ecliptic Brewing

Space Tacos Fiesta at Ecliptic Brewing

Espacio Mexican-Style Lager Celebrated with a Release Party at the Ecliptic Brewing Pub.  Originally brewed for the 2017 Oregon Brewers Festival, Espacio Mexican-Style Lager with Lime Zest is making its return as an official part of the Ecliptic Brewing Seasonal Series line-up.  To celebrate the release of the beer Ecliptic will host a Space Tacos Fiesta at the pub featuring a taco takeover and more.

“Espacio is a beer that people have been asking about since it debuted at OBF.  Now that it is becoming part of our line-up I knew we had to throw a party.” said Marketing Manager at Ecliptic Brewing, Karolyn Simon.  “Tacos and Espacio go great together and the idea of a Space Tacos Fiesta came to life!” explained Simon.

On April 5th from 3-10pm Ecliptic Brewing will stop serving their pub menu as usual and instead will feature a delicious line-up of tacos, flan, margaritas, and beer.  Hot Mama Salsa will also be on site from 4-9pm sampling out their delicious, fresh, and authentic salsas.

Space Tacos Fiesta: Espacio Mexican-Style Lager Release Party

When:  April 5th, 3-10pm

Where: Ecliptic Brewing, 825 N. Cook Street.

What: Espacio Mexican-Style Lager, Tacos, and more!

For up to date details about the event, visit the Facebook event page here.

About Espacio Mexican-Style Lager with Lime Zest

Don’t add lime to your beer, let the brewer do it for you! Fresh lime zest adds a subtly citrus tartness to this liquid sunshine lager.  ABV 4.8%  IBU 40

Espacio will be available in both draft and 6pk-12oz cans throughout the Ecliptic Brewing distribution network. 

About Ecliptic Brewing

Ecliptic Brewing is a venture from John Harris, an Oregon beer icon whose background is steeped in the state’s rich craft brewing history. The name Ecliptic unites Harris’ two passions: brewing and astronomy, and as such, the brewery celebrates the Earth’s yearly journey around the sun through both its beer and restaurant menus. Executive chef Michael Molitor rotates his seasonally inspired menu every six weeks in accordance with the old-world calendar. Harris’ signature beers include Orbiter IPA, Carina Peach Sour Ale, Starburst IPA, and Capella Porter. For more information, visit: www.eclipticbrewing.com.

Ecliptic beers are available at the brewery (825 North Cook St), in cans and bottles and on tap throughout the area, and distributed by:  Maletis Beverage (Portland, Salem, Vancouver WA), Bigfoot Beverage (Eugene, Bend, Coast), Fort George Distributing (Norther Oregon Coast, Southern WA Coast), Summit Beverage (Sourthern Oregon), Northwest Beverage (Seattle, Tacoma), Odom (Easter WA, Norther Idaho), Dickerson Distributing (Bellingham), Crooked Stave Artisans (Colorado), Freedom Distributors (North Carolina), and Graybeal (Eastern Oregon).

Have you been to Ecliptic before?  What is your favorite beer there?