Wednesday, 24 August 2011 18:15

For The Love of Beer

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Imagine a collective of people from all walks of life, gathering together in a city with 40 microbreweries, with one commonality, and that is their love for beer.

As I arrived at the hotel in Portland on Friday evening, I entered the Alaska room where the Night of Many Bottles was held.  It was a fitting title for the night.

Friday rush hour traffic held up the other beer bloggers from around the country, as they returned from a hop farm south of Portland.  We each brought a couple-several beers that were new releases, represented our home town, or were just plain delicious. 

I decided to start with a local Oregon beer, a distinctive Flanders-style sour brown ale, coming in at 10.5% ABV, none other than The Dissident by Deschutes Brewery.  I continued the local theme by (and jumped right into the higher ABV beers – I mean, Friday night @ my first beer bloggers conference, why the hell not?) tasting Old Crustacean by Rogue.  This barleywine was intense and boozy. There was significant aroma with this 11.5% ale, including raisins, plums, and hints of molasses. Velvety in feel, the onset brought a huge hoppy citrus presence. Next, caramel and brown sugar laid claim to malt territory. It’s dangerously easy to drink.  I have a feeling it would be fantastic to store away for a couple/few years, too. Loved this beer.

I ended up – surprise, surprise - drinking more beer with fellow, awesome bloggers for a mini ‘after party’. Holla!

Saturday was filled with – you guessed it – more amazing beers, the brewers that lovingly brewed them and delectable comestibles to accompany and compliment these brews.

Fellow bloggers, like The Beer Wench, also spoke to inform us of how they started and what we could do to improve our reach and enter the industry. Ben Love spoke about the etiquette of contacting brewers, as he himself is contacted often. Love is the head brewer at Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, Oregon.

Brunch was graciously held at Spirit 77 and presented by PDX Beer Week, where side-burned sports mania, great grub and beer are always on tap. Saturday’s beer brunch was, how do I say, Homer Simpson salivating-ly good.  Hopworks made a menu appearance with their Batch 1000 paired with cured salmon, potato pancake, crème fraiche and caviar.  I chose the Seven Grain Stout paired with braised house bacon, sunny side egg, apple cider and maple syrup.  The Stout is finished with 15 pounds of cold-pressed Stumptown Holler Mountain coffee. Now, THIS is how I like my coffee…I mean, Stout.

Not shying away from calories or pleasure, I also enjoyed the Velvet ESB paired with crispy sweetbreads, Za’atar and spicy tahini.  Salivating yet? Brewed with organic caramel malt, the sweet cereal smell of this English session beer paired beautifully with the sweetbreads. The owner showed awesome hospitality and care for the presentation, service and suds.  He shared one of the secrets of the sauce of the sweetbread dish: urfa. This wonderful little crushed chile is smokey and deep purple in color. It’s traditionally used in Turkey in meat dishes because of its fruity overtones (random urfa fact: the sweating process gives Urfa chiles a rich, earthy flavor and smoky aroma).

We felt the love.  

Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom also were present on the menu with their Vaporizer paired with battered squid & pickled peppers. Glazed chicken wings with Red Rye can seldom be a bad choice.
All the while, I noticed a common theme – okay, two common themes – beer and everyone’s respect & appreciation of those that love beer. Suddenly, we noticed our check had been picked up and discreetly paid for by a Brewers Association employee and self-proclaimed closet “cross drinker”.  Thank you again, Julia.

Back to the hotel it was to have a speed dating sort of blogging with eight different beers from eight different breweries, including Ninkasi, Oakshire Brewing, Breakside, Karl Strauss and Widmer. I can honestly say this is the first time I had eight different beers (not entire beers) within about 7 minutes.

Ninkasi Brewing Company’s very own Jamie Floyd, dressed as Darth Vader, poured us some Total Domination IPA.  Jamie showed us his 22oz bombers in a futuristic 4-pack. You can choose from Total Domination IPA, Radiant, Maiden the Shade, and Nuptiale. For the ultimate in beer pairing, the four-pack comes with a music compilation download of songs from the likes of Beth Wood. This unique set of beers also is adorned with a QR-scannable code with links that play movies starring, you guessed, Jamie Floyd.

Another awesome pour that brought on ear to ear grins around the table was the Jubelale festive winter ale from Deschutes. Yeah, I know, it’s August. Well, what can I say?  The perks of writing about beer don’t suck.  The English style ale used East Kent Goldings (EKG) hops and comes in at 6.7% ABV. It’s one that I’m looking forward to tasting again during the cold, winter (well, as “wintery” as Southern California gets) months. The always artistic label is a whimsical take on winter, an interpretation of taking action.  When this is released, take action and buy this beer.

Breakside poured their flagship Belgian beer, a 7.1% ABV Gin Barrel Sour Double Wit. It had a lovely citrus character – nice and crisp. We were told it’s fantastic with scallops.

The love continued at BridgePort Brewery, where head brewer, Karl Ockert lead brewery tours in Oregon’s oldest craft brewery. Following was an awesome dinner in a private room with unlimited beer. Oh, and a couple shots of whiskey.  I’m reminded why I’m a *beer* goddess and not a whiskey goddess.  Great whiskey, but it was just a tad stronger than the Kingpin Double Red Ale.

How could you top off great company, an awesome meal and tasty beers?

The night ended at the McMenamins Bagdad Theater with a screening of The Love of Beer. The independent documentary portrayed the struggles and successes of Bend Brewing Brewmaster Tonya Cornett, Sarah Pederson, owner of famous North Portland bottle shop, beer bar, and pasty tavern Saraveza; Founder of the Pink Boots Society Teri Fahrendorf and Deschutes Brewery’s Veronica Vega. Showing the stories of these women at the forefront of the Pacific Northwest beer community was a great portrayal of passion in brewing. As a passionate woman of the fermented liquid myself, I felt giddy and downright emotional sitting in the theater (drinking beer, of course) with pioneers of the industry and fellow female lovers of beer including Sebbie Buhler of Rogue (if you've ever had a Rogue Chocolate Stout, you've seen her cheering with a pint, on the pint) and Lisa Morrison, who also had cameos in the film.

The weekend brought together passionate brewers, beer writers and drinkers from across the country in hopes of inspiring, teaching and sharing facts and stories surrounding this dynamic drink.  Events such as these cleverly perpetuate the craft of craft beer through unity, corporation and community.

For the love of beer, yeah, that about covers it.
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