Review: Full Sail Wreck The Halls

Author: Jason Harris
December 15, 2016

Full Sail Wreck The HallsEditor’s Note: Today is day three in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love brought to me: Wreck The Halls for under my tree!

Today, we take a look at one of my favorite big breweries, Full Sail, out of Hood River, Oregon. The company’s annual holiday-time seasonal is called Wreck The Halls.

This holiday beer is a hybrid of an IPA and a winter warmer. Brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops, Wreck the Halls comes in at 6.5% ABV and 68 IBUs. It’s available, for the first time this year, in a 6-pack of 12 oz bottles and on draft at your local taphouse.

How does it taste?

Wreck the Halls pours a rich malty amber color and brings smells of cookies, raisins and dark wine. When you pour it, you get a frothy off white lacing. At first sip, this beer is super sweet and smells of a dry hopped IPA with a mild dry and somewhat sticky finish. When I taste this beer, I  definitely pick up on the grapefruit-like citrus notes and to me, it’s too strong.

Should I buy it?

If you like super citrus-y IPAs, yes. But for me, I’m not a fan of Wreck the Halls this year – there’s just too much competition out there with winter beers and this one is so lackluster I don’t recommend it.

Review: Gilgamesh Dark Prince

Author: Jason Harris
December 14, 2016

Editor’s Note: Today is day two in our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.

In today’s Twelve Days Of Brewing Christmas post, we highlight a brew from Gilgamesh Brewing. Gilgamesh is one of the oldest operating independent breweries in Salem, Oregon. The company started in the neighboring city of Turner, Oregon and moved to the industrial district of SE Salem a few years ago.

GIlgamesh Dark PrinceToday, let’s consider Dark Prince from Gilgamesh – a Cascadian Dark Ale, which means it’s a proprietary style of Oregon origin that’s heavy on hops and malt.

Now that we’ve established the medium where CDAs exist, let’s judge Gilgamesh’s Dark Prince. So – about that name – apparently someone at Gilgamesh has a crush on Will Smith, because it’s a thread that weaves many ales that come from the Salem brewery. “Fresh Prince” IPA, “DJ Jazzy Hef” and “Dark Prince” are all ales that stem from Will Smith roots.

 What does it taste like?

Dark Prince pours a dark amber colour. The amber colour dominates and this beer has almost no head – and the lack of carbonation in the first sip is instead dominated by nutty malty brilliance.

The dark grain backbone shows through heavily on this beer – it has almost no hoppy brilliance and instead comes through with dark grain flavors instead. In this beer, it’s almost as if the brewer chose grain and malt instead of hops, which is rare in a CDA – typically is BIG on hops at first and then rushes in the malt. Instead….Gilgamesh skipped the hoppy overtones and instead relied upon the aftertaste.

So, in a few words, Dark Prince from Gilgamesh is absolutely delicious.

Should I buy it?

Oh yes. Go now and buy thee. This beer gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from this beer nut.

You’ll find it at your local taphouse in draft. If you can’t find it. I have pity upon you.

Review: Ecliptic Filament Winter IPA

Author: Jason Harris
December 13, 2016

Editor’s Note: Today starts our Twelve Days of Christmas series on Pints and Steins – where we’ll be letting you know about a winter beer every day between now and Christmas Eve.

Filament IPAIn today’s twelve days of Christmas celebrations entry, we look at a new-ish brewery in Portland called Ecliptic Brewing. Located in North Portland, Ecliptic is known for high quality ales no matter what time of year you check out their brewing line-up.

Typically ‘winter beers’ mean dark, malty beers that are also called winter warmers. They’re strong in alcoholic content and rely upon toasted malts do drive home, big, robust flavor.

Ecliptic bucks this trend with Filament Winter IPA. Filament pours a beautiful clear-amber color that has copper hues and a white foam.

The description on the bottle puts it very well:

As the winter sun hangs low in our sky, some 93 million miles away, solar filaments, giant arcs of cool, dense plasma explode from its surface. Filament Winter IPA celebrates this cosmic wonder. Pale, Munich and Caramel malts create a rich malt character with a honey-like flavor. A bounty of Crystal, Chinook and Centennial hops combine to lend spicy, citrus hop notes.

Filament IPA comes in at 7.2% ABV and has 70 IBUs.

How does it taste?

At first sip, you pick up on a slight grapefruit and citrus scents and a bit of pine. The flavor, in a word, is outstanding – as a bread-like taste comes in and finishes with a slight caramel malt after-taste.

This beer is super drinkable – and those who don’t like hop-forward bitterness should not be put off by the 70 IBUs – this is a well balanced beer that is not hoppy at all. It’s super smooth from start to finish.

Whereas some winter beers overdo it with the spices, Filament bucks this trend with a flavorful IPA with malts that provide a symphony of malt sweetness.

Should I buy Filament IPA?

Yes, absolutely. Pick up a bomber (22 oz) bottle or if you can find it on draft – order and enjoy.

Spotlight on Santiam Brewing “Govna’s Reserve”

Author: Jason Harris
December 5, 2016

The pirates over at Santiam Brewing are up to generating really unique ales, just in time for the holiday gifting season. I had the chance to go over to the brewery on Thursday, December 1 and witness the super limited edition bottles of Govna’s Reserve being hand-dipped in wax.

I was able to wax a handful of bottles myself – it’s a time intensive but fun process!

The first step involves waxing the cap of the bottle

And step two involves waxing the the neck of the bottle as a final touch.

Govna’s Reserve is available only in kegs and in a very limited bottle release and the ale is Pirate Stout that’s barrel aged and is imperial strength.

Govna’s Reserve is aged in rum and bourbon barrels for a minimum of six months. At the end of fermentation, the beer’s infused with coconut for a warm, rich taste.

The ale was debuted over the weekend in Portalnd at the Holiday Ale Festival and received high 4+ star ratings by those who rated it on Untappd.

To catch Guvna’s Reserve, head to the Santiam Brewing taproom or look for the ale at your favorite specialty beer store.

Review: Santiam Brewing’s Hoppy Froppy and Coal Porter

Author: Jason Harris
October 21, 2016

Last Saturday, I visited the Santiam Brewing taproom in Salem, Oregon see what Fall seasonals were on tap.

Today, let’s talk about two Santiam beers – Hoppy Froppy (with Amarillo hops) and Coal Porter which is available on cask in the taproom.

Santiam Brewing’s Coal Porter

Santiam Coal Porter

Now that winter is nigh, it’s a good time to start digging in to porters, stouts and the darker beers that are perfect on a grey, Oregon day.

Coal Porter is made with North American barley and English roasted and crystal malts. It’s a medium bodied stout that has a distinctive hop flavor that is 6.2% ABV and 29 IBUs. The beer is black licorice in color and contains hints of coffee and malt flavor.

The earthy hop backbone shines in this cask ale. I loved the slight beige head with yummy roasted flavors. Coal Porter balanced and an utterly perfect dark beer.

Santiam Brewing’s Hoppy Froppy Ale

Everyone who knows that I love my fresh hop ales. This September-October timeframe is my favorite as we have all sorts of pale ales and IPAs that are enhanced with powerful fresh hops.

Over at Santiam, the guys have prepared a few fresh hop ales and today we’ll look at Hoppy Froppy. This time when I was at the taphouse, there were two versions of Hoppy Froppy available – one with Cascade and another with Amarillo hops.

Hoppy Froppy pours almost-clear in color with a slight reddish tint. It presents a light head and has very light carbonation. This ale has a mild, but citrussy hop profile that is wonderful with the Amarillo hops coming forward. It’s hop-forward but not overly bitter or cringe-inducing. My wife, who isn’t as much as a hop-head as me, found it to be floral and refreshing.

Hoppy Froppy Amarillo is a crowd-pleasing fresh hop pale ale that comes in at 5.8% ABC and a moderate 70 IBUs. Pick it up today at the taphouse – they have a few kegs left so you should get in to Santiam in the next week or two! 🙂

(Disclosure: samples were provided to profile in this blog post. Thanks to Matt Killikelly for the samples!)

Review: In Gourd We Trust by Vagabond Brewing

Author: Jason Harris
October 14, 2016

Just after fresh hop beer season comes around, we get to another season: pumpkin ale season in October. I’ve become a huge fan of pumpkin infused beers and I always look forward to this time of year.

Today, we take a look at one of Oregon’s few pumpkin beers, In Gourd We Trust from Vagabond Brewing in Salem, Oregon. This ale pours a brownish-amber color and has a strong scent of spice, I’m guessing cloves and nutmeg. The seasonal beer comes in at 5.5% ABV.

At first sip, there’s a bit of malt overtone at first, but then the sweetness of this beer kicks in. In essence, it tastes too sweet – I think the clove overpowers the experience of In Gourd We Trust. And unfortunately, I never pick up on the pumpkin in this ale.

Should I buy it?

So, if you’re looking for a sweet ale that celebrates the spices of Fall, then IGWT will be appealing to you!

For my palette, In Gourd We Trust is a little too sweet and goes more for pumpkin pie and not a classic Fall pumpkin-enhanced malty ale.

Have you had it? What are your thoughts?

Field Research: Touring Crosby Hop Farm

Author: Jason Harris
September 17, 2016

crosby-sunsethops

Last Friday evening, I had the opportunity to join my friends from Vagabond Brewing (thanks AJ and Dean!) at a private mini-brewfest at Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn, Oregon.

It was simply fascinating to tour Crosby Hop Farm and see the entire process of how hops are brought in by truck from the fields, dried, processed, and ultimately prepared for brewers as either whole-leaf hops or pellets.

In fact, I learned that Crosby is the only hops farm in Oregon that has an on-site pellet processing capability.

After our tour, we were able to sample from breweries in the area including Vangard Brewing in Wilsonville, Silver Moon in Bend, Santiam here in Salem. It was amazing to meet all these amazing brewers and hear about their craft, inspirations and more.

Vagabond Brewing Launches Limited Edition Growler Series

Author: Jason Harris
August 15, 2016

Vagabond Brewing, located in Salem, Oregon, has been on a roll lately. Recently, the trio behind Vagabond opened a downtown Salem taphouse called Victory Club.

Now, the brewery has announced a locally designed, limited edition growler created by Salem native Yuki Saeki. The growler celebrates Japanese culture and also Salem’s link to Japan. In fact, Salem, Oregon has a sister city relationship with Kawagoe, Japan.

Alvin Klausen, of Vagabond, told me today that the brewery desires to always have a growler for sale that is limited edition. The first installment, pictured below, was designed by Saeki, a friend to Vagabond and a local anime artist.

The growler is free with the purchase of a growler fill until August 21. There are only a few hundred that have been made – so get down to Victory Club or Vagabond Brewing and celebrate the new arrival!

Vagabond Growler Front

Vagabond Growler Rear

A Must Drink and Must Visit: Grain Station Brew Works

Author: Jason Harris
August 8, 2016

Deep in the heart of the Willamette Valley is an amazing brewery and restaurant that serves a huge lineup of outstanding ales and cuisine that would delight the most serious foodie – all in a family-friendly venue that it enjoyable, historic and pleasing to the eye.

gsbw-logo-color

Grain Station Brew Works, in the historic Granary District in McMinnville, Oregon is located at 755 NE Alpine Ave, just north of historic downtown McMinnville.

Humble Roots

Grain Station was started in 2013 by Kelly McDonald and Mark Vickery as Oregon’s first Community Supported Brewery. The concept of a CSB is that the community buys into the brewery as supporters for a share of the brewery’s beer. Like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a group supports a local farm and receives weekly shipments of the vegetable harvest, CSB is the same concept, just in the form of a mug-club.

GS-Bar

Grain Station Brew Works is located in an old 1930’s era lumberyard building that has been beautifully restored into a modern-looking farmhouse building that houses the brewpub and a coffee shop. The brewpub is the centerpiece of the Granary District, a mixed-use development with 7 buildings on 4 and a half acres. On the site is also a coffee house, Salon and Day Spa, Karate Studio, four wineries and other retail businesses.

IMG_7784 IMG_7783

The complex is quite the outdoor destination as there is regularly live music and with Granary District outdoor patio (mini-amphitheater, really), it’s the perfect place to grab a pint of beer/cider or a glass of wine and take in music with friends or your family.

Farm-to-glass brewing

I had the opportunity to get a tour with Kelly McDonald, co-owner of GSBW and hear about the day-to-day operating of McMinnville’s ultimate entertainment spot. Kelly is a direct descendent of early Oregon Pioneers from the mid-Willamette Valley and moved to McMinnville to attend nearby Linfield College. Since then, Kelly has been a businessman in McMinnville for decades and is devoted to bringing out McMinnville’s potential.

In the brewing process for Grain Station, the brew team has first-name relationships with growers in the Yamhill and Polk County region that bring about the finest ingredients for their brews.

GSBW Flight

Grain Station has six signature beers that join an ever-changing lineup of seasonal and limited-edition beers. I had a chance to sample a flight and was seriously impressed with all of them. Here’s a run-down:

HAYSTACK GOLD

Like the sun shining on a field of freshly baled hay on a clear summer morning, Haystack Gold is light, crisp and refreshing. Put your feet up and reward yourself with liquid sunshine. OG: 1.044 · ABV: 4.5 · IBU: 15

SPROUT HEFE

Our Bavarian-style weizen’s (wheat beer) unfiltered brew is swimming with clove and banana and stirs up a frothy head. Don’t let “sprout” fool you – this hefe is full of flavor. OG: 1.051 · ABV: 5.2 · IBU: 20

WALNUT CITY RED

Our red ale celebrates McMinnville’s roots as The Walnut City. Locally grown cascade hops throughout impart floral citrus notes and a crisp bitterness. OG: 1.055 · ABV: 5.4 · IBU: 45

BET THE FARM IPA

Our flagship IPA packs a whopping 85 IBU punch. It is boil and dry hopped with a balanced blend of bitter and aroma hops, In other words: flavorful and aromatic hoppy goodness. OG: 1.064 · ABV: 6.5 · IBU: 85

HANK’S DARK ALE

This is a laid-back, easy-starting dark ale with a smooth malt finish. De-husked carafa malt gives this beer its dark color without a heavy roasted malt character. OG: 1.058 · ABV: 5.8 · IBU: 60

GRAIN STATION STOUT

Served on nitro, this creamy, smooth-bodied stout is rich and malty with a sweetness that doesn’t fade away. OG: 1.060 · ABV: 6.2 · IBU: 30

For the full up-to-date list of GSBW beers, visit the Brews page.

A New Era Begins

2016 marks two new additions to Grain Station’s Brew Works’ staff that have made an immediate impact on the guest experience. Earlier this year, Grain Station Brew Works promoted Joseph D’Aboy as new head brewer and hired a new head chef, Matt McMahon.

Joe was the assistant brewer for the last few years and is taking the existing GSBW brew lineup to a whole new level  along with developing refreshing new brews as well.  The results are impressive as we’re seeing amazing new brews come on tap.

In my interview with Joe, I asked about his start in brewing. Like many in the industry, he said, he got his start homebrewing and his craft took off from there. Originally from Sandy, Oregon, Joe attended college at Linfield and fell in love with McMinnville. He’s proud of the solid lineup built at GSBW and is happy to be experimenting with new styles.

Head Brewer Joseph D'Aboy

Earlier this year, Joe and co-owner Kelly McDonald made changes in the brewhouse, including upgrading equipment. Part of this included installing automated cooling to existing 7-barrel fermenters, addition of a 15 barrel bright tank as well as other infrastructure changes. Joe says GSBW’s beer is unique because of his close attention to the yeast strains found in their beers.

He’s developed 3 core strains – hefe, saison and lager and will use these foundational strains and build upon them.

Recently, in Bend, Oregon, I had Farmhouse Saison, which was on tap at Brown Owl. It was a perfect blend of complex yeasts and malty backbone and was ideal on a warm summer night.

For the Saison, specifically, Joe will introduce fruit-infused versions of them including dark cherry and apricot. I got to tour the new barrel aging room – where GSBW has acquired wine, whiskey and gin barrels from local sources and has 10 set up as a lab of sorts. Joe’s admits: he’s lucky to have the space to experiment at GSBW as many brewers are confined by physical locations to store items such as barrels. “Kelly’s a commercial real estate guy, so space is something he’s thought about – and I was able to use this store room in a very tactful way”.

A New Focus On Cuisine

In addition to new beers coming out, Kelly McDonald focused on the kitchen as well. In hiring Matt McMahon and building out his kitchen staff, GSBW is now defying what ‘brewpub’ food typically means. Matt was raised mostly in Texas and learned barbecue at a very young age. After touring around the country as a military kid, Matt picked up culinary styles along the way. His influences come throughout the Southern US, Maine, Canada and more.

Matt gained his culinary training in Portland and was a chef at Portland City Grill when he learned of an opportunity at Grain Station Brew Works. He was attracted to McMinnville and GSBW specifically because of the unrealized potential of cuisine at the restaurant. Again, with Kelly’s connection to local growers and farmers, Matt can use these local flavors in his food each and every day.

Head Chef Matt McMahon

GSBW’s cuisine program, powered by Matt, has a theme of bringing fine dining to McMinnville at an affordable price. Farm to table is an over-used term these days, but the practice is at work at GSBW on the plates and in pint glasses.

Also, Matt is in constant contact with Joe and the two work together to bring out dishes that compliment the upcoming beer offerings. For example, soon Joe will start offering a gin aged ale and Matt is coming in to pair it with lamb seasoned with lavender and juniper that will be the perfect accompaniment.

Matt told me that he’s excited about winter because “that’s when people really want to eat” and he can respond with root-vegetable enable stews that are French and German inspired and go along with the darker ales really well.

Conclusion

The combination of family-friendly atmosphere, focus on live music and quality drink and food make Grain Station a unique place. McMinnville is lucky to have such a stellar brewpub in town and we’re lucky in the Willamette Valley to have access to their beers.

You’ll find Grain Station at a number of places both in bottles and on draft. Look for Grain Station 22 oz bottles at Roth’s Fresh Markets in the Salem area on draft at your preferred pub or growler fill station in the Willamette Valley. Also, in Bend at the Brown Owl.

Bend Brewing Company Expanding in Downtown Bend

Author: Jason Harris
July 25, 2016

As a frequent visitor to Bend, Oregon, I’ve been a long-time frequenter of Bend Brewing Company. I’ve always enjoyed the restaurant’s amazing food and family-friendly-ness and of course, their beers have always been amongst Central Oregon’s best.

Late in 2015, BBC announced a changed in ownership that made fans hope for new developments to ensure BBC’s future at the forefront of the brewing community here. As Bend’s 2nd oldest brewery (just behind Deschutes), BBC is an important fixture downtown. They have a very limited upstairs brewing production floor that limits their growth as craft beer has exploded in the last 10 years.

It didn’t take long for new owners Patrick and Leslie Deenihan to get to work. In the spring of 2016, construction began on a street-front bar/serving area renovation. The new space, pictured below, features 4 taps, new seating areas, and an opening door that invites you in for a pint and a meal.

Image courtesy: BBC Facebook page

Image courtesy: BBC Facebook page

On Friday, BBC announced that the new owners purchased the vacant land just south of the brewery. This exciting news means that BBC will expand southward, creating more jobs for downtown Bend and expanding one of this beer fan’s favorite eateries.

In the Bend Bulletin article regarding the bold move, Patrick Deenihan said the current plans involve a large outdoor patio that’s “uniquely Bend”. Considering the property has a riverfront view, facing Mirror Pond, this is a fantastic move.

Also, in the article, the co-owners noted that they’re on the hunt somewhere in Bend for space to expand their brewing capacity. This would take brewing (at least, in part) outside of their current upstairs spot and move it, aptly, to a more suitable location. As downtown Bend real estate is pricey and limited, moving production to a different location only makes sense.

Kudos to Patrick and Leslie for the bold move, we’re excited to see where the next year takes Bend Brewing Company!