Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Portland Beer Price Index: Winter 2013

As predicted by a couple of industry followers of the Portland Beer Price Index (PBPI), beer got more expensive in Portland this quarter.  It's a pretty big leap, with less generous sale prices accompanying higher shelf-tag prices. There's no clear external driver for this -- I think you can thank Oregon's three-tier system for allowing price fixing by the distributors for this.

Here are the Portland Beer Price Index numbers for the winter quarter of 2013:
  • 6-packs: $9.69, up 19 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers: $5.29, up 7 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.94, up 29 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.93, up 11 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.52 unchanged
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.70, up 5 cents
Last quarter, someone commented that beer prices in Oregon are significantly higher than prices in other states... for Oregon beer.  This despite the relatively low level of taxation in Oregon.  The most likely explanation for this disparity is price fixing by the wholesalers.

I have to admit, I get out less and less often these days.  The pub prices may be a little out of date, and may get revised (upward) as I make it around to the pubs in the index.

If you require more information on the makeup of the PBPI, read the page which describes the composition of the index.  Check back in March to see the first numbers of 2014.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fresh Hop Rankings 2013

Each year I sort the fresh hop beers I've tried into 4 tiers:  1. those that are very special, brilliant examples of why we love this time of year; 2. those that capture the green fresh hop flavor nicely but are not quite as exciting as the first group; 3. beers that don't really show fresh hop character, but are tasty nonetheless; and 4. beers to avoid for one reason or another.

Within the tiers, I try to rank them approximately in order of how well I liked the beer, though with so many -- 44 so far -- I might switch the order of any two or three beers on any given day.  That also means that I might actually like some of the top beers in tier 3 better than the bottom beers in tier 2.  I would have liked to put 12 beers in the Must Try category, but that seemed ridiculous, so I chopped it at 5.  Of course it's just one man's opinion, and your mileage may vary.  For reference, here's last year's list.

About half the beers on the list are ones I tasted at the Hood River Hops Fest this past Saturday.  Don't forget, the Portland Fresh Hops Festival is at Oaks Park this Friday and Saturday, October 4th and 5th, 2013.  Enjoy!

Must Try:
  • Deschutes Fresh-Hopped Mirror Pond
  • Laurelwood Fresh-Hopped Free Range Red
  • Gigantic F'n Legit Fresh Hop
  • Solera Chubby Bunny
  • Double Mountain Killer Green

Good Fresh Hop Flavor:
  • Ninkasi Total Crystallation
  • Oakshire Bout a Hunerd
  • Barley Brown's Fresh Hop Pallet Jack
  • Deschutes Hop Trip
  • Burnside Prime Meridian
  • Big Horse Strictly Rude #6
  • Breakside If It's Wet and Not Yours, Don't Touch It
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest
  • Double Mountain Killer Red
  • Hopworks Powell Estate Fresh Hop
  • Lucky Labrador The Mutt
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Crystal Cream Ale
  • Widmer Bring The Broom
  • Worthy Fresh Hop Session
  • Laurelwood Shane's Pale
  • Coalition Green Pig
  • Ninkasi Hop Fraiche
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Pine Drops
  • Social Kitchen Wet Hop American Summer
  • McMenamin's Thundercone
  • Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest
  • Commons Fresh Hop Myrtle
  • Stickmen Fresh Hop Cascade SMaSH
  • Old Town Brewing Cents and Centsability Fresh Hop Pale 
  • Base Camp Hopularity Contest
  • Humble Brewing Larch Creek Harvest Ale
  • Deschutes Chasin' Freshies
  • Vertigo Hop Harvest IPA

Good Beer, Can't Taste the Fresh Hops:
  • Rogue Wet Hop Ale
  • PINTS Seismic Upgrade
  • Lucky Labrador Fresh Hop Pilsner
  • Three Creeks Cone Lick'r
  • Upright Hop and the Abstract Truth
  • Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion Black IPA
  • Elysian Kama Citra
  • Full Sail Fresh Hop Pilsner
  • Deschutes King Cone
  • Pfriem Fresh Hop Mosaic Belgian Wheat
  • Portland Brewing Fresh Hop Mactarnahan's
  • Burnside Fresh Hop Oatmeal Pale Ale
  • Alameda Cascadia Fresh Hop Pale
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Bitter
  • Backwoods Fresh Hop Logyard IPA
  • Logsdon Fresh Hop Seizoen
  • Good Life A Different Season
  • Sasquatch Celilo CDA
  • Two Kilts Fresh Hop IPA
  • Old Town Brewing Fresh Hop Oktoberfest
  • Deschutes Fresh Hop Saison

  • 10 Barrel Goodin' Fresh -- diacetyl at Hood River
  • Migration Wild Style -- too wild, and couldn't find the fresh hops

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Portland Beer Price Index: Autumn 2013

Kind of a quiet installment of the Portland Beer Price Index (PBPI).  Prices are all within a nickel of last quarter's prices (after adjusting for a change I made to the stores in the index).  Sale prices were slightly less generous than in the summer, though the shelf-tag price on six-packs went down slightly.  An insider that frequents these posts hints that we are going to see a serious price rise next quarter -- I'm not looking forward to that, but it won't be a big surprise.  You can see from the graph that there was a big jump in Q4 of 2011 that sort of set the level for our current prices.

Here are the Portland Beer Price Index numbers for the autumn quarter of 2013:
  • 6-packs: $9.50, down 3 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers: $5.22, up 5 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.65, up 2 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.82, up 2 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.52 unchanged
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.65, unchanged
I made a switch this quarter, and subbed in the Hawthorne Safeway for the Division New Seasons.  Not finding HUB IPA bombers at New Seasons was the final straw for me.  A few years ago their beer selection seemed amazing for a grocery store, but nowadays it is a little sparse.  Still a good selection, for sure, but other stores have expanded their beer space, whereas New Seasons has shrunk theirs a little by trying to add in a bunch of ciders.  The switch was pretty smooth, since I actually gathered the Safeway prices last quarter, so I was able to make an apples-to-apples comparison against the same bucket of data.  If you try to compare the actual numbers reported last time, it looks like the non-sale prices are way up this time, but the sale prices aren't so different.  That may be because New Seasons touts an "Everyday Low Price" on a lot of common beers, instead of pulling the usual grocery store stunt of showing an inflated shelf price that is marked down every day of the year.

If you require more information on the makeup of the PBPI, read the page which describes the composition of the index.  Check back around Christmas to see the final numbers of 2013.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Help Keep the Portland Growler Price Map Up-to-Date!

The Portland Growler Price Map has been touted in the sidebar of It's Pub Night for years. Personally, I haven't been taking home that many growlers recently, so the map is woefully -- ridiculously -- out of date. Therefore, I'm going to ask for your help to start whipping it back into shape, so that it becomes a useful resource again.

View Larger Map

Considering the great upswing in interest in growlers lately, this map really needs a reboot. In the past year we have seen places open up which focus heavily on growlers -- the Tin Bucket, the Imperial Bottleshop -- and even grocery stores like Zupan's and Local Choice are getting in on the act. Heck, one of the best growler deals in town right now is at a convenience store -- the 39th Mini Mart on Cesar Chavez has $10 fills and a fairly interesting selection of 12 taps. As I write this, none of those places have yet been added to the map.  Not even fairly well established breweries like Gigantic or the Commons are on the map.  It's embarrassing.

Here is my plea for your help.  Would your business like its growler offerings to show up on the map?  Email me the details (see below).  Are you a beer fanatic who is always coming home with a growler or two?  Next time you have a growler filled, take some notes and send them to me (see below).  Are you an insanely dedicated growler aficionado, who knows how to update a Google Map, who would like access to the map, so you don't even have to go through me to update it?  Please email me, I'd love to hear from you.


When the map first came out, I would get comments on the blog like "I think Amnesia has growlers for $13 or $14, but I don't remember exactly, can you add that to the map?"  Short answer:  NO.  I need at least the following information before I can add your information to the map:
  • Price (range) to fill 64 ounce growler.
  • Price to buy the growler itself (if available).
  • Whether they'll only fill their own labeled growler.
  • Whether they'll fill 2-quart mason jars.
  • The date of your information.
  • Special sale prices or happy hours (if any).
The growler price map was one of the first cool things that happened on this blog, and it spawned a couple of even better ideas like the Six-Pack Equivalent Calculator and the Portland Beer Price Index.  It's too bad I let it fall into such disrepair.  I hope to recapture some of the glory days with your help.  Thanks in advance!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First Thoughts on OBF 2013

There you go, that's the Beard that made Newport famous.

Rogue's Beard Beer is something you should plunk down a dollar for at the 2013 Oregon Brewers Festival, not because it's good, but so that for the rest of your life you can tell people you drank beer made from some guy's beard.  It reminds me a little of a bread-yeast homebrew someone gave me a few years ago.

On the other hand, there are some beers that you should try just because they are delicious.  These are some beers I really liked from the dozen or so I tried yesterday:

  • Stone Delicious IPA: you can taste the hop pollen in this one; huge body and huge tropical-fruit hops
  • Boulder Pump up the Jam: a refreshing wheat beer; mild blueberries match well with the wheat
  • Speakeasy Tallulah: an Extra Pale Ale, light bodied with lovely flowery hops; around here it would probably get labeled an India Session Ale
  • Collaborator Smoked Helles: this year's Oregon Brew Crew/Widmer collaboration is a solid Helles (a little strong at 5.9%) with just the right touch of smoke
  • Gigantic & Juice: a "beermosa" (the second I've had this year) with additions of grapefruit, pineapple, and tangerine juice; don't worry, the juice is pretty light, playing a little citrus off the hops
  • Mt. Shasta Skip and Go Naked: if you like the Boulder blueberry beer, this strawberry-ginger hefeweizen is along the same lines, refreshing with a nice touch of fruit 
[Update 2013/07/26: Here are some new picks from more "research" on Friday.  I let my IPA lust loose:

  • Oakshire OBF 26: floral notes, refreshing for its 7% size, must be hoppier than the listed 26 IBUs
  • Heathen Transgression IPA: solid, chewy tongue-scraper with hints of orange (newish Vancouver, WA brewery)
  • Ft. George Hop Contract: another citrusy IPA, well done
  • Vertigo Key Lime Tropical Blonde: nice thirst quencher, esters and key lime, kind of a coconut flavor in there somewhere

Perhaps it's a sign of the times that half of my picks have fruit additions.  Jeff Alworth pointed out that this year there are more fruit beers at OBF than IPAs - surely that has never happened before.  Pretty soon we won't need a special festival just for fruit beers.  Another interesting thing is that there are 3 Dortmunder-style lagers at the festival -- not a super common style.  In my opinion, Occidental's crisp and tasty Dortmunder barely edged out Breakside's slightly richer entry as the best in the lot; you could also try Old Town Brewing's version, but it was not in the same league as the other two.  (Speaking of Old Town, their pizza place at 226 NW Davis is just a short walk from the OBF if you need a break from the crowds; I've been happy with several of their house beers.)

So far I haven't had any beers I would definitely avoid.  Watch this space for updates.  [Update 2013/07/26: After Friday's visit, I have some beers I recommend avoiding.  Fire Mountain Bogart IPA: malt syrupy, not good.  Wild River Kolsch: one friend described the flavor as "spoiled milk".  Hales Double Pale Ale: a sweet mess, none of the flavors go well together.]

Much has been made of the change in glassware this year.  Happily, it's glass for the first time, instead of plastic.  However, the glass only holds 12 ounces as opposed to 14 in years past, and the sample size has gone from 4 ounces down to 3.  There was a lot of hand-wringing before the festival about that small sample, but honestly it was big enough for me to get a good idea of the beer.  The one thing I will say is, given the small size, the pourers could at least make sure they get your pour to the line.  Apparently they've been trained to err on the side of smaller pours, and about half the time I had to ask for a top-up.  Come on, guys, if the liquid is half a finger over the line, it's not going to break the bank.

I'll try to update with more picks and possibly some pans after my foray today.  Meanwhile, NO WOO-OOO-OOO-ing!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Portland Beer Price Index: Summer 2013

This quarter's installment of the Portland Beer Price Index (PBPI) won't surprise anyone.  Prices in every category are up, in some cases by quite a bit.  The graph on the left isn't very dramatic, I admit, since it's on a scale of $0 to $16.  But I wanted to shake things up a bit by giving you a graphic representation of the price difference between six-packs (in orange) and the six-pack equivalent (SPE) price of 22-ounce bombers (in blue).  If you want the detailed numbers, click on the graph to see a larger version, but the small graph nicely illustrates the bomber price penalty -- about 80% right now.  The average bomber in town is priced like a $15.66 six-pack, when it's on sale.  Regular price is now like a $16.36 six-pack.

Here are the Portland Beer Price Index numbers for the summer quarter of 2013:
  • 6-packs: $9.37, up 21 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers: $5.00, up 12 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.72, up 11 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.78, up 7 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.52 up 5 cents
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.65, up 6 cents
This is the 16th installment of the PBPI (though only the 15th counting the more useful sale/happy hour prices).  For the 4th edition (2010Q2), I dropped the Hawthorne Safeway because it didn't have any of the bombers I was indexing.  I knew the beer selection was better there since the store was remodeled over a year ago, but it didn't occur to me until the other day that they carry all the beers in the index now!  It's always been a struggle to keep a full slate of stores that carry all the beers, so I will happily add them back in to the index next quarter.  It also gives me the option of dropping New Seasons -- something I never thought I'd say -- since they are now the only store I canvass that doesn't carry any Rogue bombers.

If you require more information on the makeup of the PBPI, read the page which describes the composition of the index.  Check back three months from now for the autumn numbers, and meanwhile spread the word about the bomber price penalty.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gigantic End of Reason and St. Bernardus Prior 8

We're nearly at the end of Gigantic Beer Week, and I have been out of town for all of it so far.  But to commemorate the last few days of it, I want to say a couple words about one of the most brilliant Gigantic seasonals to date:  The End of Reason.

This is a medium-strong dark Belgian, along the lines of Westmalle Dubbel -- in fact End of Reason uses the Westmalle yeast -- or those Watou masterpieces, Westvleteren 8 and St. Bernardus Prior 8.  It's easy to find St. Bernardus Abt 12 around town, but less common to see bottles of Prior 8, so I was excited to notice one in the cooler at the Beermongers a few weeks ago.  I highly recommend it if you see a bottle for sale.

The End of Reason has that same floral Belgian yeast flavor as the native Belgians, on top of a large, sweetish malt body.  A reasonable helping of hops helps to bring it nearly into balance.  The Prior 8 was noticeably drier than the Gigantic offering, but EoR is definitely worth your time if you can still find any bottles or taps of it around town (like my Gigantic Beer Week coverage, I'm a little late in announcing a beer that may not appear more than once, but you can probably still find a few straggling bottles in the usual places).

There wasn't room to mention this in the headline, but Laurelwood also has a Watou-ish dubbel on tap right now, aptly called St. Bernard.  I had one at the airport on the way out of town, and was quite pleased with it.  I think it was toward the Gigantic end of the sweet/dry spectrum, though it would be difficult to distinguish these three beers in a blind tasting, even harder if you through in a Westmalle.  You can't go wrong with any of those beers.

Three cheers to Gigantic for a great first year!  Click the link above to see Mr. Foyston's list of the remaining events, including Gigantic's First Anniversary party at the brewery itself tonight (Thursday, May 9, 2013, 3 PM to 9 PM).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bridgeport Stumptown Tart 2013

This year's Stumptown Tart is being released tomorrow (Thursday, April 18, 2013) at the Bridgeport Brewpub, 5:30-8:30 PM.  This year's brew highlights blueberries for the first time in the 6-year run of the series, but also has raspberries and blackberries.  All told, there are 15 pounds of fruit per barrel; the fruit was the most expensive ingredient in the brew -- 150% of the cost of the malt.

I got to taste this year's batch yesterday just as the first bottles were rolling off Bridgeport's line.  It's a good one.  Forget about the "Tart" in the name, this isn't a sour beer.  As usual, there is a little bit of Belgian tripel character -- half of the batch is brewed with Bridgeport's house ale yeast, half with a Belgian strain -- and the blueberries come through nicely.  This might be the best batch since the Cherry Stumptown Tart in 2009.  The beer is pretty, and the blueberries give a nice cotton-candy pink tinge to the head.   There is live yeast in the bottle, but it's not really a beer designed for aging -- drink it fresh.

The pinup model for the label, Bernie Dexter, will be on hand at the release party tomorrow, and she will even be manning a kissing booth.  This year's label has her dressed a little more modestly than years past, so I guess they had to kick it up a notch by allowing actual physical contact. You'll also get another chance to try it this weekend at the Cheers to Belgian Beers festival: Friday, April 19th from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 20th from noon to 8 p.m. at Metalcraft Fabrication (723 N. Tillamook).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Deschutes River Ale

Without much fanfare, Deschutes has added a wonderful session ale to its roster of year-round six-packs:  Deschutes River Ale.   Its strength of 4% ABV means it is actually what some states call "3-2 beers" -- 3.2% alcohol by weight.  I wonder if that means they can sell it in grocery stores in 3.2 states like Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and if that was part of the brewery's strategy or just a happy accident.

Although it's a 3-2 beer and the brewery describes it as "golden or blonde", it's a little darker than that, and you won't have any trouble distinguishing it from fizzy yellow swill.  It's got a satisfying, slightly sweet malt body, with a nice dose of flowery hops but very little bitterness.  Jeff Alworth has more flavor analysis over at Beervana.

I first tried River Ale last fall when the Portland pub had an absolutely delicious fresh-hop version of it on tap.  Luckily, the regular version out now is nearly as good, and given its pedigree as an English-style bitter, it's really nice if you happen to catch it on the cask engine at one of the Deschutes pubs.  Meanwhile, six-packs are starting to appear on shelves around town.  Give it a try when you need a beer that you can have a few of without making a fool of yourself.  Well, not a complete fool.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lagunitas Buys Dr. Bronner's Soap Company

The last few years have seen explosive growth for beloved California brewer Lagunitas.  This Beerpulse article says production increased by 50% from 2011 to 2012, after a 56% jump in sales the previous year; Lagunitas owner Tony Magee noted on Twitter that January's sales were up 72% from the previous year.  All that growth is before the company's new production facility in Chicago has even been finished.

Now the eccentric beer company is branching out in a completely unexpected direction by acquiring Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the iconoclastic family-run company that produces the Dr. Bronner's line of soaps that have long been a favorite of campers and hippies everywhere.  As a kind of intramural collaboration/consummation, Lagunitas is paying homage to Dr. Bronner's famous peppermint liquid soap by brewing a special amber ale called 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Ale -- yes, dry-hopped with fresh peppermint.  That's the same name as the soap, except for "ale" of course, and the label lovingly imitates Dr. Bronner's jumbled spiritual exhortations -- which are not all that different from some of the rambling musings on Lagunitas bottles and six-pack holders, come to think of it.  Click on the image to enlarge it and see if you can find the beer-specific verses that have been added to the ale label.

Apart from similar styles of prose, products known as "suds", nonconformist founders, and a shared interest in hemp products, what could possibly have brought these two companies together?  Apparently some of the current generation of Bronner soapmakers wanted to add a hop-infused soap to their product line, and being fans of Lagunitas beers, reached out to the brewers in Petaluma for advice on hop-oil extraction and handling.  A kind of mutual admiration developed, and since absolute cleanliness is 99% of brewing success, Lagunitas popped the question of corporate matrimony.  Dr. Bronner's will keep its name as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and the current management of the soap company will stay on board.  The deep pockets of Lagunitas will help the soapmakers enter into new markets and finance new product development, such as the hop soap mentioned above.

Given the rapid growth of Lagunitas, you could also imagine that Dr. Bronner's location in Southern California was attractive to the brewer.  Once they wrap up the Midwest with their new Chicago brewery, perhaps they'll use their soap factory as a stepping stone towards building a San Diego brewing facility.

I haven't particularly cared for the few mint beers I've tried to date, though I do have a soft spot for peppermint.  As a longtime fan of both Dr. Bronner's and Lagunitas, I am really looking forward to trying the 18-in-1.  Let me know if you try it, and don't forget -- in the immortal words of Dr. Bronner -- KEEP OUT OF EYE!  OK!

(Thanks to @MoralABC for the image.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Portland Beer Price Index: Spring 2013

No, no, no!  This isn't how it was supposed to go.

Starting in the middle of 2011, the Portland Beer Price Index (PBPI) looked like it was showing bomber prices decreasing while six-pack prices marched slowly upwards.  Not that I was excited about more expensive six-packs, but I have always considered the bomber price penalty to be a temporary distortion peculiar to the beer industry.  I thought the SPE of bombers would eventually fall below six-pack prices.  I can't think of another consumer liquid where a larger package is more expensive per ounce than a bundle of little packages.  It's not true of soda pop, wine, liquor, bottled water, shampoo, ... you name it.

But the trend I was hoping to spot didn't continue, and now we have bomber prices -- shown in the chart -- higher than ever before, while six-pack prices fell even more than they did last time.  And not just the sale prices, but the "official" prices.  Here are the Portland Beer Price Index numbers for this quarter:
  • 6-packs: $9.16, down 7 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers: $4.88, up 4 cents
  • 6-packs (sale price): $8.61, down 15 cents
  • 22-ounce bombers (sale price): $4.71, up 5 cents
  • 16 oz. draft: $4.47 up 3 cents
  • 16 oz. draft (happy hour): $3.59, down 2 cents
What is happening here?  I think there is some healthy competition in six-packs, as breweries like 10 Barrel and Oakshire move into that area.  Ninkasi must have their six-pack pipeline flowing steadily enough that they have been able to lower their prices, and I think Caldera and Terminal Gravity are feeling price pressure since it's hard to justify the high prices they've enjoyed for a few years when the newcomers have something more interesting at a lower price.

For some reason, the bombers in the PBPI aren't feeling that heat, and Laurelwood has raised the price on their bombers by 10% this time, though most retailers have a sale price on them for now to cushion the blow.  However, there might be a bias in the bombers I've selected, because I've seen some new sale prices on other bombers that I've long considered either slightly or wildly overpriced.

Logistically, I'm starting to be troubled by HUB IPA bombers.  New Seasons appears to have dumped them in favor of HUB tallboys, and QFC has a space on the shelf for them, but no bottles and an obviously incorrect price tag ($6.30).  For this month's numbers I subbed in other HUB bombers those stores were carrying (DOA at QFC, Secession at New Seasons).  The HUB tallboys are a great innovation, especially if they can get the price closer to Ninkasi's SPE, but I may need to find a replacement for the bombers in the index (come to think of it, Gigantic IPA would make a reasonable and somewhat poetic replacement).

If you require more information on the makeup of the PBPI, read the page which describes the composition of the index.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two More Thoughts on Jubel(ale)

First a brief note, then a great Jubelale reminiscence.


Deschutes announced earlier this week that the Portland Pub was serving Super Jubel 2012 -- the yearly double Jubelale that we were lucky enough to taste the rarely bottled 2000 and 2010 versions of at my recent 10-year vertical tasting of Jubelale.  I suspect it will be on for a few days, but it's always fun to try, so hurry in and check it out. [Update: I went in today for my yearly dose.  Vinuous (it's aged in Pinot barrels), boozy, and bitter, it's quite a treat.  But it bears little resemblance to Jubelale.]


As I was plotting that 10-year vertical late last year, a local Twitter buddy named Jason -- who I had not yet met in real life -- expressed an interest in attending it.  That worked well with my plan to select a group of people to whom such a stunt might matter, as opposed to forcing it on bewildered friends and neighbors, so of course he got an invite once I finally organized it.

While I was pretty proud of my 9-year old stash of Jubelales, and excited at the prospect of tasting 12-year-old Jubel 2000 which predates my relatively recent arrival here, Jason had an even better Jubelale story:

Attached is a photo of myself and a couple buddies in the Army.  In December, 1990, we were stuck in Saudi Arabia waiting for the Gulf War.  I had just turned 21 that summer and been shipped out to a dry country a week later.  My dad smuggled in a care package of a dozen Jubelale bombers wrapped up in sweatshirts and other cold weather gear.  Has been one of my favorites ever since.

Jubelale bombers?  Great call, Dad.  Thanks to Jason for sharing the story and picture.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jubelale Ten-year Vertical (Plus Jubel 2000)

The second post ever on It's Pub Night was a report on a five-year vertical of Deschutes Jubelale.  I fell in love with that beer during our first winter in Portland in 2003, and started a project to build a ladder of Jubelale vintages by stashing a case in the basement each year.  It's a fun idea, but it's not a beer that changes all that much from year to year.  I kind of wore out my friends with a few years of ritualized vertical tastings, so the collection got less and less interesting to me over time.  A couple years ago I cut back to just saving a 12-pack each year, and this year I don't anticipate keeping any.  I still love the beer, I just plan to enjoy it fresh from here on.

This year seemed an appropriate moment to let it go, because I still had two bottles left of that original 2003 case, so I could hold a ten-year vertical as a last hurrah. The good gentlemen at The Beermongers allowed me to cart in my dusty bottles for an afternoon tasting with a posse of Portland beer geeks and random passers-by.  We had a nice time, and it was interesting to get everyone's take on the various years.  Jeff Alworth has already written a very insightful blog post about the tasting, with lots of details it didn't even occur to me to take note of, like the clarity of various vintages, and a quick chemistry lesson on cellaring beer.  Go read his article.

I asked people to vote on their three favorite years.  The results were not exactly what I expected.  For a few years I've been trumpeting the idea that if you're going to age beer, two years is the best amount of time -- long enough to let the flavors mingle and mutate, but not long enough for the beer to spoil.  In the vote at our tasting, the 2- and 3-year-old vintages (2010 and 2009) were well respected, but it was the 4- and 5-year-old 2008 and 2007 bottles that were the big hits.  This was not a blind tasting, so there is probably some bias here based on people's expectations of the various years.  Here are the results of the poll -- for the final score I awarded 3 points for a 1st place vote, 2 points for 2nd place, and 1 point for 3rd.

Year 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Score
2003 0 1 2 4
2004 0 0 0 0
2005 1 0 1 4
2006 0 1 2 4
2007 5 0 0 15
2008 3 1 3 14
2009 1 3 0 9
2010 1 3 1 10
2011 0 1 0 2
2012 1 0 1 4

The 2008 had more fans -- 7 of us found it a favorite -- but the 2007 had only first-place votes.  Isn't that kind of weird?  People who liked that year really liked it.  Interestingly, that was the new vintage when I wrote up my 5-year vertical, and at the time I wrote that it seemed like the best batch since the 2003.  I cracked a bottle tonight as I'm writing this, and it is perfectly clear, but a little too oxidized for my tastes. The bottles I have from 2004 have never been good, I don't know if that was a bad year or if I just got a damaged case.

One unexpected windfall of the tasting was that three people -- Jeff, Jim, and Wallace -- contributed 12-ounce bottles of Jubel 2000.  Yes, we had three bottles of Jubel 2000 at this tasting.  That's not the 2000 vintage of Jubelale, it's the Double Jubel that Deschutes makes a batch of every year, but only bottles every 10 years.  I did not have very high hopes for 12-year-old bottles of beer, but it was actually in very good shape.  There was of course a little oxidation, and a little rich soy-sauce taste, but it was a very tasty, malty, big beer.  Several people noted differences between the three bottles -- not too surprising given their age -- but I thought they were more alike than different.  (For a better review of the bottles we opened, read Brian's Jubel 2000 review on Beer Advocate.)  A big thank you to those guys for bringing a beer that I never expected to get a taste of, let alone three tastes of.

So we had a 10-year vertical of Jubelale, a 3-bottle horizontal of Jubel 2000, and I also opened a bomber of Jubel 2010 to compare with the Jubel 2000.  To be honest, I liked the Jubel 2010 when it was fresh, but bottles I've opened over the last couple years have disappointed me.  At the tasting, however, it was delicious.  Perhaps it was the good company, or maybe it is now coming into its own.  Given the longevity of J2K, I think I'll hold my last Jubel 2010 bottle for a while.  A few people cast their votes for the big Jubels:  Jubel 2000 got 7 points (1 1st, 2 2nds, 2 3rds), and Jubel 2010 got one 2nd-place vote for 2 points.

I can't think of a better way to end a tradition than to share it with a group of friends. It was a great way to end an era, my thanks to everyone who was there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February's New School Rant: Tipping

The second of my monthly "Piss and Vinegar" columns for The New School is now up. It's a Beer Bar Tipping FAQ. I figured since I was complaining last month about clueless bartenders, I should turn the tables this time and rant about clueless bargoers.

Some of it is recycled material from the Beer Tipping Etiquette post a few years ago, but now it's in a handy FAQ format. Go check it out.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

2012 Pub Night Memories

It's my tradition at the end of January to put up a slideshow of happy photos from the previous year of friends drinking beer.  You can call me cranky for not posting a nostalgic post at the end of December, or maybe I just need to wait until the days get longer before I can get up the motivation to put something together.  Anyway, despite a reduced blogging output in 2012, I did have a few pictures worth sharing lurking around the hard drive.  Some of them are ridiculously blurry, but capture an interesting enough occasion that I couldn't leave them out.

Last year's slideshow had this note:

It's great to look back on the good times of last year, and reflect on the good times to come this year, though my enjoyment is dampened right now by some terrible news about an old friend I received as I was compiling this slideshow. Come what may, I hope you all have a great year.

2012 was not a great year for me.  It wasn't terrible, but there were a lot of challenging times, so I'm not going to jinx 2013 by making a sappy "come what may" wish like I did last year.  Onward!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Good Karma Vegan Cafe, San Jose

The Silicon Valley underwhelms with its beer scene, which is odd considering its affluence and large population. But recently I found out about an oasis of good beer served by knowledgeable people that's located right in the middle of downtown San Jose: the Good Karma Vegan Cafe. Talk about your hidden gems -- they didn't put "beer" or "bar" in the name at all. But squeeze your way past the deli counter into the tiny bar area, and you'll find 16 well-chosen beers on tap. "Well-chosen" is probably not an adequate description of the beer list -- knockout is more like it.  On a recent visit some of the taps were:
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder
  • Logsdon Seizoen
  • Haandbryggeriet Bestefar (smoked imperial porter)
  • Allagash Interlude
  • Dogfish Head Old School Barleywine
  • Stone Vertical Epic 12
  • North Coast 15th Anniversary Old Rasputin
  • Sierra Nevada Ovila Quad
I won't bother listing the other half of the taplist, but there were no duds on it.  There is also a small selection of similarly high-end bottled beers.

Good Karma attracts a small crowd of local beer lovers -- you know the type, everyone has an opinion on what beer you should order.  The atmosphere is very casual, and even though it's a restaurant/deli first and a beer bar second, the waitstaff take an interest in the beer.  Beer prices are on the high side: pints of Pliny were $7, and most of the strong beers listed above were $6 for 8- or 10-ounce pours.  Not cheap, but reasonable given the quality level.  On the plus side, the small pours were served in glassware marked in centiliters so you knew what you were getting.  What's more, with ABVs ranging from 7% to 15%, small is beautiful.

The food is really good also -- no meat or cheese of course, but a nice selection of curries, salads, stir-fries and the like, served with rice or in tortillas.  In contrast to the beer prices, I thought the food prices were very cheap -- you could eat a hearty meal for $7, or choose smaller snack options in the $2-$5 range.  So you can go in there, eat some healthy cheap food, and spend your surplus on fancy beer.  It's a win-win.  And if you're wondering -- as I did -- why a vegan restaurant has an antler chandelier, rest assured that it too is vegan:  the antlers are made of poured resin.

Here in Portland I'm always complaining when interesting beer places aren't open during the day -- thank God Bailey's now opens at 2 PM -- but Good Karma poses the opposite problem for a business traveler:  it's open for lunch but closes at 9 PM every night except Sunday when it closes at 7 PM.  The good news is it's easy to get to on public transit from other towns in the area -- the VTA light rail stops right out in front, and only a couple blocks away there is a stop for the workhorse #22 bus that follows El Camino Real all the way to Palo Alto.

Highly recommended next time you're in the Silicon Valley.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hollywood Beverage: Eastside Liquor + Beer Store

Portland now has a second liquor store which the OLCC allows to sell beer and wine:  Hollywood Beverage at about 30th and NE Sandy.  A couple of years ago I wrote up the other such store: Pearl Specialty Market, which is still your best bet for a good beer selection in the Pearl.

Hollywood Beverage has been open since October -- its previous incarnation as the more run-of-the-mill Hollywood Liquor was further up Sandy just east of the I-84 overpass -- but I didn't make it in for a visit until a couple weeks ago.  I was stunned by how low some of the beer prices were.  Some of them seemed like mistakes until I realized there were too many of them to be in error.  If you thought the prices at Beermongers were the lowest possible, check out these bomber prices:
  • Ninkasi Oatis: $3.15
  • Lompoc Proletariat Red: $3.25
  • Pelican Silverspot IPA: $4.00
  • Gigantic IPA: $4.35
  • Pelican IPA: $4.40
  • Laurelwood Deranger: $7.25
The selection was good but not a home run -- it struck me as kind of a work in progress.  The six-pack prices weren't as startlingly low as the bombers -- most of them could be beat by supermarket sales -- but $8.50 Ninkasi six-packs and $9.50 Caldera sixers were as low as I can remember seeing anywhere.  Imported beers didn't strike me as being so cheap; I think Beermongers may have them beat, and certainly has a better selection.

An employee came up while I was shopping and asked if I had any questions.  "Yeah, why is the beer so cheap?"  He said that the owner is so used to the low margins on liquor set by the OLCC that he thought 20% was a pretty decent markup on beer and wine.  The guy who told me that turned out to be the wine buyer for the store -- "You should see some of the bargains on our wine" -- and he said he's encouraging the owner to either raise the beer and wine prices or start promoting them more to increase sales volume.  So you might want to get in there and snatch up some bargains in case sanity prevails.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Piss and Vinegar on the New School

I'm excited to report that I will be contributing a monthly column to my friend Ezra's blog/online magazine The New School.  The column, called Piss and Vinegar, will be a monthly rant about some beer subject or another.  The first installment is called Beer Confusion, where I give a few anecdotes of a beer geek's worst nightmare -- when the bartender or server at a multi-tap beer bar doesn't know the important details of the beer being served.  Beer Confusion went up yesterday on The New School; go check it out and share your own anecdotes about clueless service in the comments.

Once a month blogging is the kind of project I can get behind.  For the first four years of It's Pub Night, I enforced a quota on myself of about two posts a week (95 a year or so).  That worked well, but it was becoming less fun for me as time went on.  In order to still enjoy blogging, I dropped the schedule, and now only blog when I feel like it.  I missed a couple of months entirely in 2012, and it felt great.

The New School is a natural fit for me.  Ezra has become a great friend over the years, and we originally met because he was an early reader of It's Pub Night.  Early on I told him that he was the one who should be blogging, since he gets out a lot more than I do and has many more industry connections.  He said other people had told him the same thing.  Eventually he did start The New School, and it has become a much bigger deal than I imagined.  Not that I didn't have high hopes for it -- here's how I introduced it in a post here almost exactly three years ago:

Ezra is so plugged in to the Portland beer scene, that the New School is going to be a must-read blog for getting the latest information.

I'm feeling pretty good about that quote, especially when you consider that of the four new beer blogs mentioned in that post, The New School is the only one that is still being updated regularly.  It didn't just survive, it is expanding.

Oh yeah, the new column.  Anyway, I chose the name Piss and Vinegar to encourage the idea that I'll be writing ranty, bitter pieces.  You can kind of think of piss as a backhanded pet name for beer, and I also like to think of myself in the role of "piss-taker" -- someone sarcastically mocking his subject, but all in fun.  Go check it out as I become the oldest pupil in The New School.