Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Portland Beer Price Index: Winter 2012

I wasn't in a big hurry to get the PBPI out this quarter, in case the Mayans were right.  No sense wasting all that work.

Six-pack sale prices are down quite a bit from last time, even though you can see from the graph that the nominal shelf-tag price has been steady for a year.  I think you can explain that by sales on Ninkasi Total Domination. Ninkasi entered the six-pack world at a pretty high price point, and it worked pretty well for them, but I think they'll have to keep the sale prices competitive to keep the product moving, especially with new six-packs from 10 Barrel hitting the shelves.

Bomber prices are back up after some declines last quarter.  A couple of pub prices went up this time, bringing the average up a bit.  I think we'll see more of that in 2013.

Here are the Portland Beer Price Index numbers for this quarter:
  • 6-packs: $9.23, down 2 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers: $4.84, up 8 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.76, down 10 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.66, up 3 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.44 up 5 cents
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.61, up 2 cents
The six-pack numbers are slightly adjusted from the ones reported last time, because QFC has made room for Caldera six-packs again.  It was a safe adjustment to make, I just recalculated last quarter's numbers with the same price QFC charged this time and the time before.  If you require more information on the makeup of the PBPI, read the page which describes the composition of the index.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Barrel Pray for Snow

Last month I mentioned three winter beers that had caught my eye.  Of course that's just the tip of the iceberg, and there are even more winter beers on the shelves than there were a few years ago when I tried to describe a holiday ale family tree with branches for winter warmers, hoppy winter beers, barleywines, and what I rather inarticulately called "crazy European big brews".

A new contender has entered the field, 10 Barrel's Pray for Snow.  This beer kind of flew under my radar -- the brewery's description of it simply as a "strong ale" wasn't very inspiring, and with so many tasty winter beers at hand, there was nothing that made me seek it out.  Then a couple days ago I had a pint with a late lunch, and was bowled over by the combination of flavors in this beer.

Thinking of the family tree, I want to put it in the winter warmer family, and the first tastes remind me of Deschutes Jubelale, with flavors reminiscent of nutmeg and pie spices, and a long, bitter finish.  But it has less of the dark, roasty flavors -- Jubelale is so roasty it sometimes tastes almost charred to me, in a good way -- and substitutes a caramelly, burnt-sugar flavor that is very appealing.  That might make it sound too sweet, but it's not.  It's got a medium body, and isn't very boozy at 7% ABV.  I love this beer, it's my new favorite for the winter.

Best of all, I picked up a six-pack of Pray for Snow on sale for $7.50.  I'm glad to see 10 Barrel join the six-pack fray as part of their quest for world domination.  It ensures that cheapskates like me will keep on top of their products.

I found myself wondering if there are spices added to this beer, or if all of its flavors teased out of the malt and hops.  The label and six-pack holder don't offer any clues, and Google just brought up more questions.  The brewery's outdated webpage shows that Pray for Snow has been a seasonal since 2008; John Foyston says that it's "Tonya Cornett's reprise of the Outback Ale she made at Bend Brewing"; and the six-pack carton says it's "Created by Jimmy Seifrit".  2008 is long before either Tonya or Jimmy joined 10 Barrel, so the true parentage will have to remain a mystery for now.  Whatever the case, don't wait for the first snowfall to track down some of this tasty brew.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beer Book Gift Ideas

For you last-minute holiday shoppers, here are a few books you might consider for the beer lover on your list.  Or for yourself.

Hop in the Saddle
  • Audience: Portland beer fans who want to bike more, or Portland bicyclists with a new interest in beer.
My friend Lucy Burningham has co-authored a book of five Portland bike pub crawls, called Hop in the Saddle: A Guide to Portland's Craft Beer Scene, by Bike. Let's just call it Hop in the Saddle for short.  Beer and bicycling are two subjects near and dear to my heart -- I like mapping out bike pub crawls myself -- so I was excited to hear about Lucy's project.  This is a nice collection of easy bike routes in Portland neighborhoods, annotated with beer destinations, with longer optional bike rides for more advanced riders.

If you're a Portland beer geek who already goes everywhere by bike, none of the routes or destinations will be news to you, and if you think you don't need this book, you're probably right.  But if your bike has been gathering dust and a pub crawl could entice you out for a ride, this book will get you started.  On the other hand, if you are a regular rider but haven't yet become a beer obsessive, Hop in the Saddle hits the high points of what each neighborhood has to offer. Click these links to buy it online from Powell's or from Amazon.

Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest
  • Audience: Visitors to the Northwest, or locals planning to travel to other parts of the region. 
I reviewed Lisa Morrison's Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest almost two years ago when it came out, but the similarities with Hop in the Saddle are so great that I feel like I have to mention it in the same article (the two books would make a great gift set).  On a small world level, I remember locking my bicycle next to Lucy's bike at the press briefing Lisa held when CBPN was published.

Similarly to Hop in the Saddle, you probably wouldn't buy this book in order to learn more about your own neighborhood.  But what you would find useful are the walkable pub crawls it maps out in other Northwest cities, and the information about other local scenes you might be planning on visiting.  Click these links to buy it online from Powell's or from Amazon.

Brewed Awakening
  • Audience: Anyone with a new interest in good beer, who wants a good overview of breweries and beer styles.
Lest anyone think I only review books written by women who are friends of mine, here's a book by a male stranger that the publisher sent me a copy of about a year ago: Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution.

As the word "awakening" suggests, the book is something of a primer on beer styles and well-regarded breweries. Brewed Awakening addresses various beery topics in a breezy, lighthearted style.  But by far the best feature of the book are its dozens of single-page sections called "Four to Try" (or some other number), offering lists of representative beers from around the country.  A few of those sections call out a specific style like Saisons or Pre-prohibition Lagers, but most focus more on some other aspect of the beer -- for example, there are sections on barrel-aged beers, session beers, organic beers, and ancient recipes.

If you're already the kind of beer geek who reads a dozen blogs and trades bottles back and forth across the country, this book will not cover much new ground for you.  However, if you or someone you know is just getting started with good beer, Brewed Awakening is a readable, entertaining overview. Click these links to buy it online from Powell's or from Amazon.