Attack of the beer snob

June 29, 2009


From a comment thread on Balloon Juice today:

I can’t help but wonder if what’s going on in the news industry isn’t akin, in a way, to what’s happened with the beer brewing industry in the US. Both brewers and news publications have undergone consolidation, the former in the 70s and 80s and the latter in the 80s and 90s. The result in both cases has been the emergence of a very limited number of huge corporations producing large quantities of inferior product. Subsequent to this, increasing numbers of small producers of varying but often superior products have emerged, and people turn to them as alternatives to the crap they’re getting from the big companies—not enough to put the big guys out of business, but enough to make the Sierra Nevadas and Goose Islands and Huffington Posts and TPMs (not to mention regional, mid-sized hard-copy publications that do a superior job of covering local news) grow into fairly decent-sized concerns.

As long as there’s a market for crap—and yes, I’m guilty; I like a High Life or Old Style once in a while for old time’s sake—the big guys won’t go away. But if we reach the point where the vast majority of consumers of news/suds recognize the crap as being, well, crap, that would be a major step in the right direction.

On that note, I attended the Organic Beer Fest in Portland’s Overlook Park on Saturday. It was the first time I’d been, and I have to say it was much bettter than the big beer fest down in Waterfront Park. Plenty of room to mill around, sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine — instead of a crush of people so big that you almost have to drink your beer with a straw because you can’t raise your elbow. As someone who loves beer and hates crowds, especially crowds getting between me and that sweet, tasty beer, I’m glad I went.

As always, I set a high standard for myself and insist on total coverage, thus, my tasting notes. You’ll notice a preponderance of India Pale Ales, my go-to hot weather beer (ABV = Alcohol By Volume, IBU = International Bitterness Units).

Wolaver’s Pat Leavy’s Ale: 4.34% ABV, 25 IBU. A smooth amber ale with a hoppy finish. Wolaver’s is from Vermont — good for the novelty value, but nothing you couldn’t get from a local brewer.
Alameda El Torero: 7% ABV, 105 IBU — Highest IBU of the festival, in fact, but very well balanced with a dark red color and smooth finish. Far superior to Terminal Gravity’s 7% IPA.
Ft. George Spruce Ale:5% ABV, ❤ IBU, Brewed with blue spruce tips, but you wouldn't know it. Delicious floral/citrus nose, light body, tasted like Belgian Witbier (wheat beer with coriander/herbs — Blue Moon is an example). The spruce is well integrated, coming through as a minty finish. Not a session beer, but would go great with food in place of a dry white wine.
Standing Stone Double IPA: 7.8% ABV, 95 IBU. Cask conditioned, served English style (hand pumped at room temp.) Full-bodied, honey malt flavors with hops on the finish –basically the opposite presentation of NW-style IPA’s that are tart on the nose and finish smooth. Purism is fine in it’s place, but when it’s sunny and 80 degrees, I want my beer chilled.
HUB Secession: 6% ABV, 67 IBU. Described as a “Cascadian Dark Ale,” supposedly an “emerging style” among local brewers. It reminded me of Lompoc Strong Draft (a favorite of mine)– hoppy nose, rich nutty flavor, crisp finish. Highly recommended.
Captured by Porches Invasive Species IPA: 6.3% ABV, 72 IBU. Malty and sweet — a little too sweet for my taste but well put-together. Another local brewer (St. Helens).
Widmer TEAser XPA: 4.8% ABV, 12 IBU. Made with some mutant strain of non-bitter hops. Tasted almost exactly like iced tea with lemon and sugar. A decent lawnmower (or cheerleader) beer, but I wouldn’t buy a six-pack of it.
Oakshire Watershed IPA: Delicious oaky/hoppy aroma, full body, sweet finish (my handwriting has become somewhat difficult to read by this point in the festivities).
HUB Lager: 5.3% ABV, 32 IBU. Actually a pilsner, but what the hey. Made with Szaz hops, and plenty of them, this is an excellent Euro-style pilsner — in short, what Budweiser would taste like if it didn’t suck.
HUB IPA: 6.6% ABV, 75 IBU. The only IPA I tried that actually had the sharp, piney aroma one tends to expect. Red in color, balanced flavors with a tart finish.

While I’m not one to insist on “100% organic” in anything, I have to say I was delighted by the beers on offer, and I definitely was impressed by the contributions from HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewing) and Alameda. Both have brewpubs in the Portland area, and would certainly be worth a visit.



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