Sunday, June 22, 2008

Block 15 King’s Gold -- Beer and Wine Fusion

Today I spent some time with Nick Arzner, founder and assistant brewer at Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery in Corvallis tasting an upcoming release – King’s Gold. This brew is an interesting fusion of the Oregon microbrew and wine industries.

King’s Gold starts its life as Golden Glo, the pub’s crisp and refreshing Golden--light in body and brewed with all organic grains. For this batch, instead of kegging it off the beer was sent to a used King Estate Pinot Noir oak barrel for aging. The name of the beer, of course, is a play on the winery and base of the beer. The idea for this brew was borne in a conversation between Arzner and brewer Steve van Rossem, who has some contacts at King Estate and knew he could easily get an old barrel. Arzner said that many breweries age beer in old bourbon barrels, but not many use wine barrels so this was a perfect endeavor for a small brewery like Block 15, where they have the ability to experiment with different and unique beers. After aging in the wine barrel for about 6 weeks, this beer is about ready to go out with a 5% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Nick thieved a glass out of the barrel for me pre-release, and immediately I noticed an aroma similar to the Golden Glo but with the added hint of oak and a fruitiness reminiscent of Pinot Noir. In terms of color, this beer is a bit darker having taken on an oaky look. I found the beer to be easy drinking with a subtle oak and pinot flavor, with the fruit coming out on the finish. Arzner described this as a connoisseurs beer in that it takes a subtle palate to pick up and appreciate the changes from their golden. I’m not sure that someone who didn’t know how this beer was made could tell it was a pinot flavor, although once you know "there it is". The more the beer breathed the stronger the oak and pinot odor came out, and with more carbonation I think it will have a very nice aroma.

Basically, this beer is a sexier version of the Golden Glo with a wine twist. It’s a bit sweeter, so may pick up a niche following as a result. Arzner is quite pleased with the outcome. He didn’t quite know what to expect but was concerned that the oak would overpower – which didn’t happen. There are only 4 kegs of King’s Gold that will be released in the next week or two, so I expect it to go quickly. Folks will probably select this beer for the shear novelty of aging in a wine barrel, but will continue drinking it due to the enjoyable flavor and drinkable quality. I certainly enjoyed my taste.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Not quite Oregon...or the Northwest...

(This was published after my return from my trip to Chicago in June 2008)

Once again I am writing about someplace not quite Oregon or the Northwest. I am writing this from Chicago where I am spending 2 weeks. The other day, I met up my friend Aiden and his girlfriend, Heather, for wine and cheese at a place called Bin 36. Bin 36 is located downtown Chicago near Marina City (one of my favorite places downtown) and the House of Blues. Aiden and I hadn't seen each other in several years, but he knew of my like for wine, and has one himself. While we sat in Bin 36 for only a couple of hours, Aiden told me all about this establishment that has an array of wines and cheeses while offering you the chance to just relax and unwind each evening.

The ambiance of the bar/restaurant was incredibly appealing. I remember the West and South wall of windows that let it lots of great natural light. There was this huge curtain that could be drawn if part of the restaurant was being used for a private function. Aiden mentioned that they have "classes" and tastings for those interested in wine. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of great wine with Aiden and Heather, and I will be making an entry about an amazing Pinot Noir (from Hahn Estate in Monterrey) that Aiden gave to me and survived the trip to back to Oregon.

So if you are ever in Chicago, I encourage you to check out Bin 36, you wont regret it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Same Day Delivery!

Starting June 29, grocers in the State of Oregon will be allowed to make same-day delivery of beer and wine to private homes. While there are some restrictions to this new policy released by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the possibility for underage drinking has drawn some immediate criticism for the policy from a number of non-profit groups. Under the policy, grocery stores can deliver an unlimited amount of beer and wine to a home on the same day as long as the order is placed by 9 AM and delivered by 9 PM. Liquor is still only available in OLCC liquor stores.

This policy is largely a grocery industry driven initiative; Safeway being one of the largest proponents of the change. Interestingly, Safeway is based out of Pleasanton, CA - a state where you can by liquor at a gas station. I'm not sure what I think of this policy. First off, we don't have any stores that deliver groceries in Corvallis anyway -- and I suppose I'm more opposed to the whole idea of having your groceries delivered than I am of the beer and wine component. The exception to my hesitance, of course, would be in situations where a person may be home bound or have other reasons where they cannot make it to the grocery store. I feel like your general, healthy adult should get out of the house and go shopping.

Nonetheless, as home delivery grows it will be intriguing to see if any unintended consequences arise.