Benefit For Angelo: A Cause for A Worthy Friend

Angelo M De Ieso II

Benefit for Angelo De Ieso II
Fundly
Thursday, October 17th
5pm-10pm
The Commons Brewery
1810 SE 10th Avenue
Portland, OR

Beer is an excellent perk, but I got into this business because of the (mostly) unassuming people and the knowledgeable PDX beer community. Raising a pint with friends—especially Portland beer lovers—is a special experience for me. Instant and lasting friendships can emerge in a brewery or taproom.

My site has never turned a profit, and after almost 10 years, I still don’t care. I’m not looking for (that much) fame or (any) fortune. In fact, more money leaves my wallet than returns. Like the rest of the community bloggers, I just want to be part of the amazing beer scene in this city. From brewers to keg washers to servers to marketing departments: it’s an amazing and supportive community.

Over the last ten years, I’ve made countless friends and had many memorable celebrations—and, of course, some not so memorable ones. Despite everything the community has given me, I would trade it in all to help a good friend.

There are very few people in my life that I’ve had instant trust in, coupled with a complete rapport. When I was 18, I had a roommate, Jeff. I was never sure what it was about him—and I’m still not sure today—but I immediately knew that despite how little I knew of him, he would always have my back—in any situation. In return, I’d do the same. I was unsure of the motivation or connection, but sometimes you meet people and you know right away that they are worth your time, worth your protection, and worth the investment. It comes down to an innate trust, and a feeling that you’ve actually—and finally—met a good person. That might seem like an unworthy generic label, but there are so few people that truly qualify as good people in the moral, ethical, and human sense.

There is a reason that Angelo is known throughout the country. Sure, he was an early supported of craft beer through his site brewpublic.com, but it’s much more than that. It certainly is easy to see that Angelo loves beer. I’ve seen him opposite a pint on countless occasions. But the connection is much more than what’s in the glass. Angelo is honest, immediate, compassionate, trustworthy, and one of the few good people that I’ve come across in my long journey on this planet.

Now, I don’t want to canonize Angelo as the patron saint of anything. However, it would be remiss of me not to talk about the positive impact he’s had on me over the years.

And now he needs our help. This is certainly not the time to get into a political discussion and argue over the health care system when there’s a black and white number staring us in the face: $200,000. This is a ridiculous and obscene number for anyone faced with this kind of bill—and I’m still shocked by my monthly Comcast bill.

But I’m not here writing and begging for money. I only hope that my story resonates with a few of you. Maybe you’ve met Angelo. Maybe you’ve met someone like him. Maybe you just want to support a really great person that you don’t know. If you’re in any of these categories, you’ve got two easy options to help out.

First and foremost, you can drink beer. Really! Come out to the Commons Brewery this Thursday and drink a pint, or two, or three (if you’re cycling), or four (if you’re walking), etc. The Commons is donating all draft sales to Angelo’s medical fund. Along with the Commons, several other breweries have donated kegs for the event so that you can enjoy great Oregon beer while supporting a great cause. And if yoou don’t believe my story, look at the amazing breweries that have contributed to this event:

  • Commons—Urban Farmhouse
  • Commons—Gose
  • Breakside—Wanderlust IPA
  • Deschutes—Weizenbock
  • Fort George Brewery—Next Adventure Black IPA
  • Gigantic/Ecliptic—TicWitTic (Sour Wit)
  • Laurelwood—Monksfest (Belgian Single)
  • Ninkasi—Sterling Pils
  • Occidental Brewing Company—Dunkelweizen
  • Upright—English Pale Ale
  • Vertigo—Hop Harvest (Fresh Hop IPA)
  • Widmer—Upheaval IPA (Northwest IPA)

Secondly, you can donate directly through Angelo’s Fundly campaign. Honestly, anything helps. Donate a dollar, donate ten, donate a thousand. And, if you’re a firm believer that two is better than one, the first person willing to donate $200, I will match it. If you want to donate this amount, please contact me at donation@portlandbeer.org. I will take your check and turn it into a $400 donation. It’s an easy way to double your impact for a great cause.

Cheers Angelo. You’ve been here for us and now we’re here for you. Be well and dream of delicious beer.

Beer and Bikes Make Things So Nice

I love beer and I love biking. There are not many more things in my life, aside from family, that I cherish so much.  If I could run off on a world tour by bike, stopping only for sleep, food, and beer, I would (maybe at the sacrifice of being divorced). However, circumstances as they may be, I opt for a beautiful day trip on my bike to one of my many favorite water holes. Portland is abound with beer choices and bike rides and I take every advantage of doing them both at the same time, especially when it is sunny and clear.

Last weekend I decided to visit Luck Lab’s Brew Pub in Multnomah Village. Since I recently moved to the dark side of cellular phones, I took my fancy-pants android smartphone with me and snapped a few pictures along the way.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Taking the Springwater Trail south from Division Street, I headed towards the Sellwood Bridge to Capital Highway via Corbett Avenue and some side streets. There were quite a few climbs that surprised me, but that made the Sunshine IPA all the more refreshing, and the view was nothing to scoff. Enjoy the pictures.

Stay tuned for more bike and beer adventures.

Beer and Bikes 01
Along Springwater Trail.
Beer and Bikes 02
View from the Sellwood Bridge.
Beer and Bikes 03
The peak of Corbett Avenue.
Beer and Bikes 04
Arriving on the steps of Lucky Lab’s Kingdom formerly a Masonic Temple.
Beer and Bikes 05
The view just before the kill. Gulp!

Lagerfest 2013

Lagerfest 2013

Over 40 breweries will participate and each will provide their own sophisticated take on the classic lager beer. The twenty dollar entrance fee includes ten free tastings, a Lagerfest beer drinking mug, and one epicly good time! Killer food provided by Eastside Deli and White Owl Social Club! Go to the Mercury Stranger Tickets online to buy now in advance at a discounted price. Be sure to plan on dancing some of those empty calories off the night of the 24th at the Lagerfest After Party with DJ’€™s Jessicat and Danny Dodge — This event is free and hosted by White Owl. Don’€™t blow it, and make sure you’re at this year’€™s very first Lagerfest! A portion of the proceeds of the Oregon Lagerfest go to the Pixie Project & 91.1 XRAY.fm.

11am – 7pm both days.

Beer + Food Carts + Bands = The Awesome Deschutes Street Fare!

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2010

It’s back, it’s awesome, and it kicks off at 5pm tonight! Details from the press release are below, plus some of my favorite images from years past. I’ll be there are usual, weighed down with camera gear, so stop by and say hi!


A benefit for the Meals on Wheels People, Street Fare will feature some of Portland’s most popular food carts. These well-known vendors will pair their delicious dishes to match perfectly with Deschutes Brewery’s beers, providing a flavorful treat for everyone there!  And of course, what’s a party without music?  Street Fare will feature some of the best live, local music around, guaranteeing an unforgettable summer night.

Portland food cart vendors have received national and international attention as some of the best in the world. Featured vendors at the Deschutes Brewery Street Fare will include:

Four musical acts have been hand selected to keep you dancing and throughout the night.  Funkplastic will get the audience groovin’ along with their bucket drums and bongos, Mariachi Los Palmeros will play three distinct styles of Mexican Mariachi melodies, Hook and Anchor will impress the audience with a unique mix of traditional Americana music paired with rich vocal harmonies, and The Minus 5, featuring Scott McCaughey of REM and The Young Fresh Fellows, will cap off the night with their pop-styled music.

An entry fee of $10 includes one beer and food pairing, and additional pairings after that are only $4.  Taster tickets are also available for $30, which includes the entry fee, plus 7 tasters. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.streetfare2013.eventbrite.com

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2010
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2010
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2012
Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011
Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside
Loch Lomond

Initial Thoughts: 2013 Oregon Brewers Festival in Review

OBF Wednesday 2013
Rare site at OBF – no line for beer!

The first Wednesday ever of the Oregon Brewers Fest is now in full swing and I was able to partake in a portion of it. These tidbits may help others navigate some of the next four days of debauchery (for my preview, check here):

  • Wednesday is no secret: Although I timed my visit after the paraders had most likely cleared out and before the happy hour crowd arrived, there was still a healthy turnout on Wednesday afternoon. Beer lines were mercifully short to non-existant, but most areas still felt ‘full’. I imagine it will only get worse from here on out, so prepare for crowds.
  • Bring your own water: The only substantial lines I experienced were at the water stations due to a combination of the heat and the low flow on the taps. Hopefully they adjust the water pressure, but if not you would be wise to bring your own and avoid at least one line.
  • Glass is superior: The switch to glass this year is a very welcome change. Every aspect of the tasting experience (visual, aroma and flavor) is better with glass than plastic. I do miss the mug shape a bit, but I did not mind the three ounce taster portion – more than enough to get a feel for the beer in question.
  • Southern front changes should be retained: The movement of the South Tent closer to the river and away from the beer trailers appears to be a smart move. In years past, many people have probably tripped over the tent stakes after getting their cups filled. With the tent pushed away, there is plenty of room around the beer trailers to figure out which line is the right one (as long as everyone practices appropriate Beer Fest Etiquette).
  • The mobile app is not really an app: When the illustrious Chris Crabb pointed out the sign for information on the OBF mobile app I blew her off thinking I could just go to my App Store and search out the app. Soon enough I discovered the only thing that turned up in my App search was the 2012 edition. Turns out that it is actually a mobile guide that can be easily accessed by scanning the QR code on the sign or on page 47 of the program. I would have preferred a stand-alone app for accessibility purposes, but the the QR option is a good compromise.
  • Sleeves are optional: If you were questionning whether or not you could rock that vintage tank top from the 80′s (which apparently is back in style), question no more and bust it out. I felt foolish wearing a short sleeve shirt.

In terms of the beer, opinions are like you know what but for what it is worth here are my tasting notes on the ones I got to on opening day (in alphabetical order):

  • Boulder Pump up the Jam: The description states how the Oregon blueberries added during fermentation impart a ‘juicy, jammy fruit flavor and aroma’. I enjoyed the flavor but was not a fan of the aroma. This is one that would have probably faired better in the plastic mug.
  • Boundary Bay Double Dry-Hopped Bravo Pale Ale: This one was not on my must try list, but I was drawn in by the double dry-hopped and was not disappointed.
  • Dick’s Pulp Friction: Dick got the right mix of citrus from the orange peel and grapefruit zest with the hop appeal from the Magnum and Mt. Hood hops.
  • Dunedin Chronicle 11: Subtropical IPA: Dunedin crossed the line from interesting beer to novelty act here. My palette is not advanced enough to isolate what turned me off on this beer, but I was glad I only had a taste.
  • Gigantic & Juice: Gigantic calls this a ‘beermosa’ and I think that is a very accurate description. The aroma is full on juice (I got mostly grapefruit, but pineapple and tangerine most certainly contributed to the nose) but the flavor is a good balance between juice and beer. At 6% ABV, this one could be dangerous.
  • Oakshire OBF 26: I had the good fortune of stumbling into a full pour on this one and could not be happier about it. I am not sure how they were able to so perfectly blend 26 different ingredients together in a 26 IBU beer, but they did a hell of a job.
  • The Dude’s Grandma’s Pecan Brown: I really enjoyed my taste portion of the Pecan Brown, but I question The Dude’s decision to make this their flagship beer. I think this beer would be overly sweet and cloying in a full pint. However, I know some people who cannot get enough pecan pie at Thanksgiving and this beer is for them.

Hopefully this gives you some intel going into the next four days of OBF. Enjoy the Fest!

2013 OBF Week Preview

Oregon Brewers Festival 2011

The biggest brew fest of the Portland season returns this Wednesday for a five day run at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Here are the pertinent details on the 26th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival for those just interested in the facts:

  • Location: Main entrance at S.W. Oak Street and Naito Parkway in downtown Portland
  • Dates: July 24 – 28, 2013 (always the last full weekend in July)
  • Times: Wednesday through Saturday: taps are open from Noon to 9 PM. Sunday: taps are open from Noon to 7 PM. Token & mug sales close one-half hour prior to the taps shutting off.
  • Admission: Admission into the festival grounds is free (minors permitted with parent but no dogs). In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2013 souvenir 12.8 oz. tasting glass is required and costs $7. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens, which cost $1 apiece. Patrons pay four tokens for a full glass of beer, or one token for a three-oz. taste. There are no advance tickets sold to the festival; all purchases are made on-site. The festival is cash only, and there are ATMs on-site.
Although many beer geeks, including some of my colleagues at this reputable site, choose not to attend this festival due to the crowds and/or the beer selection, I never miss it and this year’s edition looks to be even better than previous years.
The main reason is the switch from the ubiquoutous 14 ounce plastic mug to an actual tasting glass. The plastic mug certainly has nostalgia on its side, plus a couple ounce size advantage and a much better chance at surviving a bike crash on the way home (which I tested a couple years back), but not much else other than off-gassing over any beer aromas you may not enjoy. The new glass will provide a much better tasting platform which is the main reason we have the fest in the first place. I do not expect the concerns around broken glass will come to fruition as the location is virtually all grass, so someone would need to try pretty hard to break there glass. This is problematic on two fronts in that the glass is required for beer drinking and it costs $7. Drunkeness can often overcome logic, but I would expect the vast majority of the attendees to take excellent care of their fragile drinking vessel. The pubs I frequent seem to do just fine serving beer in glasses and I do not expect OBF to be any different. The bigger complaint I am hearing around the glasses is the size. The blogosphere is up in arms about the reduction in both full pours and tasters. Reducing the taste from four ounces to three is a 25% reduction, but despite the volunteers’ best intentions the taste pours always seem to run heavy so we may still end up in the four ounce range. Plus, the taste is intended to be just that so swallow your taste and shut the f*#% up move on to the next one. I have always gone for the taster, so I do not concern myself on the size of the full glass, but I do agree it will be hard for even the most inept volunteer to overcompensate on a full pour to get you close to the old 14 ounces. However, the smaller pours may cut back on the rowdiness later in the evening which most will appreciate.

OBF Mug
You should be able to get a better look at your beer at this year’s OBF
Another reason to look forward to this year’s OBF is the extra day added. Wednesday is the new Thursday and I would expect this will be a good day to beat the crowds. Everyone has done a good job about publicizing the added day, so I do not think it is a secret but it is a school night so the party crowd should be diminished.

Lastly, the beer list (84 strong) looks to be more varied than the past few years of the IPA. One beer geek complaint I hear a lot is that the OBF list if often stuffed with standard selections (21st Amendment’s Watermelon Wheat would be an excellent example) and this year is no different. However, that does not mean that these are not good beers and not worthy of sampling. I actually enjoy seeing some of these at the fest giving me the opportunity to just try them without committing to a full pint. In a town as sick with good beer as Portland, I am hesitant to pull the trigger at the pub on something that ‘I can always get’ versus the special release, so OBF provides a nice platform to try some of those standards in a non-committal way. Without further ado, here are some of the beer list highlights (IMO) by category:

Standard offerings (i.e. beers you can probably get at your local but that you might usually pass on for something more exotic/rare)

  • 10 Barrel SWILL: New summer seasonal from one of Bend’s newer stars that is half Berliner Weiss and half grapefruit (percentages approximate)
  • Boneyard Bone-A-Fide Pale Ale: Another newish Bend brewery whose IPAs (RPM and Hop Venom) overshadow what I expect to be an excellent pale ale
  • EPIC Hop Syndrome Lager: This beer is from Salt Lake City and from their Exponential Series, so it is not necessarily standard issue in PDX but I have come across it on occasion before and this will be a good chance to try without having to pony up for the full 22 ounce bomber
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack: I actually tried this rye IPA at last year’s Rye Beer Fest and have ordered a full pint on several occassions since then, but it is that good that I may still get a taster at OBF

Out of town imports (i.e. beers not usually available in PDX but may be standard  offerings in their distribution area)

  • Dunedin Chronicle 11: Subtropical IPA: One of the few quality breweries I have come across in Florida, this Tampa-area spot consistently puts out unique and delicious offerings; this ‘American Fruited Farmhouse IPA’ is certainly deserving of a taste
  • Surly Overrated! West Coast IPA: Surly has recently brought about changes in Minnesota’s laws to now allow brewpubs which should make my future trips there much more interesting; this IPA is their response to the much hyped West Coast IPA style, so it will be interesting to see how this one stacks up (although the ‘overrated’ in the title refers to themselves as opposed to the style)
  • The Dude’s Grandma’s Pecan Brown: The Dudes are starting to fill a gaping hole in the California craft beer blanket that is better known as Los Angeles; this beer is set to be their flagship and it is an English-style brown ale with Georgia pecans added to the mash – not a style you see much these days so I am looking forward to trying it
  • Wildwood Organic Ambitious Lager: This is a homecoming of sorts as Wildwood, located 24 miles south of Missoula, is the project of Jim Lueders who helped start Saxer Brewing here in Portland and bought the remnants of the Saxer equipment for Wildwood; Jim has a rich history in German brewing, so this Munich style lager should be good although a taste might not be enough

OBF specials (i.e. beers brewed specially for OBF – yes there are some)

  • Boulder Pump up the Jam: This Colorado brewery came up with a blueberry wheat beer for OBF using Oregon blueberries
  • Fort George Hop Contract: Astoria-based Fort George named this NW Pale Ale ‘Hop Contract’ as this is the first year they have been able to secure enough hops to brew special, hoppy brews, so this beer basically is celebrating Fort George’s gluttonny of hard to acquire hops like Scrooge McDuck celebrates his money by swimming in gold
  • Gigantic & Juice: I am not sure if this so-called Beermosa (IPA with citrus juices added) is a special beer for OBF only, but I have not come across it previously and it sounds quite quaffable
  • Oakshire OBF 26: After the success of Oakshire’s OBF 25 last year, which included 25 different Oregon ingredients, they decided to keep the train rolling this year by upping the ante to 26 mostly Oregon-based ingredients; the result is a 26 IBU golden ale that should highligh Oregon’s bounty

Baker’s dozen picks (i.e. extra beers I will have at the top of my priority list)

  • Deschutes Double Impact Belgian IPA: Growing up as a big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan, I need to try this beer for the name alone
  • Dick’s Pulp Friction: You may have noticed a trend with the fruit beers this year and this one falls into that category as an orange infused pale ale, also with a great name
  • Rogue Beard Beer: Gimmicky? Yes, but I have been dying to try this beer made with yeast taken from brewer John Maier’s beard
  • Terminal Gravity Tap Out: The highest alcohol offering at OBF from my favorite post-Wallowa hiking watering hole is described as a ‘Craft Malt Liquor’ but I am guessing it will bear very little resemblence to the forties of King Cobra I used to buy in college

For those that boycott the OBF for whatever reason, there is still plenty to keep you busy this week including EastBurn’s 2nd Annual OBF Brewers’ Pig Roast on Wednesday, the Brew Am Golf Tournament at Edgefield on Friday and Belmont Station’s Fringe Fest on Saturday. Cheers!

2013 North American Organic Brewers Festival

NAOBF

Photo courtesy of NAOBF

This is the second year in a row that I attended my favorite beer festival in Portland. The North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF) is family oriented, small, environmentally conscience, and stocked with some damn fine beer.

The NAOBF offered 60 organic beers and ciders from California, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington along with sustainable practices that many other festivals (not just beer festivals) should adopt to lessen the impact on the unique and beautiful place we call home.

I love this festival for a few reasons that are not entirely related to beer. It is not too large or too small and it welcomes all ages. With a bike corral and located conveniently on the yellow MAX line, there are safe and expedient ways to arrive and depart from the festival with ease. NAOBF is easily manageable and stocked with free water, delectable food, diner tents, and a view from one of the most beautiful parks in Portland: Overlook Park. Additionally, the festival donates a portion of the proceeds to the Overlook Neighborhood Association, Portland Public Schools, and the Oregon Food Bank. Oh, yeah, and it serves beer too.

With more than 60 organic beers to choose from, it is quite difficult to sample all of them in one day. I certainly tried. I did have a few favorites though: Logsdon Seizoen Bretta and Summit Brewing Co Unchained #12: 100% Organic Session Ale. Both refreshing and easily drinkable, the Logsdon clocks in at 8% and is balanced by Summit’s sessionable characteristics of their Session IPA, which just passes 4.5% ABV. My all time favorite from one of Eugene’s most popular breweries, Falling Sky Brewing, was the Biopiracy Best Bitter. The ultimate session beer (5.1% ABV) made from 100% organic ingredients (not all beers are 100% organic) and features honeysuckle and pear flavors. I enjoyed the ease of consuming one of the many beers from my favorite brewery in Eugene and just maybe Oregon.

If you haven’t experienced the NAOBF, jot in on your calendar for next year, buy some sunscreen, and get ready for the most fun you could have while fully clothed.

Gluten Is My Bitch & Omission

Gluten Book Reading
Author April Peveteaux reading from her new book Gluten Is My Bitch to a standing room only crowd at Widmer that included Fred Eckhardt

I had the pleasure of being one of the three media members that turned out last Thursday evening to an exclusive roundtable interview with April Peveteaux, author of the new book Gluten Is My Bitch and the blog of the same name. Normally, a gluten-free event probably would not invite beer bloggers, as we are usually pushing gluten in all its glory. However, this particular event that April had as part of her book promotion tour was hosted by Widmer Brothers at the brewery in North Portland. To sweeten the pot, the round table included Widmer Brewmaster Joe Casey (the ’brains behind Omission’) and Terry Michaelson (celiac and CEO of Widmer’s parent company, Craft Brew Alliance Inc.), plus plenty of free Omission beers available for enjoying.

For those out of the loop, Omission is CBA’s newest brand and they make a lager, pale ale and IPA that are all made with traditional brewing ingredients (i.e. gluten-rich malted barley), but then go through a process to remove virtually all of the gluten from the finished product. This is an important distinction because other ‘gluten-free’ (I use quotes because the federal government is still debating whether Omission can be called gluten-free as the product still contains gluten fragments, although at counts well below the recognized international standard for gluten-free labeling) beers are made with alternative ingredients such as sorghum or chestnuts. Although these beers, such as Portland’s own Harvester Brewing, can be a delicious alternative to a regular craft beer with gluten, they still have a different flavor profile. Omission aims to make as close to a similar product as possible, just without the gluten. I was able to try Omission’s newest beer, the IPA, during the event. I had previously had the lager and the pale ale which are both solid beers, but they are both styles that I do not find myself reaching for very often. On the other hand, I am always hunting down IPAs to try and an IPA is always my fall back option at a pub or restaurant when I am being indecisive. Therefore, I was quite excited to try the IPA and I have to say that Omission has made another solid beer. The IPA is not going to stand out in a Northwest crowd with hop showcases like Boneyard RPM or Fort George Vortex as I would compare more to the IPAs of old (meaning 10 or more years ago). The closest beer that came to mind when I was drinking it was Harpoon IPA out of Boston, but a Portland reference might be Bridgeport IPA.

Gluten Roundtable
Craft Brewers Alliance CEO Terry Michaelson and Omission Brewmaster Joe Casey

During the roundtable, some interesting things came up around Omission. When asked about the recent press (see here) related to some folks complaining about the gluten fragments in Omission making them sick, Joe and Terry said they take those issues very seriously. Terry himself has responded directly to anyone who has complained about this potential issue. April said she had not heard of anyone having problems with Omission, but all three stated it is very hard to avoid gluten in the modern world as it has found its way into all sorts of everyday products. They did not want to discount these people’s experiences, but they said it is often hard to pinpoint exactly what may have caused a reaction because of the prevalence of gluten. In response to a question about beer recipes that Omission beers could be used in, April suggested beer battered fish & chips or chili. However, the one request she had was for a dark beer such as a porter or stout because there are many recipes out there that call for this type of beer that she can no longer make because of her celiac disease. Joe responded by saying that during the Omission development process, they made all sorts of different kinds of beer and the process would work even on dark beers. They started with the lager and pale ale because they suspected their target market may not currently be drinking beer, so they wanted to start with some lighter options. The IPA was next because it is the most popular craft beer style. However, he stated they have no current plans to expand the Omission line further as they are focusing on growing the market with the current line-up.

If you have stuck with me this long, you are are either gluten intolerant yourself or you may be asking what the big deal is with gluten. April stated that there are 3 million people in the US alone that have been diagnosed with celiac disease with an additional 2 million suspected that have not been diagnosed. On top of that, an estimated 20 million could be classified as gluten intolerant. I do not fall into either category, but I do believe the human body is not naturally designed to run on grains (for more information, I would recommend Mark’s Daily Apple). I do not let this stop me from enjoying beer, but I have changed my consumption habits to only drink a beer when that beer is worth drinking. For example, when I am travelling I generally will not drink a complimentary beer in first class because Blue Moon is generally the most unusual thing available. I am not ready to make the switch to Omission, but if they are able to prove this concept and grow the market then I will look forward to others following them and potentially pushing the envelope further. In the meantime, I will probably always have Omission IPA in my fridge for my visitors that cannot have gluten. It certainly beats seeing them show up with a sixer of Red Bridge which has happened more than I would like to admit.

What Makes a Great Pub?

Belmont Station

Belmont Station

Hemingway had La Closerie des Lilas Café, his favorite place to write and drink while living in Paris. Orwell provided a detailed description of his ideal public house in “The Moon Under Water.” I may never be the writer both these men were, but they knew what a drinking establishment needed to be great and I think I do too. I do have a favorite watering hole and occasionally I pretend I am seated across from these great men of letters discussing literary concerns, old and new, over a pint. But I wanted to know what it takes to make a great pub (Public House) in Portland from someone who knows Portland and its beer culture. I knew one person that could give me a straight answer.

On a recent afternoon, I had the honored privilege to visit with the Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison, the new business partner of my favorite pub in Portland, the Belmont Station. We discussed what it takes to make a great pub while sipping a fine ale.

Lisa expounded that a pub needs to have a community; it needs to be a third place, an environment that is not work or home, but has the welcoming comfort of a home that enables conversation. “You can have all the beers, great bar, but that [alone] won’t create a community. You have to have a caring staff, a caring owner,” and an unquantifiable essence that says you are welcome and we are your friends.

We both agreed that conversation was essential to any pub’s success. If you can’t talk, then it is not a pub. English pubs, past and present, are the cornerstone of good conversation and where you went to get updated on the community’s events and news. Yes, there was life before Facebook. Similar to a church (without the beer or course), pubs historically were how people met and disseminated information in an informal and comfortable space over pint.

As electronic devices sneak their way into more of our lives, I pondered the existence of a television inside a pub. Does a television deter from the sense of a community and connection people have in a pub?  Orwell had opinion: “the pub [should be] quiet enough to talk, with the house possessing neither radio nor a piano.” Although TV did not exist at the time Orwell wrote that, I am sure he would have vetoed TV’s place on a wall in any pub. I believe pubs, and all food and drink establishments for that matter, should NEVER have a television and music should be in the background, barely discernible, if at all. Lisa agrees, “A pub cannot have a TV; it is a place to share conversation and ideas and a TV distracts.” I can’t say how I relieved I was to hear her say that. Luckily, the Belmont Station is without such a distraction, and the music is usually low, providing the space to converse with your friends and loved ones.

Lisa further explained there was no way she would have become a partner without believing that the Belmont Station provided a community spot for people to connect and enjoy one another like the pubs of England. Lisa wants to facilitate the growth, organically, of the Belmont Station. “I didn’t want to come in with guns blazing,” she offered. Rather, she came in ready to learn from the knowledgeable staff and from customers. She sees it as an already well-established community asset and sees change in small intervals over long periods of time. Cheers to that.

After you kick in your television, visit my favorite pub, the Belmont Station and its fantastic staff, for some conversation and idea sharing. I would also like you to share with me your favorite pub and why it is your home away from home. Let me know at mike@portlandbeer.org or come to the Belmont Station for a pint. I am usually in the back with my wife soaking up the sun.

2013 Portland Fruit Beer Festival Recap

2013 Fruit Beer Festival

The Portland Fruit Beer Festival is interesting in the fact that it is not like any other festival in Portland. This festival is a chance for brewers to create some of the oddest one-off beers many people will ever try without the risk of losing money on a batch that doesn’t sell. Because of this, brewers are able to stretch and bend their imaginations and push the limits of what a beer really can be. Some of them are triumphant, some of them not so much. But really, which ones were successful in making a tasty Frankenstein beer and which ones came out more like Igor are up to you, the consumer.

I usually try to start out at a festival by tasting lighter beers first, then moving on to darker and more complex beers as I ramble along in the hope of not ruining my palate right off the bat. So when it comes to a fruit beer, I figured my best bet was to start with a sweeter beer and move on to the sour higher alcohol barrel aged monstrosities later in my visit. The first beer I grabbed was the Blue Raspberry Lager from Lucky Lab. There really are no tasting or aroma notes to this beer other than it was like a blue raspberry Jolly Rancher and a quality lager had a love child and the result was this blue beauty. Either that or Papa Smurf snuck into the brewery after a batch of Papa Paul’s Pilsner was created. In that case I foresee an interesting episode of Maury titled “Papa or Papa… Who’s the real Papa?” Either way the beer is blue and fruity, but most of all it is tasty. So… well done Lucky Lab. Next I tried a Gose called “Gose the Elder” by Oakshire, which was brewed with coriander, sea salt and elderberry. I picked up notes of fig and cherry, but overall the flavor was weak and the beer seemed a bit over carbonated. Once again, not much aroma. Next up was the Barrel-Aged Citrus Wit from Upright Brewing. This beer would be a great go-to summer sipping beer with its strong citrus aroma, bubble gummy flavor and sour aftertaste. Mouthfeel was a perfect medium, and the beer finished with a clean taste. To me, this is what fruit beer should be. After my tongue finished tangoing with the wit, I decided to be bold and just try a beer based on its name. So, being a fruit beer fest I immediately went for “Hey There Fruitcake!” by Gigantic Brewing. It was kind of like drinking a bowl of fruit. So many different little hints of flavor hit you from every side, your tastebuds have a hard time keeping up. This ale is brewed with cherry, apricot, orange peel, and ginger. I picked up some different flavors (peach? orange? banana?) Really I couldn’t pinpoint a single flavor, and I like a beer that I can’t describe. So again, well done Gigantic. Lastly was the Champagne de Granada from Widmer. Tart, tart, tart. This is a pomegranate Berlinerweiss with an ABV of 3.2%.  I think that this beer could have gained some flavor if they had kicked up the ABV to about 4.5-5%. Berlinerweiss bier is already tart, and with pomegranate added it is even more so. While I enjoyed the tartness, it was so much that in my opinion it overshadowed some of the potential flavor. The pom flavor is definitely still there, but I think a little refinement is needed to make this a contender to stand out amongst the lineup.

Now, you may think that some of my beer reviews were a little like the beer. Sour. Well that was how I was feeling before I even got in to the festival. See, I like planning ahead to minimize stress and to help things move along smoothly. So I purchased my tickets on the PFBF website after reading that you could “skip the cash line!” by buying online. So it was to my annoyance that when I got to the festival and showed the cheery stone faced security guard mine and my friends responsibly pre-purchased tickets that I was met with a stern and somewhat insulting “BACK OF THE LINE” followed by the ever so hated finger point. Mmk buddy, you got the badge. This wouldn’t have been so bad, had the “cash line” that we could have “skipped” not had exactly zero people in it. At the back of the line we talked to the people in front of us who were just as puzzled and frustrated as we were. Same with the guy we met at the front of the line on the other side of the gate getting the stern pointy finger to the back of the line that we had received, just as I was pulling up the website on my phone to reaffirm to myself that we were in fact “skipping the cash line!”

The way the festival was set up kind of puzzled me. Instead of putting the taps on the east wall where the standing crowd would be positioned behind the lines (like it was the first year), the taps were on the south side with room on both sides of the lines to stand, but with the size of the lines you had to fight your way through almost indiscernible lines or go through the restaurant which diners did not look like they enjoyed, then you would place yourself at the back of the crowd and the line would sort of form itself closer to the tap. This made going and getting a beer quite a chore, with wait times in excess of 20 minutes at around 3pm. I’m not sure about the general population, but when I’m at a beer fest I would like to spend less time in line and more time with my friends drinking beer away from the crowd. My one last gripe that was shared with me by many at the fest was the fact that last year they closed off 7th ave to provide more room for festival goers. Good move. This year they parked a gigantic Greyhound bus and set up a booth on 7th, taking up about half of the available extra room that was created by opening the street to the fest. Bad move. While I understand the need for money and sponsors to run a festival, perhaps getting Zipcar as a sponsor next year will provide more room for tables and canopies for shade, all of which were also non existent (except shade provided by leaning against the bus.)

This festival is only in its 3rd year so I understand that there are still lots of kinks to work out and there is always room to learn from the previous years. My suggestions to make this festival one that keeps people coming back for years to come would be to move it to a location with a lot of room (Overlook Park?), make sure information on the website is accurate to save the festival patrons a headache, and keep the beers coming and the brewing ingenuity fresh.