Review: Santa’s Reinbeer from Vagabond Brewing

Author: Jason Harris
December 17, 2016

Editor’s Note: Today is day five 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 fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Santa’s Reinbeer from Vagabond Brewery!

Santa's ReinbeerSanta’s Reinbeer is a lesser known holiday beer because it’s not bottled and it’s only available from the Vagabond Brewing taphouse and select Salem-area taphouses during the holiday months.

Billed as a “winter warmer with spices”, Reinbeer pours a brownish mahogany color. When poured, it leaves light lacing on the glass and has a two-fingered pale head at the top of the glass.

How does it taste?

When you sip Santa’s Reinbeer, you’re immediately greeted with smooth malty, nutty overtones. This ale isn’t overly carbonated and goes down easily. Then, the spice overtones kick in and give flavors of nutmeg and allspice.

I’m a fan of this beer because it’s not too sweet and not too malty, however, if you’re one who doesn’t like overly-spicy beers, this one will not appeal to your palette.

The spice force is strong with this one, beer Jedis.

Should I buy it?

Yes, it’s a great beer that Vagabond fans will love, granted you like medium-spicy ales.

Find it at Vagabond’s Taphouse at 2195 Hyacinth St NE #172, Salem, OR. Also, I’ve seen Santa’s Reinbeer on tap at Salem taphouses such as Heroes on South Commercial.

(Photo credit: Untappd user Rich C.)

Review: Pyramid Snow Cap

Author: Jason Harris
December 16, 2016

Editor’s Note: Today is day four 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 fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, Snow Cap from Pyramid Brewery!
Pyramid Snow CapToday we check out Snow Cap – a beer that is celebrating its 30th anniversary from Seattle-based Pyramid Brewery. Personally, I think Pyramid beers are hit and miss as this establishment is known for turning out beers that are universally approachable by a varying audience. Therefore, they don’t make many beers that snobs enjoy.

However, I’d argue that Snow Cap is one of their better beers and is a favorite winter beer of mine.

Available October through January, Snow Cap is a dark mahogany beer that’s 7.0% ABV and 47 IBUs. This beer pours a dark reddish brown and has no head whatsoever. It’s heavy on the caramel and roasted chocolate malts.

How does it taste?

To your nose – when poured into your pint glass, this beer smells of biscuit and light chocolate flavor. On your tongue, you’ll be surprised by the beers’ dryness.

Snow Cap starts off full and then ends with a sweet caramel malt finish that carries a sense of chocolate. This beer has a very slight hoppy aroma to your nose, but it’s super soft.

Pyramid’s Snow Cap is an easily drinkable winter warmer ale that qualifies as a must-have.

Should I buy it?

Yes, without question. I hope you love it too.

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


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