As the great American philosopher Fred Eckhardt declared, “Listen to your beer.” And since beer speaks to people, at least those smart enough to listen and thoughtful enough to hear it, it speaks of hops growing on the bines, amber waves of barley blowing in the field, or yeast hitchhiking on the breeze.
Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk’s beer obviously sings to him. He, along with brothers Brian and Doug Coombs, are the composers behind Alesong Brewing and Blending in Eugene, Oregon. And while they create a wide range of barrel-matured beers from earthy saisons to viscous imperial stouts, no doubt it’s the emphasis on vinous, wild ales that is music to sour beer lovers’ ears. But if their newest GABF medals are any indication, they could almost rename the brewery WineAlesong. And there are others singing similar tunes. For this reason, I got to write about those brewing at the intersection of wine and beer for CraftBeer.com.
Naturally, the guy (me) who puts on a coffee beer festival (Baker’s Dozen) is into putting coffee in beer. And the style(s) that make the most sense is/are stouts and porters because of their innate coffee-ness. But we’ve come a long way, baby. For over a decade, ever since the Brewers Association introduced what was then called the “Coffee Flavored Beer” category at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival, the winners have been exclusively stouts or porters infused with coffee. It wasn’t until 2014 that Milwaukee’s MobCraft Beer broke the streak with a beer I’m not sure I’m allowed to name on CraftBeer.com where I wrote this story…but its “PG-name” would be “Guano” Crazy built on a brown ale base. Suffice it to say, I’m guano-crazy about coffee beers.
The last story I’d written for CraftBeer.com narrowly focused on beers made with sage. So to zoom in even deeper, I didn’t just write about beers made with strawberries (not a broad category) but zoomed in on strawberry beers made in Louisiana, where they take their strawberry beers very seriously. In fact, the North American Strawberry Growers Association represents commercial farmers in 40 states, but none of them seem to take up the mantle of celebrating this crop in their craft beers more than the Pelican State. Yeah you right
Usually for my FSR column, there’s an actual column and it’s accompanied by 8 beer reviews. This issue, they only had room for the reviews.C’est la vie. In December of 2017, I suggested these to warm up with.
I love herbal beers but I particularly think sage works wonders in the right beer. But good luck pitching a story about the so-narrow-it’s-nearly-two-dimensional field of sage beers. Unless there’s a hook, a peg, an angle. Hence, I waited months until I figured CraftBeer.com would want something on Thanksgiving beers, especially ones to suggest that aren’t flavored like pumpkin pie! And since a good stuffing mix and turkey brine includes sage, well, here’s a round-up of beers so sagey, they’re sagacious.
Among my myriad New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 is to do more beer reviews. Between the samples I happily receive on my doorstep, beer travels that find me at different breweries across strange, new lands and just happening upon a new offering at some local watering hole, I want to ensure I’m paying good attention to what I’m drinking.
Seeing as a delivery guy just dropped off a bottle at 6:30 on a Saturday night, clearly it’s time to begin drinking. The beer is from 10 Barrel in Bend (not the 10 Barrel pub in Boise or Portland or the recently-announced forthcoming one in Denver). It’s called Riding Solo and it is, as the name suggests, a single-hop pale ale. Comet hops to be precise. Not that you’d possibly know that from the label copy. It reads: “We could talk about this single hop, but we’d rather talk about Benny, the brewer behind this pale ale. 4 years ago Benny was on the fast track working for a large brewery, and then it all came crashing down. He made a bad choice, climbed the wrong building in Bend and found himself in the clink without a job. We hired him the next day and he has been crushing it ever since. One brewery’s loss is another brewery’s gain. Cheers to the man behind the beer.”
Man is that a strange way to market a beer that theoretically has some educational aspect to it. It shows drinkers the aromatic and flavor profile of the nearly extinct Comet hop, a USDA varietal that I’ve personally never encountered. And anyone who buys this beer won’t know that they’ve had it. (Unless they are compulsive about every beer they try or read my oft-neglected blog religiously.)
Upon cracking the crown I was met with an herbal whiff and I’m only half referring to reefer. At first sip, I was struck by the spicy, dank bitter beer—like a skunk smoked a spliff cut with black pepper and dried grapefruit peel. It falls into the garlic’n’onion descriptor, too. Although they call it a pale ale, it’s orange in color and at 6.8% ABV and 67 IBUs it presents itself like an India Red Ale in malt and hop character. In fact, the spiciness makes it taste like there’s some rye malt in the grain bill, but doubt there actually is because then they’d probably have called it Ryeding Solo.
This is the second installment of this type of oral history of a Portland beer that would go onto help shape not only the Portland beer scene, but impact the national beer climate as well. Crazy to think that before this beer debuted in 1996, most beer drinkers in America had no clue what an India Pale Ale was.