Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beer Travels to Portland, OR

As I sit here at home, after another day at graduate school, instead reading for seminars and research, I decided to just catch up on blogging. I feel that home is sanctuary away from work, so I don't generally do any. If I do take work home with me, then I end up going to a coffee shop, but every once in a while I do work (but I rather stab my eyes out). You may ask, Where is he going with this?" Right now, I'm not really sure.

So, graduate school allows me to travel to conferences. It is a benefit, but with a limited budget, I find ways to cut cost. One thing that I don't cut cost on is seeking good beer. This is the third conference that I travelled to this year. The last one was to Lincoln, NE, though not a beer town, it wasn't that hard to find good beer. This past 5-10 August, I got to go to, what I like to call on of the meccas of beer, Portland OR for a conference.

One way I learned to cut costs is to couch surf. There is an excellent website called couchsurfing.org that I used, though my friends are sketchy with this as they think that I'll wake up in a tub of ice with organs missing. Eh, it's perfectly safe.

So I met my host (Dan) in the airport and he gave me keys to the house and car because he was flying out to Hawaii. The only requirement for me to do is to take care of his dog. What better way to stay, have a four legged friend and a house all to myself! So while at the airport, I got to talk with Dan, his finance, and some of their friends. It was really nice to meet them and they bought me a beer. My first beer in Portland was the Inversion IPA from Deschutes Brewery. I very much enjoyed the face full of hops at the very beginning. If only I could live here and enjoy more of the West Coast beers.

I got to Dan's place, which was across the Columbia river from Portland in Vancouver, WA, got into the house, met up with the dog, and settled in. I felt really bad leaving each day to go to the conference, or other adventures that I would take, because I would have to con the dog into going into the garage (which wasn't a bad situation anyway, because he had carpet to lie on and it was cool).

That night I went on my first beer adventure.

My first adventure was to Deschutes Pub. Deschutes is a brewery from Bend, OR, but they have a pub and small brewery in Portland. I got to the pub and found a seat at the bar. Even though I haven't had any of there other mainstay beers, I had to go for something special. They had quite the line up of beers. I have been craving sours lately, so I went with the Mis Spelt Sour. It was tart, light on the palate, and had some fruity esters. After I got my food, I ordered a second beer, the Rye-T-On. It was an amber rye beer that was on cask, which made it ever more so enjoyable. This is the only way a real ale should be served. It had a nice caramel backbone with bold bold hop flavour of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand.

That night was the only bad time while there. Good thing that I got some food and only had two beers, because, while driving a strange car and watching my GPS, I got pulled over for something moronic that I did. Driving on I-5 back over to Washington, I was in the right lane, keeping track on my GPS. Then all of the sudden, I noticed that I was on a exit only lane. Idiot me, sped up and cut over a double white line back into traffic, even though I saw the cop get off the freeway right before me. So, a $260 ticket and a sobriety test I was on my way back to where I was staying.

The next day, I was up early, wanting to see what different things that I could find before the conference started that day. I ended up at StumptownCoffee Roasters for coffee and Voodoo Dougnuts for a breakfast pastry. Then another day I went to Pine State Biscuits for breakfast.  Again, why am I not living on the West coast? I went aboot the day enjoying what I could do before I made my way to catch a bus for the first field trip. I won't bore you with my geekhood of taking a trip to see Mt. St. Helens and the blast zone ... but it was AMAZING.

I ended up meeting a few Canadian folks and went out to dinner with them to Rogue Ales Public House and Distillery. There I was able to order one beer, the Younger's Special Bitter on cask because they were insanely busy. It was wonderful to drink cask beer again. The bitter had light bready noted with some fruity undertones and soft hop bitterness.

Over the next couple of days, I was really busy with going to talks and seeing posters. At each of the poster section, they had beer for sale. Over the those couple of days I got to try C-Not Imperial Pale Ale by Lompoc Brewery and Rotator IPA: X-114 IPA by Widmer Brothers BrewingCompany.

To finish my time in Portland, I went out with a ex-colleague of mine and some of her friends. I ended up at Deschutes again and did a flight of 4-oz. tasters Extinction Stout, Chainbreaker White IPA, Flagline Ale, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deep Red Belgian Specialty Ale, and Black Butte XXIV Anniversary beer. I ended up taking home a glass and a bottle of the Black Butte XXIV Anniversary and stopping along the way one evening at a beer store called Belmont Station and grabbing a Firestone Walker Double Jack and a Russian River Salvation.

My last stop was at Laurelwood Public House and Brewery. There I had the Workhorse IPA, a very balanced IPA with a slight sweet finish that balances out the bitterness. The second beer that I had was the Organic Deranger Imperial Red Ale that had a caramel malt backbone and complex layers of hop bitterness.

Leaving Portland, I took a flight to Oakland, CA to meet up with a buddy. It was really great to see him for a while and wonder around Oakland, San Fransisco, and Berkeley, and hike the Berkeley hills. Even though I didn't get a chance to meet an icon in the brewery industry, The Beer Wench, I did get out once to taste some good beer. After a day of hiking we ended up at Schmidt's Pub in Albany, CA where I had a classic Fuller's ESB at a classic English pub.

This was a great beer trip that was an addition to the ecological conference that I signed up for. I was just a little more enjoyable than the trip to last year ESA in Austin, TX, and most likely better than the one that I will take next year to Minneapolis, MN if I stick with my studies and don't get a job in the brewing industry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brewing to Style and the 2012 Cincinnati Malt Infusers Homebrew Competition

I love to brew, there is no other way to put it. I also love to brew to style. I think that putting my beer into competitions is a way that I challenge myself to brew to style. There is a lot of negative talk on forums aboot BJCP and how brewing isn't a competition. One recent interaction with an individual happened in a forum, where I was asking aboot new guidelines. I wasn't asking for opinions or anything of the like. A very rad individual, Denny Conn, spoke that I should write to the BJCP forum with this question and I may get some answers. Then that individual that I previously spoke of, decided to input some of his own thoughts, not advise, not facts, but pure opinions. It was voiced thar “My taste-buds are my guidelines. Football, baseball, soccer, etc. are competitions, brewing is a passion.” Yes, this maybe true, but don't be an ass and don't interject things that I did not asked questions on.

This is what originally turned me away from this particular forum, because all of the bashing of ideas and people. This forum (notice how I am not mentioning the name of it, because I am not one to do this, to give it a bad name, because you can happen across some great individuals and advise) was a very insightful, and still is, but I thought that I would give it another chance. Since that happened, now I see that it hasn't really changed. I may come back to it, but not when I have to deal with morons like the above.

Okay, I just wanted to rant a little (but maybe I went on a little longer than I originally intended to), but this was not the original intent. To get back on track, because I usually do get sidetracked, this was really aboot my excitement of placing 2nd in two categories in the 2012 Cincinnati Malt Infusers' Oktoberbest Homebrew Competition. This is my third year entering, placing 3rd for a Porter last year, and not placing, but scoring high, for a Saison in 2010. I entered three beers this year, a Spice Ale (category 21A), an Ordinary Bitter (category 8A), and a American Barleywine (category 19C). I generally number my beers to what recipe it is, so I have not came up names. Spice Ale is #26, Ordinary Bitter is #25, and American Barleywine is #12. Now what the judges said!

Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer: #26
Judge #1: BJCP rank Certified
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (8/12): Moderate chocolate/cocoa aroma with some esters. Hints of peppery spice.
Appearance (2/3): Dark brown – clear around edges with small bit of tan head around edges.
Flavor (15/20): Moderate malty flavor with well balanced amount of pepper spice. Smooth chocolaty flavor. No hops. Finishes clean with just a hint of bite from the pepper.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium body, low carbonation, creamy, and smooth.
Overall Impression (8/10): Easy drinking, well balanced but a bit restrained on the spices and cocoa flavor and aroma. I would expect more of a bite from a pepper beer.
Total (37/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Master
Descriptor Definitions: Estery – Aroma and/or flavor of ester (fruits, fruit flavorings, roses)
Aroma (10/12): Nose is dark malt with a very slight som (sic) tinge to it. I get some chocolate, some light fruitiness and some spicy hot notes.
Appearance (3/3): Very dark brown with garnet highlights. Clarity looks on (sic). Pours with low ivory that falls
Flavor (12/20): Malty with some slight roast and choolate tomes. Very good spice pepper flavors that have a broad range of flavours. Very light fruity esters.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium + body with a moderate led (sic) of carbonation. Very warm spices. Clean finish, not too astringent on palate.
Overall Impression (8/10): Enjoyable beer. I'd like more body and more richness to blend with the complex pepper notes. The chocolate I do get is good but I want more! Clean, well made beer. Listing a style is always best practice.
Total (37/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 37 Silver Medal

Standard Ordinary Bitter: #25
Judge #1: BJCP rank Not Disclosed
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (9/12): Medium/light sweet malt aroma. Very light earthy hops. Hints of fruit. No DMS. No Diacetyl.
Appearance (2/3): Golden copper. Very good clarity. Strong fine white head with very good retention.
Flavor (10/20): Sweet bready malt up front. Moderate hop bitterness starts in the middle and lingers into a balanced finish.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium light body. Medium high carbonation. No warmth, creaminess, astringency.
Overall Impression (6/10): Very good bitter. Could be a little drier for style (lower mash temperature/grain bill).
Total (31/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Cerified
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (7/12): Perfumey floral hops. Light caramel malt maybe a little to hoppy for the style.
Appearance (2/3): Clear light copper color with a huge ivory head that lingers.
Flavor (12/20): More floral hop character, bitter but tea-like herbal and fairly bready malt backbone.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Stight (sic) light in body with significant carbonation.
Overall Impression (6/10): A little too hoppy for the style. Try about ½ the flavoring hops next time.
Total (30/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 31 Silver Medal

American Barleywine: #12
Judge #1: BJCP rank National
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (8/12): Malt dominates – nondescript. Low hops. No fruit.
Appearance (3/3): Deep copper color. Fair-medium clarity. Off white head that dissipates quickly
Flavor (14/20): Rich malt (caramel), hop flavor (citrus), and light fruit combine upfront. Malt sweetness and hop bitterness continues into the middle and hop bitterness continues into the finish and aftertaste.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Full body, medium carbonation. Light alcohol warmth without the burn.
Overall Impression (8/10): Very enjoyable beer. A small serving on a cold night would be very much enjoyed. Nice example of style.
Total (37/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Undisclosed
Descriptor Definitions: Oxidized – Cardboard Sherry like aromas and flavors.
Aroma (10/12): Rich malt aroma dominates. Fruity, some alcohol noted. No apparent hops. No diacetyl noted.
Appearance (3/3): Copper colored with tan rocky head. Has legs. Good clarity.
Flavor (10/20): Hop bitterness is evident in a very dry finish. Alcohol warmth present. Moderate carbonation. Moderate fruits. Oxidized cardboard taste. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Moderate / high body. Creamy and warm. Dry palate sensation and some astringency.
Overall Impression (7/10): A good beer to style but the aging process in now adding cardboard characters that takes away from the sherry etc...
Total (33/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 35

Again, I was very pleased with my showing. I sent in the American Barleywine last year and it was really hoppy, so I aged it a year and the hops oxidized, but still had a great score. I wonder what it would have done if it wasn't oxidized. The ordinary bitter was a second running beer that Miles and I brewed after we brewed an American Strong. I wasn't sure where to put it in at, it was either going to be an Ordinary Bitter or a Mild Ale. The Spice Ale didn't score as high as I hoped, but I am really pleased with the silver medal I got.

Well, a few more blogs (4 or 5) and then I'll be caught up.