Archive for December, 2011

Review: Upright Brewing’s Hard Bop Brown

Author: Jason Harris
December 30, 2011

Portland, Oregon – Upright Brewing is a small-batch brewery located on the east side of the Willamette River, across the street from the Rose Garden. Although small, this brewery has had some amazing press in the traditional and online media and is a loved brand in and around Portland’s otherwise crowded beer scene. I’ve heard of Upright on a number of occasions and was happy to be able to tour their brewery recently.

Their unique style of beer is crafted after farmhouse ales from Belguim and France. I am a huge fan of this style because of it’s distinctive yeast-y taste that only Belguim-style ales have.

Today we’ll take a look at Hard Bop Brown, one of Upright’s seasonals currently on tap in the Portland area. Brown ales, traditionally, are known for being smooth in palate with a hint of malt and perhaps a taste of nut, depeneding on the brew. Alex, the owner of Upright Brewing, described Hard Bop as a “hoppy brown ale with a kick”.

Hard Bop Brown is composed of a few bales of hops that Upright normally doesn’t produce with, in this case centennial and cascade hops. This strong and hoppy brown ale also utilizes a new house yeast strain, according to their website and weighs in at 9% ABV and has 60 IBUs.

When you pour Hard Bop Brown, it’s a very dark copper-ish red color and the smell of the hops emanates from the pint glass. At first sip, you can definitely sense the the floral hoppy-ness with a small hint of bitter although not overwhelming. With this ale, you’re first met with a citrous-like start that is balanced with a mix of malt and yeast that balances out the drink. This beer tastes a bit bitter at first, but you quickly forget about it as the smooth brown ale taste takes over.

My impression of the beer is that it’s one of the best brews I’ve tasted in all of 2011. As a fan of hoppy beers and brown ales as well, Hard Bop Brown is a perfect marriage of the two ale styles, providing a smooth beer experience with the taste and surprising flavor of a hop ale.  Yum!

Upright Brewing is located in Portland, Oregon (map provided below). The draft house is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and also before each Blazer home game.

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Review: MacTarnahan’s Winter Humbug’r Ale

Author: Jason Harris
December 19, 2011

MacTarnahan’s is one of Portland’s oldest breweries and has long been popular amongst local beer lovers. Today’s trip in the Winter Ale review train takes us to MacTarnahan’s brewery as we try Mactarnahan’s Humbug’r Ale. I bought this beer and enjoyed it out of the bottle, which came in a tall 22 oz bottle.

This beer, like some of the other ales I’ve been reviewing as of late, is completely dark – you cannot see through this beer at all. It’s heavy in malts and has a roasted flavor according to the website. This beer uses four malts including caramel, Black Roast, Wheat and Oats and the hops are comprised of Northern Brewer and Willamette. This beer is available from September through December and weights in at 5.3% ABV.

This beer is very dark and smells of chocolate and bit of coffee. It has a very black color and a bubbly head. At first sip, the heavily roasted malts comes through heavily. This is a very, very malty beer that almost tastes like black chalk. Unlike Black Butte Porter, which is very smooth and silky, Humbug’r is chalky and dry.

The taste can be described as a mix of roasted dark malt, coffee and some metallic taste. A roasty bitterniess sticks around during and between sips.

If you’re a fan of heavy dark porters, Humbg’r will suit you, however, I cannot recommend this ale.


Review: Pyramid Snow Cap Winter Ale

Author: Jason Harris
December 17, 2011

Pyramid Brewing used to be one of my favorite breweries because it was local when I lived in Seattle for a short time long ago. However, I’ve had a few of their beers in the last few years and they haven’t been all that great.

However, let’s take a fresh look at Pyramid as I focus on their Snow Cap Winter Warmer ale as a part of the winter/holiday ale series. Snow Cap Winter Warmer is a very dark amber ale that  has a very unique taste to it. Some winter ales, as beer fans know, are dark and very malty, however, Snow Cap continues this streak of a dark bodied amber combind with roasted chocolate-tasting malt to add extra zing and a hint of sweetness.

Snow Cap Winter Warmer utilizes three different malts including Caramel, Chocolate malt and barley combined with Willamette hops and a few others. It is 7.0 ABV and has a low IBU score of 47, meaning it isn’t very bitter at all.

Snow Cap pours a dark copper/amber color and has a frothy head at the top, a little too much for my taste. When you first sip Snow Cap, the beer’s amber flavor comes through with a nice hit of malted barley providing a somewhat chocolatey taste, but not too much. This isn’t a sweet beer, but a smooth one. After you swig it around, you can taste the hops kick in a little, providing some floral zing and finishing off with the hint of caramel.

This beer is very similar to Widmer Brrr, although not as sweet on the last bit of the drink. Snow Cap is excellent. This is by far the best beer I’ve ever had form Pyramid and has restored my faith in them…I’ll be looking for more Pyramid ales for review.

Do you have a Pyramid ale that you especially like?

Review: Widmer Brrr Winter Ale

Author: Jason Harris
December 7, 2011

Autumn and winter are a special time of year. The days get shorter, the sun disappears and the cold settles in. This is why I love breaking out darker, heavier beers at this time of year. With that, let’s continue on with my series on the darker beers that winter brings to us.

Widmer Brewing is a favorite brewery in the Portland, Oregon area because their beers have a a consistent quality that transends them to the top of Portland’s brewing scene.

Brrr Winter ale is a darker beer (but not totally dark – you can see through it) comes in at 7.2% ABV and has 50 IBUs. Brrr pours dark red and give a well balanced approach to a malty winter ale.

At first sip, you can easily make out the caramel and chocolate malts that bring a slightly sweetened malty presence. Further into the drink, there’s a very smooth finish that isn’t sweet at all – more like a smooth porter, just balanced and makes you want more. This ale smells of slight hops and caramel malts, enticing you the whole time.

Some people don’t like winter dark ales because they are too malty and heavy. Brrr is not this kind of beer, it has a slight malty flavor that has a slightly sweet aftertaste that brings you back.

For those who like amber ales or brown ales, this ale will be a nice next step into the world of more flavorful beers. I like it, and I think you will too.