19 April, 2015
Kate and I visited Portland again last week so that I could take the level II Cicerone exam; as it happens, we were there during the few days proceeding the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference (which officially began on the day of my exam, 14 April). The breweries and beer bars were crawling with industry folk from around the country and the globe — hello to Mr. Stefano Marín of Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company and may you pass the exam! We stopped at a number of great taprooms and made it a point to swing by Cascade Brewing’s Barrelhouse.
This was our second visit to the barrelhouse and they were pouring some wonderful beers, including two live from the barrel — A Cherry version of Vlad The Imp Aler (“A blend of oak barrel-aged 23- and 25-degree Plato sour blonde quadrupel with sour bourbon barrel tripel and sour strong spiced blonde”), and Cocoa Rojo (“Red ale blend aged with Mission figs and chocolate stout”).
We also tried their Black Cap Raspberry (“Sour blond ale barrel aged for 28 months before spending an additional two months on 300+ pounds of Black Cap raspberries”); Noyaux (“NW sour blend of Belgian strong blondes aged in white port barrels with raspberries, then blended with select barrels of strong blondes that were aged on the toasted meat from the apricot nut, or Noyeaux”); 2011 vintage of Apricot Ale (“Sour blond ale barrel aged for up to nine months, then aged on fresh apricot for an additional six months”); and one of my all time favorites, Honey Ginger Lime (“Sour honey rye ale barrel aged with various types of ginger and lime”).
Of all of these beers, however, it was the bottle we took home that really made an impression on me — the 2013 vintage of Gingersnap. This beer offers a complex nose of dried plum, ginger, alcohol, and fig with a faint cinnamon note. The flavors echo the bouquet with the ginger taking center stage and a hint of baker’s cocoa revealing itself as the beer warms. The finish presents substantial but pleasant alcohol notes and drying, clean lactic acid sourness and lemon-like acidity, but a delicious and intensely juicy honey-like sweetness creeps back and lingers. Over night this beer has become one of my favorite Cascade brews; in fact I prepared a garlic-ginger chicken thigh dish just to pair with it. My only wish is that I had bought an extra bottle.
Cascade Brewing Barrelhouse is located at 939 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214 — they offer many of their specialty sour beers on tap or by the bottle as well as a core lineup of rotating clean beers. Be prepared to spend an evening there to experience their brilliant sours though, as they rarely avail them to growler fills.
I made it out to Holy Mountain on Sunday January 25th for their taproom’s opening weekend and immediately returned the following day to enjoy more of their beer. Although I had the chance to try some of their brews on Thursday January 22nd as The Beer Junction hosted a brewer’s night with Mike and Colin, I was excited to check out the finished taproom space and taste more of their beer (their opening taplist featured twelve of their own beverages). I have genuinely enjoyed everything I’ve had from Holy Mountain, but two of their standouts are the house pale ale (Kiln & Cone), and their rendition of the German Gose style ale.
With it’s modest ABV, generous hopping showcasing notes of citrus, earth and flowers, and crisp dry finish, the Kiln & Cone is sure to be a summer favorite here in Seattle. It’s an expertly crafted simple and classic modern American pale ale and it’s only $3/pour on Mondays!
Right up their with Westbrook’s and Cascade’s, their Gose is one of the best American examples I’ve had. It is well balanced without the spices overtaking the soft wheat acidity and notes of lemon and apricots. It has a mild lactic tartness with a slight funkiness from the Brett. In all honesty, I wish this beer was more sour and I would love a deeper funkiness; regardless, this is an easy drinking quencher and it hits more than it misses.
Holy Mountain is located at 1421 Elliott Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119 — they offer full and half pours of their beers and they have pre-filled growlers available for to-go consumption. Go say hello to Mike, Colin, and Adam at one of Seattle’s most exciting new breweries!