Blending is the new Brewing

Beer ages in a barrel at The Rare Barrel. Credit: The Rare BarrelTaking cues from the world of wine, brewers are blending and aging beers to create fascinating, complex bottles that vary with each new vintage. While most blended beers are some combination of beers that have slept in barrels (whiskey or wine, most commonly), they can also be fruit-infused, and usually harness various yeast strains and bacteria. All occupy the deepest end of the beer pool. From viscous, rich, bourbon-aged imperial stouts to tart, acidic and funky framboises, they’re rare oneoffs and not replicable; each batch is a singular experience. Even if these projects are brewed annually, fans are enthralled with discerning nuances among subsequent vintages. If you swim in said waters, you’ve likely attended a bottle share or waited in line at a brewery for your chance to taste one of these blends.

Draft: Craft Lightens Up

Funny where inspiration will hit. For me, it was at a G. Love concert at a music venue that serves beer from such dirty tap lines I’d vowed never to drink there again. Until I made a valuable discovery. Actually, it was a $2 discovery.

For an industry defined by its antithesis to cheap, macro light lagers, does its growth hinge on emulating that model?

Beervana East: Columbia River Gorge

It’s terribly easy to write about Portland’s breweries and beer culture. Another easy sell on my part is Bend. Rounding out the top 3 is Hood River and the breweries along the Columbia River Gorge. 1) There’s a great handful of them. 2) Their beers are truly world class. 3) It’s insanely beautiful. 4) It’s an easy drive from Portland and whenever we get devoted beercationers at Inn Beervana, we always recommend the day trip.

Beervana’s Brunchvana

If the editors at Draft know one thing, it’s that a late night of drinking great beer calls for a late morning of eating a worthy breakfast. So I pitched my hometown for their Best Breakfasts series. I was limited to just 3 spots + a late night bites hotspot. I would’ve had an easier time writing this if I could’ve picked my favorite 13 places. Alas.

Draft gets funky with Standing Stone chickens

I like to give my stories seemingly clever titles and sometimes, rarely, they’re actually used. But never with Draft Magazine, so I stopped trying. Which makes the fact that they titled my latest story for the beer mag–a story that’s not even about beer at all but is about Ashland, Oregon’s Standing Stone brewpub‘s own farm and how they raise all their own chickens (and eggs though not sure which they arranged first). Their super awesome title? “How one Oregon brewery is pioneering… chicken.”

*If you don’t get it, it must be a generational thing.

Pop Art: Craft Soda is Fizzing Over

sidebarSoda water dates back to the 18th century, and many of America’s most popular pop brands emerged in the late 19th century. Today, business is bubbling among craft soft drink producers. It’s no surprise that many flavorful soda concoctions hail from craft brewers…Look for sodas with fresh fruits, hand-squeezed juices and spices like coriander, cardamom and capsicum—creative, full-flavored beverages even a beer geek can get behind.

Beertown USA: Bend, OR

For the reboot the Beertown USA travel feature in the latest issue of DRAFT (Mar. 2013), they asked me to not just list and summarize the best spots to hit in the small, high desert/quasi-mountain town of Bend–a city bursting with 20 breweries for its 80,000 residents–but to gear three separate itineraries for three distinct types of visitors. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds. Especially because I think most breweries in town would appeal to most beer tourists. But still, an assignment is an assignment, and a challenge is a challenge. I ended up with dividing the beer and other destinations into those for “outdoor enthusiasts,” those with “kids in tow,” and folks who deem themselves “locavores” or just really want tasty vittles.