Prodigal Son Brewing

Last weekend my wife and I popped down to northeast Oregon to go camping. On our way down and on our way back we stopped a new kids on the block Prodigal Son Brewing in Pendleton Oregon.  I’ve been following these guys on Facebook for some time impatiently waiting for them to open.  It’s nice to have another brewery within an hour of Ice Harbor as there really isn’t much of a brewing community over here.  I spoke to the brewer Brian about his equipment, beer, and his new business venture.  So far he said that the community has been very supportive of the brewery to the point of drinking 10bbl of Hef in just one week.  Brain worked for Rogue for two years and then decided to go back to his home town and open a brewery, his experience at Rogue shows in his beer and I was delightfully surprised at how well crafted his Porter was and how he put thought into making a English style IPA rather than a big hoppy NW IPA.

On the way back  from camping we stopped for food and beer this time.  I had the Ploughman’s plate and my wife had the hamburger.  Both where very good and I could tell that the owners really thought about the menu.  The atmosphere is great and Prodigal Son even has a private hangout room and a kids room.  It also looks like they are trying very hard to use local ingredients which is always a big plus in my book.  Brian is doing a great job on the beer, I could drink the hell out of his porter.  I wish them the best of luck, I can see this brewery being a very successful venture.  I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit.  If you make it out to Pendleton I totally recommend Prodigal Son Brewing.

Seven Brides Brewing

A brewery that I have been keeping an eye on for the last year is Seven Brides Brewing out of my home town of Silverton, Oregon.  This is a fairly new brewery that started about a year ago by a few guys that made homebrew and decided that they might as well go professional.  I’ve had their beer before at some of the local bars in Silverton and even had the pleasure to talk to the brewer and the sales manager at the brewery back in September, I have to say these guys are some of the nicest guys in the industry for sure.  Just recently Seven Brides started bottling some of their beers, actually I think it’s just been in the last couple of weeks, so I picked up 4 of their styles at Roth’s Market in Silverton Sunday before I headed back up here to the Tri-Cities.

I have noticed some inconsistencies in their beer the few times I have them but for a new brewery this is acceptable in my mind and hell we still make inconsistent beer and we’ve been around for 13 years so whatever. I will say Seven Brides’s beers are almost never what I expected.  I’d like to know what yeast strain they use because it tastes like a Belgian strain to me.  Tonight I’m drinking Lauren’s Pale Ale which is described as an English pale ale hopped generously with NW hops.  So I was expecting this to be another northwest pale ale, I was wrong there is a spiciness from what I would think is some sort of noble varietal of hop and there is that Belgian clove spiciness I get in a lot of their beers.  Is it a NW pale ale? No. Is it an English style pale ale? No. So what is it exactly? Well I’m going to say it a NW interpretation of a Belgian pale.  I like it a lot, the description is misleading, which could be off-putting to some people not expecting this to taste like a Belgian ale, but it’s a good drinker and I could see myself drinking a lot more of this, too bad I don’t have more.  I still have a Pilsner, amber, and stout to try I hope that yeast strain is used in those as well.

I’m proud that my little home town has a brewery, and I’m glad Seven Brides is making a go at it and actually making good beer.  They are currently moving to a new facility in town, the old Copland Lumber building, which will have a tasting room and I assume a lot more space to brew.  Here’s to hoping they keep on growing and making good beer, maybe they’ll want a seasoned brewer from the Tri-Cities when I move back to Oregon.

To the Beach

Went to the coast this weekend, damn do I miss being so close to coast it’s a killer drive from the Tri-Cities.  My wife’s grandmother rents a house at the coast ever year and this year just happened to be at Pacific City.  As many of you know Pacific City is home to Pelican Brew Pub, and as many of you also know they make some great beer.  Maybe my only complaint is that they think their beer is the best and should be priced accordingly, $6.75 for a bomber at the brewery and $15 for a growler fill is pretty much ridiculous for non obscure beer styles such as IPAs and stouts, but they have a pretty captive audience out there so I guess they can do whatever they want.

I had heard of a vertical tasting of Pelican’s Storm-watchers barley wine on the internets a week ago and decided that I needed to try this out.  Again prices where steep, $10 for 5 samples, but hey I was on a mini vacation so prices didn’t count within reason.  I believe there where 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 vintages in this particular vertical.  My top picks for the vertical tasting where the 2004 and 2009 vintages.  The 2004 Storm-watchers was brewed with a great deal of honey drying the beer out and giving it a little of that floral honey note.  The 2009 Storm-watches was called the “Perfect Storm” and was aged in bourbon barrels which gave it a huge bourbon nose and seemed to dry the beer out a bit as well.  The other three samples where cloyingly sweet which is a big pet peeve for me with barley wines, I don’t like them sweet and I feel like a portion of the grain bill should allow from some simple sugars like honey to dry them out.

I had a good experience and Pelican, albeit a pricey one, as always the food and beer is good and there is a great view of Haystack Rock poking out of the Pacific.  It was great to hang out with family this weekend, every time I go back it reinforces my desire to move back in a couple of years.

Iron Horse Brewing

Katy and I made another trip up to Ellensburg, WA yesterday since our last trip up for the Winterhop fest didn’t allow us to check out the town.  Ellensburg is the home town of Central Washington University, as a result the town really has that college town feel.  Katy and I really miss the college town feel that Corvallis provided, colleges tend to bring in the sorts of activities, food, and culture that we are used to and love.  As always if there is a brewery in a particular town we are visiting I have to visit it, this time it was Iron Horse Brewing.

Iron Horse Brewing opened in 2004 and from what I understand from talking to Nicole, the bartender, they had a different owner and philosophy and recently a couple of young guys, around my age, took ownership and changed the beers and totally changed their philosophy.  They have a punk skater feel to their brand now and most likely that is the sort of feel they are trying to convey to their consumers.  As Iron Horse states on their website, forget about style guidelines, and for the most part they are right.  The first beer I tried was their “Cozy Sweater” which was described to me as a bigger badder version of an oatmeal stout,  their website says imperial brown but after tasting the beer I tend to believe Nicole.  It’s a good stout, nice smooth roastyness, good mouthfeel, and a hidden warming alcohol effect much like a cozy sweater.  My next pint was their “Irish Death” this beer really stays true to Iron Horse’s philosophy of not making beers within style guidelines, it’s large in alcohol, malty as a m’fer, and has a balanced sweetness.  This beer is almost 8% ABV but I couldn’t taste the alcohol, it isn’t hoppy which is a welcomed change to the hop bombs you get around here, and it’s a dark reddish brown in color.  If I had to give this beer a style I’d say it’s a Strong Scotch ale, which kind of goes against the name but really this beer doesn’t fall into any Irish style.  Nicole told me that this beer is around 50% of their sales, which surprised me because most breweries around here are making headway mostly with IPAs, but this beer is really good so I can see it.  Lastly I had a pint of their pale ale, this was a good malty pale ale with lots of NW hops, we actually bought a growler home of this because Katy liked it so much.  I don’t typically drink more than a pint of two from anywhere, but Katy was driving and Iron Horse’s offerings were just so good.

Supposedly IHB, same initials as our brewery, is trying to grow, I guess last year they did 3000bbl.  I look forward to following their progress, I really think they may be on to something up there in Ellensburg.

Anchor’s Old Foghorn

While listening to Alan Parson and making dinner I had one of my old standby barley wines, Anchor’s Old Foghorn.  The trouble I have with barley wines is that too many breweries try to hard and by trying to hard I mean they either A. hop the crap out of them B. put some sort of odd spice in them or C. don’t dry the beer out enough making it cloyingly sweet.  The latter fault seems to happen more often than not, I really think you need to put some sort of simple sugar in a barley wine to dry it out a bit, but you know there are purists that want to only use barley.  Well if you want to use only barley make damn sure it attenuates enough /rant.

Anyways Anchor’s Barley wine and Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot barley wine are two of my favorites because both are solid examples of the style, and to boot both of them are reasonably priced.  Foghorn is sweet up front, then malty, and lastly hoppy enough to cut through the sweetness as not to linger on the palate.  I get a touch of oxidation, which for a barley wine is totally acceptable and actually is a welcomed attribute, I also get some dark fruits mid pallet.  The beer pours a slightly red color with no head and almost looks syrupy when poured.  This beer is best drank at a fairly warm temp, honestly unless you live in a warm climate I wouldn’t even put it in the fridge.  Barley wines are best drunk on a cold winters day as they tend to have a warming effect.  So yeah get yourself some it’s good, oh and if you can get Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot get that cause it’s even better, I still haven’t found it around here, damn this place.

First Beer Review

Part of becoming a professional brewer and a beer lover, for me at least, has been to try as many beers as possible.  It kind of irritates me when I talk to a brewer or someone in the industry that only drinks what their brewery makes.  I mean how are you going to know where the industry is going, what your competition is doing, and what sorts of new styles you should try making if your not trying beers from your fellow brewers?  Honestly it’s not all about market research I really do like trying different beers, it’s almost like opening up a new present every time I try something new, but I do get a lot of insight into the industry through doing it as well.

So as part of this blog I will be reviewing beers from those “other” breweries as a way to tell you about the beers I try and also as a way to force myself to take notes and pay attention to the market.

The first beer I would like to review is Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza.  Just a quick background on Jolly Pumpkin, it’s a brewery in Michigan, a brewery that only does barrel aged sour beers, and is a brewery that is damn near impossible to get beer from here in the Tri-Cities.  Gayle and Steve over at West Richland Beer and Wine where able to get this beer for me to my surprise.  It’s not cheap but I wouldn’t expect a beer that has been so painstakingly made to be cheap.  For some reason as of late I have had a lot of respect for brewers that take brewing to the next level.  I mean anyone can make stouts, pale ales, IPAs, and porters but it takes skill to break out and make sours, traditional Belgian beers and the like. I wont bore anyone with too much detail.  This beer pores a nice golden color with a stark white head, aroma is like a good Belgian triple with a spicy nose and a touch of tangy sourness.  The taste is what I would expect from a very good Belgian triple with again that spiciness, some fruitiness from the yeast, nice and dry with a touch of residual sweetness, and a touch of clove.  Oh wait a minute that’s what I can imagine this beer tasting like if it had not been soured, Jolly Pumpkin has taken a great triple and soured it in barrels and made one of the only few sour beers so far that I have actually liked.  It has a good tart up front, some almost apple flavors, and then again that spiciness and clove that always comes from a good Belgian yeast.  I’ll admit I don’t need 1 pint 9oz of this stuff to drink on my own, I think 12oz would have been a perfect serving.  This being my first Jolly Pumpkin beer I can happily say that I look forward to trying more beers from these guys.

I’m going to pitch the dregs from this bottle in a sourish wee heavy that I made at work and see what happens.  One of my goals for this year is to be more creative with my  brewing and hopefully make a name for myself.