In search of the perfect summer beer: Sour beer

When I first moved to Oregon, I was more of a lover of big, bold wines; I would also occasionally drink a light beer to quench my thirst on a hot summer day. It wasn’t until I went to a few beer festivals, met a few Oregon winemakers who also loved beer, and sipped a few other beers that I realized that there is such a huge world of beer out there to explore. I also learned from my years of working the wine harvests in Oregon that “in order to make a great wine, you need to have a great beer.” Ryan Harms of Union Wine Co. had once told me this when we worked side by side in the wine industry. I heard it again, over and over from other winemakers in the area, and I realized that at the end of the day, winemakers want nothing more than an ice-cold beer to quench their thirst after sipping and spitting out wine samples all day.

Initially, I was turned onto another big, bold, very Oregonian beer style, Indian Pale Ales (IPAs). IPAs are a whole other story, one which I will touch upon later in another blog post. I later went back to the more European style of beers, such as white wheat beers like Hefeweizen, then later to paler ones like lagers and pilsners.  Finally, today, I’ve landed on sour beers.

IMG_7369A little about sour beers. Sour beers can be made from pretty much any beer; however, most follow either traditional or standardized guidelines. Sour beers are intentionally made acidic, tart, or sour in taste. For those Oregon Pinot Noir drinkers who love acid, this may be the beer style for you.

In order to obtain a sour beer, beer brewers need to use wild yeast and bacteria strains such as Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus, none of which are generally allowed unless in a controlled environment.

I personally love a little “Brett” in my wine, cider, and obviously, beer. These beers generally satisfy my craving for sour patch kids candies, a hot-summer-day sipper, and a little more depth than just another lager. Not that there is anything wrong with lagers–I love those, too–but lately, I’ve been craving some good sour beers.

Sour beers rarely make an appearance in winter, so if you are adventurous, get them while you can in these upcoming summer months before they’re gone.

Below, I have summarized some information on the most common styles in order of taste preference. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for providing me with some backstory information.)

IMG_7076Berliner Weisse is a beer that is popular in the summertime and meant to be enjoyed outside on a patio in the middle of a hot summer in Berlin. It is generally low alcohol, around 3% abv. and made sour using Lactobacillus bacteria. It is commonly sweetened with a green or red flavored syrup to balance out the tartness. Interestingly enough, it was when I lived in Berlin that this was my first taste of sour beers, and I had no idea that it was a sour beer. I really enjoyed it!

Gose (pronounced “go-suh”) is a top-fermenting beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. I had my first taste of sour Gose from 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Portland and loved it. I have been in search of Gose since then. Goses have a lemon-/grapefruit-like tartness with a touch of herbal to them. This type of beer is generally characterized by the use of coriander and salt. It is then made sour by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary alcoholic fermentation.

Lambic beer is spontaneously fermented beer made in the Pajottenland region of Belgium and Brussels. I first tried a Kriek lambic beer when a friend told me that I had to try this sour cherry sweet beer. It is generally sweet as it is allowed to perform a secondary fermentation with fruit such as cherries (Kriek] or raspberries (Framboise). These are the most common lambics you are likely to taste.  Honestly, I have only tried the European versions, but you can find a cherry lambic beer at Trader Joe’s. Interestingly enough, the wort is left to cool overnight in the koelschip [italicize] where it is exposed to the open air during the winter and spring, and then placed into barrels to ferment and mature. Most lambics are blends of several seasons’ batches, such as Gueuze, or are secondarily fermented with fruits, such as Kriek and Framboise.

American wild ale is generally brewed using yeast and bacteria strains in addition to standard brewer’s yeast. American wild ales don’t follow specific guidelines, unlike their European counterparts.

Flanders red ale descended from the English porters of the 17th century. It is first fermented using brewer’s yeast,  then allowed to mature in oak barrels. It can later be blended with younger beer to adjust for consistency in taste, similar to the process used for a Solera Sherry.

To learn more about Solera Sherry, click here.

Oud bruin beer originates from the Flemish region of Belgium. Oud bruins differ from the Flanders red ale in that they are darker in color and not aged in wood. Consequently, this style tends to use cultured yeasts to impart its sour notes.

IMG_8305So if you are looking for that great summer beer, look no further then sour beers. Some of my favorites are from Avery BrewingDeschutes Brewery, Ecliptic BrewingDry Dock, 10 Barrel, and River North. If you are in a store, just ask one of the store associates to help you find some great sour beers and they’ll direct you to the right beers. Enjoy summer in a glass! Cheers!

Top 5 Things to Do in Portland #PDX

Portland is a city of food, craft beer, and wine. It is a place to ride a fixie bike and to ride the public transportation system instead of driving your car, a place where being green is the only color to be, a place where there is craft coffee, fancy donuts, crazy soccer fans, beard-toting men, and amazing cider—all in one city.

 This is my Portland. To get a true sense of what it means to keep Portland weird, here are my top 5 things to do in Portland:

1. Drunken Cycle Tours of Portland with BrewCycle Portland

Taking one of these tours is probably one of the funnest things to do with a group of your friends through Portland!  What would be better than drinking beer, blasting music, and riding bikes through a sunny afternoon in Portland?  We got together a group of six of us and mounted a BrewCycle bike with friends for a tour of three breweries in the area (see photo below). Well worth the $20 per person!  Be prepared to pay for your own happy hour priced drinks, and to have a great time!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

2. Escape to Wine Country with Grape Escape Winery Tours

If you are coming to the Willamette Valley, you have to go wine tasting. It’s a must to leave Portland for a day and enjoy the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend Grape Escape Winery Tours, which is a marvelous little company that plans a trip for you based on what you like to drink and what you want to see. After a conversation with the owner, he will craft a tour just for you and your group. Groups as small as two are welcome. Also, they provide great little platters of cheese, meat, olives, fruit, and even chocolate so that you can continue to enjoy your wine trip without spitting out the wine! Besides the food with your wine, you also get very knowledgeable guides (your “Escape Artists”), who will tell you all about the history of the wineries you are visiting as well as tell you all you need to know about the Oregon wine industry. Furthermore, this isn’t your stretch-limo kind of tour but a nice van that takes you from place to place. It’s a little less presumptuous and comfortable financially. (Make sure to tip!)

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!

 

3. Get geeky at OMSI- OMSI after Dark

Science is fun!  Can you imagine being able to shoot off a water rocket, microwave a light bulb, and build a Roman Arch with your friends while enjoying some great beer and wine at night?  This event is held once a month on Wednesdays from 6-10 p.m.  The museum picks a theme and sets up a number of really interesting hands-on science experiments that you are sure to enjoy. Make sure to check their schedule here for the next event.

4. Be a part of the Timbers Army at the Portland Timbers Game

Some claim that this is America’s version of European soccer fanaticism—II couldn’t agree more!  I have sat in numerous seat locations—from ones right on the center midline, so close that I could touch the players as they were doing a throw in; to ones on the side, where you can get the best overall view of the game; to the famed Timber’s Army seats. I have to say, my favorite by far have been the General Admission Timber’s Army seats.  These seats allow you to feel like you are a part of the game with the chanting, jumping, flag-waving community that surrounds this home soccer team. At about $25 a ticket, you really can’t go wrong.  Just be prepared to stand, sing, and yell as others stand, sing, and yell with you: LET’S GO TIMBERS, LET’S GO!

Timbers Army

5. Visit a Food Cart Pod and eat it all up!

You can’t leave Portland without having eaten at a Portland food cart. There are over 500 food carts throughout Portland. Not only are food carts a great place to try native foods from around the world, they are also safe and authentic. This is where top chefs or soon-to-be top chefs experiment with an idea, and if it takes off, they decide to expand it to more food carts or potentially to brick-and-mortar locations.  Food carts are always an experiment in entrepreneurism, low overhead, and passion.  Some stay, some go, some move. Look them up before you hit the streets.

 Some of my favorites:

  •  Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which now has become so popular for its Thai chicken over rice.  This plate comes with a phenomenal ginger, soy, and chili sauce called Khao Man Gi sauce. Nong came to Oregon with $17 and two suitcases; she worked in the restaurant industry until, in 2009, she decided to open her first food cart. A Bangkok native and now Oregonian, Nong now has two food carts and a restaurant. I love her food!  Below you will find a video on how exactly to eat her great food.

  • Gabagool, if you love italian food, you will love this place. I have been so impressed with their Piadina Sandwiches, especially its namesake, Gabagool Piadina. I have yet to try their homemade pasta, but if it’s as tasty as their Gabagool Piadina sandwich, I won’t be disappointed and neither will you.
  • Koi Fusion, the place where you can get Mexican and Korean in one amazing fusion meal. Having initially started with one food truck, the owners now recognize the balance of having not only food carts but multiple stationary (brick-and-mortar) locations. There are now six stationary and six mobile locations throughout Portland, so you are destined to run into one. I personally love their kimchi and would add it to every single item on their menu.

No matter what neighborhood you stay in, there is likely a food cart pod ( a number of food carts all in one area) in your area. Click here to find one near you.

There are so many restaurants, breweries, cider houses, urban wineries. and concerts to enjoy in Portland as well!  However, if I went into all my favorites, you’d quickly shut down this article and move on.  So,… I will hold onto my favorites for another article.  (However, if you can’t wait for that article, look back through my Sacred Drop posts on many such Portland attractions.)

To find out more about all the fun things to do in Portland, check out Travel Portland online.  At that website, you can book your hotel and tickets through their concierge staff and receive discounts to all kinds of great events.
See you soon! Cheers!

A Thirst for Cider: Oregon Cider Week

What was once old is new again. This holds true not just for fashion but also for cider. The US has now experienced a cultural resurgence of cider and is developing quite a thirst for it.

Once Colonial America’s drink of choice, the U.S. is quickly returning back to its roots for inspiration. According to federal data, draft cider sales rose 700 percent between 2011 and 2012; in 2012, U.S. cider sales topped $90 million.  Why?  First, thanks to the interest and subsequent growth of craft beer, the craft cider industry has grown as well. Furthermore, the interest in and demand for something new and different, and perhaps healthier, has created the perfect opportunity for cider.

Data also suggest that the average cider drinker is 20-35 years old. A number of these younger drinkers, particularly in the Northwest, are looking for something authentic, original, and different from the mass-produced sub-par cider and beer. Given all of this data, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for a craft revolution.

The resurgence of interest in cider has been very notable in Oregon.  On June 20, Oregon kicked off its third annual Oregon Cider Week with Cider Summit Portland, featuring over 140 ciders from 37 producers, from 6 states and 7 countries. This event will continue on to Seattle, Chicago, and Berkeley. Portland showed its support by coming in droves: 3,000 to 4,000 visitors over two days, to be exact. It was a well-attended event with a lot of people enjoying the sun, the music, and the cider being poured by artisan cider houses.  The rest of the week featured events throughout the state including a number of tap takeovers, happy hours, tastings, and dinners.

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I had the honor of attending the Cider Feast Dinner at St. Honoré Boulangerie off SE Division Street in Portland. Hosted by St. Honoré Boulangerie, Chef Dominique Geulin, and Kevin Zielinski, E.Z. Orchards’ owner and cider maker, this five-course French-style dinner showcased ciders from Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  Virtue Cider, Reverend Nat’s Cidery, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and E.Z. Orchards.

Cider Feast Dinner

Cider Feast Dinner

The pairings dinner featured a beautiful Goat Cheese and Rainer Cherry tartalette, a mixed green salad tossed with Finnriver Black Currant Cider vinaigrette, a plate of country pâté and chicken liver mousse paired with a E.Z. Orchards cider mustard, and a gorgeous Alsatian-meets-Northwest tarte flambé. This feast was all finished off with a very interesting Cider and Saffron Sabayon.

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For me, it was a beautifully-paired dinner by Chef Geulin, and I will make sure to return during St. Honoré Boulangerie’s happy hour for more cider-based cocktails soon. What is unique about St. Honoré Boulangerie is that they create not only beautiful breads and quiches but also wood-fired pizzas. I was happy to taste some of my favorite cider producers, from E.Z. Orchards to Finnriver to Reverend Nat’s, all paired in this great cider dinner. I look forward to seeing the other great events Portland has to offer.

Stay tuned!