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Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Leftovers and the Return to Brighter Days

As we make our way toward the end of 2014, there will be many folks talking about stats from the year that was. Next week, I'll reveal my choices for best Oregon beer, brewer and brewery of 2014. Those items would obviously carry a lot more weight if they appeared in Willamette Week or The Oregonian. Oh well.

For now, I want to recognize some folks who kindly sent me complementary samples of their beer or invited me to events where I was able to taste beer and sometimes food. Most of us who write about beer sooner or later receive free beer and event invitations. It's a tough situation.

I pick and choose what I write about here. I don't write a lot of promotional stuff. And sometimes I'm not very nice if I think something sucks. That has gotten me blacklisted by several breweries, who no longer send press releases, beer or invitations. Being thin-skinned is a sad thing, I think.

But there are folks who have made a concerted effort to be generous and helpful and never got mentioned here. I can't be accountable to write about everything that comes my way. However, I always intended to write about the following folks. I just ran out of time. Until now.

For quite a while now, McMenamins has been working to improve and expand their line of beers. I wrote about their barrel-aging program in October 2013, a week or so after sampling the beers at the Crystal (Ballroom) Brewery. Good stuff and a sign of good things to come.

A few months ago, I spent part of an afternoon with Drew Phillips, a brewer at the Crystal Brewery. We talked about beers and brewing nonstop. And, of course, we tasted some of the beers they were working on. Interesting stuff.

Just in time for the holiday season, I received a bottle of their winter seasonal, Kris Kringle. It's a rich beer, laden with chocolate malt flavors and beefed up with five hop varieties. It's a fantastic beer, one of the better winter warmers I've had this year. I think it benefits from a bit of residual sweetness, which smooths out the hoppiness. If you see Kris Kringle, give it a try.

Lompoc Brewing has been producing great beers for a long time and currently operates five locations. Their standards include C-Note IPA, Proletariat Red, Kick Axe Pale Ale, LSD (Lompoc Special Draft) and others. They also produce seasonals like, Brewdolph, 8 Malty Nights, Blitzen and C-Son's Greetings. Great stuff.

They recently added Pamplemousse Citrus IPA to their list of year-round standards. I received a sample of this stuff, including a fresh grapefruit. The beer is a medium-bodied IPA that leans on four different hops for flavor and aroma. A twist of grapefruit juice adds a note of tart citrus. Try it.

Besides the beer, Lompoc recently opened the remodeled Sidebar next to the Fifth Quadrant Brewery and Pub on North Williams. Sidebar is one of the most unique beer spots in the city. It tends to feature the rarer Lompoc beers on draft and they sell bottles, as well. The new Sidebar has a glass roll-up door that lightens the place up nicely. Smart move.

Gerald and Lucille McAleese opened Kells Irish Pub on Southwest Second Avenue in 1990. Gerald, originally from Belfast, had opened the first Kell's pub in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1983. His vision was an Irish pub without plastic shamrocks and other fake junk. The success of the Seattle pub convinced Gerald and Lucille to expand to Portland. They added a San Francisco location in 1996.

The McAleeses wanted to add a brewery to their business for many years, but simply didn't have space to do so. They finally located a second Portland location on NW 21st Avenue, where they opened Kells Brewpub in 2012. The locally-fabbed 10-bbl brewhouse and multiple fermenters is operated by head brewer Dave Fleming, well-known around town, and Garrett McAleese, son of Gerald and Lucille.

They are brewing up some nice beers at Kells Brewpub. Kells Irish Red Ale is a favorite. At a recent media event there, they were pouring several interesting beers, including an Irish Lager, IPA, a fresh hop ale and an Irish Stout. In early November, Kells announced that they have opened a taproom at the Moda Center, a partnership with the Blazers. Pretty sweet.

Well, that's it for now. Onward through the holidays. The days are getting longer, folks. Warmer, brighter days are dead ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Going for the counterintuitive take, I see. I'm afraid I can't follow you down this road. McMenamins did step it up this year, but they've only made it to the second rung of quality--below many other breweries in town. Good for them, but not worthy of special recognition. I want to love Lompoc, but I think they sit side-by-side the McMenamins on that first rung.


Keep it civil, please.