Thursday, June 21, 2012

Portland Beer Price Index: Summer 2012

Summertime, and the beer buyin' ain't easy. The PBPI is up, up, up this quarter, except for the sticker price of six-packs, which stayed the same. Bomber prices, after hitting a historic low last quarter, are back up to historic highs. That's kind of a blow to my theorizing, since I thought the past year's trend of lower bomber prices meant that their artificial price inflation with respect to six-packs would eventually correct itself.  Not yet, so in honor of that, this month's chart shows the oscillations of the bomber numbers over the last three years.  Here are the prices I observed this quarter:
  • 6-packs: $9.25, unchanged
  • 22-ounce bombers: $4.83, up 13 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.85, up 12 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.68, up 17 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.39 up 6 cents
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.59, up 5 cents
Three of the pubs I survey have raised their draft prices since I last checked.  That's after one pub raised them last quarter.  Beer on tap is going to cost you more going forward.  I won't be surprised to see more price hikes at bars next time also.

If you're very fastidious, you've noticed that the bomber prices quoted above don't add up with the difference to last quarter's price.  It's because I made an adjustment, dropping Beer Valley's Leafer Madness from the index (at least for now).  I had added it in a while back when it was difficult to find Pelican IPA around Portland, but this time -- for the first time ever -- every store I canvass had Pelican in stock.  That by itself wouldn't lead me to kick Leafer out, but that beer was only on the shelf at one of the places I check.  Ouch.  That was supposed to be my high-end replacement for the fading Pelican, but the tables have dramatically turned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rye Beer Fest 2012 Recap

It's not like we need any extra beer festivals in Portland, but the Rye Beer Fest that helped kick off Portland Beer Week last Friday at Spirit of 77 was a nice low-key event with an eclectic set of beers.  The festival benefited local clean-water charity We Love Clean Rivers.  Pub Night regular and  Taplister mogul Kerry Finsand organized the fest in honor of his wife Josie's taste for rye beers and river sports.  Way to overacheive, Kerry.  I hope that doesn't give the rest of the beer widows out there too many ideas.

Spirit of 77 has a mix of good and bad qualities as a bar and as a festival venue.  On the plus side, the beer selection is decent, always with one or two nice surprises.  If you're watching sports, the huge screen is great, and free pop-a-shot hoops is very civilized.  But the location is kind of out of the way over by the convention center, and it gets noisy in the high-ceilinged space -- a little hard to hold a conversation.  Still, I'm impressed that you can get a 20-ounce pint there, and you can also order a 10-ounce glass for exactly half the price -- a surprisingly rare situation called linear pricing that the Beeronomist has taught us about -- or, if you're an economist or a sucker you can order a relatively more expensive 16-ounce pint.  At the Rye Fest, small 4-ounce tasters were also available in plastic cups.

My favorite beers were:
  • Hopworks Fight for Your Rye't Dark Mild - dark, smoky malt; light yet creamy body; very drinkable
  • Commons Enkel Light Belgian Pale - reminiscent of a hefeweizen, plus some nice hops that play well with the rye
  • Breakside Kellerbier - packed with flavor, a little caramelly, with spicy rye and piney hops
  • Short Snout Rye-teous Dude Stout - very nicely balanced stout, on the malty side
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA - if you haven't tried this beer, get a bottle right away: smoky, rich, hoppy
  • Bear Republic Ryevalry IIPA - a nice big hop monster with a little rye in the background 
Nice to see Milwaukie-based Kickstarted brewery Short Snout starting to place some kegs at festivals and a few bars.  The stout was the first beer I've had the chance to try, and it was a winner.  I really enjoyed the first two beers on the list above -- they were relatively low in alcohol, but very tasty.  That's the cloudy Commons Enkel in the picture above.

Congratulations to Kerry for pulling together an interesting beer lineup.  I hope the Rye Beer Fest comes back next year, it's a nice addition to the festival ecosystem.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Preview: Portland Fruit Beer Festival 2012

Last year's "first annual" Portland Fruit Beer Festival had about twice the attendance that organizer Ezra Johnson-Greenough expected it to have -- with most of that coming on the busy Saturday opening despite parking and traffic disruptions by the Portland Rose Festival parade a few blocks away.  There were some shortages of the mostly one-off beers, but for the most part the festival went off pretty smoothly.  The preponderance of beers brewed specifically for the festival made for a very enjoyable time; to jog your memory, read my recap of last year's festival.

This year's festival should be even better, with:
  • More space (NE 7th Ave. closed off)
  • More beer in stock
  • Draft trucks for faster keg replacement
  • Four rare taps on at once, instead of last year's two
  • Several ciders on tap for your beer-challenged loved ones
On the down side, the entry price is a little higher this year:  in order to get a wristband for drinking, you must purchase a $20 package that includes a nice glass and 12 tickets for samples (the glass was only $6 last year).  Additional tickets are $1.  Minors and other non-drinkers get in free.

It's always fun to look over a festival's beer list before you get there, to make a plan for what you're going to attack first.  Here is the PFBF's main list; there is also a rotating rare tap list.  I have a few recommendations for you, some of which I have tried, others that caught my eye on the list for one reason or another (alphabetical by brewery):
  • Alameda Huckleberry Hound IPA: Not my favorite, but one of the quickest to run out last year, so get it fast.
  • Bend Brewing Ching Ching Berliner Weisse: A GABF medal winner from the talented Tonya Cornett.
  • Breakside Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Golden Ale: Made with whole pies!
  • Burnside Red Light District Imperial Stout: A little sweet, and over 10%, but one of the few beers I've had where strawberries make a good addition.
  • Gigantic Hot Town, Summer in the City Imperial Black Saison: Gigantic's already tasty IBS, with Ben Love's sarcastic addition of the fruit of the chile pepper plant.
  • Laurelwood Cascara Obscura Belgian Dubbel: A delicious abbey ale, with a slight rose-hip tartness from the addition of the coffee berries -- excellent off-the-wall fruit choice.
  • Ninkasi Cherry Bourbon Renewale Porter: Last year the Cherry Oatis was my unexpected favorite of the festival, so I have to check this one out.
  • Upright Levinator Bock: The picture above doesn't do justice to the pretty beet-juice color that black currants add to this full-bodied, slightly tart bock.  Delicious.
  • Widmer Marionberry Hibiscus Gose: Last year I was underwhelmed by Widmer's very pretty Raspberry Hibiscus Gose, though lots of people loved it.  I like this year's much better, it seems a little maltier and a little saltier.  Check it out.
I'm not even going to go into the rare beers list, but do keep an eye out for Burnside's International Incident, a news-making strong wheat ale with mangos, hot peppers, and Indian spices.  There are also rare kegs from breweries seldom or never seen in Portland:  Short Snout Brewing, a new Kickstarter-funded nanobrewery in town; California's Almanac (founded by a beer blogger!); and Naked City and Schooner Exact from Washington.

Some things to keep in mind for the festival:
  • Where: 701 E. Burnside (Note: The Burnside Bridge is closed Saturday morning for the Rose Parade.)
  • When:
    • Saturday June 9, 2012, 11 AM - 9 PM
    • Sunday June 10, 2012, 11 AM - 6 PM
  • Cost: free entry; 16-ounce tasting glass plus 12 tastes $20; 4-ounce taste $1
  • All ages are admitted.
  • Car parking: good luck. The Rose Parade will further complicate matters early Saturday.  Bike or take the bus.
  • Bike parking:  not much at the festival.  There are big bike corrals just off East Burnside at 6th, 8th, and 9th, and there's another one at 9th and Ash.