Showing posts with label Beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beer. Show all posts

January 05, 2010

1995 Old Knucklehead - best beer ever?

My neighbor took me to a wonderful winter beer party at her friend's the other day. There were lots of people and beer I didn't recognize, but everything worked out wonderfully. Of particular note was perhaps the oldest and likely the most delicious, entrancing beer I've ever consumed.

Some kind soul brought a 12 oz. bottle of the 1995 Bridgeport's Old Knucklehead, the annual barleywine from this legendary Portland brewery. I don't always enjoy aged beer, which often shows me a gluey aroma that may be interesting but also a little revolting at the same time. From my modest pour in an Oregon pinot glass from Riedel, I got a whiff of that at first here, and then things turned remarkable.

Deep bronze color and aromas of maple syrup and roasted everything good. Then similar flavors, which were good enough. But the texture and balance were perfect. I'm not usually this way, but I felt speechless. Was I carried away? This was early in the party, but no one else seemed in rapture like me. I mentioned my thoughts to a few others who thought, yeah, this was good. But I could still taste it and recall the way it felt, and I still can. That's remarkable beer (or barleywine, for the pursits out there), and I'm left wondering if I've ever had any other so good. Thanks Alan.

December 07, 2009

Beer trials and Heater-Allen Isarweizen

Tonight it's nearly 20F in usually mild Portland, OR. What a better time for a glass of sunshine? So with dinner I opened a bottle of Heater-Allen Isarweizen. Yes, that's an Oregon Pinot Noir Riedel glass. Not beer mug will do for this local lager. Rather, something that allows me to enjoy the aroma of this excellent wheat beer. You can see the golden color. I should have shaken the bottle a touch first to get more yeast in suspension, as the later pours were gradually cloudier. The aroma was all wheat and citrus, though I didn't add any lemon to my glass. I felt right back in an Austrian beer hall. Yum

Thinking about beer, I reflect on my experience two days ago down at the Green Dragon with friend Seamus Campbell, author of The Daily Wort. With the help of several friends and the Dragon, Seamus conducted a beer trial. Two flights of three beer samples, double blind. We had no idea what we were trying, or even if each sample was a different beer. Seamus is writing a book called The Beer Trials to investigate taste and perception of quality vs. price, like that. With a neighbor friend, I tried the first three samples and quickly was convinced that the first two were identical. They tasted like Pilsner Urquell to me, but turned out to be Czechvar, the old Budweiser Budvar, the "real" Budweiser that was an old favorite back in my Europe days when I could drink it fresh. Or maybe I didn't have a very evolved taste in beer. Here in the US, it's no good. The third sample was Heineken. Sweeter, maltier but still bland and industrial.

Then a second flight of three more samples. Quickly samples A and C appeared identical, malty and a little sweet. They made me think of Sam Adams Boston Lager, which I haven't had for years. I just associate it with mass produced "craft" brew. Turns out it was Fat Tire Amber Ale, which makes perfect sense. I never liked that beer. Too malty sweet. Sample B was obviously darker and seemed fresh hopped and a little green. I thought it might be Bridgeport's fall Hop Harvest release, a big fresh hopped beer. Turns out it was Ninkasi's Believer, Oregonian but not fresh hopped. I didn't quite like this one either. Just too vegetal and green like the latest Hop Harvest.

All in all, give me a Heater-Allen anytime. But I think I did pretty good in the blind tasting. The beers could have been from anywhere, and essentially were. How do you think you'd do?

December 04, 2009

Beer trial at the Green Dragon this weekend

Attention wine drinkers:

I've been meaning to blog about this for a couple days. Blog reader, homebrewer and author of The Daily Wort blog Seamus Campbell is doing research for a book on tasting beer. He needs your help. He wants input from a variety of tasters, us wine lovers included. It's one thing to hear from hop heads. Calling all cork dorks.

This Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1-5pm, Seamus will be at the Green Dragon, 928 SE 9th, at Belmont in Portland. What you need to do - show up, taste about a pint's worth of free samples, and complete a survey. Should take about 15 to 20 minutes, and while you're at the Dragon, why not buy another pint or two?

It's going to be cold this weekend. Beer drinking weather I say. Hope to see you there.

November 15, 2009

Aging beer: Abyss vs. Top Sail, and more

Though I'm mostly interested in wine, there's a place for serious beer in this blog. Last night I attended an annual winter beer and cheese gathering hosted by my friend and blog reader Dudley. The event attracts local brewers, vintners and regular folk like me, though I guess I've moved into vintner category.

When I arrived the crowd was packed around a dining room table full of mostly west coast U.S. beers and domestic cheeses. My contributions were 22oz bottles of 2007 Deschutes Abyss and the 2008 Top Sail Reserve from Full Sail Brewing. I paired them with an Oregon produced Perrydale cheese, recommended by Steve's Cheese in NW Portland.

I was curious to see how the Abyss ages, and how it compares to another oak aged beer in the Top Sail. I've heard the the Abyss, for all its youthful intensity, might not necessarily improve with age. Sure enough, I found the roasted coffee and chocolate tones in the 2007 Abyss to be a bit muddled with age, especially compared to a 2009 edition of the Abyss at the tasting that showed better to my taste. The 2007 was no slouch. It's still very enjoyable. I'm just not sure it requires or rewards aging. It think it's better to enjoy these bottlings in their exuberant youth.

In comparison, the 2008 Top Sail -- purchased nearly two years ago on release in early 2008 -- showed beautifully. There was much more nuance in the aromas and flavors, without the heavy roasted notes of the Abyss. Instead, lots of sweet bourbon caramel and spice, thanks to aging in bourbon casks. I thought this might make the beer a little vulgar and obvious, but there was no denying the delicious flavors and long finish. Matched with the slightly fruity and caramel sweet Perrydale, which the Abyss trounced, the Top Sail was excellent. I think you could hold this beer longer still, but it's already in a great place. I'll look forward to the 2010 release that I imagine should be out around the new year.

Otherwise, the gathering was an excellent chance to taste intense beers and sample a wide range of impressive domestic cheeses. Another great match with the Perrydale was a 2008 (I believe) Goose Island Bourbon County Stout from Chicago. It was black as night, roasty and rich, but impeccably balanced. I would think the Perrydale wouldn't have stood up, but the pairing worked.

Finally, someone brought a magnum of the 2003 Anchor Christmas Ale, but it seemed a little tired to me, especially compared to a delicious 2009 edition. This is another beer I find not so great with more than a year of age. Thanks Dudley for another great event.