Tuesday, February 19, 2008

McMenamins' Battle of the Belt 2008

A bunch of the Pub Nighters turned out Saturday to the McMenamins' Hillsdale Pub (photo lifted from McMenamins' website) to cheer on our local boy, Corey Blodgett, in the Battle of the Belt. The Battle of the Belt is an internal competition to decide which brewer will represent McMenamins' at the Oregon Brewers' Festival. Corey is local in the sense that he lives in the neighborhood and runs with the Pub Night crowd, but the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse where he brews is so far from my stomping grounds that I rarely get any of his beers. One saving grace is that the CPR's tied house in town is the McMenamins' on Broadway, not that far away. But they don't always get his very coolest beers, like the oak-aged Double Red Ale that I got to try over the weekend, thanks to Brett, who snagged me a taste from the roadhouse. The Double Red was very nice, compares really well to Ninkasi's Believer. I like that style a lot.

Every year, there's been some conflict that kept me from going to the Battle of the Belt. So I was very happy this year that Carla and I got to hitch a ride with Dave and Jill and little baby Vaughn and cast a vote for Corey, not to mention actually taste some of his beer. Corey and fellow CPR brewer Chris Oslin's entry was "Rose City 'Til I DiePA" -- maybe work on those beer names, guys -- which was a delicious IIPA made with organic malt. Just one kind of malt, does that make it a single malt? Consulting my notes here... "awesome IPA". Well, that's my usual way with words for these things. I can expand a little by saying that it was very well-balanced, hoppy without getting too bitter. Smooth and strong.

You get to vote on three beers at the battle, and my other two votes went to High Street's Schneeflocken (notes: Belgian tripley, good), and Lighthouse ORator (notes: bourbony, good). Hmmm, looking back over the program, those are strange comments on those beers, since the ORator doppelbock didn't have anything to do with bourbon, and the Schneeflocken was a Dunkel Weisse, more Alpine than Low Country. Harry Sanger was the brewer of the ORator and Lane Fricke was the Schneeflocken brewer.

We were impressed at how many good beers were poured at the battle. There were some completely bad ones -- we debated which toilet cleanser one of them tasted most like -- and there were some that were too, well, McMenamins'-flavored. But some of them were really good:
  • Dad Watson's Pale Rider (American Pale, by Brian Lawrence): nicely bitter
  • Fulton Old 32 (NW Strong, by Chris Haslett): good & strong
  • Roseburg Station 'M' (Strong Ale, by Tom Johnson): maltily good
  • Hillsdale Madman Jack's (Insane Pale Ale, by Matt Carter): good IPA
  • Oak Hills My Favorite Things (NW Pale, by John Keane): good & very hoppy
The name "Pale Rider" brings back old Austin memories. Celis briefly made a Pale Rider Ale in collaboration with Clint Eastwood, with proceeds donated to charity. Hilarious advertising slogan: "You didn't expect Clint Eastwood to make a salad dressing, did you?". The Dad Watson's definitely has a 2008 Northwest flavor instead of a 1998 Texas one.

Another highlight was meeting Corey's dad Walt, who flew in from Milwaukee for the festivities. For whatever reason, the winner of the Battle of the Belt won't be announced for a few more days. A good time was had by all, and I hope to make it back next year.

Update [2008/02/25]: McMenamins' finally announced the winners: Hillsdale 1st place, CPR 2nd place, Fulton 3rd place. Sounds like a home-field advantage to me, but there's no denying that the three winners were excellent ales. Congratulations to the brewers!


  1. Every year, there's been some conflict that kept me from going to the Battle of the Belt.

    Yeah, me too. This year I was already double-booked. Dunno what it is about February. Thanks for the write-up; I always like to keep my eye on this. The McMenamins are like the development league in basketball--a lot of tomorrow's superstars are brewing there today.

  2. I was already embarrassed that I didn't list the styles of the mentioned beers. Now you made me realize that naming the brewers would be useful also. I'll add that stuff tonight.